As Sean was the creative force behind everything that ever went on in their little theatre, Claire too was left with no choice but to leave their home of sixty years behind as well. Though returning to America in the company of that woman, as she had taken to calling Awsha, was the last thing she had any intention of doing either. So, the choice was clear. The two of them would have to find a new home on English soil, but one far enough from the city that Sean would be able to carry out his sentence of no contact with the mortal world for some indefinite period. At the same time, they would still have to be close enough to the city in order to attain any necessities for their home, while also remaining in Griffyn’s territory.
As a further attempt at making amends for bringing Awsha into their lives, Haven offered them his former home there on the outskirts of London, where he had still been staying with her during that year of Awsha’s short-lived stage career.
Now it was the midpoint of the next year and what little money Griffyn had allowed them to keep from their operation of the theatre was beginning to run very slim.
That night Claire was downstairs pouring over the expenses and looking more than a little stressed out as she tried to find a way to make the numbers work long enough for them to keep their two remaining servants fed and clothed, their horses healthy, and their walls and roof from falling into disrepair.
Sean silently made his way down the stairs and into the room, allowing an inaudible sigh as he took in her currently distraught state “we could insist the servants get jobs in the city” he offered quietly, noting that she still did not look up at him. As a matter of fact, he could count on one hand the number of times she had even managed to make eye contact during their last several months of isolation there in their current home.
“And exactly what job would allow them to never have to leave the house during the day?” she muttered more than spoke her response, still refusing to grace her husband with her gaze.
“There’s a few” he stated, though quietly.
“Baila did have a job before she came to us, Marisa and Mariana too” he attempted the reminder, his voice sounding slightly pained by her continued refusal to even look at him anymore.
“So, now we’re supposed to survive by whoring out our servants? Haven’t we forced enough unwanted desires on them to ruin their lives already as it is?” she continued in the same angry mumble as she flipped through the receipts once more.
“They may welcome the opportunities to express such desires” he made one last attempt at an argument for the idea.
“I somehow doubt whores’ desires are ever fulfilled by letting fat, married drunkards hurt them in any way they see fit. Besides, who knows what their bloodlust would drive them to do if we placed them in such dangerous situations on a nightly basis? You know what Chantarell did to the last man who tried to force himself on her. I believe that was a particularly memorable night for you.” She added plainly before continuing, “We are not prostituting our servants, thank you” she repeated once more, and with undeniable finality.
Sean sighed again, knowing he had lost the argument, most likely before it had even started. He then paused a long moment from his place leaning back against the wall next to the desk she sat at, hands in his pockets.
“We could try to contact Haven. I’m sure he still has plenty---"
“No” was Claire’s simple response.
“Haven is not the one you have the gripe with, Claire” he attempted, though that’s when her emerald eyes shot upwards to finally look his way, though her expression was hardly kind.
“Did you just say gripe?” she spat out the last word, her temper flashing brightly and causing her to take that gaze away from him just as quickly as she had allowed it to settle on him at all.
“I just meant…” he attempted again.
“No” she repeated firmly with another noisy rustle of papers.
Sean let out another sigh of defeat before taking several more moments before he continued, “then what else do you recommend? I suppose we could turn to a life as petty thieves. It would at least be easy to pull off with our skill sets” he made a weak attempt at lightness to counteract the darkness of the mood she had seemed to be in ever since they had left the city months earlier.
“I’ll figure out something” she muttered once more as she gathered the papers into her arms and took them with her as she left the room and his company, once more.
Claire spent the rest of her evening wandering through the city streets attempting to procure any job at all that would suit either the servants or even Claire herself. Of course, any job also had to fit their strange schedules, as well as be as morally acceptable as was still possible at this point, considering how desperate their living situation was quickly becoming. Nearly every place that she passed was abandoned once the sun set, which was of course the only time she or her servants could leave their home at all. Though there were a few less reputable businesses that were quite lively at that hour. But Claire wished to avoid those businesses, considering what they actually were. However, as the hours ticked by, Claire was beginning to feel her idealism waver.
As the hour approached three a.m., Claire finally allowed herself to at least peer in the windows of one such establishment. She was hoping to determine if there appeared to be any positions available at all that actually did not include having to sell oneself willingly to the highest bidder. As she gathered her composure, she finally managed to approach the window. Her eyes moved around the room, shaken just a bit by the sight of the women who were moving to lightly playing music, while being in various stages of undress.
She felt a slight lump in her throat as she moved closer, almost as though she couldn’t look away from what was strangely beautiful and scandalous all at once. It was only a few moments later when the woman who seemed to be in charge of the establishment came rushing outside after having caught sight of what was a non-paying customer trying to get a free look through the dark windows.
“You either pay or…” though her exclamation was cut short as she was more than a bit surprised when her eyes fell on Claire.
“Sorry, I just…” Claire stammered a bit, trying to find a fitting excuse. Though it was then Claire’s turn to be surprised as the woman actually allowed a smile as she took a step closer to Claire, reaching up to run a hand through those long, straight raven colored locks, her eyes moving down Claire’s body, taking in her alabaster skin and svelte figure with an even wider grin.
“Well you are the beauty, aren’t you?”
“Sorry?” was the first response Claire managed, a little startled by the woman’s reaction.
The woman simply moved to let her eyes boldly travel over Claire’s backside as well before finally making their way back to those startling emerald eyes, “You’d be the belle of this ball, that’s for sure” she told Claire with another smile.
“Ball?” Claire returned.
“And the innocent act: My god would they eat that up” she smiled again, “Let’s talk wages” she moved forward at once.
“Pardon? Wages?” Claire repeated, her shock finally allowing her to speak more freely once again.
“Yeah” the woman returned, placing a more businesslike slant on her tone, “so how much were you bringing in at your last place?”
“Excuse me?” Claire stated, her volume finally returning to normal.
“And is that an American accent?” the woman stated before moving forward with her appraisal, “And that hair? You’ve got some of that savage blood in ya, dontcha?” she beamed at the thought, “You will definitely bring in a pretty penny” she added happily, the money bags almost visible in her eyes at that point.
That was when Claire just had to speak up at last, “I’m sorry…ma’am” she decided on, “but I have to inform you that I am not for sale!”
The woman then laughed loudly, “Please, everyone is for sale, and you are here, aren’t you” she said as gestured to the very building they stood in front of.
A bit of strength going out of her voice, “I’m not here for that. I mean I do need a job” she then quickly added, “but not that job” she attempted to explain, her voice lowering a bit on the last portion of her statement.
The woman laughed again, “I’ve already told you I’m willing to pay you quite well. That’s a better offer than most of my girls have ever gotten.”
Claire sighed again before trying a different tactic, “are there any other jobs…other than that one, I mean?”
“That one, meaning whore?” the older woman scoffed again, “you do like playing that innocent card, don’t you?”
That was when the hopelessness of the whole evening as well as the gravity of the plight she now faced as well as her emotional state of the last few months, all combined to force Claire’s façade of strength to crumble, “I swear, I’m not a whore, but I am desperate for anything, anything at all you might be able to do to help me. This place was my last resort. There just is nothing else at all I can find. Isn’t there any other positions here, any at all?” she pleaded.
It was hard to tell whether it was simply Claire’s plea that got to the woman and softened her own demeanor, or if it was actually some other, more supernatural factor that made the woman want to help Claire in any way she could, but she finally let out a resigned sigh as she looked over Claire once more.
“Can you at least dance?” she offered softly.
“Dance?” Claire repeated as she looked up again, “Like those women in there? The ones missing various pieces of their clothing?” she had to add more quietly.
“That’s what the men pay for, sweetheart. But that’s all they get if that’s all they do pay for, if you follow me.”
Claire turned away for a moment, thinking on the offer for a long while before speaking up again, “so I wouldn’t have to sleep with the men? Just let them watch me dance? They wouldn’t be touching me at all?”
“It wouldn’t pay nearly as well, but with your looks, you could still probably make enough to keep food on the table, at least” she stated as she gently touched Claire’s shoulder as she swallowed another lump in her throat.
Claire knew that she was more than capable of dissuading any unwanted attention from any mortal clientele, but there was still some part of her who did dread taking on a profession that was so very close to the one that she spoke so vehemently against that very evening. Then she forced herself to remember the rising expenses they were soon to be buried in, while also having no idea when and if Sean would ever be able to make any kind of income again either.
She then steeled herself to give the woman her answer, “when should I be here?” she asked, not able to stop the feeling that some small part of herself had just died as that sentence left her lips.
When Claire arrived home, it was nearly past 4am, and Sean was seated quietly in the living room awaiting news of any luck she had that night. Claire moved wordlessly toward the couch where he waited, feeling honestly ill for the first time since her death, nearly a century earlier.
“I can only assume by your mood that jobs were as scarce as you feared?” Sean spoke gently as she took the seat next to him, though still several inches away.
Claire thought for a long moment on how to answer that question. Her remaining anger she still held toward him did give her the passing urge to just spit out the truth of the depths she had now had to sink to in order to make up for his mistakes. But a second thought intruded, telling her she just no longer had the stamina to fight anymore after all these months. She just couldn’t do it anymore. Now she would need all of her strength just to get through one night to the next, without adding any more marital strife to the mix as well.
She squared her shoulders a moment, before managing an answer, “Actually, I did find a job”
Sean immediately smiled at the information, taking the logical step to press for more “what kind?”
“Don’t celebrate yet” she began, taking one last moment to decide what answer to truly give him, “It won’t pay much at all, but at least it’ll keep us afloat, though barely.”
“That’s better than we could have hoped, Claire” he smiled again, “so what will you be doing?” he asked once more.
She closed her eyes a moment before finally responding, “I’ll be a dancer” she stated through a forced smile.
“A dancer?” Sean returned with another smile, shocked though it was, “that’s much better than we could have hoped” he added as he moved out of pure habit to wrap her in his arms.
Though Claire was so emotionally exhausted at that point she didn’t have the strength to pull back from him, and let his arms encircle her for the first time in months. As he pulled her closer, his gratefulness for even that small of an affection being afforded him again, Claire lay her head upon his shoulder, a single drop of red then falling to a place upon that strong shoulder of his as he happily held her close.