I spent some few hours two days back, standing in front of the Bellefleurs estate, welcoming in any who happened by. Admittedly, we are nearing the height of the holiday season, so the days are slow, the nights are long, and precious little happens, at least here. Even so, there was a sense of rightness that I was choosing to spend time there, instead of frittering it away following random gift mentions in various groups.
(Standing outside the arched, open gates leading into Bellefleurs.)
Or spending it alone, a habit I've fallen into far too often of late. At least if there is no one with me at Bellefleurs, I still have the history of the place behind me: the echo of music slipping through the walls, the laughter of former patrons, the footfalls dimly heard in memory. Instead of the soft susurration of snowflakes falling, the rustle of branches on sleeping trees, surrounding the small, rustic cabin I put together on my own, with few furnishings never far from the floor and the fire.
(The processional hall inside Bellefleurs.)
I can't help it, I feel comfortable here. I'm still learning the dizzying variety of chairs in the salon, and which are better to leave to couples, which to singles; I'm still learning what everything does, and I don't even have my board up yet, because this all happened so suddenly. Miss Mimistrobell had told me that it would not be a quick process, that the staff of Bellefleurs liked to take their time to consider, and that I fully understood. Far better to take their time than to hire someone who really, truly, doesn't understand what they're trying to do. Because the Blossoms of Bellefleurs are not simply Courtesans for interested patrons; they strive to be Companions in the fullest sense of the word, friends to hearts in need, counselors if necessary, and supportive of each other as they ply their craft.
(In Bellefleur's music room, where most of the Salons are held.)
So, all in all, I thought I'd spend through the end of this month talking to various Blossoms, speaking with management, and perhaps having an intake interview to go over any final questions, to make the decision on whether or not to hire me, sometime in January of the new year. Instead, once I actually contacted Miss M., it seemed to be just a few days over a week. And the time between finally meeting and speaking with Miss Delilah Revnik, the other tireless manager of the Blossoms, and getting hired? About two hours, all told.
(At the back of the music room, the lighted picture displayer aimed at a mirror on the back wall. That is, again, Duchess Canning.)
I can't imagine how I impressed them; perhaps that's a flaw of mine, that I never see in myself what others see in me. What I do know is that I went in openly and honestly to this opportunity. Miss M. knows I have somewhat of a dark reputation, both on the mainland and through the steamlands; she knows that I have had some deeply personal battles with Caledonians of elevated status, and that I have enemies who, while they may or may not actively seek me harm, still exist, and still would likely view my presence with displeasure. She knows all this because I mentioned it to her. Miss R. knows some of this, too, because I told her as well.
(Upstairs, one of the very well-preserved medieval tapestries besides a carpeted walkway.)
I wanted no illusions; so I did not seek to hide in any way. I mentioned the shapeshifting (we're still working that out, as the Duchess is...well...somewhat humancentric, let's say), I mentioned the history, I mentioned mistakes I'd made and victories I'd achieved both. And what I gained for this honesty? While I will likely be seen in human guise, I have full permission to have changeable, odd eyes, strangely colored hair, and--assuming the timing is right--small, delicate horns or other non-human features. (Though I was looking forward to being the first catgirl on staff, after one appearance in neko guise, it was decided that was just too far beyond the pale for management, and I am accepting this with relative grace.)
(A room upstairs, that may be intended as a gaming room in future? The Duchess is always improving on things.)
And what have all these interchanges gained me? A place of employment, yes, but a place of employment I can truly call home, and...oh, the last time I had that feeling? The Enigma was still open! 2006 to now, to find another place to work that I could also count as a family, and a home? Rare indeed.
(Another room that is constantly in flux, the Duchess' office upstairs.)
And I truly feel like I'm settling in. It's less like a chore to "stand guard" at Bellefleurs, even if no one's there; partly because there's always something to sort in my inventory, so I'm not bored, but also, because it's just so relaxing being there.
(Carpets, artwork, and the rich wood paneling seen through a gilded archway at Bellefleurs.)
And you know, there are worse things. Even on days I don't have clients lined up, and currently, I don't have any in particular, it eases my soul to be on the grounds. And at every salon, every dance, I am learning, I am listening, and I am letting myself uncurl and relax, to grow again, to--not to use the pun--blossom, into the next stage of whatever I'm becoming this time.
There are worse things, and I've done them. This is not a worse thing, it's a right thing, a good thing, and how long has it been since the beginning of any path for me began with words like "good" and "right"? If nothing else, I am exactly where I need to be. And that is a lovely feeling, indeed.