After breakfast Lindsey took Indy to the costuming room. A stylishly dressed man who looked very pale on account of his pearly skin and white hair was waiting for them. Even before Lindsey made introductions, Indy knew this was Matt Vitae. But what happened next surprised her. Matt raised his hands and said, in sign, "It's a pleasure to meet you."
Indy felt her cheeks colour. She saw that Lindsey was smiling broadly. "Matthew signs! Did I not mention that?"
Indy looked Matt up and down, digesting this new piece of information. His signing was by no means perfect, and even a little wobbly. Indy wasn't sure, because he was wearing long sleeves, but she rather thought there was something going on with his arms. Perhaps he'd had surgery, or something. If so, he probably knew what it was like to feel different from everyone else. Suddenly she didn't feel so shy.
"Lindy said you wanted to meet me," she signed, noting with relief that Matt nodded, clearly able to read her.
"Of course. I don't pass up opportunities to meet fellow professionals."
"You heard of me?"
He smiled. "Don't tell me that's a surprise. I generally keep my eyes out for anyone new coming into the fashion world, especially if they're unique in some way. And you're most certainly new and exciting, whether you realise it or not."
"You're not just being polite?"
"Just being polite would be a bit of a waste of time, and as a rule I don't waste time," Matt said, and Indy believed him. He didn't have the air of someone who messed about, or bothered with people he didn't want to. Indy opened her mouth to say something else then noticed for the first time that a huge shaggy dog was standing a few feet away, ears pricked, assessing her and Gus with an intelligent gaze. Indy's face lit up.
"Oh, he's gorgeous! I love Irish wolfhounds. Is he yours?"
Matt nodded graciously. "That's Frosty. He travels with me. And what is the name of your canine companion?"
"Gus," Indy said. She went over to Frosty, holding out her hand. He sniffed it, then wagged his tail, coming over all affectionate. Forgetting about Matt a moment, Indy knelt down and gently put her arms around Frosty, letting him sniff her hair and nuzzle at her neck. Feeling Gus's wet nose tap her arm, she drew back and let the dogs greet each other.
"Gus is okay with other dogs," she said to Matt, in case he was worried about any trouble. "He has to be he comes with me always. He's very clever. He can use Lindy's credit card, and he remembers the pin number."
Matt raised his eyebrows at Lindsey. "Are you sure that was wise? Dogs can have expensive tastes, you know. If Gus is so very clever, and has your card details, one of these days he'll discover online shopping..."
Indy laughed, and so did Lindsey. The image of Gus crouched at a laptop with his paw on the mouse was a funny one.
"If any diamond dog collars come mail order through my door, then I'll know who to blame," Lindsey waggled his finger at Gus. "Let that be a warning to you, Gustav." He went to a table at the side of the room and spread out papers from the file he was carrying legal work, Indy guessed. She straightened, one hand on Gus' head and one hand on Frosty's, feeling a warm glow as the latter leaned in and nudged her leg.
"Aren't you a hit with animals!" Matt commented. "I've never seen Frosty all over a new person in this way. Like any dog, he doesn't take to everyone quite so willingly, especially if he can tell they've been with other animals. You are most certainly on his love list."
"He's beautiful. I like all animals, really."
Indy told Matt about Lindsey's other dogs, Olly the cat and the horses in the Irwyn Estate's stables. Matt, who was clearly well-travelled, responded by talking about some of the animal customs he'd observed around the world. By the time the conversation slipped back to fashion, Indy was smiling and eager to listen to what Matt had to say.
So," he gestured round the room. "This is where the tour magic happens. It's also where your brother made off with that feather cape from yesterday. It's not just me here, as you'll know. There's a whole team who'll be here a little later. Have you seen any of our promotional snapshots? Yes? In that case you'll know that there's a very particular aesthetic to this tour, so my team has been working to a fairly rigid brief. Not to say that there's not the space for expressive design, because there is, but everything is thoroughly planned and Reg wouldn't have it any other way. His art matters, and right now his art is my art, so it matters to me too."
It took Indy a moment to digest all this. It had been quite a big speech for sign, especially at several points Matt had needed to pause, as though remembering the next gesture. "I've never really worked to a brief," she said slowly. "Not beyond seasonal items and that what I do is mostly for girls around my age. Do you think it's easier to work to brief?"
"It's hard to create something initially that meets it, but once you've laid down ground rules it gets easier. Though," Matt smiled. "I have the advantage of being acquainted with Reg, and knowing what suits. I've also taken care to get to know everyone on tour to some extent, so we can create something bespoke for each participant. Generalising with clothing doesn't fit in with what Reg wants from this tour, at all. It is as much about the individuals as the whole."
Indy thought that Reg must be a very nice man to consider all this, and she said so.
"Oh, he has his moments," Matt said. "Not that we don't have a little diva strop sometimes
no, actually that would be unfair. He's no diva. If he does strop, there'll be a reason."
Indy asked about the cloak Lindsey had run off with yesterday. Matt explained that not only did the performers get outfits, but also the four financiers. There was a theme to these outfits Matt and Lindsey were angels, and the two others, who Indy had not yet met, were demons. Simon, as Lindsey's bodyguard, also had the honour of an angelic outfit to tie in with his employers. He showed her the designs on paper and then some of the outfits that were to hand, including Lindsey's. Other than the adjustments on the cloak which would be taken care by the time the show began tomorrow it was complete. Indy examined the elaborate shoulder pads and colour to top the cloak and the tan trousers, then looked at Matt.
"Doesn't it have a shirt?"
Lindsey, who happened to be looking up at that moment, hid a smile behind his hand. "Matthew cruelly neglected to include one," he signed. "He has no respect for my propriety but then I am not his only victim."
Indy blinked. It was clear from the way Lindsey acted that he was okay with this. Her brother was usually a refined and very proper dresser when outside the home, so it was odd to picture him in something so, well, showy. Even though she knew it was silly, he seemed less like him when he was dressed up. If she was honest, she liked it best when he was wearing his oldest clothes and worrying about nothing more than being her brother.
Indy wasn't going to say this to Matt of course. Not when he'd put so much effort into the outfit, which really was special.
"I have utmost respect," Matt retorted. "I don't put you in anything I wouldn't wear myself. As a matter of fact, I'm having my own version of your outfit made up after tour."
Lindsey smiled and turned his eyes back to his work.
"And as you are now part of the tour," Matt turned back to Indy. "This of course means we shall get a costume designed and made up for you."
Had Matt just said yes, he had just said! Flushed with appreciation, Indy beamed at him. "Really? I would love that!"
"I'm sure you have ideas," Matt said. "We can come up with something together. I suggest we take a look at all the outfits together at the performance so you've an overview of everyone else's as well as some inspiration. It will be a pleasure to work on a design with you."
Indy rubbed her cheeks. She felt sure she was blushing. "Do you mean it?"
"Wouldn't say that if I didn't mean it. Just as I wouldn't have asked you to spend time here if I didn't mean it."
Indy scooted a glance at Lindsey, but he appeared transfixed by his papers. "Mr Vitae, maybe this is silly, but I thought I was only here because Lindy fixed it."
"Matt, please. And no. India, you must realize that your brother, fantastic though he is, cannot force me to do anything I do not wish to do. You being here was my idea. I asked him about it, not the other way 'round. If I hadn't wanted you around, you would not have been there. Period."
And in that moment, Indy knew how wrong she'd been. All of that worrying and doubting it had been a waste of time! There was no way busy, accomplished and professional people would have allowed her to come on tour if she hadn't been wanted or that someone like Matt would have suggested a meeting if he didn't mean it. It didn't matter that she wasn't a performer, and it didn't matter that she couldn't hear. She was valued, and people wanted nothing more than to be her friends, and for her to have a good time.
Why had she made herself fret about it? Indy thought about it, and realised just how damaging those comments that designer had made to Theo Courtney-Clare at London Fashion Week had been. They had made her doubt her talents. They had made her doubt Lindsey. They had made her doubt Reg and Matt and everyone else who'd expressed interest in her and her line.
Indy felt small and like a nasty person for being so suspicious of everyone.
"I've been silly," she said, a little hesitantly. "I got things all wrong."
"Something which may amuse you to know is that I knew who you were before I'd ever heard about him," Matt said. "I know far more about fashion than I know about the English aristocracy. It took me a couple of days to even realise that he was your brother. While he speaks of you often, I didn't immediately relate "Indykins" to India de Villiers of Indypendence. When I did, I made the suggestion."
Indy trailed her foot in circles on the ground. "I thought it was Lindy's doing because I wasn't sure how seriously fashion people take a kid designer," And she found herself telling Matt about the mean designer and Theo Courtney-Clare.
"There's a lot of resentment in any competitive field," Matt said when she was done. "And there will always be people who begrudge you success. Something to get used to, unfortunately. I don't know who this designer is from your description, which tells me that it's no one worth bothering with. You do realise that they're very likely just jealous?"
"It makes sense now you say it. But I never wanted to make anyone feel bad because of me."
Matt laughed softly. "India, please don't worry about that designer feeling bad. They make themselves feel bad by begrudging your talent. Never doubt yourself because you're doing well, especially at your age. Believe me, I know. I was like you once a kid doing very cool grown up things."
Indy giggled, then said, "Sometimes I feel bad that I even have a line. I'm just lucky that I have a brother who could set it up for me. That makes me feel like I'm cheating."
"You said it yourself you're lucky. That isn't cheating. You need to get past that, India. Don't apologise for who you are, or that you have a brother who cares. At the end of the day, people buy your clothes. They like them and word has spread enough so that people know you're there that is success you earned, by being good at what you do. The biggest advice I'd ever give? Enjoy it."
Indy turned over what Matt had said. She knew he was right. But she also knew a part of her was always going to feel she had unfair advantages. Maybe that was okay, though. She knew Lindsey felt the same way, which was why he was always so mindful of charities and those less fortunate. Perhaps having more just meant that she could give more to other people.
"Lindy and Simon have said the same thing, but I never really believe them. It helps with you because you've done so much yourself."
It was odd. She had only just met Matt, yet she felt secure enough to say these things to him. Somehow, that he was a very important person didn't seem to matter. She didn't feel shy or awkward and it was so nice just to speak to him because Matt had made time for her and that made all the difference. She wondered if he had children himself. That might explain why things seemed to be so comfortable between them.
"I thought you were going to be scary," she said. "You aren't."
"Scary?" Matt laughed. "No
many words could be used to describe me, but I would not have selected scary. Not very much, anyway."