Chapter Ten: Roommates

1734 Words
The following week passed uneventfully. She submitted her application to the Academie Esoterique, and did a little bit of poking around the city of Nouvieux, trying to get her bearings. The young lady artificer was used to the orderly blocks and cross streets of Veritasia City, and thought she was used to the hustle, bustle and inherent rudeness of city dwellers after years of living in proximity to the capital city of the Dynasty, but found that Nouvieux and Veritasia City were two very different animals.  While the people of Veritasia City were loud and somewhat obnoxious, the denizens of Nouvieux were intense in their own special way. They were so polite that every time she spoke Dia wondered if she was unintentionally insulting someone. Even the way that she inclined her head - a common greeting in the Empire - made her feel awkward.  Also, everyone was taller than her and half of them looked down at her with a snooty, nearly impassive expression. Even the street vendor who was handing her her morning coffee, which she would normally have made at home as it was a silly thing to spend money on. At this point, anything to get her out of the house in the morning was worth doing. Mornings in the Desrouleaux household were a thing of beauty - the kind of beauty that inspires terror in the heart of even the sturdiest of hearts. Cadence Desrouleaux conducted the family’s morning routine like a maestro overseeing an orchestra, with a deft and controlling hand. Seeing how easily she seemed to wrangle three boys under the age of seven with ease and grace, and only a minimal amount of shouting, was inspiring. Certainly, it inspired Lydia to leave as quickly as she could before she ended up getting splattered with cereal. It also led Lydia to reevaluate her childhood desire to have a sibling. She’d been woken up more times in the past week before the rising sun than she had in the entirety of her adult life, had her hair pulled, been climbed like a ladder, and been lulled into a stupor by a series of rapid fire questions that spanned a wide range of topics - many of which she was completely ignorant of. Also, she now knew quite a lot of random facts regarding Zircyn monsters. While acquiring this newfound appreciation for being an only child, Lydia also began trolling the local classifieds for an apartment or a roommate. So far, nothing had struck her fancy. She paid the vendor for her piping hot coffee and copy of the Nouvieux Derniers, then leaned against the brick facade of a nearby building as she pondered her situation. She was so deeply engrossed in her apartment hunt that she didn’t notice the young man leaning against the wall next to her until he very cleared his throat rather more noisily than necessary, in an obvious bid to get her attention. Dia started, blinked a few times, then looked over...and up into the face of Harmon, who was giving her one of his trademark mildly amused smiles. Dia groaned a little internally, and straightened up so that she didn’t feel quite so diminutive standing next to the tall drink of water, but returned his smile despite her ongoing internal conflict. She hated being short. How was it that her father was reasonably tall, and her mother was pretty average height, and yet Dia ended up barely five feet tall? Even her grandmother was tall! Tall and intimidating. It was unfair. It felt especially unfair now that she’d spent a week living in a city full of tall, willowy models of dark beauty with unnaturally ageless facial features that seemed to glow under the moonlight. “You’ve been buying the paper every day. Are the articles really all that interesting?” Harmon inquired. “I’, don’t tell your parents ok? I’m looking for an apartment. I was thinking about applying for the dorms, but it’s kinda late...and I’m already older than a lot of the other students.” she shrugged a little. “It just seems daunting. I don’t know what neighborhoods are good, and the cost of living here is so high. I think it would be better to find a roommate, but you know...I don’t actually know anyone yet.” Lydia had an inheritance from her grandmother that she was using to fund her schooling, but she wanted to preserve as much of it as she could. She’d already blown a chunk of it on her failure of a wedding. Her parents would help her out of course, but she needed to be judicious with her money and prove not just to her parents, but herself, that she could do this. “You know me.” Harmon said as he looked down, examining his fingernails. They were clipped short and neat as always. Lydia laughed, and shook her head. When Harmon didn’t laugh with her, her expression fell. She tilted her head a little, and said “You’re serious.” “I’ve been told that quite often.” Harmon replied, his flat monotone only adding to the dry sarcasm of his words. “Is it something to do with my face, you think? What’s the male version of resting b***h face?” “Do you really want to be roommates?” Lydia asked, ignoring his self deprecation in favor of the overriding relief she felt at the mere prospect of being roommates with Harmon. Yeah, he was a guy, but he was clean and quiet. He knew the city really well, and from what little she’d gleaned regarding the artificing commissions he took on, he wasn’t going to have any problems making rent. It was perfect. Well, it would be perfect if he actually wanted to be roommates and wasn’t just dicking her around. “I love my brothers, but I’ve been thinking for a while that it’s time to leave the nest.” the handsome young drow replied. “It would be nice to have a trustworthy roommate.” There was no way that Harmon really needed a roommate. He could probably buy his own place outright if he really wanted to. Still, she wasn’t about to fight him on this; at the end of the day, she was pretty pragmatic and he was offering her a damn good deal. Even if he just felt nervous about living on his own for the first time, or was thinking Dia might cook for him, it would totally be worth it. Plus, she did like cooking, even if she wasn’t particularly good at it.  “Do you, uhm, wanna go for a ride, then?” Lydia inquired, looking up at him with hope in her big, blue eyes. “We could check out some of these places together…” Harmon felt a rush of heat lend color to his cheeks before sizzling like lightning through his veins down to his d**k, which had been embarrassingly responsive at inopportune moments all throughout the last week. If Lydia had noticed, she thankfully didn’t mention it. There was a small part of the young drow’s conscience that was throwing up flags in the back of his mind, warning him that rooming with Lydia would only end in disaster when he eventually said something so horrible that she ditched him for more pleasant company. But, he was having a hard time saying no to her - not that he really wanted to. He wasn’t lying when he said that he was thinking about moving out, but having a roommate hadn’t really been part of his plans. In fact, Harmon had been very much looking forward to living on his own; the solitude and privacy of having his own space was deeply appealing. But then, so was Lydia. And didn’t she damn well know it too? The way she was looking up at him, her bright eyes shining, made his throat lock up a little. “Sure.” he finally said, his deep voice cracking in a way that it only did when he was feeling especially nervous. It was a reminder that, despite his feigned maturity, he was still a teenager - of age, but only just. “Great! Let’s take The Beast today. I hope you don’t mind riding pillion?” Lydia said, grabbing the young drow at the elbow before pushing away from the building they’d been leaning on.  Stumbling slightly, Harmon found himself being thrown off balance once more by this little lady. She was so open with her words and her emotions; it was such a relief that he didn’t have to second guess whether or not what she said lined up with what she meant. His lips turned up at the corners of their own accord, growing wider as he allowed himself to be tugged along by the enthusiastic Lydia who was all too happy to chatter on about the different apartments she’d been considering. Harmon used to think that he thrived in silence; that he could really only relax when it was quiet. Now, in between the times when his brothers were driving everyone in the house nuts, he found that he did enjoy having a chat. At least, he enjoyed chatting with Lydia. Or, letting her chat at him, anyway. He still wasn’t much of a talker, but Lydia didn’t seem bothered by his lack of participation, and he quite enjoyed listening to her stream of consciousness. When he did comment, she was so enthusiastic - like she valued his thoughts even more since he gave them so infrequently. Was this what people meant when they talked about ‘clicking’ with someone? If so, Harmon was beginning to understand why some people had so many friends. It felt good to click with someone. The warmth of her hand resting in the crook of his elbow and the soft way her fingers curled to grip his arm also felt good. As if in some small way, she was staking a claim to him - though he knew that wasn’t really the case. They were only a few blocks from the Desrouleaux townhouse, but part of him wished that they could stay that way - walking arm in arm - for much longer than the brief length of time to traverse the space between the coffee cart and the carriage house.
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