English 101

Title: English 101
Time Period: July 28, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Andrew visits Graziella in the Dovetail to teach her English. It's not easy, but Andrew tries to keep the lesson lively, and Graziella perseveres.

The Dovetail is just starting to pick up in activity now that it is nearly noon. Many of the girls are recently awake and bustling through the main areas to get to the market or other various activities elsewhere. Although some girls still cling to a few last minutes of sleep, others are now heading down the stairs and into the kitchen to break their fast. Graziella seems to have been awake for a while, dressed for the day with hair freshly brushed and tied out of her face.

She sits in the main room with a closed book on her lap - it is unclear whether she has already attempted to read, or has already shut it in frustration. The room bustles with gossip and laughter, and while Graziella is usually one to partake in lighthearted conversation, the surrounding noises make it quite difficult to concentrate. So she gives up, taking the windowseat so she may more easily await her visitor's arrival.

The teacher arrives at the brothel with a wide grin on his mug. This is his first escapade into the house of lecherous entertainment, although not with a goal that leads to debauchery. The irony of this trip is what amuses him, and it is what keeps that smirk stretching his lips. Despite his official role as a teacher or his self-proclaimed title of a spiritual adviser, Andrew Cullen actually feels at ease in the brothel, the level of comfort inevitably suggesting that it isn't his first visit to such a place. He slows his stride to a stroll to look about, and greet the occasional girl passing by. That is perhaps what could make pegging him as the teacher difficult.

Graziella isn't left waiting by that window for too long, however. A firm, stern knock lands on one of the jambs three times. His other hand is busy holding two books, a few sheets of paper and two pencils. Clothes are nothing fanciful; on the contrary, they are surprisingly casual. "I was told I could come in, but I figured I'd ask for permission first, rega'dless". The man is known to speak with his Scottish accent rather thick, but it's clear that he stifles it to make his English clearer for the Italian working girl. "I'm Andrew Cullen, the teacher you asked for of Lady Dina Ross?"

The sun is both a wonderful and dangerous thing. Curled up as she is, it's hard not to feel a little sleepy - though her profession may also have a great deal to do with that. Just as she is starting to nod off, Andrew knocks - she jumps, startled at first, but quickly laughing at her own clumsiness. "Come," she smiles, waving him in. A year or two of speaking English has not managed to temper her thick accent in any way.

"Madame says I should read," she explains, lightly tapping the cover of her book with the tip of her index finger. "I can read, but not English," she admits with a heavy sigh and a shake of her head. "So confusing." Still, she doesn't let herself despair for more than a moment. Ever the optimist, she bursts into a smile as she hops to her feet, suddenly energized. "Thank you for coming. Let us try upstairs?"

Although his grin subsided somewhat, a half of it remains, granting him a lopsided smirk. He moves to the side and, with a measured wave of his hand, gestures in the direction where he came from. "You pick the room, da'lin'." Quickly noting the book in her hands, he nods briskly towards her. "Take the book with you, aye?"

He follows Graziella upstairs. Now that he is with his student, his gaze wanders less, although he would be the first to admit that it doesn't stray at all. It is merely a question of whether it is lechery, curiosity, or something else entirely. "The Madame wants you to read? Is conversation here as high in demand as other activities? Is the desire to learn English more of a business thing than a personal drive?"

The constantly swerving tone of his voice is one thing that he fails to hide in its entirety. His intonation twists and turns, leaps up and down. Yet he maintains a steady pace, and enunciates vowels and consonants alike where appropriate. Precise clarity of speech places him as an educated man, if not at least charismatic.

The young woman is light on her feet as she leads the way up the stairs. "She is tired of me asking her what things say when people hand me things," Graziella explains in her own broken English, punctuating her words with an amused little laugh. "No one comes to me for talk only," there's a brief pause, "not much talk at all. No good," she places a hand over her chest, indicating herself. "I like to talk about some things, but usually not the same things," her face scrunches a little and she makes big gestures with her hands - she seems to express more physically than verbally. "I try!" she insists, smiling and laughing again.

Although her room is one of the smaller ones because she is still the 'new girl', the placement is rather perfect: there is a large window that overlooks the landscape behind the brothel. With the curtains open as they are, the room is well-lit and very clean. It has been decorated with fresh flowers, and the room smells vaguely of vanilla and cinnamon - a product of her own experimentation with fragrances. There is a small desk in front of the window with a small chair to match. Anticipating his need for somewhere to sit, she draws one of the larger, more comfortable chairs by the bed and shoves it toward the desk inch by inch to cross the short distance between the bed and desk.

Andrew follows Graziella into her room in a slow stride. He looks around keenly, noting as many details as his sight can muster. The pleasant lingering scent of both vanilla and cinnamon is caught soon enough; it pauses his steps, and he stops to smirk wider still. Withhold comment, however, he walks over to the window next, looking out into the Vale. "Well— Graziella, is that right? What do you like to talk about?"

Facing away from the window, he notices the girl's efforts to provide a comfortable seat for her mentor. However, he merely chortles softly and gestures towards the chair. "Sit. I'll stand." He walks away from the window and approaches the desk, leaving his things on it, keeping only one of the books he brought with him. He would listen to the girl's answer to his previous question, first, all the while leafing through the book he's picked up, pacing through the room.

"Yes," Graziella can't help but brighten when he says her name. It's one of those things that always - or at least nine times out of ten depending on the situation - makes her smile. "Talk? Mm," she thinks for a moment. Settling down into the chair, she presses her bent elbow into the desk while perching her chin in the palm of her hand. "Flowers, birds. Outside," she gestures toward the window with a dreamy little sigh.

"I don't like to talk about…" she bites her lip as she tries to think of a word that will convey what she means. Vocabulary still isn't her strong suit. "Fight," she says finally, though her expression indicates she's still not sure that is the word she was searching for. To demonstrate, she clenches her hands into little fists and jabs lightly at the air. "Or fighting without that, you know, when people-" She rubs her forehead and sighs, having given up all hope until the moment where everything clicks into place. It is as if the lightswitch has suddenly been flipped on. "Politics!" she exclaims, clapping her hands together once in a triumphant manner. "I do not talk politics," she says, breathing a sigh of relief and waving her hands in quite the amusing dismissive gesture.

Brows raised, Andrew curiously yet passively observes the theatrics unravel before him as the girl searches for that tricky word. Once the crescendo is reached, the man fails to stifle a laugh. "Subject of politics is to me what English is to you. The only difference is, you can learn English." His gaze drops down to the book once more, which he lefs through hastily. At the same time, he approaches the desk.

"Molto bene, Graziella. Vogliamo cominciare?" His pronunciation of the query to begin the lesson is predictably flawed, marred mostly by the lingering Scottish accent. On the other hand, it's fluent and spoken well enough, tone rising to the end of the sentence. "You should recognise the English alphabet; my language uses the same letters yours does." The book is placed down on the desk in front of the young woman.

The left page of the book starts with a simple sentence, although for Graziella it may not seem so. The morning sun lazily climbed up in the sky while the shepherd slept in the shade of the tree. "Try to read it aloud. I want to know what you're havin' difficulty with."

"I am glad is not just me," Graziella seems quite relieved to find that she is not alone in that school of thought. She hears her native tongue spoken so infrequently that any attempt at all pleases her to no end. Straightening up in her chair, she gives Andrew a delighted smile and an enthusiastic nod of her head.

Reading was never her strength to begin with. Although the letters are familiar to her, sentence structure is incredibly different. "Letters are mixed up," she murmurs, pointing a finger to one of the longer words on the page. Her face scrunches comically as she leans closely over the book to squint at the words. After taking a deep breath, she attempts to read the sentence out loud. "The…" Well, that's a start. "… sun," since she cannot imagine how to pronounce morning, she ignores it entirely. "La-laz—" Frustration overtakes her quickly, and for a long moment she just sits there pouting at the page. "Lazily," she sputters out finally, and although her pronunciation is completely off, the word that comes out of her mouth does in some way sound like 'lazily.'

"I'm sorry," she exhales sharply, turning her head up to give him an apologetic look. "I am not a good studente." Attempting one more time, she looks back down at the page. "Cl- climbed?" She puts too much emphasis on the 'b', so much so that the word seems completely foreign to her ears. "What does that mean?" she jabs the page with her fingertip, right underneath the word giving her so much difficulty.

The moment Graziella labels herself as an unworthy student, Andrew scoffs dismissively, albeit he still wears that reassuring smile. He moves closer and lightly places a hand on her shoulder to encourage her. "You're doing fine. Continue." He listens intently, then, switching his gaze between the book and his pupil. Upon the question of what is the word that's undermining her efforts, he gives a slight nod.

"Climbed", he pronounces it, his accent prominent, bringing the word closer to 'clay' than 'climb'. "But that's how I pronounce it." His English accent is slightly more convincing than Italian, as he soon demonstrates by pronouncing the word again. "Climbed", he says it again, more slowly this time. Reverting to his accent, he explains: "It's when you go up, like climbing a mountain for example."

"And the word 'lazily' - it's like lazy, pronounce it with lay, not lah. The sun lazily, and so forth. Keep going? Let's try to get to the end of the annoying sentence, aye?"

"Climbed," Graziella repeats the word slowly and carefully, testing the sound out on her tongue. Although still skeptical she's getting it right, she inclines her head in a little nod and continues as instructed. His gesture of placing his hand on her shoulder seems to work - she finds it very reassuring, and some of the tension she carries seems to melt away.

The rest of the sentence takes a while, but somehow she manages to plow through. There are a number of pronunciation issues, and the sentence still doesn't make a whole lot of sense to her, but every letter has been sounded out - for better or for worse. By the end of it she seems quite restless, full of energy that skimming over a page just cannot expel. Although proud to have finished, it almost seems as if she's ready to pack up and call it a day. This lack of an attention-span certainly does not help alleviate her ditzy reputation.

While eager to help her along the way, Andrew doesn't intervene until absolutely necessary, knowing that an ill-timed break in the pace might mean the end of the girl's attempts to go through the arduous sentence. Still, he's forced to make use of those crucial moments of silent frustration, aiding her with a hint or correcting a previously mispronounced word. He makes extensive use of gestures, employing his hand to visualise tone or enunciation. Once the sentence is done, the girl's new mentor has the patience to explain what it meant.

The overflowing restless energy does not go unnoticed by Andrew. "You did better than I thought you would", he admits, and there's hardly any trace of dishonesty in his voice. He seems both surprised and amused, although the latter is in no small part due to witnessing the lifespan of Graziella's attention span. "I still think it's best I walked you through the English alphabet, though." Straightening out, he grunts slightly, his back sore from leaning over the woman.

"You said before you can read, just not in English. Can you read in Italian? Can you write in your language, as well?"

Her smile softens, expression almost bashful as he compliments her long-winded attempt. "Grazie," she clearly means thank you. She cranes her head backward to look up at him, flashing a dimpled grin his way. Though the happiness on her face does falter the slightest bit when she realizes the lesson is not quite over yet. If only languages could be learned in under ten minutes.

"Si," Graziella dips her head affirmatively. "A little," she elaborates, pinching her index finger toward her thumb.

As his own grin diminishes and his eyes narrow thoughtfully, it's quite clear Andrew is mulling something over. Scheming, even. "Bene, Graziella. You're bright, but you're also young. Patience does not come easily to the young." Leaning forward once more, he claims one of the sheets of paper. This particular piece has the alphabet written out. Andrew has a distinctly masculine handwriting, although it's clear if nothing else.

"Try reading the alphabet from A to Z. I will help you." In the midst of incoming practice, Andrew dares to break the practice with casual conversation. "Italy is a long way from here. You don't speak English yet, so I guess the trip is recent. How and why did you come here, if you don't mind me askin'?"

"Patience does not run in my family," Graziella laughs and inclines her head in complete agreement, though she considers it more an inherited trait than one that will disappear with time. Her hand slides over the sheet of paper, and before even attempting to read the letters out loud she skims her fingertips lightly over the ink. So far, she does not appear frustrated.

She successfully recognizes all the letters, though - as to be expected - there are more pronunciation issues than not. Breaks are a welcome relief, though the topic he is curious about is not one she is eager to discuss. "Long story," she waves a hand dismissively at first. After a moment she sighs quickly, though still smiles. "My father likes to…" she cups her hands together, as if shaking a pair of dice. Whether this gesture translates or not is another story. "He and my brothers had lots of debt, so here I am." She doesn't seem the slightest bit sad about it, though - in fact, she seems positively sunny about it all. "I am happy here," she insists, and her smile is a genuine one.

"Are you from here?" she wonders, head tilting inquisitively. It is hard to hide her curiosity, because while she may not be one for politics she does love to talk about people. Somehow, even her English sounds better when she has an opportunity to talk about something she enjoys.

The snippets of conversations are meant to not only give Graziella room to breathe, but also to encourage her to speak in English more. Who knows how much conversation there is to be had in the brothel that isn't gossiping about the clientele.

"Gamble", Andrew points out helpfully when the woman shakes her cupped hands together. He listens otherwise, both to her story and her attempt to got hrough the alphabet. As far as her background is concerned, he doesn't appear as judging whatsoever; if anything, there's a glint of sympathy in his eyes. It does not distract him from the current exercise, however. When she arrives at the letter H, he helps her with it, shortly afterwards explaining what is in words, seeing as her native tongue does not quite have it. "Like laughing, hah. Home, for example. Hair."

"I am new here. Newer than you, I bet. When I was done being a stupid young man, I started travelling, collecting— I have a small collection of small things from the far past. But more than anything, I love helping people. But not everyone likes what I have to say when I help them."

"Gamble!" Graziella is glad to know there is an English equivalent, and excited to finally know it. "Yes, he played lots. No luck."

The letter H makes her giggle, though she tries valiantly to stop herself. She practices saying the letter out loud on its own a few times, though it sounds like something is stuck in her throat more than anything. His connection of the act of laughing to the sound the letter makes seems to have helped quite a bit. "Ha, ha, ha!" she says proudly, careful to take a short breath between each laugh.

"Collection?" That is a word that she knows, and it has certainly piqued her interest. "What is in it?" she wonders a bit breathlessly, eyes wide already in fascination.

As far as she is concerned, they have accomplished a great deal in the lesson today, and there is little chance she can absorb much more information. "Done for now?" she wonders with a hopeful little smile, patting the page with the palm of her hand. "I will practice until next," she swears solemnly, giving him a serious look. It fades quickly into a much happier one, bordering on mischievous. "Would you like to trade now?" she wonders, turning to nod toward the bed. Although they have not yet discussed compensation, it is her trade and to her the issue is an unspoken agreement. Her smile is positively genuine - it is not a task she dreads.

The inquiry regarding his collection causes him to inhale deeply, a mere moment before he exhales the accumulated air sharply. "Explaining what I have is sometimes difficult even to those who know English, but—" He considers for a moment longer. He then lifts up his wrist, showcasing an item that is somehow easily missed otherwise. Once pointed out, it somehow becomes a rather vital aspect of his appearance. It's a peculiar old thing, the glass cover shattered, but the clock face is still legible. "This is a watch. I don't know if you know what it is. It tells me time." He leaves his hand extended, in case Graziella wanted to examine it. "Most other things I 'ave… They're broken or I have no idea how to use them. A lot of it is books."

The mention of books is what brings him to his next point - the lesson. Having successfully trudged through a sentence and the entire alphabet, Andrew's agenda coincides with Graziella's capacity for soaking in new knowledge. As he's promised that she will study, he smirks knowingly. "Promises don't learn languages", he tuts, picking up the other book. "This is not homework, so to speak. It's in Italian. A romance novel, full of intrigue an' all tha'." The cover's faded to show next to no colour, and the title is almost impossible to make out. The pages aren't in the best condition, either. "Your homework, 'oweve', is to continue practicing the alphabet, and try reading this page we started with. Write down any questions you 'ave for our next lesson."

And then, of course, comes the question of payment. The offer to repay him with intimate service causes his grin to widen exponentially. He slowly shakes his head, vastly amused. "Chasing skirts is something I still didn't give up from my young age, but I prefer it as a reward or a prize, not as payment. Consider this lesson free. Don't consider this a debt, aye? I might need your help some day, but when day comes, you're free to say no." He tilts his head to the side expectantly, hoping he hasn't offended her.

Completely enthralled, the young woman leans in to get a better look at the watch as Andrew extends his arm toward her. "Tick-tick," Graziella mimics the noise the watch makes with a tiny little smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "I just look at the sun for time," she laughs, waving a hand toward the window. The watch, although perhaps frivolous in her eyes, is certainly quite interesting to her.

When he hands her the old, faded book, she runs her hand over the top almost reverently. There are no books lying around her room, especially not ones written in her native language, so this is quite a unique gift. "I will try," she sets the book down onto the desk gently, as if it is as delicate as a bird's egg. Just to clarify, she holds a hand up in the air and gives him a moderately concerned look. "I write questions in Italian, yes?"

At first she appears incredibly puzzled. This rejection of her services may be a first. Although initially concerned - and self-conscious, smoothing her fingertips over her dress and tugging nervously at her hair to make sure it is not a mess - his explanation eventually starts to make sense. "You are very nice," she notes sincerely, hands clasped together in her lap as she finally bursts into an understanding smile. "I love to help people too, so please ask," she bobs her head enthusiastically.

In reply to her question regarding her homework, Andrew nods emphatically. "Yes, write your questions in Italian. If I fail to understand 'em, you can always read them and try to translate", he remarks in a half-teasing tone of voice, a lopsided grin accompanying his words.

In what is entirely a friendly fashion, her tutor runs his hand down her shoulder, before squeezing it lightly. It is an encouraging gesture, additionally laced with gratitude for understanding. "Good. I'm glad you understand me. Trust me, you'd be the first woman I'd walk up to in the Albatross, but like I said - reward, not payment." Despite the width of his grin, it still manages to understate his amusement with the situation he's placed himself in. "Now, I'll let you get back to your work, and I need to continue mine elsewhere. Take care after ye'self, aye?"