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Round Robin Chapter 3
 

Round Robin Chapter 3

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    Round Robin Chapter 3 Round Robin Chapter 3 Presentation Transcript

    • “So have you gone upper class on me or something?” Tara turned and gave David a curious look over one shoulder “Really? I wake you up early to come on an adventure with me and that’s the first question you ask? More original than “So where’re we going” I’ll give you that much...” “I’m serious, last night you still seemed kind of ticked at me when we got home, so I can only assume that you’re either an evil twin, or you’ve suddenly started doing that rich upper class thing people do where they repress anything even slightly uncomfortable that happens. Until, a few decades later they go crazy and they shoot their husband for not lining up the towels by thread count.”
    • Tara laughed and David grinned, having accomplished his goal of amusing her successfully “I’m not repressing. Besides, I organize my towels alphabetically by store of purchase.” She teased, flicking his pointy ear with a grin. “And you forgot a third option from your list. I’ve been thinking about it, and I realized you were right.” David chanced a sideways look at her, thinking of the things he had said about Justin and her relationship with him, “About what?”
    • “About knowing who I am.” Tara spun to face David as she began to trudge backwards through the snow, “I always thought it didn’t matter who I was born, as I just had to be sure about who I was now...but I think maybe you were right about needing to know my past so I can know I am and be...me, and be...with who I should be with... You were right about it making me feel weird about not belonging here...and so I thought maybe figuring out who I am might make me feel...different. But I’ve been trying to access my records since I got to Uni to find that out, and it’s all red tape and paper work...”
    • “Which brings me to the answer of the question that you did not ask! Where’re we going you say? Good question David! I will tell you! We’re off to the orphanage to break into their file room, steal the one labelled Tara...whatever my real last name might be...and then read it. What do you think?” avid grinned mischievously at his friend. “I think you may want to consider walking forwards the rest of the way to the orphanage.” “Why?”
    • Before David could answer the question Tara felt the back of her leg band against something solid, tipping her off balance, and she wind milled for a moment before sitting down with a hard thump on what fortunately turned out to be a bench. “You could have warned me.” Tara reproached David as he laughed. “Oh and by the way, since I admitted you were right, now’s the part you admit I was right too, so I’m just going to sit here until you do. So don’t be stubborn because my butt is getting cold already.”
    • David smiled at her considering before taking a step, closing the distance between them as he leaned over her. “Ok. you were right,” David acknowledged “About me wanting things I don’t have...I have ambition. But I don’t think wanting things is always a bad thing...” he looked at Tara meaningfully “Do you?” “No, I guess I don’t.” “Ok, good.” “Good.”
    • “As for the thing you said about me leaving...” He held out his hand to Tara and pulled her to her feet, “What do you think? In two and half years will there be something here that’s not with someone else to keep me from leaving?” The petite red head dusted the snow from herself quietly before smiling up at David “Come on, we’re almost there.”
    • “This is an orphanage?” “What, were you picturing? A big old crumbling gothic mansion, an evil orphanage mistress, and raggedy children regularly breaking into song?” “Maybe.” “Yeah well...believe me I was pretty disappointed I didn’t live in a place like that too once I learned how to read. Instead it’s more like...a boarding school where you never get to go home.”
    • “That actually sounds worse than the other thing you said.” “It’s not so bad...just sort of...sad.” David looked at Tara sideways, and quickly changed the subject “So what’s the plan?”
    • “You know we’ve already had lots of doctors through here examining the other kids, the environment, and potential causes for the sleeping sickness, so far none of them have found anything.” “Yes mam, but if you don’t mind we’re going to take a look around too.” A Bell rang in the orphanage, as small children scampered around to get to where they needed to be, dodging around the three adult figures with singular disinterest.
    • “Well, I suppose it can’t hurt.” The Kindergarten assistant shrugged as the hallways began to clear “Feel free to take a look around, get whatever you need. I actually need to go supervise a class, we have a new admittance today but if you need anything you know where to reach me.”
    • The Young woman began to turn away, before seeming to remember something and turning back “Sorry, but what did you say your names were again?” “We didn’t.” “Doctor Smith and this is my associate, Doctor Jones. We’re specialists.” “I see.” The Young woman nodded, as she wondered if she was getting older or if the specialists really did look younger than they should be, but she shrugged it off as she dashed hurriedly down the hallway, leaving the doctors to their work.
    • “I can’t believe that actually worked.” “Neither can I actually. And it was my plan.” Tara grinned at David as she let her sunglasses clatter to the ground, trading them for her purple frames, and then grinned at him. “Shall we go?”
    • “Hey, by the way,” David piped up as he fell into pace beside Tara “not that I’m not having fun and all but, why am I along on this little field trip?” “Because I needed a partner in crime of course.” “Yeah, but, at the risk of pushing my luck, why not Justin, he is your boyfriend after all.” “Not anymore.” Tara said the words with a flippancy that could only be described as mind boggling. “I think this is the one.” She pointed to a door, taking a hard right as David gaped after her.
    • “Wait, what?” he stared at her as she jiggled the handle of the door ineffectually “You two broke up?” “Yep. Very late last night. We’re still going to be friends, it was all very civilized. And that was the thing really isn’t it, it was all ridiculously civilized, all very friends trying to be in love...so I guess you were right about that too...and I think this door is locked.” David felt a grin pull at his mouth at this news. “You know...” He chose his next words carefully “since you admitted I was right, I guess it’s my turn again. You were right. About me having secrets.” “David, do you really think this is the time?”
    • “Yeah I do.” David grinned as he reached for Tara and turned her to face him, putting his arms around her. “Whatever you do, stay close to me.” “But-” “Hey. You trust me right?” “Yes...in theory, but in practice I’m fairly sure I’m not going to like any idea that starts with that question.”
    • But David just laughed as he pulled Tara close to himself....
    • ...and stepped sideways.
    • He watched with amused satisfaction while Tara blinked in confusion for a moment, before pushing away from him, her eyes huge as she stared around “What just happened? We were outside...and now...what just happened.” David shrugged casually “Oh you know, we just walked through the wall no big deal.” “We...walked...through...the wall.” Tara stared at him as David shrugged again. “Yeah you know...it’s just a thing that I do.” He was enjoying himself immensely.
    • This did not escape Tara as she rounded on him with a look that was half glare half grin “You can stop enjoying this so much you jerk.” She punched him playfully “Why didn’t you tell me about this before?” Again David shrugged “It never really came up and then it felt strange just telling you...now seemed like a good time though, since we seem to be doing a lot of sharing lately.” Tara shook her head at him in barely concealed amusement “Come on we’d better find these files before they find all those smoke and mirrors you set up outside here to make it look like you could walk through solid objects just to impress some girl you know.”
    • She folded herself down in front of the computer jiggling the mouse to stir it into wakefulness, and it blinked back a demand for a password. “Sorry,” David told her, leaning over to see what she was doing. “My powers don’t include computer hacking. I don’t suppose you learned about that in one of your many classes about everything.” But to his surprise Tara’s fingers were already moving across the keyboard and a moment later it lit up with a cooperative noise. “How did you do that?” “60% of people’s passwords is....PASSWORD” Tara shrugged as she began scrolling through icons. “We all have our breaking and entering skills.”
    • “God how is this organized....how am supposed to find my file on here when it’s sorted by biological parents’ last name...That’s just...stupid. Wait...I’ll try sorting it by adoption date...” “You have fun with that. I’ll keep a look out...” David winked at her before sticking his head out the door helpfully,. “Show off” Tara laughed as she returned her attention to the computer.
    • “Got it!” She called just as David spotted a figure in the hallways, a file in hand. Quickly he yanked his head back through the door. “We have to go.” “File cabinet J, Drawer 1.” Tara was already on her feet as she closed down the list of location references for adoption files.
    • “They’re locked!” Tara gestured helplessly after a fruitless tug of war with one of the filing cabinets “What is with all the security in this place?” “Well...it’s not totally misplaced security, since we’re here trying to break in.” David pointed out as he rushed forwards.
    • He wasted no time shoving his arm straight through the metallic outside of the cabinet, pulling out several files at once, and discarding them one by one until he was left with a single dark folder in his hands. “This yours?” “Does it say Tara on it?” “Well it says T. Tremaine...” “Great, let’s go.” David hurriedly stashed the folder inside his jacket and reached for Tara again.
    • “Going down!” David warned as Tara held on to him. They were knee deep into the floor tiles before she even had time to protest his directional choice. “I am never going to get used to this.” she laughed, quickly deciding it was a bad idea to watch her feet disappear from view and fixing the ceiling instead as the rest of her body slid effortlessly through the floorboards.
    • Their heads disappeared just as Mrs. Sylvia Noble, social services liaison arrived in the office to witness them drop through the floor. She was left resolving to consult a therapist.
    • As it turned out, no sooner had their heads cleared the floor gravity took hold and the pair found themselves falling in a very ungainly fashion, with nothing they could do about it except crash in an undignified heap on the floor of what appeared to the children’s dormitory.
    • “Ooof” David felt the air rush from his lungs as he half caught, half served as a mattress for Tara. “Sorry” she bit her lip in amusement as he pulled a face. “That’s fine” David managed to cough “It’s not like I needed those ribs anyway. I’m sure they’ll work equally well shattered.” “Oh you’re fine, don’t be such a baby.”
    • “Besides” Tara added, leveraging her way somewhat awkwardly off of David, “I’m not the one who managed to drop us through a floor, into a dormitory and completely miss all the beds.” “Yeah well I thought I’d buy you a drink before getting you into bed.” David winked at Tara even as he brushed a stray strand of red hair from her face. “Are you ok?” Tara opened her mouth as if to say something else, but in that moment there came the sound of footsteps from the hall once more. Quickly the pair scrambled to their feet. “What now?” Tara asked, her face flushed.
    • “Now” David seized her hand “We run.” “I won’t ever get used to this.” Tara laughed as she squeezed her eyes shut and tried not to wince as they headed straight for the wall.
    • “Eleanor Tremaine, twenty seven years old....and her husband Charles Tremaine, twenty eight...both killed in a car crash...no surviving relatives. Daughter Tara Alexia Tremaine was in the back seat, survived the crash aged three months old. Taken in by DeBateau orphanage. Adopted by Armand William DeBateau, sole Guardian, at eight years old.”
    • Tara chewed her lip, pouring over the papers for the eighth time as David watched her silently. They had pit stopped in the city library. It had more privacy than their campus one, especially on a Monday morning. Apparently after college, libraries became as superfluous as they were essential to students. So Tara and David had been free to spread out the contents of her file across one of the tables and were left in peace to consult them. And there it was, her birth certificate, old photos, adoption licence copies, and neat little blurb that summed her parents death up clinically and efficiently.
    • “Are you ok?” David asked after a long moment of silence, inspecting Tara’s unusually still profile as she stared at the papers. “Yeah...no...I don’t know.” She looked up, emotions warring on her face “They weren’t wearing their seatbelts apparently...I don’t know...I guess a part of me never stopped thinking that somehow they were alive. But maybe this way is better...it means at least they wanted me right?” “Of course they did. Who wouldn’t want you?” Tara smiled at him in spite of herself, but said nothing. David twirled his coffee cup in his hands, unsure of what else he could tell her.
    • “Look at all these pictures...it’s so strange...” “They look like you.” “There’s even one of the crash...” Tara reached out a hesitant hand towards the newspaper clipping then snatched it back. “Actually...I don’t think I’m quite ready for that now.” She took a deep shuddering breath.
    • Tara pushed herself to her feet as David obligingly slid the Black and White newspaper clipping out of her reach and out of the way of any masochistic temptation she might be feeling to see the scene of her parent’s death. “Can’t say I blame you for that.” He commented, setting down his empty coffee cup and thinking of his own parents with an unexpected stab of homesickness. Together they began to gather the papers and photos back into the file, both unusually quiet. .
    • “I think I’m ready to go home...” Tara smiled, genuinely this time as she slid the last of the papers away and allowed David to take the folder from her hands. She suddenly became aware of a light-hearted, warm feeling spreading through her, a feeling of being complete. A relief that came from knowing for sure about her parents. Of knowing it was an accident that had caused them to leave her. Just and accident.
    • “I feel different, I feel...strange, but mostly different...like...I don’t know...like now that I know who I am I can be...anyone. You know? Do I look different?” David glanced sideways at Tara as they descended the steps of the Library “You look cold.” He told her candidly taking in her bare arms and legs. They had managed to leave their coats stashed outside the orphanage, and since there was nothing in them to indentify either of them they were not particularly worried about picking them back up. “I’m fine.” Tara said distractedly, a shiver visibly running through her even as she spoke.
    • “You’re a bad liar, come here.” David chaffed his hands along Tara’s arms rapidly, as she blew on her hands in a effort to warm herself. “Hey listen David, I was thinking...about what I said, last night...I’m sorry if it came out...strangely...about asking me out...I shouldn’t have just made assumptions...and I kind of blurted out my feelings there...” She was not quite looking at him as she allowed herself to be drawn closer to his warmth. “And I mean...I’m just saying...I don’t want you to think that because I broke up with Justin it had anything to do with you...And I can’t regret going out with him, because otherwise I think I always would’ve wondered, you know...”
    • “And...if you don’t feel the way that I do...about the possibility of there being an us...I still want us to be friends...” “Uh-huh.” David grinned at Tara “You do know you’re rambling right?” “Yes, and I’m going to now shut up” Tara pressed her lips together in mock contrition. “Good.” David grinned back at her as he settled his hands comfortably into the small of her back
    • Tara let out a small noise of surprise as he abruptly dipped her backwards, “The rambling was making it difficult for me to kiss you.” “Well we can’t have that can we.” Tara heard the words come out a little breathlessly as his face hovered inches away from hers and she tried to remember if she had ever felt anything even close to this feeling when Justin had kissed her...
    • Before she could come to a good conclusion on the subject any thoughts that were swimming around her head suddenly seemed to become a little hazy before evaporating completely as, right there in the snow, on the middle of the street he kissed her.
    • It wasn’t long before they’d both completely forgotten they was supposed to be cold.
    • “Well well...Will you look at that.” Kimberly smiled slowly “Everything is falling into place...who would have thought, he managed to get her all on his own. Of course the girl is...what she is I suppose, considering her parentage. But I don’t imagine that will cause any problems. I think this calls for a celebration don’t you Sam? What do you say we treat ourselves, and go out for dinner?” Samantha smiled eagerly “Oh yes, that sounds lovely, we’ll go visit the children!” Kimberly eyed the hideous toy her twin had unearthed from Grim knew where, and had taken to carrying around with her. She had some vague recollection of her once plucking it from the inert fingers of a little blonde girl. “Can you leave that here if we’re to go out Sam dear?” She asked cajolingly, but Sam was far too busy rocking her doll and singing to herself to listen to sanity “Rock a bye baby...”
    • “On the tree tops...”
    • “When the wind blows...”
    • “The cradle will rock”
    • “When the bow breaks”
    • “The Cradle will fall...”
    • “And down will come baby cradle and all.”
    • “You know at some point one of is going to have to leave this room...if only for food. And possibly the occasional book.” “Mmmm” David made a noncommittal noise as he pulled a sleepy eyed Tara towards himself, feeling happier than he could ever remember feeling “Eventually...but we don’t have to go right now do we?” “No, we don’t....but you know at some point we’re going to have to talk to Justin as well.” David quirked her a teasing eyebrow “What is this we I didn’t break up with him.”
    • “Hey,” Tara poked him firmly in the chest with a smile “you’re not throwing me in the deep end on this one after you were all like ‘Oh Tara, you shouldn’t be with Justin, you should come date my sexy self’.” “I don’t think I ever said that. I may have said you were sexy...which you are...” “Hey Hey Hey, stop changing the subject.” Tara teased rolling away from his attempt to kiss her again “I’m just saying, I’m sort of starting to feel a bit guilty about the whole breaking up thing and then immediately moving on, even though I guess I’d sort of moved on before we’d even broken up... We owe him at least some sort of explanation.”
    • “Fine” David conceded laughing as he and Tara managed to disentangle themselves enough to sit up “But I’m not going to apologize for being in love with you.” Tara smiled broadly at her new boyfriend “I love you too.” Leaning over she kissed him quickly before sliding from the bed to go find coffee, hoping that somehow it would make it easier to face her ex- boyfriend.
    • As it turned out the quest for coffee did a great deal to alleviate any guilty feelings she was indulging. “Good morning.” She put in tentatively interrupting the very intimate and somewhat awkward scene taking place in front of her in the kitchen. Justin and Gabriella broke apart like they had been struck by lightening, and looked first at each other then Tara guiltily as she stared at them with eyebrows raised somewhere in between amusement and interest.
    • “Uh...Tara...this isn’t what it looks like.” “Really?” She looked at them vaguely curiously “Because I’m not wearing my glasses but I can still see you know.” “Ok, so it is what it looks like. But it’s not what you think, I wasn’t cheating on you. This just started the other night, after you broke up with me Gabby and I got to talking and we have a lot in common and then it became more than talking. And I know you must be thinking I moved on really quickly but-”
    • Justin trailed off as David stepped into the kitchen, “Morning” he greeted them brightly, as Justin gaped open mouthed, gradually taking in their matched state of undress and the way his hand laced itself almost unconsciously into Tara’s as they smiled brightly at each other. “Although...I guess...you shouldn’t be mad at me for moving on too quickly...pot kettle...black all that. What the hell Tara?” “Hey hey don’t try to guilt trip me, when you were just lip locked with that one, Justin.” “Oh hey, that makes things a lot easier” David commented offhandedly. Tara looked from David’s smile to Justin’s confusion and suddenly felt an uncontrollable sensation rise up in her chest, she tried to fight it as long as she could but it was no use.
    • She burst out laughing, the giggles shaking her body so hard she had to lean on the table for support. It was an infectious sort of laugh, and soon David had joined her, though if pressed neither of them could have said what was funny. And after a moment Justin and Gabriella’s serious expressions melted as their bastions fell to fits of uncontrollable giggles until the whole kitchen was echoing with the noise.
    • As it turned out the fit of laughter did much to diffuse the situation at hand and after some more laughing and some talking, somehow everything was right with the world again.
    • It became very quickly and unequivocally clear that Gabriella was very good for Justin. Her first order of business as new girlfriend was to cut him off of his dependence on Tara’s study help. Whether it was jealousy or something else that guided her hand David and Tara were both very grateful one day when Justin started rambling about Parliament to his long suffering red headed friend only to have Gabriella cut across smoothly. “No, no, leave her alone. You are not this dumb, you do not need her to explain your course to you!” “But Babe I have a paper on this.”
    • “So do what the rest of us do and go look it up in a book.” She stood firm as David and Tara exchanged an amused look. “You can’t rely on Tara to just drop everything and help you when you are perfectly capable of helping yourself. And you” she pointed to Tara who was biting her lip in barely concealed laughter “Need to stop enabling him. Now come on. We are going to your faculty library and you are going to sit in there until you realize you’re not just a dumb jock.” And without giving him time to protest Gabrielle grabbed his hand and dragged him out of the house, leaving Tara and David staring after them in bafflement.
    • “I like her.” Tara declared cheerfully, as she was left happily alone in the library with her boyfriend.
    • For their part David and Tara embraced their newfound ability to spend time alone together, a task they had failed miserably at for the first year and a half of university, as they settled into being a couple in small fits. After the initial phase where they seemed to constantly be in agreement on the fact that they spent far too much time wearing to many clothes they ended up spending hours and hours talking.
    • David told her everything, he told her about his family, about his parents, his sisters and brother, about Rose’s way with plants, and about Jack’s insecurities and Donna’s wild reckless ways. He told her about his father’s empathic abilities and the elves and he told her about the itch in his chest that had driven him away from his home and into her life.
    • And Tara told him everything about herself as well, she told him about how she had hated every second she had spent in the orphanage, how she had spent hours building worlds in her imagination and in her books just to survive it. She told him how the school therapist they had all been forced to see had told her that she compromised the lack of knowledge about her birth by building up a mental encyclopaedia of useless facts. After which point she had refused to continue going to therapy, because she was certainly not going to talk to anyone who thought knowledge could ever be useless.
    • The added bonus of their relationship was that now that Tara and Justin were split up, David had no reason left to dislike Justin, and Gabriella none to hate Tara. They found themselves gradually spending more and more time together as they built up friendships that did not have to be complicated by unrequited romance.
    • And before anyone knew it the year was over and Matt was graduating, which left those staying behind with only one thing on their mind “You can’t actually leave us with Aileen in charge.” “She’s basically been in charge for the past year.” Matt laughed “I am man enough to admit that she wears the pants in this thing I’m not supposed to call a relationship because she tends to punch me in the arm when I do. And That girl has one heck of a right hook.” “You’re not doing much to help her case here...besides you’ve always been here to temper her over the last year! You can’t just...leave!” “Sorry guys...” Matt laughed “I don’t know what to tell you.”
    • As far as Aileen was concerned Matt leaving meant one thing and she drew him outside during his graduation party for a long conversation that culminated in a break up of sorts. Except as Aileen pointed out, it could not be a break up since they had never been technically dating. “I mean, come on!” The dark haired girl was using her best ‘reasonabler than thou’ tone, “The most we had going for us was the whole convenient proximity thing. And now with you moving into the city. Is there any point in keeping this up?” Matt laughed and shook his head in a calm fashion that infuriated her, “Aileen, you know I’m crazy about you, even through you’re just plain crazy. And so I’m willing to put up with this whole emotionally closed off commitment fearing thing you do.”
    • “But, you’re going to have to shake it off sometime soon, and I really hope it is soon. But I’m not going to push you, because I’ve been trying hard to convince you to turn this into something serious for three years now and it’s done nothing. So for now I’m going to leave, and I won’t call if that’s what you want, I won’t drop by, and if you decide that’s what you really want you’ll never have to hear from me again. But just so you know, whatever you decide to do, figure it out soon. Because I will wait for you, but not forever.” Kissing her tenderly Matt retreated back into the party, leaving Aileen on the back porch too dumbfounded to remember to glare after him.
    • As it turned out, Tara had been entirely correct in her prediction. Without Matt there, Aileen became even more irritable than usual. She spent most of her time locked away solitarily, emerging only to get into arguments with anyone nearby.
    • The worst of the fights she did succeed in picking was with the house’s new freshman, a spacey looking blonde named Jacqueline Karenza, who was in fact a Physics Genius. Though that did not make her clever enough to divine that claiming the room that had once belonged to Matt and attempting to throw out some of the stuff he had left behind would bring down Aileen’s wrath upon her. Finally it got to the point where they had to take action.
    • “Busy” Aileen barked in reply to a knock on her door one late summer morning, and was hugely annoyed to hear the sound of the doorknob turning nonetheless. However the familiar figure that followed startled her so much her pen slid violently across the elaborate schematics for a modern art structure, causing her to curse. “Nothing changes I see.” Matt smiled at her. “What are you doing here?” She demanded without preamble. “Tara called, she said I’d forgotten some of my stuff here and she needed me to come by, pick it up.”
    • “And you believed her” Aileen snorted derisively, returning her attention to her work. “Not particularly, but I was hoping maybe she was calling on someone else’s behalf, someone who has a little too much pride for her own good.” “Your stuff is over there in the corner” Aileen did not look up when she gestured. “You kept it in here.” Matt smiled in spite of himself “How Sentimental.” Aileen snorted and continued to scribble, but Matt did not make a move to collect him belongings “So how’ve you been?”
    • “Working.” Aileen replied shortly, leaning back to inspect her results “What do you think of these?” Matt looked curiously over her shoulder “The pointy things on top of the windows? They look...fine...” Aileen shook her head “Aedicules, they’re called Aedicules. And see this is exactly what I’m talking about, we have nothing in common.” “Because I don’t know as much as Architectural Terminology as someone who is making a career out of it?” Matt raised his eyebrow in amusement at Aileen’s attempts to pick a fight, suddenly realizing he’d missed having conflict in his life, especially with her.
    • Aileen and Matt were so engrossed in arguing and pretending they were thoroughly indifferent to seeing each other they never noticed the disembodied arm reaching through to wood of the door and groping for the key that everyone knew Aileen hung off the door handle.
    • “You’re abusing my powers for evil just so you know.” David winked at Tara as he carefully locked the door “It’s stuff like this that makes me love you even more.” He tossed her the key, which Tara fumbled with for a moment before pocketing. “Hey, this is not Evil. In fact I’d call it the greater good...achieved through evil means.” Behind the door Aileen and Matt must have heard the snick of the lock, because it was only a second later that the door handle began to rattle.
    • “HEY! What’s going on! Let us out of here!” Aileen banged furiously on the door, on the other side Tara smiled. “Yeah, no, sorry, that’s not going to happen, until you two figure this thing out.” On her side Aileen gaped at the door “Excuse me? This is so none of your business.” “Yeah see, normally you’d be right, except you kind of made it my business when you nearly bit my head off for breathing the same air as you the other day.”
    • “You are dead when I get out of here! DEAD YOU HEAR ME!” “Eh, I figured I would be, but you’ve come close enough to homicide several times in the last little while that threats like that are becoming old news. So...we’re gonna go now. But you two have fun, talk this out... And when we come back I expect you to be a marginally un-crazy person....or for Matt to be dead. Either way is fine, because if you kill him then you’re the police’s problem and at least that gets you out of our hair...”
    • Behind the door Aileen continued banging and shouting as Tara turned away “That is going to get annoying after a while.” She commented casually, referring to the noise that had now turned to violent cursing. David quirked an eyebrow at her “Cinema?” “Cinema it is.”
    • “Aileen I think they’re gone.” Matt commented settling himself down by her work surface as Aileen finally gave up trying to demolish the door with her fists. He grinned up at her “So...you really missed me that much. I’m flattered.” Aileen glared “I hate you.” “So you’ve said.” Matt wouldn’t wipe the grin off, which annoyed Aileen even more.
    • Inside the room three hours were spent alternating between shouting, cajoling, reasoning and finally confessing as an exhausted, agitated Aileen poured her heart out to Matt in a babbling tirade about fears of relationships and loss and old abuses, finally culminating in a teary... “So there! I love you! Happy?” As it turned out Matt was in fact very happy to hear this.
    • When Tara and David came to release them they were very satisfied with the results “So it went well then” The redhead quirked a smile “Judging from the lack of pants.” Aileen just smiled, an entirely genuine happy smile that left no doubt that it had gone very well indeed and even refrained from any dismembering.
    • It was a relief to everyone that Aileen returned to a moderately non-unpleasant person for what remained of her year, and in the end they all found they were actually sorry to see her go. “Ok, get it over with” Aileen grimaced “Ding Dong the witch is dead and looking stupid in her graduation gown...” “Aileen we’re so happy for you! You topped your class, you have a job at the best architecture firm in the city all lined up! And believe it or not we’re going to miss you.”
    • “Making noise like a bunch of children is not going to make me miss you. No matter how loud you shout.” Aileen realized that was the wrong thing to say as soon as she said it, as the five exchanged grins and took it as a direct challenge to cheer as loud as they possibly could for their departing senior. When they finally quieted down, Aileen, with a look of deep resignation, crooked a finger imperiously at the trio graduating their Junior year “You lot, front and centre.”
    • “Right, so you three are in charge...unfortunately.” She glanced meaningfully at Justin “I’ve left the file of important house information on my bed, like the bank account number we use for expenses. Don’t forget to pay the bills, you need electricity. Maid, Electrician, Plumber are all in there in case of emergency...” “Aileen we’ll figure it out.” Tara assured her, then, grinning mischievously “So now admit that you’re going to miss us.” Aileen rolled her eyes “Just try not to burn the house down ok, it would suck if you died.” David grinned, he knew it was the closest thing anyone, with the possible exception of Matt, would ever get to any sort of acknowledgement of affection from Aileen.
    • As it turned out, not burning down the house was easier said than done. Tara, being exceptionally skilled at things that other people could simply not envisage ever achieving, managed to create a spontaneous combustion with pasta sauce in the stove, before uncharacteristically panicking and needing to be saved from the fire by her boyfriend, who muttered something about her being “as bad as his father” before interposing himself and a fire extinguisher between the love of his life and her potential fiery doom.
    • “Wow,” Tara grinned at David after the fire was safely extinguished “That was full on Knight in shining armour, right there, I mean seriously, you could’ve set yourself on fire too!” “What was I going to do, let you die?” David laughed at her bemused tone. Tara just smiled at him “Sometimes I still can’t believe I met a guy like you.” Any further conversation about the fire was promptly ended there by the inevitable kissing that followed.
    • Unfortunately Tara seemed to start a new trend at the house, and as life progressed normally, that came to mean a certain number of expected, but no less dangerous, spontaneous combustions per week.
    • Until one afternoon when an ear splitting shout shattered the usual silence of the library. “Oh merciful plumbbob above.” Tara looked up at Gabriella who was bounding into the library “What was that about you crazy person?” “I don’t know for sure but I suspect it might have something to do with the large sparkly thing on her finger.” Garrett, the newest freshman addition to the house, piped up. The red headed boy, they had discovered, had once been in foster care with Gabriella, and the two had quickly lapses into a very easy sibling-type relationship as he integrated the dysfunctional pseudo-family of the Scholarship house.
    • “Yeeeeees! It does!” Gabriella was smiling so broadly as she wiggled her ring adorned finger it was a miracle she managed to speak “I’m getting married you guys!” The Library’s occupants were all immediately on their feet gazing at the ring on Gabby’s fingers, making congratulatory, appreciative noises.
    • “Justin proposed just like an hour ago. He took me out to lunch and just...popped the question. I only had to hint about it once too! He’s calling him parents to tell them about it now, and since I don’t really have any family except you guys I’m telling you.”
    • Tara felt her heart go out to the younger girl in spite of herself, as trying as Gabriella could sometimes be they were friends after a sort, “Congrats Gabby.” “Thanks! And I only had to hint heavily once! He’s made so much progress!” “You are so lucky you found someone who needs bossing around. You guys are clearly meant to be.” Garret smiled at Gabriella, who ignored him. “So I was thinking for the wedding I’d wear a really simple white number...”
    • As Gabrielle attempted to literally talk the others’ collective ear off with wedding plans, elsewhere in the house the phone rang and it was, unfortunately, David who picked up. “Oh hi Mr. Debateau.” He greeted Armand warmly but politely “Yeah, Tara’s around here somewhere...I’m sorry you’re calling to what?” He was aware of his eyebrows shooting up as he heard the words on the other end of the phone, as he carefully bit his tongue, and managed to only say “....Right....Um...she’s going to have to call you back.” And with that David hung up as quickly as possible and went in search of his red headed other half.
    • He ran her to ground in the library now being forced to listen to flower arrangement plans. “David!” She smiled at him gratefully, interrupting whatever Gabriella had been saying about rose centrepieces “Gabriella and Justin are engaged, isn’t that great?” “Riiiight...good, that would make sense, and possibly go some way towards explaining why your Dad just called, to congratulate you on your engagement?” He quirked an eyebrow at her inquisitively. “Wait what?”
    • “You never told your parents that we broke up!” “You haven’t told your parents about me!” “I can’t believe your mom would call my Dad to tell him I was marrying you! Shouldn’t she realize that’s my news to tell! Or you know...it would be if we were getting married....” Justin found himself unfortunately cornered by the two girls, a sheepish expression on his face. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I should’ve told my parents. I just didn’t want to jinx it that was all! It just seemed like every time I started telling people all about some girl they broke up with me.” He looked pointedly at Tara who refused stubbornly to look anything close to abashed “And I didn’t want to jinx anything with you Gabby. I love you....I know it’s silly but I couldn’t risk it!”
    • Gabriella’s expression softened at this news. “That’s sweet in a kind of...weird way. Just for that, I’ll still marry you, even if you are sometimes as stupid as you act.” He grinned foolishly at his fiancée as Tara rolled her eyes. “What about you.” Justin turned to Tara now, looking a little accusing, “You didn’t tell your Dad you’d broken up with me either! Or that you were dating David!” “Yeeeeeah, when I hit my teen years I started compiling a list of things that were just no go conversation points with my dad, they’re all ranked by degree of awkward expression he made when I did make the mistake of talking to him about them the first time. Boys is pretty high up on that list. And since I don’t have a mother I didn’t really have anyone to have the new boyfriend conversation with...”
    • Tara shook her head ruefully “Ok, so I’ll admit, we brought this upon ourselves. Now it’s just time to do some parental damage control right! I’ll call my Dad and tell him I’m not marrying you and you’ll call your parents and tell them all about Gabriella.“ At the prospect of this Justin beamed “They’re going to love you” He grinned at the dark haired girl, leaning into kiss her.
    • “A CHARITY CASE!”
    • Jason Cleveland barely bothered to look up at his wife as she raged in the living room. Her joy of that morning when she had received the phone call about her son’s engagement had rapidly turned to rage as she was corrected about the identity of his fiancée. Some worthless, nobody, charity case named Gabriella. “What did we do so terribly wrong in raising him Jason.” She shook her head in mingled anger and bafflement. “Who knows dear, but there’s nothing you can do about it now is there. He obviously likes this girl.”
    • “Mmmmm...and she did not seem the type to scare easily when I spoke to her over the phone...terribly brash. She even seemed to have given Justin something of a backbone. Still there must be another way...” “What was that?” “Nothing Dear.” Marisa Cleveland lied, as she privately debated her options for what would forced to be called Plan B.
    • “Ok, I’ve got this...I’ve totally got this.” Tara nodded with conviction as she surveyed the war zone that was their work space. “I really hope I’ve got this since senior finals are in nine hours.” “Tara you had this weeks ago.” David smiled tiredly at her from where he was leaning. He’d finished his own exam preparations hours earlier and had been sticking it out in the library to keep her company since, even though they both knew there was no cause for her to worry “You know your course inside and out, you’re going to ace it.” “Ok, ok...quiz me. Ask me something! Anything! Ask me...the circumference of the earth in inches...ask me the date of the great Strangetown Drought...just ask me any question!”
    • David watched in amusement as she bounced a little in nervous excitement on the balls of her feet and realized what he was going to ask her only a second before the words were being spoken. He couldn’t help it, after the subject of engagements had come up with Justin and Gabriella the day before it was all that was on his mind, so he asked “Will you marry me?” He watched with baited breath as Tara stared at him wide eyed for a second before twitching her mouth up in a slow grin “Was that a hypothetical question or a proposal? Because I’m pretty sure that’s not going to be on my exams.”
    • David pushed himself to his feet, and rounded the table to where Tara was watching him very still all of a sudden as he dropped to one knee, he wanted to do this right. “Definitely a proposal. Tara Alexia Tremaine Debateau...”
    • “Will you marry me? In a non Hypothetical way.” “Oh dear plumbbob above you actually have a ring!” Tara gaped “I was not expecting a ring! When did you get that?” “Do you remember the day when we first kissed after stealing your file, and you were standing there with snowflakes in your hair, your cheeks all red with the cold, being absolutely gorgeous?” “You’re messing with me, you haven’t had it that long!” Tara stared.
    • “No, I bought it this morning.” Tara somehow managed to both glare and grin at David at the same time as he smiled mischievously up at her, “Because honestly seeing as I didn’t even make it twenty four hours with this in my pocket before asking you to marry me, I doubt I could’ve made it two and half years. I love you Tara and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” Tara bit her lip in a devastatingly charming fashion and David became aware he was grinning foolishly at her “You still haven’t answered my question.” He pointed out.
    • Tara looked up, startled “Oh, you’re right I haven’t. Yes!” “Yes as in yes?” “Yes as in yes, I really really really do want to marry you.”
    • He didn’t even give her time to get the ring on her finger before gathering her up into a bone crushing embrace, both of them laughing far louder than was appropriate in a library.
    • “I love you so much, you have no idea.” David smiled down at her once they finally got a good enough grip on themselves. “No, I’m pretty sure I do have an idea. I love you too.” And for the longest time all they could do was smile at each other.
    • Their smiles were still firmly affixed by the time they donned their graduation gowns the next day and posed consentingly for Gabriella to take a picture, before they all loaded their belongings up and piled into a cab to their new apartment in Belladonna Cove.
    • “Ok, great, so that wraps up funding for museums, exhibitions and conservation. Next week on the agenda is...” Armand DeBateau checked the paper by his elbow quickly “Allocating donation money between the local hospital and the medical research centre. I’ll see you all then.” The board dispersed in a shuffling of papers, scraping of chairs and clicking of briefcases as everyone happily anticipated getting home to their families however Armand didn’t make it that far before being intercepted.
    • “Armand, I understand congratulations are in order.” Marisa Cleveland smiled too brightly “Your little girl has gotten herself engaged!” Armand nodded politely at the woman “Yes, she called earlier while they were in the taxi back into the city. I see news travels fast. And congratulations again to you for Justin’s engagement.” “Yes...both our children are engaged, at separate times and to separate people. Once again, I am so terribly embarrassed about our previous misunderstanding. My son just didn’t see fit to keep his mother up to date on his love life.” The art of speaking through clenched teeth while maintaining a perfect smile was not one to be mastered by the faint of heart. Fortunately Marisa was not faint hearted, she had it down to perfection.
    • “And this young Mr. Doran, he seems like such a nice boy. Such an ambitious boy too, you said so yourself didn’t you...all those years ago, when he turned up at your house directly and so forcefully to solicit your patronage for University. Charmed your little Tara even back then if memory serves...” “He’s got a great deal of professional drive.” Armand acknowledged noncommittally, trying to brush past Marisa politely only to be thwarted by her once again. “Mmmm, how well it works out for Tara and young Mr. Doran then don’t you think.” “What do you mean?”
    • “Well...I’m not trying to insinuate anything...simply so interested in wealth it is very fortuitous the girl he happened to fall in love with was from such an affluent family isn’t it?” Marisa watched as her words sunk in, endlessly pleased with the result which flashed across Armand DeBateau’s face tellingly, doubt. And she had planted the seeds. “Have a good day Armand.” She smiled at him, before turning on her heel and leaving him to trail a few steps behind her and gather his thoughts.
    • David’s knock on the door of the DeBateau apartment was answered almost immediately by a serious looking Armand. “Ah, David. Thank you for coming so quickly.” David smiled broadly “Well it sounded sort of urgent on the phone...And I was wondering why you asked me not to bring Tara...” He trailed off expectantly as he stepped inside.
    • And then he spotted it. It was sitting casually on the side table, just...waiting apparently. Armand’s gaze followed David’s to the large pile of money, noting the interest in his eyes and his resolve hardened. “Well in fact, this is why I brought you hear David. What you have here is two and a half million Simoleons. And it is yours.” David gulped “On the condition that you break things off with my daughter.”
    • That was more than enough to state David out of his reverie “What now?” he stared at Armand hoping he’d misheard. “David, I spent years locked in a marriage in which affections were entirely one sided, and I was very chagrined to learn that the woman I thought had married me for love had in fact only been interested in my bank account. I don’t intend to let the same thing happen to Tara.” “Wait wait wait wait!” David held up his hand “What makes you think I’m just interested in Tara for her money.”
    • “You are an ambitious and smart young man, that was made clear from the beginning, and I can respect that but it shouldn’t affect the way you run your personal life. Business is one thing, marrying for money is another.” “Mr. DeBateau, I’m not marrying Tara for her money I think it’s insulting to both of us that you would think that. I’m not like your ex-wife and with all due respect Tara’s nothing like you, she’s smart enough to know when she’s being played. And I’m not playing her. I’d marry her if she was absolutely dirt poor, I’d marry her if she was still an orphan and not an heiress, if she were locked in a nunnery with a vow of poverty and celibacy I’d still find a way to marry her.”
    • “The Hyperbole is unnecessary David-” “No, listen sir, nothing anyone is going to say will be able to change my mind. I love Tara and that’s the end of it. So thanks...but you can keep your money.” And with that David turned on his heel and walked straight through door in his agitation, causing Armand to blink in confusion for a moment at his sudden disappearance.
    • The entire apartment rattled angrily as Tara slammed the door open, and as David looked at her, he realized that he was looking at a completely novel expression he had never seen on his fiancée before. pure undiluted anger. “You ok?” He asked carefully. “Yeah. I’m fine...” She crossed her arms furiously across her chest and glared at the floor, as if she were trying to set it on fire with her mind, kicking the door shut with her heel behind herself. “I cannot believe my Dad.” She burst out finally.
    • “So...it didn’t go well.” David surmised. “It was...a very big argument...huge even...big enough to be seen from space actually.” “That bad?” David winced sympathetically. “Yeah...he tried to explain about buying you out of my life, and then he tried to forbid me to marry you, which led to me telling him that he was just like every other stupid stuck up person in this damn town, treating anyone who wasn’t just born to money like a servant they could boss around, including me, and that didn’t even want to take over his stupid business empire. A lot of...repression being unrepressed in a short space of time really.”
    • “Long story short” Tara sighed as she allowed David to put his arms around her “We’re not on speaking terms, and I’m broke. I told him that if he was thinking of dangling my inheritance over me to control me he could forget it. And he seems to think that cutting me off will make you leave me and prove him right.” She sighed leaning her head into his shoulder “My father is such an idiot. He’ll come around, and I’m angry and all, but I also feel...good, it’ll be a good thing to stand on my own two feet for a while like a normal girl and not a spoiled heiress. So....how are you doing with us being flat broke now?” In that second David experienced one of those perfect moments of clarity that made him realize just how much he loved Tara. He didn’t care that they were flat broke, and he knew that he was going to work as hard as he could and give her everything she deserved and more. So he smiled ruefully at her “I’ll cope.” He said lightly.
    • “Besides, we’ll figure it out.” He promised her “We’ll just have to take it easy on expenses at first...we’ll wait for a while to get married, wait until we can afford a wedding, wait until we’ve got everything figured out and why are you looking at me that way.” Tara gave him a sheepish grin “So...what you’re saying is now is not the best time to tell you that I may sort of be kind of slightly pregnant?” David felt his jaw drop.
    • “When you say...slightly pregnant.” “Yeah, that’s just a way of saying pregnant while trying to minimize the enormity of the situation that’s going on...since obviously you can’t be slightly pregnant, it’s not a subjective condition like beauty, you’re either pregnant or you’re not. And I am. Pregnant that is. Please say something.” David shook away the mental arithmetic that he’d been trying to do, as he tallied the cost of medical bills, diapers, bottles, schools... Which was climbing to a staggering height all of a sudden “Like with a baby?” He said a little numbly. “Yeah.”
    • And then the reality hit him, and he felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth “Like with, my baby?” Tara felt a smile split her face, and it was a witness to her relief that she had nothing clever to say in response to that “Yes your baby you idiot.” David was beaming across at his fiancée with unbridled joy by this point “I’m going to be a dad!” “Yeah, you are.”
    • Numbers aside, all it meant in the end was that David was just going to have one more person to work for, one more person to spoil with the very best that they deserved. He reached out, and placed one hand on Tara’s still flat stomach as delicately as if he might somehow break her with that one touch. “Well then...” he took a deep breath “Allons-y.”