Claire let out an uneasy laugh at the statement, but forced herself to respond, as she already sensed that Chantarell had a wisdom that far outweighed hers, and she had no desire to make herself seem less intelligent ever, whether it be in pursuit of a husband, or even a new friend.
“Well, even if that is true, I somehow doubt there’s much I could do about it. I was born in 1568 and it’s doubtful I’ll be around much past the 1630’s, so I guess I have to put up with this particular century, after all.” Claire replied, attempting to sound jovial, even whilst referring to her own death.
“You never know.” Chantarell said wryly as she looked around furtively, before moving on from the cryptic statement, to another that could lend itself to suspiciousness as well, depending on who was hearing it, “So it’s just us here then?”
“Yeah, they both went to town today. I wasn’t allowed to tag along this time. Oh darn.” Claire added the latter sarcastically.
“Yeah, you never know what bad element you might attract.” Chantarell replied with a tone of unconcern for her own reputation, once more.
“You almost sound amused by the things people say about you, honestly.” Claire couldn’t stop herself from commenting on the other girl’s carefree attitude once more.
“You could say that.” Chantarell responded nonchalantly as she looked around once more before adding, “And I could use a good laugh on another boring day, so tell me, what are the rumors this month?” she chuckled as she plopped down onto the grass in front of the barn as she reached up to pull Claire down to a seat next to her.
“Aren’t you afraid of getting that dress dirty?” Claire asked, though she didn’t stop the other girl from pulling her down to that seat next to her, as Claire’s own modest attire was already soiled by her morning’s chores.
“I’ve got a million of em.” Chantarell scoffed as she leaned back on the palms of her hands behind her, and smiled up at the blue skies above.
“A million?” Claire asked with obvious surprise as she nervously pushed her long pony tail back over her shoulder, her raven-colored locks having been pulled back due only to her aforementioned chores, as she much preferred to leave her hair free, which she usually could only get away with when she was there at her parents’ home.
“Ok, maybe more like a hundred.” Chantarell chuckled.
“But, aren’t you a servant?” Claire asked before she was able to check what may have been taken offensively, though she honestly had not meant it that way.
“Well, sort of.” Chantarell smiled, still gazing at the sky above them, though still showing no signs of having taken offense to Claire’s statement, which did relieve her a bit, though did nothing to lessen her own confusion.
“Sort of?” Claire had to ask for clarification once more.
“Well, Ha---Mr. Torrence, he doesn’t really treat me, or mom, much like servants, so most of the time it really doesn’t feel like we are.”
“He bought you all those dresses?” Claire asked with surprise.
“Some, but I mostly like to make my own, the way I want them to look, rather than what you could normally get from some other seamstress.” Chantarell answered, then added, “It gives me something to do during the day, anyway.”
“During the day? What do you do during the night?” Claire chuckled, somehow amused by the statement.
“Depends on the night.” Chantarell responded with a bit of mischief to her tone.
“Right.” Claire then shook her head, “That’s an interesting answer, I’d have to say.”
“The night has always been more interesting.” Chantarell added, seeming amused by her own cryptic statements.
Claire let out another awkward laugh before forcing herself onward through a more than confusing conversation, “You’re what, sixteen? Aren’t you expected to be tucked safely into your home every night, as soon as it gets dark, at least until you find some man to marry you, and then have to be tucked into his home every night, instead?” hiding her confusion with a thick wall of sarcasm in regards to the life that she found herself leading, and assumed most other females of her age were forced to lead as well. Though, obviously, Chantarell definitely didn’t seem like ‘most females her age.’
“If that was my life, then I doubt the townspeople would have any rumors at all to spread, now would they?” she asked smartly, “Speaking of, weren’t you gonna tell me what those rumors were these days. Like I said, I could use a laugh.”
“I’ve heard some pretty crazy things.” Claire told the other girl, sounding apologetic on behalf of the rest of the town, when she herself had never been among the majority who did spread those crazy tales.
“Like?” Chantarell prodded with a grin.
“Stuff that good girls shouldn’t know about, let alone talk about.” Claire added in a quiet tone, though still with a touch of sarcasm to it.
“Oh, well if you’re another one of those ‘good girls,’ I’m just gonna have to leave right now.” Chantarell joked as she moved as though to stand up.
“Hey, wait!” Claire exclaimed, as she reached for the girl’s wrist to stop her departure.
“Well, if you’re a good girl, then you shouldn’t be talking to me, at all.” Chantarell teased her once more.
“Fine, I guess I’m not a good girl, considering I like talking to someone with a mind of their own.”
Chantarell allowed a smile of victory before responding, “All right then, I accept your apology, and your invitation.” she chuckled as she took the same seat once more.
“So, what did ‘depends on the night’ mean?” Claire moved forward through the conversation now that she had stopped it from ending prematurely, after all.
“Wasn’t I the one asking you questions?” Chantarell returned with a smile.
“Sounds like you already know about most of the rumors, you don’t need me repeating them. You’re the one who’s such a mystery to everyone, after all, not me. I’m just a black sheep, you’re an, an enigma, if you will.” Claire replied with her own small grin.
Chantarell chuckled again, “Well, if you’ve heard the rumors, then you must know all about me. What’s the mystery?” she retorted while holding her smile.
“Please. Like they’re all true? I don’t believe that for a second.” Claire returned.
“So, which ones aren’t true?” Chantarell returned.
“How would I know?” Claire laughed.
“So, you think some of them are true then?” Chantarell returned with yet another sly smile.
“I don’t know!”
“Ok, I’ll make it easy. Tell me one you think might be true and I’ll tell you if you’re right.”
“I’m not gonna do that. They’re not all that nice.” Claire refused, only allowing her volume to drop a bit.
“Come on hon, it’s obvious I’m pretty hard to offend, so throw it at me, what have you heard? It’s the only way I’ll tell you what’s true and what’s not. You’ll be the only one in town who’s solved the ‘enigma.’” she chuckled again.
“Yep, you are evil.” Claire returned with a shake of her head, as well as a smile, but continued nonetheless, “Ok, considering what you said about Mr. Torrence, there’s one that I could see having some semblance of possibility to it.”
“And that would be?” Chantarell pressed, hiding any reaction behind that continued smile of hers.
“Ok, one thing I’ve heard is that Mr. Torrence is single, and the only servants he has are you and your mother, two unmarried females, so….”
“So….what?” Chantarell continued to play innocent.
“So,” another awkward laugh, “come on, you yourself said that he doesn’t treat you like servants, so….” Claire repeated, attempting to wheedle Chantarell into finishing the sentence for her.
“So, you’re asking if either me or my mother have an ‘improper’ relationship with Mr. Torrence?” Chantarell supplied a version of the question after all, though still sounding amused by it.
“Well, it’s what some people say, and then what you said, and with the dresses, and, well, it lends itself to being remotely possible, I guess.” Claire said with another uneasy shrug.
“Well, I suppose that depends on your definition of ‘improper.’” Chantarell gave another non-answer.
“My definition or everyone else’s?” Claire asked with a slight scowl.
“Well, do you think that sharing a bed with someone you love is improper?” Chantarell asked, sounding at least a bit more serious than she had for the rest of the conversation.
“Well, no.” Claire returned softly as she watched the other girl’s expressions.
“Then no, we don’t have an improper relationship with him.” Chantarell stated simply.
“You do though, share a bed?” Claire asked with slightly widened emerald eyes.
“You look awful surprised for someone who just claimed that it wasn’t improper.” Chantarell teased, though still seemed unoffended.
“Well, which one of you is his, well, shares his bed?” Claire changed her statement mid-sentence.
Chantarell just smirked again, as she moved to stand once more, reaching over to pet the black stallion as she spoke again, “Like I said, mom and I have more in common than most mothers and daughters.” was her simple reply as she continued to stroke the large beast.
“You mean, you both sleep with him?” Claire exclaimed, her brain failing to check her words once more, as it often did.
“Shocked are you?” Chantarell told her skeptically as she looked back at Claire, who was still frozen to her seat on the ground, “Ready to do your mother proud and run off to church to pray for my poor damned and wicked soul?” Chantarell spoke sarcastically, though there was an undercurrent there, as if gauging whether or not that truly would be Claire’s reaction.
“It just…I mean…” Claire stumbled around the words, finally forcing herself up from the ground before finding the rest of the sentence, “Didn’t you say that your father was a servant of Mr. Torrence’s too? Isn’t Mr. Torrence like, old?” she then tried to lighten the question, “I mean too old to really want to tend to two different lovers?” she added with a shake of her head, trying, herself to gauge whether Chantarell was serious about the facts of she and her mother’s relationship with their employer, or if it was just a ploy of her sharpened wit to shock Claire.
“Apparently not.” Chantarell simply returned with another small grin as she ran her hand over her horse’s sleek coat once more.
“But you and your mother, you’re content to share the same man?” Claire had to ask, having difficulty even stating, out loud, the idea of such a strange set up.
“He treats us very well. It’s not really a problem. It is only the three of us at the moment, after all. Not like me and my mother have a long list of other suitors or anything.” she added in an only slightly quieter tone.
“Well it’s not because you’re unattractive. I’m sure that if your living arrangement was, different, you’d have plenty of boys lined up to cart you off with them.”
Chantarell just smirked again, “I don’t want other boys. I’ve got the only man I could put up with myself, anyway. He’s all I need.” she added quietly, allowing a small peek inside what seemed like such a strong exterior.
“So, you do love him?” Claire asked more quietly, wistfully even, as if love was something she could never imagine herself to ever have, at least not in that place and time, which she had had the unfortunate luck of being born into.
Without hesitation, “More than my own life.” was Chantarell’s answer.