There was a brighter note the other morning. I about my normal morning business of trying to stretch one transaction into being worth updating the accounts and stock lists in the tavern when Sophia showed up, clearly excited about something and quite keen to show me something, if I wasn’t too busy. I glanced around the empty bar and indicated that I could perhaps drag myself away. She led me across the courtyard to the cottage between the bakery and the bookshop and unlocked the door. “I’ve rented this place for the month,” she told me, indicating a nice, cosy-looking sitting room. I told her it looked very nice. She said it wasn’t anywhere as near as grand as her home in Richmond, but at least it was all hers, with not a hint of her mother or Lucy. That, I agreed, was probably a good thing, and complimented her on the bookcase, saying a house was not a home without books. That would appear to be something we have in common.
She gave me a small bottle. It was, she said, the last of her ‘medicine’, and asked that I dispose of it properly, since I was the only person here that she knew she could trust. I asked how she was coping with the withdrawal and she told me that mostly she was more tired than she was previously wont to be. She was, however, looking forward to being more normal; at least, she thought she was. I commented that it was some eight years since I had left normality behind, and told her a little of how I had adapted to the kindred life, especially given the rather closeted circumstances of my job and life at the time.
She then told me more of Tory’s last days, and the reason she destroyed her piano and all her music. Whatever had transpired between her and McTaggart had clearly not been good, leading her to hatching a plan to destroy them both – locking herself and him in the room holding his coffin and then firing the place. Her plan failed, for McTaggart’s remains were never found, and his last act of revenge was to sever all her fingers, leaving only her thumbs. And that was how Lucy and the others found her. It was later than that, deprived of her music, that she destroyed everything she had that was musical. This story did little to improve my opinion of McTaggart, but then, very little would, save for irrefutable proof that he had been destroyed, preferably slowly and painfully.
Sophia was intensely curious about the man, and why her mother seemed to both love and loathe him so strongly. I told her what little I could of him. Somehow I didn’t feel it necessary to conceal my dislike of the man. I told her how he had tempted Elizabeth away with offers of magic, which led on to a discussion on the general subject of relationships. She confessed, perhaps somewhat ashamed, to having had lots of men, but no real relationships. Given what she had said of her past, as gutter trash, before Tory found her, this did not surprise me. I tried to alleviate her embarrassment by telling her a little of my life as a sailor, frequenting whore-houses across the northern European shores. While I could not claim to have never had a serious relationship, I could at least empathise with her situation in terms of multiple partners. I also felt it necessary to somehow let her know that I thought nothing less of her for it, for I was no better in that respect.
From what she said, I gather she has picked up a somewhat cynical and suspicious view of relationships from her mother’s experiences and from listening to Lucy. I assured her that it wasn’t necessarily that bad, but to take things as they came. Neither of us, it appears, is in any hurry to seek out such things, and both of us, it appears, value friendship more. Unlike previous times I have heard women say this; I don’t think it was a subtle hint to back off. At least, I don’t think so. But then, so far as I know, I haven’t given any indication of intent beyond friendship, so maybe there was no need.
The subject matter may have been somewhat dark, but it was pleasant to spend time in company where I didn’t have to adapt my conversation to the audience – avoiding matters about my nature or things that would be too complicated to explain. And, come to that, it was nice to relax somewhere that wasn’t my apartment or the tavern. Even so, I could see she was tiring, a result, no doubt, of the withdrawal as she had already stated. It was time I took myself back to the tavern anyway, so we said our goodbyes with smiles and a promise to meet again soon.