Amante sketched the fountain before her, eyes fixed on it with a rather surprising intensity, pencils flying on the paper. She worked quickly, hoping to finish her drawing as swiftly as possible. If she kept up at this rate, she could be finished before the party began. She felt her hand shake slightly, and took a deep breath, inhaling the fragrant air from the nearby apple groves. The shaking stopped. Amante smiled and got back to work. Really, the Chateau Sans Souci was an enchanted place, just as they said, a place where your worries…”
“Hello, sister!” came a loud voice. Richardet de Lasliez leaned over Amante’s shoulder. “What are you drawing? Is that a flag? Or a belt buckle, perhaps?”
Amante winced as the feelings of harmony that filled her were suddenly replaced by a simmering rage. She took another deep, calming breath, and reminded herself that Richardet was her little brother--not by much admittedly, but every little bit counted. He was the baby of the family, young and indulged--first by their parents, and then by their elder brothers. He did things like this. It was his nature.
“It is that fountain,” she said quietly.
Richardet stared at the fountain, then at her drawing, then at the fountain again. After a second, he made an awkward cough. “Well,” he proclaimed, “it’s… a startling likeness.”
Amante glared at him. “Your lack of sincerity is noted.”
“It’s my fault that your drawings of fruit look like belt buckles?” He squinted at the drawing again. “Or… a bell?”
“No, but the fact that you feel the need to share this opinion is your fault,” noted Amante, crossing her arms.
Richardet gave an exasperated sigh. “So your drawings are lousy! So what? I’ve been trying to learn how to play the lute for all my life, and the best I can do is to sometimes play ‘The Lady of Precieuse’ so it sounds kind of like it should. But do you see me complaining when people tell me I sound like a goat? Of course not! Because they’re right! I do sound like a goat! Or one of any numerous farm animals! That is simply the way of the world!”
Amante took a deep breath. “This is drawing is supposed to be gift to Rainald.”
“Ahh.” Richardet nodded. “Well, this explains some aspects of your emotional state, but leaves others opaque. Why are you giving him one of your terrible drawings as a birthday gift?”
“Well, with everything that’s happened,” said Amante, “I thought he would appreciate something small--something from the heart…”
“You forgot to get something before we left, and you really don’t want to go back to Montalban,” said Richardet. “Because the Eremites are creepy.”
Amante sighed. “Yes.”
Richardet patted his sister’s shoulder. “You know, you could have just told me. I can let you go halves with me on the claret I bought him.”
Amante looked away. “Could I pay you in installments?”
Richardet sighed. “Some times, sister of mine, you do not make it easy to be kind to you.”
“I know,” said Amante with a nod. “And could those installments start… next week? Or… next month would be even better…”