A Day in Summer
A.N.: A little Percy/Margot fluff, because there's never enough of that in the world. Some things are references to unpublished fics, so don't worry over it. Partially based on an uber cute Phantom fic that I can't find for the life of me…
She found the girl practically trembling on the quarter deck, wind picking up the sails as the ship prepared to leave port – and instantly pitied and sympathized with her.
Suzanne de Tournay had been seen off from Calais by her family, envious of her brother who would be studying abroad the next few months before being allowed back to Paris. His twin, the meek little Suzanne, would be in England until May, trying to survive wet and foggy English weather and being terribly nervous. It was her first year of school away from home, and were it not for the fact that a very old friend of the family had promised to meet her in Dover and let her stay in the ancestral home until the boarding school started next Monday, she might have cried. So, kissed by her parents and embraced by her brother – who admitted to her and her alone he'd miss her terribly – she'd boarded The Winsome Gull among the company of quite a few young ladies, some destined for the same school, others not, and trying and failing at practicing their English.
She very may well have stayed below deck with the other young ladies, who were prattling and socializing and some of them crying, were it not for the fact that Suzanne could be terribly claustrophobic at times, and it was, she'd heard the first mate remark, perfect sailing weather. True, autumn was setting in early, but the sky was a crisp and clear blue and the clouds that there were were puffy and white and wholly inviting. So, she'd wandered aboard and skittered out of broad shouldered men's way as they heaved ropes and set sails – and may have been terrified of leering looks had the officer on duty allowed any.
And that's when she found the girl.
She was standing at the starboard bow, very thin and a little shivery and curly hair not quite picking up a luster. As the young de Tournay girl approached she decided that this strange, almost auburn haired creature – who was not terribly well dressed, but starting to grow tall and feminine looking – might well have a chance at being pretty (for the moment, she looked rather ordinary, which Suzanne envied, since she was only remarked as, "Cute.") and might well be on the wrong ship since she looked so thoroughly terrified. Not sociable herself, she approached anyway, sensing a kindred spirit, and said a meek, "Salut!"
The girl turned, surprised, blinking dark blue eyes under surprisingly long lashes, and Suzanne decided she would probably be pretty, and envied her more. Brushing back a lock of hair that was strawberry blonde, not auburn, she replied with a slightly more gusty, "Salut, je suis Marguerite." She was still trembling, and Suzanne wondered what was making her so nervous.
"I'm Suzanne," she replied, settling herself on a coil of rope she realized too late was already wet with channel spray – wincing, she plastered on a weak smile and the girl sat down on the box next to her, which happened to be dry. "de Tournay," she finished, shoving back her own, unruly dark blonde hair.
"St. Just," the creature replied in kind. "I'm going to school in England."
"I think we all are. Which school?"
She chewed a lock of hair that had wiggled its way into her mouth a moment. "Saint Katharine's School for Polish and Arts."
Suzanne's face lit up and sighed, knowing she wouldn't be alone. "As am I! Only I'm for the Polish, not the Arts…." She admitted, and the girl blinked.
"I'm the opposite. I want to be an actress."
Suzanne's eyes nearly popped out of her head. An actress? Walk the stage? Reduce your status so low that no man in his right mind would marry you? She couldn't imagine it. The very suggestion would have put Mommy into a tizzy. "An actress?" she whispered weakly. "Who are your parents?"
Her blue eyes flashed even bluer and Suzanne wondered how that was possible. "They're dead."
"Oh. Who were they?"
She sighed, shrugging. "Nobody of much importance."
"Yes. Who are yours?"
"Le Comte and Comtess de Tournay."
Marguerite now looked very uncomfortable, and Suzanne felt rather bad. "Oh," was all she said, and Suzanne shifted, staring at the deck where her little shoes were getting wet.
"My brother's a vicomte."
"My brother is a lawyer's assistant. He and I saved up quite a bit to send me to school, and even then we had to borrow from Aunt Loriette. She didn't like that much. I carried packages and earned two francs a week."
Suzanne would have felt more uncomfortable at the talk of money had Marguerite decided the issue completely unimportant, and let out the gayest, most easy laugh Suzanne had ever heard. She seemed to gain new life with her beaming smile, as though the blonde girl had just earned approval, and shone brightly in the sun.
"We used to live with Aunt Loriette," she continued, leaning on the rail and looking playful and happy and no longer trembling at all, and it eased Suzanne as well, who watched her in fascination. "That was before Armand – that's my brother, he's twenty and Louise says he's very handsome, and I agree with her – said his job and the inheritance were enough for us to rent our own flat. Now it's much better. I went to the grammar school near there in Paris for quite a long time, but we saved up enough to pay for my entrance here instead."
Suzanne found her a very fascinating person, with her now easy expression and speech, and found her envy turning into awe. "Um, my brother's fourteen," she shrugged sheepishly, having few stories come to mind except when Silvain had put a spider in her tea cup at Christmas and the tea had spilled everywhere in her fright. She'd rather not talk about that story, though, as Marguerite didn't seem the type of person to have tea spilling every which way, especially with a handsome, twenty year old brother.
Marguerite whistled at the age, which Suzanne could not do – the best she could do was hum and sing soprano very softly in church, lacking the courage to sing louder even though Silvain said her voice was very nice. "That young?" Suzanne nodded, and the other, background-less girl shook her head. "Hm. Well, how old are you?"
"Fourteen. He's my twin," she explained, and the wheels clicked more in Mademoiselle St. Just's mind.
"Ohhh…" she exclaimed, blinking again. "I'm sixteen."
Now Suzanne felt sheepish and inferior. "Oh, well, I…"
"But that's alright, Suzanne!" she exclaimed. "Even if I am in the Arts, we'll have to take some of the same classes, won't we?"
"I…I suppose so…"
"After all, it's my first year, too."
"But the Arts school students graduate much faster, like Marie's sister who became an opera singer."
"Then we'll graduate at the same time! And we can spend weekends and free hours together and I will sneak into your room at night to give you notes."
"Why?" the girl blinked, confused.
"Because that's what bosom friends do, I read it in a book."
"Oh. Are we bosom friends?"
Marguerite considered this. "Do you have anyone you like better with the little you know me?"
"Not really. But what about this Louise?"
Marguerite shrugged. "Louise is alright. She likes gawking at Armand, she's fifteen, and I think she's very silly. You don't seem silly."
"That's not what Silvain says."
"Oh. Well, Louise nor Silvain are here, and neither is Armand, which is very sad, and we shall be spending time in England all alone until spring, shan't we?"
Suzanne paused, and then agreed. "Yes, I suppose…"
"So we might as well pick bosom friends now so that it will be much easier when school starts. So, would you like to be my bosom friend?"
She blinked, rather pleasantly surprised by the dynamic, older girl whom she instantly admired. "Well, yes, certainly! Are you sure you want to be mine?"
She gave her an odd look. "Why wouldn't I want to be?"
"Well, I'm awkward, and quiet, and shy, and I-"
"Don't worry, I'll make sure nobody picks on you."
She blinked again. "Really?"
"Promise, because you're my bosom friend, and I'm really very good at wrestling when I have to. I once beat up a boy a year older than me because he called me a nasty name."
Mommy had never allowed her to wrestle, which was alright by her, it looked rather frightening. "What did he call you?"
Marguerite almost told her, and decided that the daughter of a count probably wouldn't know what the word meant even if she did tell her, and she'd promised Armand she'd start cleaning up her language since she was going to a Polishing school. "A nasty name," was all she said with a shrug, and Suzanne did not press the issue.
"Why do you want to be an actress?" she asked instead, and Marguerite's eyes glowed.
"I was given a centime by a terribly handsome Marquis to deliver flowers backstage to an actress. I figured she must have been a very beautiful woman to get such a handsome man's attention, and she was. I decided I wanted to be delivered flowers by young girls from handsome Marquis' with golden eyes, and to do so I must be an actress." Suzanne, frankly, did not follow this logic, nor what the Marquis' eye color had to do with much of anything, but wasn't given time to process the information as Marguerite continued on obliviously. "Why? What do you want to be?"
Suzanne did not feel very creative in her answer of, "Get married."
Marguerite stared at her. "That's it?"
"Um…and have children…."
"Suzanne, Suzanne, Suzanne! This simply will not do!" she cried, clapping her hands and looking rather imposing for the moment. "I will have to find what you're good at and make you the best at it in the world so that when I am a very famous actress and you are a very famous whatever you will be, you and I will go to parties and salons and men will look at us and say, 'Oh, Lord, I would die for her to look at me and let me kiss her hand!'"
Suzanne puzzled for a moment. "Do men say that?"
"They do in books. So it must be true. Anyway, what are you good at?"
She simpered. "Um…not much of anything…"
"Nonsense, everyone's good at something! Do you act?"
"Do you write spellbinding poetry?"
"Do you sing?"
"Fantastic! Let me hear you sing!" And Suzanne began something about God and lambs and such when Marguerite sighed and shook her head. "That won't do! Don't you know any romantic love ballads on how you're awaiting your true love to come and rescue you from the clutches of an evil shopkeeper? None of this lambs that Jesus loves business."
"Not really," she whimpered. "I think I'm rather more like the lamb that Jesus loves."
"Oh," she sighed, shaking her head. "Well, that's alright, I don't know any love ballads like that, either. But I will learn one and teach it to you and I daresay we'll make something out of you, Suzanne de Tournay. Then you can have a handsome Marquis, too, and continue on with this business of getting married and having children and all your other rather common ambitions."
"I think they're perfectly nice ambitions…Mother says so, anyway."
"Well, maybe so. But only if you want to be dead before twenty five. Armand says so, anyway."
The conversation had then switched to where the girls were staying until school started up. Marguerite had plans to stick with the other hordes of girls and stay in a little hole in the wall in London until she could register at St. Katharine's. Suzanne refused that idea almost instantly.
"I'm staying with an old friend of the family," she explained, "and then he's taking me up to London. He lives in Richmond. You can come stay with us, it will be quite a bit of fun, I promise!"
"I'd hate to impose…"
"He has a very big house," she explained. "You wouldn't be in the way at all."
So, they'd eventually arrived, collecting bags and scurrying down the ramp like rats among the mob of young ladies, squished very close together and a little frightened by it. "Don't worry," Suzanne assured her, her turn to be brave. "We just have to find-"
A gusty tenor broke through the crowd, parting the girls like the Red Sea. "Suzanne de Tournay!" it cried, and, grinning, she seized Marguerite's hand and dragged her through the crowd, throwing herself at the man calling her name.
"Percy!" she squealed, throwing her arms about his torso as he scooped her up, laughing very merrily. Marguerite was astounded by the sight of him; he looked to be a regular Apollo in the rare, English sun, blonde hair crisp and neat, very tall, broad shouldered, immaculately dressed and chattering away with Suzanne as though he weren't a deity descended from on high. Astounding, this man who looked about twenty six.
"Oh, little Suzanne, did you miss me?"
"Most awfully! I got your letter, thank you oh so much!"
"What, the one from India?"
"And did you get the little pressed flowers with it?"
"Yes, and I put them in my prayer book so that whenever I'm in trouble I can think of you and God all at once and everything's just fine!"
He laughed, embracing her tighter before setting her down again. "Percy," Suzanne continued breathlessly, taking Marguerite's hand again and dragging the star struck girl forward. "Percy, this is Marguerite."
"Is it?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at her while she turned very red.
"Yes, it is. She's my new bosom friend."
"Suzanne, I'm cut to the quick! And to think, I was certain I was your bosom friend!"
She considered this. "Could you be my bosom English friend?"
He laughed, a charming laugh, and conceded, "Alright, that's fine."
"Mightn't she stay with us?"
The two young ladies' jaws dropped. Suzanne's dark, brown eyes instantly began to water. "What? But…but why not?"
"Alright, alright!" he said, waving his hands to cease their terrified tears. "But first she has to answer three questions." He grinned deviously and bent down low to be on eye level with her; she blushed harder and looked at Suzanne, who gave no sign of understanding her family friend's mind. "What color is the sky on a clear day in October?"
Oh, well, that was easy. "A very dark and crisp and cold blue," Marguerite answered matter-of-factly, rocking on her heels and folding her hands behind her back.
"A stitch in time saves?"
"And what on earth does that mean?"
"I haven't the faintest idea."
He laughed again and stood up straight, lightening the mood very nicely. "Alright, she's allowed to Blakeney Manor."
"That's very nice of you, Percy," Suzanne thanked, breathing a relieved sigh.
"Think nothing of it." He took the bags, walking them over to his open carriage, footmen waiting as he helped the two girls up – Marguerite had yet to cease blushing – and Percy got on, taking the reins himself, the ladies pressed very closely to either side of his arms. Suzanne looked delighted.
"Spot and Fluffy, how I've missed you!" she cried, the splendid looking bays flicking their ears.
"I had to change their names," Percy sighed pensively, a stray lock of hair fluttering at his breath. "Tony said nobody at the Jockey Club was taking them seriously, which really is a great load of balderdash since they were the fastest horses there. I think he's just jealous."
"What are their names, then?" Marguerite asked timidly, and he glanced at her, making her tremble all over again.
"Rocavio and Maxima."
Suzanne wrinkled her nose. "I think Spot and Fluffy were less ridiculous."
He shrugged, smiling. "Well, so do I, dearest Suzanne, but there's no accounting for taste. Timothy liked them, anyway."
And then they took off, very fast so that they would have flown from the seats had they not grabbed at Percy's arms, who remained well anchored and balanced, laughing as the wind whipped their hair; Suzanne was reminded of what a great charioteer he would have been if he'd been a Greek or a Roman or some such thing. Instead he was Percy Blakeney, baronet since his father had died eight years ago, and owner of some of the finest thoroughbreds in England, and a master at wielding them; they hit a bump that nearly sent Marguerite tumbling until he caught the girl, dragging her back close to him momentarily so that the young lady thought her heart may stop beating.
"You alright?" he shouted to her through the wind, and she nodded her head enthusiastically, still clutching the handsome young man. When they finally reached Richmond, wind whipped and breathless and joyous, he'd kissed each of their hands and excused himself to helping take care of the horses, which were foaming and sweating with the exertion of the ride.
"Suzanne…" Marguerite whispered to her as Jessup began showing them to their rooms. The de Tournay girl glanced at her new friend, surprised by her quiet.
"What is it?"
"You know how you just want to get married and have children?"
"What do you have to do to marry a man like that?"
She blinked very rapidly, deciding not to tease her friend for liking Percy just a bit – she'd probably forget in a few months when she hadn't seen him at all, busy becoming an actress. "Be an aristocrat, I think."
"Anything else? Can you be an actress?"
"I don't know. Anything's possible with Percy, he's not like other aristocrats."
"Oh," was all she said, rubbing her arms and giving a great breathy sigh. Suzanne reaffirmed that she wouldn't tease her.