(2018-04-25) A Tale of Two Oranges
"I would almost certainly never ask a man for his only orange."
cesare antonella 
Mischief meets Mayhem, interrupted by Perfection.
…to nothing of any particular significance.
Misc Info:
Conte(ssa) is used to represent the as-yet-undefined head of the Capello house.

Let us say that, instead of full night, it is only just now becoming dusk, a lovely, grapy dusk with the sun having just slipped below the horizon. The docks nearby are quieting with the bulk of the day's work done, but the tents that line the walk to those docks remain bustling with activity - shopkeeps, shoppers. Cesare is one of the latter, just now stopped next to a vendor selling fresh oranges in crates. For anyone caring to watch, he purchases one orange, slickly pockets a second without paying while the vendor is contemplating the coin exchange, and slips off down the walk with the vendor none the wiser, weaving through the thinning evening crowd.

Antonella isn't precisely loitering. Loitering would suggest that she's doing nothing at all. She is not. She's been engaged in some casual debate about the proper name for the particular hue the sky's adopted this dusk. Even though it's changing as they speak. Possibly entirely because it's changing as they speak. There's a particular delight in listening to someone speak so very passionately about something so utterly ephemeral and irrelevant. It's a fine bit of background noise for her people-watching. And it becomes startlingly less interesting the instant she catches that second orange stealing away unseen. Her smile brightens as she makes her rather hasty farewells and you-wins while rushing off to catch up with the thief and, if she's able, fall into step beside him to wonder, "Pick that extra up for someone special?"

Cesare has a knife on his person, surely, but you know how he starts the peel of his bought-and-paid-for orange? He sinks his teeth into it, corners of his eyes squinching at the bitter taste; this is what he's doing when the girl materializes beside him, so that he looks down (barely) at her. After a step or two, he detaches the orange from his front teeth, wipes them with his knuckle, and bounces the pierced orange briefly on his palm, continuing his walk toward wherever. "Come again?" he asks not unpleasantly, a wholly credible lack of comprehension on his face.

Antonella's nothing but bright eyes and wide smiles as she watches Cesare with his orange. Okay, and maybe a teensy bit of concern that he's not sure what to do with the thing. Her lips part as if she might question his technique or offer instruction, but she's redirected readily enough by his answer. Or non-answer as the case may be. "I was wondering if you might have another of those?" but her resolve is faltering, and it sounds a lot less like certainty now and more like genuine inquiry. "I could show you what to do with it. You don't seem to know what to do with it."

Cesare stops. Like, there's no slowing down to a gradual halt. He just stops in his tracks, causing the slow foot-traffic heading the same direction to have to veer around him while he cocks his head at the girl, taking her measure through squinty eyes. After a solid three second pause, "You want me to give you my orange?" He looks down at it, over at Antonella, down at the orange, over at Antonella, then quickly scrubs the orange against the front of his shirt and holds it out to her, teeth-marks at the top. Almost like he didn't even register the suggestion that he has another, unbitten orange. "So you can show me what to do with it." His eager expression is all set to hang on her every word.

Antonella keeps right on going for, well, only a half step, but it's noticeable, that forward swing of her foot that's then drawn back and aside so that she might face Cesare directly. Given the square set of her shoulders and the continued cheer in her expression, one might wonder if she counts this as some odd little victory, getting him to stop, parting the crowds around them. She eyes the orange as it's polished and held up with some measure of poorly feigned concern, as if it's been done wrong by his teeth. "Yes," is spoken with more certainty than it's truly due. "Though, to be fair, I had rather thought you had a second. I hadn't meant to deprive you of your misused citrus. I would almost certainly never ask a man for his only orange. Please." She lifts a hand to gesture, encouraging him to continue, and goes on, her tone light, her smile constant, her attention rapt, "Don't let me keep you from your peculiar handling of the poor thing."

She had thought he had a second: "Had you." It's not really a question, the way he phrases it, and the eyes Cesare holds pinned to Antonella for a moment betray his cognizance of it all. He knows that she knows, and now she knows that he knows that she knows? The orange stays extended in the space between them, and he dips his chin a little to indicate it there, waiting for her. "Think of it like teaching a man to fish. Show me how to peel an orange, so that I'll know for any oranges that may lie in my pocke—ahem, in my future." He smiles back at her, but his is a salesman's smile of the 'wanna buy a watch' variety.

"Well." Antonella's lashes dip over her steely blue eyes, possibly toward that once-bitten orange in consideration. Her smile's grown a touch sly, so pleased is she to have been let in on that little bit of mischief. Her gaze lifts to find Cesare's. "If you're absolutely certain you're going to happen upon more oranges in the near future." The two are standing in the middle of foot traffic at dusk as folks enjoy the spring evening and conclude their last bits of business before heading in for the night. Really, it's inconvenient. For other people. How they're just standing there having this irrational conversation in the middle of the road, willfully oblivious to how the world reroutes around them. Without further hesitation, the blonde moves to pluck up that tooth-punctured fruit, aiming to cradle it in both hands, thumbs pressing into the existing tear.

Down the road comes not just one woman, but a woman, a guard, two servants. A proper entourage, following this Signora. And she appears to be worthy of it, really. A lovely gown, a strikingly lovely face, make up done impeccably and perfectly, despite the hours. Really, one might find a picture of Amanda Capello when looking up 'proper noblewoman' in the dictionary. Or 'painfully beautiful'. Well, maybe not the latter, unless you really enjoyed a woman who could hold a thoroughly unamused look so perfectly on her face. "'Surely she cannot be gone at this hour', I told the staff," says Amanda, as she approaches, eyes locked on Antonella. "'She's in her chambers, reading, as she ought to be', I said. And yet my guards insisted they saw you leave. To skulk about well after good, honest folk have retired," she says. "Making time with the likes of-…" And now she's finally looking upon Cesare. She huffs. Then fixes eyes on Antonella again. This is apparently a greeting. And now, apparently, she's waiting for an explanation.

Cesare, rid of the orange, folds his arms low and keeps his eyes on the lesson the girl's giving, like this is some serious business (aside from the chatter he injects). "I wouldn't say I'm absolutely certain," with a chuckle. "I mean, who's absolutely certain about anything, you know? But I'm pretty conf—" Enter Amanda. Maybe it's the OMG RIDICULOUSLY BEAUTIFUL part that cuts him short, or maybe it's the Tone. Whatever it is, something has him stop mid-sentence. Brows raised, he also aims a look back at Antonella, slyly turning his palm out toward her to indicate that he's happy to take the orange back, like that'll help her situation any.

Antonella gets her thumbs past the skin then pushes under to separate pith from flesh, to get herself a couple of good fingerholds that she might be able to properly peel the thing. Nevermind the mess she might make of her fingers, leaving her thumbs sticky. All that allowance for uncertainty from Cesare has her smiling so very brightly at the man, as if he might be her new best friend. Probably not the best time for an Amanda to arrive, but surely not the worst either. That brilliant smile is turned rather readily to the Proper Lady, the rest of her body following suit promptly thereafter. Orange still in hand. It's hers now. You can't have it back. "I was hardly skulking." Is that the right approach to take with this? Semantics? It's the one Antonella goes for, and she goes all in. "I'd've had more time to skulk were I actually skulking. There would've been some proper searching involved rather than a little liesurely stroll under a lovely lavender sky." Brows arched, orange lifted, she says, "My new" Nameless. "friend is generous. Would you like to share?"

Amanda does not look at Cesare again. The man might as well not exist. She keeps her gazed focused on the blonde teen, waiting for the explanation. When it comes, it does not seem to precipitate any manner of change on Amanda's face. She continues to stare, in silence, for a long moment. Then her eyes flash down to the orange. She considers a moment, then, finally, it's back to Cesare. She considers the man for a moment before a soft, apologetic smile crosses her lips. "I am sorry," she says. "She gets ideas. Stealing from fruit vendors is above and beyond her usual range, but… she is young. I'll pay for whatever she's taken from you," she offers.

Cesare, while Amanda isn't looking at him, mouths the word 'skulking' and teeters his palm (since Antonella didn't put the orange back in it) in a seesaw before it tucks back into the armfold posture he's maintaining. By the time Amanda brings her attention back his way, he's slipped into the deferential demeanor of a commoner addressing his better. "No, signora, please," while he shakes his head at her apology. "You misunderstand. I bought the orange. I have a sick papa and…" He trails off, exhaling to clear away the rest of whatever that untold long story was. "My papa loves the oranges, my mama says they make his stomach sour, if she even smells an orange peel - it becomes a whole thing. But I'm not so good at peeling them, so your daughter? She's just doing me a favor." He smiles apologetically and ducks his head.

To her credit, Antonella does not laugh, neither when Amanda apologizes to the might-be-thief for being stolen from nor when Cesare counters with that cutting observation of her sister's age. Surely, he hadn't meant it the other way. No, with that stern attention turning toward the gentleman, her offer of snack-sharing evidently declined, she goes back to peeling the fruit, carefully working around the orange in an attempt to remove the entire rind in one piece. She knows well enough when to keep her mouth shut, though there might be a touch of a told-you-so on her expression, should Amanda steal a look. Nevermind that she didn't tell her anything of the sort. There's still a touch of smugness.

"Oh, is that so?" Amanda asks, both her dark (compared to the most of her hair and complexion) brows lifting. She looks aside, to Antonella. "Is this true, piccola?" she asks her 'daughter'. "You simply stopped to help this invalid, and his poor citrus-deprived papa?" she asks. Amanda's smile flashes proud. "We've raised you well. Your other mother will be so proud to hear it," she says, with a twinkle in her eyes. Her gaze shifts back to Cesare. "Well, I do apologize for interrupting. I fret over my little Ant ever so much," she says, with a soft sigh. "But, I'll be on my way, assuming all is well. Leaving one of our guards with dear little Ant," she says, looking back to Antonella, her look going terribly serious for a moment. Then back to Cesare. "Thank you for the banter, young man. Do enjoy your evening."

Cue the visible wince when his faux pas is revealed. Cesare tries to summon a socially correct smile, but there… uhm… isn't one, so he winds up wearing a pained expression that really is trying to smile, and that just makes it worse. "No, signora, I should - I better go." Looking toward Antonella with accusing desperation for a split second, he releases a tepid chuckle and shakes his head, drawing back in a way that speaks of imminent departure. "Before I dig myself any deeper into a hole, eh?" He also seems torn about whether or not a bow is appropriate here before finally sketching a very poorly-executed one.

"You taught me well," Antonella answers, readily offering the creditblameover to Amanda for the whole situation. Or some part of it, at least. When it seems she isn't being dragged right off, freed to do with the evening as she pleases with only one grumpy escort to entertain or evade, genuine surprise finds her features. Of course, when she looks to Cesare, a glimmer of hope in her blue eyes, he's begging off. And turning that look her way. Apology sets into her expression before she has a chance to pretend she's feeling otherwise, and so she rolls with it, bowing her head in gracious acceptance of his near-graceful exit. "It was a brief pleasure." The little lift in her voice seems an invitation for a name, but she's of no mind to press or make introductions just yet. She does, however, offer the orange back now that it's been properly denuded.

"Oh, so soon. I had thought-… hm," Amanda concludes, as she's looking back to Cesare. Her smile is soft and kind once more as she looks at him. "Do have a good evening," she says, to acknowledge that sort-of bow. Then she looks back to Antonella. "Now then, my heart. Are you staying out, without your entertainment? Or shall we walk back together?" she asks. She's going to ignore that trading of oranges, of course.

Cesare nods hastily - so soon. Straightening from his bow, he mumbles appropriate things in response - pleasure was mine, goodnight, things like that - while he accepts the orange back from Antonella, then scrapes away. Somewhere between the gathering darkness and the lingering traffic, he's out of sight in a few moments, calmly eating the orange meant for dear old dad and possibly stealing from a couple of people on his way home.

Even as she watches Cesare vanish into the deepening gloom and thinning crowd, Antonella answers, "I am never without my entertainment." When she looks back to Amanda, it might seem she's considering tacking on some clever exception to that declaration, but she's already pressed her luck far enough tonight and opts to keep that thought all to herself. Falling in beside her sister, she tells her, "You look impeccable, a ray of radiant light in the descending darkness." All said while she tries to surreptitiously rub at her hands, unwilling to drag then across her dress to get rid of the thin film of stickiness.

"Truer words," Amanda says, her sweet smile still holding. Until she can flick a glance off into the distance and confirm that Cesare is gone. That smile drops. She's left staring at Antonella for a long moment, her expression wholly devoid of emotion. Then she reaches out and takes her sister's hand. "I'm aware of how I look," she says. She lifts their joined hands, and dots a kiss to the back of Antonella's knuckles. "You taste like oranges," she says. Then she turns and starts back toward the estate. "Do you have any idea who that man was?" she asks. "And do you think my daughter would be as beautiful as you?" she asks.

Should there be comfort in watching that mask drop so completely? Probably not. Yet, Antonella meets that utter lack of normal human expression upon Amanda's features with a warm smile which only grows for the delicate affection delivered to her sticky hand. She falls contentedly into step at her sister's side and answers, "I don't, and I do. Just as lovely and almost certainly better behaved." With a curious look turned to the beauty beside her, she asks, "Do you have any idea who that man was?"

"If Tizania was the-… mother? Other mother?" Amanda asks, before she gives a soft laugh. "She's not exactly… behaved," she says. "Could take after that side. Come out all… dark. And wily," she says, with a soft laugh. She leans to the side to bump Antonella's shoulder. "I haven't any idea. Though he did look vaguely familiar. No idea why… or where I might have seen him… A mystery, it seems. A mystery that you will be cautious in pursuing," she orders.

"As if you'd allow that," Antonella murmurs fondly as she gently shoulder-bumps back, knowing full well how much freedom she's, by some definitions, permitted. Though the man is surely gone, she still steals a look back the way they came as they speak of him, her curiosity plainly piqued. She can't help but laugh, at least a little, when warned against her own habits, when it seems Amanda might already be anticipating disaster. "I'll try," sounds sincere, at least.

"Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be for the baby sister of the Conte(ssa) to wind up kidnapped?" Amanda asks, sounding positively scandalized. "Not to mention expensive," she says. Pause. "Plus we all would worry ever so much for your safety," she adds, as her last point. A sweet smile sells it. "All for a fruit vendor, whose hands don't work, and papa has digestive issues," she says, with a soft sigh, and a shake of her head. "What a shame it would be."

Antonella clucks her tongue quietly at the suggestion that she might be stolen away, fairly certain she won't fit neatly into anyone's pocket. Whatever point she might have to counter the hypothetical fretting over her well-being is abandoned, preempted by easy, earnest laughter at Amanda's description of her would-be kidnapper. "And his hound-nosed mama who can sniff out orange peels at a thousand paces." Smiling wide, she decides, "At least I'd be in entertaining company," though her hand tightens a bit around Amanda's wordless assurance that she rather likes the company she's keeping right now.

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