Cylus 30, Arc 721
Sitting at a corner table in the Knight’s Rest Tavern, Natalia waited patiently for the arrival of her childhood friend, Liselle. Legs crossed, back straight, fingers toying with the rim of the drink she was currently not drinking, her golden eyes kept glancing across the room, hoping for some sign of the wayward – and always late – young woman that she considered her closest friend. Of course, times changed, and people got older, but it was nice to have a few constants in one’s life.
As she waited, her gaze flickered across the room, watching the patrons, living their lives in mundane detail. Of course, her life was not so different from theirs anymore – not since the fracture from her family. There were differences though. Most people settled for mundane and dull. Natalia refused, knowing there was more out there.
Clad in a gold dress with a sapphire overcoat, her outfit was not extravagant by any stretch. What it was, however, was classy and well-kept. Knowing how one needed to appear in public was something the young woman was good at. Even if she did not have the finances to keep up with her former lifestyle, she would always look her best.
Spying Liselle entering the building, she offered up a friendly nod to the blond, gesturing her to the table where a drink was already waiting. “I’m so sorry, Natalia! My parents were going on and on about some party in a few trials and insisting on discussing details. I escaped as soon as I could. Forgive me?” Smiling a bit, she nodded, speaking with a tone most would associate with her – calm and even. “Of course. I haven’t been waiting long, Elle.” It would not have done to make her friend feel worse about things, so she refrained from pointing out that the wait had been much longer than she let on.
Taking a drink from the mug provided, the blond rushed on. “So, have you settled into your new place? It must be dreadful. I still cannot believe you left! I mean, I believe it, obviously…but I don’t understand.” Shifting a bit in her seat, Natalia gifted her friend a smile but said nothing immediately. She knew it was hard for anyone in her old peer group to understand the decision she had made to leave. Their minds had been molded since their youth to accept circumstances as they were and want nothing more. Somehow, in the middle of all of that, she became something…different.
“Elle, I won’t accept the life you all have signed up willingly for.” There was nothing about her tone that indicated how she truly felt inside. It was truly a cacophony of emotions, but it was not appropriate to put them on display, even for a life-long friend. “I was all but sold to some boring dullard who could afford the price my father wanted. It is not an acceptable life. You. Me. We were all raised to want nothing more than to marry rich, secure the family fortune, and pop out babies to ensure the lineage. That is it. Life is nothing more than that. You may be alright with it. I am not. It’s a simple matter.”
The blond thought about what she said, rolling her eyes a bit. “I think that’s all a bit dramatic. Just because we do not have to work or worry about money doesn’t mean our lives are over. There are things to look forward to as well….” Natalia had heard this line of propaganda before and wasn’t in the mood to indulge it for long. “Yes, a life of parties and no responsibilities because you can pay everyone else to take care of everything. No. I won’t be a part of that.”
Liselle knew when she was backed into a corner – Natalia was very good at putting other people in that very position. “Alright, Nat. Tell me again…what is it that you want?” Considering the question a bit, the brunette sighed just a little, taking a quick drink from her glass. “Not that, obviously. I want to make my own choices. I want to be able to think for myself. I want something more than this life that everyone seems to want to lead, the path to family and death. Of course, that is a vast oversimplification, but it seems to be true more often than not.”
Tapping her fingers on the table, she enjoyed time with Liselle but lately, it seemed like all their conversations boiled down to the difference between the two. The blond shook her head a bit, countering with a thought of her own. “So, you don’t want love or a family?” The comment caused a laugh to slip free from Natalia’s lips. “That was not what I was being offered. I was being offered the life of a well-paid moppet, unable to think or speak her mind and be at some man’s beck and call. The two are not the same. Love and family are not necessary for happiness nor does having them mean one has happiness. The life I want may include the things you speak of. Or they may not. But what I will not do is settle for someone else’s version of what my life should be. I have worked too hard for that, not to get sucked into all the glitz and tomfoolery. Ever since I realized what was happening, I have actively opposed it within my own mind until the time came that I could choose for myself.”
Liselle was not to be deterred. “You didn’t answer the question, Nat. You often do not. You ran circles around it instead. Love and family?” Shrugging her slender shoulders, Natalia glanced in her direction. “Yes, but on my terms. Those terms do not include losing myself to another or simply becoming the mindless baby factories our friends will be.” That was as far as she was willing to go on the subject and the blond knew it.
“Fine. So, what else? What are you going to do? You have to make money and survive since your family cut you out of their finances.” Nodding, she had given the matter some thought. “I had a little money saved up, but you are right – I will need a job sooner rather than later. I have the house, so I am thinking perhaps a quick tour around the island, to see what is out there, and then back to Scalvoris Town to find a job in a bookshop or something similar. Something that provides money until I find what it is I am looking for, and only that long.” Taking another drink from her glass, she had considered the most suitable temporary positions, and working in a bookshop seemed to be the best course of action…at least that she could see. There was a lingering affinity for knowledge and as such, being close to volumes of it could not ever be a bad thing.
Growing up, she had tried to convince her parents to allow her a proper, formal education. Of course, she could read and write but beyond that, she knew how to walk, talk, and have a conversation. Natalia knew everything she had needed to in order to survive her girlhood, being the perfect daughter. As she had grown older, that ‘education’ had included things she had preferred it not. The focus, apparently, was to attract a wealthy husband and from that point on, any and all personal desires were abandoned.
No. That would not be her life…so she had walked away from it.
To be fair, Liselle was afforded more of her thoughts and feelings than most people, due to their close relationship, which in truth made no sense considering their vast differences of opinion. Call it childhood affection or something else, but Liselle was a known, trusted entity. The brunette was good at sizing up people and preferred to allow them to open up to her first before showing anything of herself. It was often an exhausting process of small talk – which she did not like – to get to that point, but it was effective. Most people were rather boring once you got inside their minds, so it was a rare few that she found herself truly interested in pursuing relationships with. Remarkable minds were rare…but she was rather addicted to them, so the search continued.
Smiling fondly at Natalia, the blond simply shook her head. “Stubborn. You’ve been that way since we were little. Remember that time you hauled off and smacked Sebastian Le’Moure because he tried to tell you what to do?" Nodding, she remembered. It was one of her better memories actually. “No one tells me what to do, Elle. Not then, not now.”