|[Original Fiction]: YAVNC, Chapter 9
||[Jun. 18th, 2008|01:01 am]
8555 words. Scary.
"Would you like to come in?" Ashley said when they pulled into her driveway. "The house is clean enough, I think."
"We'd love to," Stanislava said. "Sorry... would you like to, Dermot?"
"Of course," he said.
Ashley giggled. "You remind me of my parents," she said. "They're not here now, I'm afraid, but I'm sure you'll get to meet them soon."
A small blonde thunderbolt came flying out of the front door and hugged Ashley about her middle. "Thank God you're all right! Have those savages tried to stake you yet?"
Ashley laughed. "Don't be silly, Grizzie. Nobody's going to try to stake me. Even if they did, I have friends who'd defend me."
"Of course we would," Dermot said. "How are you today, Miss Mundy?"
"I'm happy that my sister's safe," she said. "If you don't protect her, Dermot, I'll be very unhappy with you."
"I'll do everything in my power," he said.
"Grizzie!" Ashley said. "That's not very nice. And how did you learn his name?"
"How could I not learn it? Ever since yesterday, it's been ‘Dermot this' and ‘Stanislava that.' You two had better be good to my sister, do you hear me? She likes you."
"I'm sorry," Ashley said, blushing crimson. "My little sister can be the very model of a monster sometimes. She doesn't mean anything by it, really, she's just... overprotective."
"Because someone has to be. Why Mater and Pater allow you go to... to school I do not understand. Who knows what sort of monsters might be lurking? Crazed cultists, evil fanboys, sick fangirls, people who listen to depraved popular music... it's just not safe, Ashley."
"You're being quite rude, sister."
"No, I'm not. I'm not saying your friends are any of those things. But I'm sure there's all kinds of evil there."
"You're not wrong," Stanislava said. "There are some scary folk at school. There's a gang of girls with Grant Stick-On Nails that I'm sure they use for ritual combat. There are creepy people who listen to Johannine metal and gangster polka music, who wear grey suits and neckties and read Calvinist Action Comics. Rumour has it that the chemistry teachers are in three different rival Masonic orders and have to be restrained from assassinating each other in the staff room. And one of the English teachers leads a chapter of the Edith Wharton Fanclub. But not everyone is evil."
"Only a third of–oof." Stanislava elbowed Dermot in the ribs.
"So," she said, "we've not precisely been introduced, but it's very good to meet you. Would you like me to call you Grizzie, or...?"
"Would you call me Griselda? It's a bit more grown up than Grizzie, isn't it?"
"If you think it so. And if you'd like me to, Griselda, then I will."
"And would you elbow Dermot every time he calls me Grizzie, please?" She fluttered her eyelashes quite alarmingly.
"Grizzie," Ashley said. "That's not kind."
"Well, I couldn't ask you to elbow him, because you never would," she said. "I'd ask her to elbow you as well, but I don't think she'd do it."
"There are limits," Stanislava said.
"It is as I feared," Griselda said, and burst into giggles. She was ten or eleven years of age, with blonde hair in the process of unplaiting itself. She wore padded off-brown knee breeches with stockings and low boots and a black leather waistcoat over a white shirt.
"So," Ashley said, "would you like to come inside? I'll do my best to protect you from Typhoon Grizzie. She's not allowed to shoot anything in the house, so you shouldn't have to worry so much."
"She's charming," Dermot said. "Exactly like the little sister I've always wished I had." Griselda made a face.
"And that's exactly what I'd hope my little sister would do, did I have a little sister," Stanislava said.
"You're both welcome to a share of her," Ashley said. "I'd even suggest that you could take her, but I like you far too much."
The great brass-bound oak door swung open. "Guests! Miss Ashley, Miss Grizzie, do you stop delaying them at once! They must be hungry and thirsty and saddleworn and wearied, and here you are holding them on the doorstep. Young mistress, young sir, would it please you to come inside and honour the House of Mundy with your presence? And to pardon the young misses for their rudeness?" The woman at the door might have been perfectly cast as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, but for the fact that she was six feet tall and looked quite capable of breaking heads, if such were called for.
"I pray you forgive my contradicting you, mistress, but they've been very kind," Dermot said. "And indeed would it please us. Stani?"
"Assuredly," she said. "Mistress... Hopkins, is it? We'd be delighted."
The woman smiled, revealing a fairly un-Elizabethan full set of teeth. "Then do come in, please."
They were led inside, seated in the drawing room, and presented with a wooden tray of cinnamon-spiced meat and walnut pies and little honey cakes, along with a sweating metal pitcher. "It's only small beer," Mistress Hopkins said, "but my own brewing."
"Your pardon, Mistress," Stanislava said, "but I'm driving, and can't drink. Even if it's only small beer."
She looked puzzled for a moment, then expressionless. "Right. Well, we have got coffee. I'm told it's considered a fairly good bean, by them who drink that sort of thing. I can't say as I think it's healthy, Miss, but if you wish..."
"Coffee would be lovely, please," Stanislava said.
Mistress Hopkins headed for the kitchen. "Do pardon her, Stanislava," Ashley said. "She's got some fairly old-fashioned notions."
Griselda poured herself a ceramic mug of small beer. "Right-minded notions," she said. "Coffee is foul, and that sweet fizzy swill that people try to force down the gullet of anyone under five foot tall is worse. Here, Dermot, have something decent. I trust you're not some sort of teetotaler." She poured two more mugs, passed them to him and Ashley, and seized a pie.
"Grizzie," Ashley said, "do mind your manners."
"Thank you, Griselda," he said. "Small beer is fine. And Stani would have some, were she not driving."
"That's why I'm never going to drive," Griselda said. "Loathsome things, cars, making decent people drink water and worse, as if they were Nonconformists or somesuch ghastly thing."
"Grizzie! You little beast. Please pardon her rudeness, Stanislava."
"It's fine," she said, laughing. "We're both Catholic."
"Oh, that's lovely," Ashley said. "I mean... well, I wouldn't mind if you weren't, but it does make things easier. The Church is more understanding about–" She was interrupted by the return of Mistress Hopkins, a tray full of coffee service in her hands.
"Your coffee, miss."
"Oh, lovely," Stanislava said. "It smells wonderful. Thank you so much, mistress. God and Mary bless you for your kindness."
"You're very welcome, miss," she said, smiling. "May they bless you, as well."
"I'll take a small cup," Ashley said. "I can't drink coffee much, but I do like it."
"If you must, Miss Ashley. I've your afternoon tonic here as well."
Ashley made a face and took the glass of steaming dark red liquid. "Thank you." She drank it down, as quickly as possible.