He saw the woman on the black horse before she saw him and rode quickly to her side. “You don’t belong here,” he barked with the efficiency of a soldier. “Is this your horse?” He demanded an answer before she could orient herself. “Quickly, is this your horse?” She nodded the affirmative, but that was not enough. “Say it!” he ordered. “This is my horse,” the woman said, confused. “Let a horse be an animal controlled by a bridle,” he countered angrily, grabbing the strap of a silver studded bridle as it appeared on the animal. He turned the horse’s head then slapped the flat of his sword on its rump to send it running from the battlefield, right past his sleeping self who stood gazing at a balcony from within a courtyard, playing a suite of lover’s pleas on his guitar.
Brother Lapis felt that curious sensation of a cork bobbing to the surface of a lake as the brief afternoon nap he allowed himself faded away. He roused himself quickly and towelled the sweat from the back of his neck, took his guitar down from the nail on the wall, and went down to the breezeway to play until the evening meal. It was high summer now, the sweetest time of the year, when the pattern of life slowed with the heat and people came out in the late evening to promenade. He settled onto the neatly stacked crates and draped the towel over the hump of the guitar to protect it from his sweat and began to play.
There is no finer place to be on a summer’s evening than Perdido Street, especially now that the brothers lived there, for music was a mandatory part of the mnemonics curriculum. Brother Lapis could sense the messengers that were out in the street moving closer to the breezeway to listen. Brother Rudyard was not far behind. He stood a while and observed Brother Lapis, looking for signs of the wildness he had shown only days before.
“That was the fastest I’ve ever seen you come out of that,” he started.
“This isn’t Cairo,” stated Brother Lapis in a mocking tone.
“This time it isn’t. Who is the woman?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you always play that particular piece when you’ve got your eye on someone.”
“I do?” Lapis cocked his head to one side and frowned. “Are you sure?”
“Positive. What is it anyways? I’ve never heard anyone else play it.”
Lapis shrugged off what would have been a long story, saying simply: “Something that was a favorite. That’s all.”
Rudyard sighed and sat across the breezeway from his clerical brother. “Someday, I am going to find a girl you have not got to yet.”
Lapis kept playing. “No, you won’t.”
“Yes. I will.”
“No, you won’t. Because you keep forgetting the rules. Rule one. Chivalry is never wasted.”
“And rule two?”
“The invitation will come. That is why Rule One comes first.”
In fact, at the present moment, Brother Lapis was waiting on an invitation from Phaedra Byrne, the divorceé that lived in Wheatstone Waterways. He had no doubt that his wait would be profitable. The attraction between the two of them was tangible in the air on their last meeting. She had nearly drooled on herself when she saw the glimpse of tattoos from beneath his open collar. Truth be told, he was surprised the deal had not been not closed that very night. Lapis enjoyed the irony that whatever those tattoos had once meant to him, was in the past.
Brother Rudyard let his argument drop and watched the children playing in the street. He wished Lapis would be like this all the time. It was worrisome to have to watch him for his episodes. He knew Father Moonwall had given Lapis some sort of project to work on over the summer, hopefully that would be enough to keep him focused. Up the street Rudyard spotted the more of his charges coming in for the evening, two lapines that had been swimming in the canals with the other moreaus to escape the heat of the day. “About time you two got back,” Rudyard scolded.
“There were snakes, Rudy! We had to wait to go swimming!” The girl’s hair was still damp from her swim. Rudyard idly wondered if it was proper for a young lady to swim at all. “Oh!” She said suddenly. “Letter for Brother Lapis!”
The lapine girl opened a flap of her messenger bag and slid out a neatly stationiered envelope, proud that she had managed to carry it all the way without creasing it. Lapis paused his playing and reached for it, thanking the girl as he did. He waited until he heard the children climbing the steps up to their dormitory to change clothes before drawing the envelope slowly beneath his nose to taunt Brother Rudyard, and allowed himself a smile.