Eulalia Pollovic gives a sigh of relief as her heavy carriage draws up outside her son's town house at last. She is not as young as she used to be, and the roads are in abominable shape, as usual.
Eulalia has always understood her duty to the family, however, and right now, that's to make her son aware of his duty to perpetuate the family before it's too late. She has been ~~ worried ~~ about the increasingly erratic behavior described in the newspaper accounts, as well. She has therefore decided to leave her comfortable dower house and take her son in hand personally.
Pollovic is still in his office in the Senate building, though he does intend to get home a bit early tonight, in preparation for his dinner party.
Katsura is in the greenhouse of said town house, waiting for Nick. She came down to remind him to change so they can head out for their next shift shortly. She's enjoying the warm moist earthy aroma of the greenhouse, which reminds her of winters at home in Sat'htine. She decided to wait for him here rather than return upstairs with him. She wants to go in to work a bit early to be sure to avoid any chance of running into one of Pollovic's dinner guests.
Eulalia is assisted from the carriage by her footman, and sweeps up the stairs in suitably grand style, hoping that her ~~ stiffness ~~ will be mistaken for family pride and dignity. She greets Spow the butler, determines that her son isn't presently at home, and leaves her maid to arrange for a room.
Eulalia hates the bustle of unpacking, and the journey has chilled her bones, so she decides to spend some time in the conservatory, and check on her roses.
Katsura zlins an unfamiliar elderly female non-donor approaching, but there isn't anywhere to escape, except out into the snowy garden.
Eulalia sweeps grandly into the conservatory, more out of habit than in expectation of finding anyone there, with the possible exception of a gardener, who would hardly count.
Katsura wraps her cloak around her, concealing her arms and her thin-to-emaciation Sime build.
Eulalia lets her shawl droop as the humid warmth starts to soak into her creaky bones. She tuts over a potted palm that is looking a little ragged, then turns as she hears a noise in the corner by the roses. She squints near-sightedly in that direction.
Eulalia: Who's there?
Katsura: Hello. I'm Katsura Farris, one of the Senator's house guests.
Katsura's English has improved markedly, but she still has a strong Simelan accent.
Eulalia follows society, which is not quite the same thing as politics, and foreigners have never been of interest to her. She therefore doesn't immediately link the last name to the prominent Sime family.
Eulalia draws a little closer, and notes a young lass past her first bloom, and clad in the practical garments of a poor relation.
Eulalia: Humph. An unfortunate choice of name, but I suppose you can't help it.
Katsura nods, hoping she won't have to reveal her arms by shaking hands.
Eulalia doesn't shake hands with poor relations.
Eulalia: I'm Eulalia Pollovic, the Senator's mother.
Katsura: Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Pollovic.
Eulalia: I've come to take my son in hand, since he seems incapable of doing it himself.
Eulalia's expression is martyred, but she also displays some ~~ enthusiasm ~~ for the project.
Eulalia: It appears the staff needs to be taught some discipline, as well, from the looks of things here.
Katsura isn't sure what taking the Senator in hand involves, but expects it will be disruptive, especially to her and Nick's safe haven here.
Eulalia: Look at that palm -- shocking.
Katsura looks at the palm. It doesn't look too happy, but then it's not getting much daylight this time of year.
Eulalia: I'm a little surprised that Hodges would let things go like this. He's usually quite conscientious. My roses appear to be thriving, at least. Looks like someone's repotted them.
Katsura assumes Hodges is one of the staff who objected to sharing a roof with a Sime and left for Pollovic's country house. She hasn't met him, at any rate.
Katsura: Yes, just last week, I believe.
Eulalia raises an eyebrow.
Eulalia: Oh? You saw Hodges at work, then?
Katsura: No. It was Nick who repotted them. He likes to work with roses.
Eulalia: Nick? He must be new; I don't recall the name.
Eulalia is of course assuming that Nick is Hodges's new apprentice.
Katsura: We've been here a few weeks.
Eulalia: He came with you, then?
Eulalia is used to having staff come with long-term houseguests.
Katsura: Yes. We are together.
Katsura hopes she isn't painting herself into a corner.
Pollovic arrives home after a short but productive afternoon. He has about an hour before the guests start arriving; just long enough to check on last-minute arrangements and change into fresh clothes.
Pollovic has in the forefront of his mind a couple of last-minute changes to the guest list, and a broken cufflink. Aside from those, things should be under perfect control. He has full confidence in his staff, who've handled events like this a hundred times before.
Spow looks unexpectedly ~~ flustered ~~ when he opens the door for his master.
Pollovic nods to his butler.
Pollovic: Good afternoon, Spow. Is there a problem?
Spow: Sir, I hope not. But your mother arrived about half an hour ago.
Pollovic tries not to show his shock and alarm on his face.
Pollovic: Well, that is unfortunate timing. Will she be joining us for dinner?
Pollovic sincerely hopes not.
Spow: I've put her in the green room, pleading necessary repairs to her usual quarters.
Spow was trying to keep the guests as far apart as possible.
Pollovic: Excellent thinking, Spow.
Spow is, of course, as telepathic as any good butler must be.
Pollovic turns towards the stairs. Whether or not he can spare the time now, he has to make a brief courtesy call on Mother.
Pollovic: I'll see whether she wishes to rest a bit. If she does, you can send dinner up for her later.
Pollovic places a foot on the bottom step.
Spow: Sir, I believe your lady mother was going to take a turn in the conservatory while her maid unpacks.
Pollovic steps back down and turns towards the hallway leading to the conservatory.
Pollovic: Oh, by the way, Spow, Senator Mills and his wife have cancelled for tonight.
Spow: Very good, sir. I shall have their places cleared.
Pollovic nods, then turns away and heads towards the conservatory.
Eulalia has satisfied herself that this poor relation isn't a threat to her plans for her son, and has therefore ~~ warmed ~~ a little to her. Her mood has also no doubt been improved by the warmer climate in the conservatory, which makes her joints hurt less.
Pollovic desperately hopes his mother will be too travel-weary to attend tonight's dinner. He's been orchestrating this event for quite some time, and hopes that in the more relaxed atmosphere of a dinner party, some real movement will take place on some issues the Agriculture Committee has been stuck over lately.
Katsura hopes she can figure out how to get away from Miz Pollovic without offending her. Evading her questions without appearing to is quite tiring.
Pollovic sticks his hand in his pocket, fiddling ~~ nervously ~~ with the broken cufflink as he approaches the conservatory.
Katsura zlins the Senator approaching and isn't sure whether to be concerned or relieved. He doesn't zlin very pleased.
Pollovic opens the door.
Eulalia has drawn closer during the conversation, as she tries to force her dimming eyes to focus.
Pollovic steps into the conservatory and looks around.
Pollovic: Mother? Are you in here?
Pollovic sees nothing yet but foliage.
Eulalia: Brenn? Is that you?
Pollovic: Hello, Mother. It's good to see you.
Pollovic's lie is, of course, quite zlinnable to any Sime within a mile.
Katsura: Good evening, Senator.
Katsura figures she should let him know she's here too, but then worries that he'll address her as Hajene, alarming his mother. She drops hypoconscious, just in case. Where's Nick, shen it.
Pollovic moves towards the voices.
Eulalia takes the lie at face value, and offers one wrinkled, powdered cheek to be kissed.
Pollovic gives his mother the obligatory peck on the cheek.
Pollovic: Have you two been having a good chat?
Pollovic is careful not to address Kat by title or name, until he knows how much the channel has told his mother.
Eulalia: Yes. You didn't tell me you had taken in a houseguest.
Pollovic: I didn't know you were going to be visiting, Mother. I'd have mentioned it if I'd known you were coming.
Eulalia: Well, I hadn't planned to, but it appears I'm needed here.
Pollovic turns to walk his mother back towards the door, hoping to get her away from Kat without a fuss.
Pollovic: You know you're always welcome here, Mother, but what makes you think you have to travel all this distance in the middle of winter?
Eulalia: My good friend Bernice says your behavior has been quite erratic, lately.
Eulalia's good friend Bernice is married to Senator Ruthven Tsibola.
Pollovic raises an eyebrow.
Katsura: Excuse me, I must go.
Pollovic gives the channel a quick nod.
Pollovic: See you later, then.
Katsura nods politely and heads for the door, still wrapped in her cloak and moving as Gen-like as possible.
Pollovic notes the difference in Kat's movement and surmises his mother hasn't guessed that the mystery houseguest is a Sime.
Eulalia waits until the poor relation leaves.
Eulalia: She seems a pleasant girl, but her taste in clothing is execrable. She'll never get a husband dressed like that.
Pollovic shrugs. Men aren't expected to know much about women's fashions.
Pollovic: You, on the other hand, are dressed splendidly, Mother. You scarcely look as if you'd just completed such a long trip.
Eulalia looks ~~ pleased ~~, although she's quite aware that there are wrinkles in her skirts.
Eulalia: I don't travel as well as I used to, but it seemed the situation here is getting out of hand.
Pollovic: The situation is quite in hand, except that my dinner guests will be arriving shortly and I still have to change. But you must surely be tired. If you want to rest instead of joining us for tonight's dry little political dinner party, I'll certainly understand.
Pollovic is in too much haste to be as subtle as he'd like.
Eulalia raises an eyebrow at this blatant attempt to discourage her attendance.
Eulalia: Is there some reason you don't want me to attend?
Pollovic: You'd be bored to tears, Mother. It's the Agriculture Committee.
Eulalia mentally runs through Bernice's letters, and decides that the Agriculture Committee wasn't mentioned as particularly problematic.
Pollovic: Things have pretty much come to a standstill in committee meetings, and I'm hoping a few glasses of brandy may bring some movement on key issues.
Eulalia's knee creaks as she steps on it, sending a twinge of pain up her leg.
Eulalia: Well, it has been a long journey.
Eulalia decides that she can afford to wait until she's had a good rest before she starts work.
Pollovic: Take it easy tonight, then, Mother. I'll have dinner sent up for you. Tomorrow, when you're feeling better, we can talk.
Eulalia: All right. But tomorrow, we'll have a long chat about your future.
Pollovic raises his hand on the side with the missing cufflink and combs his fingers through what's left of his hair.
Pollovic: Yes, Mother.
Pollovic can almost feel his blood pressure rising at the prospect.
Eulalia: Starting with the proper mode of dress for a gentleman.
Eulalia stares pointedly at the loose cuff.
Pollovic pulls the broken cufflink from his pocket.
Eulalia: Oh, and I'd like to meet this "Nick" fellow who repotted my roses. I've been looking for a reliable gardener, and after all, you do have Hodges.
Pollovic: Oh. Um, somehow I don't think Nick is looking for a new position at the moment.
Pollovic gathers that Kat did a very good job of not telling Mother anything of substance.
Pollovic suppresses a smile.
Eulalia: Oh, I'm sure he's content enough working under Hodges, but really, if the man has any ambition at all, he'll recognize that a position with me will offer him more latitude.
Eulalia is very used to getting her way.
Pollovic: Nick's not working for Hodges. Hodges is actually out at the country house right now.
Pollovic hopes his mother will drop the notion.
Eulalia: Well, wherever you found the fellow, he seems to be competent and industrious.
Pollovic makes a noncommittal noise.
Pollovic: He's not a gardener, Mother. He only tackled the roses because he likes plants, and no one else was doing anything with them.
Eulalia: Nonsense. I know the work of a professional when I see it.
Pollovic: It's only a hobby for him. As it is for you. Would you say you're not as good with plants as any professional, Mother?
Eulalia: I know what must be done, but this sort of result needs a bit more than casual practice. Who but a professional has time for that?
Pollovic hopes to turn his mother's thoughts back to herself, and away from the issue of what Nick's true career is.
Pollovic: Anyone who truly loves their hobby. As you always have, Mother, so I'm sure you understand the attitude. I still remember some of the roses and orchids you used to grow when I was a boy.
Eulalia: There was that particularly nice orchid... but that was a long time ago. I don't have the energy to keep up with it, these days.
Pollovic: So what have you been doing with your time, lately? Letters tell so little, really.
Pollovic opens the door to the main part of the house and steers his mother through.
Eulalia: Well, I've been giving some thought to your situation, and I've decided that it's high time the family fulfilled its social obligations.
Pollovic makes an inquisitive noise.
Eulalia: How long has it been since a grand ball was held in this house?
Pollovic: A few years, perhaps. But I find the smaller gatherings far more productive.
Pollovic is steering his mother towards the front of the house as they speak.
Eulalia: Nonsense. You can't influence people if you don't meet them.
Pollovic figures Kat will have taken the side stairs, so he must make sure his mother uses the main ones.
Eulalia: Now, I have in mind a spring affair; the flowers will be easier to get, and the guests can enjoy the gardens. I've been inquiring of my friends, and there will be several very nice, well-bred ladies in town that you ought to meet.
Pollovic: I don't have time for that, Mother.
Eulalia: I'll make the arrangements -- men don't have a proper head for the details, anyway. Perhaps your houseguest can assist me.
Eulalia is perfectly willing to foist off a lot of the hard work onto the obvious poor relation -- that's what they're for, after all.
Pollovic: I doubt that she'll be here till spring.
Eulalia: She has prospects, does she, in spite of her dress?
Pollovic: She's quite busy, actually.
Pollovic realizes he's not going to have time to change for dinner. He snags young Brierley, who's just finished mopping up the snow Pollovic tracked into the front hall, and sends him upstairs to fetch a different pair of cufflinks.
Eulalia: And bring a comb as well! Really, Brenn, you can't meet guests looking like that.
Pollovic: I didn't realize you were here, Mother. I thought I'd have a whole hour to change for dinner.
Pollovic is disgusted at how quickly his mother has him making excuses like some delinquent little boy.
Eulalia: A gentleman makes sure he has the time to maintain his appearance.
Pollovic: You're quite right, Mother.
Pollovic figures it's easier -- and more dignified -- to concede than to argue.
Eulalia: I'll leave you to it, then, so your guests won't be distressed.
Eulalia feels that she has at least made a start at assessing the situation, and it has been a long day.
Pollovic: Rest well, Mother. I'll see you at breakfast?
Eulalia: Yes. Have a pleasant evening.
Pollovic nods distractedly and turns away, hoping Brierley will get back with the cufflinks and comb before the first of the guests arrive.
Eulalia climbs the stairs, ignoring the pain in her arthritic knee as she plots her campaign.