Chapter 2 : 14 Days Before
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There was a sudden rustle of pages, followed by hurried footsteps. "I’m right here," sniffed Liz, as she pulled open her bedroom door. She eyed her mother with a look of poorly veiled disdain. "There’s no need to shout." Why everyone insisted on yelling and, more specifically, yelling at her, she didn’t know. It was irritating and unnecessary because, at the ripe old age of twenty three, Elizabeth’s hearing was actually still in tact. A fact that people seemed to forget rather easily, it seemed.
Mouth pressed into a thin line, Mrs. Aubrey’s expression echoed that of her daughter’s, eyes roaming over the younger girl’s lack of proper dress and obvious bed hair. "Why aren’t you dressed yet?" she barked, derailed from her original plan, unable to ignore the fact that Elizabeth wasn’t ready yet and, from the looks of it, wouldn’t be ready any time in the near future. "Your grandparents will be here in twenty minutes," she continued and, at the sight of Elizabeth’s frown, it became obvious that the girl had forgotten.
The young witch ran a tired hand through her hair, eyes wandering over her mother’s shoulder and locking onto the old portrait behind her. "I forgot," she said flatly, knowing that’s exactly what her mother had expected to hear. Elizabeth loathed being wrong and, even more than that, she loathed her mother being right. "I’ll get dressed right now." Her fingers clasped tightly around the door knob as she moved to shut it, but her mum was quicker and set her foot against the door, preventing the inevitable slam.
"Wear the dress Nana bought for you," was all that she said, before removing her foot and stomping back down the hall. Elizabeth scowled after her, shuddering at the thought of wearing that dress. Floral with lace, it made any wearer age about thirty years. The only time that Liz had pulled it out of the closet, not including her grandparents’ visits, was the time when she had tried to burn it. Unfortunately, her mother had come home early and put a stop to any fire, for a proper sacrifice or not.
Shutting the door with a barely audible click - because slamming would cause another undesired shout up the stairs - Elizabeth turned to the closet and began her inevitable search for the thing. She would wear it and she would hate it, but her mother would be happy and, at the moment, that was something she would encourage. Else wise, the woman would be angry and angry meant her attention would be focused on her children. That was something that only Candice enjoyed, the attention lover, while Gemma hated being under scrutiny. The poor girl just couldn’t handle criticism, a quality very necessary for a family like this. But it was Elizabeth who relished the inattention and it was Elizabeth who couldn’t wait to get out from underneath her mother’s thumb.
A bored expression drifted over Elizabeth Aubrey’s face. Her grandmother had been talking for the past twenty minutes and she was showing no signs of stopping. Under the table, she offered a swift kick to Charlie’s ankle, whose head was beginning to droop quite visibly. He jumped up, knee banging on the underside of the table, and poked his tongue out at Lizzie.
"You’re gonna marry that boy," continued Nana Aubrey, the pride evident in her voice, and completely oblivious to her grandchildren and their antics. She smiled at Elizabeth. Visions of white dresses and pretty flowers were dancing through several of the Aubreys’ minds because of that comment, but certainly not in Elizabeth’s, from her stunned expression, nor in Gemma’s, whose sudden coughing filled the air. Lizzie stared curiously at Gemma for a moment, but the younger simply tilted her head to indicate the glass of ice tea in front of her, before looking determinedly away.
Refocusing on her grandmother, rather than the odd reaction from her little sister, Elizabeth blinked, unsure of what point in time the conversation had turned to her. Her mouth opened. “What?” she replied dumbly. Who was marrying who? Her mother scowled, unimpressed with her middle daughter’s inability to pay attention.
"The Potter boy. James," her grandmother said. "You’ve been dating for years now, haven’t you?"
James Potter and Elizabeth had easily gained the description of epically on and then epically off, as dubbed by Albus. The memo, it seemed, hadn’t reached the ears of her grandmother. "Oh no," said Elizabeth emphatically. "Definitely not." Her pert nose wrinkled at the thought - both of marriage and of said marriage being to James.
"Oh, and why is that?" The question was mostly curious, though even a daft person could hear the underlying disappointment.
Elizabeth was painfully aware that every set of eyes were pointed in her direction. Candice and their mother had that typically irritated expression in place, while her father feigned interest and Charlie simply looked bored. Her gaze lingered on Gemma, though, whose interest was sincere, though Lizzie couldn’t even begin to fathom why. "I’m going to run off with a rockstar instead," she stated matter-of-factly, and there was no room for James Potter in such an equation.
"Elizabeth!" her mother barked, genuinely horrified. "You will do no such thing." For a moment, Mrs. Aubrey turned disappointed eyes onto her daughter before turning pointedly toward her mother-in-law, explaining quite clearly that no such thing would happen and that she had no idea where that idea had come from. Elizabeth’s focus waned and her gaze drifted off. The family prattled on and Lizzie’s mind settled into a location a million miles away.
The gentle summer breeze snaked through the trees, the branches dancing gently against the backdrop of glimmering water. A swing hung from an old oak, and a young blonde woman sat on its base, feet dragging lazily along the ground. She hummed quietly to herself, the familiar beat of an unfamiliar song flitting through her mind. An absent minded smile pulled at the corners of Elizabeth’s mouth and even though the sound of soft footsteps floated through the air, she didn’t look away from the rippled water.
"You shouldn’t provoke her like that."
Liz ignored the comment, focusing only on the gentle movements of the swing, letting her feet scuff along the grass. Fingers wrapped tightly around the old chain, she continued to stare pointedly over the pond. Her grandparents visit was over, and all she wanted to do was sit in silence.
"I’m talking to you Liz," said Candice and her arms crossed tightly over her chest.
The girl on the swing sighed, slowly allowing herself to turn and face her sister. "I thought you would take the hint," she mused, her words coming out infuriatingly slow, "but I guess not." Her blue eyes gleamed, the amusement in her expression obvious. If anyone was provoked, it was Candice, who was far too rigid for her own good. "Oh relax," chided Elizabeth, rolling her eyes as she caught sight of Candice scowling. "I was just teasing. What do you want?"
Candice stared at her younger sister. Her irritation melted away, expression shifting into something else, something that Elizabeth couldn’t quite read. "Running away with a rockstar," she cooed. "How rebellious, Lizzie. It’s really quite shocking." There was something distinctly poisonous about Candice at that moment, whether it was her expression or her words and Elizabeth had to repress the urge to look away. Her arms crossed tightly over her chest. "It’s also the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard," she added, her voice softening into something almost motherly. "You’re going to end up with nothing and when I see you on that street corner," she said, and paused. Her eyes narrowed and Candice allowed the words to sink in before continuing on, "I’m going to keep on going because I’ll have told you so."
"Go. Away. Candice." The swinging stopped.
A smug smile touched the elder’s lips. "I’m only being -"
The smile dropped from Candice’s face, and a wave of confusion rolled over her. That word had been directed at her before, but never from her own sister. Her arms uncrossed, and they hung limply at her sides. She was saved from needing to come up with a response, though, as another head of blonde hair came into sight at the top of the hill. "Candi?" called Gemma and she waved a hand, bouncing down the side of the hill. Once in proper speaking range, the youngest came to a halt. "Mum’s looking for you. Said -" Cutting herself off, the girl looked from Candice to Elizabeth, mouth turning into a frown. The tension between them rolled off them in waves. "She said she found the picture she wanted to show you," she finished quietly, not wanting to add any more fuel to the fire. "Of that dress."
Candice’s shoulders dropped and the beginnings of a smile tugged at her lips. "Excellent," she said, moving away from the swing and towards her younger sister. Elizabeth’s comment was seemingly forgotten as Candi looped her arm through Gemma’s and tugged her forward. "Did she show you? What was it like?" she prompted as they started back up the hill, leaving Liz alone and mostly forgotten on the swing. Gemma shook her head in response and, as Candice prattled on, she shot a look over her shoulder, eyes boring into Lizzie’s. The fierceness in her normally gentle expression took Elizabeth aback, but it was a look that she read quite clearly.
We need to talk.