The being did not take this as a sign of rudeness, for indeed it was not, Rose was simply trying to guess its age so that she could slip into the welcoming structure of etiquette. Surely this person could not be addressed as a peer, for she was far too tall to be around Rose’s age. Yet the idea of this entity being an adult was ludicrous. If the girl-woman was put off by Rose’s unwavering gaze she did not show it. “I personally don’t see the point in all this political chit-chat. The way that my parents go on about these ‘little soirees’ you would think that the state would crumble without them!” The girl-woman began to laugh and Rose - bewildered by the thought that this might be the first joke she had ever heard - forced an uncertain snort. “I’m Claudia by the way, and you’re Rose, right?”. Silence.
It no longer mattered whether this girl-woman was older or younger than Rose, a useless pride that had been taught since infancy bubbled to the surface. Drawing herself up Rose grandly declared, “I am not ‘Rose’, I am Rosanna Morton, goddaughter to Tobias Randall and I will not be spoken to in such a manner!”
Any normal citizen would have been roused into a frenzy of embarrassment at such a speech but the woman - for Rose could not imagine any child raising her eyebrow so whimsically - simply stated “Yes, I do suppose that Rosanna is unusual; far more fanciful than Rose by any means.” as though it were a fact obvious to all. Completely unsure how to behave around this woman Rose resorted to speaking her mind with simple bluntness. “Claudia isn’t a very fanciful name.” It was in no way an intelligent comment yet the woman mulled over it with the same gravity with which she seemed to view the rest of the world. A sort of melancholy settled over her, wearying her youthful features “No, I don’t suppose it is...”
A silence fell between them and Rose was surprised to find that she did not wish this creature to be bored for fear that she would leave. “Did your mother chose it?” Immediately the girl-woman brightened, allowing herself to shed her previous sadness. The idea that Janet Montgomery had raised this girl was mildly ridiculous to Rose. “Yes, she did. My father wanted to call me Cassandra. I think it would have been far more suitable to me as a person but of course would have been totally improper. He’s the family eccentric I suppose.”
“How old are you Claudia?” Rose queried after another lapse in conversation.
“I’m just about to turn eighteen.”. Rose visibly blanched. How could this girl only be three years older than her? Noticing her reaction instantly Claudia laughed once more. The next half hour were so baffling to Rose that she was left rather shell-shocked when her father decided that she must chaperone her mother once more.
Claudia was completely unlike anyone Rose had ever met before. She barely talked about the regime, leaving Rose completely out of her depth. Rather she talked about people. Not just politicians, but just people who she had met. People who interested her. She commented on great heroes from the past and frequently noted the people milling past them. She watched their mannerisms with a harmless interest and mused aloud about why they behaved the way there did. Often she would stop mid-sentence, glance at Rose with something bordering on mistrust, before changing the subject. Bemusingly, she never mentioned Isabelle. At one point Claudia glanced at the loud and imposing figure in the centre of the room with a fleeting look of what appeared to be pity but never broached the topic.
All too soon Rose was forced to leave.