Snow Problem

The land is lit up by the eerie light of the full moon.
A tiny garden, surrounded by a high wooden fence. Neat beds of herbs have been carefully laid out, with not a stray weed or blade of grass to be seen. A short path winds around the herb beds, and the whole garden gives off an air of orderliness despite the chaos of nature. A stone bench is nestled between two of the herb beds.
It is a very cold spring prime’s night with almost no wind and many puffy clouds.
There is one obvious exit: east.
Miss Georgina de Vitis is sitting here.

Miss Georgina de Vitis is sitting quietly, a book on her lap, her hand on the page. From her expression, the page may not have turned for an hour or more, her gaze resting on one of the plants, purely by default. Her thoughts are clearly not that happy ones, but she is pensive rather than sad. The outfit is neat but hints of work shine through, a waistcoat holding her shirt tighter, her skirt actually a pair of culottes. Her hair is a plait.

Raleigh Montague gazes out of his office window; full moon tonight, which means it’s the perfect time to gather some aconite from the garden for a poison he’s been meaning to brew. He heads out of his office, avoids bumping into people he knows, and arrives in the garden precisely three minutes later, drawing a small silver-tipped knife out from a wrist sheath as he does. He stops, surprised to see someone else in the garden, and then recognises the occupant. “Miss de Vitis. Good evening.”

Miss Georgina de Vitis startles, apparently oblivious to her surroundings, and she jumps to her feet, the book falling to the ground. “Raleigh!” Then she blushes, bending to pick up the book, a moment to compose herself before she tries again, “Doctor Montague.” She pauses, adding quietly, calmly, “I do apologise for the other day. I am not usually so emotional.” A frank and forthright comment, her lips tightening.

Raleigh Montague sheathes the little knife again; aconite gathering can wait. He pauses for a second before coming towards the bench where she is sitting. “That is quite alright. I knew you were upset, but before I could ascertain the cause, or even offer comfort, you had walked away.”

Miss Georgina de Vitis folds the book in her arms, hugging it almost, and gives him a brief smile. “Forgive me, I was … it was rather a terrible week.” An understatement, but she shakes her head, dismissing the week that was. “I had underestimated how much difficulty I would have listening to harsh words, despite their actions last week.”

Raleigh Montague sits on the edge of the bench in silent companionship for a moment. “I am sorry you interpreted the words as harsh, but I am sure you can see how from our point of view we are not fond of your former guild for many reasons. Their attempt on your life whilst you were within the safety of your own guild is only one more reason, one more treachery, in a long line of treacheries.” He is silent a moment. “Georgina, you must understand that whilst you may have friends in the Mano Rossa – and I myself do – that we cannot speak of them with warmth or understanding. I cannot either, despite my friendship with one of their own, who happens, as things stand, to be one of their administration team.”

“I was hoping that it would remain private, that incident.” The quiet reply comes with a glance away, before Miss Georgina de Vitis joins him on the bench, curling her arms around the book. “I understand, believe me I do. There is a large difference in my feelings and my mind in this, and it makes me… uncomfortable to be emotional on this issue.” She glances at him, a look through her lashes, “I… do apologise for that.”

Raleigh Montague frowns slightly. “Incidents like that must be reported if we are to protect our own.” He gazes at her. “You were lucky, but consider that another might not be.”

“Lucky, yes. I reported it, Raleigh, I just had not …” Miss Georgina de Vitis closes her eyes for a moment before continuing, “Considered that it would become something to confront me in my conversations, you see. It is so obvious that it would but oddly,I thought I could pretend otherwise.” She shakes her head, “What nonsense, naive of me.”

Raleigh Montague shakes his head. “I know I was not present during the interaction, but I doubt that it was intended as a confrontation or a personal slight. In fact, I would be very surprised, considering who the other party was, if that was the case.” He brushes an invisible speck off his coat. “I am sorry it has been a rough week for you. I wanted to inquire after you many times, but your exit felt a little final, and I – have had some surprises of my own to contend with.”

“I doubt it was, Raleigh, he meant no offense. Merely a sore spot at a moment when I could not quite handle that.” Miss Georgina de Vitis speaks in a matter of fact way though, and her eyes narrow, her gaze landing on him, studying him, “Is it something I can help with? I am sorry to hear it…” Her voice softens, her forehead creasing.

Raleigh Montague frowns at the softly falling snow. “I fear the weather appears to have taken a turn for the worse.” He glances at her, his eyes amused now. “I do not think so, although I appreciate the inquiry.”

“I rather enjoy snow. We rarely see it in Genua.” Miss Georgina de Vitis replies quietly, and she returns that glance with a steady look, “Ah the mysterious Raleigh.” She is almost teasing him, a small smile on her lips, “Well then, should you need it, or perhaps an ear, …” She lifts her shoulders, a small gesture. (Georgina)

Raleigh Montague laughs, as he glances at the snow again. “Would you like my coat?”

Miss Georgina de Vitis tilts her head back, closing her eyes for a moment, letting the snow fall on her face with evident pleasure. Then she turns towards him, giving him a smile, “It is colder than you would imagine, looking at it. Please.” The snow has settled on her lashes, somehow darkening them.

Raleigh Montague slips out of his fine woollen dark red overcoat, the only concession to colour in his wardrobe, and hands it over; it is surprisingly light. He glances at her face, and gently flicks a tiny snow flake off the tip of her nose with a touch that is barely there. “Snow problem”, he quips, his eyes amused.

Miss Georgina de Vitis hugs it around herself, her gaze on his face, before his flick of her nose brings a laugh to her, one that reaches her eyes. “Raleigh, I…” She hesitates, her face uncertain for an instant, “I missed you this week.” She speaks the words softly, “I nearly came to visit but I felt, the way I left… It was perhaps not right.”

Raleigh Montague points out that she did storm out after using a very formal method of addressing him. “I am never sure when that happens whether people have retreated to formality, in which case did the interim period of better acquaintance ever happen, or whether it is a passing fancy. In any case, I always leave it up to the other person to resolve. I only resolve situations in which I was the instigator.”

“I did, which I do regret.” Miss Georgina de Vitis lifts her hands, lifting the collar on his coat around her neck, slanting him a look, “If I could take those moments back, I would.” The soft words come with a smile that is more rueful than happy, and she shakes her head, “I hope though that it is resolved, with my apology, and contrition?”

Raleigh Montague responds by taking her free hand to hold in his own. “Indeed. There is no need to mention this any further. Let us be silent on the subject, and talk of better things.” He frowns slightly. “Your hands are cold.” He takes her book out of her other hand, setting it on the bench, and rubs her hands gently between his own.

Miss Georgina de Vitis gives him a smile, one that warms her eyes, and her fingers squeeze his. “It is snowing, you know.” She is teasing him, her eyes filling with mischief, and her gaze studies his face. “Are you sure you won’t share your bad week with me?” The question is soft, her concern sliding into her face.

Raleigh Montague’s own fingers squeeze her hands back in response. He chuckles. “It isn’t a bad week, per se. Merely a rather challenging one.” He gazes thoughtfully at her. “I suppose I should tell you, since it is highly likely that you will meet her in the guild, although I haven’t run into her yet. My former – that is, a lady I was once involved with, is back in town, and we didn’t exactly part on the best of terms.” He considers this before thoughtfully saying, “Actually, I’m not entirely sure that we parted at all.” He laughs. “It isn’t how it sounds; we weren’t involved when she left. However, she does have this surprising habit of leaving – and reappearing – rather suddenly.”

Miss Georgina de Vitis is smiling at his chuckle, but it fades a little, her forehead creasing as he speaks. She listens, her teeth catching on her lower ilp, her eyes darkening with concern. “Are you alright?” Her concern is obvious, the focus of it the man in front of her. “Will it be awkward for you? Is there anything I can do?” Her fingers tighten, just for a moment, on his, her gaze anxiously fixed on his face.

Raleigh Montague nods. “I am well, thank you. I hope to run into her soon, as a matter of fact, and am quite likely to, if she is back to stay.” He squeezes her hands again. “In any case, if you do hear anything about me and Lady Aell von Glitz, then you know it is indeed the truth, and we were involved once.”

Miss Georgina de Vitis nods slowly, her forehead creasing before she shakes her head slightly, a tiny movement, “The obvious question, I suppose, is how it changes this, us. It must, of course… ” She trails off, giving him a questioning look, her eyes thoughtful.

Raleigh Montague quietly says, “I will not deny that I cared about her, and that I did mourn her loss in as much as you can mourn the loss of someone with whom you have had a very tumultuous relationship.” He gazes at her face. “I am not accustomed to telling the lies that some men tell, merely to secure the affections of a young lady using false pretences. This much you know.”

Raleigh Montague quietly says: I like to think that Aell’s return will leave me unaffected, if not in entirety, then at least for the most part.

Miss Georgina de Vitis returns that gaze, hers steady, and she nods slightly, “I think I prefer truth, Raleigh, and I would think less of you had you not cared for someone with whom you were involved.” Her voice is soft and she shakes her head, “And us then, unaffected?” There is an uncertainty, her eyebrows drawing together in query.

Raleigh Montague lifts her hands up to kiss them. “Unaffected.”

Miss Georgina de Vitis blushes, slanting him a look through her lashes, “That is good…” Her voice is softer, and then her eyes widening a little, “I have a little other thing to tell you, so that you too do not hear something in rumour.”

Raleigh Montague glances at her face, his eyes amused. “If you also have a former lover descending on you this week, then it is surely the gods having a laugh at our expense.”

Miss Georgina de Vitis giggles, her amusement showing, “No, oh no, well, I hope not. If he is, it would be less than friendly. But I have moved to share Kurzik’s apartment, he kindly offered me a room.”

Raleigh Montague chuckles. “Ah, I see. I confess, I do not know him beyond the superficial nod in the hallways.” He smiles. “I take it you are happy there?”

“He has been very kind. We were old friends in Genua, and now… I have his kitchen.” Miss Georgina de Vitis shoots him a look full of laughter. (Georgina)

Raleigh Montague laughs. “Should hunger pangs strike, you will not be far away from a snack, at least.”

Miss Georgina de Vitis laughs, shaking her head, reaching out to brush the snow from his sleeves. “You are getting cold.” Her voice is soft though.

Raleigh Montague shakes his head, dislodging a few snow flakes, and shaking his plait at the same time. “Spring snow. Enjoy it. This is the prettiest this city ever gets, unless it is blanketed by the thicker snows of winter.”

“It does make it a little prettier, I admit.” Her eyes are laughing up at him, and Miss Georgina de Vitis brushes the pad of her thumb over his hand, glancing down to consider their clasped hands.

Raleigh Montague gently unclasps his hands from hers and lifts her face up to his by lifting her chin. “Very pretty indeed.” He’s probably not talking about the snow.

Miss Georgina de Vitis smiles up at him, and whispers her reply, “The view is wonderful..” She leans in a little, sliding a hand to his chest, her eyes warm.

Raleigh Montague forgets where he is for a moment as he bends to gently – but very thoroughly – kiss the lady.

Miss Georgina de Vitis returns the kiss, her fingers sliding up to his throat, her fingertips brushing his jawline. Her eyes close, the snow melting on their faces.

Raleigh Montague breaks free at least, rubbing his forehead against hers. “Dear me. What a sight for Miss Smith-Rhodes if she were to come in here, or indeed, for a truant student.” A finger twirls an errant curl around itself, a gentle caress.

Miss Georgina de Vitis lets out a breathy giggle, slanting him a look through her lashes and she cups his cheek with her hand, her fingers cold. The sound of the door opening and closing makes her sit back, just a tiny amount, reluctantly. “Or any of the staff…”

Raleigh Montague laughs. “Or any of the staff.” He moves to get to his feet, glancing down at her. “Do you yearn to return to your kitchen, wench, or could you stand to spend the night with me tonight?”

Miss Georgina de Vitis rises to her feet, her hands rising to tuck his coat around her face, “I believe I can bear to leave it for a little time. Although sometime, you should come and see the cosiness I have there…” Her smile at him is warm, teasing him.

Raleigh Montague chuckles as he leads the way out of the snow-filled garden. “I believe I can safely promise you that.”

About Raleigh Montague

Doctor Raleigh Montague is the House Master of Black Widow House in the Conlegium Sicariorum, and the Senior Lecturer in Physical Education.
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