Christophe watched as he walked through what might have been his future, men working away behind the noses of vehicles that were churning around the rough crystalline rocks into smoother pumices. They were going through a process of being washed, soaked, and hounded by a rough cut. Knife-wielders stood at their own tables, scraping away the tough exterior to reveal beauty that, though imperfect, did its best to rival the Leonaise.
Each man who stood or sat working nodded to their boss as he glided past with his guest.
“It’s very…” Christophe refrained from saying ‘close knit’ for fear of it sounding too feminine and offensive.
“Yes, I know each and all of my employees. We have a good ethic, I like to hope. It’s amazing how people have become so much more collected since the war, since Flanders’.”
“Oui, tragic,” whispered Christophe, before he raised his voice to add, “you must have a lot of care for the Belgique society.”
“Oh, I do, I do. Since I have moved from Oxford, I felt it necessary to learn Flemish, since most of my employees speak it.”
Christophe nodded cheerfully, but he spoke again in an undertone.
“I never had the opportunity for either language.”
“You will learn - that is, if you choose to stay.”
By this time, Lord Albert had stumbled upon his office once again.
“Curious,” he remarked in English, “I don’t recall leaving the door ajar.” (This Christophe understood from key-words he had picked up as part of the Great British protection.)
Lord Albert steadily pushed the door with one hand as he gestured to Christophe with the other. As he stretched the edge of his coat out, a pistol gleamed in the depth of his pocket. The young man sneaked forward and his eyes glistened with a different kind of tension.
There in front of the two men, picking squares out of the chocolate box, was a young woman- the mirror of the one with whom Christophe had collided the previous day.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, startled to see their uneasy faces. “The door was unlocked. I assumed I was to wait here.” The woman, still dressed in ‘early fashion’, spoke in curt, short French, as if it were not her usual tongue. Today, Christophe observed, her long black hair trailed below the dainty cut of her clavicle, pale blue frills an angel’s sky.
“Who are you? What is your manner here?” Lord Albert interrupted Christophe from his reverie of ethereal beauties.
The woman gave a guilty chuckle, too high-pitched to possibly be real, and cast her eyes in the direction of the box of chocolates. Those eyes, though light, were full of hunger…and more.
“I didn’t mean to intrude; you had no secretary, so I wasn’t sure where to turn to.”
“I am not hiring for the position of secretary. If you want a job, go elsewhere.”
“Oh, no,” it was only during her serene simpering that Christophe came to see how young she actually was: perhaps only two or three years older than he. “No, monsieur, you mistake me. My name is Myrrhim St Clair and my presence is an altogether very different matter. You see-” she took a deep, nervous gulp of air- “I am your daughter.”
Lord Albert hissed, bringing back his teeth as if to emulate the attack of a donkey.
“Non! Impossible!” Then his voice bubbled into Flemish that Christophe could not comprehend, though it was clear that the belle did. She contrasted his heavy accent with her light fluttering air, ever present in her rushed words. Nevertheless, her movements- her eyes and fluent hands- begged onwards.
Christophe couldn’t help watching; the office had a blind-covered window, and Christophe could not turn his head elsewhere. The room was too pale, except for those characters that he wanted to observe with sharpened eyes. Sometimes, the discussion bordered on argumentative, but other times, the woman, Myrrhim, pleaded with her voice, and Lord Albert’s features became pledge-accepting. His face became stern and he turned away.
“Please,” she remarked to his hard back; if he watched her, it was through the glass on his wall.
The lady fumbled with a gold-tinged locket around her neck whilst removing a sheaf of papers from her purse.
“Please…look,” she entreated that blank back. The woman’s face was almost contorted with tears; her shining eyes pulsed into Lord Albert’s second rotation.
She still clutched the grainy coloured papers and the open chain locket. Both items Myrrhim thrust into the hands of Lord Albert. He took them, read them, glazed over them with fallen eyes. He stared, mouth working wordlessly, before he fell back into French.
“It is…you. But I had thought…”
“Papa,” cried Myrrhim, seizing his hand, shaking it once or twice. The old man reacted slowly, thickly moving, but he eventually folded her into an embrace.
“My child. My child.”
Although he began to ache with curiosity, Christophe asked no questions. He waited in silence until his prospective employer announced:
“Come. I shall show you the diamond floor.”
Myrrhim gave a giggle, clinging to her father slightly. Her eyes met Christophe’s as they passed, wherein lay an ember of recognition, before she herself extinguished it.
“Ah, this is my new diamond sorter, Christophe. Christophe, my daughter Myrrhim,” Lord Albert said as way of an introduction.
“Charmed.” Christophe trained his eyes on her face.
“Christophe, this is a great day for all. Congratulations, you have the job.”
“Thank you, Lord Albert. The pleasure is all mine.”
Lord Albert bowed his head with regal tone, and gathered his daughter by the arm. Christophe, two metres behind to preserve their privacy, followed the two of them as they chattered away. He eyed Myrrhim with gentle compassion, reminding himself that he would return her ornate hat when he arrived at the works the following day to start his occupation. However, the remainder of the day, his acts were free.
“If it is all right with you, sir, I might head back into town or to Monsieur Marrette’s abode.”
“Certainly. That reminds me: before he left, Georges sent a message to meet him at the town square. No, in fact, he said that a motorcar has been arranged to wait for you. Oh, the future of technology.”
“What an age!” trilled Myrrhim.
“Thank you, sir. Did Georges mention the name I should say?”
“Just ‘Beladore’ should be required of you. Good day, Christophe.”
“Good day, your Lordship. Miss.”
Myrrhim’s eyes sparkled with dark mirth.
“Perhaps we shall meet again, Christophe-”
“I hope so.”
“-How lovely to meet you.” But she did not clasp his hands as she had those of her father.
As he turned away from his new place of work, Christophe blushed once again. She really was a dazzling specimen of womanhood, Leonaise in person.