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Welcome to Charming, the year is now 1891. It’s time to join us and immerse yourself in scandal and drama interlaced with magic both light and dark.

Where will you fall?

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As clocks and other timepieces were expensive, working class folk who could not afford to rise with the sun could employ a “knocker-upper” to tap on their windowpane at a scheduled time. Knocker-uppers would work through the night and into the early morning. — Kayte
But then Miss Dempsey paid her so great a compliment that she wanted to hurl herself over the edge of the theater balcony in delight.
sobing alone in front of a haunted piano


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Where we gonna go now that our twenties are over?
#1
June 25th, morning — Art's New House, Bartonburg
Ben felt a little weird about being here, honestly, but it wasn't as though they had many better options. He couldn't ask Art to come over to his place in Swallowbury and sit in the parlor across from Melody while she embroidered a baby blanket. Their supply of mutual friends with available houses was dwindling, most recently with the unexpected marriage of Fitz Prewett. They didn't have Excalibur anymore, which had been an old standby. It was really Art's place or somewhere public, and Ben was still a little paranoid about when and where and how he was seen out in public, lest someone get the idea he was lining up women to follow his wife's impending death. So Art's house was really the best place, even if Desdemona didn't love that he visited… even if Ben knew too much about the circumstances behind this house to really feel entirely comfortable here. It was weirdly personal to be here and see their things in a house he'd helped Art pick out last month, like he was eavesdropping on a conversation just by being here. It was like he was inserting himself in the middle of their marriage, just by virtue of knowing Art hadn't chosen to come live here and ditch their old place, and Merlin knew Ben didn't want to do that. He had his hands full enough with his own marriage.

But there wasn't a better place, and it wasn't like he was just going to give up talking to Art. Their friendship was one constant in their two rather chaotic lives; it had survived Art losing his money and Ben losing his parents and both of them getting married, and it would survive this, too. It would just take a while before this house started to feel like a house and not a symptom of a mistake.

"I don't like meeting this early," Ben complained with a good-natured smile as he flooed in that morning. He'd wanted to drop by and this was the only time that had worked for both of them, since Art had practice that afternoon and they were both busy that evening. He didn't really mind much, but it was unusual enough that it bore commenting on. "Even I can't start drinking before noon, you know."

#2
It seemed inevitable that he would go to Selwyn’s party tonight, (this party was not at Selwyn’s house, but it felt to Art like Selwyn’s party), although Art had not managed to come up with a good excuse to himself for it. Maybe he was going just for socializing. Maybe he was going to prove that he wouldn’t do it again. Or maybe —

This was all very difficult to process when Ben was here, but he was still thinking about it, and he was going to be particularly useless at practice if he was already having trouble not thinking about it, and it wasn’t even noon yet.

”I don’t think we’re really meant for mornings,” Art said cheerfully; he made a vague handwave towards the coffee table, where a pot of it sat on a coaster in the place where normally he would have put the whiskey. ”Or at least I’m not. Can’t drink before I get on a broom.”

Well he had, in the past, shown up on a broom on a variety of substances — but that didn’t mean it was a good idea, and he didn’t think Desdemona would tolerate it.


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#3
”Coffee’s the next best thing, I guess,” Ben said amiably. He hesitated half a second before he sat down and poured himself a cup, as though he were expecting a more formal invitation to do so, but that was silly. This was Art’s house, and neither of them had ever been the sort to stand on ceremony at least where each other was concerned. It was just that it was a strange room and the furniture was in a different place than it had been in the last house, was all. It didn’t feel like Art’s house, and it took half a second for Ben to remember that it really was.

“How’s Desdemona like it?” he asked as he picked up the mug and cupped his hands around it, trying to get a sense of how hot it was before he chanced a sip. “The house, and everything.”

#4
"I don't think she loves the house," Art admitted. He was fonder of their last one, too. "But we're all getting used to it, and she thinks it has potential." She had said she thought it could be lovely, when he first brought her here — he wasn't going to go that far. He poured himself a mug of coffee. Talking about Desdemona when he was thinking about Selwyn was awkward, but he supposed it couldn't be avoided.


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#5
"Potential is good," Ben said with a nod. Not as though he was really a guru when it came to marriage advice, but at least to him it sounded good. Art and Desdemona had been through at least two catastrophes in less than a year — losing the baby and losing the money. The fact that they were both still here at all was good, he thought. He couldn't imagine that his marriage with Melody could survive either event, if they were faced with one. He couldn't picture Melody forgiving him if he'd done something stupid enough to put their living situation at risk, because out of all his duties as a husband providing for her financially was the only one he did consistently manage. And if something happened to the baby — well. Obviously it would all be over, then. They were only trying for the sake of the baby, and sometimes even then he wasn't sure they were both trying as hard as they should be.

"I ran into Elliott's mother recently," Ben announced. "When I was out with Melody."

#6
Arthur shrugged his shoulders, because potential was good, but he had the sense that his marriage was like a fragile glass in his hand, and he couldn't seem to stop doing things that would cause it to shatter.

Art could have choked on his coffee at what followed. The only reason he didn't was that he didn't have any liquid in his mouth; he raised his eyebrows at Ben in a sudden, shocked expression instead. "Merlin," he said, "How'd that go?"


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#7
Ben shrugged noncommittally. It wasn't as though an interaction like that could have gone well. "Probably as well as it could have gone, honestly," he said with a frown. "Melody doesn't know who she is, but she seemed suspicious about it. But, you know," he said with half a sigh. "Melody's sort of... suspicious about any woman who comes within a block of me. So I don't know whether she felt any worse about Dionisia."

Some would probably have said that Melody was suspicious of any woman interacting with Ben for good reason. Certainly, if all someone knew about their relationship was what they read in Witch Weekly, they'd think Melody was justified in whatever reaction she had to Ben talking to other women. Still, it was — suffocating, sometimes, when he stepped back to really look at it all.

Not that it mattered how it felt. This was just how things were, and he wasn't leaving her — not when the baby was due in a few months.
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   Arthur Pettigrew

#8
Have I mentioned recently that I hate your wife? Art thought, and swallowed. Now that they were going to have a baby, he shouldn't be saying these things. Also, his whole life was such a disaster at the moment that it felt a little bit like throwing stones at a glass house.

"That doesn't seem too terrible," he said instead, with a shrug of his shoulders. "How'd Dionisia seem to take it?" It felt weird, calling her Dionisia instead of Elliot's mother, but he was following Ben's lead, and he'd known who she was since the duel.


[Image: AAgFt3c.png]
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