Drezda’s Home • Uptown Vienda
during the afternoon of the 18th of intas, 2719
There was hurt there, and plenty of it. Drezda had a good handle on her expressions, but Tom’d never been a bad hand at reading people; with her, it was the little things, the way a nerve jumped below her eye, the way she bit her lip. He didn’t know much about Uptown respectability, but he knew well enough the shame that went with drinking too much and then regretting it, and then doing it all over again, and then regretting it again. The way it left imprints on places. Although it surprised him that she trusted him enough to drink with him in private, he had a feeling it had more to do with that shame than it did anything else.
So he inclined his head wordlessly, grateful for himself, too. The press of all those golly fields against his would’ve been hell, and he didn’t fancy a return to that place after his last visit in early Intas. An imprint of a different sort, but an imprint nonetheless.
As she went to ring the bell, she shifted the conversation back to her mother’s poetry, but it didn’t seem a more comfortable topic. At the mention of Ksjta’s private letters, he even raised a hand, opening his mouth to say something – something about how she didn’t have to share what wasn’t meant for a stranger’s eyes, something about how those were hers and not anybody else’s. He stayed silent as she went on, though, lowering his hand, caught off-guard. “In dreams?” he echoed softly.
Before he could say aught else, Cora – this time, he remembered her name – came back in. Tom sat quietly during the exchange, fingers knit over his knee, glance flicking demurely between mistress and servant. The edge in Drezda’s voice wasn’t lost on him; nor was the practiced nonchalance of all Cora’s responses, ignorant as you like, just short of whistling innocently. Damn him, but he’d run his mouth again, he thought. He hoped he hadn’t gotten Cora into any trouble, but based on her devil-may-care attitude, he wasn’t too concerned. As she collected his cup, he offered her a friendly smile.
When the door clicked shut behind her, he turned back to Drezda. “I’ve never heard of poetry coming to somebody in dreams. Most of mine wouldn’t be much good for poetry, but I suppose it’s all in the interpretation.” He studied Drezda as she sat across from him, a contemplative look on his face. He wasn’t sure what else to say; he wasn’t sure what he could say.
After awhile, Cora came back in, tray this time more lightly laden with a couple of tumblers and a handle of Rodriguez. “Here we are,” said Tom, brightening and sitting up a little in his seat. As she deposited her burden on the table between them, he caught another smile, and smiled in return. She poured a little to start them off, and Tom took his glass gratefully, swirling it and taking a slow sip.
Even after she left, he sat still and silent at the edge of his seat, shutting his eyes briefly and enjoying the faint woody smell – the dry, smoky aftertaste, the way it still tingled in his throat. Hadn’t been able to afford this shit very often in life, so it put him in mind of special times, the nights he’d gotten to spend at home with hama. He couldn’t’ve told you the difference between a red from last year and something that’d been bottled during the War of the Book, but he knew his whisky as well as a tallyboy from the Rose could. There were things you drank to get drunk, and then there was this. The line always blurred eventually, but he never forgot to savor that first drink.
Now he leaned back in his seat a little, nursing his glass in his lap. Even here, in what should’ve, by all rights, been enemy territory, the whisky was comforting. He took another drink for good measure, praying it’d start to ward off his headache soon. He couldn’t help that it was putting him in a better mood, but everything in his head was telling him to keep his wits about him; after all, this could’ve been part of her plan. Still, he reasoned that it wasn’t as if he’d get a bit squiffy and spill everything – he knew himself well enough to know that – and it was a pina manna late to get up and leave now. Might as well enjoy it.
The thought of making the most of the situation emboldened him. He swirled his glass idly. “What do you think of them? Personally, if it’s not too much to ask. I didn’t know you liked poetry.” He smiled wryly. “Then again, I didn’t know I liked poetry until recently. Full of surprises, aren’t we?”