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[personal profile] jessara40k_lj
Title: Clothing Issues
Pairing: referenced F/f
Rating: PG-13
Warning: referenced sexual slavery, non-traditional marriages
Word Count: approx 5,700
Summary: Rafiyah sets up her sewing room and offers to help Sarah navigate Family society.
Feedback: Welcome as long as all criticism is constructive

Jasmine had managed to talk Rafiyah into setting her sewing room up next to Jasmine’s studio, even though it was a lot larger than she really needed. At least right now; she might need the space later if she taught Jasmine’s children (and Antoinette’s, if she had any) how to sew. But that was for later. Right now Sarah was helping Rafiyah get her fabric packed away in one of the two sets of drawers she’d bought. She really hadn’t expected Sarah to offer her help - her mother would never have done that for a second consort - but it would be a good way of suggesting making something for her, at least as long as she noticed when Sarah saw something she liked.

“Do you actually make all of your own clothes?” Rafiyah had been half expecting that question, and she let herself turn to look at Sarah directly, noting absently that she was holding the red and gold brocade left from Rafiyah’s courting outfit.

“Not quite. I’ve always bought my underwear and my Family employ a seamstress who made my formalwear.” The five outfits that made up her trousseau would be the last Rosalind created for her, but she’d helped Rafiyah select patterns to bring with her and guided her through making two dresses in the same pattern she’d used for the formal ones. “But I could make simple formalwear and I’ve been making my more casual outfits since I was good enough to do it.”

“But why? I don’t get it. It isn’t as if you couldn’t afford to buy all your clothes.”

“Yes, I could, but I enjoy sewing, it relaxes me. And I find it a lot easier than trying to buy - to find - clothes that fit properly, rather than only in places, and that flatter my figure and colouring depending on the current fashions.” Rafiyah took the brocade from Sarah as she spoke, opening it out to confirm what she thought she remembered. “I might be able to make a shrug, or a bolero jacket from what’s left, but nothing bigger. Would you like me to do that for you?”

“Thanks, but I don’t think it would suit me - and when would I wear something like that?”

“You’re right, it isn’t the right colour for you.” Not near her face or hair anyway, but this was probably the best time to bring up how Sarah dressed. “Sarah, I realise this might be a sensitive subject for you, but...you don’t dress very well, not even for parties.” Not necessarily the most tactful way to put it, but she thought Sarah would listen, despite the way her jaw tightened.

“I don’t sew, and I can’t afford to have even just my party clothes custom made. You pointed out the lack of clothes that fit and flatter fat women yourself.” Rafiyah didn’t like the bitterness in Sarah’s voice, but if Antoinette hadn’t been able to change her attitude towards her figure Rafiyah wouldn’t be able to - at least not right now. All she could do was help Sarah dress better, and hope that it would improve her confidence eventually. But she didn’t have to let the implied slur about her weight stand.

“Curvy women, not fat. I’m sure Jasmine’s clothes are at least tailored to her after she buys them.” They fit too well for anything else to be true, that is if they weren’t custom-made for her. “I could easily alter your shirts so that they fitted at the bust without being so loose at the waist. And...it’s pretty clear you don’t like skirts, but you don’t wear the best sort of trousers for your figure.”

“I can’t ask you to do that for me.” Sarah sounded oddly shocked, almost scandalised, by the idea, and Rafiyah really couldn’t understand why.

“You aren’t asking, I’m offering. I’ve got some black velvet that I wouldn’t use for myself, and if you think you’d be comfortable wearing the same sort of trousers that I wear, or that Antoinette wears on more formal social occasions I can probably make two pairs for you. We wear that style of trousers because it flatters a woman’s curves and is easier to fit at the waist than the more common formal styles.” And there’d be other benefits if she made a shirt from the golden silk that went with the brocade. “There’s something we need to talk about, and I’m not sure how to put it politely.” It wasn’t something she’d ever anticipated having to discuss, and if Sarah had been more receptive to the idea of Rafiyah making her formalwear she’d have tried not to mention it directly. “Would it offend you if I was rude, almost insulting?”

“You mean more than you already have been?” Sarah laughed, and shook her head. “If it’s that important to you then just tell me.”

“I’m sorry, but you don’t seem to play Family word games, so I couldn’t think of a way to be more polite without being too indirect. The way you dress for formal events could easily cause problems for Antoinette.”

“It what? How?” She had Sarah’s full attention now, the cloth in her hands falling to the floor, and Rafiyah felt almost guilty for her pleasure in seeing how much the thought distressed Sarah. “And why wouldn’t she tell me?”

“I don’t know why Antoinette didn’t say something about this, but at the moment the gossip is all about how much she loves you, and how romantic it is. That, and that you don’t really understand or care about how things are done among the Families. At least the gossip I heard went that way and if the gossip my Father could have heard was any worse I wouldn’t have been allowed to become Antoinette’s consort. So, the gossip about Antoinette isn’t too damaging right now - she’s a Terenev, the daughter of the Terenev, she can afford a consort who doesn’t play Family politics, at least for a while and if you don’t do anything really stupid, but now that she’s got me as well...one of the assumptions I anticipate, that I ran into when people learned Antoinette was courting me, is that part of the reason she wants me is to teach you how to avoid being needlessly offensive at formal events.”

“So everyone will be sure I’m only being rude on purpose if I don’t follow your advice.” There was a hint of rueful humour in Sarah’s voice. It was mixed with some anger, but not enough to make Rafiyah back down. “Tell me what I need to do then.”

“First, you need to start letting Jasmine do your make-up when you go to parties together. It’s a sign of solidarity, and it looks as if there’s problems between you if she doesn’t. If you knew as much as she does about how to use make-up then it wouldn’t be so important, or if you went to parties bare-faced it would be seen as a political statement, but because you don’t have the training she does and you still wear make-up for parties...” Rafiyah would let Sarah come up with her own interpretation, that would have more impact than listening to what Rafiyah could tell her.

“Is that why I’ve had difficulty stopping people harassing Jasmine? They think we’re fighting or something, that I don’t really care about her? That I might even be jealous of her?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. At least it’s one reason.” It probably didn’t help that Sarah didn’t dress like she was part of a Family, might not even consider herself a Terenev. “And speaking of solidarity I’ve got ideas for outfits for you and Jasmine that would also work as a way to tell people that we’re standing together and care for each other. To make it clear we’re not rivals of any sort.” Not that anyone who knew Antoinette would think that, not after the care she’d taken in making sure Rafiyah would fit in with her household. “I want to make you an outfit that will co-ordinate with two of the formal outfits I brought with me, and to make Jasmine a shrug or bolero jacket from that red brocade you rejected. She’s probably got a dress that it will work with.” And if not Rafiyah was pretty certain she’d be willing to buy one.

“What sort of outfit?” Sarah visibly braced herself, as if she didn’t trust Rafiyah at all.

“Black velvet trousers and a golden silk shirt - or a golden silk tunic if you’d prefer, but I think a shirt would suit you better. If you like how the shirt fits we can buy some more fabric and I’ll make more shirts for you - and the same applies to the trousers of course.”

“Ah.” Sarah relaxed a bit at that. “A bit like the sort of clothes Antoinette wears for parties then? I still don’t think it’s really fair to you.”

“Yes, a bit like that. And would you feel better about it if we traded? If I keep track of how long I spend on your clothes and you help me with the gardens for an equal time in exchange? I intend to talk to Antoinette about hiring the heavier work done anyway, but there are things you can do that I would find painful.” she wasn’t sure why Sarah had such a problem with Rafiyah making her clothes for her, not unless she didn’t think Rafiyah would do a good job. And Rafiyah wasn’t above using her infirmity to encourage Sarah to her way of thinking.

“Yes, yes, that would make me feel better.” Sarah smiled ruefully, shrugging one shoulder as she answered. “I should be trying to get into shape anyway shouldn’t I? And this way I won’t feel as if I’m taking advantage of you.” Abusing her position as Antoinette’s first and most beloved consort. Rafiyah knew that sometimes happened, but it hadn’t been a concern for her even before she knew what Antoinette needed from her.

“That’s really considerate of you, but I never thought you would. I wouldn’t have made the offer if I thought you’d take advantage.” She’d never have made an offer like that to her sisters, or to Kristina, Omar’s consort; her sisters knew how to make their own clothes, not that they ever bothered to, and Kristina would end up taking advantage, even if she hadn’t intended to. With Kristina, no matter how submissive the other woman was, Rafiyah had always been aware of how vulnerable her own position was, how much her limited independence had rested on her Father’s favour. “Would you like to undress so I can take your measurements now, or would you prefer to wait until we’ve finished packing my fabric away?” Rafiyah had kept working while they spoke, and so had Sarah, but they still had another suitcase to unpack.

“Mind if I close the drapes first? And...it won’t be a problem for you, will it?”

“Not if you’re co-operative.” She wouldn’t have offered if it was a problem, but Rafiyah reminded herself that Sarah didn’t, couldn’t, have an accurate idea of her physical limits yet. “Could you get the drapes while I find the records forms?”

“Of course.” Sarah made for the curtains at once, leaving Rafiyah to lever herself to her feet and pull out a record form and pen before moving to the cutting/drafting table. “Where do you want me?”

“Just undress and stand in front of me for now. You can leave your underwear on if it would make you feel more comfortable.”

“Yes, it would.” Sarah smiled at Rafiyah as she undressed, moving quickly and folding her clothes before putting them on the table. Rafiyah laid her cane on the table as well, picking up the measuring tape instead. She measured Sarah at the widest part of her breasts, then underneath them, mentally noting that Sarah’s breasts were a cup size bigger than hers, but that her ribcage was a little smaller, as she wrote the measurements down. Still, Rafiyah’s tunics would probably fit, and flatter Sarah’s figure, even if they were a touch long on her. Her speculation was confirmed as she moved down to measure Sarah’s waist, then her hips and around her ass, finding that those measurements were almost identical to Rafiyah’s own.

“Could you open your legs a bit? I need to measure your thighs.”

“Right, yes, I can do that.” Sarah shifted position until Rafiyah could reach between her legs comfortably to take the measurements. “Do you need to measure my arms as well?”

“Yes, I do. Hold them out for me please?” Sarah obeyed, letting Rafiyah measure around her upper arms, and then the length from shoulder to wrist. “Thank you, and now can you turn around?”

“Why?” But Sarah was already obeying, allowing Rafiyah to measure across her shoulders and down her spine as she explained.

“Because if I don’t know how broad your shoulders are I could make a shirt that doesn’t fit across them properly.” She’d learned not to assume the breadth of someone’s shoulders from the size of her chest the first time she’d made a tunic for herself after she’d been injured. She’d put on muscle across her shoulders since her last measurements, but she’d only measured her bust, ribcage and waist, extrapolating for the rest, and ended up with a tunic she couldn’t wear. “And I need to know where your waist is in relation to your bust and hips, or I could get the waistline wrong. This is where I really need you to co-operate. I don’t want to have to kneel down to measure your leg, so could you climb up on the table for me please?”

“Just let me get a chair to climb on.” Sarah matched action to words, and Rafiyah shifted her weight to keep her hip from stiffening up while Sarah climbed onto the table. “I don’t usually climb on the furniture. Do you think the table’s strong enough to hold Antoinette if you ever need to measure her like this?”

“It should be.” Rafiyah passed the end of the tape measure up to Sarah as she spoke. “Hold this on the inside of your thigh, beside your groin please, and lay it flat as much as you can. Anyway, I’m only going to need to do these measurements once each for you and her.” They were both beyond the age where they were likely to get any taller, and if it proved necessary Rafiyah was sure they would be able to measure around their calves themselves. “I’ve got your inside leg, now can you move your end of the tape to your waist - wherever you want the waistband on your trousers to rest.”

“Will you need another measurement if it isn’t at my waist?”

“Yes, I will, but I know that some people prefer their trousers to sit just above their hips, or somewhere between their hips and their waist.” And she’d accommodate Sarah’s wishes - the other woman would look better if she was comfortable in what she was wearing, even if it might not be the best choice otherwise.

“Well I don’t.” She held the tape to her waist, and smoothed it down over her hip and thigh for Rafiyah to get her outside leg measurement. “Is that everything?”

“Not quite. Pass the tape down to me and I’ll measure your calves. Or you could come down off the table and measure them yourself of course.”

“Yes, I’ll do that. But why do you need those measurements?” Sarah sat down on the table edge first, before sliding down to the floor, without needing to use the chair as a step.

“Well, I don’t expect to need them, not for this, but I’d like to have them now in case I need them in the near future.” Not that she thought that was particularly likely given Sarah’s body issues, but Rafiyah wanted to get all the measurements done in one session and she handed the tape measure over to Sarah as she spoke.

“All right.” Sarah sat down and measured each calf, giving Rafiyah the measurements to write down. Then Rafiyah could retrieve her cane. “So, what now?”

“Now could you get the patterns for trousers and shirts, while I find the fabric I want to use for this. Oh, and pull out three of my empty project boxes for me please.” She’d seen the black velvet - put it away herself, with the blues for lack of anywhere better to put it - and she’d set the red and gold brocade on top of one chest of drawers, but the golden silk was probably still in that last suitcase, so she might as well unpack it while she searched.

“You mean the largest ones? And why three?”

“Yes, the largest ones, and three because I’ll be making you at least one shirt, and two pairs of trousers, and I’ll also be making Jasmine a shrug or bolero jacket.” It was fairly easy to find the black velvet and Rafiyah put that with the brocade before she opened the final suitcase and sat down to work through it.

~~~0~~~


Rafiyah had given Sarah a lot to think about, and she couldn’t keep from glancing over at the other woman every so often while she opened the curtains, and pulled out the patterns Rafiyah had asked for from the filing cabinet. She couldn’t understand what Rafiyah enjoyed so much about making clothes, or why a Family woman would have become so obviously expert at the practice. She’d always associated making your own clothes with poverty, and the Families were rich by definition, or they ceased to be Families. But that didn’t matter, she could try to understand Rafiyah better later, right now she needed to think about what she’d just learned about how she could damage Antoinette’s reputation.

She was probably missing a lot of the ramifications Rafiyah could see, but if the gossip now was about how much Antoinette loved her it could easily become that she didn’t love Antoinette as much, or in the same way. That or it could end up with Antoinette being seen as weak in some way, too scared of hurting her to let her know what sort of an impression she was giving, or let anyone else tell her. Weak, and more than a little stupid, since Sarah had always trusted Antoinette to tell her if she looked awful, and it would hurt a lot more if she violated that trust.

“Just how bad is the way I usually dress for parties?” She put the patterns down on the lower table, absently spreading them out and looking down at them as she spoke, noting that the women in the pictures weren’t as skinny as she’d expected, although they were all very sexy.

“We can work with it. You’re making a classic mistake for a curvy woman, wearing loose clothes off the rack to fit your bust and hips, when you need something tailored to emphasise your waist and keep from looking fat. You’ve been looking stubborn, more than anything else, and determinedly independent, but pushed too far that becomes rudeness and insult. I understand that you’re reluctant to let Antoinette buy clothes for you?”

“Yes, I...it makes me feel like I’m using her, or taking advantage of her, when she pays for things like that for me. Jewellery’s different somehow. I don’t know, it feels less personal, less intimate.” And even then she hadn’t let Antoinette buy her very much jewellery, and she was relieved Rafiyah had found a way she could repay the time she was spending on making these clothes for her. She put the three project boxes on the table as well, then looked to Rafiyah for further guidance “Is there anything else I can do to help?”

“Put the velvet in one project box, and the brocade in another, then look through the notions box for buttons you might like for your shirt.”

“Right.” The notions box was on a shelf at roughly waist height, and she carried it over to the higher table, where she could lift out each tray to look through in turn. “How many buttons will you need?”

“I’m not sure, it depends on what type of shirt you want, and on how big the buttons are. For now just look at buttons where I’ve got ten or more of the same style. Try to pick three or four types of button that you’re happy with.”

“Right. Should I leave the notions box out when I’m done?”

“Yes, but move it to the other table please.” She hadn’t done more than lift the lid yet, so Sarah shut the box and moved it to the lower table, pulling up a chair before she began searching for the buttons Rafiyah had asked for. There was a selection of small jars in the lid, and she used four of them to store the buttons she selected, going for plain yellow or brown buttons - although none of them felt quite like she expected, not quite like normal buttons, smoother and cooler somehow. She began looking through the patterns while she waited for Rafiyah to finish, picking out two slightly different pairs of trousers, and two shirts, based on the pictures on the front. The women weren’t as fat as she was, but they looked as curvy as Jasmine was, so the clothes would probably look good on her as well - at least she hoped so.

“Do you like this colour fabric?” Rafiyah laid the silk out on the table in front of her, and Sarah didn’t know what to say about it. It wasn’t a colour she’d ever thought about wearing before, but she did like it, and it was a nicer colour than she’d expected.

“Yes, and you think it will suit me?” She couldn’t resist the urge to stroke the fabric as she spoke.

“Yes, I do. If you’re not sure lay it over your shoulders and go take a look in the mirror.”

“No, I trust your judgement.” She sort of had to - Sarah knew that she didn’t have much of an eye for colour, for what sort of colours went well together, or clashed - it had never felt important enough for her to try and learn that sort of thing. After all since she wore black, white and grey almost all the time she didn’t need to worry about matching anything.

“Thank you.” Rafiyah put the silk in the last box as she spoke. “I like your choice of patterns; do you prefer one of the shirts over the other, or do you like them both equally?”

“I like them both equally - and the same applies to the buttons I picked out.”

“Right.” There was a hint of rueful laughter in Rafiyah’s voice as she put the patterns for the shirts and the buttons in with the fabric. “But would you rather I did the cuffs with buttons, or made them so you could use a pair of cuff-links?”

“I don’t have any cuff-links, and I don’t think I want to get some. Aren’t shirts that need cuff-links a bit old-fashioned anyway?” But Antoinette always wore cuff-links when she dressed for a meeting with her publishers, and that was oddly sexy.

“I’m not sure. But I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Antoinette wearing them. You could borrow a pair from Antoinette at first if you decide on cuff-links. Would you mind talking about your image problem right now?”

“No, I don’t. Tell me what you think I need to do.” Sarah wasn’t sure she was going to like this, pandering to what the Families expected, but she knew that it was something she needed to work with, or work around.

“First, you need to decide how you want to present yourself. You have two real options given what’s on record about your relationship with Antoinette. You can either present yourself as her first consort, or as her spouse in all but name.”

“So, what’s the difference?” Sarah could probably guess, but...better to know for certain.

“You’ll be respected more if you are seen as Antoinette’s spouse in all but name. That, and you won’t be expected to play Family politics as much as if you’re seen as her first consort. I’d be respected a bit more if you’re Antoinette’s spouse in all but name as well.”

“So, what’s the downside?” There had to be a downside, there always was.

“None for you, not really, not given how much determined independence you’ve been displaying so far. But Antoinette will be seen as less indulgent than if you present as her first consort, and a little more closely tied to her Family. If you present as her spouse in all but name it will be assumed that she was too scared or too loyal to leave her Family, and didn’t have enough ambition, or confidence in herself to believe she could create a new Family with you at her side. The assumption will also be that you either didn’t want to give up your own name and be adopted into the Terenev Family, or couldn’t find a Terenev willing to adopt you so you could become Antoinette’s spouse in name as well as deed. But people are more likely to assume the first than the second, because not many would be willing to leave their own Family.”

“Antoinette never talked to me about anything like that.” Sarah shook her head slowly, in stunned disbelief. She’d always assumed that Antoinette would have espoused her if it was possible, that the only reason she hadn’t was that doing so would have meant losing her Family, and now to find out that there had been a way...

“Didn’t she? Are you certain she never did anything to let you know her Family was accepting of espousal adoptions?” What was an espousal adoption? Rafiyah stopped searching through the notions box and reached across the table to take Sarah’s hand, looking at her gravely. “What did she say when you were discussing how you would join?”

“I...the first time we talked about it she said she was falling in love with me, but she loves her Family, so even if I wanted it we couldn’t formalise our relationship until her older brother was confirmed as the next Family Head, or her sister was clearly out of the running.” Sarah blinked back tears; she would not cry just because Rafiyah was being so sympathetic. “And she explained that she couldn’t espouse outside her Family, because she couldn’t bear to leave them, and deny their support to any children she might have.”

“How did you react to that?” Rafiyah’s voice was very neutral, and there was a faint frown on her face, but...Sarah didn’t feel it was directed at her.

“I told her that I understood her duty, and I didn’t mind waiting, but I needed time to know if I loved her enough. She agreed to continue our relationship without considering how to formalise it until I was ready to decide if I could handle what she was asking of me.”

“You already knew how important Antoinette’s Family is to her?” Sarah nodded, wondering where she was going with this. “Had she told you about the Terenev Anya’s spouse? Or given you any other information on how open the Terenevs are to espousal adoptions?”

“I don’t know. What is an espousal adoption?”

“Exactly what it says, when a member of a Family adopts someone so that he or she may espouse another member of the Family. Some Families are more open to these than others - for the Ashawna they are only acceptable if the Family is reduced to the Family Head, his daughters and maybe his consort, and then only if she cannot have more children and he has reason not to take another consort. But the Terenevs are open about how readily they accept espousal adoptions, even if it’s usually for people they don’t want to use for alliances. They’re also a bit more conventional in a way, it’s usually a cousin - a second or third cousin, maybe once removed - who does the adopting. If Antoinette thought she’d let you know about the possibility, indirectly rather than taking the risk of making you feel pressured to give up your own family, then she would have heard something very different to what you meant when you said you weren’t sure if you loved her enough.”

“I meant I didn’t know if I loved her enough to commit to a relationship where the most formal recognition I could hope for was to be her first consort, always knowing that she might have to take someone else as her consort, and I’d have to watch, give her up, or take second place in her life, even if we loved each other and I could be first in her heart. What...do you think she heard?” Sarah wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the answer, but...she needed to know, to understand what she’d missed.

“That you didn’t know if you loved her enough to give up the formal connection with your family represented by your name. She would have understood that - it’s the same thing she told you; that she would never be able to love you enough to give up being a Terenev and what that connection could do for her children.” Rafiyah smiled her crooked smile as she explained, her eyes soft. And it all made sense now: the number of times Antoinette had asked how attached she was to her name, and probed her about her family, the way she made almost more effort to get on with Sarah’s family than she did, and the older cousins she’d made a point of introducing her to privately.

“Antoinette introduced me to a lot of older cousins, and the ones I hit it off with talked about how much they’d like to see Antoinette happy, and how she needed someone who could challenge her, demand to be treated as an equal.” Sarah swallowed, hard. “They were hinting that I should ask them about adopting me, weren’t they?”

“Probably, yes. But it isn’t your fault that you didn’t pick up on their hints. Antoinette had to offer to escort me to a shop before I realised she was flirting with me, and I made her explicitly ask to court me, because I didn’t want her to have the deniability of indirection. I...you might not have noticed it, but sometimes, when Antoinette was courting me, it would have looked as if you were courting me as well, which will help with presenting you as a spouse in all but name.”

“I did? How? And when?” Sarah reluctantly pulled her hand away from Rafiyah’s, patting it with a smile.

“You danced with me. And you led when we danced.” It didn’t sound like much, but...Rafiyah sounded as if she thought that was enough. And Sarah guessed it was a more active role than might be expected when the woman she loved was courting a second consort.

“So, you think I should try to present as a spouse in all but name. What do I need to do then?”

“You’ll still need to let Jasmine do your make-up, at least for a while, but it can be pretty minimal, the same level as Antoinette wears. I should do your shirts for cuff-links, and you should wear a slide or something in your hair. And you should see about getting some really good shoes, loafers or some other flats - it’s an investment, and works out better in the long run. On the behaviour side...I don’t think you’ll need to make much in the way of changes, just...try to be a bit more aggressive if you think Jasmine or I need to be protected from some one at a party. Just remember you have every right to our attention unless Antoinette has already laid claim to it, other people only have that right if we grant it, and then only if it doesn’t distract us from you or Antoinette.”

“That’s...” More than a little creepy if she was honest about it.

“Old-fashioned, and probably not a very good reflection of how the Terenevs see the relationship between sires and their consorts?” Rafiyah had that odd smile on her face again. “No, but most relationships between sire and consort hold some element of those dynamics, and consorts often use their sire’s disapproval as an excuse to avoid people they have issues with. Sometimes if a consort tells a man ‘My sire doesn’t want me to talk to you.’ it’s the truth, but it can also be another way of saying that she doesn’t trust him to keep his hands to himself or treat her with respect. And if you keep that idea in mind it will give you the confidence to run interference.”

“I think I’d rather ask Antoinette for advice on how to protect you and Jasmine socially, and how to act to support the image you think we should present. If that doesn’t bother you?” She didn’t want to seem ungrateful for Rafiyah’s advice, not when this was the most concrete information she’d gotten on how to handle Family society.

“That’s a good idea. I think...hope, it was her respect for you, and for your independence that kept Antoinette from giving you the sort of training you need to handle everything, and that she’ll be willing to strategise with you if you approach her about those things.”

“That, and I didn’t react well the first time she tried to prepare me for one of those Family things.” She was usually finished with her writing for the day around this time. “I’ll go and talk to her about your idea now.” Sarah stood up, and on impulse bent to kiss Rafiyah before she left the room.

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