First time with the receptionist
"Seeing as how this is his house and his staff, I don't see what the problem is," the woman said. "You will apologize to the young lady immediately."
"But Mother, did you hear what she-"
The blonde turned a brilliant shade of red but did not argue further with her mother. She slowly turned to face Thara, her hands fisted in her skirt. "I apologize for being rude." Her voice was surprisingly even. "And I'm sorry for any offense taken regarding your manner of dress." She indicated toward Thara's person.
"It's okay," Thara said stiffly, then added, "I'm sorry for yelling at you."
The blonde left, her back stiff as a post, yellow skirts flouncing.
The woman got up from behind the table. "I apologize for my daughter's behavior. She is upset to be away from our house in the city. I am Elles Mereguilde. My son, Ardon, is the one who brought you here." She removed the glasses from her nose and let them fall to the breast of her white button-down blouse, which was neatly tucked into a light brown floor-length skirt.
"I'm Thara Newtane," Thara said, meeting Elles in the middle of the room. "But you seem to know that already." They shook hands.
"I was a good friend of your mother's, as I'm sure Ardon told you," Elles said. She gestured to two couches and they sat down opposite each other. "I'm so sorry to hear about your family's passing. Please accept my condolences." Thara nodded, a lump in her throat, surprised to see that Elles looked just as upset as she did. "Did your mother ever talk about me?"
Thara shook her head. "I only know that she grew up in Aldochor City and left after she married Papa." Why hadn't her mama told her anything? Thara felt a small pang of betrayal.
"I suppose I'm not surprised," Elles said, sitting back against the cushions. She folded her hands in her lap. "We started a shipping company together, but parted ways once she was engaged to be married. Our company had grown considerably and she wanted a simpler life."
Thara was startled. "My mama started a shipping company with you? Did my papa know about it?" She couldn't believe it. Her mother had always been intelligent. She had insisted on teaching her children how to read, write and do sums. But never in all her life did Thara think her mother used to be a businesswoman in the capital of Eganick Kingdom!
"Yes, he did," Elles said carefully. "But they both wanted room for a growing family, and city life did not provide for that, so they left. I was sorry to see them go." Elles retrieved a folder from her desk and handed it to Thara. "I made this for you to look over when you arrived. The company is Lidelle Shipping. We co-founded it together after university."
There was a photograph inside the front pocket of Elles and her mother standing outside a warehouse with the words LIDELLE SHIPPING CO. over the doors. They wore slim trousers and work shirts rolled up at the sleeves. Her mother's hair was cut in a bob. It looked nice on her, Thara thought. Tears welled up in her eyes. She wiped them away with the back of her hand and looked through the rest of the folder. Letters and contracts, all signed with her mother's familiar signature, and stamped with the company letterhead, and more photos. She didn't recognize any of the people except for Elles. Had her mother really wanted a simpler life? She looked so happy in the pictures.
"This is a lot to take in."
Elles sat next to her and put an arm around her shoulders.