The sound of a cock crowing pulled Claire from her restless slumber. The babe had been kicking furiously all night, keeping her just on the edge of sleep. Pushing herself out of bed, Claire reached for her robe as she walked morosely towards the kitchen.
The house was strangely silent as she meandered through, peeking her head around various doors as if expecting Minnie to just appear, suitcases packed and ready to go.
Two kitchen maids looked on in shock as Claire rounded the corner, hands rubbing delicately along her extended stomach.
“Mistress,” they both mumbled, curtseying as they continued on with their daily duties.
Something wasn’t right, Claire realised.
Finding the breakfast room set only for one, she held her breath, her brows drawing together as she glanced around the empty room.
One steaming mug of tea sat carefully on the ornate mats.
With the sun only just on the rise, Minnie had told Claire to be ready for the off as soon as dawn approached, but with her friend nowhere in sight, an unsettling feeling began to rise beneath Claire’s skin.
Sitting at the table, she poked at the feast in front of her, rolling the meat around her plate as if reorganising it might shed some clarity on the situation.
Something at the back of her mind told her that she was alone here now.
Scraping her chair back against the wooden floor, Claire left the breakfast virtually untouched as she went in search of her shoes.
Rushing out towards the stables, she hoped to find some signs of life somewhere, something to indicate where her partner in crime had scampered off to.
The horses brayed and whinnied as she walked the length of the stalls, poking her head into every box as she searched high and low without much luck. The stable towards the very end of the row, the largest –and the one that *had* housed Minnie’s horse when they had arrived– was empty.
Claire stood for a moment, mouth open and eyes wide, as she glanced into the vacant space.
The straw had been disturbed, vague hoof prints scattered the rough bedding here and there as if the mare had been rushed from her temporary lodgings.
Burying her hands in her skirts, Claire turned and briskly walked from the stables, the bottom of her dress swishing noisily against the ground as she rushed back towards the house.
Minnie was gone.
The servants, at a loss, simply milled around the entrance as Claire stomped back into the property. The head butler wrung his hands nervously as he waited for Claire to say something –but she found she was unable to speak.
“Mistress?” One of the younger girls piped up, her voice tinkling and light as she tried to get Claire’s attention.
With the door now closed behind them, Claire look back and forth between the solid oak frame and the cluster of household staff who had gathered, glancing nervously between their temporary –and heavily pregnant– mistress and back at one another.
“Can we get you something, tea –a bath perhaps?”
Claire shook her head, the shock of her abandonment beginning to wear off.
Just as she was about to answer a loud knock echoed through the noiseless halls, reverberating off the walls and causing the paintings on the closest walls to shake.
“Minnie!” Claire exclaimed, rushing towards the door, her heart picking up pace as she struggled with the doorknob.
Gripping the cool metal, she twisted, the knocking becoming more impassioned with every passing moment.
“Minnie wha-” Claire gasped, the door flying open, its hinges creaking as she took a step back. Watching, Claire viewed the figure with some trepidation as a shadow emerged from the doorway.
Light flickered across the floor, sending rare bolts of gold and illuminating the corridor as the caller revealed themselves, an angry and disappointed look crossing his otherwise soft face.
“Why, Claire?” He asked, a hint of malice in his tone and a glint of betrayal in his eyes, “why did ye do it?” –
Sighing, Jamie nuzzled against Claire, wrapping his bare leg against hers as he pulled her as close as he could get her.
“Ye always ken, lass…” he whispered, his voice fading as he rocked his hips against her arse, “how to make me feel good after a hard week.”
He hadn’t seen her for *two* weeks, but she didn’t mention his long absence, choosing instead to slide her hand along the expanse of the back of his thigh, stopping only to grip his bottom –a lustful grab that held him against her as she twisted her head so she could just about see his sleepy face out of the corner of her eye.
He felt so good, his heat coating her in a cloak of warmth. Basking in the afterglow of their intimate reunion, Claire tried not to think about the line she was skirting. All but forgotten, her mission still niggled at the back of her mind, floating to the forefront only during these quiet moments when she really wished it wouldn’t.
Neither her or Minnie had spoken in any great depth about either of their conquests. In fact it seemed that they were both actively avoiding one another.
Since her first meeting with Jamie, Claire had mostly moved into the brothel, striking a deal with the madam who owned the place and the inn below. Jamie had, unknowingly, struck up a similar deal, paying Madame Baudelaire for the privilege of full time access to Claire.
During this time the pair had grown besotted with one another.
Claire had chosen the path of least resistance. She asked nothing of Jamie other than the company of him in her bed. If he chose to share anything, then she would sit and listen –in silence.
It was unusual, though, for him to open himself up to her.
Today, however, she felt a shift in him. Whether it was the subtle, unconscious change in their relationship –a shift in trust that saw an emotional connection building through their physical one. Instead of the calm that usually surrounded them in the wee hours, Claire sensed a nervous energy in Jamie as he debated internally with himself.
“Murtagh doesna think this wise,” he mumbled, to himself more than to Claire, “maybe I’m foolish…but I dinna care.”
Silence encased them once more as Claire waited for him to pluck up the courage. Acting as though she hadn’t heard his monologue, she slipped her foot between his calves and massaged his skin with her toes. Feeling the prickly hairs that lined his ankles, Claire smiled as she felt his heart pick up pace, the steady beat of it vibrating through her back where his chest lay softly against her.
“I thought dealing wi’ royalty would be hard, aye…” he began, not fully explaining himself before continuing, not waiting for Claire to ask for clarity, “but it’s truly testing my patience.”
Cursing in Gaelic, he took a deep breath and pulled himself from the small cot. Pacing in front of her, he ruffled his hair, turning away so that his hunched back faced Claire.
Pulling the sheet up, Claire covered her breasts and pushed herself up on her elbow.
“I’m a man of my word, ken. But Charles is skirting a line I dinna ken if I can cross.”
“Come back to bed, Jamie.” Claire pleaded, half hoping that he would ignore her request and continue. Finally he was opening himself up to her, giving the information that she was *supposed* to be collecting.
“He’s a fool, Claire. And he’s making a fool o’ us.”
“I’m sae sorry, yer right.” he sighed, his shoulders drooping as he turned back, his mouth downcast. “I dinna know what I was thinking, talking to a hoor…”
Claire’s heart plummeted. Her cheeks flooding with colour as his words hit her square in the chest. Tearing herself from the bed, she pulled her robe from the chair and curled herself into the small seat, holding her knees to her chest as she desperately tried to hold back her tears.
That’s what she was to him. That was *all* she was, she realised.
“Claire,” Jamie began, his anguished haze fading as he noticed the moisture flooding Claire’s eyes. He watched as she closed herself off from him, folding herself inwards as she tried to shrink away. “I shouldna–”
“No,” she interjected, her tone harsh, “you’re right. You shouldn’t tell me anything, Mr Fraser. This is a business arrangement after all, and I *am* a prostitute.”
Twisting her head away, Claire moved so that she could no longer see Jamie, her ribs cracking –metaphorically– under the pressure of the truth he’d so callously leveled at her. In her head she knew that she wasn’t a whore, but the vocalisation of the position which she’d put herself in suddenly made her feel incredibly filthy. The dirt clung to her skin, making Claire feel as though she hadn’t washed in weeks.
Jamie, his mind in just as many pieces as Claire’s, moved silently behind her. Reaching his fingers out to twist in a loose lock of her hair as he tried to bridge the gap he’d forced between them.
“Mo nighean donn…” he whispered, his voice wavering as he caught a glimpse of Claire’s damp cheeks.
“W-what does that mean?” Claire returned, sadness lacing her tone as she tried to hold herself together.
“My brown haired lass.”
His translation soothed her aching wounds, extinguishing the flames that licked at her battered soul. “Brown? A dull colour, I’ve always thought.”
“Nah,” Jamie replied, spurred on by her responsiveness. Growing more confident, he moved his fingers down her neck, sweeping them gently over her skin. “No’ dull at all. It’s like the water in a burn, the way it ruffles down the rocks…”
“You don’t need to sweet-talk me, Jamie,” Claire breathed, the air catching in her throat as she turned to face him once more, “we both know what this is. What it is between you and I.”
“Nay, Claire. I shouldna have disrespected you so.”
Gathering her clothes from the floor, Jamie turned the chair around, using all of his strength to get her to face him.
Her eyes were rimmed pink, her nose tinted red from where she’d been crying. His heart shattered as he carefully dressed her.
Claire sat and let him do as he pleased, her chest hollow as she focused on his large hands against her. He was so gentle with her, his fingers brushed so finely against her as he tied the laces of her corset.
She didn’t even question him as he slid his hands under her knees and cradled her against his chest.
They left the brothel in silence, Claire’s head laid against Jamie’s collarbone. For now she just wanted to lose herself in him, so much so that she didn’t even ask where he was taking her –she simply let him take her.
It was only as the carriage he’d placed her in took a particularly hard corner, her head bobbing harshly against the velvet headrest, that she came round enough to realise that they were no longer in her quarters.
“Where are you taking me?” She finally asked, her tone showing only a slight interest.
“To my home, Claire.” Jamie replied, his lips twitching into an almost smile as the horse came to a stop outside a particularly elegant property in one of the nicer areas of Paris.
“Do you like it?” Jamie perked up, seeing a look of wonder cross Claire’s face.
“It’s very –regal, Jamie.” She replied, energy coursing through her veins once more. “Are you sure you want me here?”
Scoffing, Jamie took her by the hand, leading her carefully from the small carriage and escorting her to the ornate front door. “Dinna be soft, Claire. O’ course I want ye here. You dinna ken how much I’ve wanted to see you in my home…in my bed.” He whispered the last one into her ear as he nipped at her lobe.
Wrapping his arm around her waist, Jamie led her through the long dining room and up the spiral staircase, pointing out rooms as they went.
“Do ye like it?” He asked, a coy smiling gracing his face as his eyes twinkled.
He genuinely cared what she thought. It tugged at her, nudging the small voice that was warning her not to get too close to him.
Too late, a larger part of her sighed, internally. Far too late.
“It’s beautiful, Jamie.”
Opening the door at the top of the stairs, Jamie pushed his way inside, standing almost on his tiptoes as he watched Claire’s eye widen.
His bed was huge.
A four-poster with such finely carved details and neatly hung lace.
“Oh…my…” Claire whispered, her jaw hanging open as Jamie slid himself closer, his hands exploring the exposed skin of her chest as he fingered the laces he’d tied only minutes before.
“Ye belong here, Claire. Wi’ me.” He said, his voice high as he tried to control his raging emotions.
Flattening his palm over the arch of her bosom, Jamie rolling his hand down her chest, along her belly and down until it rested just over her pelvis.
Cupping his hand over the ruffles in her skirts he ran his nose through her hair line until his lips came to rest against her ear.
“I’ve tried to reason wi’ yer mistress, Claire,” he began, an air of wishful thinking flowing through the air as he spoke, “but she isna having any of it. Ye ken, now, that I would do anything –pay any price– to have ye wi’ me always. I dinna care about Charlie or the rebellion, no’ anymore. But she willna budge.”
Claire stayed quiet, nerves fluttering in her tummy, knowing full well that his mission to acquire her freedom was a fool’s errand.
Scrunching up the material of her skirt, Jamie closed his eyes and sighed.
“…If I get ye wi’ child, Claire…” he continued, his heart racing in time with hers, “she’ll have no choice but to let ye come to me.”
Claire’s breathing almost stopped as the words swilled around her head. Counting backwards, she tried to recall her last courses. Her last meal sat heavy in her stomach, the feel of it suddenly unwelcome as the realisation dawned on her.
She was *never* late. She never missed a month in all the time she’d been a woman. But now, it must have been one –if not two months with no monthly courses.
“Dinna fash, Claire,” Jamie sighed, falsely assuming Claire’s tense mood was in relation to a confrontation with Mistress Baudelaire over ownership rights, “I’ll make sure yer safe, I promise ye.”
Swallowing back the bile that had made its way along her aesophogos, Claire allowed Jamie to lay her against the soft sheets, her eyes glassy and her knees shaking as he steadily undressed her once more, baring every inch of her pale skin to him as he placed one hand either side of her head and lay over her.
Nose to nose, he reached down to undo his kilt, pulling it over their heads to shield them from the bright candlelight of the master bedroom.
“Ye will be mine, Claire. I’m certain of it…” he whispered, sheathing himself inside her in one smooth movement, bringing to life Claire’s once numb body as their hips met.
Hers, flat –for now– shuddered as she felt the familiar pulse of lust as it emanated from the centre of her outwards. She barely remained lucid as the undercurrent of their connection held her staunchly to the earth as –for the first time– he made love to her.
The delicate sweep of his hips lulled her into a sort of hazy, passionate slumber as she closed her eyes and let the feelings of desire and longing course through her body. Set ablaze by Jamie’s body, Claire cried out as an immense tingling sensation took root. The muscles of her thighs clenched and loosened, her heart stuttering in her chest as her hands –balled into fists at his back– held him so close to her chest.
Jamie panted through it, dazed and confused as similar sensations shot through him. Lying together, he collected Claire against him as he fell onto his side, clasping his hand into the loose damp curls at the nape of her neck.
Letting her guard down for the moment, Claire fell into an easy slumber, the soft rise and fall of Jamie’s chest rocking her to sleep.
Maneuvering his hand, Jamie laid his full palm over the incline of Claire’s arse, cupping her lightly as he joined her in unconsciousness. His soft puffs of breath fluttered against her cheek, making her lips twitching into a smile as she slept, comforted –unconsciously– by his physical presence.
“I love ye, Claire,” Jamie sighed, his heart full as he whispered into the darkness, “I canna tell ye whilst ye wake –our situation being as it is– but I do, sae much.”
As the last candle fluttered and burnt out, completely encasing the lovers in darkness, Claire twitched, her toes curling as she burrowed closer to Jamie.
Unbeknownst to him, she had heard every word.
“I love ye so much, Claire. So much I can barely breathe….”
She waited until the wee hours to make her move, slipping free of his arms as she gathered her clothes and dressed silently.
Holding her cloak tightly around her shoulders, her fingers shaking with the pressure that had built up across her chest, she turned to look at him one last time.
Tears stained her cheeks as she bit her lip, anguish coating her tongue as she whispered almost inaudibly into the large room.
Amélie had to remind herself when she traveled to not compare the places she visited with Paris. it wouldn’t be fair, otherwise.
Getting lost for the umpteenth time in the tangled streets of London, she was feeling less than charitable. Paris had gotten their act together and rebuilt the city into an orderly grid. One wrong turn in London and Amélie was hopelessly lost in narrow,
winding streets. Even following directions on her phone felt like going deeper into the labyrinth.
She wasn’t exactly sure when the road had transitioned from asphalt to cobblestone. The buildings pressed claustrophobically close like an ambitious alleyway. It was scarcely wide enough for anything larger than a compact to drive through. Honestly, this whole city was positively medieval.
Somehow in a city of millions she’d found herself alone. Her heels clicked rhythmically on old, crooked stone, echoing down the quiet street. The phone insisted a route forward-
Amélie saw the time and swore. She quickened her pace as fast as her designer shoes would allow, going past full rubbish bins waiting for pickup.
On one wall, next to an outdated advertisement, a signature drawn from sharp lines in garish orange, trails sliding down where the paint had dripped.
‘TRACER’ the masterpiece proclaimed.
Amélie snorted. Even the graffiti was better in Paris.
There’s a lot of symbolism in this piece for me. First, I’ve always envisioned Dionysos with dark curls, the kind that looks more like a tangled mess than actual curls–those curls that could come from having left your hair in a bun for the past two days and are more a show of how you didn’t have time to ‘fix your hair’ than anything else.
Next, I chose to portray Dionysos with makeup and painted nails. For me, he defies standards and conventions, taking what he likes from any given role, and discarding the rest. The make up is a type of theater mask, distracting people from his true strength with his like of pretty things.
The necklace and earrings he wears are modeled after a set from ancient India. It’s representative of his travels, and also has a flower motif. The flowers on the jewelry are a reference to his title “Dionysos of Flowers.”
The purple chiton is because purple is a color closely associated with him. The leopard fur is because leopards are considered sacred to Dionysos. Though I feel like I fucked up the spots and they look for jaguar-ish.
Finally, he’s framed with grape clusters and leaves, since he is God of the Vine. I also have drawn him getting ready to eat a single grape, and I’ve tried to make the gesture reminiscent of drinking from a glass of wine.
Overall, I’m VERY happy with how this turned out, and I can’t wait to mat and frame it.
“Hey guys, Phil here. Today’s the day we get her and Dan is freaking out. He’s been up since 3am arranging and rearranging her room, to make sure it’s absolutely perfect. I mean, I knew he was a perfectionist, but I didn’t know that he’d have enough dedication to get up at 3am…”
“I can hear you, you know!” Dan shouts. Phil follows Dan’s voice to the open door through which a frantic Dan can be seen, red in the face, rushing around. “It needs to be perfect for her! I refuse to let our child sleep in a non-aesthetic bedroom!”
Phil shows the room to the camera. The walls are painted a soft pastel pink and adorned with animal paintings in small, artistically placed, picture frames and clusters of decorative butterflies. Above the cosy silver crib with soft toys pouring out of it, are matching silver letters, spelling out the name Delilah. Next to the crib lies a very adult looking cream-white sofa, and a yellow dresser topped with cute little trinkets and bunnies made of china.
“I’d like to say that decorating the room was a joint effort, but really, it was all Dan. He may or may not have refused to let me help. Oh well!” Phil says lightheartedly, then laughs. “I still can’t believe that today’s the day!”
“Me neeiitheeerrrrrr!” Dan rushes up to Phil and embraces him, squeezing him tightly.
Phil turns to the camera and says “We’ll see you there!”
Phil is talking in a hushed voice. “Ok, so we just got here, and Dan’s filling out all the last minute paperwork. When he’s done, we’ll finally be able to take her home! I can’t believe it!”
A baby wrapped in blankets is lowered into Dan’s shaking arms. He tears up. He wraps his arms around the bundle and brings it close to his chest. Pride, joy and an overwhelming need to protect the little girl in his arms seem to fill him up. He rocks the bundle gently, stroking her head and whispering inaudibly to her. She giggles, and Dan practically melts. Tears fall down his cheeks and drip onto the baby’s forehead. “I love you” he whispers.
“We’re home! With her!” The fathers walk through the door of their daughter’s bedroom.
“Shhh. She’s sleeping,” Dan scorns, then softens his gaze as he returns it to his newly adopted daughter who is lying in a baby basket.
“Oops sorry.” Phil continues in a hushed voice. “We are now spending most of our time in this room. I guess it’s good that Dan decorated it so aesthetically. Can I hold her now?”
“No!” Dan whisper-shouts.
Delilah is sleeping in the crib, squished within the stuffed animals, and both Dan and Phil sit on the couch next to the crib, Dan in the position closer to the crib.
“We’re fathers now. How do you feel.”
“Because we’ll try to be the best parents we can be, but what if that’s not good enough?’ He looks at Delilah sleeping peacefully in her crib. “What if she grows up to hate us? What if-”
Phil grabs Dan’s shoulder. “Listen to me Dan. Being a good parent means providing safety, unconditional love, and unwavering loyalty. You’ve already ticked all those boxes. You will be the greatest dad like no one ever was.”
Dan slowly turns his head away from his daughter and towards Phil. “Did you just…?” Phil nods and smirks. Dan pulls him into a long, lingering hug. “Thank you. But it won’t just be me. We’re in this together. You and I. We’ll be the best dads she could ever want.” Phil smiles.
“Yes, we will” Phil turns to the camera and waves. “Bye!”
Reordering Video Frames based on Audio Frequency Spectrum Similarity
Experiment by @mario-klingemann processes short video scene and rearranges frames in order of an audio spectrum, often placing very similar short sounds together one after the other - very surreal and possibly epilepsy-inducing:
The audio frequency spectrum of a video’s frames are clustered by their
similariy using a t-sne embedding, Then the new order of frames is
calculated using a nearest-neighbor traversal so frames that sound
similar are following each other.
Another experiment takes a music video and orders the parts of similar sounds by their pitch, using ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’:
After calculating a Constant-Q chromagram with librosa the frames of the clip are regrouped by their pitch classes.