Chapter 78 - Little St Michel

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∞ 78 ∞

LITTLE ST MICHEL


The two novice builders had started on the ambitious job of constructing a staircase for the cottage that week and Valentina seemed very preoccupied all afternoon. Although she had a bit of a knack for building because of her early years trailing behind Agnès –and so was unexpectedly quick with the sort technical diagrams in the book she had ordered: "The Idiots's Guide To Building Stairs"– she made bad mistakes in the measurements she had calculated and read out to Lucius. This resulted in three of the risers and nearly a fourth being cut short. Of course she refused to admit she had read them out wrongly and insisted Lucius had not listened to her properly (and perhaps part of the time he hadn't.)

There was a time when Lucius would have been irritable about such mistakes... There was a time he would have preferred waiting out the time in Azkaban, to spending his afternoons at the beck and call of a Muggle and be involved in menial labour and building work. ( Manually no less!) Now that he was free of the mind altering potions, he had become something like a placid, overfed, lion: content to take up his duties of lord the jungle, relaxing under the peaceful shade of some great tree while the rest of the pride dealt with the mundanities of life – more or less going with the flow of things, so long as everyone payed the proper respect of course. With Valentina, as with most females: lioness, Witch, or woman, he resolved that the best plan of action was to remain in charge... and do as he was told (not that he wanted anyone knowing that).

"Time for some tea I think," said Lucius smiling warmly at a shamefaced Valentina who had just noticed she had calculated the measurement wrongly and he marched her by her shoulders into the kitchen.

As she always did, Valentina poured Lucius's tea first and then made her own: carefully and precisely taking one quarter of a teaspoon of sugar and mixing it around thoroughly, before tasting it and looking satisfied. Lucius was used to this ritual, but it still made him smile and also feel a little spooked. It was so eerily like something his deceased wife would have done (except that early in the morning and late in the evening, instead of the sugar it was one third of a tiny sweetener tablet, which she took care to split properly... something no Magical (or spouse of a Magical) whose ancestors had made many billions off of sugar would ever be involved with). Still it was astounding how two such dissimilar women could have such strong similarities in certain random, little traits.

"Careful to measure it properly, you do not want to take too much," Lucius teased.

"Do-o-n't tease me," she chirped. "I have sensitive tastebuds," she said in all seriousness and then looking at the smirk forming on his face, fell into laughter at how absurd she must have sounded. She was laughing, but something seemed wrong (and not that she was pretending to be cross with him for teasing her – something was flowing underneath the girlish laughter that was bothering her.) Lucius was improving, but he still wasn't adept enough at noticing such subtleties of behaviour, so it went unnoticed... Because Lucius didn't ask, Valentina finally decided to tell him what was on her mind: she brought a letter she had stuffed into the cutlery draw earlier and handed it to him.

"What is it?" he enquired without reading it.

"I got in trouble," she mumbled sheepishly, with her head bowed and looking up at him in a childish way.

Squinting a little, Lucius scanned the letter, it was a cease and desist order from a lawyer in Scottsdale Arizona, threatening her to stop her "defamatory activities" concerning a Mrs M. T. Bowser.

"This is rather heavy handed," he said looking condescendingly at the letter. "Who are these Bowser people? You've clearly upset them."

"I-i-i... was a l-i-i-i-ttle aggressive" Valentina said in a comic singsong voice, that trailed off into a little nervous laugh. "But they deserve it! «Gros Salauds!» Greedy, vulgar, vicious... murdering... racists! I can't believe people like them actually exist. Maybe there was an excuse when Blake Carrington and Margaret Thatcher were running things. It's not the 80's anymore; people have to wake up! There's enough information. There is no excuse!"

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