Just before they entered the parlour, Tegwin stopped Asadel to adjust his cravat, and straighten him up. While she was smoothing back wayward strands from his tightly braided hair, Asadel pulled away, “I’m not the one who has to make a good impression.”
He pulled at the front of his coat, his Temple best, looking uncomfortable. Tegwin never really liked it on him, it was too somber. Asadel looked nicer in bright colours, but at least it wasn’t too worn, and it fit him.
“The whole family needs to make a good impression.”
“No-one’s going to notice me,” Asadel grumbled, straightening up to his full six feet and four inches, and offering his arm to Tegwin, “everyone will be looking at you and your sister.”
“I notice you.”
Asadel’s frown melted away, and he looked down at Tegwin with a soft expression, “I know you do, Habibti, but it would be better for you, if you didn’t.”
They entered the room together, and sat down on one of the worn sittees, where Wendyl was already sat.
Tegwin sighed, looking around the room. She’d love for some spare coin to spruce the place up. The plaster on the ceiling was cracking, and mildewed, the carpet was tracked in and balding in some places. Even if she could just refurbish the chairs and get some new cushions, it would be something. Asadel fidgeted beside her, and Wendyl was rubbing her finger over a bald spot on the arm of the settee in apparent fascination.
“Father’s in a foul mood,” Wendyl said, under her breath.
Cenwin Al’Davin blustered into the room, you could smell the alcohol on his breath before you saw him. Tegwin waved her hand in front of her nose trying to disperse the fumes, “phew, how much you had to drink, Father?”
“That’s none of your business.”
Cenwin loomed over them, his rheumy eyes watering.
“Maybe you need to chew some mint,” Wendyl said.
Asadel patted down his coat, and offered Cenwin a hard boiled peppermint. Tegwin wondered how Asadel’s teeth didn’t rot out of his head. He always had sweets on him.
Her father glared at Asadel, and took the offering. It was as if her father had stop caring completely. It was something that he was fully dressed and reasonably well put together in a fresh shirt and breeks. His waist coat was done up, and nothing was spilt down his coat. Something of a tiny miracle Tegwin supposed.
Cenwin was not a tall man, but he was stocky. He puffed himself up, addressing Tegwin.
“You are to be contrite, demure, and the very picture of a well bred lady,” he said, wringing his hands betraying how anxious he was.
“I need you to be charming and sweet. I don’t want to hear any insolent comments. I want Mr Dinslow and his mother to have a pleasant afternoon. Most of all, Tegwin...are you listening to me?”
Tegwin crossed her arms turning her head away to avoid looking at her father.
“Yes, Father,” she said, clenching her jaw, and picking at her dress, wishing she was horse riding instead.
“I need you to be compliant and well behaved.”
Tegwin rolled her eyes, “Yes, Father.”
“You understand the stakes here?” He said.
“Yes!” Tegwin said.
Asadel put his hand on her shoulder to calm her, while Wendyl squirmed in agitation beside her.
“I think we’re all aware how much you have riding on Tegwin making a good match,” Asadel said.
“Why do I have to meet them?” Wendyl blurted out.
Tegwin took her hand, squeezing. Wendyl never enjoyed her Father’s lectures.
“Because you do, Wendyl Pet. Be a good girl for your Da,” Cenwin said.
Asadel cleared his throat.
“Not a word from you either, my self-righteous black streak,” Mr Al’Davin said, turning on the tall lithe young man.
“Why don’t you have another drink to calm your nerves, Cenwin,” Asadel said. He was grinning, his prominent white canines striking against his dark complexion but his emerald green eyes narrowed in wariness.
“You’re adopted, remember that,” Cenwin said, pointing and waving his finger at Asadel who hummed, tracing his eyebrow with his finger and frowned in disapproval.
Cenwin ran a shaking hand through his silver hair, and sighed.
“Just behave, all of you, please. All our futures depend on Tegwin making a good impression.”
Asadel started playing with Tegwin’s curls, “After this, let’s go to the stables and take the horses out, even if it’s just a trot around the grounds.”
Tegwin nodded, grasping his hand to get him to stop. It tickled.
“Hands off Tegwin,” Cenwin growled.
Asadel lowered his hand.
“He was only doing it to distract me Father. There was no harm.”
Cenwin eye’s flicked from Asadel to Tegwin, and he tilted his head, narrowing his eyes. He was about to say something when the harrowed butler appeared at the door.
“Mr Dinslow and his mother are here.”
“Bring them in, don’t leave them standing in the foyer,” Cenwin said in a bluster, waving him off.