Disclaimer: I don't own Magical x Miracle or any characters
"Come on, Carmen, we're going to be late," I called down the hallway of our one bedroom apartment. I was standing at the kitchen table putting bowls of oatmeal on the table, knowing that Carmen probably wouldn't be eating more than a couple of bites. And I would probably be lucky to eat twice that much. It was already past 8:30 and school and work both started at 9:00. I sat down to dig in and then after a few bites I yelled, "Carmen! Come on!"
She emerged from the ajar bedroom door and stood at the end of the hallway and looked like she was going to cry. She held a ribbon in her right hand and she stretched her arm out, as though I could reach it from all way in the kitchen. I sighed and stood to tie the ribbon in her hair. As I pulled her hair back into a ponytail, she sniffed and said, "I can't do it myself."
"I'm sorry," I kissed the top of her head and then asked her to please eat her oatmeal. She nodded and rubbed her little eyes as she made her way down the hall. I smiled as I looked up to see Lily fast asleep in her crib, even amidst all the commotion. I flicked the light off and decided it probably wouldn't hurt to let her sleep a little while longer.
It had been about six weeks since I had left my job as an escort. Now I was working as a maid at a hotel back in Caldia, right in the neighborhood of my new apartment and Carmen's school, thanks to the personal recommendation of the Princess Seraphia. I hadn't heard from him once in all that time, though. Every day as I went to open the mail box, I held my breath, hoping he'd at least drop me a courtesy line. That morning was no different, as I pulled out the letters and whipped through them, only to find one singe line over and over: Past Due.
The girls came and stayed with me Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. And so Fridays and Saturdays I would have to have to bring them to work with me. Naturally my boss didn't much appreciate it, but I suppose it was just another reason for me to be thankful to Slythfarn. He'd secured for me far more than I thought could be secured, so who was I to expect a letter from the great Master Wizard?
Fern had come to visit me a few times. We didn't really talk about much in those evenings we sat sipping tea together, while the girls were already fast asleep at their father's house. Seraphia hadn't really been herself lately, but Fern figured it was because she wasn't too thrilled about her upcoming wedding. Although it was still a ways off, it seemed that that time was not even going to be enough for her to get over Slythfarn. He was also sent with messages from the children that Glenn and I tutored together. All I ever got from Glenn was religious advice and well wishes. Nobody else seemed to really notice I was gone. Merleawe was pleased that I had regained custody and Lecto was expecting Fern to spy on me or something, but that was about it.
"So…Lecto told you, huh," I sighed and dug my gaze into my half empty cup, frightful of how Fern was going to react to what had happened.
He nodded, but then replied, "But Sylth told me to trust you, so I am going to trust you."
"You're not even going to ask for any sort of explanation?" I wondered. He simply shook his head. I swore I was more confused by his response than he could have possibly been confused by anything else that was going on. I was beginning to wonder if Seraphia had told him who she really was, but it wasn't like I could ask without mistakenly letting the cat out of the bag.
"Has…the princess asked about me at all?" I wondered. Fern shook his head once more.
He said, "She seems pretty pissed at you for some reason, though."
"Gee, that's great to know," I laughed nervously.
"By the way, there's an upcoming engagement ball. You should come…" Fern's voice echoed in my head as I closed the mailbox back up and slipped the mail into my purse. I took Carmen's hand and we stepped outside and into the street.
"I…don't think Princess Seraphia would like that very much," I declined.
"Well, probably not, but I would…like it, I mean," Fern started to blush and jerked his gaze down into his own cup. Then, jerking his head right back up, he replied, "Besides, it might give you a chance to talk to Princess Seraphia!"
"What…could she and I possibly have to talk about?" I sneered. He shrugged and took a gulp of his tea.
Carmen and I walked passed a clothing store, which had an elaborate party dress hanging in the window. I stopped without thinking and imagined myself walking into the ballroom wearing the gown. In my mind, Slythfarn was staring me down from the princess's throne. He stood and ordered my immediate removal.
"Mommy, Mommy…what are you doing, Mommy?" Carmen started pulling on my sleeve. I shook the image from my head and smiled down at her. It was as Slythfarn had said. That wasn't my life. This was. And so I gently pushed Carmen from behind and reminded her that we only had a few more minutes to get to school.
"Sorry I'm late, my boss just wouldn't let me go tonight," I sighed as I crawled up the stoop steps of the apartment building later that evening. I had imagined that Phillip had been sitting there for no less than twenty minutes waiting to pick up the girls. I was a bit surprised to see him there, though, as normally his new nanny was the one responsible for retrieving them. And so, still panting, I asked, "What are you doing here anyways?"
"I…needed to talk to you," he grunted, as though talking to me was the last thing in the world he'd ever wanted to do. He had a lot of nerve too, considering he was the guilty party in our admittedly not so mutual decision to split. He stated, "I need to talk to you because I received a letter today that's addressed to the both of us."
"That's only natural," I blinked, completely baffled as to why he'd bring up something as casual as a letter. "We're still technically married after all."
He removed the envelope from his coat pocket. It had a curly gold embroidering and it was stamped with the palace seal. I could tell Phillip had already read it, as the seal had been torn open. He handed it to me then and explained, "It's an invitation to Princess Seraphia's ball."
I took the letter and questioned, "Why are giving this to me?"
"Well, you're going to need to know the details if we're going to be attending, won't you?" he sneered like his intentions should have been obvious.
And so I snapped, "Who's we? I would have thought you would want to take Tina!"
"Yes, of course I would prefer to take her, but it would be more proper for the time being that we still attend such high society events together," he said. "I can't announce Tina's and my engagement until after the divorce is finalized and I am not so classless that I would show up an event such as a royal ball with someone who is not my wife."
"Nor could you show up alone…oh, the embarrassment," I laughed at his ridiculously insatiable appetite to maintain his dignity.
"Certainly not," he hissed and then he stood up and ordered, as he pointed at me,"So, you will inform your boss that you will be busy next Saturday evening."
"Oh, I will, will I?" I started to laugh even harder. Phillip just stood there staring down at me from three steps up. I scorned. The way he was treating me just then was the same way he'd treated me our entire relationship, even before we were married. He would order me around and I would follow like a playful little puppy dog. And I was just as happy as a puppy dog too. I didn't know what was wrong with me, even in that moment, as his gaze sent chills down my spine.
"And just what's in this for me?" I questioned, in a hopeless attempt to retain my dignity as well. This man had me under a cursed spell that would forever keep me captivated by his perfect amber eyes.
"I suppose I'd be willing to let you have the girls more often," he used the dirtiest trick in the book that he could possible think of. I couldn't help but wonder if he truly cared about are children, or if they were just two pups from one of the many litters he would father over the course of his lifetime.
"That's sick," I commented, "forcing me into favors so that I can be near my own babies."
"Even so…you can't possible refuse, can you?" he smirked. He pulled some money out of his wallet and told me to use it to buy a new dress. Of course, the nanny would be taking the girls in my place, seeing as how I would be busy on that particular night I had custody. He pulled Lily from my arms then and took Carmen's hand. "Alright, my darlings, how would you like it if Daddy took you for ice cream?" The girls cheered and waved goodbye to me.
Phillip was evil and he was practically the devil. And the flames that torched me skin in the hell that was my life surprisingly felt toasty warm.
I started hanging out with Beth, my friend I had meet me at that bar the night I went to spy on Vaith, just before I graduated junior high. Glenn had just told me that he'd decided to become a priest and had already been accepted into a high school. I didn't exactly have my sights set on high school before that, but I at least had some imagined scenario of living happily ever after. And I did just that, for a short while anyways.
Beth was one of the "cool kids", I suppose. She drank and she smoked too. I guess one Friday afternoon I got asked to go and hang out at the pub with her. Normally I would study with Glenn on Friday nights, but since that became an unfulfilled dream, I figured it was time to set my sights on something else. So I blew Glenn off and the rest was history.
Philip was by every definition Prince Charming. He had a beautiful black mane that stopped just after his shoulders. His skin was dark and his eyes were spellbindingly captivating. The shirts he wore were too tight for the rock hard abs and arms they were attempting to cover. He always wore black pants and never shorts, giving him an even classier look. Most of all, he was charming. And he was a con artist. He could make any girl fall in love with him and despite the fact that I was already desperately in love with another man, I was no exception.
He offered to buy Beth and I some drinks. He was seventeen and we were fourteen. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure he had his eyes on Beth originally. She was gothic beauty with piercings and tattoos and she wasn't afraid to show them off. I, on the other hand, wore glasses a long sleeved plaid dress. Beth proved perhaps she was the exception to the rule. She remained stoic and hard to get the entire night. But by the time I had finished my drink—my first ever—I was feeling loopy and flirty.
Philip said I was kind of cute, although he was laughing at me all the while. I eventually told him that I had to be home by ten. Beth said much the same thing, as she was ready to bounce. I left my heart on the bar and said goodbye to Philip.
"Stop it! Just put that down!" Beth snapped as I admired a green dress with gold trim at the boutique in my neighborhood. She and I had been spending a lot more time together since I'd moved back to Caldia. I asked her to help me pick out a dress, but apparently she had something else in mind when she agreed to do so.
"You can say whatever you want to me, Beth, but it's not going to change my mind," I insisted as I held the dress in front of me and analyzed it in the mirror. Thanks to the reflection, I was able to see Beth roll her eyes, despite the fact that she was standing behind me.
"Please don't tell me you're entertaining some silly fantasy about you and Phil getting back together," she grunted.
"Of course not," I lied, although, the thought had honestly crept across my mind more than once. "All I want is what I have wanted since the very beginning. And that's my kids."
"Yeah, sure," she laughed. "Then again, this goes deeper than Phil or the girls, doesn't it?"
She couldn't possibly mean the chance to speak with Slythfarn again. In fact, if there was one thing I knew, I intended to avoid him at all costs.
"Please, Phil was totally the rebound guy. Your relationship with him is the only thing that's allowed you to lie to yourself about your true feelings. And if you lose your little security blanket, then you have to go through your obsessive little depression all over again." She said. "Sure, you had the opportunity to get back what you truly wanted all your life, but now that he's ignoring you, well, all that's truly left is Philip after all."
Dissatisfied with how the dress matched the color of my skin, I snapped the hanger back on the shelf. "This has absolutely nothing to do with him," I insisted firmly. "That ship sailed a long time ago. I know that."
"Well, whatever you do, don't fall in love with Phil again," she gagged on her own words. I just sighed, not sure if I'd even ever really fallen out of love with him or if I'd ever really been in love with him in the first place.
"What do you think about the one hanging in the window?" I side-stepped her comment and made my way over to the gown I had been admiring just the other day. Beth examined the lavender lace and light blue bows that adorned the gown and scoffed once more.
"Well…I would never wear it," she hissed. I just sighed.
"It costs more than what Phil actually gave me," I stated and then moved on to examine a violet dress that hung a rack an arm's length away from me.
In the end I settled on a simple, dark blue gown that had a black bow tied around the waist. It was one of the least expensive dresses in the boutique. I even had a little money left over after buying it, so I bought a new pair of shoes to go with it. By the time we left the shop, I was actually feeling pretty excited about going to a ball with Philip. It was like I had just finished my first drink all over again.