(ooc: okay I wanted to get Jo's reply in before the new thread started, I really wanted to elaborate on her thoughts here.
Fayre -- okay, will do. Also for the record, it wasn't out of lazyness I haven't posted the bio already, but I've been discussing the concept with Seiza and Atropa.))
Joséphine had convinced herself, a long time ago, that it was preferable to not know the women César bedded in person, that it would be much too horrid to stand face to face with such a one. An acute longing to know and the fear of that very knowledge had always battled eachother in her mind, their clamour at times unbearably loud and painful. She was mildly surprised to discover that it was not the case at all, and it was in fact the shroud of mystery and uncertainty that nursed her anxieties. It did not sweeten the situation, but at least it made it real, palpable, and Joséphine was by no means a coward.
“Why yes, it is most fortunate to meet someone one has things in common with”, the Comtesse began, glancing briefly at the now silent César. Joséphine's smile widened slightly: she wondered just what those things were. Had their affair been consummated already? Perhaps it was too soon, even for César's ravishing charms. She had not had the opportunity to query Octavien about her husband's whereabouts the previous evening. Not that it made much difference, she realized suddenly. Where there is a will, there would be a way.
“Although not as much in common as I’d like. I’ve arrived very much alone, as I decided it was better for my son to stay at home with his tutors”Marie-Elisabeth said, looking back at Josephine“You’re both very lucky to have your children here with you. I wish my little Charles could be here, but he’s got so much to learn it was near impossible for him to come here”.
Now that one comment gave Joséphine much food for thought. So, she had a son whom she had left at home. She travelled alone, which meant there was little chance a husband existed in her life: it would have been much too unconventional for her to visit the court without him, or at all if he happened to be ill or away from home. That only left one possibility: she was a widow.
For a moment, Joséphine looked at Marie-Elisabeth not as a wife at her husband's possible mistress, but as one woman to another. She did not even find her particularly dislikeable, which was of little comfort. She could have felt entitled to hate a shrew of a woman, at least. The Marquise pictured herself as an unmarried woman, with no man or family to feel responsible towards, and oh, so young, setting foot into a marvellous court such as the Palace was. Who could truly blame her for welcoming a handsome gentleman's attention? His attachments were not her own.
The vision ended abruptly: it held no appeal to her, not in that way. Joséphine did not envy this Comtesse, or any of the other clandestine lovers César had. They risked their reputation whenever they allowed him into their arms, knowing it could never be anything more than a condemned secret. Perhaps some simply didn't care, and others were too naïve to see the truth in it.
“It must be difficult for you, Comtesse, being separated from your son,” Joséphine replied, and not without a measure of sincerity, from a mother's point of view. “I have never been away from my darlings longer than a few days, and being able to have them both near me is indeed a blessing. Of course, boys are expected to excel at everything, are they not?...I am sure when César and I have a son, we would have to relinquish his company more often in favour of his studies.”
She paused for a moment and stole another glance at César's face, wondering if either of them glimpsed her subtle hint. Joséphine's courses were a week late, and although it was not necessarily a cause for excitement, it was a fairly rare occurrence.
Any other comments however were cut short by the arrival of King Edouard and Queen Isabella, who called for a moment of silence in the honour of their deceased daughter. It was an imperative no courtier could ignore, regardless of what personal musings currently occupied their mind. In unison with everyone else, Joséphine faced the royal pair and inclined her brow respectfully.
“It must be difficult for you, Comtesse, being separated from your son,” she had said, and Marie-Elisabeth had nodded in agreement. “It is” she said quietly, before the entrance of the King and Queen forced everyone into silence.
She was beginning to think it might have been better to just stay in her room and read the letters after all because it seemed like the whole world was against her having any fun whatsoever. First she ran into the disapproving Duc d'Lorraine, then got sidetracked by Baroness Venn, and now Josephine.
Marie-Elisabeth hadn’t missed the hint, nor had she missed the way the woman was all but screaming at her to go away. Which was precisely what Marie-Elisabeth intended on doing. She had made her appearance, and now that the King and Queen had departed she saw no reason to stay. “Well you’re going to have to excuse me now” she said, rising from the couch and smoothing out her wrinkled skirts “It has gotten quite late and I’ve got an important letter to read before I retire for the evening”. At least that wasn’t actually a lie, she did want to read her sister’s letter before she went to bed. But it also seemed like a perfect excuse to leave and she wanted one.
“It was lovely to meet you Marquise, I hope you have a pleasant evening” she said, before turning to César. “And to you to Marquis” she added before turning and exiting the salon.
She walked through the hallways to her own rooms and shut the door behind her with a rather satisfying banging noise. Her maids quickly came in and undressed her, leaving her wearing nothing but her nightgown. She dismissed them and walked over to pick up the unopened letter from her sister, before getting into bed.
Marie-Elisabeth carefully opened the letter before snuggling into the pillows to read it.
To my dearest of Sisters,
Lisabeth, whatever do you think you’re doing going to the palace and not inviting me. Just thinking of all those beautiful gowns and jewels makes me positively green with envy, not to mention the company I’m sure you’ll find yourself surrounded by. This is you that we speak of; those of the male gender always did flock to you like bees to sugar.
Not that I could have come if you had remembered me. I swear I’m so enormous it takes 5 men to move me these days. I’ve become convinced there’s got to be twins in here because I was never this big with the other 7. Ferdinand thinks so too and he’s hoping for a pair of sons to balance the family out. I’m just hoping this is the last one, because I don’t know how many more children little old me can handle.
So you must tell me all the good gossip. Being cooped up out here in the country I never hear anything. Have you seen the royal family yet, what are they like?
You write back to me soon or else I’ll come there and tell everyone about the time when you were 4 and you fell off your horse into a mud puddle.
Love you always, your sister
Marie-Caroline, Baroness de Sicilie
Marie-Elisabeth couldn’t help but laugh as she read her sister’s letter. She never failed to put her in a good mood, even if it was something as simple as a letter. She leaned over and placed it carefully back on the nightstand, unclasping her locket and settling it on top of it.
She then snuggled back into the mountain of pillows and quickly fell asleep, resolving to write letters back first thing in the morning.