Sarah sat sipping tea at the coffee shop. The other mages rarely left the house for mundane reasons, but she found it relaxing to escape now and then. Taking care of the house and keeping up with her own research didn’t leave a lot of time for much else. Ever since Thomas had approached her with the idea of setting up a house, and then asking her to run the operations, this had become her life. She didn’t mind too much, but she jealously guarded the times she could get away.
“There is so much magic coming off you, I’m surprised you haven’t attracted every mage within five miles.”
Sarah looked up to see a familiar face standing next to the table. It was a tall woman in a long, grey coat. Her hair was cut short, and she wore dark glasses, but Sarah would have recognized her no matter what. She and Madeline had studied under the same teacher, though Madeline was a bit younger.
“I’m not giving off any aura; the disguise is passive. Even you shouldn’t be able to recognize me.”
Without waiting for an invitation, Madeline sat down across from her. “You know better than that. Finding things is what I do.”
Sarah ignored the smile on Madeline’s face. “So you were looking for me?”
“Oh, no. I just noticed you as I was walking by. There was a large blank space that drew my curiosity. And here you are.”
“So just coincidence.”
“Believe me or not. I just wanted to say hi.” Madeline began to pout.
It was almost certainly a ploy, but Sarah softened in spite of herself. “I’m sorry. Just a bit on guard. Always expecting people to want something.” Maybe Julia was rubbing off on her.
“Is that place running you down so much? You should really come join my house. We hire people to manage things.”
“That’s kind of you to offer, Madeline, but I have no plans to leave. We have magical servants to handle the menial stuff. I just oversee things. Thomas’s offer to you is still open, though.”
Madeline laughed. “Thomas never wanted me in that house. It was really just to humor you.”
“That’s not true.”
“It is. I can tell. I don’t know why you stay. You are respected enough that any house would take you. Or you could even start your own. Why put up with Thomas?”
“I helped establish this house. Doesn’t feel right to leave.”
“Your friend Matthew left.”
“That was a different situation.”
“Have you spoken with the Mistress lately? She’s asked after you.”
“No, I haven’t. I take it you have. How is she?”
“She’s fine. Worried that you haven’t given up on Thomas, yet.”
“No, she isn’t. Besides, I’m not staying because of Thomas. I have my own purposes.”
Madeline studied her for a moment. “You’re still an odd one.”
“No reason to change.”
“I suppose not. Still, if you ever find such a reason, I’m willing to lend a hand.”
“That’s… thoughtful of you.”
“You sure I can’t persuade you to join my house? We really could use your skills.”
“Could I convince you to join mine?”
“Not a chance. I couldn’t stand Thomas.”
“There you go. We’ve each found our place. Still, I appreciate your offer.”
“Alright. I’ll tell the Mistress you are well?”
“Yes, Madeline. Thank you.”
“Sure. Take care of yourself.”