Disclaimer: Expensively not mine.
A/N: Written for Challenge #30 'Cards' at ygodrabble (though this is the extended version).
One Disenchanted Evening
© Scribbler, February 2011.
People with money appreciate the finer things in life. It's a given: if you can afford caviar, you eat caviar, and you like caviar by default. However, when you don't appreciate anything more sophisticated than a burger, you do one of several things when exposed to the finer things: embarrass yourself, embarrass yourself totally, or embarrass yourself totally in public. All those options make you want to melt into the ground like the Wicked Witch of the West in a rainstorm, but you can't get away from them. Oh no.
This was such a bad idea.
Anzu picked listlessly at the purple stain. She wasn't even old enough to drink wine. Her mom would think she was one of those teens who necked alcohol as soon as she escaped adult supervision. Actually, she was one of those teens who entered life-and-soul-threatening situations and regularly risked her soul against the forces of evil, but she didn't think her mom would be impressed by that alternative.
She felt other diners staring. It was like a weight between her shoulder-blades. The waiter returned the credit card on a silver tray. No receipt. Of course not. It wasn't that kind of restaurant. If you had to wonder about cost, you had no right being there.
This was such a bad idea.
Abruptly she got to her feet. Her left ankle buckled sideways as she lost her balance on the stiletto. No wonder she always wore wedges. This wasn't her. She fled, not stopping to collect her coat from the cloakroom.
Ever since her mother took her to open her first account, Anzu had religiously saved every yen from every babysit, every chore and every part-time job in one unofficially called 'New York Money'. Two days ago she had withdrawn a chunk with trembling hands. She had gone dress-shopping alone, staring over her shoulder into mirrors and turning embarrassing circles in lonely fitting rooms because she couldn't admit to her friends what she was doing. Not that the guys would have been much help anyhow. Honda and Jounouchi pretended to sleep against the wall, Yuugi told her she looked good in even blatantly ugly clothes and Otogi was more interested in buying stuff for himself.
Her new dress was ruined. So was her pride. She was a dancer. It was her thing: Yuugi was the duellist, Honda was the motorcyclist, Jounouchi was the bully-turned-good, Otogi was the teenage millionaire and she was the dancer. She always pushed the role so people wouldn't have time to think 'token female' or 'cheerleader'.
What kind of dancer couldn't walk in heels? Real dancers didn't trip over the hems of their dresses or crash into neighbouring tables. They didn't send bowls of pasta spinning like steaming Frisbees. They definitely didn't land on their butts in full view of everyone, and their reflexes let them avoid bottles of merlot that splashed down their cleavage.
It was a long way home. She slipped off her heels started walking along the cool grass verge. She briefly considered throwing the shoes into the darkness at the edge of the streetlights, but decided against it. There was always eBay. Maybe if she named the only occasion they'd been worn, fans of particular arrogant CEOs would bid on them and she could retrieve the money for New York. She debated about the dress. There was something a little too Monica Lewinsky about keeping it.
Five minutes later a limousine passed. She recognised the logo. It didn't stop. Illogically angry, since she had been the one to make an early exit, she shot it the finger.
"That'd mean more if I was actually inside."
She whirled to find him behind her. For a second she had the same weird sense of dislocation she'd had when everyone woke up from Noah's virtual world, when their brains were trying to process the fake sensations he had fed them as well as those of the real world at the same time.
His face gave nothing away. "Why did you run away?"
"I wasn't–" She stopped, because yeah, big fat lie. His stare cut like a laser. It could make entire boardrooms and duelling-arenas tremble. She refused to let it intimidate her. She hadn't in the virtual-world, or on the airship, so why start now? She liked to think that open defiance had inspired tonight. Her not laughing in his face when he asked could only be evidence of her own idiocy, self-hatred or temporary insanity.
"I could have sent for another dress," he said in a monotone. "It would have arrived before the main course."
That's right; in his world that was not only possible, but acceptable. Her legendary anger flared, hands balling into fists around her shoes. She wasn't some charity case. She just couldn't walk in stilettos that cost more than the household groceries for a week. "That," she growled, "is the point."
"You don't usually make much sense, Mazaki, but this is ridiculous even for you."
Her face burned. Hopefully he couldn't see in the poor light. No way was she looking away. "I was embarrassed, okay?"
"Understandable." That damned intonation. Her blood boiled in the face of his supreme indifference. "You made a spectacle of yourself."
He wasn't exactly king of reassurances. His idea of a pep talk was threatening dismissal without severance pay. How was the word 'date' even in his vocabulary? How had this situation ever come to pass? Anzu had that sense of dislocation as well. Was any of this even real? Surely this was a glitch computer programme. What had she been thinking? This was such a bad idea.
"Forget it," she snapped, finally turning her back on him. "I'm going home."
"You can't walk."
"Why do you have to make everything so difficult?" Irritation frosted the question. Finally, some actual emotion!
"I guess I'm just that kind of girl." On a whim, she threw a parting shot over her shoulder. "I thought you knew that." She didn't know why she said it. It was meant to be just a full stop for the last sentence in the horrible story that was her evening. She would never tell the guys about this. Ever.
Something landed around her shoulders. "Here." If you could squeeze more irritation into a single word, she didn't know how.
"How far is it to your house?"
"Is this a joke?"
His expression answered that question.
The idea of him walking her home was absurd. Her neighbourhood wasn't as squalid as Jounouchi's, but it wasn't rich, either. Like her, it was supremely ordinary. Boring, even. Then again, his presence there was about as fish-out-of-water as her in a fancy-pants restaurant.
She drew her new coat around her and answered him. "A couple of miles, I guess."
"In bare feet?" he said with disgust.
"I'm wearing nylons," she protested.
She thought he would walk off. That was his usual style. Things that annoyed him, he just erased from his world view as if they weren't there anymore. Instead, he turned, crouched and gestured. He was too refined to be flipping her the bird. Was he … offering her a piggyback? Him?
"You cannot be serious."
"You already asked me if I was joking."
"Yeah, but …" She couldn't finish the sentence.
"For once in your life, Mazaki, stop being difficult with me."
Her feet were wet. It was cold. Her disbelief had risen so far she could barely see it anymore.
Screw it, she thought. Like this is the weirdest thing that ever happened to me? Close, but not quite.
Gingerly, she accepted his offer. She had torn her dress when she fell. The slit had added to her embarrassment, but at least it let her clamber aboard without having to hike up her skirt.
He muttered under his breath, but she was close enough to catch it. "What was I thinking? This was such a bad idea." Something flickered in his voice; so alien she almost didn't recognise it.
No way. He wasn't capable of disappointment. His emotional responses only ran from angry to pissed. Oh, and 'protect Mokuba', but that was an extension of both.
An awning fluttered by the roadside. She slapped his shoulder.
Her heart thumped crazily. "Want some tempura? My treat."
What was she doing? He had a dozen credit cards. He could afford caviar with supermodels. This was just her stubbornness talking. She was getting a piggyback from the richest, most egotistical teenager in Japan. She hated owing favours to anyone. Of course she wanted to reclaim some of her tattered dignity. That's all. Honest.
And yet, for some reason, she felt more than simple triumph when he not only shrugged and headed towards the snack stall, but also agreed to let her pay.