[Afternoons held heat. Latent, sticky regret of the dawn broiling tar in the streets. The city at midday smelled like rubber and gasoline, but there was a part of Brielle that did not mind the smell as much as she used to. There was something complex about gasoline, and she could contemplate it from the backseat of stretched towncars. The driver wore a little black hat and never looked her in the eye. The staff skirted around her like so many ghosts in a miserable graveyard. It was widely known that she was a guest of the Vega's criminal echelon. Even with the absence of management, the place ran smoothly with Brielle as the phantom bride of the top floor. They took her into the city on Sundays and they hung her silks out to dry in the mornings.
Evenings held a breeze. The water carried cool memories from the oceans as easily as it carried sailboats. Nights were when the speakeasy brewed with violence and music, gangsters and stolen liquor. But it wasn't night yet. Early evenings like this, when the heat bent to accommodate cooler gusts, the building felt very quiet. The walls decompressed like exhales, and Brielle opened the windows of her bedroom
. It hadn't taken her very long to get used to the opulence at all. It was not hers, but she'd had similar things once. She'd had imported carpets and cherrywood that gleamed. She'd had music and silk and nights that whispered promises of violence. Nothing in the world, even in this
world, seemed very strange to Brielle.
Not antique pasts or polite gangsters or journal correspondence with perfect strangers. Not vintage outfits
or the trunk that gradually accumulated stacks of cash like one might accumulate dust. Sometimes she wondered where it came from, but discovering the truth might just be worse than mild worry.
Downstairs, she could hear the staff beginning to prepare for the evening. People shuffled outside of her door, and the band was beginning to tune their strings from down below. Brielle, meanwhile, sat at her writing desk and opened her journal.]