The dining room of the Caldwell-Andras home, was softly lit and filled with the sounds of cutlery clinking and squeaking across dinner plates.
A group of three identical, dreary looking, dark haired, young maids moved in between the dining room and the kitchen. They carried platters and trays, heaped with myriad items of savory, salty and sweet.
In the dining room sat the Master and Mistress of the house, with yet another young iteration of a Jack, standing by in case they needed anything.
Desmond and Henri ate in silence, eating at the dining table for the first time since they’d moved into the house.
They hadn’t intended to share a meal. Usually Desmond took his meals in either the living room or his study and Henri usually ate her meals in her bedroom.
The two technically were cohabitating but only technically, having claimed their respective territories and left the rest of the house as a sort of neutral zone.
The fact was that though their interactions were mostly friendly, and gradually growing less awkward, the two were still very much strangers.
The distance between them only slowly closing if at all since the two seemed content to operate in their own little worlds.
The meal wouldn’t have happened had Jack not asked Desmond to taste a few of her meals. The woman took her cooking almost a tad too seriously and was constantly trying to expand her repertoire.
Desmond agreed because all he had to was eat, which an easy enough thing to do, with the woman’s food generally being quite good, restraunt level at a minimum, and also because he often found himself feeling quite starved.
His body requiring more energy than simple caloric intake could provide.
Henri’s joining the dinner was a fluke, a combination of her having come home from work early enough to walk into the meal, Jack’s tendency to overcook, because she knew her master would inhale everything she put in front of him regardless of how it tasted. As well as the couple’s awkwardness with each other.
Basically Henri only peeped into the dining room because neither she, nor Desmond had used it yet seeing activity going on inside the little used room, had made her curious.
She didn’t think about what to do after she’d finishing seen whoever was in there.
Desmond on the other hand, feeling a bit out of sorts, because he’d been caught making a pig of himself, eating a manner that wasn’t entirely human, had tried to play it off. Pretending to magnanimously invite the girl to dine with him.
If all had gone as planned she would have said no and then retreated to her room as she usually did.
Unfortunately Henri’s stomach began to growl just as she’d been about to utter her declination.
Her usual recourse when it came hunger was either raiding the fridge for Jack’s tasty leftovers, or ordering out, both of which would have been odd to do when there was an abundant amount of fresh food available and being offered to her. Not wanting to make it seem like she was purposefully trying to avoid the man, who also happened to be…her husband, for the time being, she accepted.
Now here they were, eating in silence. Keeping their focus on their plates because their occasional instances of eye contact were painful.
Comfortable silences were one thing, like walking on a flat, well paved path, on a day that was neither too warm nor too cold. Uncomfortable silences on the other hand, made one feel like one needed to act. Like one was climbing up a steep incline, on an unpleasant, blustery, day and the destination was still very far away.
Henri sat chewing a mouthful of a savory stew of squash and lamb. As she ate, she kept she telling herself to try and say something.
And yet, course after course had gone by with hardly a word being said.
“Um…this is nice…” she said. Finally getting something out, in between bites of stew and cornbread.
Desmond startled, as if the woman had sworn loudly in a church. Whatever thoughts that had been going through his mind, falling through the cracks that had been created by her interruption.
“…Er, yeah. Do you hear that Jack? She likes your cooking.”
The stiff-lipped made, gave a slight bow. Her gaze as cold and dire as it usually was as she responded.
“….Thank you, Mistress.”
“Um…No problem…It was really, uh, really good.”
“Thank you, Mistress…” said the maid. Looking neither thankful nor enthused.
“Right, crackerjack, job as always, Jacqueline. Maybe try going a little lighter on the salt next time?” said Desmond.
“…Of course, master. Thank you, master. I shall endeavour to improve.” said Jack. Her manner growing significantly less frosty as she responded to the man.
Henri returned to her food. Taking a sip of fizzy, sparkling cider as she tried to recoup the guts she’d expended by speaking up.
A part of her, wondered why on earth she was suddenly so shy. It was answered by memories of her hiding in her mother’s skirts as a child and the times she’d had to be forced out of her room.
Her brief time as social beautiful having come to a painful end shortly before the sect and her friends in the sect all but cut ties with her.
“So…uh…how was your day?” said Desmond. His words breaking into her thoughts.
She blanked and ended up having to spend a moment thinking of what he meant. Spending even longer trying to think of an answer.
“…It was fine?” said Henri. Answering the question with another question, as if she herself wasn’t entirely sure of the answer.
In truth, she really wasn’t. It had been a few weeks since she’d started working at the school. Weeks of orientation had finally given way to the first days of teaching the students.
They had her teaching a math class like she’d thought they would. They’d also put her in charge of her own homeroom. The class was okay. At the very least the kids didn’t seem to hate her, and no one was sending her any complaints about them coming back stupider than when they’d met her.
Nor had anyone asked her about the scandal back in Cyrillus, which made her hopeful that they either hadn’t cared enough to do a web search on her name, or the world hadn’t cared enough to make too many online articles on the matter.
Given in a nutshell, Her days were occupied with paperwork, lectures, recording keeping, grading, lesson planning and more paper work. She kept her lessons and assignments as simple and basic as she could for both her sake and the students’ sake. Occasionally the school would have some workshop or the other that she’d have to take part in, but besides that she’d thankfully not found herself in over her head yet.
“Good…Good. That’s sounds, uh…great.” said Desmond.
Another lull fell, this one slightly less uneasy. Something that might have had something to do with the fact that the dessert course was starting. Beginning with pies and working its way up to cakes and puddings.
Henri liked sweets and from the happy sounds coming across the table, Desmond shared her addiction to sugar. Shovelling plate after plate of baked goods and iced-custards into his maw.
“So…Hey…this might sound weird but I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind us changing our name to October…”
Henri paused, spoon hovering above an egg-custard.
“October…Change our names?”
She was thrown for a loop but it wasn’t the prospect of the name change that did it. Normal families, plebs, were fine with hyphenated names. Ditto for the higher level patricians, such as the noble houses and royalty.
Elite clans however ran on different rules.
Had their marriage been one of love or at least one born from a desire other than that of wanting to get rid of two useless wastes, the normal thing would have been for one of the two to give up their name.
Most likely Desmond would have become an Andras since he had technically been married into Henri’s family as part of their agreement.
In cases like their’s, where the goal wasn’t for two families to be bound by blood, but it was instead intended that a new family to be formed, it was actually common practice for a new name to be chosen.
As a way of keeping the already cluttered and confusing heraldic factions of the continent from becoming more so, new families were expected to register new names and new crests.
Thus Henri had always known that she’d likely have to at least think about choosing a new family name at some point.
What gave her pause, was that she hadn’t thought it would be so soon. And she definitely hadn’t thought it would be Desmond making the suggestion.
As much as she was really sort of happy to not be all alone in this, things had been much simpler when she thought she was going to be married to a catatonic inpatient.
Having to deal with someone who was cognizant and aware, someone who knew what was going on around them and had opinions and thoughts about those things, that made things complicated.
Desmond as a person was different from Desmond the waste. For one, she now had to think about what Desmond the person, thought of her. Whether she wanted to or not, she found herself caring about how she came off to him.
Now that he wasn’t just a weight chained to her ankle, she now had to be concerned about whether he still wanted to be married to her, and whether she wanted to be married to him.
She needed to figure out whether they were going to continue doing their own thing till they eventually separated and whether they were going eventually get together and form some kind of team.
And whether the man knew it or not, asking her to change her name for him, was as good as saying that he very much wanted to continue their marriage, in a real sense. Because adopting a new name with the man would effectively mean starting a new clan with him.
In her head there were too many questions, and too many variables, to be honest Henri was still not exactly sure whether she wanted to stay married, or whether all this was just the intermission before she figured out what her actual plans were.
After a tick, she realized that she’d been silent just a few seconds too long. Blushing slightly under the man’s gaze.
“Um…Do you mind if I think about it a bit?”
Desmond blinked. Clueless of her thoughts but aware of that some thinking had been going on. His archive informing him of the storm of neuronal firing that had passed shortly after he’d asked his question.
“Sure, sure…It’s cool. No problem. Get back to me whenever. It’s just that the name change would make some things on my end, a bit more convenient. Having two identities is kind of a bureaucratic nightmare.”
Some men, just knew exactly what ‘not’ to say to a girl. Henri had enough problems trying to figure out the man, when she’d only known about his one identity. It wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t like he’d lied to her or purposefully hidden anything from her.
In fact as of late the man had seemed to go out of his way to be nice and helpful and absolutely candid about the few questions she’d asked.
He also seemed to be quietly doing renovations to make their place look less run down. Even seeming to have managed to somehow increase the spaces of the house.
It was just that knowing that there was so much she didn’t know, made her teeth itch, making her feel increasingly uncertain about him and her and whatever future they were going to end up having together. Making her uncertain on whether there was a future for them at all.
“Uh…Right. So yeah,…like I said, later…” said Henri.