• Dormaline Little hated the idea of anyone pitying her. The idea of such a harsh feeling thrust upon her by someone made her stomach feel queer, and her jaw lock up and her teeth grit together as if someone had jabbed at her stomach with their fist. Yet the man in the seat across from her, a man with slick blond hair and the look of being less than a decade older than her, still unsettled her. Her lawyer Chester Smith, who was escorting the young lady to the only relative of hers that would take her in, was smiling at her. He hadn't stopped since they had gotten on the train to Waverton, or since he had picked her up from her governess’s care on the air ships’ docks, to ride with her alone in a horse carriage to the station. Dormaline hadn't expected anyone to smile at her, especially when they knew perfectly well that only a few days ago her parents had burned alive in front of her eyes.
    He seemed to constantly have a large smile across his face, nearly reaching ear-to-ear. And he was always watching her- the girl of eighteen found it to be extremely disconcerting. She had ignored it this whole time by reading, but now she had finished all the books she had brought with her for the four day expedition and had run out of things to do than look out the window. This absurdity, she decided, was too irritating to bear for much longer. She turned from the glass and looked him straight in the face with an accusing glower. To her dismay, that only made his smile grow into a wide grin of brilliantly white and perfect teeth.
    Dormaline frowned at him. "You look like a cheese mould," she snapped.
    She had meant this sudden comment to change his facial expression, but it only caused him to c**k his head a little to the side in response. If he had been surprised by her first remark to him since their meeting in the carriage, his face didn't show it.
    When he didn't respond to her, Dormaline huffed, embarrassed.. "Well," she quickly said after the long pause between them. "I mean, I've read...that in this certain county, they sell this cheese that’s moulded into the shape of a grinning cat, and…”
    She looked up at the man. His topaz eyes were slightly almond shaped, and were as sharp and chilling as his unwavering grin. He blinked at her, not saying anything. “Um…never mind.” Dormaline looked from him down to her clasped hands in her lap, her cheeks hot.
    The passenger cars of the locomotive shook and shuddered from the rails under them, as the thundering black beast that pulled them along spewed smoke from its chimney and charged through mountains and across the chasms of rivers, canyons, and steep valleys. Dormaline looked up from her hands to watch the landscape slowly turn from the gently rolling hills of pine and oak woods near the coast into the more mountainous region around the tiny nation’s capital. The world was picturesque in the twilight sun, as if time had stopped in the forest and meadows the train tracks cut through. She watched them blur by and resigned herself to her own thoughts, which consisted of her trying not to think too much.
    Gradually, the scenery began to shift from a wild rural blend of forests and fields, and into a more urban collection of concrete, steel, and human sweat. Signs of mass human activity made their appearance with the smoke and ash of industry, the monuments of populated persons crawling over each other that rose from the filth of the streets to encroach upon each other in the air, and the fog from the Thames river that hovered over the city and turned all into a dreary grey. It was all a complete contrast to her home in New India, which had been nestled in a town filled with agriculture and tan natives congested in dirt streets under the golden sun of the East. Dormaline would have grimaced at having to live in such a dismal place as Waverton with relatives she had barely known, but she found it hard to find the will to care. Still, she gave the city a disapproving stare, and sighed a little. Chester Smith noticed her depressed mood, but didn’t do anything to cheer her. He just watched her and once or twice glanced out the window.
    A train station of steel appeared around a bend in the tracks. The locomotive slowed and was swallowed by the long dome of glass and iron. Chester Smith took his eyes off the orphan girl and helped her get the two suitcases she had brought with her together from under her seat and over her head. When the train finally slid to a stop and sighed steam, the lawyer took both suitcases and said to her with that grin of his, “Come along, Miss Little.”
    Dormaline blinked. His voice was soft and deep, like the purr of a cat. She found herself not surprised in the least.