Goodbye, Emarta

Emarta wrung her hands. She was nervous, and deservedly so, but Cyrène felt oddly calm. This still felt like her room, even if she knew it wasn’t anymore. She wondered if it ever had been, or if she should have felt like it was her mother’s space that she had just been permitted to live in, for a time.

“Miss, you really should be going,” Emarta said. She didn’t say it like she wanted it to happen. In many ways, it seemed to Cyrène like Emarta loved her more than Corianne ever had. “I’ve already packed you some bags. You didn’t need to come this far into the house.”

“I know,” Cyrène said. “Thank you, Emarta.”

She didn’t need to be here. She shouldn’t have been, really. She was putting herself and Emarta at risk. Emarta had volunteered to pack her clothes. In fact, she had insisted. Cyrène would never have asked her to do it, because if Cyrène’s family turned her out, she might never find any other employment. Halflings who were not in the good graces of one of the elvish families wound up having a rough time.

Still, without Emarta’s help, Cyrène would be stuck with one change of clothes — a formal gown, which she had worn to her mother’s party — and only the money she’d gotten from selling her jewelry. Now at least she had a few more outfits, and her writing kit, and, perhaps most importantly, her flute.

No. The most important thing she was getting from this was a chance to say goodbye. She didn’t care about farewells with her parents, but she’d spent her entire life in this house. Saying goodbye to it mattered. Saying goodbye to Emarta mattered, too.

Cyrène looked back at Emarta, who stood in the doorway, nervously looking to the left and right. She obviously feared that Cyrène’s mother or father would awaken and appear, bringing consequence on both of them. Cyrène was fairly certain they wouldn’t. Her mother prized her sleep as a part of her strict beauty regimen, and her father slept hard.

Cyrène ran her hands over the sheets covering her bed. She wondered what would become of this room, in the days to come. Would her mother order it to be emptied, denying to herself and to others that she’d ever had a daughter? Or would she simply lock the door and seal it off, a constant reminder of what Cyrène was sure she saw as an embarrassing failure?

She wished she could take some of her books with her, but she didn’t have the room in her bags nor strength in her back to carry them. She thought she knew where she might go, but it was a longshot. There was no guarantee she would have a place to stay.

“Emarta,” Cyrène said, turning to her maid. She knelt. She was not practiced at emotional goodbyes, or physical affection, but she opened her arms anyway. Emarta, surprised and hesitant at first, nonetheless came in for a hug. “I will miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too, Miss.”

Emarta was shaking. Cyrène released her, meeting her eyes. “Things will be fine, Emarta. I’ll be fine.”

In the faint light coming from the hallway, Cyrène could see glimmers like gems sitting on Emarta’s cheeks. Emarta reached up to wipe her tears away, turning slightly, as though ashamed at the thought of Cyrène seeing her cry. “You will, Miss. The Twins will guide you.”

Cyrène stood, giving Emarta’s shoulder a final squeeze. She shouldered the bags which she had set down just inside the door. Her flute she held in a case in her hand. She stroked the polished wood of the case. She’d always denied, to her mother, that she liked the flute. In fact, she’d insisted that she hated it. In truth, it was one of her most treasured possessions. Taking it would be letting her mother win a small victory, but Cyrène supposed she no longer cared. In a way, being disinherited was Cyrène’s own victory over years of her mother’s stifling presence.

With Emarta following nervously behind, Cyrène made her way down the hallway to the stairs. The weight of her bags made every step heavier. She was good at moving silently, but the floorboards creaked underneath her regardless. Cyrène could practically feel Emarta’s anxiety radiating against her back.

Someone stepped out of one of the doorways lining the hall. Cyrène stiffened, though she kept her pace. It was one of the servants that dusted in the night, a younger halfling man. He nodded to her, holding one finger to his lips, and watched her pass. She nodded back, thankful that she had always been kind to the servants, unlike her mother.

The stairs curved downward into the foyer, which, at this time of the night, was empty. Even the street lamps had been extinguished. Pale moonlight fell in through the windows surrounding the door, turning the polished wood floor and walls blue-grey.

The door opened silently, its hinges well-oiled. Cyrène looked back once more, though not at her parent’s house. She met Emarta’s eyes. “Goodbye, Emarta.”

“Goodbye, Miss.”

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