Oh dear. It’s been quite an inexcusably long time since I’ve posted.
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks. I had surgery on the thirtieth, was on heavy-duty opiates for the next five days, went back to school Wednesday of the next week, started physical therapy a the Friday after surgery, and have been playing catch-up on school work ever since.
I’m going to make this quick because it’s getting rather late and I still need to shower, but therapy is going well. I had my school’s homecoming last weekend and have been asked to another school’s homecoming this Saturday (which makes me sound much more popular than I am). I haven’t had as much time to read and write as I should like, which is frustrating. I plan to participate in NaNoWriMo next month, which will be interesting. I’ll try to keep up with this, but no promises.
Moving on. I decided to skip over some of the less interesting parts of the story I began in my previous post, entitled “Narcissism and Knees.” In this part, I introduce two much-beloved characters. The only context necessary is that Samuel Cooke works as a messenger at the palace, where Anne is currently residing for a few days while she is formally recognized as Grand Duchess. Anne is friends with his parents.
Anne found herself wandering the hallways, wanting to be in the city again. She found a back gate and was surprised to find Samuel there, with an older man—probably his superior—berating him.
“Excuse me,” she called, striding over.
“Oh, hello, miss,” the man said, letting go of Samuel’s arm and brushing the front of his jacket in what looked like a nervous habit. “I was just scolding this young man for attempting to leave while on duty. Messengers aren’t allowed to leave the palace.”
Anne smiled in a way she hoped was charming. “Of course, I should have known. You see, I sent Mr. Cooke to run a few errands for me while I was meeting with the king and queen. Would it be permissible if I were to escort him? I don’t know my way around London as well as he does, you see.”
The man looked charmed. It probably helped that she’d slipped in a mention of the king and queen. “Of course, miss. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.”
She took Samuel by the arm and led him out the door. “Come along, Samuel. We’ve got things to do.”
Samuel stumbled after her, looking surprised. Once they were out of sight, she stopped. “Now, do you want to tell me what’s really going on?”
“Excuse me, Your Grace?” he didn’t bother to correct himself, and she didn’t either.
“Come now, Samuel, you’re a clever boy. You must know you’re not allowed to leave the palace while on duty, so you must have a good reason to attempt to do so. Something good enough that you’re willing to risk your employer’s anger.”
“Aye, ma’am. My cousin is coming in from America.”
“And your parents didn’t arrange to meet with him?”
“My parents don’t know she is coming at all,” he said, glancing around shiftily.
“Oh? How interesting,” she murmured.
“You can’t tell them!” he said frantically, realizing he’d just told his family’s good friend a secret he was trying to keep from them.
“Not a word, of course,” she reassured him briskly, “but I wonder, since you’re meeting with her, where did you plan to keep her while she was here? Surely not in the palace.”
“I, er, hadn’t thought it out that far, ma’am. I found out she was coming and I wasn’t to tell my parents a few days ago.”
“Where are you supposed to meet?”
“At the drop-off docks,” he said.
“We’ll call an air car, it’ll be faster than walking,” she said, flagging one down as she spoke. The airship drop-off docks were a series of docks designed and placed in a mostly natural harbour so large airships could send smaller vehicles down to drop off cargo and passengers.
They were quiet for the majority of the ride. Samuel was clearly still surprised he wasn’t in trouble, and Anne chose not to ask him any more questions for the time being. She would have plenty of questions later, though.
“This cousin of yours,” she said as she paid the cabbie, “will you recognize her?”
“She’s hard to miss. A bit… unusual,” he said.
Anne’s eyebrows rose at that. She found herself becoming more interested in this cousin.
Soon a hydrogen cab was floating down from a massive airship called The Gyrfalcon. It was a passenger cab, and generally carried passengers and crew members down to stay for a few hours of leave before floating back up.
They landed gently and the door to the cab opened. A woman in knee-high boots, breeches, a white shirt, and suspenders stepped out, carrying a small bag. “What on earth is she wearing?” Samuel hissed, cursing.
Anne didn’t reply. A crew member bounded out of the cab after Samuel’s cousin, tossing a bowler to her with a laugh. She settled it on top of long, loose curls and made her way toward Samuel, crew member in tow.
“Hello, Sammy dear. It’s been a while. How are you?” she said, completely ignoring his outraged look. Then she caught sight of Anne. “Oh, hello there!”
Samuel was too busy sputtering to be bothered with introductions. “You must be Samuel’s cousin. I’m Anne Prescott.”
“Lovely to meet you, Anne,” the girl beamed, “I’m Charlotte Kent. Oh, and this is Marcas Donaghue, member of The Gyrfalcon.”
“Samuel, why don’t you take us to a good café so we can eat and get to know each other properly?” Anne prompted.
“Can we really go into public with Charlotte dressed like that?”
Anne looked around the crowded wharf pointedly. “It would appear we already are in public.”
“Oh, don’t make such a fuss, Samuel,” Charlotte whined, “it’s not so scandalous. Besides, people will just write me off as an eccentric American.”
Samuel stormed off, hopefully in the direction of a café, with Charlotte hard on his heels. Marcas Donaghue gave her a wry grin and offered her his arm. “Shall we catch up to them, then, Miss Prescott?”
She took his arm. “Lead the way. And please, call me Anne.”
They caught up to the cousins a few minutes later; they still hadn’t stopped arguing. “Samuel, Charlotte, you’re rather making a scene,” she said mildly.
They fell silent, looking at her. “From what I’ve heard of the situation, Charlotte came over rather unexpectedly from America, gave little warning to Samuel, and didn’t want Mr. and Mrs. Cooke to know she was in London. Would someone like to enlighten me further?”
Charlotte and Samuel shared a look, and said nothing. “You know, it seems in your best interests to cooperate with the lady, Charlotte,” Marcas addressed the young woman before turning to Anne. “Her parents were displeased with her, so she left home to visit her relatives in England, from what she’s told me.”
“My parents didn’t approve of my ‘alternate life choices,’” Charlotte cut in, “so I left before they could kick me out.”
“Just how ‘alternate’ are your life choices?”
“Not terribly so. I just wasn’t the perfect daughter they were looking for. Although if anyone asks, they’ll claim they sent me here for the education.”
“Is American education not… adequate?”
“Nah, Charlotte’s a proper genius,” Samuel said.
“Really?” Anne asked. The American shrugged. “Since you don’t have a place to go, and you have no plans in London, why don’t you and I work out some sort of deal? I have a house and business in Sussex.”
“Sussex?” Marcas perked up, “I have family in Sussex.”
“Oh? Next time you have leave, you should visit,” Charlotte practically begged.
“Of course,” he laughed, “If it’s acceptable to Anne.”
“It would be lovely to see you again,” she allowed with a smile.
“Your G–” Samuel began.
“Don’t you think it’s time to be getting back to the palace? I’m sure your employer must have noticed your absence by now,” Anne interrupted.
“Oh, right,” he said.
“I’ll be back to The Gyrfalcon, then. Until next time, Charlotte, Anne,” he bowed and kissed their hands.