Please Please Me

In the brothel, to hear men shouting was nothing to be surprised about. With the amount of alcohol on the premises — and the presence of the poker tables — and of course the girls, whose job it was to make them scream and shout and pant — there was scarcely a night that went by without the volume creeping up to a level that would surely upset the neighbors, were there any neighbors to be had.

To hear a man shouting Wei Li’s name when she was not on top of him, or below him, or to the side of him, or even on the same story of the house as him — that was unusual.

“Wei Li! I just want to see Wei Li! Good Lord, is that so hard?”

Wei Li’s last client had already left, and she had just redressed (no use giving would-be paying customers a free view) and fixed her hair and was getting ready to come down again. She froze, though, her hand gripping the balustrade. Was that Master Wesleyan? Shouting?

He was not a shouter, in bed or out of it, or so Wei Li had thought. If anything, he was unusually quiet and almost shy. And kind. He always gave her more than she asked, and he always smiled at her, and he even seemed to devote some time and effort to what would please her — quite unusual for a client.

He had even apologized, the last time she had seen him, for not coming around more often. His daughter-in-law had died, he said, and his son was heartbroken, and his other son was getting married, and that meant that his daughter was home from Camford and she was a bit of a night owl … the excuses had sputtered and climbed on top of each other in their haste to come out and reassure her. Or him. Or maybe somebody else entirely. Wei Li still wasn’t sure why he felt the need to inform her of all this minutiae of his life.

Or perhaps it wasn’t minutiae. Master Wesleyan had seemed fond of his daughter-in-law, at least from some things he let slip over the course of that evening. Maybe it helped him to talk about it with somebody who wasn’t nursing that same injury. Well, if that was the case, Wei Li had two ears and she was more than capable of listening.

“Master Wesleyan, calm down, please! She’ll be down when she gets down!”

If Marigold was shouting, that could not mean anything good. One who knew the value of a whisper as well as Marigold did only rarely resorted to a shout. One who could usually defuse drunken brawls with a shake of her head, dispersing calming pollen, rarely had a need for a shout. Wei Li grabbed her robes in her hand and hurried down the stairs.

“In the meantime, though, maybe one of the other girls –”

“No! I just want to see Wei Li! Wright! Do you have any idea how far I rode to get down here?”

“I know it’s a far way –”

“An hour, in the pitch black, and I don’t want to think about how far away dawn isn’t! I just want to see –”

“Master Wesleyan?” The Willow School trained the girls to have voices that were soft, low and sweet — but they also trained them how to pitch their voices to carry.

To watch the change that came over Master Wesleyan was a sight for even eyes as jaded as Wei Li’s. First, he froze. Then he turned — slowly, so slowly, as if he either wanted to savor the moment, or was afraid that when he finally brought her into his line of sight, he would not see what he was expecting to see. Finally, he was facing her.

That was when he smiled.

It was the sort of smile that had to be answered, and so Wei Li answered it with a smile of her own. It was the sort of smile that the girls at the Willow School would spend hours practicing — add a cup of graciousness, a teaspoon of come-hither, and a liberal pinch of spice. A girl from the Willow School would have followed it with a bow, whose exact gradation and depth would depend on the precise age and rank of the client, but since those in Albion only bowed to certain members of society, Wei Li merely inclined her head.

She wondered, next, how Master Wesleyan had managed the hour’s ride between his dwelling and the brothel, for surely a sober man would not start and sway and weave as he began to. Then again, he showed a great deal of perception for a drunk man — when Marigold tapped his shoulder, he stopped and stared at her. “How much time are ye plannin’ ter spend with her, Master Wesleyan?”

In answer, Master Wesleyan fished about in his fat money purse and brought out a coin. Only a whore could have told the glint of silver from that of copper at this distance. A girl trained at the Willow School and working at a Flower House under its auspices would have never had need. And only one of Marigold’s girls could have seen her faint start and the way she grabbed the coin before Master Wesleyan could think better of his generosity. “Right. I’ll not be botherin’ ye, then.”

As Master Wesleyan, thus relieved of any more worry for the immediate future, strode toward her, Marigold caught Wei Li’s eye and shrugged. If he wants to bankrupt himself here — let ‘im, said that shrug. Then she wandered off to see to other customers.

Thus was Wei Li left alone, or functionally alone if not literally alone, with her client.

“Wei Li,” Master Wesleyan smiled. His voice was soft and mellow, like good honey. “How are you this evening?”

“Very well, thank you, sir. And yourself?”

“Oh, I’m fine, now that I’m here.” She waited for him to turn around and growl in Marigold’s direction, or make some disparaging comment about the nature of the door-woman or guard, as many a client kept waiting and forced to pay before being allowed near his lady of choice often did. Master Wesleyan, however, did neither. He just watched Wei Li and kept smiling.

Wei Li smiled in return, and it was only her Willow School training that kept the smile as calm and unruffled as a good courtesan’s smile should be. Otherwise, she feared it would have grown very confused. But that was nothing new. Her time in Reme and Albion had often led to such confusion, and she supposed that her confusion would last until the day she died. Or went back home, but the chances of her ever being able to afford passage were slim, and there was nothing to go back to in any case.

Her mouth opened to invite him up to her bedchamber, but Master Wesleyan forestalled her by sighing, “Oh, you have no idea what a relief it is to see a smiling face!”

“I … don’t?”

“I just had a fight with my wife,” Master Wesleyan murmured, as if this was some sort of shameful admission. “Er — that is — I don’t want you to feel — I don’t want to offend you …”

Offend me? She was not sure which was more surprising — the idea that a mention of his wife would offend her, or that Master Wesleyan actually cared whether she was offended. After all, she was the type of woman whom men would not bring up before their wives, for fear of offending them. Surely the courtesy did not run both ways? None of her other clients were ever shy about mentioning (and frequently complaining about) their wives.

“I’m not offended,” she replied, since he seemed so worried — his face was like a puppy’s who was sure he had just done wrong.

It bloomed into a smile. “Good, good — I mean — no, no, I won’t ruin your evening by mentioning it. It nearly ruined mine, living it!” he laughed. “But Lord! It’s good to see a smiling face! My wife is … my wife … and poor Josh … Heloise is already back at school, Rob and Dannie I’m sure are thrilled by feel obliged to keep a damper on it when they’re around us, and … and Babette …”

Babette. Master Wesleyan regularly babbled about his sons and his daughters and his daughters-in-law — so which one was Babette? “Your daughter?” Wei Li asked.

Why did that make Master Wesleyan sigh and looked down? “Aye — my daughter.”

Wei Li expected to hear no more from him on that. It was rare enough that a client mentioned his family, rarer still he mentioned a daughter. The men seemed to have a superstitious dread when it came to mentioning their daughters in this place; it was as if they feared mentioning their girls’ names within these walls would somehow tarnish them, sully their virtue.

It would not have been such at any of the Flower Houses, Wei Li knew. There, men would not have been afraid to mention their sons, their daughters, any members of their families. Often they would take the head courtesan aside and whisper to her about getting a niece or a cousin or some other poor relation into the school. True, men who were clients of the Flower Houses did not send their daughters to the Willow School — if their daughters could not win good marriages (often as a second wife to an older widower, whose children were already grown and who was fond enough of himself to imagine that he now deserved to have a pretty and delicate wife, not a strong and capable wife), they would try to get them into the Emperor’s train of courtesans, or else thus attached to a powerful nobleman or governor of a district — but nieces and poor relations were fair game.

But then again, no one but the most hidebound peasant in Smina, who could barely afford to keep his wife and his family fed, would have seen anything wrong with what went on within the delicately muraled walls of the Flower Houses or Willow School. In Smina, the idea of shame attached to any of these places would have been absurd, laughable. In Albion and even in Reme, for a woman in Wei Li’s position to not feel some sort of shame was just as absurd and laughable.

“But I didn’t come here to talk about that, either!” Master Wesleyan said, looking up with a laugh that could only be forced. “Oh, Lord! You have no idea what I went through to get here tonight, Wei Li!”

“Oh?” she asked, meaning only to be polite.

“I’d tell you there were dragons and bandits and rampaging Smoors involved, but as young and sweet as you are, Wei Li, you’re not that young; you’d never believe it,” he laughed.

“Perhaps if you mentioned vampires, I might,” Wei Li answered, one side of her mouth rising slightly higher than the other.

Master Wesleyan threw back his head and laughed as if she had made a great joke instead of a lame half-witticism. “Oh, Wright! You might!” He suddenly stopped. “Er … you don’t think she heard me, do you?”

“Mirelle does not bite customers,” Wei Li replied, prudently keeping the usually locked behind her lips, and even more prudently not mentioning those very strange men who were willing to pay extra for the privilege of being bitten, “so it would not matter even if she did.”

“I’m a lucky man then,” Master Wesleyan chuckled. “Of course, I knew that already, seeing as I’m standing here with you.”

Why did that make her smile so? It was sudden and involuntary, springing forth as the flowers themselves would burst from the ground the minute the snows receded. Surely no woman of the Flower Houses would smile so.

Then again, maybe they would. They were still women. And no woman, no matter how well-trained, how cynical and jaded, disliked a spontaneous, heartfelt compliment. Women at the Flower Houses got so few of them, after all. They were there to be pleasing, not to be pleased.

“You do me much honor, sir,” Wei Li replied, the old bow coming out without her thinking about it. Master Wesleyan tilted his head a little to one side, more than bemused. But he still smiled.

“Er … you’re welcome?”

Wei Li nodded. And since this was as good a time as any to ask — before the other clients started to stare or whisper, or murmur to themselves how much Master Wesleyan had paid for the privilege of spending the waning night with her, and how much he wasn’t enjoying it — Wei Li gestured to the stairs and asked, “Shall we go up, sir?”

“If you like,” he answered, “and you don’t have to call me sir. Mark … Mark is fine.”

“As you wish,” Wei Li answered, gathering her robes in one hand and sweeping up the stairs. She heard Master Wesleyan’s heavy, creaking tread up the rickety stairs as he followed her, but she could not see the almost despairing look on his face.

She had no chance to see it after they arrived in her room, either, for Wei Li scarcely had a chance to turn around and try to arrange her features into the appropriate expression before Master Wesleyan pounced on her.

In her business, one learned to rate a man’s worth as much by his touch as by his words, or his deeds, or the amount of money in his purse. If Marigold or Tambu would have heard her say so, they would have been shocked. Then again, both of them had played this game long enough that they could not imagine a man having a worth than went deeper than his pocket, or had any more tint or hue than the color of his money. As for Mirelle … well, Mirelle was Mirelle, and she seemed to view most Sims as inhabiting a plane as far below hers as Wei Li reckoned an ant’s was below her own plane. Even Erin might have had trouble understanding. She had no problem rating a man as a good lay or a bad lay, and would frequently shred the performance of their paying clients at the breakfast table to much laughter, but that one of their customers could have worth beyond the amount he paid or the pleasure he all-unwittingly provided … no, Erin would not understand that.

But perhaps all of her friends and sisters would call her a fool, a lackwit, an idiot, but Wei Li still believed there were good men in this world. Perhaps many of them did not come into Marigold’s brothels and other brothels like it. Good men did their best to follow the tenets of their religion, and the religion in these parts did not encourage visits to places like this. But even good men slipped up from time to time. Even good men had needs that they needed to have fulfilled. And good men did not cease being good men just because they set foot into a brothel and paid for what other men would only accept it came after marriage.

Good men, when they kissed you, did not attack your face as if they were trying to eat it. For that matter, good men were far more likely to kiss you unprovoked, and not lie back like a lump on the mattress while you did all the work. Good men might hold you too tightly, or in a way that wasn’t comfortable for you, but if you squirmed or squeaked they always adjusted their hold. Good men, in other words, watched you and saw to it that you were comfortable or at least not uncomfortable and did not merely satisfy their needs like pigs in the sty.

However, even among good men, it was a rare one who would pull back, so slowly, and hold Wei Li lightly while his fingers swam in her flowing hair. There now, his smile seemed to say, with an edge of uncertainty, like a boy’s, that wasn’t so bad — was it? I’m not completely out of practice, am I?

Wei Li was about to put on her sultry smile and manuever him into the bed when Master Wesleyan — Mark — surprised her with a question. “What was your home like, Wei Li?”

She blinked. “I — I beg your pardon?”

Was Master Wesleyan turning faintly pink? It was impossible! “Richard — Richard Ferreira — he’s told me an awful lot about his travels in and around Smina. And the clothes the Sminese wear,” he fingered her belt, “and the way they speak, and … oh, lots of things. You’re from Smina, aren’t you?”

Wei Li nodded.

“Well — what was it like?”

“I think,” she murmured, “you have heard more from Master Ferreira than I could tell you.”

A lesser man might have pressed her. But Mark let go of her, stepped back, and asked, “Does it make you sad to talk about it?”

“Sad?”

“Homesick, I mean?”

She frowned. “I do not see much point of being homesick,” she answered. “I do not think there is much, if anything, left of my home to be sick about.”

“Leaving was a good thing for you, then?”

“No …”

Mark said nothing, but he did raise his eyebrows, almost inviting confidences.

It would be easiest just to say it, and stop the questions that way. “My home was Marsim. It was sacked by the Remans, over fifteen years ago.”

His eyes bulged big and round as his pot belly. “My Lord! You — how did you survive?”

She shrugged. “I was pretty and had no jewels. I was worth more as a slave than as a corpse.”

His jaw hung loose from its hinge. “Lord,” he murmured, then, “Lord,” again. His hand moved up to stroke her cheek. “Your … your family?”

“I was not with my family at the time of the sack.” She did not think they had fled the city and escaped into the countryside — they would have taken her with them in that case. Probably. At least, many other girls’ parents did. But beyond that? She did not know.

There were some things that you did not ask, or seek to find out. Better to only imagine the worst than to know it for a fact.

“Wei Li … are you all right?”

“Of course I am!” she replied with the bright, brittle smile that would make the other daughters of the Willow School and Flower Houses cackle and clack their tongues. Fake! Fake! they would scold. “It was years and years ago.”

“Some wounds take longer than years and years to heal,” he pointed out.

What was a girl to say to that?

“You did not come here to discuss my wounds,” she replied, drawing her finger along the side of his neck, to remind what he had come here for.

“I didn’t come here to pretend they didn’t exist, either.”

Then you are a most strange client, she thought, but did not say, because even the lowest street whores knew better than to insult the customers.

“Perhaps, but … they are not wounds now, really, they are scars. Old scars. And while you men,” she poked him lightly, “like to show your old battle scars, we women prefer to pretend they don’t exist.”

Mark snorted, but he smiled. “Fair enough. But do tell me … if it isn’t too much airing of old wounds,” he said, “are all Sminese girls as pretty as you are?”

“What do you think?” she laughed.

“I think that any day now there’s going to be a ship from the Sminese navy docking down at Port Finessa, bristling with soldiers, demanding we give them back their prettiest flower — that’s what I think.”

“Oh, you are too much!”

“I try,” he laughed, and then snorted. “Wright help me. That’s something that would have come out of Josh’s mouth in his courting days.”

Josh, Wei Li had figured out by this point, was the older son, the recent widower. He must have outgrown the bad pick-up lines at some point in order to win a wife whose loss he so took to heart.

“But maybe it’s you,” he murmured, his fingers running through her hair again. “You do make me feel like a boy again, Wei Li. Heart all a-flutter, palms sweaty, always saying the wrong thing and being convinced that doing so is the end of the world …” He laughed, his low chuckle as calm and soothing as the sound of the ocean. “You remember that, Wei Li?”

No. No, she did not. Girls of the Willow School were kept very sheltered, because it would do them no good to fall for some pretty boy, woo him, marry him and ruin all their chances.

She glanced sidelong up at him, ready to do as a good Willow School girl would, laugh and agree with him …

But she could not. And there was no way she could be honest in a way he would understand, and not cause him to pity her.

So instead of speaking, she kissed him.

It was the best of Willow School kisses, a type she had more than ample time to master before Marsim was sacked and ended her time at the Willow School. It was soft and delicate, as the women of the Flower Houses were. It barely grazed Mark’s lips, allowing him only teasing tastes of her lip balm and the cherry blossom cream she spread over her skin each morning. One hand just barely rested against his shoulder, the other hand was tucked behind her back so he could not grab it and wrap it around his waist, as men often liked to do.

It always left men hoping, begging for more. And when Wei Li pulled away, she saw the familiar glazed look in his eye that meant her kiss had worked.

Willow School girls did not smile in the wake of their triumph. That was showing their hands. Or if they did smile, they made their smiles soft, beguiling, desiring, their eyes limpid and adoring. Wei Li had to smile, and so she did her best to smile a true Willow School smile.

Mark grinned, grabbed her, and crushed her to him.

And though with that move, he might have thought he was in control of the situation — for it was his hand that first went to her belt and undid it, not hers that toyed with the laces of his tunic; his hand that slipped the robes from her shoulders, not hers that edged the tunic up and over his head; his feet that led her to the bed, not hers that pushed him to it — but he would be wrong.

Because Wei Li was a Willow School girl, and Willow School girls were never not in control in the bedroom.

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19 thoughts on “Please Please Me

  1. I’m not quite sure what to say. I mean it’s a great update, and it’s interesting to see Mark’s behavior from Wei Li’s perspective.

    But I think there’s a bit of a gap there. She shows a bit of acknowledging that Mark might, sorta, be more than a client, but she hasn’t even figured out for herself that he might, sorta, be more than a client. Also she still seems to think of him as someone she’s on an uneven footing with.

    She’s a whore, he’s a married merchant. That makes sense to her, that there’s kind of a funny gray space in between where they seem to be lurking, between “respectable” and “whore & client” doesn’t seem to really click.

    And oddly I feel a little [i]more[/i] bad for Helena than I did at the end of the last update.

    It’d seem odd, to some degree, though not entirely, considering that most of Mark’s friends and associates probably know that Mark and Helena are not on the best of terms, if Mark did figure out a way to put Wei Li up as a mistress. But I don’t even think liberal Albion would see it’s way to letting Helena find herself somebody.

    So while it was Helena’s cheating that started this, the fact that Mark’s allowed to move on and Helena’s somewhat stuck does seem kinda sad. I dunno.

    I guess think before you cheat.

    • *puts on Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” as background music* Because even though it’s not at all appropriate, it totally works. 😉

      It is kind of sad. Helena is not in a good position here. But what are you going to do? Aside from getting her that hot shepherd or blacksmith you mention later (and, um, considering how many Maxiod townies I’m dealing with, that might be easier said than done ;)), there’s really very little I can do for her that lets her find somebody without ruining her life.

      Except for maybe killing Mark — and I like Mark. Dying so is cheating wife can find happiness is the total opposite of the karma Mark ought to get!

      So yes, it does suck to be Helena. Even if she did make her bed and now has to lie in it, it still sucks. And I do feel some pity for her.

      But sometimes, life just sucks that way.

  2. Thank you for updating tonight, Morgaine. I’ve just had probably the second worst day in my recent memory (and that’s saying quite a bit), and reading this post was a nice break from it all.

    Hmm… it does seem that Wei Li might just be a tiny bit interested after all, even if she won’t quite admit it yet 😉

    I really like these two together. I’m curious as to how they might be together, though? I mean, the job Wei Li was brought up for isn’t quite like the one she has now, the way she keeps comparing the Flower House to the brothels of places like Albion and Reme, despite the good care Marigold takes of her girls. Maybe she can move into those apartments at the keep and be mistress buddies with Rosette? Hmm…

    In any case, I am definitely liking this development. Thanks for making my night 🙂

    • Aww, Van, I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such a bad day. 😦 I hope things get better for you soon. If you want to talk or anything (or just want more virtual hugs-n-cookies), there’s about a dozen places you can PM me. 😉

      Mistress buddies with Rosette? Oh, that could be interesting. Hmm. But I don’t know if Mark would be able to afford putting Wei Li up in those digs. They’re rather expensive, after all. And in-story, Mark is doing all right for himself, but between Heloise’s college tuition, the business he just gave to Rob as a wedding present, saving for Heloise and Babette’s dowries … yeah. Oh, and let’s not forget the wet nurse for Baby Belle, since as head of the family that’s ultimately Mark’s responsiblity.

      You’re welcome for making your night! I hope I continue to make many nights to come (like you make my day whenever FLORIAN comes into a post)!

  3. I’m rather torn on this one. I mean, sure, it sucks that Helen cheated on Mark, but that doesn’t give him the right to run around on her all the damn time. And it certainly doesn’t give him the right for him to start thinking about setting Wei Li up as his mistress. Not that I think he could (a mistress costs much, much more than a single silver coin, after all, and Mark is not doing THAT well), but I think the fact that he had to wait to receive her favors, that he knows she was with another man just before him, might start turning the gears in his head just a little.

    But on the other hand, she practically is his mistress. A good courtesan, as Wei Li was trained to be, is as much counselor as she is mate. She is someone that the man can have an intelligent conversation with at the end of the day, someone who asks questions and provides her opinions as well as her body. Noble women (at least from what I’ve read historically, not necessarily so in Albion) were typically less educated than men and were trained from an early age to be adorable, musically talented ornaments rather than companions in the sense that courtesans were. A courtesan, for example, could discuss philosophy and the arts in several different languages, as well as be an exciting partner in the bedroom. A wife, on the other hand, was encouraged to lie still and say her rosary while her husband did the work. She was encouraged to pray that a child, a male, was conceived quickly so that she would not have to suffer his advances any more.

    Anyway, long rambly post to say that I don’t think Mark will set up Wei Li as his mistress, but I do foresee him seeking her favors for a long, long time. I wonder, though, what Helen would do if she knew how attached her husband is to Wei Li? I wonder if she would seek Wei Li’s help to bring him back?

    • I can definitely answer the bit about how well-educated a noblewoman often was in Albion and the surrounding environs. 🙂 Especially since I laid out the gist of Mark’s financial situation in my reply to Van.

      Noblewomen in Albion are actually pretty well-educated, especially the second generation (Lynn, Jessie, Leona, Clarice, Garnet et al.). Even the first generation is well-educated — all of them except Claire have a degree. However, to have a group of six royal and noble families and have the wives of five of them be college-educated is quite rare in Glasonland and Reme. It might even become more rare in Albion as time moves on — Bors in particular does not care much about his daughters’ education; he’s basically footing the bill for Lynn and Clarice because everyone else is sending their daughters, and it would be embarrassing for him if he didn’t send his. (Plus both girls were/are set to marry boys their exact age, who are getting a college education. If they can’t be making babies, they should be doing something useful with their time, such as college.)

      Anyway, in Glasonland and Reme, getting a good education is a status symbol meant to enhance a woman’s value on the marriage market — it kind of says, “Look at me! I’m so stinking rich, I can afford to throw money away on a girl’s education!” But women can certainly find husbands without one; an education will just bump them up to the next level.

      However … being sent to college for four years is not going to erase four years of intellectual coddling and lack of training to meet intellectual challenges. Camford offers a fair share of fluff majors for women who are only there as a stepping stone to that MRS degree. Clarice very nearly ended up in one before she fell in love with medicine. So, I’d say that for every Dindrane, who took to college like a duck to water and lives for the life of the mind to the extent that she views being embodied as a hassle, there are probably at least two young ladies who come into Camford with fluff for brains and leave with fluff for brains.

      So if a nobleman wants cleverness and companionship … yeah, a courtesan isn’t going to be a bad place to find it. When he marries, unless it’s a love match, all he’s guaranteed is a warm body in his bed and a womb for his babies (and even that isn’t a guarantee). College degree or no college degree.

      Anyway, the long rambliness was meant to say that there is definitely a market for courtesans in the world of Albion, even if not precisely in Albion itself. But that’s mostly because Albion is such a small market.

      As for what Helena would do if she knew who Mark was with … I don’t know if she’d have the guts to go to Wei Li to seek her help in getting him back. Wei Li is the dregs of society. Women like Helena don’t talk to women like her.

      Plus … would Wei Li even help to bring him back? Mark’s a damn lucrative customer. And that’s not going into anything else that might be brewing on the Wei Li/Mark front.

      • I think Wei Li would have to think long and hard over her moral obligation if Helena went to her for help, but I also think that in the end Wei Li would help her. I doubt Wei Li has any deeper attraction to Mark like he does for her; there’s affection there, absolutely, but more in the sense that he’s head and shoulders above her other customers for treating her like a human. It’s not love, and it’s near bordering on obsession on Mark’s side. So it comes down to her inner self, really- is she the kind of person who would knowingly allow someone to stay miserable for the sake of money and obsession, or would she help that person regain her lost love (the term here is used loosely, of course) and save her marriage but have to give up part of her financial security and the companionship of a good man? I honestly don’t know, and I don’t think she does, either. But I do think she’s uncomfortable with how much Mark’s come to depend on her. I think it flatters her a little that he talks to her as a person, rather than an object to be used and discarded, and she certainly enjoys the fact that he’s a decent person. But she’s also practical enough to know that eventually his interest in her will probably wane, so does she enjoy it while it lasts or possibly endear herself to him more by helping him get his wife back?

        Woah, long rambliness again. *laugh*

        • I like long rambliness! 😀

          And you have a lot of good thoughts in your long rambliness. Very interesting ones, too. I find it interesting that you think helping Mark fix his marriage would endear her to him. I mean, it would certainly make his home life happier if it succeeded, no question. Less tension and bickering and unseen but very felt currents generally are a good thing. And it would certainly make Mark’s kids feel better.

          Also, as far as Wei Li helping … there’s also the culture shock factor to add in, too. She honestly does not see how she is doing wrong with being with Mark, or any of the guys who pay her. In Smina, there is very little expectation for men to stay faithful sexually. It’s not like in Albion where, “we won’t punish you if you do, but we’d really rather you didn’t.” There’s just very, very little expectation. If the man has enough spare money to spend on women in the Flower Houses, that’s his perogative — just as if the woman has enough leftover from her allowance or earnings to buy a new handbag every week, that’s her perogative. So Wei Li might look at Helena like she’s got two heads when/if she comes to her.

          So I definitely look forward to seeing what happens here! 🙂 Because at this point, we all know about the same about on What’s Going to Happen. 😉

  4. I like the part where Wei Li isn’t sure about her feelings for Mark – but it’s still sad that they can’t really be together openly.
    Many members of Albion know her as “one o’ the whores”, so a known relationship is quite doomed.
    And that’s not qounting Helena whom I can’t really feel sad for – she really dug her own grave.

    • Interesting how the sympathy/lack of sympathy for Helena is working out. I wonder if I should be keeping track? 😉

      I guess it is sad that they can’t be together openly, but … I wouldn’t necessarily call them together yet. Mark definitely feels something, and he’s got enough spare cash to buy Wei Li’s affections (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) when he wants them. But Wei Li? Wei Li’s not at all sure what she’s feeling here, or even what she’s supposed to be feeling.

      But yeah — a known relationship would probably spell a mess of trouble for both of them.

      Thanks Camille!

  5. Ah, young love.

    Sort of.

    There is a part of me that… honestly thinks, within the confines of the story and its world, that this is just. Let Wei Li have a life more like the one she was raised for (with a man who is honestly infatuated with her, no less), let Mark have a romantic partner he’s happy with, and let Helena keep on being Mistress Wesleyan with an unsullied reputation. (Okay. Perhaps aside from rumors of shrewishness, as Mark was making a bit of a spectacle of himself.) And neither Babette nor Heloise end up ruined while still being good, the family business doesn’t suffer, and if Helena feels bad…

    … Well, she started it.

    There’s no Karmic justice for Helena that won’t hurt innocent bystanders, so let Mark enjoy Wei Li’s company. Let Wei Li enjoy the affections of a nice, genuinely good man. Helena gets off ‘only’ losing the affection and respect of her husband, and she lost that years ago. Although I don’t think she ever really understood that the confrontation on Josh’s wedding day was in fact her last chance to come clean and be forgiven.

    Faugh, let’s talk about people who are in this chapter, rather than people who hang over it. I am both surprised and heartened to see that Wei Li is at least affected by Mark’s feelings for her, and having a few feelings of her own. Sad that it’s still slightly incomprehensible to her, but… well, she’s living in a perpetual state of culture shock and values dissonance, poor kid.

    • I think a perpetual state of culture shock and values dissonance does describe Wei Li’s state of mind quite well. Poor thing, like you said, Hat.

      On the one hand, maybe she should understand Albion better, since she’s been there a while … on the other hand, she’s been at the absolute bottom of the social ladder, trying her best to peer up to figure out how she got down there. It’s not easy. Too much of her life has been taken up in trying to figure out how to survive in this new world and avoid offending people.

      Plus, she was dragged out of her culture, very traumatically, when she was smack dab in the middle of her formative years, so … yeah. I really can’t blame Wei Li for just shrugging and saying, “I don’t understand these people, I’ll never understand these people, let me just learn enough to get by without offending them too much.” And perhaps holding onto her core values is a way of flipping the bird at fate. And those who are determined to make her feel ashamed about something that she’s been told her whole live in Marsim that is nothing to be ashamed of, and something to be proud of.

      I like how you’re taking into account all the people who would be hurt by Helena getting her just desserts. (Or her mostly-just desserts.) And there are worse things (I think) than letting Mark and Wei Li be happy, even if Helena isn’t that happy — but Mark has been done with this relationship for a while now, so if Helena was going to be happy, it wasn’t going to be with him.

      Of course, I offer no guarantees that Mark and Wei Li would be happy … because like many of my storylines, this started off with a picture and a light bulb, so I have not a clue how it might end!

      • There’s also the old adage about foreign actresses– the longer they’re in Hollywood, the more pronounced their accents get. Maintaining her exotic charm is good business for Wei Li.

        But I can certainly see her flipping the bird at fate with the ‘It is different where I come from.’ It’s a blanket excuse, isn’t it? Apology and explanation and condescension all in one. It even offers her a buffer– not a good one, but a buffer– against the Church. Wei Li isn’t a fallen Wrightian woman, she’s a foreign pagan who was raised to be a sort of fancy whore and then kidnapped by Reman slavers. If she’s never seen the light, then it’s because no one has ever come to her holding a candle.

        But that’s all part of why I’m being cautious about saying Mark and Wei Li should have a Relationship. She’s been jerked around by fate so much that she’s not even sure what she’s feeling when a fundamentally decent man is genuinely kind to her. Could be attraction, could be affection, could be appreciation, could just be relief that at least somebody sees her as something besides a body to be used. Or happiness at being proved right, that there are still good men in the world.

        Of course I’m taking into account all the people who would suffer if Mark and Helena’s marriage ended. In this context, they’re the ones who are important. Generally, I am vehemently NOT in favor of ‘staying together for the kids’ (either the kids know or you’re lying to your kids, and neither is good), but in this case… Maybe things would be different if she’d been caught at it when it happened, but she wasn’t, and now she is armored in other people’s futures.

        Helena made her bed. She deserves to have Mark leave her– and Mark deserves to be free of her except for special occasions– but she doesn’t deserve to have her life completely devastated. More importantly, Joshua, Robert, Heloise, Babette, Darius, and Isabel don’t deserve to have their lives devastated.

        • Good point, though I haven’t heard that about Hollywood actresses. Then again, my knowledge of Hollywood actresses tends to stem from what I can glean from the supermarket tabloids. The headlines, that is — read while I’m in line, at the supermarket. 😉

          And another good point about her having a buffer against the Church! Granted, if the Church ever took an interest in her, besides calling her sinful, I don’t know how long it would last. THey’d not just show up at her door with a candle, they’d show up with a torch — or possibly a torch-carrying mob, so to speak. They’d certainly try to save her soul. Whether she particularly wants it saved or not.

          Yeah, there’s a reason I’ve been so noncommital in these replies. Or that I’ve tried to be. Hell, I don’t know exactly what Wei Li is feeling, and she sure as hell doesn’t. I think slow and steady would be the way to go with this “relationship.” (It also gives me time to put this on the backburner, with the other stuff I’ve got planned for this round. :mrgreen:)

          Bingo on Josh, Rob, Heloise et al. not deserving to have their lives completely devastated. Especially not now. 😦 Josh and his kids are still reeling from the last round of devastation I threw at them. If nothing else, they deserve a break.

  6. I’m gonna rant for a second, something’s that’s been bugging me. As trying to put windows into the lending library in St. Max is not mentally stimulating enough to keep me from wondering about it.

    Up front here’s a list of things I agree on:
    1) Helena started this. She started it by cheating and by not acknowledging at any point that she cheated.
    2) She could have made things right and she didn’t.
    3) I’m happy that Mark has somebody like Wei Li, even if he’s with her for vaguely questionable reasons.
    4) This is at least Medieval-esque, and as egalitarian as Albion might strive to be, a lot of their culture does come from places that aren’t egalitarian. So they’re willing to uphold a double standard of “guys can, girls can’t”.

    But here in lies the rub and why I feel sorry for Helena, as silly as that might make me: Two wrongs do not a right make.

    Yes, she fucked up. Yes, she could have come clean. Yes, she probably should have. But!!! She will be suffering with her part in destroying her marriage, alone and in silence, for the rest of her life. That seems an awfully sad penance to me when you consider that there might be a way for Mark and Wei Li.

    Sadly, I dislike a cheater. José cheated on my mom. My best friend when I was younger had a seemingly endless string of guys who cheated on her.

    But nobody is smart all the time. Nobody does the right thing all the time. Sometimes we all let the window of opportunity to say I’m sorry, I was wrong, pass us by. And I think that’s more what’s striking me as sad than Helena’s actual plight.

    There’s a lot of “she made her bed, let her lie in it.”. Which is a good point, but I still think there is a place for “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.” in any world.

    When I fuck up, I always hope that people will forgive me for it. Now I think the window of forgive has passed and I’m glad that Mark didn’t crawl into bed with Helena just cause she offered to spread for him. But I will still think it’s sad that circumstance won’t allow a woman to move on the same way it allows a man to.

    My sympathy for Helena is less for her personal plight and more for “Well, okay, so a man can hook up when his marriage has gone to the name-only zone and a woman isn’t supposed to? That isn’t fluffing fair.”

    I know, Demigoddess Morgaine, find (and by find I mean grab a townie or make somebody) Helena some shepherd or farm boy long on looks, short on brains and let them find “happiness” in bed together and I will be cured of all my inconvenient feelings of sympathy for Helena.

    Mark would still have the last laugh as he’s got the shot at a relationship of mutual caring and Helena doesn’t understand that caring is necessary in a relationship, all she cares about is the screwing part. But we can just set up a his-and-hers lover set for the pair and I won’t have to be arguing for exactly the kind of person I usually loathe.

    • Andavri, you have put your finger on exactly why the previous chapter made me feel like a bad feminist. I can understand what’s going on between them, I can understand that a divorce would ideally be the best thing for them, and I totally understand why a divorce can’t happen.

      But the fact that Helena is completely safe from the “Get out of my house” she so richly deserves makes me feel like she’s done a complete (if non-villanous) Karma Houdini here. Being trapped in a loveless marriage is a sad thing– just ask Dindrane– but what Helena has lost, she lost four years ago. She’s only just now realizing it.

      If they could just end the marriage, I’d shrug and say it’s for the best and cheerfully climb on the Team Wei Li wagon and let Helena find a Paris if she wants one. However, they can’t end the marriage without effectively destroying their family– shredding their children’s futures and ruining the business and basically destroying everything. It is so much better for her to be known as “Wesleyan’s pretty wife that he’s ignoring because he’s got his head turned by some Sminese tart– and after the good woman gave him four children, at that” than “no better than that Sminese tart– they say she even seduced old Lord Ban and Wesleyan’s youngest isn’t a Wesleyan at all.”

      Helena is untouchable, because she is armored in other people’s futures, and she either doesn’t care or doesn’t realize she’s done it. If she goes down, she takes her entire family with her, from Mark to Baby Belle.

      That’s why I can’t feel bad for her, as much as I feel like I should feel bad for her. If this were a modern soap opera, I’d be shouting NO-FAULT DIVORCE IT’S NOT THAT HARD COME ON LET GO BEING MARRIED FOR ITS OWN SAKE IS NOT THAT IMPORTANT, but since this is Albion?

      I get hit with values dissonance.

  7. Erm, well… wow. Heh, got hit with a lot of opinions just there. But I’m gonna add my two cents as well 🙂

    For my part, I’m still on Team Wei Li. Honestly, Helena is such and irritating person that I simply can’t feel sorry for her. She seems to have no empathy at all, and as such I can’t give her any of mine. Although, I’m not so sure Mark and Wei Li will just have an easy path either, and that’s even if they (both) want to make a proper go of it. They’ll always be that difference of culture; namely, that ‘view’ of whores that Albionese have, while of course Wei Li’s view is completely different. While Mark isn’t that bothered now I think if he set up Wei Li as his mistress – even if he could, money-wise, which you’ve kind of suggested he can’t – the whole whore thing will still be there in Wei Li’s past. And I don’t think Mark, raised in Albionese/Glasonland culture would ever be able to fully look past that. Not properly.

    As for Helena… I can totally see her turning around and having another affair with a nineteen year old market boy or something. Just reassure herself how attractive she is. Obviously, it would need to be a secret, but seeing as she’s cheated before and no one (aside from her husband) seems to have noticed, I can’t see her having that many qualms about that.

    So, er, no sympathy from me. Aside from the extended family if any of this does get out.

    Emma x

    • Isn’t it exciting? It’s like a real contraversy! I’m so thrilled and flattered!

      And of course, once I get a debate going, I switch gears entirely in the posting. Oh, well. Comments never close! 😉

      Interesting that you see Helena as lacking in empathy. She does have some empathy and sympathy (see her comforting Bianca after her miscarriage), but I can well understand if being nice to a friend is too little, too late, after breaking her husband’s heart and putting her whole family’s reputations and quality of life in jeopardy. And she can be a bit of a … well, a bitch at times. *points to Dannie and Rob’s wedding, and to Helena’s one nice point*

      You bring up an interesting point about Mark and Wei Li’s future together, if they happen to have one. I wonder how Mark would deal with the cultural differences? Wei Li seems to have thrown up her hands and given up on the whole thing, but maybe that would change if she had a reason for it to change. Right now, it seems that Mark is just fascinated by it, because he’s generally fascinated by her. But as time moved on? Who knows? I sure don’t! I’ll have to find out just before everyone else. 😉

      So one more in favor of a Helena affair, hmm? (Or is this less “in favor of” and more “this is what’s probably going to happen”?) Should I be keeping score? 😆

      Thanks Emma!

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