Dr. Maria Kalderash lived in a two-story house set into a wall of shops, and apartments along the Rue des Rosiers. The area was home to a variety of immigrants and exiles, and, until recently, had stood outside the city wall. All in all, a fitting place to find an outcast. Outside, most of the windows were still dark, the doors firmly bolted from within. But later that day, the area would come alive with a hundred different languages, and carts bearing comfort foods from distant homelands would spring up like mushrooms on both sides of the narrow, twisting street.
As Corbeau passed through the gray stone canyon, she was greeted by the familiar sounds of a neighborhood waking: the jangle of keys in a lock; the creak of a window opening overhead; the self-conscious scrabble of the cesspool cleaners as they collected each building’s refuse into barrels to transport to the drying yards. A sudden clap of thunder shook the air. Corbeau sighted Dr. Kalderash’s door and hurried across the muddy street just as the rain began again. Pressing as close to the house as Javert’s umbrella would allow, she rapped on the door. There was no answer for a moment, then cautious footfall in the hallway. Then the door cracked open.
Dr. Kalderash stood no higher than Corbeau’s shoulder, but even in the diminished light of the early morning, in the unexpected vulnerability of her dressing gown, her presence filled the doorway. Corbeau’s breath caught in her throat. Heat rushed to her cheeks, and she felt the same disorienting sense of awe that she had felt when she’d beheld the inventor’s picture in Javert’s carriage. Dr. Kalderash blinked her natural eye–large and liquid brown–while the mechanical one clicked and whirred as if it, too, were taking Corbeau’s measure.
It was a startling combination–a full, pleasingly feminine face; an expression of rightful suspicion; metal, and dark hair cropped shorter than Corbeau had ever seen on a woman. And then there was the Eye: a surprisingly elegant nest of gears and lenses attached to a decorated leather band that buckled around the back of the inventor’s head. It left Corbeau stumbling for words.
“I have some bread and cheese if you want it,” said Kalderash.
Kalderash’s suspicion had softened to pity, and Corbeau suddenly realized what she must have looked like. Her face was battered and swollen. Her coat was soaked, her hems muddy, her hair a straggly, tangled mess.
“If you can sew, I’ll have work for you toward the end of the day.”