Round Robin Chapter 2
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Round Robin Chapter 2

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    Round Robin Chapter 2 Round Robin Chapter 2 Presentation Transcript

    • Words were beginning to swim in front of David Doran’s eyes, as he attempted to drag reluctant ideas from his brain onto the computer screen. It had been a few months since college classes had started and he was working twice as hard as any other freshman to make up what he apparently missed by not finishing his high school degree. Who would have figured all that stuff they’d tried to teach him would actually turn out to be useful.
    • Glancing up his eyes fell immediately on Tara who seemed had several books going on at once. David wondered if she was aware that there was a pencil stashed in one of her disordered buns. He watched her study for a moment, her eyes alight with interest at every word. She was completely transfixing in her state of transfixed-ness and a smile played around David’s lips as she hesitated for a moment chewing on her lip in concentration. “What’re you reading about?”
    • Tara glanced up a smile on her face “Did you know that when hippos are upset their sweat turns red? How cool is that! And apparently Alexander the Great’s mother was once a priestess in a snake cult. Those two things have nothing to do with each other by the way, they’re just quite interesting.” David grinned at Tara. Unlike him and Justin, Tara had not yet chosen a major. She had tried to, but every time she seemed to settle on something it occurred to her how fascinating every other subject she wouldn’t be majoring in would be.
    • “Ok” David rose to his feet, “You officially need a break.” He grabbed Tara’s hand and pulled her to her feet “Want to go for a walk?” “Sure. Or...we could have a spontaneous dance break.” “A what?” David stared at the red head in amused and perplexed. “It’s where you just dance crazily in the middle of somewhere weird to get all your stress out and clear your mind. I read about it this morning in a book about alternative psychology.”
    • “That sounds suspiciously like homework” David raised an eyebrow at Tara in amusement “But what can I say this sounds like more fun.” “I know right!” “Well Miss DeBateau,” He took her hand in his “can I have this dance?”
    • Before Tara could reply the glass door that led to the library clattered open dangerously, heralding a sullen looking Justin Cleveland. “Justin? I thought you had a study date with that cute girl who sits in front of you in History of Politics 101?” Justin sighed unhappily “She stood me up. I don’t know why this keeps happening to me”
    • David and Tara might have told Justin he was over reacting, if they hadn’t both known he was entirely correct in this statement. Getting dumped seemingly did keep happening to him. In the first week of classes Justin had joined the basketball team and immediately hit it off with another freshman girl trying out. A few days after their first date, she had told him she wanted to just be friends.
    • Justin couldn’t explain it... “Listen here, Phoebe, isn’t it? At least that’s what my son told me so enthusiastically on the phone when he was recounting his first week of University. I’m guessing college is quite expensive these days. So what say you to Two Thousand Simoleons and in exchange all you have to do is stop dating my son. Are we in agreement?”
    • After that it had been with Zoe, this cute red headed chick he met at the campus lounge. Within a couple of days of meeting her she was going out of her way to avoid him. “Well well well, if it isn’t little Zoe Walton all grown up! You’re Jane’s daughter aren’t you. Of course you wouldn’t remember me dear, your mother does my taxes... And your father...or rather should I say your mother’s husband....Wouldn’t it be unfortunate for someone to point out to that poor...down on his luck man, how very little you look like him...such a genetic improbability would break the poor man’s heart...”
    • And now Sandy, it was baffling to Justin and he was beginning to hope he was just very unlucky. Any other explanation would only be a serious blow to his self esteem. “And the worst part is I have to hand in a paper tomorrow and I am still totally clueless about the material.” “What’s the paper on?” “Something about...politics and the something or other of the state of something.” Justin grimaced.
    • “Wow.” Tara put in, clearly trying to hide amusement as she raised an eyebrow conspiratorially at David. “Really.” he agreed. “Political Sciences really might not be your calling Justin.” “Yeah I know. My Mom is insisting on it being my major though. And honestly, my mom can get pretty intense about stuff like this. Hey Tara, you know some stuff about politics right? Would you mind going over this with me?”
    • “Oh Um...” Tara hesitated for a moment glancing at David “We were just going to...” then she looked at Justin’s crestfallen face and sighed “Sure. No problem.” She turned a rueful smile to David, “We’ll have to dance some other time. And don’t think this is a way of getting out of it.” She poked him in the chest playfully “I’m gonna hold you to that invitation.” David laughed “I don’t doubt you will.” He told Tara as he left them to it, trying not to feel disappointed by Justin’s sudden intrusion. And yet he couldn’t help but glance back at the pair as they settled down to work, and kick himself for not finding an excuse to stay and help.
    • It was past midnight and Tara was passed out on the library tables back at the house as Justin tried to read through his notes one more time and resist the urge to wake her just so he could ask her about collectivism. She looked very peaceful. And as he looked at her Justin was suddenly reminded of his mother’s nagging. Her constant reminders, her little hints and comments about how wonderful and well suited to him Tara was. He had always ignored her in the past, but now as he watched her sleep, he found himself wondering what it would be like to date her.
    • After all she was nice, helpful, pretty, intelligent, and they were already good friend. And she was always there for him. And for some reason seeing her befriend David in the past months, laughing, being odd...it made him realise that he didn’t want to lose her. But was that a good enough reason to want to be with her? Justin sighed, running his hand across his face tiredly. Clearly he was in no state to think about this at that moment. Tiptoeing out of the library as quietly as he could he left her to her uncomfortable sleep.
    • It was several hours later when he came downstairs for a midnight snack that David noticed her sleeping there. He smiled a little to himself. It looked like attempting to hammer knowledge into Justin’s thick skull really was as exhausting as it seemed.
    • He had a feeling that she had spent a lot of time taking care of people, it would do her no harm to be taken care of for once. As gently as he could manage, scooped her up into his arms, fairly prying the book she was using as a pillow from her fingers, and hoping fervently that walking through the wall to her room did not wake her, before setting her down gently in her bed. It was what anyone would do he rationalized.
    • He watched her for a moment, as she muttered something curling up on top of her sheets, and fighting the urge to wake her up just so that she would grin her silly smile from under her oversized glasses at him. Finally he turned his back and walked resignedly through the wallpaper into his own room.
    • “Oh for the love of all that’s grim!” Kimberly cursed violently to herself as she watched the augurs rearrange themselves in the cauldron once again “Do you think Humans really have no concept of how short, pathetic and pointless their lives are? Surely they can’t be that oblivious, after all it’s encoded in their DNA to seek out others and breed. And yet we’ve been watching the boy for nearly a year through the augurs and he’s still showing no interest in dating anyone. Let alone impregnating her so we can devour his children’s souls. I mean Honestly!”
    • Kimberly sought her sister’s gaze hoping for some sort of sympathetic noise of agreement, even if it came in the form of a rambling, incoherent, rhyming couplet. But the other woman was apparently far too busy pressing her nose to the glass of the window to peer out at the first snow fall of winter, like an awe struck child, to take an interest in their prey’s development.
    • Sighing Kimberly returned her attention to the sacrificial goat’s bones arranging themselves to spell out cryptic messages in the dirty waters of the cauldron. Reading the augurs was an old art they had learned from their mother. It was not as flash as some other magic, there were no images of the future or the presence swimming on the waters of their cauldron, only signs for them to read, and not always easily deciphered ones. However it was far safer than following the boy around physically to spy on his comings and goings. They had tried that before, and eventually someone always spotted the broomstick and got them into trouble. The Augurs were reliable and over the previous year the witches had gotten used to seeing the same things repeated in the signs ad nauseam with the elf boy.
    • Which was how they knew David has spent his freshman year attending parties, meeting new people, joining societies, attending parties, doing daily menial boring tasks, and of course studying, constantly constantly studying if the bones were to be believed. It was no wonder he had no time to do much else really.
    • As Kimberly lulled into annoyed silence Samantha dragged herself from the window and peered into the cauldron curiously. Kim watched her sister in silence, the other woman could often see things there that Kimberly could not and occasionally stumbled on some sort of deep insight the other woman was not privy to. “They’re having a party tomorrow.” She let out a high disturbing laugh. Kimberly sighed “You are so unhelpful sometimes Samantha...We will give the boy a few more months to get his act together on his own and then I am intervening. Men...you have to do everything for them, I swear.”
    • “Matt, we’re already having a graduation party, hence the moving of the large statue, in case you thought I was just redecorating. Graduation party means we don’t need to do anything else to celebrate.” “You’re missing the point Aileen, the graduation party is for Ginger, I’m saying I want to take you out, and buy you dinner to celebrate. Just the two of us.” “Which would qualify as a date, and therefore is not going to happen as you and I are not dating! And I don’t need help carrying this!” “Yeah I can see that by the way you’re skinning the floor as you drag it across. I’m just saying we skipped right ahead to the living together and sleeping together. What’s the problem with going on one date?”
    • “I am not having this conversation with you again.” Aileen rolled her eyes as she straightened the immense sculpture they were attempting to move out of the room. As she glanced up, the three no- longer-freshmen who were moving couches around, quickly looked away hiding various degrees of amusement at the conversation they had seen played out over a hundred times in the last year between the not-quite-a-couple that was Aileen Quinn and Matthias Vance. “What?” She snapped. “Nothing.” They chorused together.
    • Ginger fortunately came to their rescue before Aileen could make good upon the murderous looks in her green eyes. “Oh for crying out loud Aileen, let got of the control freak thing and relax! You just aced a full set of exams, you don’t need to start being high strung all over again for another couple of months and I won’t be here for that. So kiss and make up you two.” Aileen crossed her arms stubbornly “Top of your class in Education Psychology and Kiss and Makeup is what you come up with? Four years and a lot of Armand’s money well spent Ginger.” Matt laughed as he pulled her into an embrace.
    • “It’s going to be so weird without you Ginger!” Tara shook her head. “I mean who’s going to be our University Mom now!” “I’m not your guys’ Moooom, come on.” Ginger wrinkled her nose as the red headed girl hugged her. “No, you are. Believe me, and I actually have a mother, so you can take my word for it.” Tara punched David lightly in the arm as he grinned at her. “And you’re actually a lot less crazy than my Mom.” Justin put in.
    • “You guys are being ridiculous. Oh by the way, remember that the repairman is coming Tuesday and the new Freshman is arriving in a few weeks when term picks up again, be nice to her. And since I won’t be around to do grocery shopping anymore you...” Ginger trailed off as five pairs of raised eyebrows scrutinized her “Shut up.” She laughed. “Come on MOM,” Tara teased “Don’t you have a party to throw?” “Yeah I thought you were planning on being the cool mom and getting your babies drunk tonight.” Aileen smirked. “What are you all going to do without me?” Ginger sighed in exasperation.
    • The house was packed with party guests within no time for Ginger’s graduation, champagne, courtesy of what was left over of her scholarship money, was flowing freely and everyone was having a good time in their emboldened states.
    • “You still owe me a dance!” David started at the familiar voice nearly in his ear as he turned to see Tara grinning at him. “So I do.” He turned smiling at her.
    • “I mean it may not be a spontaneous dance break, and it’s much less cool when there’s actually music, but you did make a promise to dance with me. So what do you say?” “Well I’m definitely not the type of guy to break a promise.” David grinned as he reached for her.
    • “Guys! I want to make an announcement!” Suddenly the music was being muted as a loud male voice called out over the crowd. David and Tara turned curiously to see Heath Butler, Ginger’s boyfriend, having dragged their graduating housemate to the centre of the room, talking loudly “To all of us here who are seniors and graduating this year...well here’s so us starting our new lives back outside of the University bubble!” This statement was accompanied by cheers from both the gown wearing seniors and the younger, normally dressed students who were not yet ready to graduate. As they quieted down once more Heath began to talk again “And so in the spirit of kicking off our lives...”
    • “Ginger Newson, will you marry me.” The room watched open mouthed as Ginger’s eyes went wider than saucers. “Are you serious?” She breathed out into the expectant silence before her face broke into a broad smile “Of course I will.”
    • A cheer went up from the room as the couple kissed like there was no one else there. Justin was the first to turn away, a thought which had been brewing in his mind for months finally finding time to surface and he suddenly knew what he should do.
    • “So...about that dance.” David reached for Tara, grinning mischievously as the music started back up. “About it indeed.” Tara raised her eyebrows over her glasses. “Hey Tara.”
    • “Justin, hey...Having fun?” David turned to face this new interruption. “Hey...yeah...Tara...can I talk to you for a second...” Justin glanced anxiously sideways at David for a moment “Umm...in private.” “Sure...I guess.” Tara gave David a shrug backwards as Justin led her away and his attention was claimed by a friend he knew from his Young Entrepreneurs society.
    • “So, what did you want to talk about?” Tara smiled as Justin “Please say not work. I’ve got every single fact about everything still being purged from my brain from exams!” “No...I was thinking, what with Ginger getting engaged and with Aileen and Matt talking earlier.... Did you...I mean...would you like to go out sometime?” Tara blinked at him blankly over purple glasses. “I mean, we’re both heading back into the city tomorrow for break between terms right? We could...like go to a restaurant then or something...like...on a date.” “Oh” Bright red eyebrows shot up “Oh right...you’re talking about a date. Ummm...wow. Justin I’m...I don’t know...” She glanced hesitantly at her feet, as a thousand different things rushed through her mind at one, not the least of them being the man she was very aware of talking to a very pretty girl a few feet off.
    • She turned a smile back to Justin “Sure, why not. Yeah, date, with the dating. I mean we’re good friends, since like...grade school, so dating is a good idea probably. Cool.” “Cool” Justin grinned visibly relieved. Then, impulsively he gathered his courage and leaning forwards pulled Tara towards him.
    • “You know what I mean?” “Mmm?” David drew his attention back to April, who was looking at him expectantly “Oh yeah totally.” He nodded, without any idea what he was agreeing about, and did his best to smile at the girl, though he was having some trouble grasping why he didn’t feel like it all of a sudden.
    • “Little Jack Horner is in his corner, but oh what a good boy he thinks he is, kiss the girls and make them cry!” “Please stop babbling Samantha, I am trying to concentrate love spells are not an easy thing to make you know.” Kimberly smiled a hideous smile to herself as she dipped her fingers in the boiling cauldron, before smiling slowly to herself “Perfect. Don’t you agree sister dearest?” But Samantha was already long gone, repeating something about kissing plums over and over with a wide vapid grin on her face.
    • Tara and Justin took a taxi back into to visit their families early the next morning. The other three, who didn’t have people to go back to in Belladonna cove , or at least not people they wanted to go back to in some cases, stayed behind in the house, quietly chipping away the unpleasantly quiet weeks between academic years while the pair of rich kids visited home. David did not see Tara and Justin the morning they left, he didn’t speak to the them on the phone while they were gone.
    • So he was completely taken aback when she materialized in the library without warning several days before term was officially due to start and dropped herself down on the corner of his desk. “Hey! What’s up, if feels like it’s been a million years since I saw you!” “Tara!” He felt his face light up at the sight of her “Yeah, not bad...just, hanging...working...The usual. How was...home?” “Eh, same as always, good to see Dad though.”
    • “So, where’s Justin?” David tried to keep his voice even as he asked the question. “Oh, he’s coming back in a couple of days. I don’t think he was missing being here as much as I was... Plus I wanted to go see the monster movie fest at the union tonight. And he wasn’t really interested, so he’s going to stay home and eat home cooked meals a few more days...or...you know since Mrs. Cleveland doesn’t actually cook...home take out ordered meals, and watch some sort of game that’s on television...football, basketball....baseball...I don’t know...he said some teams and as far as I knew he might have been talking about actual Maple Leaves playing against real live Penguins...that would be a sport I would watch.”
    • “So I hear you two are dating now or something? How’s that going?” David returned his gaze to the computer as he asked the question, which was why he didn’t see the look that flitted across Tara’s face as she hesitated before responding. “Oh you know...good. I mean we were always friends...so this was the next natural step right?” “Mmm.”
    • “I mean I never really saw myself dating him, because I never really thought of him that way before. But, I mean, it takes years to develop a relationship of trust and respect and we’ve already gotten through all that stuff, so it’s a piece of cake really, and it’s not really how I imagined...things. But I’m not six years old anymore, I can’t go buying the whole Prince Charming, love at first sight thing, right I mean, when does that ever happen? Come on.”
    • “Hi...can I help you with something?” The dark haired girl glanced up at the sound of Justin’s voice “Hi. Do you live here?” “Uh, hi, yeah. I’m Justin.” “Oh good! I’m Gabriella. I’m the new freshman on the scholarship programme, majoring in Dramatic Arts.”
    • “Right good.” Justin nodded as his mouth worked silently for a moment opening and closing as he searched for something to say “Are you hot? I mean cold!” Justin felt his colour rising “Aren’t you cold? I mean...you’re not wearing very much...clothes and it’s snowing and...” “Freezing actually” Gabriella laughed “But my winter coat is buried somewhere under all my ridiculous stuff. You would think I’d grab more clothes and fewer cheer trophies, right? I swear under here somewhere is some blonde.” She tugged a piece of dark hair laughing. “You cheer?” Justin asked, suddenly curious.
    • “Yeah, mostly because my school didn’t have girls sports teams. Shouting rhyming encouragement at the boys while doing back flips seemed like the next best thing. But yeah, long story short, seeing as I cleverly packed things in reverse order that I would need them...winter coat bottom of bag...cheer trophies top...and here I am basically naked in the snow.” Gabriella flashed Justin a smile that made him go weak at the knees and suddenly he knew he was in very big trouble.
    • As Sophomore year officially started with Gabriella in the house and Tara and Justin officially dating, they all quickly settled into the same rhythm as in their first year, though David had the oddest sensation of everything being slightly askew, with everyone pretending like nothing had changed.
    • Fortunately for everyone, Aileen remained like an imperturbable rock in a storm, and had in Ginger’s absence taken over the role of authority in the house, in spite of the fact she was only a Junior to Matt’s Seniority. Aileen however treated the position of power she seized in her coup far more as a dictatorship than her mothering predecessor had. Which was fine by her underlings as she was sleeping with Matt, the girls and David mostly ignored her, and Justin, in spite of being in his second year of Political Sciences, was still unclear on the differences between a dictatorship and a democracy. But no one was surprised when she burst into the library one afternoon with a new order. “Right, you two. I need a dress!”
    • The group glanced up at their fearless leader, David raising his eyebrow inquisitively “I really hope that order was directed at Tara and Gabriella.” “Why do you need a dress?” Matt was looking at his non-girlfriend suspiciously. “Got a hot date?” “Snow Ball, this weekend. Black Tie. Have to wear a stupid dress., gown...thing” “What’s a Snow Ball?” David asked curiously “I mean apart from a ball of snow you throw at people?” “It’s this big dinner dancing charity thing that happens every two years during winter.” Matt piped up “All the elite of Belladonna Cove high society go, and us. It’s black tie and it’s not as bad as my pessimistic other half is making it seem. But you will have to get a tux or a suit or something.”
    • “Wait! What?” Tara quirked an eyebrow curiously as she snapped her book shut and rose from the library table “That’s this weekend?” “Yeah. We got the invitation in the mail like weeks ago.” “And you’re telling us this now?” “I figured you guys knew.” Aileen shrugged, “I mean your Dad is organizing it, so...I think it was a fair assumption really.” The casual logic she spoke with made it difficult to argue with her apparent lack of concern for other people.
    • “I have a dress you can borrow if you want Aileen. I mean...it might be a bit small but I’m sure we can make it work.” David wondered quietly if Gabriella was genuinely passive aggressive or if insulting Aileen’s body shape had been a complete accident, but she seemed genuine enough as she turned to smile at Tara “What about you Tara, what are you going to wear?” “I’ll go buy something” Tara said dismissively as she scanned the shelves before pulling out a thick tome on Aesthetic Criticism.
    • “Ooooh! We should go together!” Gabriella beamed enthusiastically at the red head “And go and get our hair done and makeup all painted up.” “Oooooh, I would rather walk across hot coals.” Tara replied. “Hmmm?” Gabriella looked inquisitive as David tried to turn a laugh into a choking noise. “Nothing.” Tara shook her head. “Ok, great! Then it’s a shopping date.”
    • “Awww, I bet you two are going to have a great time.” David grinned as his fingers moved across the keyboard. “Yeah, well you get to go take my boyfriend to rent a Tux.” Tara smiled in return as David’s grin faded “Oh yeah, I hope you’re excited Davey boy.” “What’s going on.” Justin looked up, apparently oblivious to the strange energy bolting around the room at that moment.
    • “Are all you girls ready yet!” Aileen’s bellowing voice echoed up the stairs “And just so you know, I am calling you all girls! Even you guys, because the only people it takes longer than ten minutes to get ready for anything is girly girls!” “So what does that make you, one of the guys?” Matt rolled his eyes as he emerged downstairs, “You look beautiful by the way.” “Yeah and you look like a Penguin. LET’S GO PEOPLE!”
    • David and Justin were a few moments behind, both fidgeting slightly in their formal wear. He exchanged an understanding glance with Justin as the other boy struggled with straightening his bow tie. “Ok, great, now, all we’re missing are the actual girls. COME ON!” Aileen tapped her heeled foot impatiently.
    • “We’re ready Aileen! Wow! You trying to deafen the whole house?” David turned at the sound of Tara’s voice, a retort on his lips and suddenly found himself unable to say anything, unable to do anything, except stare. She wrinkled her nose at him before hopping the last step of the spiral staircase, Gabriella descending behind her more calmly.
    • It took David a moment of staring at Tara to realize what was different about her “I can actually see your face.” He blurted the words before considering them. Tara laughed “Yeah, I know an unavoidable set of circumstances. My glasses sort of clashed with the dress. So I’m making with the contacts... And the hair...well...it sort of got bullied into this shape...I might spontaneously combust from the hairspray.”
    • “You ready to go?” Justin looped his arm around Tara’s waist. “You look gorgeous.” David assured her, earning himself a surprised smile. “Thank you.” She flicked him playfully before allowing herself to follow her boyfriend, who had an iron grip on her hips.
    • Aileen meanwhile had finished waiting. “You know whoever thought of this whole floor length dress in snow thing was clearly a man.” She muttered as she strutted out the door towards the waiting taxi. Behind her Matt could only laugh, as he motioned for the other four to follow them.
    • After a short taxi ride, the small group found themselves in a huge ballroom, already packed with guests in tuxedos and fine fabrics, champagne flowing freely among them. The general first impression was one of open mouthed staring.
    • “Whoa. Nice place.” Gabriella gazed around in awe struck approval. Aileen puffed a stray mesh of dark hair from her forehead “I need a drink.” “Shouldn’t be a problem here.” David laughed glancing at a tray of fine crystal being swept past them, before leaning towards Tara “Is it tacky to stare.” “Nah...just pretend to be condescending about it and you’ll fit right in. Come on, let’s go get something from the bar.”
    • However that plan was quickly foiled by the sudden appearance of Armand DeBateau. “Sweetheart, you made it. And you look lovely. All of you do.” He beamed at his small group of protégées and Tara smiled back. “Thanks Daddy. We were just going to go get something to drink.” “Actually there’s someone I want you to meet Tara dear, Doctor Milligan, she’s chief of staff at the hospital and she’s been looking forwards to discussing the future of the hospital with you.” Tara had time to nod consentingly before her father drew her away from the rest of the group. Leaving them to find their own various entertainments and alcoholic drinks.
    • “There he is Samantha darling, do you see?” Kimberly’s eyes had fixed themselves on their victim as soon as he had entered the ballroom. He carried himself with remarkable dignity for a charity case amongst a crowd of judgemental sharks, but what really concerned the two witches at that moment was the company that he should be keeping in order to further their plans. “Are we going to play games with his little heart now?” Sam beamed at her sister.
    • “Yes...I think so...” Sam had been asking the question since before they had sat down to dinner, and now that the dinner had been served, the dishes cleared and the speeches made it seemed like it was high time for them to set a romantic mood. “What do you think? The little blonde girl there who apparently lost most of her dress in some sort of tragic scissors and bedazzler accident?” “No...I think it should be her!”
    • Kimberly’s gaze flicked to the dark skinned woman her sister was pointing at, “Ah yes, Chastity somethingorother,” she frowned as she tried to recall the name of the girl who appeared at so many of these social gatherings thanks to her position as the mayor’s Executive assistant, a slutty secretary by any other name in Kimberly’s opinion “She will do nicely.”
    • As discretely as they could manage in the crowded ballroom the two sisters drew their wands, Kimberly aiming hers directly at Chastity, and Samantha at David. They spoke the words in unison, feeling the power of the spell they had prepared days earlier build within them with each syllable before they both released the spell and watched in satisfaction as it swirled invisibly through the air.
    • The spells hit together with a powerful crackling that only the two women could see. And they watched in satisfaction as their spells settled onto the victims and took effect.
    • “Hi there....” David turned, smiling politely at the tall beautiful dark haired woman who had apparently materialized behind him. “Hi.” He nodded noncommittally. “I’m Chastity. Chastity Gere. But don’t let the name fool you.” She offered him a strange smile, leaving David to raise his eyebrows curiously at her. “Uh...sure...I’m David, nice to meet you. I should be going somewhere else now-” “So,” Chastity was still smiling, apparently oblivious to his discomfort “Do you want to dance or should we just skip ahead and go back to my place?”
    • “Riiiiight. I’m going to go over there for a bit...” He took an awkward step backwards, trying to put some space between the purple woman and himself. “Besides,” a sudden thought occurred to him “I already promised the next dance to someone.”
    • “What? What! What is he doing!” Kimberly Cordial stared open mouthed as David strode across the room away from Chastity. “He’s walking away from her. That’s not possible! He should be fawning over her in raptures! Did we miscalculate something? Maybe we forgot an ingredient, maybe merging the two spells made them unstable...maybe his elf blood makes him react to our spells differently...” “Maybe he’s already in love.” Samantha’s lilting tones chimed in cheerfully.
    • Kimberly’s head whipped around at her sister’s words, as she noticed where the boy was headed. It took the witch a moment to realize that his target was an surprisingly y well groomed Tara DeBateau, and that they were smiling at each other an abnormal amount as their faces turned rather unflattering shades of pink. “Oh Hellfire and damnation.” Kimberly sighed She knew as well as her sister did that their artifice could never hope to match a real emotion, not without turning it into outright mind control, and that had a tendency to get them into trouble. The sort of trouble that ended with pitchforks usually. They had not used mind control in so long that Kimberly didn’t even know what the modern equivalent of a pitchfork might be... It was better to maintain subtlety and the illusion that victims were acting of their own free will. “He couldn’t pick someone less complicated than that.” Kimberly sighed in annoyance as she left to flop gracelessly down into a chair.
    • “Hey.” “Hi. Ummm...David this is Doctor Milligan, Doctor this is my friend David.” “Nice to meet you.” David nodded politely to the doctor “And you’ll have to forgive me I am about to steal your lovely companion here from you.”
    • He turned his attention to Tara “You, Miss DeBateau, still owe me a dance. And this time I am collecting my dues, without interruption.” He extended one hand, and a slow smile spread over Tara’s features. “Sounds fair to me Mr Doran.” She took the preferred hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet and out among the dancing couples.
    • “I thought maybe you needed saving.” David smiled conspiratorially at Tara as he led her away from the woman “You looked like you were bored out of your mind.” Tara made a face “All she was talking about was funding funding funding. I get it, I’m an heiress, you want my money. Move on. I wasn’t being obvious about it was I?” “No, but after more than a year, I know you pretty well. When you get bored you start playing with your glasses.” “I’m not wearing glasses.” “Yeah I know, I kept having to watch your hand close around thin air near your nose, it was so strange.”
    • Tara laughed as “Well thank you for rescuing me from my own strangeness. But I have to ask, this ploy will only work on one condition, so you’d best warn me, can you actually dance?” “You know I’m not sure.” David replied honestly “Shall we find out together?” He reached boldly for the petite red head and she allowed herself to be settled comfortably into his grip as they began to move together.
    • “Not too bad. I must admit.” “So what did your Dad want to achieve by forcing that Doctor on you? Is he trying to convince you to take up the medical profession?” “No, I’ve got a job already. Being an heiress is a full time commitment don’t you know?” She wrinkled up her nose in an entirely endearing way “I have to get to know people who do real jobs though. And then- Oh dear plumbbob above.” “What?”
    • “Do not look now, but my father’s ex wife just walked in.” He felt her cringe towards him as he chanced a surreptitious glance over his shoulder to where Tara was looking. “You mean the trashy looking blonde hanging on the arm of a man who’s probably twice her age....or three times the age she wants everyone to think she is?” “That’s her...Oh man I really don’t want to watch this. So we’re going to just keep dancing until this is past the point of an argument my dad can involve me in...we might be here a while.” “That’s fine by me.”
    • “It’s so stupid too. And it was all before me of course...I guess I should even thank the ridiculous woman.” “What do you mean?” “Well if she hadn’t gone and cheated, Dad would’ve stayed married to her, maybe actually had a few kids of his own. Either way, he would have had no need to fill the large ex-wife shaped hole in his heart with a daughter shaped piece.” Tara’s face suddenly became serious .
    • “You know that he adopted me within two weeks of splitting up with her?” “I am sorry Nancy, but you have to understand, we simply cannot allocate any more funds to this department now. It is out of my hands.” “We’re not a department Mr.DeBateau, with all due respect, we’re an orphanage, and I have three dozen kids to feed and house not to mention a boiler that’s not going to make it to winter, and then I’ll be dealing with three dozen kids with soar throats, runny noses and pneumonia, at best. And then you’ll be telling me there isn’t enough money for medical bills. I’m sorry to seem pushy sir, but we’re barely scraping by as it is.”
    • “I understand that, and normally I would allocate money from my own pocket, but at the moment I’m busy paying some of the best divorce lawyers in the country to make sure that I have money left to give in a few years time. I am sorry, there’s simply nothing I can do.” “Sir I-” Nancy Harkness’s retort was cut short by the sound of shouting coming from bellow her window.
    • “Excuse me Mr. DeBateau, I’ll be back as soon as I can.” She set her lips into a thin authoritative line as she strode to the door to break out the fight in the playground before it could escalate any further, biting back a retort about the facility being dangerously understaffed as she went.
    • Armand DeBateau had not been in the office alone for more than a minute when the door was pushed open again and he turned to find a tiny figure in red pigtails pushing her way in. For a moment she peered at him over large oversized glasses, before pushing them up her nose “Hello, who are you?” “I’m Armand DeBateau” Armand was startled into replying. “Can I have that chair please?” “Uuuuh...I suppose.” Armand stood automatically. “Thank you.” The red head smiled endearingly at him.
    • Armand watched as the tiny creature determinedly lugged the chair over towards the office’s bookshelf before clambering onto the seat and pulling a tome that struck Armand as remarkably heavy for a child. “What are you reading?” Armand asked as she inspected the book seriously. “Well, I finished all the books in our library. Because we don’t have very many. So miss Harkness says I can come in here and borrow books whenever I want. This one is on...” she hesitated for a moment her mouth moving slowly as she sounded out the title “The Historical Biographies of the Founders of Belladonna Cove.””
    • “Are you sure that’s what you want, it’s a bit big for you...” “I’m short, not childish.” She said the words firmly but without the childish arrogant petulance so many of her age were prone too. Armand couldn’t help but smile at her. “Did you know that my great great great great grandfather was one of the founders of the city?” Armand watched as the little girl’s face lit up in unexpected delight as she took in this interesting fact. “No I didn’t.”
    • When Nancy Harkness returned it was to find Armand DeBateau on the floor with a small child and a book, “And see him, he was My great great great grandfather’s brother...Ah, hello Nancy.” “I trust Tara isn’t bothering you sir.” Nancy gave the small child a disapproving look. “Not at all, in fact I have decided to take another try at moving around some money, seeing if I can’t allocate a few more hundred to the children here.” “Really? That’s wonderful sir!”
    • “On one condition of course. I would like to adopt little Tara here. If that is agreeable with her of course.” Tara glanced up from her book startled. “I’m very agreeable.” she smiled broadly. And as she smiled Armand felt a little bit of the joy his soon to be ex-wife had stolen to him, return as he began to build an entirely different and more reliable bond with a small abandoned red head girl, who had never had a home before.
    • “They finalized the divorce proceedings pretty quickly and quietly after Dad adopted me, but it I still have her to thank for...everything.” David stared at Tara, he had come to know Tara fairly well, but it was rare for her to be so direct, everything he had learned about her had been gathered from bits and pieces dropped as she was talking a million miles a minute about something else. The same thought must have occurred to Tara because laughed a little uncomfortably “I don’t know why I just told you that.” She laughed “Sorry.” “No, don’t apologize, I’m glad you did.”
    • “I’ve never told anyone that story before. I figured out pretty soon after Dad adopted me that it made them uncomfortable to hear about where I came from....everyone here...they like to pretend I don’t come from the lower classes daaaaahling” She smiled as she dragged her vowels out dramatically “But they’re also never going to forget. No matter what the adoption papers say, no matter what my last name is, they never forget that I’m just one of Dad’s charity cases. I don’t have the high class blood daaaahling. I don’t fit in here.” She gave a wave of her head that encompassed the ball room. “So is that why you’ve been behaving strangely all night.” “I have not!” “Yeah you have. You’ve been all...proper, and tense, you look proper, you’re acting proper...it’s weird. I could see it a mile away. You’re being weird because you want to fit in aren’t you?”
    • “Well maybe the only person I don’t have to act proper with is you.” “You know...seeing as you don’t know who your parents are, for all you know you could be just as fancy schmancy as them. You could be fancier.” He nodded gravely as Tara laughed, then grinned at her, pleased his comment had had the desired effect as he felt her relax under his hands. “You know I used to think that. I used to have all these elaborate fantasies, about how I was some abandoned cursed princess, and one day my parents the king and queen would come take me away. And then...I kind of got exactly what I was wishing for and it turns out being rich is not as much fun as it’s cracked up to be, especially when you’re not born into it. Not that I’m complaining...I love Dad, and I’m so grateful but......I don’t even know why I’m telling you all this! All this spinning must be confusing me into idiotic honesties.” “Hey if spinning is what it’s going to take....”
    • Tara laughed as David impulsively released her, guiding a surprised Tara into a twirl, before snapping her back into his arms, pulling her closer this time he watched in fascination as her brushed across her skin. He was not sure if he had known he had been in love with her before. He had certainly felt a gnawing feeling of wrongness ever since she had been with Justin, but he had denied it. But in that moment, as the realization struck him it suddenly became very difficult for him to remember a time when he had known her that he hadn’t loved her.
    • “Tara?” “Yeah.” “You shouldn’t be with Justin. And I think you know it too.”
    • Her step faltered as she pulled away from him “What?” “You two are wrong for each other. All this time I’ve been wondering what you could possibly see in him, but I think I finally figured it out. He makes you feel like you fit into this world because he fits into it. But then you stop being yourself.!” Tara turned away and David knew he had struck a vein, reaching out he grasped her hand and drew her back to him “Tara...you’re too strange and too wonderful and to fit into anywhere like this. Maybe you don’t think you know who you are because you don’t know your parents and you don’t know your lineage. But why are you trying so hard to mess with a good thing...with an amazing thing? So what if these people will always think of you as different...you are. Stop trying to fix something that’s not broken!”
    • Tara gave him a deadly appraising look before she retaliated “You’re obsessed by things you don’t have.” Now it was David’s turn to bristle “What?” “You are, you’re obsessed with going back on the road and running off again to...nowhere, you’re obsessed with getting rich. You are incapable of being happy with what you have because you’re always thinking about the next thing! You might wake up one day and decide to just leave for all I know! Every single morning I wake up I wonder if you’re still there.”
    • “You hide real stuff about yourself behind being smart and a crazy amount of hair and glasses.” “You hide lots of things about yourself and you don’t even do it that well, pointy ears.” “You haven’t picked a major yet because it’s the only way you have of keeping control over your own life.” “You should’ve asked me out when I wasn’t with someone else. If you had we wouldn’t even be having this stupid fight!”
    • Silence fell over the pair, as they stared at each other for a long moment, still amongst the dancing couples, the other’s words slowly sinking in. “That feels good.” Tara exhaled finally. “Yeah...”
    • “So are we...ok?” “Yeah...I think we are.” David had the strangest sensation that they were not just good, they were better than they had ever been.
    • “Oh Damn the moons and the suns. Love is not this difficult. You dance, you kiss, your father pays a few goats and you’re off! Why is this boy making it so complicated.” Kimberly sighed as she watched the pair “I think I need another drink. Not only is he going to give me grey hairs, he’s going to drive me alcoholism. Spectacular.”
    • But Samantha was staring at the young pair, a knowing smile on her face. She had seen too many souls over the centuries to not know exactly how they were put together, all the millions of tiny pieces that made people, people, their past, their loves, their likes, their dislikes... All the little tiny pieces that made up one person, and if they were very lucky, one day fit with someone else’s little tiny pieces. The red head thing and the elf prey were still missing some pieces before they’d fit together quite right. Samantha leaned back, smiling beatifically... Everything was going swimmingly as far as she was concerned. Love and War were two excellent ways of finding missing pieces.
    • “Wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up.” David groaned a little as he opened is eyes and immediately squeezed them shut again against the cold light of early morning, but Tara began to shake him. “Wake up, wake up wake up wake up...” “I’m sorry, did you want me to wake up?” He managed drily as she smiled down at him.
    • “What time is it?” David checked the clock on his wall and shook his head “How are you up so early? My head still hurts from all that Champagne and spinning and you’re about half my size.” “Oh I haven’t been to sleep yet. Been very busy, lots of things to do before I lose my nerve. So come on, get up get up get up get up!” “How much Coffee have you had?” “Not important.” “Ok...what is important?” David scrutinized Tara’s bright face, he had the feeling she was in the middle of either a crisis or an epiphany and either way he would like to know what was going on.
    • Tara smiled at him sideways, “How do you feel about adventures?” A slow grin spread across David’s face as he looked into her eyes “I’ll get dressed.”