Akazukin Cha Cha: An Ultimatum

Disclaimer: I don't own Akazukin Cha Cha.

Chapter VII: Feelings

This is not what she had expected.

With her elbow lazily perched on the windowsill, and her temple on her knuckle, Dorothy looked quizzically at her silent suitor seated across her inside the white limousine. It has been past fifteen minutes since they left Seravi's cottage, yet this man who unabashedly confessed his love for her had not uttered a single word since they sat down.

From the moment the vehicle moved, he had been sitting there comfortably, with his arms crossed and his gaze steady at the cushion across him. Originally, she had been sitting beside him, waving at the kids as she said goodbye. Then when the cottage was far enough not to be seen, she had settled down and waited quietly for him to start the conversation. She was even slightly nervous, not familiar how this sort of encounter goes, but surely it does not start with her?

After a full minute of silence, she began to feel impatient. What in heavens is taking him so long? Slowly, she began throwing him side glances, trying to check his movements. When the full minute turned into two, Dorothy dropped her shyness and stared at him hard. That didn't work either, as he still sat there not moving at all. Finally, she decided to move in front of him, where his gaze was seemingly fixed at. Surely, that would remind him that he had someone else in his car, wouldn't he?

Apparently not, she thought dejectedly. Then she frowned. Well, if that was how it's going to be, then she won't mind either. She wouldn't waste time trying to get his attention like a silly lovesick schoolgirl. She is, after all, a fair lady, and it's just not done.

Left with nothing to do, she resolved herself to studying her companion instead.

At first, she thought he was just being shy, after all, this was their first time to be alone with each other. But now that she's looking at him more carefully, it seemed he's neither shy nor nervous. The man was absorbed in his thoughts, Dorothy realized, like a man solving a difficult math equation, or maybe just as Seravi had warned, a man contemplating his evil scheme on her.

"He is hiding something, Dorothy. I sense it."

Dorothy looked away uncomfortably. She would have given his warning more thought if he hadn't pissed her off so strongly. Then again, this is her chance for a good marriage, she couldn't let it slip away, could she? She sighed loudly, thinking at least she had Shiine stay behind. If this were really a trap or something, then at least she needn't worry about her student.

"You seem to be lost in thought, Ms. Dorothy," came the sudden remark.

His voice, so sudden and unexpected, made her jump on her seat.

"I didn't mean to startle you," Clovis exclaimed apologetically, "it just seems like you were…occupied. I could leave you to your thoughts, if that is your wish."

The idea of him accusing her of being lost in thought all but left Dorothy speechless. Here she was waiting like a fool, and now he tells her she was the one lost in thought? The nerve!

Seeing he had somehow managed to upset her further, Clovis began to blabber nonsense in an effort to calm her down. Dorothy didn't care a word of what he was saying, her whole attention on trying to keep herself from banging his head senseless with a giant hammer she was planning to conjure up. But then again, she wasn't good at keeping her temper down.

Just when the hammer was about to make its first pound, Clovis blabbered faster, making a last ditch effort, before he yelped in helplessness, his body curled up with his arms trying to cover his head, his eyes shut and his entire being alert, anticipating the pain.

One. Two. Three…slowly, Clovis opened an eye. Seeing her in a state of shock, he carefully opened his other eye and turned towards the frozen giant hammer above him. With utmost care, he slowly slid away from the hammer, his eyes riveting frightfully between Dorothy and the hammer.

"What did you say?" Dorothy asked almost in a whisper.

Clovis stared at her blankly. What did he say? He said so many things for the last few seconds that it was impossible to know what she could be referring to. But whatever it was, it surely got through to her, so he has to get it right. Trying to second guess the answer could be fatal, he concluded with a deep gulp.

"Wha-what I said…" he trailed off.

"You said something about Seravi," Dorothy prompted.

"Seravi?" Clovis echoed, not sure what she was talking about.

Obviously that was not the correct response, as he saw her frown again.

"Shall I knock you in the head to make you remember, Mr. Clovis?" Dorothy reprimanded haughtily.

"No! No! Please don't," Clovis immediately responded, thinking quickly, he looked at her warily, "Seravi…ah yes, Mr. Seravi…I was saying that…"

At her continued stare, and the hammer hovering dangerously above, Clovis continued precariously, making it up as he goes, "I was probably thinking…that…you could stay with Mr. Seravi if that is what you really feel."

He must have hit it right, because the steam within Dorothy blew out like an untied balloon, and the hammer quickly disappeared.

With apologetic eyes, she motioned for him to sit down properly, "Was that the reason you were ignoring me a while ago?"

"Ignoring you?" Clovis returned appallingly as he sat back on his former position, "I wouldn't ignore you, Ms. Dorothy," and at the sight of her raised eyebrow, he corrected, "I didn't mean to ignore you, Ms. Dorothy…I was just…thinking."

"You do that all the time?" she asked out of curiosity.

He grinned and scratched his head, "I guess I do."

Dorothy smiled at his silliness. He suddenly reminded her of Shiine.

"So what is this about staying with Seravi?" Dorothy asked carefully.

"Ah that," he returned sheepishly, "back at the cottage, I was looking at the both of you…" and then with a shake of his head and hands, "I didn't mean to pry or anything, nothing like that," when she nodded, he continued, "I just knew, I knew there was something between you. Was I right?"

Dorothy stared at him for a moment, and then gave in a defeated sigh as she nodded, "Yes, I suppose we do have 'something' between us. As complicated as the relationship may be, it does seem a valid concern for you."

Clovis lowered his gaze, "so..I take it that the both of you are-"

"Unfortunately, no."

Clovis' gaze shot up to Dorothy's steady ones.

Dorothy shrugged and said simply, "he doesn't love me."

Nothing could be farther from the truth, Clovis thought to himself, as he remembered the deadly stare he got when they were about to leave. If looks could kill, he would have been buried deep in the man's garden, to be forgotten for all time. But it seems this fact was not properly conveyed, so much so that the lady in question didn't seem to think likewise.

"And what about you?" he couldn't help asking.

Dorothy bit her lower lip in thought. Wasn't it too early to be discussing this? She didn't want to talk about that…but he did ask, and she didn't want to lie…

When the silence stretched, Clovis looked away, acutely embarrassed as he scratched his head, "Ah never mind that, you don't have to answer. Stupid of me…"

"Mr. Clovis," she began slowly, her gaze lowered.

He jerked his head back around, aware of the severity in her tone.

"I must say sorry," she said with a deep sigh, "all I can say is that…I will not marry Seravi."

Clovis nodded involuntarily and fell silent.

"I am truly sorry," Dorothy reiterated to break the deafening silence, feeling quite helpless.

Is this the end? She thought miserably. He wouldn't want her now, knowing he would just be a replacement. Nobody would want to be, right?

"Please don't say you're sorry." He remarked.

"What?"

Unexpectedly, Clovis chuckled and sighed in relief. Dorothy stared at him, surprised and baffled.

"I thought you were going to say you won't be able to accept me, so I was already expecting to be rejected. But then you said you won't marry Mr. Seravi," he explained with a happy grin.

"I-" Dorothy opened her mouth to argue, then fell silent, not knowing what to say.

Seeing her confused face, he continued, "even though you have feelings for Mr. Seravi, you decided you won't marry him. Instead, you generously listened to my proposal and allowed me to accompany you back home. For that, I am already grateful and happy."

"I do not mind about your feelings for Seravi, not now anyway. However things are with him, it must not have been going as you hoped for, so much so that you would look for a husband elsewhere. What matters to me is that you gave me a chance. That much is enough for now." he answered with utmost solemnity.

"So," Dorothy looked at him doubtfully, "you really don't mind?"

"Not yet," Clovis confessed with a lopsided smile, and then more seriously, "not until we say our vows, if we ever do, that is. If we become married, I will have to demand my wife's full loyalty and faithfulness."

"Naturally," Dorothy found herself agreeing.

"Do not worry, Ms. Dorothy," he remarked, "I will do my best and steal you away."

"What?"

"I realize I am at an evident disadvantage, but I do believe I have a chance. If my rival is stupid enough not to value a precious gem like you, then far be it for me to remind him. I will win your heart, Ms. Dorothy." Clovis remarked confidently, his eyes gleaming with a challenging glint.

She was flabbergasted. In a matter of seconds, the man in front of her has changed from a silly, boyish gentleman to a confident, cunning businessman. He had quickly gotten hold of the current situation, evaluated his position, calculated his risks and threats, and decided logically, with conviction and determination. This is not an ordinary man. This is a man who knows what he wants and who will not hesitate to get it.

Somehow, it was both frightening and comforting at the same time.

"Oh but wait," Clovis interjected.

"What is it?" Dorothy asked.

Clovis looked at her, suddenly embarrassed, "You are giving me a chance, aren't you Ms. Dorothy?"

That question, given after all the things said and done, sent Dorothy into bubbles of laughter. Clovis grinned in embarrassment.

Wiping at the corners of her eyes, Dorothy replied, "You know Mr. Clovis, I do believe our date," emphasizing on the word with a mischievous smile, "started out most unconventionally. I think a proper introduction is in order."

Clovis' eyes twinkled and he nodded. As gentlemanly as he could, he bowed on his seat, left hand on his chest and right arm in a grand gesture by his side, "Most delighted to meet you, my lady. My name is Clovis."

Dorothy bowed equally graceful, "Pleased to meet you too, Mr. Clovis. My name is Dorothy."

When both lifted their heads, they smiled at each other like two old friends.

This actually might work after all.

000

This will definitely not work at all, Seravi thought broodingly.

That man named Clovis must be a schemer or something, but Dorothy was too stubborn to listen. And how could he fault her? The man hasn't done anything yet, except receive a bookslap from Dorothy, and confess to her after. Without solid proof, he wouldn't be able to convince her, or anyone for the matter, that the man is up to no good.

But then again, what is it exactly that made him so suspicious of the man? Nothing, Seravi admitted, and that made his mood even fouler. All he had was gut feel. And it was telling him most surely that Clovis was up to something.

But that wouldn't be enough reason. Anyone he knew would surely dismiss his opinion as jealousy.

Jealousy?

Seravi stared at the crystal ball in front of him. He had just spent countless times trying to peek into Dorothy's whereabouts, but she apparently blocked off his vision, making it impossible for him to track them down, much less gather information on their conversation. The mere idea of them together, with Dorothy purposedly throwing him off, was more than enough to twist him into knots.

She was keeping him out, and that realization hurt the most.

They have been together for years, partners for the longest time! Whether it was studying back in Urara School, looking out for the children, shopping, or simply eating meals, they always had each other at the back of their mind. But suddenly this Clovis appeared, and she was quick to get out, eager to know the suspicious man, even going as far as making sure he wouldn't interfere in their affair. It's as if she's already choosing the new guy over him!

At that thought, his heart constricted painfully, and he slammed his palm on the innocent wooden table in frustration.

He stared at the crystal ball long and hard, trying to ignore the voice that kept on telling him the obvious truth. His reaction, feelings and thoughts all pointed it out. There could only be one reason why he was acting like this. And he didn't like it.

What should I prepare for dinner? Seravi forced himself to think, trying hard not to think about what could be going on inside that vehicle.

"Let's have some vegetable soup," Seravi announced and stood up.

Without thought, his apron was zapped in place, and he quickly made his way to the kitchen.

The three quiet children, who were uncharacteristically well-behaved and seated with him on the table, looked on as he disappeared by the doorway.

"Vegetable soup?" Riiya looked at the other two for confirmation. When they nodded, he looked at the doorway again, "didn't we just have supper a while ago?"

Cha Cha sighed with a sweatdrop, "yes, we did."

"I feel sad for Mr. Seravi," Shiine remarked sadly.

Cha Cha nodded earnestly, "I've never seen him like that before."

Riiya, still frowning in thought, "I don't mind eating again, but I didn't realize choosing the menu for the second supper was that hard."