/The flower of young lovers. Very comme il faut for a man like Victor.

”Yes, ” he said in a low voice, almost a whisper. ”Definitely peridot. ”

Her heart fluttered for a second, and she noticed she had begun to hold in her breath. Composing herself, she adjusted her sitting position, and put her hand against her temple.

”Tell me, sir Victor, ” her fatigue creeping into her voice. ”I hope I don sound to rude, when I ask this, but… Do you make it a habit of trying to beguile all your landladies or should I count myself as special among them? ”

He burst into laughter, the surprised, explosive kind. Holding onto the armrest he used his other hand to wipe a single tear from his eye as he wound down.

”Im… ” he regained his breath for a moment. ”Im sorry, madam, I did not remember you being -this- direct. ”

”It has been a long few years, after all. ”

/And you would have been all of, what, 19?

His smile faltered.

”Yes. And Im sorry for my late condolences, ” he bowed his head in apology and commiseration.

”Thank you, sir Victor. Now, if that was all, ” she began rising from her seat, weary of this interaction.

He jumped up, and interjected, ”Actually, if I may. ”

She was surprised by his sudden movement and remained, where she was, looking at him curiously.

”This was my intention from the beginning, but I became all sidetracked, Im afraid. ”

He was carefully rummaging in his coat pocket, only adding to her growing confusion.

”I couldn help myself, seeing your beautiful hair in such disarray, ” he went on, pulling an entertainingly small brush out, along with a yellow ribbon.

Initially she felt a bit offended by the insinuation, but when she moved to touch her hastily pinned hair, she realized he was right. Her hairpin had half fallen out and her locks very slowly falling from the loosening bun.

She was about to excuse herself to fix it by herself, when he continued with a polite smile, ”If I may? ”

”I… what? Why? ” she blurted out in surprise.

”It seems it has been a long day, madam, and I would like to give you a moment of respite in your clearly busy day. ”

While he was evidently still being coy, she was inclined to let it be this once.

/I really shouldn . Im only inviting trouble if I let him, I can feel it.

She briefly tried to remember the last time someone had brushed her hair, and she couldn quite pinpoint it.

/Was it Maria? Or maybe Kassandra? Did I even let them after the accident?

She was torn, knowing she shouldn , but longing for the feeling.

/Oh, but I love getting my hair brushed

Today had worn her down, and she was getting impulsive, prone to seeking out comfort.

/How sly, finding my weak spot so soon.

”Well then, if your offer is genuine I will gladly accept, ” she capitulated. ”I am in your hands. ”

His smile had gotten bigger at seeing her tormented by the offer, but opted not to say anything, lest she take back the acceptance. He was confident in making others relax, and making normal interactions feel strangely intimate. This time was no exception, of course.

She leaned back in her chair and looked at their vague reflection in the glass cabinet behind the chair Victor had occupied.

He was standing behind her, carefully pulling out the hairpin and tucking it away in his pocket, letting her hair fall down over the back of the chair. Gently brushing against her neck to gather up all the strands, sending a shiver down her spine. Slowly running his fingers through her hair to separate any loose knots, starting at bottom and making their way up, having her locks tug slightly and occasionally making her instinctively lift her head a little.

Her breathing was oddly becoming unsteady, and her cheeks felt as if they were reddening. A sound was trying to escape her, but she refused to give in to it. She tried to think of something to say.

”Was this really your intention from the beginning? ” she asked, observing his reflection.

Without stopping, he replied, ”I make it a habit not to lie, madam. ”

His reflection was smiling, head tilted.

”Is it such an odd thing to do? ”

”Im afraid so, ” she replied with an accidental chortle.

/No man has ever asked to brush my hair, no matter how pretty or messy they found it.

He laughed airily and responded, ”A stain upon my reputation then. ”

”No more than a tinge perhaps, ” she muttered reflexively, getting somewhat lost in the sensation of Victor brushing her hair. The funny little pocket brush was clearly of high quality, never once getting stuck in the little knots her hair was prone to creating.

Her eyes had closed without her knowing, when he suddenly leaned in by her ear and murmured, ”Would you mind if I rearrange it a little? ”

She was startled enough to let out a small, ”Ah, ” immediately covering her mouth with her hand.

”No, feel free, ” she managed to answer, before her face flushed from embarrassment.

/Very composed, Raiva, good job.

She already regretted accepting the initial offer, but couldn get herself to make Victor stop.

Despite not making a sound in return, she saw him grinning in the reflection.

Already on edge, she almost shrieked when he ”accidentally ” tickled her ears to gather those parts of her hair, and to brush the remaining parts downward. Her breathing was getting heavier, and she had unintentionally been clenching her hands tightly in an attempt to control it. She started counting her breaths and focusing on the tapping of her fingers in her lap. The heat in her face lessened, and her began to steady.

Finally he completed a series of adept twists, and secured the half updo with the yellow ribbon from his pocket.

”All done, madam, ” Victor stepped away and returned to her field of vision. ”Then, I will excuse myself for the time being. ”

He bowed politely with a mischievous smile, then turned around and left the office, closing the door behind him.

Raiva blinked a few times, processing the situation.


She covered her face with her hands, and groaned, for the second time today.

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