No, your eyes do not deceive you. I am actually updating this fic, and not only that, but I am updating with TWO chapters. Yay!
I actually had chapter 20 written ages ago, but it sucks so bad that I wanted to write a totally awesome chapter 21 to redeem myself and post both at the same time. Which I guess was, uh, partially accomplished. x_x; But I do like this chapter much more than chapter 20. I didn't even know I was going to write it, to be honest. Last night around nine, I thought, what the heck? And started typing. And, save for one break, I didn't stop until just after midnight. Yay for Spring Break, haha. Anyways, I fixed it up this morning, and, well, here we are.
As I said, I like this chapter more, but there are a few inaccuracies here and there that bother me and mostly arose due to poor planning on my part...I'm sort of hoping that I'm the only one OCD enough to notice/care. And that's all I'll say about that...
Finally, although it may be hard to believe, according to my calculations, this is the second-to-last chapter. As in, the next chapter will be the end. Well, plus an epilogue that should tie up everything nicely. ;) I hope this isn't too shocking...? In the initial stages of planning this fic I had estimated only 15 chapters. Haha, I was way off on that one...but yeah, anyways, my main point in mentioning this is, well, if you'll take a look up there, you can see I'm juuust on the edge of getting 50 reviews, and I think it'd be pretty cool if that were to happen before it all comes to an end. Hint hint. :)))
Okay, okay, I'm finished now. Thank you for reading and reviewing and most of all your patience! Thank you!! :D
She jumped at the sound of her father's voice, startling her back into consciousness. She turned to him, trying to form a smile as best as she could. It was something she'd been trying out lately, but it hardly helped. She once read that just smiling was enough to lift one's mood, but to her it wasn't nearly enough. She still tried, though, if just for her father's sake. Seeing someone like Camus, who was so utterly content with his life, ignited a longing to retrieve that feeling, even if it seemed so out of reach.
"Yes, Daddy?" she said, clutching the broomstick to her chest. She'd been cleaning constantly as soon as she was fully back on her feet again, as it allowed her to feel useful even though her mind was a mess.
"I want to talk to you. Just for a few minutes," he said nervously, like he wasn't sure how she was going to react. It was quiet in the store; Camus wasn't working that day.
Rosetta pressed her lips together, feeling anxious herself. She was almost positive of that he was going to try to bring up that, and that was something they hadn't touched on since her time in the clinic. Her palms felt sweaty, and her grip on the broom slipped a little. She kept quiet.
"I'm worried about you. Ever since—ever since you went to the clinic, you haven't been the same. I know it was hard—it was awful—but—"
"But I've been doing better!" Rosetta broke in, her voice cracking as it reached a slightly frantic pitch. It was true. She'd been eating meals regularly. She'd been making conversation, even if it was just with Camus. She was even smiling, even if it didn't make her feel better.
Jean seemed to cringe a little, and he sighed. "You're not happy anymore. Ever."
"Yes I—" Rosetta started automatically, but the answer stuck right in her throat. Even she couldn't tell that big of a lie. Her hands slid a little further down the broomstick.
"I know you're not. And I know why. But I think it's time to change it," he continued, looking her straight in the eye. She noticed he looked so much older, and so much more tired. Had she painted those wrinkles around his eyes and into his brow?
"How?" she asked, feeling the dreaded breathless feeling again. "How am I supposed to change anything? I can't—"
"You can, Rosetta. Stop sacrificing so much, and stop waiting. Just go talk to him. Do something for yourself. Be happy."
She stared at him, feeling a strange calm wash over her. Be happy. It reminded her of the small piece of advice she'd been given by Sabrina so long ago, when things were so much different…
…Do it because it makes you happy.
The feeling was almost liberating; it seized her with a freedom she was almost sure she didn't have the right to. The broom fell to the floor, but she didn't even notice.
"C-can I go now, Daddy?" she asked, reaching up to stop the tears that had suddenly started to flow. "Is it okay?"
"Yes," he said, his face relaxing into absolute relief. The smile he wore seemed to take his wrinkles away. "Go, now."
She broke into a grin, a true grin, and it was the best she'd felt in a long time. "I'll be right back, okay?" she called, leaving the fallen broom and running for the door.
He watched his only daughter go, chuckling a little to himself. "Take your time," he murmured after the door had shut.
"Ahh, Camus, I'm so excited!" Melody wailed, squeezing Camus's hand even tighter. "We're going to get to see the baby! Our baby! Our very own tiny little adorable baby!"
He laughed, squeezing right back. "Settle down already. And you know, this is to make sure the baby's healthy…"
Melody pouted and patted her stomach, which to her felt like it was rapidly expanding by the day—although Camus claimed he could barely notice the difference yet. "Of course he's healthy. Or she. Ahh, Camus, I'm so excited!"
He rolled his eyes teasingly at her exclamation as he held the clinic's door open for her. Melody slowed down as soon as they were inside, seeing Doctor Edward at his desk. Doctor Edward, as in Camus father, as in the father of the father of her baby who she still hadn't spoken to out of sheer terror—though she still wasn't entirely sure why. Maybe it was because she was pregnant with his son's baby and they weren't even married.
Oh, that might've something to do with it…
Lara appeared immediately at her side, gesturing towards the curtained rooms. "You're right on time. If you'll step over here…"
"Um. Could I have a minute, please?" Melody asked timidly, sneaking another peek over at the doctor. "I want to talk to, um, Doctor Edward. Um. About something." She clung to Camus's hand as though he were an anchor. The nurse smiled and nodded encouragingly, so Melody, with Camus guiding her, walked over to Doctor Edward's desk.
He looked up instantly, and his eyes lingered on their entwined fingers before traveling to Camus's face first, and then finally to Melody's.
"Hi," Melody said, her trembling voice stretching the word into a couple extra syllables. "Um, sorry that I never, um, you know, talked to you sooner. About this." She gestured at the slight bulge underneath her blouse.
Camus's father smiled and looked as if he were about to speak, but Camus spoke first. "I'm sorry, too, Dad. I should be letting you be more involved—"
"—But Camus, it's my fault for being such a coward!" Melody cried, raising her eyebrows in surprise. "How could you apologize? I've been the one hiding from your dad all along—"
Camus shook his head, looking solemn. "I know, but I haven't even talked much about it with him myself, and as his son, I really should be trying harder—"
"I'm the one who's been making it out to be a big secret from him! If anything, you've been under my influence—"
"But it's not like I couldn't think for myself—"
"It's all right, you two. I forgive you both," Doctor Edward interrupted, his shoulder shaking with suppressed laughter. "That's enough."
Melody and Camus both turned to look at him, their mouths still open in mid-apology. Camus shut his, scratching his head sheepishly, and Melody giggled in embarrassment. "Thank you, sir—I mean, Doctor Edward."
"Please, as the mother of my grandchild, call me Edward," he said with a kind smile that made Melody wonder how she ever could've been afraid of this man.
"Yes, sir—Doc—Edward. Um, I wanted to ask you something…"
"Well, I'm having my first ultrasound today, and…" she trailed off, feeling nervous until a gentle squeeze from Camus urged her on. "…I was wondering if you'd like to see him. Or her. The baby. Your…grandchild."
The doctor's smile faded, replaced by an expression of astonishment. "I would love to," he answered, and Melody let out a happy sigh, all of her stress eliminated.
Nurse Lara, who had reappeared on the scene, smiled and touched Melody's arm. "Right this way, then, please…"
Somewhat impressively, Tori managed to stay bedridden for more than a week until even she could no longer stand how pathetic she was being. She actually had been sick, but there was only so long one could milk something, and she'd finally decided enough was enough.
Russell was just a human being after all. And it was just a kiss. No big deal.
Yeah, right, she thought glumly as she got dressed that morning. No matter how pathetic I know am, I'll never be able to convince myself of that…
"Tori! It's so nice to see you up and about again," her mother said cheerfully as Tori walked down the stairs. Lady Ann was busy serving breakfast, something she did sporadically when she was in the mood. Zavier was waiting, looking hungry and impatient. The other guests of the inn were already gone.
"Welcome back to the land of the living," her brother joked, eyeing her as she took a seat at the table. "You sure you're okay walking? You don't need any crutches?"
"Oh, shut up," she grumbled, blushing as she poured herself a glass of juice.
"Leave your sister alone," Lady Ann chided, coming to her daughter's defense as always. "You've been sulking quite a bit yourself."
Tori gave him a sideways glance, remembering their conversation they'd had when she'd asked him about Mist. She felt curious, wondering how things were going for him…
Zavier, however, ignored his mother as heaped his plate with pancakes.
"Oh, what moody, melodramatic children I've raised," Lady Ann sighed loudly, throwing her head back and resting her head upon her forehead. Her theatrics earned an eye roll from Zavier and a small giggle from Tori.
"Sorry I'm late," Zavier said as soon as he appeared in Felicity's doorway. He leaned against the frame, panting a little.
Felicity smiled as soon as she saw him, getting the usual persistant flutter in her stomach like she always did when he was around. "It's okay," she said, trying to make her voice sound less faint. She propped herself up with her elbows into a sitting position. "I've just been lying here."
"How are you feeling?" he asked, frowning a little in concern as he plopped himself down in the chair at her bedside. "It seems like you've been sick lately…"
"No, no, I've just been napping," she lied, flashing him a grin to reassure him. Truthfully she'd been feeling even sicker than usual. She'd already fainted twice and her dad had banished her to bed because of the doctor's recommendation. But she didn't want Zavier to find out, because knowing him he'd probably get all guilty and blame himself. And she couldn't have that.
She stared at a couple of crumbs stuck to his chin. He smelled like syrup. He must've just eaten breakfast before he came over. She slid her hands under the blankets, resisting the urge to reach over and wipe his mouth. That would be breaking one of the rules she'd set for herself: no unnecessary touching. He wasn't hers to touch.
"…basically telling me not to see you anymore. Has he said anything to you?" Zavier finished, looking at her and waiting for an answer.
Whoops. He'd been talking while she was daydreaming. "Um. Maybe?" she replied, laughing guiltily.
He smiled slightly but narrowed his eyes a little. "Are you sure you're okay? You look dizzy…"
She shook her head, smiling wider. "Oh, come on, stop you're worrying. You know me, I'm always spacing out. Anyway, sorry, what were you saying?"
Zavier hesitated, not looking convinced, but accepted her explanation. "Okay, okay. I was just saying that your dad had told me that you're not as energetic as I think you are or something—clearly insane because you have enough energy to run around on the beach with Nicolas and Cecilia all day, but I didn't tell him that, because who knows what he would say if he knew his daughter was behaving in such an unseemly manner?" Felicity giggled as he continued. "Anyway, since he wants to 'preserve your health' he asked me to not 'overexert' you. Of course, now I have to admit that he might have a point. You really don't look that well."
Felicity rolled her eyes, trying to hold back the cough building in her chest. She hoped she didn't look as hot as she felt. "Oh, please. I'm perfectly preserved, thank you very much. Don't listen to him."
Zavier rolled his eyes right back at her. "If you say so. Anyway, I wanted to tell you that…that I've decided. I'm gonna tell her."
If her throat wasn't so sore, Felicity would've cheered. Instead she settled for the brightest smile possible. "Yes! Do you really mean it? When?"
Zavier flushed a little and looked away, seeming almost strangely uncomfortable. "Well…today. I plan on going today."
Felicity knocked him on the arm, trying to lighten his mood. "What's up? This is exciting! You should be jumping up and down right now?"
"Hmm," was all he said before he stood up. "If it's okay, I think I'm going now. Are you sure you're all right?"
Felicity flopped back down against her pillow, sighing noisily. "Yes, Dad, I'm fine!"
Zavier shivered a little as he headed for the door. "Yikes, don't call me that. It gives me the creeps."
Felicity laughed until he shut the door behind him and his footsteps faded away. As soon as any audible trace of him was gone, her mirth instantly vanished and she rolled onto her back, flattening her face into the pillow as she tried very hard not to cry.
Zavier had abruptly stood up in the middle of breakfast and hurried out with nothing more than a quick goodbye. His mother clicked her tongue and got up to clear his place.
"That boy needs to learn to clean up after himself," she complained, taking his plate back into the kitchen. Tori nodded in agreement, but wasn't really listening.
"Um, Mom? I…I think I'm going to…leave now, too…if it's okay…"
"Well, I guess so, sweetheart," Lady Ann called back over the sound of water running in the other room. "Must be eager to get back to those books, huh?"
"Y-yeah. Something like that…" she murmured. It was less the book and more a certain librarian…
"Okay, then. Have a good day, and come right home if you're feeling sick again, alright?"
"Y-yes, Mom. Bye," Tori replied, standing up and going to the door. She kept her eyes on the ground as she left the inn and headed towards the library. She wasn't quite sure of what she was going to say yet. What if Russell hated her for disappearing for so long? She'd kissed him and ran, basically. A kiss-and-run. A nervous giggle escaped her, and she realized she was already at the library's door.
Tori gave one last tug on her braids, smoothed out her dress, and pushed open the door.
Rosetta ran as fast her feet could carry, but the distance from her father's store to the inn seemed to stretch on forever. By the time she got there her side was already cramping, but she pushed on and went inside, not stopping until she was outside his door. Then she stood still, trying to catch her breath but feeling unable. However, it was a different breathlessness from before; for the first time in a while she felt hopeful about something.
Be happy, be happy, be happy, she told herself, and then with one last deep breath knocked on the door.