As soon as Grantaire was snoring in her bed, Irma Boissy stood up straight, lips tightly pressed together, and went to her small bassin, using the still clean water in it to rince her hands thoroughly. Behind her, looking much more serious than Irma was used to, Floréal observed her keenly, and said nothing until Irma was done washing.
“Irma,” she told her afterwards, almost gently, “how are you ever going to manage in Paris, if a kiss on your hand puts you in such a state? Really, how will you manage anywhere?”
“I’ve been managing just fine for the last two years,” said Irma with a frown. “Most men don’t dare approach me that close; I make myself quite clear. Grantaire is simply - more persistant than most.”
“That’s because he knows how disinterested in all of this you are,” said Floréal. “And I don’t mean it badly at all; only that one would have to be blind not to realize your dislike of men and courtship, and I think it suits Grantaire just fine to know that no matter how long he purses you, this will lead to nothing.”
Irma blinked, taken aback. Over the past few months, she had almost grown used to see Grantaire, hanging around her shop, bold on the verge of crude most times - and would he have acted this way all the time, she would have believed Floréal without question, for she knew some men played games with women just for the sake of the game, but she had already caught Grantaire, once or twice or maybe more, speaking more softly, something akin to hope in his eye, and from how embarrassed he was of those moments afterwards, she could guess they weren’t faked.
“I doubt many things about Grantaire, his common sense before anything else, but this? Not really.” He had been tender, just then, pressing his lips against her palm. And maybe she would have been less disgusted had he been less drunk, or so she told herself.
“Oh, he likes you,” said Floréal, nodding. “Who wouldn’t?” (Irma’s heart missed an embarrassing beat) “His problem doesn’t come from the heart, but rather from -” she showed, delicately, her lower body. Irma flushed. “Let me try to spare you, since I know those matters indispose you, but let’s just say I invited him to see me, just a few weeks or so, and he refused. Now, I would have taken that as loyalty to you, hadn’t he looked so petrified at the idea. When I asked again, he felt the need to be crass, just so I would retire the proposition myself.”
“Don’t look at me like that,” Floréal laughed. “My last suitor had tired of me, I was sad, and, truth to be told, despite the fact he’s terribly ugly, Grantaire can be quite charming, when he doesn’t try so hard. I thought he might be agreeable to something a bit rou -” Floréal waved her hand when she saw that Irma’s face had gone blank again. “Anyway. To be crude, i don’t believe our friend is interested in sex. Not with one of us, neither with a fellow, mind you - i’ve seen him with his very, very good friend Monsieur Lesgles. If he had to be having fun with someone…”
“Oh,” said Irma, quietly. She spared her glance for her bed, complicated feelings arising in her chest - relief and surprise and even a spike of affection, suddenly(“me too, me too, grantaire,”) before shaking her head. “Well,” she stated, “he’s still very much a pain, and now I have nowhere to sleep tonight.”
Floréal grinned, and leaned towards her, reaching to press her fingers gently. Irma did not flush, only thought “this is so much nicer than any kiss of a man”, and when Floréal murmured “I am only two rooms away. We can share my bed, dear.” Irma agreed, perhaps a bit too fast, grateful to have finally found such a close friend as Floréal to fit in her life.