Write about a river
Yvette stood on the Pont Neuf Bridge starring glumly down into the churning waters of the muddy Seine. Her sturdy shoulders squared under her serge coat, her long feet cased in simple leather boots, and her thick nut-brown hair tied back in a severe knot of braids and twists, all gave the impression of a woman of great practical sense and little taste for frivolity.
Appearances can be deceiving however, because under her plain exterior lay the heart of a romantic. A girl who read Shelly and Byron, who dreamed of grand romance and adventure. Adventure that seemed to finally be hers when a fiery young southerner named Jacques had appeared, sweeping her off her feet and out of her virginity in one passionate week. Certain that her grand adventure was at last beginning, she quit her job as a chambermaid without references and moved her meager possessions into a Pied a terre with Jacques.
It had all been a bitter cosmic joke. Now here she stood, deflowered, robbed of her savings, and bereft of opportunity. Her life effectively was over, so why couldn’t she bring herself to jump? As she stood and debated, the wind sang debris-filled arias along the boulevard ensuring that all Parisians of good sense remained safely tucked away in fire and brandy warmed salons.
Connor Graves, was not Parisian, and, being a Scot, was not daunted by a minor slurry of wind and rain. His mood, in direct contrast to the miserable girl on the bridge was positively buoyant. A telegram had arrived from Just. The Palace would dock in Calais within the fortnight. Connor had secured the services of a ethereal blonde girl and a strikingly pale and handsome young boy, now all he had to do was find one additional girl, of a more robust nature, and he could rejoin the ship with pride at a job well done.
He didn’t like recruiting from other houses, there were too many bad habits that came from working in traditional bordellos. It was difficult, as well, to know if a worker was clean once they entered the trade. Connor had better luck with the unknowns, the untried, and the inexperienced. It was easier to teach good habits than it was to break bad ones. Today would be his last chance for that type of recruiting though. If he did not find a girl today, he would be forced to visit Madame Blatsky in her fashionable house on the Ile St. Louis.
As he approached the Pont Neuf, Connor caught sight of a woman starring into the depths of the Seine, and something in her posture arrested his progress. “Are you all right, Mademoiselle?”
His voice startled her and Yvette leapt back from the railing as if she’d been stung. She reflexively clutched her coat closed at the neck, her eyes huge and rounded by the scare. She bit her lip and drew in a deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart.
Connor held out a steadying hand. “I didn’t mean to startle you. You just looked so sad, I thought for a moment…”
The girl stood before him, homely and plain except for her eyes, which were as cerulean and clear as the painting on delft-ware. She looked him over, taking his measure and suddenly broke into a wide smile transforming herself from dowd to Goddess with the simple twitch of facial muscles. It was a strange brand of alchemy, as if she were an ancient Grecian deity disguised to walk among humans.
As quickly as the smile had arrived, it departed and her features resumed their plain and unassuming guise. Connor knew he had found his last girl. It would be a joy to watch her work this magic on the crowned heads of Europe, so used to dismissing those that fell short of the mark of perfection.
“My name,” he said, holding forth his calling card, “is Connor Graves and I should very much like to employ you.”