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No one in life can always be an angel.
Mon Sep 10, 2018 18:41

Keeping her room tidy had always been easy enough – only half of it was even her own, and Nadezhda had always strictly supervised her and Tatiana as they had made their beds and organized their dresser and put away their dolls and doll-things and books – but keeping her various boxes neat was another feat altogether. It was simply, she thought as she looked into her white wooden work-box, too easy to allow the detritus of life to accumulate in them. She put a tape measure down quickly, without spooling it into its cowrie shell case – she left a needle outside the tiny felt covers of her needle-book – she put a few half-finished projects in the open space beneath the organizer tray, or accumulated scraps of fabric and lace left over from them – and it was untidy before she knew it.

Her work-box was, however, tidy enough to take into the common room, not least because it had to be. Nadezhda had taught her the stitches to make dresses for her dolls, but her study of sewing with her mother had all been in fancy-work, skillful, ornamental work which was done before company to show off feminine accomplishment. Mama said everything one needed to know about a lady, one could learn by watching her sew – her patience, her cleverness, her appreciation for beauty. This was concerning when it came to Tatiana, who had no more patience for sewing than she did for the sheer volume of unnecessary extra words in English and so always asked to be allowed to read aloud or play her balalaika while Katya and their sisters sewed, but good news for Katya, who strove to make time every evening to sit in the common room with her work before curfew, stitching or crocheting diligently on one or another small present she meant to present to one or another family or staff member at Rozhdestvo.

Truthfully, she preferred her writing box to her work-box, but the miniature stationery case, black papier-mache with a bright painting of apples and flowers on its top, was not fit to be seen in the common room. If she lifted the small lids off the nib or pen or wafer trays, they immediately disclosed jumbles – the pen tray alone held pens, pencils, loose sticks of wax, and a little silver seal – but if she lifted either part of the slope, one would reveal an untidy letter rack affixed to its back and both would reveal empty spaces filled with packets of stationery, a ruled sheet to keep those meant for public consumption tidy because she could not do it herself, a few sketches, small scraps of paper where she had written little poems or reminders to herself, half-completed assignments, envelopes, a glove without a mate, blotting papers, tiny hand-stitched notebooks, and yet more, sometimes more or less stacked into categories but just as often blended together in a papery mess.

For this reason, along with a sense of privacy, Katya attended to her letters in her own room and left her writing box there, locked to prevent any other Teppenpaw girls from snooping if one of them should go into her space and find the box there, when she was not using it. Her work-box, however, was also a private space in its way, just not one which one would expect to find a letter in, and this was why she had hidden Dorian Montoir’s response to her note in a little pocket cleverly hidden in the bottom of the top tray of her work-box, where she could enjoy the secret knowledge that she had a letter of her very own from someone who was not family in public without being seen to do so.

Admittedly, it was not perfect. She had hoped that the reply would be in French, both because it would give her something else to practice reading – something in the sort of French people used, rather than just her books – and also because she suspected that Monsieur Montoir’s writing was much more elegant in that language. Nevertheless, it was an impressive accomplishment for someone to manage, she thought, to write a whole note in Russian when that person had never known a Russian before meeting Tatiana. Further proof, had any further proof been necessary, that he was a Quality Person.

She smiled to herself as she looked at the work-box by her feet in the common room and labored on through the tedious business of her cross-stitch project. It was, she thought wistfully, almost a pity that it was in poor taste to brag.

  • Dorian was rather surprised by the parcel that appeared on his pillow a few days into term. It was far too early for any of his relatives to send his birthday presents, even though that occasion... more
    • No one in life can always be an angel. — Katerina, Mon Sep 10 18:41
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