Sunday, 3 November 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 3 Word count 2260

“Bloody hell, it's cold!”

The two of them staggered, shocked by the chilled air, the harsh winds and the stench. Of these, the most shocking to a pair who had never left a climate controlled hub, was the cold.

On the elder Andy's advice they had ported directly into the centre of London, in close proximity to a banking district. However, the shock caused them to exchange one brief glance and then Andy simply said “Indoors!” as they swept towards the nearest inviting looking entrance.

They ducked under the low slung doorway and peered into the darkened interior. After a few minutes, her eyes had adjusted and Melissa was able to see a shocked man staring straight at her. Unaccustomed to such open disapprobation, she flinched and retreated behind Andy. He also responded to the stranger's rudeness by stepping forward to shield her with the immense bulk of his greatcoat. The stranger flushed and dropped his gaze;

“Eh, excuse me, sir! How can I help you?”

“I am looking for a bank. I was given to understand this was the correct building, but presumably not!”

“Oh! Indeed, sir, forgive me, the sign fell off the building in the high winds overnight. The bank is two streets down – you need to look for the white frame around a blue door.”

Andy nodded haughtily and steered Melissa out of the door. Once out in the biting cold he apologised to her. “No idea what that was, Mel, but it seems women aren't welcome!” She'd later found out it was a smoking club, and women were indeed wholly unwelcome. Even whores didn't enter smoking clubs, although they were welcome enough in certain rooms of a gentleman's club.

There was a silence between them as Melissa tried to recover. She had spent her whole life doing more or less as she pleased within the bounds of law and had never been looked at with such judgementalism. IT was deeply hurtful, and immediately imbued her with a feeling of overwhelming shame. But she had done nothing wrong! It was bewildering – because that man had so clearly believed he had the right to look down upon her, despite her visible trappings of wealth, she had felt inferior.

This world was very different to the one she was used to.

They reached the bank – there was a clear sign welcoming them and Andy escorted her in. He covered her hand as it rested on his arm and pulled her reassuringly close to him. She battled against the feeling of inferiority and fear that maybe she wasn't supposed to be here. She'd never before had her worth questioned – she'd always been accepted and judged only when her contribution wasn't up to the expected standard. In the face of such questioning, she had no defence or self assurance.

The interior of this room as much different to the previous. Whereas before they had entered a low ceilinged dingy corridor, they moved now into a wide open space with pillars, marbled surfaces and high ceilings. They moved forwards and a scurrying clerk came forward to meet them. After a brief series of enquiries, Andy had convinced the clerk they wanted to open account, with gems and precious metals as security.

They were ushered into the presence of the bank manager. Andy had been handling things magnificently, but Melissa felt a space for her to contribute. As they sat, she was the one to respond to the manager's enquiry as to how he could help.

“My cousin and I,” she nodded at Andy, “are newly arrived from the Americas. Our fathers were in a joint venture to retrieve some sunken treasure. They were successful, some years ago, in retrieving a haul from a sunken Spanish privateer. When we expressed an interest in coming to England to set up new lives here, our fathers recommended we take our share of the treasure, rather than exchange it for other securities before setting off. As a result, we are now in England, but have no money with which to purchase the basic necessities.”

The manager nodded understandingly. “I can set up an account against the security of a portion of the goods you possess and arrange to store the rest on your behalf. It depends entirely on the cash value of the goods you carry as to the size of the account. Might I be permitted to view your valuables?”

Melissa removed the pouch belt, and handed it over. “This is the bulk of it,” she affirmed. “We will require an account each, if you can split the value to half for each of us.”

The manager nodded, and opened the first pocket. His eyes widened involuntarily as he saw the quality of the stones it contained. He shifted through them, then moved onwards to the next pouch. As he worked through them, a small pile mounted on the table. At the end of the process, he leaned back, inhaled deeply and nodded.

“My dear sir, and madam, might I suggest that you initially trade approximately twenty percent of this value into government bonds? In that way you may live off the interest accumulated perfectly comfortably. With,” he pulled five cut gems from the pile, “these, you can easily purchase a residence each and sufficient staff to run them. Madam, I believe in America single ladies may have more license than they do here – you will I am convinced, understand that you will need to hire a companion if you wish to live alone. But that is well within your means.”

“I intend to travel.” Andy interjected firmly.

“Indeed sir, we can most assuredly form an account that you may draw upon in most major cities. Obviously, travel upon the continent is a little difficult at these times, but for the most part you will be able to live as you will wherever you are.”

“And the rest?”

“As I intimated earlier, I am perfectly happy to place a strongbox at your disposal. However, before taking responsibility for these items, I will need to ensure that you have appropriate legal documentation transferring your property to a specific individual in the event of your untimely demise.”

Andy and Melissa glanced at each other. “We will each make the other the principle beneficiary. Can we add an additional clause that entitles the bearer of a specific document to access the entirety of our property?” Andy glanced at her, slightly surprised. “For instance,” she expounded, looking straight into Andy's eyes: “In fifty years time, if you have not heard from one or both of us and an individual arrives, I would want them to be able to draw upon my funds.” Andy suddenly caught on and nodded fervently.

“Indeed,” he confirmed. “We would want a specific, difficult to replicate document; plus perhaps a pass phrase.”

The manager seemed confused, but his covetous glances at their collection suggested they could ask for anything and he would oblige and his rapid confirmation of their request backed up this interpretation. “Absolutely. We can add more security if I issue you with a key which will open a strongbox, and the first item within the strongbox is a list of instructions to the clerk, to ensure there can be no manipulation of circumstances.”

Andy and Melissa smiled. The man was devious and spoke like an addict of mystery novels. This was exactly the kind of man they needed in control of their finances.

Together they sat down and worked out their security system to release the various levels of their funds.

After almost an hour of wrangling, discussion, and a series of introductions to potential bonds dealers, both Andy and Melissa were happy with the situation arranged for the management of their funds. A lawyer was called for and the entire party partook of tea while they waited. Four hours after entering the bank loaded with jewels, the pair departed with a wad of papers and all the details they needed to ensure they could access their funds at any time they were required.

Melissa also clutched a small bound set of papers containing details of a housing agent which the bank manager recommended. They went there immediately and within a relatively short space of time offloaded the responsibility for housing them and finding the necessary staff to the agency. In the meantime, they were diverted to Grillons to stay for three nights while a permanent residence was found for each of them.

Once settled in Grillons, both parties made a point of contacting tailors, dressmakers, milliners and hairdressers to establish their wardrobes as a man and woman of fashion. Whilst at the hotel, Melissa discovered that ladies traipsing the corridors to spend the night in a man's room was severely frowned upon. It was yet another indication that the world she enjoyed was a long way away and she began to feel homesick, leading her to reflect on the difficulties that the elder Andy must have experienced. Within a short while she acknowledged that it was impossible for her to go home – her home would be permanently destroyed if their mission was successful and she had t come to terms with that and establish a new home.

It was not an easy fact to come to terms with. Instead of contemplating it too seriously, she took to her new role as a woman of fashion with gusto. She discovered the masked balls and instantly ordered a domino. She decided that walking around London was too uncomfortable, given the shoes that were available to her and practised horse riding and hired a carriage. The carriage on cobbles was deeply uncomfortable, but was nothing compared to the excruciating pain of waking the day after her first horse back experience. The decisions she began to make were all focussed around her pleasure and comfort and she became more and more conscious of just how easy her life had been until that point. She had never experienced cold before – waking up in the night to a draughty, fireless room with barely any warmth beneath the several; blankets she had piled upon herself was deeply unpleasant. She had never had muscle aches before – the chem streams cleared any toxins immediately out of her system, the aeroscaff eradicated the need to exert oneself excessively. She had never been nauseous before – eating and drinking in the aeroscaff was not a common behaviour. Instead, a drip system tended to allocate each individual the nutrients they required to survive. Within a day of arriving both Andy and Melissa had discovered themselves to be hungry and the pleasure of eating was unfathomable. They had gorged, and Melissa had spent the night retching hideously and awoken the next day with a deeply unpleasant headache.

Andy had taken to the alcoholic beverages available with gusto. He'd also discovered a talent for certain games of chance which kept him occupied into the late night most days. His circle of acquaintance was expanding rapidly. Melissa was more isolated, but once her first new clothes arrived and she took to driving a landaulet around the park, gathering books from the central shopping area and experimenting at masquerades, she discovered a frivolous life could rather suit her.

It was at the masked ball that she met the man who would radically change her life from one of parties, to one of work and adventure.

She had purchased her house and settled in to life as a lady of leisure. Her neighbours were fashionable and wealthy and the local ladies had made calls which she returned as a matter of course. One or two found her occasional social gaffes to be unbearable, but a few of the more pleasant ascribed it to her supposed background of growing up in the America's. Gossip about her walking the corridors of Grillons seeking male company was written off as simply too outlandish to be possible. The friendlier few gave her hints, tips and several items of reading material to guide her footsteps in a more socially acceptable route.

The days she felt confident she attended formal high society events. The days she felt the need to be free, she attended the masked balls in the reprehensible manner of a lady of questionable social morals. There she met one or two men who she was able to release the frustrations of her daily life with in quiet parts of the hedge maze. After one or two encounters, she began to wish for something more comfortable – cold nights and prickly hedges were not as enticing as a warm bedroom and silken sheets.

It was after two weeks that she fell ill. The elder Andy had been right – neither of them had been able to avoid the onslaught of millions of bacteria and they were both confined to their beds, deeply ill. She was deeply delirious for some time, falling further and further into a dream world. Eventually she awoke to the feeling of hot scratchy covers and a cold cloth on her forehead. A gruff voice was telling her to be calm, everything was going to be alright. She opened her eyes groggily and a face swam into view. It had kind eyes, but that was the nicest thing that could be said for it. Inderminite sex, overweight, blotchy, sprouting hairs in random patches. There was a black spot on one cheek with three coarse hairs sprouting from the centre.  

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