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An exchange of goods

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1 An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 8:40 pm

My hands feel stiff as I wring them in one of my dishtowels, looking up from the sink to look at the dreary day just outside the window. Spring is one of the rare times the farms and small communities bordering Oenanthopolis can enjoy the seasons without the overwhelming burden of The Weeping City's dense fogs. With winds coming from the south to push the fogs back closer to the city, the southern farms are able to enjoy it longer than most as they work to grow the city's vegetables and herbs. 

In the midst of these farms lies mine. The property that had once belonged to my family has since been divided and auctioned to my neighbors, and my small home has been left with only a modest yard to grow my own foods. At times, like now, with my hands in the sink of dishes and the only sounds around me being that of the winds whistling through the trees just outside my windows, it sometimes feels like the world's left me to my own devices. It's been over a week since anyone's even glanced at my front door, and the solitude borders on overwhelming at times.

Still, the threat to it is real as I spot the carriage cresting the hill coming from the city. The southern winds have lost out to the northern today, and I recall the voice buzzing on the radio this morning talking about the storms looming over the northern end of the city. Storms that have pushed the fogs into the skies above our farms here just south of The Weeping City. Fogs that have allowed this carriage to come to a stop just outside my window. 

That stiffness in my hands returns as I dry them again, cutting off the water to go answer the door. I'm beat, though, as it pushes open ahead of me and two lithe men step in to begin drawing the curtains, leaving me speechless. 

"Lady Veretrum." I greet the woman standing in the door as she drops her parasol, handing it off to one of the men who'd entered ahead of her.

"Niamh," She smiles warmly, stepping in as the door shuts behind her. It's bittersweet seeing her. She's become an intermittent guest in my home, one of the only guests I receive anymore. Still, it seems she only ever arrives when there's bad news to be shared. 

"Come, sit." I say, glancing up at the two men accompanying her before leading them into the small dining room. I'm already past the table and heading for the stove to put on a kettle when I realize they're not following me. 

"I won't be long, dear." Ylva remarks from just inside the front entry, the gauntly beautiful woman looking particularly out of place in my home. "As you know, the contract is running out soon."

"Yeah," I nod, retreating from the kitchen's entry to take a seat at the table. "I don't know what I'm going to do-"

"That's why I'm here," Ylva interrupts me, her lips pursing. She gets this look of annoyance and disdain whenever I fret about what will happen once her money stops paying my bills. This look of distaste as though she really wishes I just wouldn't. "There's a doctor I know, who he is isn't important, but he's got a patient he's sent home recently. Someone who's injured themselves and lost a leg. He's been looking for someone who can help out. Keep the place tidy, see to it the man gets to his various appointments. 

"I don't recall much about the man, I've never met him, but I know he isn't of Prime blood, and thusly he won't require anything of the sort from you."

"So what? He'll pay me to come clean up around his house and ferry him to and from doctor's visits?" I ask, a little confused by the notion.

"I'll pay you. With our agreement reaching it's end, you'll need an income, won't you? And this friend of mine has some foundation in the city for... Whatever. Basically, people of high standing - such as myself - can adopt people who've encountered hardships that prevent them from working. I've been looking into it to see if you'd qualify - you don't. But he does, and I can volunteer to be his benefactor and in turn hire you."


"But- why would you do that?" I frown sharply, "Your contract is up in a few weeks, you could wash your hands of me."

"I'm not proud of what happened to your husband, Niamh. I'd come to grow quite fond of him, and he spoke very highly of you. Seeing to it you have a comfortable life out here is the equivalent of you letting a bird out of your solarium. It's a blip in the grand scheme of things."

"So I'm a bird you're saving..?" I nod softly, looking at her in mild offense. 

"Maybe a bird wasn't a good example." She shrugs, looking around boredly. "A dog, maybe? Cat? Tree, I don't care. Will you just go get dressed into something proper so I can take you back into the city? You're to start this evening."

****

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2 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 9:21 pm

It's been over a month since the "accident," and I wish I could say it's gotten easier. My income has taken a substantial hit since I'd been condemned to bedrest for much of the healing phase, and it hasn't gotten much better since I've been cleared to be more active.

Getting up and down the stairs to go down to the shop is exhausting, and making my way around the various work stations has proven more of a challenge than I'm willing to face most days. So I'm left with piles upon piles of unfinished jobs, and a phone ringing off the hook with angry clients who don't care about the newfound handicap.

Needless to say, when the shop bell rings with an unexpected visitor after closing hours, I'm a little less than thrilled. Even with the new leg I've crafted - adjustments still pending - I'm left struggling to get out of my seat so I can hobble over to the intercom, my dinner left at the table nearly untouched after finally getting off the phone with three separate clients.

"Business hours ended at nine!" I call down as I lean against the wall to push the button so I can talk into the speaker. It's very difficult not to let the frustration enter my voice - I haven't eaten all day dealing with disgruntled clients ringing that damn bell. "If you have an order pending, leave your name and number in the postbox, and I'll be happy to address your concerns tomorrow."

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3 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 9:33 pm

The night's grown uncomfortably late as I approach the worn-looking shop, Ylva several paces ahead of me as she knocks impatiently at the door. Her eyes seem to close in annoyance as she lets the man finish, tucking her gloves under one arm as she uses a taloned finger to hold the button to give her response. 

"I'm a friend of Doctor Heely's." She speaks into the intercom, that look of disdain returning as it gives a touch of feed back. "Your benefactor, Lady Veretrum? I've got your help standing out here and it looks like those showers will be breaking any moment, so I'd appreciate it if you'd let us ladies in."

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4 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 9:38 pm

I hesitate at that, an uncomfortable knot forming in the pit of my stomach. I've had mixed feelings ever since I gave Dr. Heely the go-ahead to advocate for me. I'd been both disappointed and grateful when no help came during my initial recovery - my pride the only thing that was spared in the absence of someone's assistance. Obviously, I'd gotten Dr. Heely's message about finally finding a benefactor for me, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't secretly hoping this mysterious woman would never show up.

"Follow the wall to the right, and up the stairs on the back wall," I finally say into the intercom before buzzing them in.

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5 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 9:51 pm

I can see Ylva absently check the watch tucked just inside her sleeve, sighing as she glances back before opening the door and heading into the shop. I can't say I've ever stepped into many of the shops within the city, but this isn't what I'd had in mind. Instead, it looks closer to the scavenger shops you hear about in the other cities around the country, with only the faint gleam of the fine metal pipings leading to and from machines to give it any air of wealth or fine living. 

Ylva leads the way towards the stairs before letting me step ahead of her, her attention on putting her gloves back on as she follows me upstairs. 

"We're going to have to move this along," She says once we reach the landing, leaving a sense of unease resting on my shoulders as I look around for the man we're here to meet.

"Do you have prior engagements?" I ask, Ylva looking up down at me as she shrugs and shakes her head. 

"No, I'd just rather be at home."

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6 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 10:21 pm

I hate how slowly I have to move to pick up my dinner and move it somewhere more private before I hear the women on the stairs outside the loft. The mess in the kitchen leaves me feeling self-conscious as I go to invite them in, a string of lies running through my head should the Prime ask why there are so many dirty dishes when I'm supposed to be like her.

"Lady Veretrum," I greet the woman when I open the door, offering her a plastered smile that barely conceals my discomfort as I step back to invite her in. "You'll have to forgive the mess - I've been spread a little thin lately."

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7 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 10:59 pm

Ylva offers the man a polite but forced smile as she steps in past him, her head twisting slightly as she looks around the apartment, taking it in. I can hardly slip through behind her to let the man shut the door behind me. 

"Hopefully our lady here can help with that." She says simply, twisting to face him as she gestures towards me, as though I'm an afterthought. "This is Niamh Clery. Your new help."

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8 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 11:06 pm

"Ah," I respond, nodding a little uncomfortably as I offer the stranger a smile. "I'm Isaac Rhodes. It's nice to meet you."

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9 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 11:13 pm

"Pleasure," I nod, unable to continue as Ylva pulls the clutch tucked from under her arm out to open it. 

"Niceties out of the way, I can get on with this." She says as she digs out several slips of paper, what appear to be permits and passes, and hands them to me. "You have a transport pass there, and a meal ticket should you need to eat while out on the streets. And for you," She pulls out another permit, handing it off to Isaac, "This will give proof that you are the sole proprietor of Miss Clery's various tangible goods."

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10 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 11:18 pm

"Woah, hold on," I say quickly, my eyes widening as I stare at the permit with no small amount of shock. "I wasn't - that's not what - I don't want this. I just needed a little help around the house and maybe the shop... I wasn't looking for... this."

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11 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 11:24 pm

I can feel my cheeks flush a bit at his shock, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable as Ylva smirks.

"It's for should she be caught on the streets on her way to or from home." She explains simply, "If she can prove that she's owned, she won't be hassled. Should she be picked up, you'll need that to retrieve her without paying any fines. 

"It is not tacit consent to any trade of those goods."

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12 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 11:27 pm

"Well, people aren't goods so..." I say with the hint of a disapproving frown before I clear my throat and nod. "Thank you."

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13 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 11:31 pm

"I'm quite aware that Miss Clery isn't something to be put on the shelf with a price tag, Mister Rhodes." Ylva offers a tense smile as she closes her clutch and tucks it back under her arm. "But you know as well as I how she's viewed in the eyes of the city. Consider it nothing more than a formality given the situation."

"I appreciate your help, Lady Veretrum," I speak up, earning a smile as Ylva shakes her head.

"Ylva, please, love." She says, reaching out to cup my cheek fondly. It leaves me tense and uncertain, shows of affection something that are wholly out of the ordinary with this woman. Still, she lets her thumb stroke across my cheekbone before she withdaws her hand. 

"Thank you, Ylva." I smile, holding up the permits and passes as she turns to Isaac with a smile. 

"I've business to attend to, so if I may be excused. Put her to good use, Mister Rhodes." She smiles as she turns for the door.

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14 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 11:39 pm

"Of course," I nod, feeling a little uncomfortable as I shift my weight to step toward the door so I can close it behind her. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Lady Veretrum."

I sigh in relief once she's gone, the presence of another Prime in my home leaving me tense. Without her presence, it's a little easier to relax as I offer a more friendly smile to Niamh before gesturing toward the living room.

"Can I get you anything to drink?" I ask before hesitating slightly. "Or is that something you're supposed to do..? Sorry, I've never had anyone working as my 'help' before... if I'm being honest, I'm not entirely sure I'm comfortable with the whole arrangement."

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15 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 11:50 pm

"I've never done it before, either, Master Rhodes." I confess lightly, stepping back to let him pass without hindrance as I tuck my papers into one of the pockets in the folds of my dress.

"Though, as I understand, I'm simply here to help keep the place tidy and offer you help, should you need it." I add, looking quickly towards the peculiar prosthetic leg before averting my gaze. "And make sure your leg heals properly."

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16 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 11:58 pm

"Well, I could definitely use the help," I admit with a sigh as I pick up the mess of empty glasses and blood bottles from the coffee table before glancing back at her. "I'm so far behind on my orders from all of this that I'm losing clients left and right. Between being a verbal punching bag and trying to make amends, I haven't had time to actually work on the orders.

"And then there's this place," I can feel my cheeks flush a bit with embarrassment as I look around at the disaster that is my apartment. Dishes, laundry, and trash are scattered across virtually every surface. Suddenly I regret sitting down to draw out plans for a trash chute rather than simply suffering through the discomfort of taking it all down to bins outside the shop. And that's another thing that's scattered everywhere: blueprints and plans and lists of ways to improve the place and the make-shift prosthetic that I'd managed to fabricate from what scraps of material I had at the time.

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17 Re: An exchange of goods on Wed May 11, 2016 12:02 am

"It'll be good as new soon enough." I offer with a smile, coming up behind him to help pick up the dishes and bits of rubbish.

"Tonight was meant to be more of a getting acquainted sort of thing, but really what more do you need to know aside from the fact I've been hired to clean your home?"

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18 Re: An exchange of goods on Wed May 11, 2016 12:09 am

"Well, there's no reason we can't get better acquainted," I shrug as I limp toward the kitchen with the dishes. "Particularly if you're going to be around a lot."

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19 Re: An exchange of goods on Wed May 11, 2016 12:11 am

I nod as I stop near the coffee table to fill my arms with emptied bottles and dirty dishes.

"Do you have company a lot?" I ask, "Do a lot of entertaining? I'm not sure I have any attire fitting of city gatherings."

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20 Re: An exchange of goods on Wed May 11, 2016 12:13 am

"No, not really," I frown a bit as I arrange the dishes into something a little less chaotic next to the sink. "I sort of had a falling out with the friends I had here after the accident."

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21 Re: An exchange of goods on Wed May 11, 2016 12:15 am

My eyebrows pinch a bit at the mess of bottles as I head into the kitchen, setting them on whatever empty surface I can find before I move to the sink to start washing.

"So you don't have many Prime happen through?" I ask with a frown, politely shooing him out of my way so I can start sorting the dishes. "Lady Veretrum lead me to believe you were not of Prime blood?"

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22 Re: An exchange of goods on Wed May 11, 2016 12:17 am

"What?" I ask a little more sharply than intended. Clearing my throat, I shake my head uncomfortably. "What gave her that idea??"

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23 Re: An exchange of goods on Wed May 11, 2016 12:22 am

"I believe it was something Doctor Heely had said?" I respond, keeping my head down as I manage to plug the drain and cut the water on. "Perhaps I misheard."

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24 Re: An exchange of goods on Wed May 11, 2016 12:31 am

"God d-," I bite my lip sharply as I shake my head and inhale sharply. "Whatever happened to doctor/patient confidentiality?" I sigh heavily as I move away from the sink to get the food I'd hidden in the fridge. No point hiding it now. "I am a Prime, right now. Though, if you ask them, I may as well be a grotesque bug pretending it's not food for some... I don't know, something analogous of an arrogant sack of shit in a nice dress or suit. A bird or something."

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25 Re: An exchange of goods on Wed May 11, 2016 12:36 am

I glance at him in confusion, turning back to the dishes.

"I'm afraid I don't understand, Master Rhodes." I say as I cut the water down and look for the soap. "But, to be entirely honest, whatever you may or may not be is no concern of mine. You're under no obligation to clarify if you don't want to."

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