At the Top of the Slippery Slope

Started by Fredegund von Epp, at Jul 18, 2020 7:14 AM
January 15, 1924
315 Views
17 Posts

Fredegund von Epp,

Wife of the International Arms Dealer, Gustav Adolph, Graf von Epp
298
?Years Young
21 Posts

"We can all feather our nests, Herr Ambassador, but its not just anyone who can lay an egg."


Freda watched and listened to the interplay between the mother and the daughter with the sort of intense interest reserved for those who had never themselves experienced that peculiar, distinctive relationship themselves. The atmosphere was so thick that you could have cut it with a knife, but at least these two could get a breather from each other when they wanted: living, she gathered, for the most part in separate, and rather large, mansions. Some poorer people lived on top of each other and couldn’t escape each other’s presence. No wonder there were so many domestic murders.

Where Daddy Carver fitted into this strained family relationship, she was fascinated to see. But for now, his beautiful daughter was addressing her, and the sloe-eyed vamp gazed in her direction.

“Of course. Do you smoke, Lady von Epp?" Vera answered, directing another query at Freda. If her mother was going to try and use Freda as an example of what Vera should be tonight, then she would prove her wrong. Anyone could adapt to change, and a little temptation went a long way.

“Only after dinner, of course” replied Freda. That wasn’t true at all, she was a complete nicotine slave and was rather gagging for a cigarette now, but couldn’t help feeling that this was more than just an idle question, so stuck with that unwritten and cast iron rulebook for the upper classes: ‘form’.

“Oh, your mother and I can remember when only the men would be permitted to retire for port and cigars after supper, of course, but thanks to the efforts of our mothers and our aunts, we now get to do the same. I’ll take a cigarette if you have a holder: a lady should never be seen with a cigarette actually caressing her lips.”

"I've cigars, cigarettes, and reefers. Whichever you prefer."

"Vera!" Elizabeth started, surprised by her daughter's words. "Have you been spending time in tea pads?"

 "Where I spend my time no longer concerns you," she replied, her voice so sweet it was sickening. "You could use one, you know."

For a second, Freda assumed that Vera was trying to impress her with her ‘shocking’ talk of reefers, but on second thoughts, it was probably just a ploy to further wind up her mother, not that the poor woman wasn’t wound up enough already. Actually, a few puffs of Marijuana would probably do her most good, out of the three of them.

She reached out and laid a calming hand on that of Vera’s mother.

“Oh, Mrs Carver, these bright young things get drugs from their friends in the smart set, and it all seems like fun and games to them, you know: you should let me take Vera to a really horrible place that’s hidden away in the back streets of Miami, my Chauffeur told me about it: it’s a genuine Chinese opium den, a filthy place full of half dead ‘junkies’ that really would make your stomach turn.”

She turned her gaze back to Vera.

“Well, what do you think Vera? Instead of smoking a few reefers in your mansion, how would you like to spend an evening with me some time, so that I can show you the very depths of depravity? Have you got the stomach for it?” she asked her, with the tone of a bullying schoolgirl challenging a classmate to jump across a stream.


Loved 1

Vera Carver

Heiress
24
?Years Young
8 Posts

Vera reached for a small box that sat on the end table beside her and flipped it open. She didn't particularly like holders herself, but she understood the propriety required. Women had an image to maintain, and Elizabeth did a wonderful job of reminding Vera of that fact. She fit a cigarette into one of the holders in the box and snatched a match as she rose to her feet. Approaching Freda, she offered the cigarette to her and struck the match to light it.
 
Freda's words silenced the quarrel between mother and daughter. Vera's sapphire gaze fixed on the older woman's, scrutinizing her features. She sought any sign that the Freda spoke in jest. Mischief glittered in Vera's gaze and she glanced sideways at her mother. Elizabeth stared at the two women, mortified. Her attention returned to Freda and a smirk teased the corner of her mouth upward.
 
Vera accepted the challenge cast her way by her unexpected guest, grinning. She returned to her seat, snatching a cigarette for herself and lighting it. Unlike Freda, the Vera didn't use a holder. She did it to slight her mother. Elizabeth scoffed and rolled her eyes.
 
"Vera, don't you dare accept that offer," Elizabeth said, her voice icy. She glowered at Freda. "I hope this is an attempt to make a point, Lady von Epp. Otherwise, I'll have to ask you to leave."
 
"It's my house, mother," Vera remarked, inhaling smoke from her cigarette. She exhaled, as if to punctuate her words. "And I rather like Lady von Epp's suggestion. In fact, I will take you up on that offer."
 
Vera met Freda's gaze again, and that bullying tone excited the young heiress. She heard talk about opium dens, though she hadn't gone to one yet. Her connections were more her parent's friends than her own.
 
"You'll find it surprising how tough of a stomach I have," the youth replied, her tone cocky. Her next words, though directed at Freda, left her lips as she stared her mother down. "We could go tonight, if you wished."

Loved 1

Fredegund von Epp,

Wife of the International Arms Dealer, Gustav Adolph, Graf von Epp
298
?Years Young
21 Posts

"We can all feather our nests, Herr Ambassador, but its not just anyone who can lay an egg."


"Vera, don't you dare accept that offer," Elizabeth said, her voice icy. She glowered at Freda. "I hope this is an attempt to make a point, Lady von Epp. Otherwise, I'll have to ask you to leave."

Freda just shrugged, all innocence, and took a drag of the cigarette through the holder. It was a good one, too. Turkish, she fancied. They weren’t anywhere near Virginia, really, but they were close enough for it to feel decadent not to be smoking the domestic product.

"It's my house, mother," Vera remarked, inhaling smoke from her cigarette. She exhaled, as if to punctuate her words. "And I rather like Lady von Epp's suggestion. In fact, I will take you up on that offer."

“Good!” barked Freda, with the air of a schoolmarm telling a girl in her class that she’d conjugated her latin verbs correctly. “Oh come on, Mrs Carver” the visitor smiled at the Mother “You have a daughter who is beautiful, talented … just look at this place, but she is danger of becoming spoilt, pampered brat unless she sees more of the world, learns the way it works in the dirty backstreets, in the factories, in the slaughterhouses. She needs to be taught a lesson…” her eyes narrowed to almost oriental proportions as she drank Vera in through heavy veils “… in life. You can handle that, can’t you, Vera?”  

"You'll find it surprising how tough of a stomach I have," the youth replied, her tone cocky. Her next words, though directed at Freda, left her lips as she stared her mother down. "We could go tonight, if you wished."

“No, I don’t want to go tonight.” Freda disagreed, firmly. “Maybe tomorrow. Besides, we won’t go alone. Believe me, a white woman stupid enough to go there on her own will wake up the next morning in a crate on a ship bound for Shanghai. I want to enlighten you, not have you enslaved, Vera.” She purred, taking another drag of the cigarette. “We’ll take a couple of roughs with us, in case the chinks get rowdy.”

She smiled benignly at Elizabeth “You see, Vera will be perfectly safe! I even have part shares in a Boxing Champion, a very hard young man, believe me! We might take him along.”


Made Me Laugh 1

Vera Carver

Heiress
24
?Years Young
8 Posts

Vera's features twisted into an expression most unflattering at Freda's answer, her blue eyes moving between the woman and her mother as the two spoke. The young woman was still in the throes of early adulthood, and the desire to be out among the populace, partaking in illicit substances, intrigued her. Her lip jutted out ever so slightly as her features softened into a pout.

"Quit that," Elizabeth snapped at her daughter. The tension between the two remained palpable as Vera shifted in her seat under her mother's scrutinizing glare. 

Footsteps approached the drawing room from the hall they'd entered from, and soon enough an older man rounded the corner. He was tall and portly, the spoils of wealth padding his gut. The Carver patriarch's cheeks were red, but whether it was from drink like his wife or physical exertion was hard to tell.

"Absolutely not," Elizabeth reiterated, reaching for her drink. She swallowed a mouthful of it, pushing herself to her feet and moseying over toward one of the curios that lined the walls. She tugged open a drawer underneath, where albums sat neatly tucked into it.

"Oh let her, Elizabeth," Mr. Carver said, winking playfully in Freda's direction. Elizabeth sorted through the albums before snatching one and slamming the drawer shut.

"Jonathan!" Elizabeth screeched, waddling her way back to the couch where Freda sat. As she made herself comfortable, another servant arrived with a tea tray. She set it on the table in front of the sofa where Elizabeth sat and excused herself.

"Vera's guest makes a compelling argument. You can't teach a child by lecture alone; let her go wonder the city. If something happens to her, that's her fault," the man said, dropping into an armchair. A box on the table beside it held a pipe and tobacco, which he loaded and began to smoke. "Though that boxing champion of yours best keep his hands off my daughter."

Vera couldn't tell if her father was joking and that bothered her. She sighed, sitting back in her chair again. She could feel the wine finally starting to dull her nerves, and she decided that perhaps a reefer wouldn't be such a bad idea before dinner. Otherwise, her mother was going to spoil her appetite before the table was set. 

"I don't need you to keep holding my hand, mother," Vera said, her voice low and quiet. She felt volatile, and the fact her mother wished to prevent her from going to the opium den only made it that much more appealing. Would she wait for Freda to set a date? Or would she go on her own? The latter wasn't a wise idea, but it was tempting. 

"I can't believe you," Elizabeth snarled at her husband, dropping the album onto the cushion beside her with an audible thump. "What are you doing to do if her body turns up?"

"You don't need to be so negative," Jonathan started, but his wife, already inebriated, lost her temper at that moment. She began swearing at her husband. It was a dance Vera witnessed often growing up, and it still gave her the same headaches it always did. 

Vera's gaze sought Freda's, waiting until the woman looked her way. The moment she did, the youth cocked her head nearly imperceptibly toward one of the room's exists. It was only a matter of time before the Carvers were quarreling over how lenient and horrible a father Jonathan was, and how drunk and horrible a mother Elizabeth was.

"They're about to fight," Vera mouthed at Freda, carefully not to utter the words. Her mother's hearing hadn't diminished at all as she ripened into old age.


Loved 1

Fredegund von Epp,

Wife of the International Arms Dealer, Gustav Adolph, Graf von Epp
298
?Years Young
21 Posts

"We can all feather our nests, Herr Ambassador, but its not just anyone who can lay an egg."


Countess or not, Freda knew what it was that men did standing up and women did sitting down: shaking hands. So, as Vera’s Father walked in, she sat sitting while she smiled pleasantly at him and waited to be introduced; but the now augmented family of three were too busy squabbling to think of that.

"Vera's guest makes a compelling argument. You can't teach a child by lecture alone; let her go wonder the city. If something happens to her, that's her fault," the man said, dropping into an armchair. A box on the table beside it held a pipe and tobacco, which he loaded and began to smoke. "Though that boxing champion of yours best keep his hands off my daughter."

“Mr Carver, you don’t have to worry about my boxer: I keep him away from girls, I don’t want him all floppy and exhausted in the ring.” She felt that if they were going to bicker in front of her, she might as well have some fun by joining in. But she couldn’t keep up with what was clearly an old and well worn dance, which she little doubted the quarrelsome old couple rehearsed every evening as soon as the bottle was opened.

Vera's gaze sought Freda's, waiting until the woman looked her way. The moment she did, the youth cocked her head nearly imperceptibly toward one of the room's exits.

Freda raised her dark eyebrows. Was Vera signaling that she wanted a tête-à-tête?

It was only a matter of time before the Carvers were quarreling over how lenient and horrible a father Jonathan was, and how drunk and horrible a mother Elizabeth was.

"They're about to fight," Vera mouthed at Freda, carefully not to utter the words. Her mother's hearing hadn't diminished at all as she ripened into old age.

“Do excuse me a moment.” Said Freda, rising with some difficulty in the tight dress, from the rather low couch. “I just remembered a nose that needs powdering.” She laughed gaily, not that the Carver elders were listening, and exited through the archway that Vera had nodded toward, even though she absolutely no idea where it led to.

She waited in a sort of bricked hallway, hoping that Vera was going to join her – if she didn’t, it would somewhat embarrassing to have to walk straight back in there!


Thank You! 1

Vera Carver

Heiress
24
?Years Young
8 Posts

The elder Carvers didn't seem to acknowledge Freda's excuse; instead, they continued to bicker, picking at one another and gradually raising their voice. Vera watched the woman leave the room and waited a moment or two, her gaze sweeping back to her parents.

Her father's head dipped toward his mother, voice angry and low as he whispered something, likely hateful, into her ear. Vera took the moment to rise and slip unnoticed out of the room. Her cigarette was still in her hand and she took a deep draw off of it, savoring the smoke.

"They'll be like this for hours. Consider dinner ruined," the young woman said, looking back at the drawing room. Perhaps Freda could tell at that moment why the Carvers no longer hosted their soirees. It had more to do with their relationship with one another than the fact that Prohibition made this manor and its functions obsolete. Vera smiled at Freda, but something about the gesture seemed off.

"Come with me," the young woman said, stepping past the older woman. Vera led Freda toward the staircase, then turned toward one of the halls. Stopping in front of a door, she slid it back to reveal an iron gate, which she pushed open and gestured for the woman to enter the elevator.

"It's far more quiet and peaceful in my study," Vera explained. "I hope you don't find that improper."


Loved 1

Fredegund von Epp,

Wife of the International Arms Dealer, Gustav Adolph, Graf von Epp
298
?Years Young
21 Posts

"We can all feather our nests, Herr Ambassador, but its not just anyone who can lay an egg."


"They'll be like this for hours. Consider dinner ruined," the young woman said, looking back at the drawing room. Perhaps Freda could tell at that moment why the Carvers no longer hosted their soirees. It had more to do with their relationship with one another than the fact that Prohibition made this manor and its functions obsolete. Vera smiled at Freda, but something about the gesture seemed off.

“Pity, I’m hungry!” was Freda’s not unreasonable reply. “Can’t Hives just slip us a sausage roll?”

"Come with me," the young woman said, stepping past the older woman. Vera led Freda toward the staircase, then turned toward one of the halls. Stopping in front of a door, she slid it back to reveal an iron gate, which she pushed open and gestured for the woman to enter the elevator.

Freda shrugged and followed Vera into the lift. In itself, it seemed redundant, unless they were regularly visited by someone confined to a wheelchair. Maybe poor old Hives just couldn’t make stairs any more, or the fat Mr Carver. He did look rather puffed out before.

Freda gave Vera an encouraging smile as the odd young woman slammed the iron gate shut.

“Oh, it reminds me of when I was in prison!” she announced gaily. Well, to be honest, it did.

"It's far more quiet and peaceful in my study," Vera explained. "I hope you don't find that improper."

“I find being quiet and peaceful improper at all times.” quipped the Countess “Maybe we can liven it up a little. What do you 'study' in there, anyway?”

The lift lurched and gave Freda that tell-tale feeling in her tummy muscles that you got when a horse jumped a high hedge or fence.