Merrigold swept the floor of the shop studiously, her feet tired and her fingers stiff from another long day of sewing. It was still surreal to her – the very notion that after five long years, her servitude was at an end and she was her own person. She tidied the bolts of fabric she had been working with, pushing them into their places on the wall with a satisfying click before starting to clean up her various needles and tapes. Isadora had been wonderful to her so far, renting her out a room behind the Clothiers at a very reasonable cost and helping her learn new techniques. The woman created something magical in her patterns and forms, working with the fabric the way an artist might work with oils and canvas, and Merry had immediately taken a liking to her. There were only a handful of other girls that worked for the Clothiers, and while they had all been kind to her, Merry’s natural affinity for the job had brought her along rapidly. She thought deeply as she began to close the shop down, humming quietly to herself. Since she had left the Lion, she hadn’t let herself stop and think. It did no good for her to dwell on anything that had happened there, and less good to think about what she could have been doing if Charmaine hadn’t (thankfully) intervened. But tonight, her mind drifted to the last conversation she had with Corthos.

Charmaine had told her how he had insisted his will on her and pushed by her in the stairwell, demanding to see Merry. Calling himself a ‘paying customer’ like it entitled him to anything he wanted. His shock that anybody would have not wanted to speak to him. But in the conversation, there had been something more…he had sounded confused. Hurt. Wounded. His responses had deflated with each sentence, and he had seemed to sulk away afterwards. But Charmaine and Lisbeth both had assured her that that was just how nobles tended to act if they were denied something – like a petulant child throwing a tantrum. And then they had helped her to pack her bag, and sent her on her way. “Maisie.” She continued to look off in the distance, her mind occupied. “Maisie, darling. I need you for a moment.” Her eye’s popped open in surprise. She was still getting accustomed to the name, and Isadora moved so softly through the store sometimes. She turned to face the woman, smiling. “Yes,Miss Anton?” Isadora smiled sweetly, then laughed. “Isadora, please. Maisie, you really must stop being so formal with me. I’m not accustomed to it from my girls. Now, come along. Vivian and I have been working hard on something, and we need you to finish it.” Isadora led her through the back of the store, opening the door to what she called the ‘Artists Chamber’ – a spot used only by Isadora and her top girls to create. Inside, a young woman looked up from behind a pile of fabric.

She was tired looking, her dark brown hair arranged in a messy ponytail, a pair of jewelers glasses over her eyes. She smiled brightly when Merry entered the room, a new energy seeming to enter her, then stood and hurriedly embraced her. This was Vivian Albright, one of Isadora’s longest working girls. She had taken Merry under her wing in the first day, and the pair had become close rapidly – spending time discussing techniques and talking to each other after work, helping Merry to feel comfortable and settled in, helping her to get whatever small items she had not brought with her. For the first time in years, Merry had found a friend who asked nothing from her but her company. She hugged Vivian tightly, surprised to see her at work. Isadora smiled at them both before speaking. “I was talking to Vivian, and she brought up a point to me. It hardly seems fair to expect you to sell these dresses and fineries to nobility when you have no experience with them.” Merry felt her throat tighten. Had Vivian betrayed her? Was Isadora going to let her go already?

Vivian was smiling as Merry’s eyes glanced over her, then back to Isadora. “I’m sorry, m’Lady. I intend to buy one when I can, I just have so little at the moment…” Isadora laughed, covering her mouth with her hand. “Buy one? Maisie, sweetheart, I would never allow you to buy one of these dresses.” Merry’s eyes looked more worried by the moment. “Vivi, be a doll and show her, would you?” Vivian went to the dressmakers dummy by the side of the room, pulling a large brown fabric off of it to reveal a silken dress fit for nobility, all reds and light hues. Vivian spoke excitedly. “Genuine silk, imported. Light pearl accents. Designed to allow you to move and breathe freely. And, um….designed just for our favorite new employee.” Vivian blushed slightly at her own excitement as Merrigold approached the dress hesitantly. “Go on, it won’t bite you. I’ve never had a dress do that yet.” Isadora chuckled. “Vivian approached me and wanted to sew you a dress. I feel that you’ve earned it, with how hard you work yourself here.” Merry took the fabric in her hands, feeling the soft textures and marveling at the care and perfection of the lacing involved. Vivian spoke to her softly. “This is why I haven’t been able to meet you for dinners after work lately.” Their eyes met, and Vivian chuckled. “But you do owe me some good steaks now.”

Merry said nothing at first, feeling her eyes well up before she wrapped her arms around Vivian tightly. A dozen mumbled thank-yous came out of her mouth at once, then she turned to face Isadora and do the same. After the embrace, Isadora stepped back with a smile. “I’ll lock the doors. You can take that home, and you both can take a rest this evening. I will see you girls in the morning.” She left the room silently, and Vivian started to help Merry unpin the dress. Merry found her mind wandering ever so slightly back to what might have been, and she sighed internally. It was better this way. Charmaine had been right, just as Charmaine always was.


Hell's Rebels novemberdarling