Chapter 5 : Tea or Coffee
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Shortly after the two lovebirds scarper off home, the bright sky deepens into dark cobalt; the world seems to calm and quieten. I do believe bedtime is upon us.
Yawning, I sit on my new bed, curled in a cosy ball, and stare out through the window at the stretch of darkening sky. I wonder whether Florence and my parents are seeing the same sky as I am, or if theirs is already cloaked in inky blank.
I know I’ve only been gone for a matter of hours, but I miss them already. I miss being mollycoddled by my parents and being silly with my sister. Most of all, I miss my nice warm bed.
Dominique is a snorer. I should probably find that annoying but, weirdly enough, the soft rhythm created by the inhale, exhale… inhale, exhale is quite soothing. Like a lullaby of sorts, but with less cutesie and more blocked air passages.
It’s a nice change, this peace, to when she’s awake.
Thinking about it, today could’ve gone better, but it could have gone a lot worse, too. At least the awkward introductions are out the way – I was dreading them the most. I wonder what they all think of me? What kind of first impression I made…?
I’m not sure if I want to know those answers. Ugh. There’s still another 30 odd days to go – 4 weeks. Daunting. A lot can happen in that time.
A sliver of moonlight spilling into the room reminds me of the time. I should sleep – God knows what tomorrow will hold. And meeting all these new people has left me absolutely exhausted.
“RISE AND SHINE YOU LAZY BIATCH!” a sharp, crude voice shrills into my skull. And then again, like a broken record. What in the world…?
I half jump, half roll out of bed (a wonky ninja roll, if you will), landing with a painful thump in a heap on the carpet. My neck snaps left and right as I hunt through squinted eyelids for the source of that ungodly noise, and it doesn’t appear to be emitting from a who, but rather, a what.
Balancing on the highest wooden beam of the bunk bed, chilling beside a heap of platinum hair, is our contemptible culprit: a neon pink alarm clock, wailing on repeat. “RISE AND SHINE YOU LAZY BIATCH!”
Who, in their right mind, would want to wake up to that?
Desperately, I reach up and slap the little bugger’s snooze button, but still it persists in its quest to assault our eardrums. Or should I say, my eardrums, because Dominique appears to be blissfully unaware, drifting in some otherworldly realm. Is she sodding deaf?!
“Hey,” I croak, jabbing the back of her shoulder blade with the crappy contraption. She twitches, but otherwise remains unmoved. She truly is a lazy, crazy so-and-so. Mercury takes the opportunity to pad briskly out of the room, and I honestly consider following suit.
“Can you turn this off?” I plead, louder this time, but my voice is still brittle and muffled with sleep. Oh man. I am so not in the mood for this.
I hobble a few steps up the clumsy ladder and lean down towards her ear, too irritable and fatigued to feel creepy. Hoping to at least stir her, and thinking she won’t possibly hear properly in this state, I utter, “you get the hell up right now… or else.”
Maybe I sounded a little icier than intended, but come on. It’s stupid-o-clock in the morning, that inappropriate racket is giving my already clouded mind a headache, and she’s playing Sleeping Beauty with me. So sue me.
It works, though. Her rosy eyelids flash open. Finally.
“Ohmigod! What IS your problem!” squeals the princess, clearly affronted.
My problem? – Your alarm clock. So. Freaking. LOUD.
I don’t dare voice that, of course.
She sits up, stretches out her bony arms, and glowers at me like I’m the last face she wants to see first thing in the morning. And then she reaches out for the alarm clock, taking her precious time doing so. Like she’s revelling in the incredibly dulcet tones of her own voice or something, which honestly wouldn’t surprise me.
“Really, Adelaide. I appreciate we’re not all morning people, but a little courtesy wouldn’t go unnoticed,” she says curtly once the alarm breaks, voice agonisingly calm and civil.
But it’s her face that truly irks me: patronising smirk, beady blue eyes, and–most annoyingly of all–perfectly smooth hair, first thing in the bleeding morning.
That’s just not natural.
I swallow the prickle of anger in my throat and force out a feeble “sorry”. There, that wasn’t so hard. “I don’t know why I said that. But I’m just–” I pause as a hefty yawn escapes my mouth, “–so tired.”
“Well that sucks for you,” she says helpfully as she hops off her bed, “because today is going to be a bloody long day. Best get ourselves prettied up.” She briefly eyes over my appearance, not bothering to conceal her distaste, and I get a horribly shivering feeling that I should brace my self-esteem for a blow. “Good job I got you up early, Adelaide. No offence, but you look dead.”
…This is not what I signed up for.
I like to think of my face as a blank canvas. It’s a neutral, indistinct thing which could just do with a dab and a smear here, a splash of colour there, and voila. Not so average anymore. A somewhat decent work of art.
My mum once told me that it’s kind of narcissistic to be shy − to consider the way we are and the way we look as being important to other people. I’ve always thought vain was the last word to describe myself, but maybe I am. I care way too much, and somehow, poking and prodding my face makes me feel better.
“There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of paint,” I confirm knowingly to my newly-perkified reflection.
“That’s right, dear, no harm in accentuating your best features. Lovely shade of lipstick you’re wearing.”
I think – think being the key word here – that the mirror just spoke to me. Christ, my brain is that desperate for its daily dose of caffeine that it’s making inanimate objects talk! Get your full nine hours, kids. Sleep deprivation does crazy things to you!
“Your hair could do with a comb though,” it adds curtly, as an afterthought.
A startled bubble of laughter escapes my lips as I observe my tangled knots of fair hair. At least it’s honest.
I shake my head as I stare at myself. I hate it when these shallow thoughts bubble into my head. So what if my hair’s not styled to perfection? So what if I don’t look stunningly attractive first thing in the bleeding morning? I need to start ignoring Dominique’s snide remarks and rude comments, refuse to let her use my self-esteem as a plaything. Because if I don’t, I might just not come out at the other side of this month alive. I mean, that’s one of the things I wanted to learn on this trip – right? Maybe I’ll learn to grow a thicker skin.
Deciding I should get some sugar is my veins sooner rather than later, I quickly drag a brush through my hair before dragging myself downstairs, and I swear the mirror slurs another impolite comment about my hair as I turn my back on it.
I’m starting to wonder if Dominique has run off to Narnia, because she’s not to be found in her natural territory (glued to a mirror, of course). It’s Louis I first stumble upon, lounging in the kitchen with his feet propped up on the island counter (Hygiene? What’s that?).
His nose is hidden away in the deep dark depths of a novel as he carelessly chews on a piece of gum. It’s such a peculiar sight; he isn’t exactly your typical bookworm. Because, er, everyone knows pretty people don’t/can’t read (Vogue, Grazia, Witch Weekly and the equivalent don’t count). Nevertheless, that almost geeky look of pure concentration on his face as he studies the printed words doesn’t detract from his prettiness even a little.
(In fact, it enhances it. But shh!)
I’m dimly aware of the slight noise I’m creating, the gentle shuffle of my feet on the tiled floor, but he doesn’t acknowledge me as I enter the room. Perhaps he’s deliberately ignoring me.
Well. I suppose all that paint really was needless, if no one’s even going to bother looking at my face today.
I get a momentary urge to just scuttle away, to go hide back upstairs and wait for Fleur to come find me, but the ache in my empty stomach keeps me lingering in the doorway. Addie huuungry.
Just as I’m admiring the fridge magnets from afar, Louis lifts his gaze, looking genuinely surprised to see me hanging there, and puts his book down. He waves his long fingers and points to the stool to his left. It’s as if he’s been expecting me.
Confused and weary, I slowly take the seat beside him, self-consciously straightening my shoulders and resting my hands on my lap. All the while, Louis natters away. “Oh, hey, you’re up. Would you prefer toast, croissants, pancakes…? I can do fried as well; bacon and beans and eggs and all that, though don’t expect anything too lavish…”
Waaait a second. What’s this? My own personal chef stroke butler stroke servant? I would have come to France a long time ago if I’d known this was part of the deal…
He pauses in his tirade of what seems to be a Tescos inventory to turn and look at me properly. When I finally speak, my voice is shrouded in bewilderment, and I sound totally, utterly lost.
I blink. “Um, sorry… what?”
“For breakfast. What would you like?” he says, this time at a comprehensible human speed.
I watch him with careful eyes. I glance away, and then look back at him again. Who is this imposter and what has he done with the sulky, hard-eyed boy I met yesterday?
“Are you sure? I can get it myself.” I wish I didn’t sound so nervous. It might help if I didn’t feel so nervous.
He waves me off and begins wandering round the kitchen, narrowly avoiding a thwack to the head courtesy of a low-hanging lightshade. “What do you fancy, then?”
Fleur must have set him up to his; that’s the only excuse I can think of.
Ah, well. May as well take the opportunity and milk it for all it’s worth!
“Um, I’d quite like some toast, if that’s all right? Buttered, with… strawberry jam?” Mmm, my mouth waters at the very thought.
“Coming right up.” He gives a silly mock salute before springing to work, and I’ve never seen someone slide bread into a toaster with such eagerness before. And then he reaches into his pocket and points his wand right at it.
Now, as a non-magical person I’m certainly no expert, but I was always under the impression that electricity and magic don’t mix. Should never be mixed. And this seems to be affirmed when, seconds later, steam rises in rancid curls around the charcoal’d bread. …Cough?
A minute ago he was promising a whole English fry up, and here he is, struggling to work a toaster. My God.
“Well that wasn’t meant to happen,” Louis mumbles, flapping at the smoke with his hands. “Um… I’ll try again.”
“Why don’t you try without magic?” I’m quick to suggest, eyeing his wand uneasily.
But he won’t hear of it. Gah, why are wizards so bloody eager to show off their magic at any given opportunity? Even if it means burning the place down…
“Louis, I really don’t think–”
Too late. To his credit, only the crusts were charred this time.
“You know what?” I say, the stale smell still coiling up my nostrils. “I’m more of a cereal person anyway.”
Louis glances sadly over the dusty remains of my breakfast to me. I look at him. And for some reason, the moment our eyes meet, we laugh. It’s a short-lived, nonsensical laugh, but it lifts my mood considerably.
“And what would mademoiselle like to drink?” he asks politely after setting a bowl of ‘Coco Quaffles’ in front of me. They’re pretty damn good, too; I make a mental note to ask Mum to get some. “We have juice, squash, tea, coffee. Water…”
“A mug of Earl Grey would be great, thanks,” I say chirpily, still amazed at the fantastic service I’m receiving. Fast and friendly; what more could a guest ask for? The ability to safely operate a toaster would be great too, of course, but that’s getting fussy.
“Earl Grey, you say?” He stares at me curiously, lifts an eyebrow. “Why, how very upper-class of you.”
Heat spreads rapidly up my neck. “Oh, um – I mean, PG Tips would be fine too–”
“Nah, just teasing you,” he winks cheekily. “My mother and Dom are the same. Spit out PG Tips like it’s mud, the snobs.”
I don’t know how to reply to that, so I don’t. He leans his long frame against the worktop, tapping his fingers against the marble as he waits for the kettle to boil. He’s almost too tall for Fleur’s low-ceilinged kitchen. And how can he possibly be that thin? A growing teenage boy? Argh, I know it’s not my place to criticise, but I can’t help wondering, y’know? I wonder if natural thinness is in their genes. From what I’ve seen so far, Fleur does cook enough in one meal to feed them all for a week, yet they all have the body of a golf club.
He coughs. Oh hell, maybe I was looking at him for too long. The last thing I want is for him to think I’m creeping on him or something. He’s trying hard and being so nice, when really he should hate me for being so annoying and rude about his family yesterday, and – I don’t want to give him yet another reason to dislike me. I quickly avert my eyes, making a conscious effort not to look down at my shoes. Don’t want to appear shifty.
He coughs again. “Sorry. That burnt toast smell is lingering,” he confesses.
Oh. Well, that could be it too, I suppose.
My eyes dart around the room, anywhere but at him, and my gaze falls on the book he was reading beforehand. A gloomy hardback with the light reflecting off its intricate design, titled ‘The Grey Ones’. Ooh, how ominous. That could be anything, really – a crime novel, a paranormal horror, an action-packed thriller…hell, it could even be a dark romance. If boys even read romances. They probably don’t. I wouldn’t know.
Intrigued, I flip the book over and skim through the blurb. Sounds kind of spooky, but it seems to have encouraging reviews.
“’s a good book,” Louis remarks, snatching my gaze away from the novel and making me jump a foot in the air. God, he scared me. He smiles lightly. “Not for the faint-hearted, though. The author, Horatio Clarke, is one twisted bloke. There are these creepy ass grey creatures that reside in the shadows, emerging only at night to infect innocent humans with their various diseases and such. There’s this couple who decide to investigate; only, the guy ends up falling for a Grey One. Then, mysteriously, his proper girlfriend disappears… that’s the bit I got to when you came in. It’s weird, but incredibly gripping.”
“Um…” I play with the ends of my hair uncertainly. “Sounds interesting,” is all I can say. I admit, he lost me at ‘creepy ass grey creatures’.
“I have a thing for strange stories about the supernatural,” he confesses, lowering his voice like it’s some big secret, smiling wickedly.
There are about three things I’ve gathered about Louis Weasley in my short time of knowing him. Un: his moods are of the same fragility as a thirteen year old girl’s. Deux: he’s actually a bit eccentric, what with his alarmingly odd hobbies which include reading freaky zombie novels and randomly preparing innocent girls’ breakfast. Trois: he can talk and talk and talk and never seem to run out of breath. Or things to say.
Quite a skill, really.
I breathe a sigh of relief when Fleur enters the kitchen a short while later, looking lovely as ever in a floaty white dress. The first thing she does is smile widely when she catches sight of Louis, fervently narrating Horatio Clarke’s slightly screwed up life story (if you’re interested, after a year of marriage his wife left him for another woman; everything pretty much went downhill from there). She appears to be pleasantly surprised to see us here, seemingly getting along.
Then she explains how she’s sending the three of us − Louis, Dominique, and I − off to town for the day to “explore the area”, as well as do a spot of shopping for her. I’m not sure how to feel about this because I don’t really trust either of them to keep me alive (eyeing the burnt toast there), but I’m kind of looking forward to getting some fresh air all the same.
As we slip into our shoes, Fleur watches on with a razor-sharp eye and addresses her offspring sternly. “You ‘ad better be ‘ome well before it gets dark. Okay, Dominique? Louis? If anything ‘appens to Adelaide–”
“We know, we know, you’ll disembowel us,” Dominique quips, gaze flattening. She crosses her arms over her chest and shifts her weight between her golden-brown legs, which are fully revealed in a short, wispy skirt. I’m showing my legs too, and they look comically colourless in comparison.
“–you will both be ‘eld responsible.”
“Don’t worry, Maman. We’ll look after her.” I glimpse up at Louis coyly, grateful, and he smiles down at me. He’s being a real sweetheart today. But part of me still can’t help feeling on guard, trusting my safety and general well-being in the hands of these two.
Fleur reaches up to press her lips against his cheek. “And you?” She turns her austere, wet-your-pants stare on her seventeen-year-old daughter. Glad I’m not the one under that gaze; I’d be squirming.
“Of course,” Dominique agrees, her voice coated with honey. She even goes as far as to give her mother a brief hug; even Fleur seems shocked, rigid in their embrace. Then, to my great amazement, she grabs my wrist – no doubt catching Addie cooties from the close contact – and pulls me towards the door.
I glance behind just in time to see Fleur stuff her shopping list into Louis’ back pocket, despite her having made us recite the list from heart fifty times over. “'ome before dark!” she hastily calls after us.
Another tug to my hand, and finally we escape into the hot French air.
It smells sweet and clean outdoors. I haven’t actually had a proper view of the front yet, seeing as the first time I was slightly distracted, safeguarding the insides of my stomach and all. The lawn is adorable, only covering a small area; fragrant rose bushes and other pretty blossoms border on a little winding path, leading up to the front gate. It’s a gardener’s dream.
Dominique immediately drops my arm and storms through the wooden gateway, heels clacking and hair whooshing out behind her. I glance behind my shoulder at the more laidback Louis, who catches my eye and rolls his at his sister’s theatrics.
I make to follow her, when out of nowhere a tiny rush of fur thrashes past me, which I take to be Coco − the kitten I inadvertently met on Louis’ bed − currently fleeing from a rather predacious-looking Mercury. They don’t seem to like each other very much, just as Fleur predicted.
“Hey!” barks Louis to the sprightly Kneazle. He leans down in an attempt to grab him off the ground, but Mercury’s too sharp, too swift, effortlessly leaping out of his clutches. A few pigeons perched on the fence nearby make their leave, alarmed. “You! Leave little Coco alone!”
As the chase continues, little bodies dodging in and out of the rustling plants, Louis’ despairing face looks over to me for some assistance. It’s so sweet, how he cares so much for a creature as little and defenceless as Coco.
But I just give a little half-smile and shrug my shoulders. What can I say? My Mercury’s an agile little boy.
I do feel a bit guilty, though, when his worried blue eyes quickly look away in defeat, returning to watch his poor kitten romp around in the flight of its life.
“He’d never do her any harm,” I assure him. At least, I hope not. I can’t be sure but I think Louis is giving me the stink eye.
“Well? What are you two waiting for?” Dominique snarls impatiently from a little way away, tapping her feet true to form. I wonder what got her so riled up. I soon catch up, because I know she has a wand in her pocket and I don’t particularly want to know what she can do with it.
“What a dull street we live on,” she observes sourly as she strides down the narrow, bumpy lane, with me desperately determined not to fall behind. I may or may not be wheezing for air. For such a small girl in heels, she can move fast.
Her comment takes me by surprise; I think she lives on a gorgeous street. The houses are large and charismatic. It’s far more rural than what I’m accustomed to, not to mention the total opposite of the bustling French city I was expecting, but that’s part of the charm. The chiming sound of chirruping birds is always a welcome replacement from heavy traffic. Nevertheless, I do see her point: this isn’t the place to be if you’re in search of a raving social life.
“Not much to do in the middle of nowhere,” Louis concurs, letting his fingers skim along the ivy, easily matching our pace. I’m suspicious that he only agrees with her so that she’ll be less likely to snap at him. Clever boy.
Then he turns to me and kindly fills me in on the deets: “It’s a five minute walk to the bus stop, a ten minute bus ride, then a fifteen minute walk to the nearest town. Well, there are a bunch of villages closer to us, but nothing worth doing in them.”
Ugh. That sounds like a lot of walking.
Once we turn the corner, far enough away so that anyone looking out the window (hint: Fleur) wouldn’t be able to see, Dominique swiftly spins round to face Louis and I, bringing us both to a sudden standstill.
“Well, I believe it’s time to go our separate ways,” she declares. Her expression is firm and calculating, like she’s daring us to challenge her. “You kids have fun”. She tosses a dry wink at her brother – and then, before we can react, she spins one more time before vanishing from sight. The following pop hangs still in the air for a moment.
I blink disbelievingly at the freshly vacated spot. Why would she leave? Where did she go?
Louis, on the other hand, appears to be more annoyed at himself for letting her get away. He shakes his head in frustration. “Christ. I really can’t believe her. Actually, I can. Ever since she got that bloody Apparition licence... Leaving me to− damn. Maman would have a tizz if she knew…”
He sighs a long-suffering sigh. Sweeps a weary hand through his hair. And then, as if remembering that he’s got company, makes a decent stab at looking cheerful. “Never mind. We might as well carry on, hadn’t we? Need to get all that stuff for Maman.”
And so, on we travel. It’s great that Louis is being friendlier today than he was yesterday, but it still feels a bit… wrong to be toddling along, just the two of us, him towering over me. I mean, he’s as good as a stranger! And a boy! Even Louis can’t think of anything to fill the silence, and he’s Louis. The whole state of affairs is just uncomfortable and awkward and, God, I would very much like to sink into the gravel right now.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed this action-packed chapter of waking up, getting ready, and having breakfast… You’ve made it this far, so you might as well scribble a quick review, right? :D
Un, deux, trois = one, two, three
mademoiselle = miss
Disclaimer: CS Lewis has the rights to the Chronicles of Narnia. I don’t own Vogue, Grazia, Witch Weekly, Tescos, Earl Grey, or PG Tips. Or HP.