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Date Posted: 18:01:03 05/25/04 Tue
Author: Lark
Subject: Part VII The tale is re-told -- and the gauntlet is thrown again...
In reply to: Lark 's message, "The tale is re-told -- and the gauntlet is thrown again..." on 17:38:46 05/25/04 Tue

Dominique Boucher looked up from her bared right wrist, flicking a glance toward the open doorway of her office. At her shift in attention, the hand masseuse currently working on her took the opportunity to increase his pressure three-fold. Boucher did not complain, in fact, she did not seem to notice at all, as though his expensive ministrations amounted to little more than the weight of a mosquito's leg against her skin.

Less than a moment later, a sophisticated intern in aggressively-framed, tragically hip glasses entered the room without being announced, bearing a flower arrangement for the sidetable. Placing it there without explanation (as was her custom, indeed, as was her expertise), the intern left, as silently as she had arrived. Her actions, though nearly without sound or interruption, did not go unnoticed by Dominique.

More flowers, Boucher thought, noting that the frequency of deliveries was not likely to lessen anytime before the soiree at the Met tomorrow eveningóand then was likely to re-ignite from post-party thank yous directly after. Surely, there was plenty of space in her minimalist office to accommodate them all, and if not, then the lobby would be cheered by floral additions. Should that prove not space enough, there was always the possibility of a generous donation of arrangements to be sent on to nearby Sacred Heart, and the pro-bono pediatric reconstructive surgery unit she had endowed there several years ago.

But something about this arrangement in particular intrigued her. She lost the fading interest she had had in the massage, and withdrew her hand to walk to the sidetable. An urbane flick of her bare wrist sent the masseuse on his way, and left her alone.

As though she didn't quite understand the single, exotic potted orchid, a shocking red/orange in hue, she did not touch it, but examined it slowly, as one might examine something one distrusts. Unlike the other, more elaborate displays of New York's most-heralded florists and private gardens that littered her office and the lobby beyond, this display commanded attention by its very singular completeness. Its color alone seemed to shout something not quite meant for polite society.

She rolled her tongue luxuriously across her teeth, slowly, deliberately, as though searching for something she had lost, narrowed her eyes, and withdrew the accompanying card from its envelope. The lone monogramówith no included sentimentówas enough to immediately stoke a half-century-old flame into full blaze, her hand sending the wildly valuable orchid, and its exquisite porcelain pot, off the glass-topped side table and onto the floor, where the pot broke open with a thud, falling into slivers and shards, the orchid and its life-giving root laying, defeated, in violent disarray.

A curse on you, Kenneth, Dominique willed to herself. Twisted goat that you are, with your anniversary offerings. As if I needed a reminder of the Witchblade, and what you did to me. As if I won't one day live to give you enough of a reminder that even your blessed fountain of youth will be unable to bring you back from where I'll send you. As ifóbut her thought cut off; in the light from the high floor-to-ceiling windows of her office, the trees of Central Park just visible in the distance, something glinted among the now-scattered potting of the orchid. Something that had been buried, hidden from sight.

Never able to turn her back on something shiny, Dominique Boucher went down on her knees, her fingertips seeking out the glint and glow, in the same way her talents could dust off an ordinary high school girl and mold her into the epitome of feminine beauty and grace.

She found a bracelet for the wrist, jade green beads pale as milky flesh, links of fine-worked white gold. She did not care that her earrings were yellow gold, she put it on immediately, felt the odd cool of the long, thick, tube beads of jade against her delicate ulna, her classically formed radius, the bones small, but yet powerful from the memory of the Witchblade. Some aura emanated from this piece of jewelry, she was almost able to understand it, but not quite. It hovered beyond her, but in time she knew she would catch up with it.

Well, she smiled to herself as she straightened up, now towering over the smashed pot and abandoned flower. Perhaps this next year will, indeed, prove quite different, Old Goat, she addressed Kenneth Irons in her head. And perhaps you have just now provided me with the means to make it so. The smile spread as she watched the flecks of imperfection in the jade. They seemed to float, as though in viscous liquid.

"Laria!" she called to the be-spectacled intern. "Have someone sent to care for this flower," she issued the order. "It needs repotting as soon as possible. And," she added, her smile dimming into something more satisfied, "bring me tomorrow night's guest list. I have some seating changes to make without delay."

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