On the third floor of the most expensive house in 10021 zip code, a young girl sat on the wooden slate floor of a pale violet bedroom. In front of her lay a large trunk and two suitcases, open and overflowing with clothes. She was supposedly unpacking them, but could not quite bring herself to do so. To move all of her clothing and possessions out of her suitcases and into the bureau and closet provided in her new bedroom seemed to be resigning herself to the fact that she actually had to live and sleep here. Schuyler Van Alen pushed her long black hair out of her eyes, angrily flipping it over her shoulder. Tears had started to gather in her sapphire eyes for the umpteenth time that day, and she was sick of it. Sick of crying, sick of moving, sick of the constant uncertainty in her life, and most especially sick of dear old 'Uncle Charles', as he now wanted to be called, ordering her around without giving her any say. He hadn't even been there to greet her when she arrived at the mansion two hours ago. None of them had. Instead, when Lawrence had ordered the chauffer to stop in front of the imposing four-story house and held the door for her, they had found the entire place deserted. Lawrence had impatiently waited for the door to open after ringing the bell four times, but nothing happened.
"I guess no one's home." Schuyler had remarked hopefully, starting to turn back to the car.
Lawrence had looked at her as if he'd like nothing better than to bundle her into the Lincoln and take her home, but he had told Charles he would drop Schuyler off at one o'clock sharp on Saturday afternoon, and he wouldn't put it past his devious son to somehow find out and report him if Lawrence failed to do exactly that. He smiled sadly at his granddaughter, then tried the handle. Unsurprisingly, it was locked.
"Normally, this would not be a proper use for vampire strength, but we'll ignore that just this once." He told Schuyler, before taking the handle more firmly in his hand and twisting with all his strength. Schuyler heard a faint crack as the lock snapped, and then the door swung open, its gold gilt handle hanging at a slightly odd angle. Schuyler grinned at her grandfather, picturing the look on Charles's face when he saw his door, before remembering that since the door was open she now had to go inside and leave him, for how long she did not know.
Vexingly enough, it was a beautiful day, warm for late winter, with the sun shining cheerily from behind a few clouds, bathing the driveway and surrounding lawns with a golden glow. If Schuyler had been there for any other reason, she would have appreciated the almost other-worldly beauty of the place, especially in the heart of the city. As it was, she simply scowled at the sunlight and made a face at a pair of particularly cheerful looking chrysanthemums. Popping the trunk, she helped her grandfather lift out her luggage before grabbing her slightly warn but well-loved sky blue backpack, a twelfth birthday present from Oliver. ("See, get it Sky? It's SKY blue!") They carried the bags to the step and across the threshold of the house, both of them hesitating before actually stepping into the mansion.
Inside, Schuyler peered around her new 'home', trying not to tremble at the sheer size and overwhelming power of it. The entrance hall they were standing in was painted a creamy off-white, although much of the paint was covered by large paintings and gold candle stick holders placed every few feet along the wall. Looking directly up, she encounter a large and impressive chandelier, decorated with hundreds of tiny Waterford crystals. A wide staircase with pale gold carpeting swept up to the second floor directly in front of her, accompanied by a white American pine banister. Schuyler had grown up in a fairly large home herself, but it was nothing compared to this.
"Mimi." Schuyler spun as she heard the name, wildly looking around for her enemy, before realizing it was her grandfather who had spoken.
"What about…her?" Schuyler asked, avoiding actually saying her name.
"Apparently, she was supposed to be here to meet you. " He held up a note written in fountain pen on a sheet of thick white paper. Glancing at his granddaughter, he read the note aloud.
"Lawrence and Schuyler—so sorry we could not be here to greet you, an urgent issue involving the Carondolets came up suddenly. I'm sure Mimi will welcome you and provide Schuyler with everything she needs. (Yeah, like a knife in the back, Schuyler thought to herself.) We will return around five o'clock this evening, at which time Schuyler is expected to accompany us to dinner. Lawrence, as I am sure you are aware, the courts have forbidden you to have any contact with Schuyler until further notice. When you drop her off you may not call her, write her, or contact her in any way for the conceivable future. Schuyler, we will welcome you properly into the family later. (I wonder if that involves a death ritual? Schuyler mused sarcastically.) In the mean time, please make yourself at home, but stay out of the first floor study. I eagerly look forward to seeing you later, your—here Lawrence paused as if he couldn't believe what he was reading—your Uncle Charles."
Schuyler made a half-gagging half-disbelieving noise, looking up at her grandfather in distress.
"Is he always that pompous?" She asked.
"Always." Lawrence sighed. "Well, my dear, since my other granddaughter seems to have made herself scarce—it took Schuyler several moments to realize that Mimi was the 'other granddaughter'—let us try to ascertain where your new room may be. " Offering her his arm, he led her up the stairs. They quickly realized that most of the rooms on the second floor served no practical purpose—sunroom, reading room, game room, billiard hall, and several rooms stuffed with an amazing amount of ornate junk—and that the only bedroom clearly belonged to Chares and Trinity.
The third floor appeared more promising, for it held not one but several bedrooms. Schuyler quickly figured out that each room followed either a color or a pattern theme—a royal blue room, a daisy room, an ocean green room, a wine room, a lilac room. The only problem was, as far as they could tell any of them could have been her bedroom. None of them seemed to be inhabited, and Lawrence was about to suggest that Schuyler just pick a room for the time being when they came to the last room in the hallway. As soon as Schuyler opened the door, they both knew this was her room. It was painted a pale violet, with a soft white bedspread and pale purple sheets. There was a white carpet on the floor, and the curtains over the large picture window were the lightest shade of mauve. There was a small but sturdy sandalwood dresser in one corner, a matching bookshelf, and a small table draped with white and dark violet muslins next to the bed. It looked exactly like Allegra's room back at the Van Alen mansion.
As they walked into the room, Schuyler and Lawrence fell silent, both feeling Allegra's presence in the bedroom. Obviously, someone had gone to a lot of trouble to put this room together. If Schuyler had needed any more assurance that the room was hers, she only needed to look at the picture on the bedside table. It caught her eye as soon as she entered the room, and she made her way over to it carefully, with near reverence. It showed a laughing young woman in her early thirties, her head tilted back as she turned towards the camera, causing her long blonde hair to cascade in wild curls down her back. She was smiling widely, obviously turning to greet whoever held the camera. Schuyler could almost feel the vibrancy and life in the young woman's pale green gaze. Although her eye and hair color clearly matched that of Charles Force, her features were all Schuyler. Schuyler gasped and felt herself tear up as she looked closer. Tucked snuggly in Allegra's arms so she was only half visible in the picture was a small infant with dark hair and blue eyes. Schuyler felt the tears start to fall as for the first time she gazed at a picture of herself and her mother.
She felt a hand on her shoulder, and she reached up to grasp it. Neither of them spoke, but for several long minutes grandfather and granddaughter stood as though frozen, staring at the picture of forgotten happiness. Finally, Schuyler sniffled and broke the spell, turning to bury herself in her grandfather's arms before letting him go and leading him back downstairs to retrieve her things.
Now, as Schuyler sat on the floor of her new room, she felt herself questioning her uncle's intentions once again. Why had he—for who else would know what Allegra's room looked like—gone to such trouble for her sake? Was he trying to buy her off? Or did he genuinely want her to feel at home? Another thought crept into Schuyler's mind, creepy and unwanted. What if Charles thought that having Schuyler live with him was a convoluted way to get Allegra back? Was he over associating her with her mother? Pushing that unpleasant thought aside, Schuyler wiped her eyes on the corner of her large grey hoodie and forced herself to stand and begin placing her clothes in the dresser.
To her surprise, she discovered that the dresser drawers (and when she looked, the closet) were already half-filled with clothes. She was even more surprised to discover that she didn't totally hate them. They were certainly nicer than anything she currently owed, but to her surprise they weren't clones of Mimi's style. Most were in the blacks, charcoals, and darker colors she preferred, with a few violet and red shirts thrown in to give the mix some color. She thought about taking them out and dumping them in one of the many spare bedrooms, but decided against it. Instead, she picked her favorites out of her own clothes and placed them next to the new ones, storing what didn't fit in the bottom of her trunk before pushing it to the back of her walk-in closet. She had just bent down to examine the titles in the book shelf when her super-sensitive hearing picked up the sound of someone walking down the hallway towards her room.
She frowned, uneasy. Lawrence had secured the front door for her before he left, making sure it closed tightly if not securely before leaving her. Schuyler was sure she would have heard if someone came through the front door. Which left the unpleasant alternatives that someone had snuck into the house and was now creeping up on her, or that someone had been in the house all along, undetected—that didn't seem possible—by either herself or her grandfather. Clenching her hands into fists, Schuyler climbed to her feet and squared herself to face whatever was coming towards her room, desperately wishing that she had brought Beauty with her today instead of arranging to have her dropped off next weekend. The door opened with a creek, and Schuyler stared in disbelief at the person on the other side, her hands unclenching and dropping to her sides.
"What are you doing?"
It was Mimi.