He was an irresponsible drinker- but Schera was too, and Estelle didn't know if she really had slapped the glass out of her father's hand when she'd been six, or if that was just memory playing tricks on her (and then Dad had kissed her better, and rubbed something on the cut on her sole to make sure it healed right-- she remembered a sticky floor and shards tacked into wooden tiles, but couldn't it have been some other scrape instead?) Olivier smirked at her comfortable shorts and leered at her newly-fitted skirt- she'd been miffed, but for a split second she had to remember it wasn't his attention she had sought (but what good was that, when her real target was so far away, and she couldn't see him for all the fog and the shadows in his eyes?) When he consoled her, or tried to, gratitude tumbled free from her mouth, surprise trailing sidelong with some icky aftertaste; but she couldn't help but think that her father wouldn't sit with one leg crossed over the other, like a girl. That he’d drank, once, and it must’ve made her uneasy, just like Olivier did, but Dad would never pour himself something so fizzy and orange, sparkling like it could have been juice. She backed away when he patted the space next to him, her nose wrinkling; if Joshua had been the one offering she wouldn't have hesitated to take it, and she folded the thought like a letter in her pocket, a little smugly, because it was nice to remember that the thing in front of her wasn’t worth feeling sorry for.
Olivier told stories. He boasted of them, like honesty was a suggestion and her disappointment might as well be chump, bottomless change. "You big fat liar," she told him, and there was more weight in the words than there ought to be, because it wasn't like she cared which fancy opera house he sang his songs in, or if he'd plucked out their names from a novel that never made it past the border. She didn't care, she didn't know-- she didn't want to. She'd rather fill her head with things that mattered, people who were important: those who'd deceived and sighed at her both, who'd shielded themselves from her with their kind deeds and polite, patient smiles, the kind that fed on complacency and nursed it in turn. Olivier's smile wasn't patient and his laughter rarely kind; when she smacked him, he fell over like a twig. She helped him up. "You're weird," Estelle said, as he despaired over his tousled hair. Her thoughts blossomed with unkindness even as she scanned for a bruise. Creep. Criminal! She didn't drop him. “Are your limbs made outta noodles or what? Seriously.” I just can’t see him as a bad person– she’d told Agate that, and he’d deepened his scowl for all her trouble. Hindsight, what was that? Suddenly she had pinpricks in her eyes, dust motes or dead moth wings, here in the belly of the airship; Estelle blinked them away, but then she thought of the fireworks marking the Queen’s birthday celebration, and that memory was fresh. The pit in her stomach parted like a scar. I trust you. They were just words. Olivier ought to know. He loved to talk.
They were just words, sappy and cloying, and she said them anyway.
“Well,” Estelle said, “talk already. Are you gonna or not?” She had him cornered, finally, and she still gave him an out. He took it. But first he looked back at her, with damp, kicked-puppy eyes, and they pricked her, with frustration and relief, and an anger she did not feel.
What’s the matter? Why do you look betrayed? And silly, too, like a critter or a schoolboy, things without a fatal aim or a coffer of secrets. It was how he looked whenever she pitied him, but now it was flaking off, something more mutable and less defensible squirreled away beneath.
She didn’t ask. She didn’t push. She believed him, or, she was sure she did; if anyone asked, it was because it was bad news to owe Olivier anything, and no-one could deny that.
If anyone asked, she had her story. But she wasn't stupid, and even less of a liar: if she could trust him she could trust anyone. That was her story. Her truth, too, which was petty and flimsy and one and the same. And Olivier didn't ask, and he didn't push, and in the end he let her get away with it, just like she had done to him many times over, and the truth was: if he wasn't sorry, then neither was she.
After all, it wasn't as though Olivier had ever cared about letting her down.