Between Wyn’s advice and a full night of sleep, Linza determined that what she wanted to do was ask the madame for her advice. If the madame advised her to avoid workplace relationships altogether, then Linza would have a plausible excuse to skirt the issue and maintain her friendships with both Grun and Tanyth.
She and the madame met the first day of each weekend in the madame’s office.
The office was part of the madame’s apartment, which occupied the entire top floor of one of the taller buildings on the seaside end of the estate. There was a balcony all the way around it that afforded an incredible view of the ocean.
With all the windowed doors propped open, the ocean air flowed easily through the cozy apartment, bringing the smell of salt and seaweed.
Linza and the madame leaned over the heavy wooden desk and reviewed the estate’s accounting books, which were all scrupulously kept. Linza would be able to contribute eventually, but she still had very much to learn. The kingdom’s tax laws were far more complex than she’d imagined, especially since ‘sexual services’ were taxed differently than ‘regular’ services. The madame had crafted a whole art of determining exactly which services could be classified as ‘regular’ (a lower tax rate) vs ‘sexual’ (a higher tax rate) and Linza was seeing how very clever it was that so many of the estate’s most expensive and sensual experiences were not explicitly ‘sexual’.
Their sessions were right before afternoon tea and the madame usually invited Linza to stay. This was Linza’s favorite part. Without any particular effort, they always got onto some interesting topic and Linza always learned something life-altering.
This time, as they settled down for tea, she said, “Would it be alright if I asked you some advice?”
“Of course,” the madame said, “I daresay that’s an express purpose of our arrangement.”
Right. Why did Linza feel like she was imposing when that was literally the premise of their relationship? The madame probably even liked getting asked for advice. Linza certainly enjoyed it when her own was solicited.
As briefly as she could, Linza explained the situation.
The madame’s eyes glittered knowingly. She said, “Follow the rules.”
Linza bit her lip. She’d been hoping for more, but perhaps this was a test. “Everything given, nothing taken, have fun?”
The madame nodded.
“I thought there might be specific rules about… workplace relationships?”
“No. I’d considered it. But I’ve found over the years that those three rules have always covered everything that’s come up.”
Well that might be because, Linza thought, those rules are sort of vague and far-reaching.
“But, for you, I’ll add one more piece of advice.”
Linza sat up a little straighter. “What’s that?”
“Use your imagination.”