Friday, February 6, 2015
Love Fest: Julia Dvorin
Hello all, this is Julia coming to you with my entry for February's Love Fest. This is an excerpt from my novel Ice Will Reveal, in which our roguish heroine Whisper Thornn finds that sometimes friends with benefits want to be more than friends. Enjoy!
In the ash end of the afternoon, Whisper climbed the steps to the side door of the Radamond Theater. The Radamond looked unassuming in the daylight, awaiting the crowds and the evening’s wavering torchlight to bring its colorfully painted exterior to life. Whisper had always loved this place, drawn to its exuberance and unapologetic catering to the baser kind of entertainment: the sexy kind with lots of flash and fighting. She wasn’t the only one--everyone loved the Radamond, adults and children, young and old, wealthy and plain. Any given night you could find an intriguing cross-section of Mycea’s populace there: from slumming gentlefolk and prosperous merchants to rough working folk, all happily spending their coin on a titillating night out. Even the Temple Guardians showed up there occasionally.
The Radamond was a venerable institution, the heart of the Arts district. It was also one of the few places in Mycea where humans and Tey mixed, though sometimes overly religious groups of ignorant humans who swallowed the Temple’s fester about Arcanist blasphemy came looking for a Tey to knock around. The City Guard kept most violence from spreading, though, and had traditionally provided a lenience for the Radamond, due in no small part to the significant gag price the owner regularly paid. The Guard kept the pickpocketing, drug-peddling and bedmate solicitations outside to a bearable minimum, and generally turned a blind eye to the activities within.
Whisper knocked loudly and rapidly on the door, then stepped back and waited. When there came no reply after half a minute, she repeated the process and put her ear to the door. Finally, she heard footsteps; the door swung open to reveal a tall Tey woman with blond hair past her waist, barefoot and dressed only in a simple white shift. She looked disdainfully at Whisper.
“Tell your mistress to buy tickets around front. This is the player’s entrance.”
“Jorellya, it’s me, Whisper. I borrowed this outfit from Kylliarra and I’m here to return it.”
The moment stretched out, and Whisper sighed and put her hands on her hips. “So, may I come in?” she asked.
Jorellya rolled her eyes skyward and turned away back down the hallway, leaving the door open.
“Thanks,” Whisper muttered, following. Creepy Tey oddbucket. Good thing you sing like a bird or no one would put up with you.
“Hey, is Garritt here?” Whisper asked as Jorellya turned aside at the doorway to the prop room. Jorellya made a languid motion with her hand toward the door to the dressing room before disappearing. Whisper was glad to see her go.
The dressing room was emptier than Whisper expected this close to players’ call time--there was only one other person there besides Garritt, an older human man dressed like a city guard seated at one of the makeup tables. Lounging against the wall by the men’s costume closet, Garritt was still in his street clothes, but had removed his tunic already. His white shirt, open at the neck, revealed just enough of his handsomely muscled chest and fuzzy blond chest hair to make Whisper pause and eye him appreciatively as she entered. Both men ceased their conversation and turned to look at her.
Garritt grinned. “Ah, my Firefly returns, and so soon!”
“I told you to stop calling me that,” Whisper said, but softened it with a flirty smile as she moved toward him.
“I won’t. It suits you, always blinking on and off with your cold, pretty light.” He pushed off the wall and opened his arms to her. “Hey, come bring that pretty light a little closer.”
“Hello, Rebbondo,” she said as she passed the older man, who nodded at her with a chuckle.
Rebbondo cleared his throat as Whisper and Garritt’s hello kiss stretched into something more than polite. “Do I need to give you two a little privacy?” he asked.
Whisper ignored him but Garrittt broke away, saying, “No, Whisper’s just come to return some things she borrowed earlier.”
Whisper arched an eyebrow and gave him a little pout before turning away to remove the braided wig.
“So, what show is up tonight?”
“The Jewels of Duchess Dennya,” Garritt answered.
“Mmm, I haven’t seen that one. Is it new?” Whisper put the wig back up on a shelf.
“Not really, it’s mostly a reworking of The Lady and the Swiper from last season, with a few more songs and better fight scenes,” Garritt said. “Want to stay for the performance?”
“Thanks, sweeting, but I have to report home for dinner and I doubt my Mistress will give me the night off.” She sat at the makeup table nearest Rebbondo and began scrabbling through the drawers, coming up with a pot of cream and a well-used rag. “Ugh. Rebb, are there any cleaner makeup rags in that table?”
“Hmm, aren’t you the professional all of a sudden,” Rebbondo said with a raised eyebrow, handing her a marginally cleaner rag. “No wonder Garritt goes through his makeup supplies so fast.”
“You spend enough time around players, you pick some things up,” Whisper replied, putting some cream on the rag and wiping her face and neck with it until her darkened skin returned to its usual pallor.
“Pick some things up, indeed,” Rebbondo said, looking archly at Garritt.
Whisper finished removing the makeup and handed the rag back to Rebbondo without comment. She stood and took off the grey baggy servant dress, hanging it back up in the closet. “There, see?” she said to Garritt. “Just like I promised. Kylliarra won’t have anything to yell at you about. Although I think she’s prettiest when she’s angry, hmm?” Rebbondo and Garritt both chuckled. Whisper sat back down, looked at herself in the silvered glass and frowned. She adjusted the neckline of her green shift and tightened the laces of her fitted blue overtunic, then began to remove the pins from her coppery hair.
“Here, let me help you with that,” Garritt said, moving up behind her and running his hands through her hair, removing the last few pins and combing it gently between his fingers. They locked eyes for a handful of heartbeats in the silvered glass. Whisper closed her eyes and leaned her head forward, her hair forming a loose wavy curtain around her face. After a few breaths, she heard Rebbondo get up and leave, closing the dressing room door behind him.
Garritt leaned down behind her and began to nuzzle her neck, hands kneading her shoulders. “So are you on again or still off?” he breathed into her ear.
“It’s not me, Garritt--you have a sweetfriend now, remember?” Whisper straightened and met his eyes in the glass.
“That never mattered to you before,” he said, hands moving from her shoulders to her neck, to her hair, playing with the curls.
“True,” she said, watching him, “but it should matter to you.”
“Fffmph,” he said with a dismissive wave. “So let’s get this straight then. This one’s strictly a business visit, is it? Always so hard to tell with you.”
“I have to get home,” she said. “I don’t have time for distractions right now.”
“Ohhh, so that’s what I’ve been downgraded to, a distraction. That does the old tender heart a lot of good,” he said, with an exaggerated pout.
“Come on, Garritt, you’re not broken-hearted over me. Besides, you’re bedding that new brunette barmaid at the Meadow, everyone knows it.”
“Don’t tell me what my heart feels,” he retorted, seemingly stung. He took his hands out of her hair, and stepped back. “You clearly have no idea.”
“What does it feel, then? Go on and tell me, I won’t hold it against you. Or maybe later I will hold something against you, depending how nicely you speak.” She turned to see if he’d gotten the jest, but he glowered at her.
“Don’t tease me. You know I’d give it all up for you, but you never let me.”
“Give what up?” she laughed. “The new sweeting? The barmaids? The after-show admirers? The wealthy patronesses? They need you, Garritt--you’re a prime force for lady-pleasing in this city. Don’t withdraw your gift from the world.”
“I don’t care about them,” he said. “I just want you to stay.”
“Garritt, I thought we’d already been through this whole discussion. My life is just...inconsistent. That’s the way it is.” She sighed. “Heed this, I’m sorry to just barge in on you before a show. I truly do have to get home. I promise I’ll come back soon if you want me to.”
“On again, off again, that’s my Firefly,” he said wearily, rubbing his face with his hands and smoothing his shoulder-length blond hair. His sigh and slumped shoulders might have been just an act, but they were effective nonetheless—there was a reason he was the leading man of the Radamond, after all.
She stood and put her arms around him. After a moment, he put both his hands back in her hair and bent her face up toward his for a long kiss. Whisper relaxed against him, running her hands over his back and pulling his shirt out of his breeches to touch his bare skin. But when he pulled her toward the cot in the corner she leaned away. “Goddess knows I’d like to stay, but don’t you all have a dress rehearsal starting soon?”
“Ehh, Rebb’ll keep everyone out for at least a few minutes,” he said with a rakish grin. “You said you had to get home soon anyway. Don’t make me beg, you wicked girl.” He reached for the laces on her tunic, hooking a finger into them and tugging.
“Hmmm, now that could be entertaining,” she said, pretending to think about it, “but since we only have a few minutes I guess we’ll have to dispense with the usual theatrics.” He laughed and “tsked” at her, pulling her over to the cot. And she let him.