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 Private Meeting, Clara (Grayfield Estate)
Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Jul 31 2012, 07:48 PM
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She had been invited into the home of none other than Mr. Clarence Grayfield, country-renown essayist and novelist and none other than her best friend. Needless to say, Lily dressed the part. She put on some of her most elegant and fashionable clothes and was completely ready, preened, perfumed and proper, when the coach arrived to pick her up.

A short while later, they were passing the wrought iron gates and gently trotting into the estate itself, which, if you'd like to know, was jaw-droppingly gargantuan. Her home with Lemuel, though not modest, was a shack compared to this.

Mrs. Yorke was helped out of the coach by the driver. The valet was waiting for her to help her up the marble steps at the front and through the large doors they went. It was an old house, but stylish and interesting to look at, in Lily's opinion. Then again, everything to do with Clara had that sort of appeal to her. She smiled excitedly as she removed her coat and hat so they could be put safely away. Her reddish-brown dress rustled subtly about her as she delved further and further into the depths of the renown writer's estate, brown eyes admiring every detail of every portrait, sculpture or carpet.

Several sets of instructions through rooms later, she walked in alone through a door which then closed after her soundlessly.
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 09:28 AM
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Clara's household was an interesting one for the typical woman her age. For one, there was no 'man of the house' - no husband, no father. She handled the accounts, and she was the owner. Or, at least, Clarence was. Secondly, the entire household was made solely of people she trusted with her life, people she'd approached a "Mr. Grayfield's secretary" and only later informed of their true employer. The maid, the doorman, and the cook all worked there, although only the maid and doorman (who also served as a general handyman and valet when she went out) lived at her home. All three had shown themselves to be exceptionally trustworthy over the past years, and it was necessary, for very few people knew her secret, and all three were in that group.

She'd bought the place partly with money from her parents and partly from her books. It had become necessary to do so mostly because the esteemed author Clarence Grayfield needed an address, and using the Grayson family home as such would have had several alarm bells ringing. Clarence was infamous for being both incredibly antisocial and private - in fact, no one ever remembered seeing him leave his home, even to pace the front green as some did. She had once considered giving the impression that he was agoraphobic - afraid of the outdoors, and wasn't that a wonderful word? - but had never really gotten around to it.

Today found her holed up much like the esteemed and nonexistent Grayfield, sitting behind a typewriter and not using it. Beside the typewriter sat a flurry of sheets of paper, each with messily drawn diagrams. Character plans, plot ideas, sequel concepts... all in a pile so perpetually unorganized it was a wonder she had ever published. Her Jack-of-all-trades (as she mentally referred to him - his name actually was Jack, funnily enough!) poked open the door and informed her that her best friend was waiting in the sitting room. She sat back in her chair for a moment and composed herself. There was no debate between working or chatting, even though she loved her job. Writing was actually only a small bit of a writer's life - they also had to research, plan, edit, and rethink. At a certain point, when one's research was as finished as it could be and the plans stopped coming, one had to do something else, to let the plot stew for a bit.

Or, at least, that was what she told herself. It was much easier to justify pretending to be productive, and she really wanted to see Lily. The ex-superhero breezed through the door and entered the room, only noticing too late that the marvelous effect her house had on visitors was rather broken by the ink smudged all over her hand. She wiped it off and hugged her friend.

"Lily!" she began with a broad smile. "What a pleasant surprise." It might have been well possible that Lily had informed her of her visit far in advance, but when work began Clara often lost track of the time, date, and everything else. She'd often worked through the night completely without realizing it until morning - so forgetting about Lily's visit was certainly nothing personal. "How are you?"
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 10:09 AM
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"I'm good. You did invite me, you know," she reminded her friend, smilingly. "So it shouldn't be a surprise, exactly."

She twisted on the spot, turning, her dress flapping around her ankles. "You have the most unbelievable house."
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 10:23 AM
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"Thank you," Clara said, as she rolled her eyes and smiled. She was normally picky about taking compliments, but few people ever got to see the interior of her home, and she was ashamed to admit she rarely saw the inside of other people's these days. "And you have the most unbelievable dress!" she mimicked in the same tone as her. It really was quite amazing, and the twirl showed it off quite nicely.

"So tell me - what have you been up to? I want to know about every minute since Gavin's!"
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 10:32 AM
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"Every minute?" Lily teased, giving Clara a pointy look. Sighing, she laid herself on one of the fluffy couches. "I have a lot to say and I'm not sure how I can put it into words." Her neck stretched back onto the back of the couch. She closed her eyes.
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 10:37 AM
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One moment and Clara had been joking, jovial, and jumpy, the next and all of that drained away. She was still getting used to seeing Lily, and so every moment was still enjoyable, but suddenly she was somber. Something had happened. What? Clara's face dropped into a concerned frown, and she sat beside her on the couch.

"Start at the beginning," she suggested, ever the author. Of course the advice did nothing, because, as Clara was well aware, words could only do so much. They were strong, but far from omnipotent.
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 10:42 AM
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"That hardly makes a good story, eh?" Lily said, smiling complacently.

She took a deep breath.

"I am... a mother." The word could not have sounded more foreign on her lips if she had said she was a fifty-food green pig with a purple and gold tutu around her waist.
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 10:51 AM
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Of anything that she could have said, that word was not what Clara expected. In fact, it was pretty much the farthest thing from it. And so, instead of something intelligent, thoughtful, or wise, she widened her eyes like dinner plates.

"... Already?!" It had most certainly not been nine months since she'd last seen her friend, and there had been no signs at Gavin's. Without knowing how Lily felt about the whole thing, she wasn't quite sure whether to let her friend cry on her shoulder, or to call in champagne and sparklers. "What happened?"
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 10:52 AM
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Through gritted teeth and embittered, Lily spoke two words: "Lem happened."
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 10:57 AM
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Clara's eyes hardened. She was not fully aware of the situation between Lem and Lily, but she supported Lily full-heartedly. If he brought about such emotion in her, it did in Clara as well. "When?"
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 11:10 AM
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"Two nights ago," Lily replied, with a groan. Then, she suddenly stood up, very energetically. "I hate him. If he thinks he can buy me off with a child-- As if that would solve anything. He is-- He is impossible, that's what he is!"
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 11:21 AM
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Clara was slightly angry and slightly skeptical.

"You gave birth two nights ago?" How long had she been in that room working?! She lost track of time occasionally, but surely her friend would have showed far beforehand.
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 12:10 PM
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"I-- what?!" she snapped, mouth agape.

Oh.

"No, Clara. He brought home a little boy..." she slowly said, again as if she were talking of dragons and fairy tales.
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 12:16 PM
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Clara's mouth dropped open, and at once her anger intensified. He'd done what?! Face red, she met Lily's eyes. From her tone, she hadn't fully accepted what this meant, not only for him but for the child. It was serious business, and delicate. She assumed Lily wouldn't want to keep the boy, but to do that without damaging him would be hard.

Lemuel, on the other hand, she couldn't be held responsible for. If he sustained damage, it was his own god-damned fault.

"He did what," she said, her voice soft and astounded. Clara did not yell when she was angry - she murmured. "Without consulting you?!" Such a thing was astonishing, especially without a consideration nor care to what she thought? It was almost the new millennium for God's sake! Surely the world had grown out of such ideas!

"How did you react?"
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 6 2012, 04:01 PM
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She snorted. "Well, naturally, I was shocked. For a moment, I couldn't find my words. Well..." Eyes rolled as she stood up and went to the far side of the room to glance out the window. "I couldn't find my brain for the longest time. How does one even... react to such a thing, Clara?" Her voice broke slightly, though there were no tears. "He didn't even tell me."
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 12:51 AM
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Clara sat there a moment and thought. "I don't know," she replied after a moment. "But by not consulting you, he ignored your opinion altogether." Lem might have been doing what he did for the best of intentions - she didn't know. Whatever the reasoning, he should have talked to Lily first. Clara wasn't always too good at relationship advice, but that at least was clear.

"What is important now is that the boy is not harmed," she added, knowing it was not something Lily would want to hear. Her and Lem's argument would happen, but if it blew up in front of the child he could be scarred. "Lem," she curled her mouth as if she tasted rhubarb, "must find a home for him, a proper home."
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 06:09 AM
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Lily nodded. "I'm going to end up resenting this child if this goes on for longer. It's not... It's nothing personal, but..." She turned and eyed her friend very sincerely. "Clara, I never wanted children."
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 06:20 AM
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If only, Clara thought. Now was the time that being a secret author was a bad thing, because she no longer had the freedom of opening up her home to the child, at least until Lemuel found a real home. She couldn't, though - not without risking her entire existence.

The other thing she could do, the much more favorable and fun option, was to ask Lily. "Lily, you know my home is always open to you if you need it." This was said calmly, but she was deep down terrified that it was the wrong thing to suggest. "Until then, you need to tell Lemuel he needs to find a solution," she went on gently. "A real one." Again Clara gritted her teeth at his naïveté.

"I'll go with you if you want."
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 06:23 AM
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The offer made her look up at her friend, eyes wide. Then he walked forward and embraced her with all Lily's might.

"Thanks," she muttered. "You have no idea how much even hearing that means to me."

The truth was that Lily had been feeling not just lonely, but completely alone. What Lemuel had done had only served to isolate her more from him. She no longer found she could trust him at all and, every night, she felt she was sharing a bed with a murderer. She could barely sleep, knowing that he was next to her, sleeping soundly.
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 06:47 AM
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Aaaand they were back to the sentimental side of things. Clara hugged her friend back and smiled.

"I have all of this house, and not enough people to live in it!" There was an empty guest wing with a bedroom and en suite bathroom. She'd never before been able to invite someone over, and the to her it sounded like one big slumber party. "Believe me, you'd be doing me a favor."

She didn't want to force Lily into staying over, nor encourage her to fully abandon her relationship with Lemuel, but if she wanted out, it was fully possible. Sometimes people just needed breaks.
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 06:49 AM
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As she stepped back, she looked Clara in the eye. "I will try to arrange something for the boy before doing anything... radical," she assured her friend, but the smile on her face was a clear sign that she was far more hopeful now than before.
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 06:53 AM
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That was comforting, but Clara didn't need the comfort. She had no doubt whatsoever that the teacher would deal with the boy just fine - she regularly taught children like him without scarring them (she assumed). Sure, this was slightly more personal and completely out of left field, but when it came to the innocent bystander, she fully trusted Lily's empathy.

"I will be here whenever you need me," she said simply, only realizing how ridiculously corny that sounded after it left her mouth. She smiled wryly, but meant it all the same. "For now, however... I have something I'd like to tell you."
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 07:00 AM
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Lily looked up, alert. "What is it?"

She had a feeling she'd be needing a good cup of tea or coffee to get over this morning.
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 07:20 AM
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Clara gulped, and suddenly regretted bringing it up. It was much, much easier to tell Lily she wanted to tell her something than it was to actually say it. How would she begin? Suddenly, her own advice of minutes earlier seemed altogether inadequate.

For a very uncomfortable moment it was quiet, and then Clara's stomach rumbled. She had no idea what time it was, but she was starving.

"What would you say to continuing this over something to eat?" she asked her friend brightly. Her mind was still considering options, how to bring up her Protector days. 'So after college, I was a superhero...' sounded awful. She wanted to tell Lily, wanted dearly, but first she had to find a way to do so that didn't alarm her.
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 07:25 AM
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"We can talk to it over lunch?" Lily agreed, cheerfully. "Does not sound like a bad idea at all..."
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 07:28 AM
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Suddenly Clara was worried. If they didn't eat here, there was no way she could say what she had to say.

"Let's eat here - I'm sure my cook can whip something up." She opened the door and hung her head out into the hall. "Jack?" In a minute she was back. "How do chicken salad sandwiches sound?"
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 07:41 AM
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"Amazing!" Lily replied, with a bright smile. "Where are we eating?"
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 07:44 AM
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"The dining hall," she replied in a falsely haughty voice. It sounded ridiculous to her, too - usually she just ate at her desk or in the kitchen over notes, conversing jovially with her cook. That wasn't possible in this case, though, because though Cookie wasn't untrustworthy, this was a big secret she had to tell, and not one for too many ears. "Follow me!" she exclaimed a moment later, marching out of the room with a finger high in the air.
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Lillian Yorke
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 08:22 AM
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Lily giggled and followed on her friend's footsteps. There were several oohs and aaahs, some more enthusiastic than others.

Eventually, they were settled down and finally having some drinks between them. Lily cocked her head to the side, smilingly watching Clara for a moment, realising - yet again - just how much she had missed her friend.

"So. Tell me. What was it that you wanted to talk about?"
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Clara Grayson
 Posted: Aug 7 2012, 12:52 PM
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The food came, and Clara shot a smile at her cook. "Thanks," she said graciously. Then she took a bite, chewed thoughtfully, and swallowed, all at a snail's pace as her mind raced. When she was done, she cleared her throat.

"Have you ever head of the Protectors?" she asked, assuming she would not have.
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