Miss Aidelle Masters rubbed a thumb under her eye to wipe away the smear of mascara. She sighed. The sky had lost its veneer; those upper-class beauties had thwarted it with their cold glares…
As Aidelle shoved the bronze mascara tube into her pocket, her fingers touched a small piece of paper. She tugged it from the coat lining, smoothed its crumpled edges and read the words written across it: Grassland Close.
She had found her way through to the road by careful navigation. The man she adored had mentioned its position off from the open-space plaza, and it hadn't taken Aidelle long to weave her way through the T-junction and peer at the passing signs. ‘Off-Plaza Road’, ‘No End Lane’…but only Grassland Close hugged close its houses the way Aidelle liked.
Aidelle surveyed the foreign street on tiptoes. How much further would she have to tread her new shoes through? None of the nearby buildings wore the visage she would have chosen for her new home. A line of trampled flowers by the curb reminded Aidelle she could always return to those mocking faces. The end of the road forward did not appear beyond her right. It curved on and on, alienating her.
To go, or to stay and wait for the man she had intended to meet?
Oh, she imagined her fiancé's irritation – sleek hair and button nose askew. They had arranged to meet in the plaza haunted by Aidelle’s least favourite women. Aidelle’s fingers curled, and from them fell the paper. She had no less right than the rest to depart a taxicab. It wasn’t her fault that they hung around the stone-paved taxi-park.
It was silly, really. Who said society had the final word on beauty? Well, they did, and Aidelle only intensified the fact by touching up her makeup. Maybe an elegant smile would convince the journalists and socialites they were wrong about her ‘impure blood’.
Who was she deceiving but herself? She could try. She would fail.
Stylish houses towered on either side of her and crowded together in a clot at the top of the road, as though designed to trap the tallest of people. And Aidelle did not class herself anywhere near tall. The houses jutted from grey-concrete moulds of land around the street. This gave no indication of what homes lay beyond the curve in the roadway. Aidelle stamped one foot, before a thought nagged her: better to behave regally than let childish motions cloud judgement. No matter. The walk was worth it. She would see this house whatever it took.
In the absence of amblers-by, the true coldness of the street crept over her bare calves.
She sunk her teeth into her bottom lip, irrespective of the new coat of lipstick. What if he didn’t think to look here? Then again, he bore enough sense to.
Indeed, only a minute after Aidelle had brought her own feet to a stop, a second pair of footsteps echoed in the same monotonous hum of the late morning. The man running from T-junction did not stop under the street’s shapes of the houses, nor did he ponder his next direction. Splendour he already knew of.
“Aidelle Masters!” he called. The clouds in the sky whitened at the familiar tones of his smooth voice, even if that voice held full concern. He was here now.
He marched up to her, the epitome of smart clothes and long strides. With his furrowed brow, he would voice trouble she didn’t need – but Aidelle had an idea.
“Master Phillip Costello, lately tenth within the Society Pages!” Aidelle teased. She threw herself towards him, letting him catch her in an embrace. Thank goodness his severity disappeared as she had expected, in its place his half-hidden grin.
“Please stop it. Don’t mention those damned Pages.”