…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

It was not a giant leap to find the man who they had met on the voyage from London once they knew the name of his company. They took to calling it the Neustrie so it wasn’t so much of a mouthful. Jacques helped them yet again, if in an incredibly irritating fashion, to locate the list of companies addresses and names of their partners in another obscure book. Once they had secured the valuable information and expended most of their remaining funds on wine for Jacques, they slipped away without a trace using some less than clever distractions and relying heavily on the fact that Jacques was considerably drunk.

Off they went to rest with the name they had been searching for, Lehuby, and a Paris address to bout. The next steps were slightly hazy to them all, but each had a piece of an idea and kept their grand plan juggling overhead. They almost didn’t care if it failed as they would be no worse off than when they disembarked the Ocean in London.

It didn’t take long after returning to their bedsit that each had retired to their small section of the room on their makeshift bed and passed out. It was another tiring day in a string of tiring days that felt like they would never end. Each day was just a continuation of the exhaustion. Each day they had to power through on dreams of what could be and the almost indomitable human will to survive to the next day. To continue and to create. That was it. The entire process drained.

Emma woke first in the morning, just after day break. The curtains in the room were ineffectual and her nerves were high. Sleep had come and gone in seemingly the blink of an eye. She did not feel rested, but there was no further ability to sleep. Lying in her bed she looked over at Jose and then Noemi.

The twins had each other. Always. She had herself and maybe she had them. There was a lingering uncertainty in her mind over it all. Did she love Jose or was she trying to love him so that she belonged? It was not a question she could answer. All she knew was that she yearned to belong and she felt that Noemi was now like her sister. They had been through so much.

Noemi stirred while Jose still slumbered, unperturbed by the sun beaming through the windows.

“Good morning,” Emma said softly.

“Good morning, sister,” Noemi said without thinking as she roused herself.

“Yes, I feel like we’re sisters too. I’m glad you, or at least the half awake you, feels that way too.”

Noemi opened her eyes more fully to wake herself up and smiled, “I didn’t realise what I was saying. It is true though. I feel it. It must be so then.”

Emma returned the smile, but didn’t say anything. They both lie staring at the ceiling and then back at each other for a few moments as they readied themselves mentally for the day ahead.

They all knew that MacGregor was greedy enough to fall for this whole secondary scheme idea, they just weren’t sure if Lehuby was. There was enough evidence to suggest he was seeing as he took the meeting at a moments notice at slight hint of the idea there was money involved. Still, they were trying to convince two separate groups of seemingly well to do and relatively intelligent men of a fiction. At the very least, they needed to mentally prepare themselves.

Jose continued to sleep, in a deep and likely dream filled slumber, while both Emma and Noemi got up and started moving about the room, both to seem busy to one another and to push the day along.

“What do we have for breakfast?” Emma asked.

“There is still some bread left wrapped in that cloth.”

“How many days old is it?” she asked as she tapped the outside of the cloth.

“Anyone’s guess really. We were out all day yesterday at the coffee house, so it’s at least two days old. Surely it’s still ok. I can fry it up if in some oil if it’s a bit too stale.”

Emma took the initiative and went to the fire place herself and put on the pan, dolloping a small piece of lard in, following by the baguette sliced as well as she could into little rounds. Noemi looked disapprovingly over Emma’s shoulder, but didn’t say anything. It wasn’t the way that she would have done it. When Emma finished, Noemi went about making her own food, not satisfied with Emma’s efforts.

“I’m just trying you know,” Emma said with a hint of anger and frustration, staring down at her bread.

Noemi sulked. She hasn’t meant to upset Emma. It’s just that food was such a delicate and precious thing. It literally gives a person energy, but it can also nourish the soul when treated with enough care. Good ingredients always made this easier. Though you could make something delicious with goods to hand if one put in the right effort and leveraged the right skills.

“Come over here, let me show you.”

Nibbling at her bread, Emma approached the fire to see what Noemi had to show.

Using the same pan, Noemi chucked in some lard and then waited for it to melt into a translucent liquid, slowly bubbling away. Only then did she put in some pieces of bread in the pan. Not too many as to crowd out the pan and reduce the effectiveness of the frying. She then tossed in some salt, pepper and a herb that Emma didn’t recognise but which had small leaves on a long stem. After a few moments, Noemi flipped the pieces of bread and then waited another few moments. Then she put them on the small plate they had a showed it to Emma.

“Use what you have, be calm, watch it carefully and take your time. That’s it really.”

“Sounds like lessons for life rather than cooking.”

“Perhaps. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to follow those principles in the meeting with MacGregor and Lehuby today. We want them to think they’ve negotiated between themselves. We’re just pushing them in the right direction.”

“I feel like they’re both so greedy that it won’t take much to work, but I also don’t want to be unprepared. Maybe we should wake Jose.”

They both munched on Noemi’s bread with Emma’s discarded. There was only one piece left which they agreed to use to wake Jose. Like he was a slumbering dog, they put they put the final piece of fried bread under Jose’s nose and left it there while he continued to breathe deeply. It took a few deep breathes, but it wasn’t long before the savoury smell filled his nostrils and his mouth began to salivate. The combination woke him up in a dreary state. Sitting up he looked around and, completely ignoring Emma and Noemi, found the piece of bread that woke and began munching away.

When he finished the piece he looked up and asked, “is there more?”

“More?” They said in unison, “not for those that sleep in!”

Emma then added, “it’s time to work.”

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