Chapter 22 : With My Head Held High
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-Chapter twenty two-
My aunt was no help.
Tell him, she told me. Like I simply had to waltz up and say: hello, I think you are F-I-N-E. Want to hold my hand? She looked at me strangely when I said that. I couldn’t blame her. I would have looked at me strangely when I said that.
It’s not my fault. I am just not equipped to deal with this sort of stuff. It’s like that part of my brain is missing. I don’t deal. It’s as simple as that. I ignore, I avoid and a laugh things off. That’s what I do.
There should be a handbook or something. How to find out if you are going to make a complete arse of yourself in ten quick steps. Although by that time you may have done it already. Maybe five steps will be enough.
I looked around for Sirius. I didn’t think I had been gone that long but the place had really filled up – it was hard to spot him in the crowd. Instead I spotted Nat.
“Ana!” She screamed rushing over. Before I had a choice she had flung herself at me babbling something about Christmas and luck.
“Hey Nat. Where the E.B?”
“Over there.” she said pointing in the vague direction of the door. “I bought you these.” she said holding out her prized fairy wings. “For a little bit of luck.”
“Why do I need luck?” I asked.
She widened her eyes innocently and shrugged. “Are you willing to admit it yet?”
“Admit what?” I asked only a touch confused. Not unusual when dealing with Natalie Taylor.
“Then you need them.” She said easily thrusting the wings forward so I had no choice but to take them. “I’m going to go say hi to your mum.”
“What?” I called. I was so confused. Screw a touch, hello full on confusion. “What does that mean?”
“Put the wings on!” She called back.
She turned back, brandishing a pointed finger like I was a disobedient toddler. “Don’t argue with me. It’s Christmas.”
I slipped my arms through the ridiculous looking fairy wings and curtsied for her.
She grinned. “Hey, and merry Christmas An. Lets hope it’s a good one.”
I stood there stupidly in my fairy wings staring after her. What a mystery she was. There were probably scientists somewhere devising a plan to steal her brain for research on the fascinating sub-species that will be known as Crazius Natalie-us.
“What do you know?” I said more to myself that anyone else. Well it would have been to myself if no one had been listening.
“Quite a lot of things actually.”
Danger, danger! Sirens, bells – WORP, WORP! EE-OR, EE-OR!
“Alexander.” I said through a clenched smile. He leant forward to kiss me on the cheek like we were old friends. So not.
“Analiese, looking as divine as ever, love the wings. And the shoes.” He finished in a purr looking down at my feet. I wanted to hide them. I couldn’t. You try hiding one foot behind the other when the other needs to hide too! Not an easy task.
“I didn’t know you were coming tonight.”
“We heard this party was the bees knees. I never miss a good party.”
Did he just say the bee’s knees? I pointed over my shoulder. “I’m sorry I have to – “
He laughed. “Of course there was that party back in first year of high school when a couple of friends and I...”
I looked around hoping for a great distraction such as a fire or elephant but instead noticed I was being watched. I widened my eyes imploringly. Help! I was screaming. Didn’t he hear the sirens and bells?
But Eben being Eben only grinned cheekily, not moving from his spot across the room. Nat walked up to see what he was doing. He pointed at me and said something. She turned and watched too.
Eben continued to laugh. Nat looked horrified. She pushed Eben forward, saying... something. Of course I couldn’t hear them. He resisted, turning to argue with her.
This was like a bad pantomime. A really, really bad pantomime.
Just great you two argue and I will stand here and die a slow and painful death.
“- which is why I don't eat pineapple anymore.” Alexander finished with a chuckle
I laughed along pretending I knew what he was talking about. Pineapple? I had no idea how on earth he had started on that topic. Quite frankly I didn’t want to know. As I laughed he stepped closer. I stepped back and hit a wall. Who put that there?
“Am I making you nervous?” More like sick. “It’s a common effect.”
“Look Alex,” I said trying to side step him. “I really have to go.”
“So you keep saying but I don’t see you trying to leave.”
Was he blind?
“Who the hell are you?” I hissed. “I don’t know you. I don’t like you. You are strange and creepy. Picture a stalker and it would be you.”
“Fiery one, aren’t you?”
“Are you just messing with me?” I asked somewhat desperately. “Because you can't be that stupid! There is no way that that could have been misconstrued into a compliment. Creepy. Want me to spell it for you? I have a few more words that could be used too. Wanna hear them?”
“You don’t like me now but you will. I like a challenge. You would be fun.”
“Just what are you implying!” I cried loud enough for the people around us to hear.
Then Sirius appeared at my side, took my hand and twirled me in a circle finishing it in a dip that surprised me.
Whoa. Hello knight in shining amour. Hang on, what?
“Sorry I took so long.” He said pulling me back up. He took both my hands and dragged me away.
I looked back at Alexander. He looked shocked. “You never mentioned a boyfriend!” he called out.
“Come on.” He said turning me back around.
Where are we going?” I cried as I let myself be dragged along. He stopped me when we reached the dance floor, pulling my hand so I was facing him.
“What are we doing?” I asked looking around at the swirling couples.
He shrugged then taking my other hand he moved my arms until I was moving in a way that could be taken as dancing. “Keeping up appearances.” What made him so calm? Oh right, he wasn’t the one with the hummingbird heart.
“I was so doing fine.” I huffed, shrugging the wings around my shoulders. They kept bumping into people. How did Nat wear these without feeling like everyone was laughing at you?
Sirius chuckled at me, either for the wings, which he was yet to question (perhaps feeling he didn’t need to) or my behaviour in general. “A thankyou would suffice.” He teased.
“You realise now most of my family will think I have a boyfriend.”
“What's so wrong with that Ana?”
I tilted my head to look at him. I wasn’t sure what he meant. “What you think I should go accept whatever he was offering?”
“Definitely not. You are far too good for him.”
“Any girl is.” I laughed, lowering my eyes again.
“No I think you are. I don’t care about other girls.”
He was looking at me strangely. I knew how I felt but then how did he feel? Was it at all possible that Sirius Black could be interested in me? Then my brain kicked in. Taking a step back from him, I didn’t give him a chance to answer. I walked away not sure if I wanted an answer at all.
“Where are you going? Ana!” he asked following me through the crowd. I waved at him over my shoulder and kept walking. I wandered into the study and stopped. I turned back towards the door intending on going back out there but stopped again.
What was I doing?
“Who are you hiding from?” Nat asked appearing in the doorway with a cat that got the cream expression on her face and Eben by her side.
My only comeback? “Shut up.” They both just stood there waiting.
“I have been secretly pining for Sirius Black.” I said somewhat reluctantly.
“I knew it.”
“Then why did I need to say it?”
“Just for my entertainment.” Eben chimed in.
“Who invited you?” I snapped.
“Who invited you?” He shot back.
“You are stupid you know that? If your brain were a pasture all the sheep would starve.”
“I like that one.”
“You know what I like?” I threatened but he only laughed.
“Sirius Black?” he guessed.
That’s when Nat jumped in. “Hold it! Eben out. Now. I need to talk to Ana.”
I had to resist mimicking a whipping noise as he left the room, settling for a cheeky grin as he turned to close the door. He knew what I was thinking.
Then Nat sat down beside me and I lost all humour.
She looked at me intently. “You know in the little mermaid, the character Grim? Do you know what he says to the prince? Something along the lines of stop looking for the dream girl when one of flesh and blood, who is warm and caring is right before your eyes.”
“Where is this going?”
“What would you say...” She began slowly, turning in a circle away from me. “If I were to tell you I knew who your Mr midnight was.”
“You know?” I asked completely horrified. I didn’t know what to think. I thought for a moment. “Have you actually spoken to him?”
“Do I know him?”
She nodded again.
I turned away. “I don’t want to know.” I said.
“Because of Sirius?” She prodded gently. “Because of the one of flesh and blood?”
“Yes. No.” I said quickly. I shrugged. “I just don’t care anymore. It doesn’t matter.”
“Good answer.” She said nodding appreciatively. She stopped walking, spinning on her heel to face me, her hands templed under her chin. “Then you have two choices An. You say nothing. Continue as friends and forever wonder what if.”
“Or you tell him and live a fairytale.”
I chose not to comment on the fairytale bit. “Yeah,” I agreed. “But the realist in me says there is an option three. I tell him, he laughs, and I am positively humiliated, never live it down, lose a friend and regret it forever.”
She stood up. “That won’t happen. In my opinion you undervalue yourself and you need to take a chance... and at the risk of sounding like a midday talk show host, you have to believe in what you know. And you know him better than most.”
“You realise in the real story of the sea-maid she died, right?”
“No,” Nat countered. “She sacrificed her life for him. She couldn’t kill him to save herself.”
“There’s no difference.”
“Yes there is.” She gave me a look before she turned to leave. “The realist in you is a spiteful bitch. Ignore her.”
“But she stops me from doing stupid things.” I argued.
Nat poked her head around the corner. “Trust me this isn’t stupid.”
I sat there. I was annoyed. I was frustrated. I wanted this night to go away. I wanted answers. I wanted to curl up in my bed and hide. Never in a million year would he feel the same. I was just Ana Reardon. Nothing special. Just ordinary.
The best thing I could do was to listen to the realist. I could deal with forgetting everything... finishing school, buying a cat or three and just starting a life of total isolation. I was going to go out there and do what I did best and pretend nothing was wrong. Liking my new plan of attack I walked out the door, then I stopped. I took off the wings, placing them carefully on the armchair by the door then I walked out my head held high. They may have brought Nat luck somewhere along the way but I didn’t need it. Why would I need it?
Determined to start right away I sought Sirius out and wandered over. He raised his eyebrows as I weaved my way through the crowd, I faltered in my step. Okay maybe this wasn’t the best idea.
A/N. i was going to make this one chapter. too bad! hehehehe!!! next one will be up tomorrow probably! just coz i am MEAN!
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