Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Reveal Everything Mysterious"

This poem came out of the May 2015 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] lynnoconnacht. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. This poem belongs to the Cuoio and Chiara thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Reveal Everything Mysterious"

Cuoio and Chiara had established that they
liked each other and had compatible interests,
so his mentor Ruggiero invited them along
on a double date for dancing and dinner
with Ruggiero and his comare Olympia.

It would give Cuoio a chance to see how
a more experienced gentleman treated
his comare, and how Chiara felt about
Olympia's particular arrangements.

There were so many family traditions
to learn, and the awareness that he
would need to define the details for
his own household, that Cuoio would
have felt completely overwhelmed
without their guidance.

The four of them went to a Family place
that offered a ballroom alongside a restaurant,
fancier than Cuoio was accustomed to but
nowhere near as far as they could have gone.

The two men wore suits, in Cuoio's case
the nicest one he had, though he suspected
that it wasn't quite up to snuff.

Olympia wore a dress of scarlet silk
that clung to her lush body from
her left shoulder to just below her knees,
leaving the right shoulder bare
and showing off her beautiful tattoos.
From her left shoulder, three ropes
of white rhinestones draped down
her back to hold the front in place.

Chiara wore her new black dress,
and might have looked underdressed
next to Olympia's shining glory, except that
she had absconded with Cuoio's best scarf,
a length of cardinal silk swirled with blue and gold
paisley on one side and dotted with tiny medallions
on the reverse, now fluttering over her shoulders.

She had also produced a pair of
flat red dress sandals from her closet,
whose thin straps somehow echoed
the swirling design of the scarf and
made it look like she had bought
the whole outfit together.

Cuoio wondered how she had
managed that, and whether
she could teach him to do it too.

When they met on the steps,
the men shook hands first, with
Cuoio tilting his palm up in deference
as Ruggiero covered it to show protection
and then brought his left under for support,
the handshake holding a hidden warmth that
did not show on Ruggiero's quiet face.

Olympia held out a dainty hand,
inviting Cuoio to greet her.

Cuoio put his fingertips under hers
and kissed the air above her hand.
That close to her skin, he could smell her,
thick and sweet like a tropical rainforest,
floral notes underlain by something earthier,
so heady that it almost made him dizzy.

Olympia smirked at him just a little
as she took her hand back, and then
a clean fresh not-quite-smell swept away
the lingering fragrance like rain
washing dust from the air.

Belatedly Cuoio remembered that
her superpower was some kind of
scent thing; Ruggiero had mentioned it
back at the beginning to make sure that
Cuoio didn't have any issues with it which
would complicate their mentoring arrangement.

He hadn't, but neither had he known
what it really meant. Olympia was
a lot more powerful than she looked.
Cuoio gave her a little nod of respect,
and her smirk softened into a real smile.

She'd been testing him, then, just a bit,
and apparently he had passed. Thank God.
Cuoio shuddered to think what that woman
could do to him if he pissed her off.

Ruggiero initiated the greeting with Chiara,
but he did it with a subtle tilt of head and
twist of wrist that invited her to choose
the form, because as Ruggiero had
carefully explained to Cuoio, it was
rude to grab a comare -- and risky.

Chiara offered him the top of her hand,
just as Olympia had done with Cuoio,
and Ruggiero performed his moves with
a solid grace that Cuoio frankly envied.

Finally Olympia took Chiara by the shoulders
and they kissed each other's cheeks,
warmer and less formal than the men.

"Shall we go inside now?" Ruggiero suggested
with a tip of his elbow to Olympia, who tucked
her hand over his arm with familiar skill.
Cuoio echoed the gesture, so that he and
Chiara fell into step behind them.

The ballroom was bright and open,
with a scatter of couples dancing already,
none of the women in dresses below their calves
so it wasn't the kind of evening-formal occasion
that would make Cuoio doubt his skills; he was
a perfectly capable dancer for everyday uses.

In one corner, a circular platform covered
in white carpet held a gorgeous organ
played by a woman with four arms.
The music was so light and joyful
that it made Cuoio laugh, and
then glance at his mentor.

But Ruggiero was smiling widely,
more than the reserved curl of lips
that he usually gave, and the women
shared a throaty little chuckle.

"Does she ... is she an empath, too?"
Cuoio wondered, watching the musician play.
She was so far out of his league that
all he could do was admire her.

"No, and if you ask her, she'll correct you,"
Ruggiero said. "Alegra is very proud of
the fact that she can do that with pure skill."

Cuoio patted his pocket after his wallet.
"Wait a minute, I want to ..." Then he sighed.
"I have no idea how much to tip someone
in a fancy place like this. It's all so new."

"Watch me," Ruggiero murmured.
He slipped his wallet out of his pocket,
palmed a bill, and replaced the wallet
all in one smooth, practiced movement.
"When you leave a tip, always fold the bill
so that the numbers don't show." A few
deft motions transformed the paper from
a rectangle to a row of three diamonds.

Cuoio had pulled out a matching bill,
but quickly lost track of the folds.
"Ah, sir, how do I ...?" he said.

"The Family has a pamphlet showing
a variety of different shapes, or I could
teach you, if you like," Ruggiero said.

"Teach me, please," said Cuoio.

Ruggiero laid his huge hands over
Cuoio's smaller ones to demonstrate
how to create the diamond pattern,
describing first the steps and then
how to gauge the caliber of location
and thus estimate a proper tip.

Then Ruggiero reached out and
deftly flicked his contribution into
the frosted glass bowl that stood on
a pedestal at the edge of the platform.

Alegra smiled and nodded at them,
her four hands agile on the keys.

Cuoio added his own tip, then
turned to see that the two comares
had put their heads together.

"What are they talking about?"
he wondered, looking at his mentor.
"Do you think it might be us?"

"We don't want to know," Ruggiero said,
draping an arm over Cuoio to pat his shoulder.
"Trust me: if you want to stay sane, never ask
what women are talking about, or worse,
laughing about. But to ease your concerns,
a comare will never share anything that could
hurt or embarrass her boss, and if they need
to discuss us then they'll do so in private
to spare our delicate male egos."

Cuoio thought about that for a moment,
and decided that Ruggiero was right.
"I'm glad they're happy together, though."

Ruggiero nodded. "As long as the ladies
are having a good time, we're doing
our job right," he agreed.

He led the way back to the women,
and then onto the dance floor.
Olympia twirled around her boss
like an autumn leaf circling a tree trunk.

Cuoio listened to the music with one ear,
and to Chiara with the other, the rhythm of
her breath and the soft tap of her flat shoes
on the dance floor, good ones that she
wouldn't wobble in and could keep pace.

She had a nice strong frame that kept
their contact at just the right tension,
moving a languid fraction of a second
after him instead of trying to anticipate
what he wanted her to do.

So he floated her along with the music,
swift and buoyant, her powerful body
bending willingly along his arm as she
followed his every signal, each motion
conveying her delight in his confidence.

Cuoio loved how dancing could
reveal everything mysterious
about a woman, and yet leave
enigmas still to be discovered.

Over her shoulder he could see
Ruggiero picking up Olympia,
skimming her just above the floor,
and then setting her back down
with perfect delicacy.

"Just look at them," Cuoio said,
turning in place to give Chiara
the same view he'd just had.
"They look so beautiful together."

"Would you like to try that sometime?"
Chiara murmured into his ear.
"I am strong enough to do lifts,
if you would be willing to follow me."

"Men do that?" Cuoio said.
"I've only ever taken the lead
in dancing; I don't know
the followship skills."

"If they have the balls for it,"
Chiara said with a chuckle.
"Not everyone is quite that
secure in his masculinity."

Cuoio thought about it,
how much fun it would be
to learn a new dance style,
how exciting to have Chiara's
strong slim hands wrap around
his waist to show that he had found
a woman who could break him in half
if she wanted ... and didn't want.

"Please, please let me practice that
in private first," he said to her.

"Of course," Chiara said. "I'll see
about finding us an instructor.
I've done it a few times in training,
but I've never had a boss before
who'd trust me that much."

"They're all mad," Cuoio said.

"No, just short-term contracts,"
she said. "None of us wanted
anything longer than a year. This is
the first time I've gone looking for
a longer-term arrangement."

Cuoio felt deeply grateful that
Ruggiero had offered to guide him
through the process of picking a team and
learning how to handle the various roles,
including a comare which Cuoio
had never had before.

They danced, and the music
was a joy, and Chiara was a treasure,
and Cuoio began to feel like he might
find a place in her world after all, instead of
always feeling that he was running along behind
and wondering what these people saw in him.

At last Ruggiero caught Cuoio's eye and
tipped his head toward the door that led to
the dining area. Cuoio leaned into Chiara's hand,
pivoted neatly on his back foot, and turned them
around so that when the current song ended,
they faced in the right direction to walk out.

A waiter led them to a table, where the ladies
promptly entered into some detailed debate
about the merits of dishes that Cuoio
didn't even know all the names of.

He looked at Ruggiero for guidance,
only to have the older man shrug and say,
"I'm a strongman. I have my favorites, but
I'm not picky. So long as the food is decent and
high in calories, I eat what's put in front of me."

"Oh, just get a platter of something," said Olympia.
"Look, they have an antipasto tower."

"Ah. That will do very well for a start,"
said Ruggiero, lifting a hand to retrieve their waiter.

The tower, when it came, was so tall that Cuoio
could barely see over it to his hosts, heaped
with grilled and fried bits of seafood
along with various vegetables.

"Whatever anyone else wants,
you better get some before Ruggiero
and I forget our manners," Chiara said.
"All that dancing's made us hungry."

Cuoio looked at the two of them
shoveling food onto their plates
and hastily grabbed a fork before
all the shrimp scampi disappeared.

He was learning to navigate the flow
from formal to less formal moments,
picking up the family traditions of people
who made him want to belong, no matter
how hard he had to work at it.

With the edge taken off his appetite,
Ruggiero showed more interest in picking out
the dinner wine, followed by a Sicilian lasagna loaf.

Since Cuoio had gotten his fill of seafood,
he followed his mentor's lead, and
the lasagna was absolutely worth it.

As the eating slowed down,
the conversation revived.
"So how are you two doing?"
Ruggiero asked.

"He's a darling," Chiara said
with a fond smile. "Cuoio did well
at the dress store. He doesn't always
know exactly what he's doing, but he
never hesitates to read the instructions."

"Now there's a precious skill,"
Ruggiero said seriously.

The etiquette of gifts could be complex
and confusing, so of course Cuoio wanted
to get it right. He was just trying to avoid the kind
of dumb mistakes he'd seen some of his men
make, overreaching what they knew.

"Chiara offered to find us
a dance instructor," he said.
"She's willing to take the lead,
and strong enough to lift me."

"And that appeals to you?"
Ruggiero said, eyebrows rising.

"It really does," Cuoio said thoughtfully.
"I like the idea of not having to be
the boss every last minute."

"Wise man," Ruggiero said.

The two comares were having
some intricate conversation comprised
entirely of facial expressions that Cuoio
could not follow, so he gave up trying
and just hoped that he hadn't gotten
himself in over his head somehow.

"Still serious?" Olympia asked him.
"You seem to suit each other."

"Yes, once I get my feet under me,"
Cuoio said. He sighed. "I guess
I thought that my financial problems
would just ... magically disappear
when I got more money, but
it's not that simple."

The fellow who had recruited him had
implied that the Family could fix that for him,
which was true, but then the man of business
had said it would do Cuoio more good to work
through that process himself, step by step, with
a capable guide instead of having it handwaved away.

That required a certain amount of talking with banks
and other moneylenders to straighten out the tangle
left over from trying to stretch not nearly enough
to take care of his aging parents before they passed.

Cuoio had admitted it was sound advice,
and he followed it, but that didn't mean
that he had to like it any.

"You're a thoughtful man, and not afraid
to accept help when you need it,"
Ruggiero said. "You'll learn how to
sort out what's left of your old life,
and adapt to the new one."

Just hearing his mentor say that
helped Cuoio feel better, like
a steady hand at his back.

"You said ... there were contracts,
for this sort of thing," Cuoio said,
looking at Chiara and then
back at Ruggiero.

"Comare is a profession,
highly trained, highly respected,
and therefore highly paid," Ruggiero said.
"It's early for you to offer a contract, but
you can certainly start exploring options."

Cuoio turned to Chiara. "You mentioned
short-term and long-term contracts."

She nodded. "Most of us start out with
the shorter ones to find out what we like
and what we do well, but in the end, we're
looking for the same kind of security that
the bosses are -- a stable social arrangement
with a more professional understanding than
what a marriage typically provides," said Chiara.

"Such as ...?" Cuoio said, curious.

"I'll always support you when you have to dive
out of bed at four in the morning, when a two-day trip
turns into ten and you come home with a bullet wound,"
Chiara explained, "and in return, you recognize that
planning a dinner for twenty or reminding you
about social connections are vital skills."

"It sounds good to me," Cuoio said.
When he was just muscle, it had been easier,
but he liked the challenge of being a boss, so
being able to delegate tasks appealed to him.
"What kind of things go in the contract?"

He knew what didn't, because Ruggiero
had explained that sex was neither guaranteed
nor could it be demanded by either party,
although in practice the vast majority
of such liaisons did include sex.

"Housing, for instance," Chiara said.

Cuoio shrugged. "I'm not choosy.
I have a little cottage at a Family resort."

"Which is fine for just you, but tighter for
you and a comare and a bodyguard,"
Ruggiero pointed out.

Cuoio winced, the sudden stab
of memory making him crumple
around the aching gap in his life
where Galterio had been.

Under the table, Chiara's hand
closed over his knee, warm and gentle.
It helped Cuoio get his breath back, a little.

"Or other picked men, if you're not ready
for more than an impersonal bodyguard yet,"
Ruggiero finished. "How much have you told her?"

"No details yet, just that I've lost some people
and need not to lose anyone else," Cuoio said.

"And that is another reason why we have comares,"
said Ruggiero. "It is not just that our work makes it
difficult to find and maintain conventional relationships.
It's that we need someone who understands what we do,
who belongs to the Family and won't spy on us, who is
too formidable to be taken easily and used against us."

Olympia had a spark in her eye, like steel on flint,
that made Cuoio lean back in his chair. "For us,"
said the senior comare, "it is a love of danger
alongside security, and a refusal to be anyone's
helpless screaming girlfriend if trouble comes."

"Hence the salary," Chiara said. "Our skills
take time to train and develop, but also time
to maintain, just like you have a schedule
for working out and a budget for supplies.
That way I can buy things for your comfort,
or for myself, so it's not all on you."

Cuoio liked the sound of that,
an exchange of care. "How do you
know what I like?" he asked.

Chiara stretched, languid and beautiful.
"The same as you know what I like --
we talk about it -- plus what my training
tells me, when I look at you and see
what you need that you're not getting,
that it's my job to provide," she said.

Cuoio had seen comares before,
but he was beginning to realize that
a great deal more lay beneath the surface
that he had never even imagined.

"Well, that makes sense," Cuoio said.
"So if it's a contract, there must be ...
things like beginnings and endings,
individual and household budgets,
personal and shared space and such."

"Either party may offer a contract, although
in practice, it's usually the boss who does
the asking," said Olympia. Her expression
darkened. "Either can also walk away, and
while an amicable parting is no hardship,
a bad breakup can do enough damage to
the faulty party's reputation to make it hard
to find another arrangement in the future."

Ruggiero covered her hand with his, and
she turned to lace their fingers together.
There was something between them,
old and deep, that Cuoio recognized
as absolutely none of his business.

"If we're talking about a contract,
about living together, what would you
need to do your job?" Cuoio asked Chiara.

She smiled at him. "It depends on your
responsibilities," she said. "At first, we can
just keep your cottage, but as you choose a team,
we'll need more space -- an office or den for meetings,
a kitchen and dining room for entertaining and feeding
people some of whom probably have high metabolisms,
and you're a fighter boss so either a Family resort
with workout space or a private home with same."

Clearly Chiara knew more about this than
Cuoio did. "Maybe we could start small
and grow with the team?" he said. "I'm not
attached to having my own residence.
If we keep to Family properties, we can
just move to a bigger one when we need it."

"Chiara? Does that work for you, or do you
want to plant roots?" Olympia asked.

Chiara looked at Cuoio. "My home has
never been a place. It's people."

"Yes. That." Cuoio's voice roughened.

They weren't a couple yet, but there
was something growing between them,
slow and strong like ivy climbing a wall.

"It sounds like you're on the same page,"
Ruggiero said. "Keep talking about what
you hope to gain from a partnership,
and what practical concerns you have.
There are sample contracts to review."

"Yes, please," Cuoio said. It was always
easier when he had something
to use as a starting point.

Ruggiero had promised to reveal
everything mysterious about keeping
a comare in good comfort and managing
a team of fighters, and Cuoio trusted him
in a way that felt different from his old Family
even though he couldn't pin it down yet.

Maybe it was just that they let him
take things at his own pace, without
pushing him, and gave him time to learn.

"Then I think that's enough for now,"
Ruggiero said. "Who else wants dessert?"

Cuoio had spotted Sicilian cassata
on the menu and promptly offered
to split one with Chiara, who
licked her lips and agreed.

A brief but fervent debate
over the best type of cannoli
ended with Ruggiero and Olympia
deciding on another platter.

The cannoli came first,
delicate pastry shells stuffed with
sweetened ricotta and decorated
with an assortment of candy sprinkles,
chocolate chips, and chopped nuts.

Ruggiero picked one up and ate it
with small, careful bites. Cuoio marveled
at how the strongman could hold something
so fragile without crushing it. He'd never
managed the trick himself, hence his own
preference for cake -- you could hardly
pretend to be a gentleman while you
dribbled crumbs down your suitcoat.

When the cassata came, it looked just
as good as the rest of the meal had been.
Chiara prized off a piece of it --

and offered it to Cuoio.

There had been something or other
about feeding as a bonding exercise,
that he hadn't had time to study in detail,
and he was starting to panic over that,
so Cuoio just turned his brain off
and followed the lady's lead.

The cassata was delicious, and
Chiara got it into his mouth without
dropping so much as a speck on his suit.

As far as teamwork went, it was a good sign.

* * *


Cuoio (Francesco De Cello) -- He has olive skin, brown eyes, and wavy dark brown hair with a fancy beard and mustache. He has lost one bodyguard and one (civilian) girlfriend already, and really hates the idea of losing anyone else. Part of his deal joining the Marionettes was that they'd help him find more durable people.
Origin: He was born with his power, although it has gotten stronger over time.
Uniform: Classy Italian men's wear, preferably something he can move and fight in when necessary.
Qualities: Expert (+2) Fighter Boss, Good (+2) Charming, Good (+2) Martial History, Good (+2) Musician
Poor (-2) Losing People
Powers: Good (+2) Tough
Motivation: To protect his own.

Chiara Acquesta -- She has olive skin, brown eyes, and long wavy brown hair. She is tall and sturdy with well-defined muscles. As a hobby, she cuts stone and makes mosaics. She has created several of the landing pads for teleporters that the Marionettes use. Despite her superpower and physique, she's actually good at calming people down in more ways than just hitting them. She is friends with Pomarola.
Origin: She grew up as a tomboy, and then puberty made her pudgy. She hated that, so she joined a gym, began weight training, and started taking supplements. That combined to activate her superpowers.
Uniform: She dresses sporty, instead of the slinky outfits favored by most comares. Her boss Cuoio thinks muscles are sexy enough.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Comare, Good (+2) Beautiful, Good (+2) Determination, Good (+2) Mosaic Artist
Poor (-2) Tolerating Sexism
Powers: Average (0) Super-Strength
Motivation: To be beautiful. Muscles are beautiful. If you say they are unfeminine I will hurt you.

Ruggiero (Gaetan Costa) -- He has olive skin, brown eyes, and straight dark brown hair. He is tall, broad, and muscular. He has a Taurus birthday. Gaetan has a knack for languages. He is fluent in Italian, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Esperanto. He knows some Russian and Japanese. He has developed a great deal of finesse with his Super-Strength over the years.
Ruggiero worked first as an enforcer, and also as a bodyguard for his mentor. When Giuseppe became the current Puppetmaster, he promoted Ruggiero to lieutenant, with a steadily increasing range of responsibilities since then. Ruggiero is a confident and competent leader -- as long as he's within his defined assignment or reaching down the ladder of authority. Outside that, he needs assurance from above that he's doing the right thing.
Despite his background in breaking heads, Ruggiero is actually rather gentle at heart, much like the Puppetmaster. He is very fond of Olympia, his comare, or mob girlfriend; and his personal bodyguard, Liborio Dinapoli. Ruggiero's tastes in the bedroom are almost entirely straight and vanilla; but he is comfortably bisensual for cuddling, happy to have Liborio and Olympia meeting each other's more exotic interests, and they often sleep as a threesome. More recently, Ruggiero has become attached to Glyn Bradstreet, whom he and Liborio rescued from a pack of bullies, viewing her as a daughter-in-Family.
Ruggiero carries a piece of steel in his pocket to use as a stress toy. He has a heavy gold ring set with an emerald-cut tourmaline, so dark a green that it's almost black, and bracketed by delicate filigree. He has since copied the filigree pattern, by hand, to make a tie tack for himself.
Origin: A family tragedy left Gaetan alone on the streets of Italy as a young boy. He survived by begging, stealing, and committing other crimes. Sometimes he fell prey to older, larger people who wanted to take advantage of him. Around ten, the stress of one particularly awful struggle triggered his Super-Strength. At first, he had little control and left a few mangled bodies from people who tried to hurt him. This attracted the attention of Giuseppe Mondadori, then working as Il Dottore for the old Puppetmaster, and who later became the current Puppetmaster. Giuseppe took him off the street, brought him into the Family, patched up as much of the psychological damage as possible, and encouraged him to develop his skills.
Uniform: Ruggiero usually dresses in fine Italian suits; he has them in linen, wool, silk, and even coon. He favors warm neutrals such as dark cream, tan, or chocolate for his suits, hence brown dress shoes. The outfit is often brightened with a more vivid tie; he likes Italian paisley silk, but goes through them rather fast because he tends to appropriate them for other purposes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Mob Boss, Good (+2) Backbone, Good (+2) Compassionate, Good (+2) First Aid, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Making Contacts, Good (+2) Secret Codes, Good (+2) Stand-Up Guy, Good (+2) Tough Guy
Poor (-2) Needs Assurance
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Strength
Motivation: Keep a lid on it, but don't block the safety valve.

Olympia (Iniga Cucinotta) -- She has olive skin, green eyes, and long black hair. Sometimes she leaves her hair straight, other times dresses it up in curls. Her upper arms are decorated with mob tattoos. She has generous breasts and hips framing a slim waist. Iniga just plain looks like sex on the hoof. This makes it easy to underestimate her considerable intelligence. Despite her intense feminity, she actually has a butch edge too, which shows in her formidable combat skills and temper. She comes from the very fringes of the Family contacts, not a very well-to-do part, originally from Sicily. She has several brothers, and her parents considered it fine for them to work for the Family, but not for her. She has a Scorpio birthday.
Olympia's superpower is Pheromones. That comes with enhanced sense of smell, fluent control over her internal hormones, and the ability to gauge the biochemical signals that other people's bodies give off. Her power rank is primarily about her range and the amount of force she can use; she can't compel people, only urge, and the range is about room size. But within those parameters, her finesse is exquisite and she excels at using what she has. She can make people lust after her or fear her; she can give comfort or courage; all the things that pheromones usually do but ramped up to super level.
Olympia is Ruggiero's comare, or mob girlfriend. He fell in love with her because she's not afraid of him at all, and her fierce personality prods him into motion so he doesn't fall into a rut. She doesn't mind that his bedroom tastes are, by her standards, downright tame -- because he freely shares her with Liborio so that she can satisfy her other needs. In the field, Olympia is formidable in her own right, and people who think she can be stuffed into a refrigerator tend not to survive the attempt. Her comare training includes self-defense, some offense, information gathering, entertaining, some first aid, general nurturing, and a diversity of erotic skills. She often uses "Olivia" as a cover name on missions. She practices Fior di Battaglia, an Italian martial art for comares, specializing in cloak-and-dagger and unarmed combat.
Her background has left her with a fondness for material goods that can be a weakness in some circumstances. Olympia is no longer bribable, but was in the past, and is still sensitive about that. She loves fashionable clothes and fine jewelry. Presents of any kind delight her. But she's not selfish; she's just as happy to dress up other people as herself, especially Liborio.
Origin: Her Pheromone powers came in at puberty. They are quite subtle, as superpowers go, and very few people people know what she can do. But she smells, unless she's putting out the scent-dampener. She doesn't wear perfume, it's all natural; she usually has a compelling, head-turning scent.
Uniform: Fashionable clothes, usually from Italian designers. She likes large, eye-catching jewelry. Occasionally at home, she borrows clothes from Ruggiero or Liborio.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Comare, Good (+2) Feisty, Good (+2) Fior di Battaglia, Good (+2) Smart
Poor (-2) Material Girl
Powers: Average (0) Pheromones
Motivation: Using her allure to create a lifestyle which is both secure and exciting.

Alegra (Elenore Lambo) -- She has olive skin, brown eyes, and long curly brown hair. She wears glasses to correct her vision. She comes from a satellite family associated with the Marionettes in Puglia. Alegra plays a variety of keyboard instruments including organ, piano, and electric keyboards. She works as a professional musician in restaurants and other establishments run by the Marionettes. She is known for playing exceptionally passionate music -- she can make people laugh, or cry, and it's pure skill, not a superpower. She is actively proud of that. People often mistake it for a superpower, and Alegra always corrects them.
Origin: She was born with four arms. Learning to play keyboard instruments allowed her to develop her dexterity over time, and by her late teens she had become equally adept with all four hands.
Uniform: On duty, she usually wears a sophisticated dress or feminine suit, typical for professional musicians. Off duty, she wears casual clothes, but still favors dark colors, such as a black t-shirt over black jeans.
Qualities: Master (+6) Keyboardist, Expert (+4) Family Connections, Good (+2) Memory, Good (+2) Sophisticated
Poor (-2) Nearsighted
Powers: Good (+2) Four Arms, Good (+2) Quadridexterity
Motivation: To move people.

* * *

"The dance can reveal everything mysterious that is hidden in music, and it has the additional merit of being human and palpable. Dancing is poetry with arms and legs."
-- Charles Baudelaire

Courtship is a process of moving through the stages of physical and emotional intimacy. While not necessary for a quick fling, it is strongly advisable for those in search of a permanent relationship. Courtship exists in many styles and cultures. Among the Marionettes you can see motifs which parallel the role of a father or mentor in helping people make a good match and build connections. There are tips on how to court a woman.

Finding a family of choice can be a lot like joining in-laws by marriage. It requires a certain amount of adjustment to make the new relationships fit. This is another reason why the Marionettes make sure that everyone coming into their family has people who can help them adapt and learn -- a mentor, a comare, a houseparent, etc.

This is Olympia's dress.

This is Chiara's dress, with her red sandals and Cuoio's scarf.

Handshakes can convey a great deal of information, especially about respective rank. Among the Marionettes, the dominant, subordinate, equal, and glove handshakes all have their own uses -- and it's something to be offered and accepted with grace, not tussled over. With women it can be more complex, and the ladyfinger handshake is a way for a man to respect a woman's personal space. Cheek kissing is another greeting popular in Italy, particularly in familiar relationships. Comares often prefer that with each other.

Dollar bill origami is a fun hobby. This is the Three Diamonds fold.

Ballroom dancing is an exercise in partnership. Dancers communicate through body language, one leading and one following, the two halves requiring equal skill. While the usual expectation is that men lead and women follow on the dance floor, some prefer to reverse the polarity, and a few people are switches. You can see that Cuoio and Chiara are starting a rather interesting discussion about gender expression and contextual authority.

Antipasti are Italian appetizers, which may include such things as seafood and vegetables.

Sicilian lasagne is often done in a loaf pan, like a small meatloaf, so it is narrower and deeper than the usual Italian sheet lasagna.

Cuoio is currently living in a small Italian cottage at one of the Family holdings. See the exterior and the floor plan. On the left, the patio has an arbor above it. The living room has a couch that converts to a bed. Between the living room and the kitchen is a center wall with a hearth fountain facing the living room and a shelving niche facing the kitchen. Cuoio's bed is more like a giant lounge. The major furnishings are all done in neutral colors, so that accents can be exchanged to create different color schemes.

Grief from multiple losses really adds up. Cuoio has lost his parents over a year ago, a couple months apart; then his girlfriend and his bodyguard in the same month, less than a year ago. Understand how to cope with grief and how to help a grieving person.

Sicilian cassata is a sweet cake. Cannoli are filled pastries.

Ruggiero believes that gentleness is controlled strength. He does a lot of things that require great delicacy, both as a way to demonstrate his finesse and to practice it regularly.

Bonding behaviors such as sharing food help people grow closer to each other. A successful courtship -- whether romantic or platonic -- consists of small methodical steps to lower boundaries at a safe rate.</user>
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, romance, writing
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