Charlotte had long since completed the order at the tailor’s and given them the exact location of where the completed supplies would be shipped to. Now all that was left was to explore this new area and meet back at the meeting spot in a relative amount of time.
“Isn’t today a great day, Cesium?” She giggled before looking down for the inevitably padding of its massive paws behind her, but nothing happened. “Are you kidding me? Cesium, where are you?” Some people began to stare at her while she called out Cesium’s name but realized that it was nowhere in sight.
Shaking her head, she focused on the soft breeze around her. The breeze felt nice on her skin, and the trail from her tail hem dress was fluttering behind her. Her hair was giving her more difficulty than anything, blowing up into her vision as she walked. Every few seconds, she would push back her playful hair only to have it come back seconds later.
Some shop owners and merchants seemed to notice her dilemma and began pointing out certain hair barrettes and clips all ranging from different regions of the world. A particular stand stood out to the auburn-brunette as she was walking and stopped to view at the hair products.
A young woman merchant appeared wiping her hands with a handkerchief. “Good afternoon.”
Charlotte responded to the woman, only to have a handful of hair enter her mouth with the sharp breeze that blew by.
The merchant woman chuckled as the girl spewed her hair out of her mouth. “May I.” The girl nodded dumbly while the merchant reached her hand out to the girl’s hair and easily pulled her hair into a contemporary side braid. “You have such beautiful hair. The red tint within the brown locks is truly a rare sight. Natural?”
The auburn-brunette was about to nod but then remembered that her hair was being worked upon. “It is natural. My papa liked the color of my hair. I’m glad that I didn’t alter it or change it.” The girl smiled while the merchant chuckled at the tale.
“It’s a good thing too. Not many girls keep their natural hair color. Here, why don’t you sit down? I can show you different hair techniques and styles you can do with your long hair while I am at it.” The merchant walked Charlotte over to the chair, but the auburn-brunette flushed.
“I’m sure you’d like another young lady to showcase since I don’t have that much dreggs to buy anything.”
The merchant shook off her comment. “It’s a good thing I don’t sell my possessions to every girl, and besides, with such beautiful hair, you’ll attract attention to my storefront.” The girl was confused until the merchant directed to the girl to look in front of her and then around the street. Somehow, the merchant had gathered a small crowd of men, women, and small girls staring at the display. “Welcome, everyone. My assistant and I will go through a tutorial of what one can do with long to medium hair using my products in particular. Now if you like the contemporary styles, this will be one of many styles you can do.” She lightly touched Charlotte’s chin and lightly directed Charlotte to face the left.
Some of the little children ooh-ed and aw-ed while the tutorial went on, and while Charlotte was sitting in that chair wondering how she did not know these different styles, all she really did with her hair was leaving it straight down with her bangs pushed off the side of her face. When she was younger, her hair had been put into two pigtails, one on each side of her head, but after a boy from her childhood played one too many pranks on her by yanking them, she effectively ceased the hairstyle.
“If you’re going to the masquerade ball this evening, a hairstyle that presents the face and keeps the strands out of the visage is a must. You can easily take half of the hair by parting it here and then clipping a barrette to hold these strands that will wrap around the barrette.” Then the woman grabbed a small box from her display container and opened it. Inside was a small tiara that was silver with sparkly flower diamonds on the intricate piece. “And to finish it, you can place a small tiara like this or even a headband on the tip of the crown like so.” When she finished, she stepped back and gestured for Charlotte to stand up. The girl did as she was told and then was directed to turn around.
“It’s very simple to do, and all the boys would fall head over heels. What do you say?” She gave a mischievous smile to a boy nearby who flushed.
“C-cute,” he stuttered before the crowd laughed at his reaction. “Oh, be quiet!” he retorted before crossing his arms.
The merchant woman laughed as well before bringing Charlotte back to the chair. “You can purchase these tiaras from the main branch of my store in town. The barrettes and pins are what I brought with me. Come and buy something.” She winked at Charlotte when some girls and mothers came up to purchase some of the hair supplies. A couple of gentlemen came up and brought some things for their own wives or daughters.
“Thank you,” the merchant woman replied once her buyers had all gone their way.
Charlotte was sitting properly in her seat, fidgeting her hands up and down the end of her hem. She was curious to see what she looked like while her hair was like it was.
“My name is Giselle Eszes.” The merchant gave the girl a smile while she was counting her drawer. She was making small talk while she was working around the stall, which was easier for Charlotte to follow, seeing she was fidgeting in her seat. “Normally, I don’t come upon a natural beauty, so when I do, I just jump at the opportunity to make them my model. Keep the tiara for tonight; I’m sure that’s why you’re in town for the celebration and all.”
She gave Charlotte a small smile before lifting an object from her stand. She presented it to Charlotte who clumsily took it into her hands. “Take a look while you’re at it.” She smiled as Charlotte held her mirror up to look at herself.
It was strange seeing her hair in a different style, and for once, it was a style that complemented her flush cheekbones and tall forehead.
“Wow!” Charlotte replied in awe and touched her cheek with her free hand. She could not believe that was her that she was looking at. “There’s a ball tonight?” Charlotte returned the mirror to the merchant who nodded in response to her question.
“Yes, my dear, they are celebrating Refrazzya’s two hundredth year as a united port. It’s mostly merchant families and tourists that come here though.” The woman was going through her belongings before opening a small box by her cash register. Inside were distant memories printed on small photograph pictures and a couple of pieces of jewelry from her only marriage. She never opened the box in public for fear of prying eyes, but she felt she needed to look at one particular picture.
“This might sound weird, but many years ago, I ran into a beautiful woman who came around the same time of the annual ball. I used her as my model that day, and my business flourished in a matter of seconds. You remind me of her.” The merchant looked at the picture before looking at the girl. She knew she shouldn’t show the picture to her, but again, she felt she should. Delicately, she held it up for the girl to see. “She was absolutely stunning.”
Charlotte stared at the picture for a while, not believing her eyes. The woman looked exactly like a younger version of herself.
Giselle paused when she saw recognition dawn on Charlotte’s expression. Unsure, she looked around her shop, noticing the people billowing through the streets like a normal shopping day. The woman knew she should not have mentioned the woman, especially with the mission she had undertaken, but the girl sitting in front of her reminded the merchant of her nephew’s partner. “You know her?” she asked in a soft whisper and glanced around again.
“That can’t possibly be . . .” Charlotte murmured, her words catching in her throat while she asked. It couldn’t possibly be her. “Mom?”
“You know Lessye?” Without a second moment, the merchant pulled the photo back and stared at the girl with an uncertain glance. This was not good, especially since the bounty showed up on her friend’s head recently from both those pirates and the state.
“It must not be since her name’s Lissa Rothschild, but . . .”
Giselle gave her a strange look while glancing around the street. When she brought her attention back to the girl, she noticed the girl’s hand where a sterling silver ring had the Rothschild insignia displayed on her middle finger.
Charlotte raised her hands to cover her face. “If you are who I think you are, you shouldn’t be here,” Giselle hurriedly spoke to the girl by pulling her hands away and wiping her cheeks flushed with tears. “You need to leave this area. In fact, it would be best if you leave this port. Immediately.”
The woman moved away from the girl sitting and glanced around her. The street became unnaturally empty for a midafternoon.
“What do you mean?” she murmured, and the merchant gave her a stern expression.
“I fear I may have done you a fault by making you my model,” Giselle replied while leaning over and picking up a sheathed weapon. “They probably mistook you for her, which means he’ll be here soon.” Then she whispered the following order, “Run.”