A Boarding School Façade – by Jooles*
Disclaimer – I think that we’ve got the picture that I do not own Gundamwing, not matter how much I wish I dd. Because if I did I wouldn’t be sitting here writing fanfiction. I’d be making another series for G’s sake!
Author Notes: Thanks for the lovely reviews last time people. They were incredibly inspiring! I wasn’t going to put this out before I went on holiday, but changed my mind. In response to the reviewer who asked about the English spelling of words (rather than the American spelling), I’m not from England, but my country was one of Britain’s colonies all those years ago, and therefore I’ve been brought up learning in an education system that is based on Britain’s. – Long explanation, but hopefully explains why words are spelt slightly different.
Chapter 5.2 – A Christmas Interlude Continued
Duo Maxwell had never been one to believe in divinities and other miscellaneous higher beings. They’d never seemed to give him the time of day in the past. He’d only ever believed in one God, that being the God of Death. However after meeting a certain raven-haired personage earlier on that morning Duo had thought about revising his so-called beliefs, or better yet non-beliefs.
She hadn’t been a great beauty. What had him, hook, line and sinker though; had been the playfully wicked gleam in her hugely aware eyes, and the fiery way with which she retorted his in sinuous remarks. It was a rarity for Duo to find a girl who knew when he was and wasn’t kidding around. Relena was one. And this new girl, this friend of Quatre’s just happened to be another. He wasn’t interested in Relena in the “girl-boy” way. No. Relena seemed to have her very own mini-soap opera going on with Heero, although his friend probably hadn’t realised it yet. Duo, in his own cunning way had happened to observe his two friends together but a few times. They weren’t obvious in their relationship like other couples he knew. But there was definitely something there. Whether it was ‘sexual tension’, or ‘friendship’, or the ‘in-between phase’. Duo had a feeling that the two were still stuck at the ‘in-between phase’ of their relationship. And although Duo wanted to talk to both Relena and Heero about their whatever it was they had with each other, he wasn’t brave enough to face the impending blow to the face if he asked Heero, or Relena’s knack at dodging questions she didn’t care to answer and turning the conversation into a dither about what he himself lacked.
No. Duo was going to keep his nose well out of Relena and Heero’s business.
Especially now that he had some of his own to attend to.
And that business specifically involved a slight young girl with raven bangs that shadowed her overly large yet sparklingly striking eyes.
He crossed his fingers that ‘she’ would be at the Christmas party that night.
And still he couldn’t bring himself to pray.
After all old habits die hard.
Relena had dressed in the same white-shirt black-skirt ensemble that she’d worn to the concert. For her, it was the same boring, tidy and professional looking ensemble. Yet it would do for the night. She wasn’t going to the Winner Christmas party to dance; therefore she had no need for the dark blue dress her mother had sewn for her birthday last year. No, the catering uniform was enough for a party where she’d be working as a waitress and not in attendance as a guest.
A wistful sigh escaped Relena as she tied up her practical yet completely boring Doc Marten shoes. Yet they were the safe way to go for footwear that evening. Full proof in that it was impossible for her to trip over in them; no matter how clumsy she was feeling on a particular evening. And tonight was especial in that she desparately wanted all fits of clumsiness and awkwardness to cease. It would not do if she tripped over in front of him. Because if she did she’d stand a lesser chance of winning the game.
“Relena,” Elana tapped a gentle knock on the other side of Relena’s bedroom door. “Are you ready to go yet?”
Relena smoothed a stray golden bang back from her face, before grabbing her pea coat and upping the pace of her walk so as to catch up with her foster mother who’d backed Frankie’s pick-up truck out of the garage.
“Sorry for taking so long mum.” Relena said as she relaxed into the weathered vinyl covering of the pickup’s seating. “I think I’m still worn out from driving back this morning.”
Elana glanced at her daughter while steering the pickup in the direction of the Winner’s massive estate. “Not to worry dear. I’m sure Une has been taking care of the staff and the party just fine without us.”
Relena raised an eyebrow. Her mother had mentioned the name Une several times in passing conversation, but Relena still hadn’t met her. Nor did she know exactly what it was Une did for her mother. “What’s Une do for you mum?”
“Oh a bit of this, and a bit of that dear.” She tittered as they started the drive up the Winner’s long and winding driveway. “I originally hired her as a fill in waitress for Rachel. I promoted her to manager quite soon after she started, just because her skills of organisation and diplomacy impressed me so much. Honestly Relena, she’s truly lifted a load off of my shoulders these past few weeks.”
Relena stared at her mother a little bit disbelievingly wondering if finding such an employee for the Diner were a possible thing. “Where did you find her?”
Elana frowned. “Here’s the weird part.” Relena nodded for her to carry on. “She came into the diner a couple of days after you started school looking for a job. I still don’t know where she came from, or what she’s really doing here. I mean who would want to come here to Treventville just to work in a Diner?”
Relena faintly heard herself agreeing with Elana’s question. “Yes, who?” Something about Une the new manager just didn’t seem right. It wasn’t silly for Relena to be a little cagey about a new waitress walking in off the street without any history or sign of revealing her history. For Relena, a person like Une could mean bad news.
She resolved to check Une out during her Christmas break, and if she had to she would ring Pagan to let him know about the peculiar waitress turned manager.
By the time Relena and Elana arrived at the Winner mansion the party had obviously been going for an hour or two. Elana had put Une in charge of running the background festivities that evening. Background festivities involved serving the food that was cooked in a presentable fashion, making sure the guests ate on time, clearing the guests dishes away, keeping the flow of meals (entrées, appetisers, mains, deserts, coffee and tea) running steadily, making sure the bar staff did not run out of alcohol, cleaning up at the end of the party (usually the next morning), and doing the hefty amount of dishes at the end of the night. Elana had decided to take a step-back from the action that evening. Une was apparently such a ‘wonderful’ worker that Elana now saw herself with an opportunity to actually attend the Christmas party for the first time since the family had moved to Treventville.
The Christmas party itself was the main event of the year in Treventville. It was the event that was anticipated by the majority of the town’s meagre population, Relena included. According to Quatre, the Winner family had thrown an annual Christmas party inviting Treventville’s civilians and the Winner’s own family, friends, business acquaintances and clients for aeons past. The thing that Relena and even Quatre found ironic about the Winner family throwing Christmas parties was that the family themselves didn’t celebrate the holiday they threw a major party for. Every year.
The parties were extravagant, and since Mr Winner’s marriage to the new Mrs Winner, the parties had become more showy, more excessive and much more expensive. The expensive bit was of course to the Dorlian’s benefit. The more money Mrs Winner spent on food, decorations, alcohol, and other party necessities; the more Frankie and Elana cashed in.
And despite having worked at first as a kitchen hand and finally a waitress when she finally was of age, Relena thoroughly enjoyed helping out her foster family’s business. It kept her busy, and gave her a major sense of normalcy that she sometimes felt was lacking without the drudge-type work to fill in the time.
The party as stated before was in full swing by the time the mother and daughter team arrived at the Winner estate. The mansion itself was set aglow by the meticulous arrangement of elegant yet classic looking fairy lights. A multitude of cars were parked out the front and Relena wistfully smiled as she admired the group of ladies and gentlemen entering the estate’s main lodging. They were dressed in elegant and undoubtedly expensive eveningwear, singling them out as being either friends of the Winner’s or business clients.
Relena herself, almost entered through the front door, but Elana’s tugging on the sleeve of her pea coat stopped her in her tracks. Literally! The new layer of snow on the ground was so thick and fluffy it was basically a trek from the pickup to the mansion.
Mother and daughter entered the mansion from the kitchen side-door. After all servants (and they were for the night) were known to be there, but it was bad taste for them to be both seen and heard.
Elana left Relena to her own devices as she went in search of Une. Relena herself drifted towards the ballroom, grabbing a café style slip of a nothing apron which she wrapped around her skirt. Before she’d even made it halfway out the kitchen door, Quatre and Hilde cornered her, sheer determination pasted on their made-up for the evening faces.
Hilde was dressed in a very flattering yet practical black dress that swirled at her knees, accentuating the small yet defined muscles that were her lower legs. Quatre looked just as pleasant in a spiffing impression of a black tuxedo. Maybe it was Armani; maybe it was some other flash fashion brand. Whatever it was, it looked expensive and probably had been. Her two friends both looked very grown up and dare she say it done up for the evening.
There had never been a time when she’d felt more frumpy and plain than ever. And to her own amused and shocked delight, she liked the alternative aspect to her personality. For, it was with anticipated dread that she imagined how she’d have had to dress up for a multitude of parties and formal dinners and outings more than once a week if she were still living as her true namesake in the Cinq Kingdom. As selfish as that did sound.
“Evening Relena,” her two friends chorused in unison.
Relena glared at the two of them behind slitted cerulean blue eyes. “Evening to you too. What do you want?”
Hilde mock gasped. Quatre muffled a chuckle.
“Oh come on, you’re up to something. I can see it plain as day.” Relena said while tying the knot of apron with a force not needed on such a garment. “Now one more time, what’s going on?”
Hilde sighed. Relena was being a priss. She hated it when her friend was in such a mood. She was generally pretty down to earth and playful in the company of her friends, but the occasional pangs of moodiness dampened Relena’s relations with those closest to her.
Quatre reached into the inside of his tux, and pulled out a small yet skilfully wrapped object. He handed it to her, waiting to see her reaction upon opening the gift.
“What’s this for?” Their friend asked blandly. “It’s not Christmas yet.”
“We know that silly!” Hilde piped, helping Relena unwrap the present herself. There was no way in hell that she was planning to stand around all night waiting for Relena to unwrap the present her and Quatre had jointly bought. “We wanted to give you your present early though…. figuring that you’re not going to have much of a Christmas party and all. Our treat.”
Relena grimaced. She never had much of a Christmas party anyway. Truthfully she didn’t mind. She couldn’t help it if to her friends it looked as though she minded. A lot.
The wrapping finally fell away revealing a worn, weathered and musty smelling book. Relena gasped “A first edition….” She murmured. And on opening the cover of the book the gasp and murmuring beforehand was once again echoed. “A signed copy…”
She looked dazedly up from the book now gripped quite tightly in her small yet delicate hands. “Thank you Hilde, Quatre. This means so much to me…. I’m not sure how I put into words just how much this gift means to me.”
A shared look of recognition and understanding passed between Hilde and Quatre, both glad that the present had not only lifted Relena’s agitated mood, but had proven itself as a token of their friendship to the girl who as straight up and down as friends came had her own secrets she had yet to confide in them with. Well, half of them anyway. Quatre knew some of Relena’s secrets (the big one included), but only a marginal number of them. And he was sure that in recent weeks she’d stown some more skeletons in her already skeleton filled closet and it was more or less both of their faults. For Quatre, because he’d become distracted with a newly formed close friendship, and Relena because she’d insisted on keeping to herself. Both of them never a good combination.
Relena looked up from the page she’d found her eyes trailing, remembering that she had work to do. She shoved the book into Quatre’s hands telling him to “look after it” for her, and with that went to do what she’d originally left the kitchen to do. Waitress.
From a shadowy corner of the ballroom, Heero Yuy had watched the exchange between the three close friends with wry humour. So Relena was a Salinger fan…. The small quirks and oddities about her had begun to make him see red.
This was a girl, no correction, a young woman with dimensions.
And they were all of the three-dimension kind.
Which was why Heero was finding it increasingly more difficult to be a reliable business partner that bowed down to his client’s every whim and need.
And with the sighting of Une, a major player, and the loyal opposition, Heero’s own suspicions and his clients had been more or less confirmed.
The question that left to be answered was whether or not Heero would actually let his client know the full extent and status of his discovery; or if he would manipulate the truth in doing so.
If only Relena had been a two-dimensional girl.
Things would have been so much easier.
Relena had been in and out of the kitchen over twenty times that night. As the dessert came to a close and the grown up personages in attendance upped the consumption of alcohol, Relena’s workload became less and less. There was but tea and coffee to serve and dishes to do, and then maybe she’d get to go home early.
Une turned out to be just as her foster mother had described her as being. She was certainly an excellent organiser. A chaotic event like the Winner Christmas party could possibly take years off one’s life. Yet Une had taken the night all in her stride. And in doing so, the behind the scenes work of the catering staff had had very few if any hitches and mishaps about it.
Relena respected Une, for her skills at running such a mad-like event. That didn’t mean she wasn’t weary of her. Anybody who skipped into Treventville on just a whim was reason to suspect. Especially if they settled for a job as a waitress in not only an unexciting hick town, but her particular unexciting hick town.
It just wasn’t done.
Placing what she hoped would be the last set of dessert bowls in the kitchen she wandered back out to the ballroom where the band was now in full swing. The guests were also in full swing (literally) not to mention.
From the sidewall of the room, Relena studied the partners dancing and those not quite dancing, but attempting to do something of the like. She herself couldn’t help but imagine a certain dark and brooding young man whom she hadn’t had the chance to dance with last time she’d attended a dance.
“Tall dark and handsome come and get me….” She murmured wickedly to herself. “Come and dance with me tall dark and handsome…” Her small and pretty coral shaded lips curled up in a Cheshire cat like smile as she tried to pinpoint the person she was thinking of.
So caught up in looking for the specifically tall dark and handsome young man that when he came to stand in front of her she didn’t know what to say or do.
Was he just some sick fantasy her bored mind had materialised?
No. That wasn’t possible. Nor was she crazy enough for that sort of thing to happen to her.
“Evening Heero.” She said in a surprisingly smooth and calculated voice, much to her delight. At least she hadn’t made a fool of herself. Yet!
Heero nodded at her. Shaking her head she let out a barely suppressed tsssk sound. Couldn’t he at least attempt some kind of greeting? A hi, hello, good evening, good morning, hey or how’s it going would really make her day.
He cleared his throat as he handed her something. Relena looked down at the object, recognising it to be the book Hilde and Quatre had given her for Christmas. She thought she’d given it back to Quatre for safekeeping that evening….
“Quatre wanted me to give you this. He said he might not see you later on this evening.” Heero explained as she thumbed mindlessly through the book, wondering at the same time what Heero thought of her selected reading material. He already knew that she had a thing with Cinq Kingdom history; she wondered what his opinion (there was bound to be one) would be of her choice of literature.
“Salinger?” He threw the question out deadpan.
Relena shrugged, smiling a little at the need to win whatever game he challenged her at. Would she win this one?? “Yes. Have you heard of him.”
“Hn…. Of course I’ve heard of him.”
“Have you read it?” She inquired fiddling with a dog eared page, which she noted was also the source of her favourite quote.
Heero was silent for a long stretch of what were just moments in time. “Yes. Many times.”
Relena met his own truthful cobalt blue gaze. Maybe no one would win the game this time round. After all this was one of the first times, if she counted properly, that the two of them were as equals on a subject of common interest.
Before she thought any more on the manner Heero went to turn away. “Heero?” She called out to him. “Thanks for returning the book.”
Heero turned back around, ceasing his abruptness to leave. “What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff-I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”
Turning to leave with an air of finality this time, Relena simply gazed at his retreating form. He had aeons about him. And anybody who had read J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye deserved not to be labelled. And it was there and then that Relena resolved not to label Heero and to cherish that he’d just given away a hidden piece of himself he usually kept so well caged.
If she were around long enough she’d make sure she discovered more of those intricate pieces of his personality.
Because when he revealed himself truly to her long enough, she felt as though she’d met a soul of her own equal and a like mind she could spend eternity meandering with.
Turning away from the scene in the ballroom, Relena retreated to pick up the remaining desert dishes as the majority of the partygoers entered the ballroom, leaving the beautifully prepared and just plain scrumptious meal behind.
Getting to the guests tables was another matter though. She found herself weaving her way in and out of the myriad of people, when she finally and quite timely careened to an oncoming person. –She’d made it almost through the entirety of the evening without tripping over, but the person who she crashed into had a tallness and broadness about them that offset Relena’s equilibrium.
“Ahh….” She muttered as she felt herself and the other person tumble on the ground together. So embarrassed with her predicament that she flushed what the makeup companies might call a new shade of red. Standing up and readjusting her stance as best she could, she lent her hand to her partner in clumsiness offering them her help at readjusting his footing on the ground once again.
“I’m so sor-” She began to say and stopped mid sentence. The book she had yet to safely stow away fell and landed with a gentle thud on the ground she’d just picked herself up from.
She stared at the other person involved in the random act of clumsiness, unable to form a single word but the one imprinted on her mind. “Milliardo?” She said in a strained whisper as she met the unmistakeable icy blue eyes that were those of her older brother’s.
He’d grown into a fine young man. Broad and tall with beautiful long platinum bonde hair, a shade lighter than Quatre’s.
She didn’t know why she instantly recognised her blood kin. Maybe it was the unmistakeable bond held only by siblings; maybe it was the fact that he looked so much like what her father did when he was Milliardo’s age. Or maybe it was the fact that she’d been waiting for this moment of seeing him face to face for so long, that she’d dreamed the whole bumping into long-lost brother incident.
But the press of his royal bred hands in the form of a familiar squeeze on her elbow told her that this was no dream.
“It’s been a long time Relena.”
Eugh! A cliff-hanger, my first.
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