Story Disclaimer: I do not own rights to "Madeline" in the form of the books, cartoon, or movie. If I did, I'd be too busy being my own childhood hero to spend any time at all on Fanfiction.
It was early in the morning and most of Paris was still a murmur of waking. The young dark haired boy stood stiffly on his driveway, a suitcase dropped at either side of him. He reached up and removed the flat cap from his head, wringing it between his hands as he looked around him at his old home. Five years later, and it was as if the war had changed nothing on the quiet street.
When his head turned to the fence to his left, the small buzz of whispers stopped. So maybe things had changed, he thought as he looked at the familiar-yet-older faces of the eleven girls Miss Clavel cared for. They were taller—tall enough to see over the fence on their own now. He was taller too, but he hadn't seen the girls in years and his height difference was no longer new to him.
The girls blinked at him.
"Hola," he said. He was surprised the word came out at all with the way his throat clenched. His eyes scanned their faces, and his nervous smile faltered. The little redhead wasn't among them.
"Bonjour, Pepito," the girls chorused together.
The uncomfortable silence fell once again.
From below the line of the fence, a delicate hand grasped at the wood. The small girl pulled herself onto the stone ledge and leant against the fence, her arms crossed on top of it. Her hair glowed golden and red in the sun, and Pepito felt his smile return. Her eyes squinted at him through the light.
"You've gotten taller," Madeline stated briskly, her lips set tightly without the slightest hint of humour.
Pepito's smile grew and he ventured nearer to the school girls. "So have you, muñequita. Though not by much." He stood less than a foot from her, from the fence she stood behind, and his head was less than two inches lower than hers even with the help from the ledge she stood on.
"I'm only fourteen," Madeline snapped, "I still have time to grow. You're fifteen—you're almost done. And you're not even that tall, anyway."
Pepito drew a box from his trousers and tossed it between his hands. "I wasn't trying to insult you. I'm glad you haven't changed that much."
The small redhead's expression softened. "Oh. You have changed, Pepito." She pushed her hair behind her ear and he wondered when it had gotten so much longer, falling almost to her waist in soft red curls now. "How was Spain?"
"Mismo de siempre. It was fun sometimes. Mi Abuela was glad I was there, and Mama spent most of her time shopping in Barcelona."
Nona, her dark curly hair cut short and stylized against her head, smiled coyly at Pepito. "I am sure you had nombreux petite amies, oui?"
A faint blush broke across the boy's cheeks. "Pourquoi devez-vous me faire rougir?"
Madeline rolled her eyes. "Your french has improved. Were you that bored while you were away that you actually paid attention to your studies?"
He felt smothered under her harsh gaze. "And homesick." He turned away from the petite girl and looked the others. "I brought gifts for all of you. In my blue trunk." His thumb pointed behind him to the trunk he'd dropped upon his arrival. The young girls eyes widened and they looked to each other, smiles sprouting across their faces. They didn't move, but he could see them practically twitching with excitement. "Allez-vous!"
With an explosion of giggles, the girls (with the exception of Madeline whose gaze was still leveled unhappily on Pepito from her side of the fence) bolted from their spots around to the driveway where his trunks lay unattended.
Pepito took the small box from behind him and held it between them. It was wrapped in plain brown paper and twine. "This one's yours." Madeline did not take it from him, so he unclenched her hand and placed it in her palm. "Please open it."
Without moving to unwrap his gift, she crossed her arms again and bent her head down to level with his. "You stopped writing."
Pepito winced. "Si, lo siento. I meant to. But I had to stop." Madeline's warm brown eyes looked into his, and then her gaze dropped to the wrapped box.
"Why?" she asked softly as her fingers slowly began to tug at the corners of the brown paper.
The dark boy shrugged and shook his head, not willing to look at her. "I just had to." He had to stop writing her because he missed her far too much. He had to beg his parents to return to Paris, despite the war's ending in France more than a year before. Every time he wrote her, he missed her more and then he and his mother would get into another argument about leaving.
Madeline unwrapped the gift and a plain wooden box remained. She gently lifted the lid. Inside laid a faded golden hair comb, laden with ivory pearls, amber, and an array of small gems shining both green and orange at the same time.
She looked at him with wide eyes. "C'est magnifique, Pepito, merci!" Her fingers gently brushed against the comb, marveling at the sight. "What are they?" she asked, touching the small oddly coloured gems.
"Andalusite," Pepito said. "It's usually used in men's jewelry, but I found this when my mother made me go with her to Madrid and I thought of you." He leaned against the fence next to her and looked down at the clip as well. "You like it?"
Madeline turned her head towards his and nodded. "J'adore ci." She closed the box again and tucked it into the pocket of her sundress.
"Happy birthday, Madeline." It was her birthday today, after all. He'd made special plans to come home before his mother just so he could be there for it. And he suspected that she was upset with him for forgetting.
"You remembered!" Pleasantly surprised, Madeline's face broke into a full smile, dimples breaking in her cheeks.
He nodded. "Of course I did. How could I forget? I missed you too much." Her eyes bright, Madeline lurched over the top of the fence, her feet barely touching the ledge, and she pulled Pepito into a hug. Pepito held her tightly—partially for fear of her falling if he did not—and brushed a hand through her thick red hair.
"I missed you too, Pepito. Welcome home."
Another four years found Pepito standing by the same fence. With age, he had changed from the lanky boy who begged his parents to return to Paris into a mature young man with the eyes and spirit of a heartbreaker. He was taller now, nearly six feet tall, broader, and his muscles were harder and more defined—which Chloe and Sylvie expressed great appreciation for day after day. His face had grown charmingly sharper with age and his hair hung in his face in a shaggy style he knew his mother disapproved of. Pepito had girls fawning over him wherever he went.
He wasn't alone in his growing up, either. Each of the girls, in turn, had grown into their own skin. They had adopted the modern fashion Paris displayed, from hairstyles to dresses—some choosing to wear trousers, even—and jewelry their parents paid for. Each had grown beautiful in their way, each charming and lively and worth the eye of any young suitor. Some of the girls wanted that suitor to be Pepito—if truth be told, most wished for the young Spaniard to look their way. But each of them knew the one thing that stunted the possibility. Even if Pepito didn't realize it.
It was Madeline. When he'd returned from Spain, he was awe struck with how she had changed from the spritely little eight year old to a lovely young girl who caught his eye more than he cared to admit. And since then, he found himself wanting to gaze at her more and more. Her big brown eyes sparkled and when she smiled he couldn't help but do the same. Her hair was long and luxurious, falling to her slender hips in rich curls the colour of rust. She'd not grown an inch since she turned thirteen and was still the smallest of all the girls living in the vine covered maison. Despite her delicate build, she was as wild as ever and still managed to instill fear in Miss Clavel's heart with every stunt she pulled—and she had gotten much better at them. And Pepito was entranced, as he always had been.
"Bon matin, Danielle," Pepito greeted the curly haired brunette with a quick kiss to her cheek. He grinned smugly at the faint blush that it left behind.
"Bon matin, Pepito." Danielle reached into the pocket of her overalls and pulled out a small plum. "Pour vous. Comment êtes-vous?" She extended her hand with the fruit out to Pepito and he took it, biting half the plum off at once.
"Je suis bien. Et toi?" Pepito smiled at the sweet girl. Once a week, Danielle met him at the fence instead of Madeline and handed him some fruit from their breakfast. He'd never really asked why, but he'd never minded much to be honest. Danielle was a very nice girl. She may not have been Madeline, but she was one of his favourite of the girls next door.
"Je suis très bien." Danielle brushed the dirt off her hands. "Nous allons aller en ville pour acheter un cadeau pour son anniversaire aujourd'hui. Souhaitez-vous joindre à nous?" Danielle understood English perfectly, but she had difficulty forming the words and decided instead to speak in her fluent french.
"Non, merci. Where is Madeline? I haven't seen her around this morning." Every morning Pepito looked forward most to seeing her. She always made his day better, no matter how it turned out.
Danielle laughed softly and closed her green eyes. "Mais non, c'est samedi." She pointed her finger across the street and Pepito's eyes followed. "Elle est la bas."
Suddenly, Pepito found he couldn't move. "Who's that?" Where Danielle had pointed, la petite Madeline stood looking as lovely as ever. Her hair was pulled up elegantly in curls and her dress was yellow—her favourite colour. However, directly in front of her stood a young man in a suit. His blonde hair was combed back with gel and his eyes were a bright blue when he stared deep into hers. Pepito's fist clenched around the remainder of the plum in his hand and he ignored the sticky juice that dripped from it.
Yvette, who had been listening in on the conversation, laid down her sketch book beside the tree and walked over to observe the pair with Danielle and Pepito. "Who is who, Pepito?"
"That boy Madeline is standing with," he said. His voice was clipped; agitated that he'd have to say the words aloud.
"Ah, mais oui," Yvette laughed. "He is an art student she met on our walk. He painted her and they've been talking ever since." Yvette smiled at the young Spanish boy, a knowing glint in her blue eyes.
Danielle leant towards Yvette and whispered, "Ils font plus que de parler. " The girls giggled.
"What do you mean by more?" The dark eyed young man glowered at the blonde boy. "Why are they holding hands?" Who was this boy, thinking he could just hold Madeline's hand?
Chloe came up next to Yvette and laughed loudly. "Really, Pepito, why do you think?"
He hadn't the slightest idea, and couldn't figure for the life of him why Chloe, with all her rouge à lèvres and hairpins, seemed to think he should have known as if it was something obvious. "I don't know. I don't even know who he is."
"Il s'appelle Laurent Dubois," Danielle murmured just loud enough for Pepito to hear.
Yvette sighed. "And they're holding hands because they're going steady."
The three girls sighed as only young girls can over their friend's romance.
Pepito did not share the same feeling. "What? When did that happen!"
"When he painted her," Yvette said as though he was the last to hear of it. "It's nothing new, Pepito. Why are you so surprised? It's been months."
It really was romantic, she explained. He'd approached her and asked to paint her as they walked across the bridge one morning and for three mornings after that, the girls took the same route so as to finish the young student's painting. After it was done, when they did not take the same path on their walk, Laurent had searched Madeline out and when he finally found them à la Louvre, he presented her with a daisy and asked her to accompany him through the galleries. Yvette finished the short tale of her friend's budding romance, and she shared a smile with her school mates.
"She's never said anything about it to me." The Spanish Ambassador's son realized he was quite hurt over the fact, too. Which was a realization he never thought he'd reach.
"Vous n'avez jamais demandé." Danielle smiled. Across the street, Laurent presented Madeline with a small bouquet of wildflowers (Pepito's mind screamed that if it were him, he would have gotten her flowers far more valuable than those weeds) and her eyes widened. She hugged him. Pepito's eyes narrowed.
"If I'm not mistaken," Nona drawled as she drew near the growing crowd of onlookers, "It seems our petit Pepito a l'air tout à fait pâlir d'envie."
"Yo no soy celoso. Él no la merece." His face turned red, and Nona was returned to all the times she'd managed to make him blush over the small redhead.
Surprising them all, Danielle caught the Spanish flawlessly and refuted, "Vous êtes jaloux, Pepito. Et vous n'avez même pas le connaître."
Pepito threw the pit of the plum to the ground and wiped the juice off on his trousers. "I don't need to know him. I know a bad hat when I see one." The girls giggled at his reference to their old nickname for him when they were younger, and then again when they realized he was completely serious.
The girls watched as their neighbor stomped across the street. Nona and Chloe shared a look, both knowing as well as the other nine girls (Madeline was omitted from this consensus) how Pepito felt for the small girl. They wondered if he'd realize it himself or if he'd just hurt her through his blind jealousy.
Danielle shook her head sadly as Pepito came up behind the blonde man. "Ce sera mauvais."
"I fear you may be right," Chloe muttered. "Yvette, does Hélène have any more chocolate?"
"Je ne sais pas, pourquoi?" Yvette had been helping Hélène in the kitchen that week and knew what they still had better than any of the other girls. Her obsessive organization had her knowing better than even Hélène.
Chloe grabbed the girl's wrist and the two headed towards the house. "Because if he makes her cry, we're going to need it."
Across the street, Pepito finally was close enough to see the man's face. Madeline's back was to him, but that was better. He didn't need her witnessing his scrutiny of her new beau. And scrutiny was quite a tame way of putting it. He hadn't even heard the boy speak yet, but he hated him already. Yes. Pepito looked at his face and decided that this Laurent was definitely wrong for Madeline. He looked to be near twenty, at least two years older than Pepito and far too old for Madeline. His eyes were too far apart—not to mention too light to be trustworthy—his chin was too narrow, and his nose was far too long. He wore too much grease in his hair—Pepito also greased his hair back occasionally, but he couldn't understand how anyone could stand that much. The boy wore a suit, remarkably tailored and pressed. That was what bothered him the most. This boy was rich enough that he could afford high quality suits, but he gave Madeline weeds and she thought she appreciated them.
Pepito hated him. He hated that she didn't hate him.
The terrible man's eyes snapped up to his and he said something low and in French to Madeline. Madeline turned, her eyes inquiring. Then in an instant, she smiled brightly.
"Oh, bien! Laurent, ceci est mon bon ami Pepito." She grabbed Pepito's arm and drew him into a quick embrace, kissing each of his cheeks. "Pepito! I'm so glad to see you. I want you to meet Laurent, mon petit ami. Laurent, this is Pepito. I've known him since I was a very small girl."
"You're still a small girl, cariña," Pepito said softly. "Petit ami, huh?" Pepito stood about three inches shorter than the blonde man. He held out his hand and the man shook it, their grips battling to see who would surrender first.
"Laurent Dubois. A pleasure to meet you," the boy said in a cordial manner.
Pepito's grip was strangling. "José Marco Filippo Juan Franloco Lopez de Vega Esteban Machado"—Madeline's eyes closed with a frown and her hand went to press against her forehead—"Jorge Santiago de la Rocha Gaspar Carlos de Fuentes Coruna Diego y Sevilla."
"This is quite a long name," Laurent chuckled in good humour though he could see the effort was in vain.
"What can I say? I'm an important person." Pepito's expression did not shift. The two men realized that the other would not give in, and their locked stares became an inferno.
Madeline separated the pair of them, her hand lingering on Laurent's arm. "His friends call him Pepito."
The young Spanish man tilted his chin up. "Yes, they do. Laurent, you may call me by my name."
Madeline gaped at her friend. "Pepito! What has gotten into you?"
"Nothing, Madeline. I don't know him—you probably barely know him—so don't expect me to call him a friend. He may call me José. I'm an adult and I can decide who I want to know my apodo de la infancia. Him, I do not think he deserves to."
La petite mademoiselle crossed her arms. "Tell me, José, should I get used to calling you that as well?"
Pepito groaned. "No ser así, querida…"
Laurent cleared his throat. "Pardonnez-moi, I don't mean to interrupt you. Madeline, je dois y aller. I have class."
Madeline's eyes broke away from Pepito's (and despite the angry nature of their eye contact, Pepito was quite put out at its loss) and she turned back to the taller man. "Of course," she said. "Je regrette. I didn't mean to become distracted."
Laurent smiled—his terrible icy eyes looked far too happy to have regained her attention, Pepito thought—and placed a kiss on her cheek. "Do not worry, mon amie. I understand." He took her hand between his. "I will see you tomorrow?"
"Of course. I'll be very sad if you aren't there."
The blonde devil ran a hand through Madeline's thick red hair. "We can't have that, can we?" He kissed her nose and she giggled. "À bientôt, Madeline." The art student drew to his full height and grasped his hands behind his back, giving Pepito a long cold look. "Au revoir, Senior José."
Pepito waited until the man was gone before he thought to speak to Madeline. He looked down to where she'd been a moment before and was shocked to see that she was no longer beside him. Looking up, he saw her halfway across the street. "Madeline, wait!"
Madeline stilled and her fists clenched at either side of her. The flowers held in her grasp looked pitifully frail and petals fell to the pavement. "What?" she hissed as she turned to the boy. "What else would you like to say, Pepi? You haven't slapped me in the face yet—is that what you're going to do next? Or would you just like to insult my boyfriend some more."
"I think the latter works better for me." She gawked and began to turn around, but Pepito grabbed her shoulder and motioned at the limp bouquet. "He gave you weeds!"
"They're flowers," Madeline ground out.
Pepito shook his head. "That doesn't matter. He spends all this money on his expensive suits and hair gel, but he won't even spend a dime buying you proper flowers?" Pepito didn't understand it. She was worth so much more; couldn't she understand that? Merde, why couldn't Laurent understand that? A woman shouldn't have to ask to be pampered. Especially not Madeline.
"I like them," Madeline said. She held the flowers between Pepito and herself and shook them at his face. "It was thoughtful. And he knows I don't care if he spends money on me. What does it even matter anyway, what sort of flowers he gives me?"
"Es ridículo! Stupid. He's a tool and he's using weeds to play you." It shouldn't be that easy for her boys, either, not when Madeline made it so difficult for him. "Months, Madeline? Why didn't you tell me, huh? Everyone else knew but me. I'm your best friend. Why wouldn't you tell me?"
Madeline's brown eyes glossed over his face and her cheeks were red with anger. "You wouldn't get it, Pepito. If I'd told you, you would have just ignored how I felt about him and hit him. You didn't want to hear it."
"You're so sure about that? I'm asking now, aren't I? I'm pretty sure if you'd told me, I would have listened. Maybe I would have even wanted to meet him. Ever thought of that?" He wouldn't have. Not in a million years. But they'd at least have had this conversation sooner, before Madeline got so attached to the young artist.
"Not at all." Madeline pushed his hand off her shoulder. "It's a lie if I've ever heard one. Because you've done it every time a guy's shown any interest in me. You say they're not good enough and scare them off. And none of them liked me enough to stick with me after they met you."
"Which shows that they're not good enough! That's my whole point, Madeline." Pepito leant down close to her, his voice lowered from the shouting they'd done. "If a guy isn't willing to put up with my attitude to stay with you, then he's not worth it and you know it."
The small girl shook her head and several long strands fell from their pins. "That's not true and you know it. We're not a two-for-one deal, Pepito, you just don't like when I meet a guy that I like."
He rolled his eyes. This again. "I don't like that all the guys you like are wrong."
"What about your girlfriends? They're not top of the line, but I don't go and purposefully scare them away."
Pepito winced. "That's different. I'm not you."
"So what, you're allowed to go out with girls but I can't go out with boys?"
The pair fell silent. Madeline's harsh eyes scanned his face, looking into his dark brown eyes, and then she stormed off. Pepito swore and darted up in front of her, moving as she did to block her path to the house.
"No," he insisted, shaking his head. His hair was loose around his eyes and his expression was devilishly remorseful. "That came out wrong."
"C'est vraiment!" Madeline pushed him and tried walking away, but he got back up just as quickly and grasped her shoulders. "Ça suffit!" her small arms grabbed at his, stronger than he would have guessed had he not known her.
"No! Just let me explain." Her fiery brown eyes settled, their gazes locked as if in a battle to the death. He felt her grip loosen on his arms and slid his hands gently to take hers. "Madeline, you're a girl."
A loud scoff tore from Madeline's lips. "Non! Quelle surprise! Tu es stupide!"
"Minnie, listen!" his hand ghosted up to brush her jaw. It was a cruel trick, she thought; him pulling out the nickname only he used for her. And to distract her, no less. "You're a girl, Minnie, and I'm not." She rolled her eyes. "Hang on, just let me talk." Her eyes clenched shut for three seconds and then opened again, resignation written in her expression. "Gracias." Pepito took in a deep breath. "You're a girl. You're a sweet girl and you're drawn in by the things these guys you like say just like any girl is. I'm a guy. A guy who knows what to say to have a girl panting at my feet in three minutes flat. It's low, I'll be the first to admit it, but it's what I do. Those girls I date; I don't really like any of them, not for anything more than their faces anyway." And their bodies, but she didn't need to hear that. "And I drop them when I'm done with them."
Pepito brushed her hair back from her brow. "The thing is that all these guys you like are no different than me—well, I mean, of course they're different from me in some ways because I'm at least admitting all this to you—but they know the things a girl wants to hear. And they dish them out like they would prayer. They're masters of reeling a girl in. And I don't want you getting hurt because you fall for the wrong set of words. Entiende usted? I don't want to see you hurt just because guys are jerks."
The small redhead looked into Pepito's sincere eyes and sighed softly. She let her head fall against his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Thank you, Pepito. But I'm a big girl and I can take care of myself."
Pepito grinned and decided, despite knowing he'd get smacked for it, to vocalize his thoughts. "You're not a big girl, Minnie. You're a very little girl." She tensed under his arms and he felt her tiny fist connect with his gut like a bullet. He laughed. "Okay, you can punch like a boy, but you're still a small girl. And you're my best friend. You can't just expect me to stand around while some idiota lascivo makes eyes at you."
"I want this one to last, though." She looked up at Pepito and his breath caught in his throat, though he couldn't figure out why. "Pepi, I like Laurent. I want him not to be one of the jerks I tend to like. And I don't want you scaring him off just because of the possibility." She licked her lips and pulled away from their hug. "Can you do that for me?"
"Not scare away your boyfriend?" He looked into her sparkling eyes and rolled his own. "I suppose I'll do my best."
With a squeal, Madeline launched herself at him again. "Oh, merci, Pepito! Merci!" She pressed a kiss to his cheek and smiled brightly. "Let's not fight anymore, please? This is our last summer. I don't want us to spend it fighting."
Pepito frowned. "Why is it our last?" The very idea clenched at his heart (and hers, if she was being honest with herself) in a terrible way that left him wanting to cry like he hadn't since he was eight years old.
Madeline looked around and shrugged, her face set in a grimace. "All the girls are leaving after this summer and I don't know what's going to happen to me. I'm the last one to turn eighteen. You're going off to a university. We'll probably never see each other again."
Pepito ran a hand through his dark hair. "I'm not going to any University. I'm staying here. Papa's sick and Mama's out of her mind worrying about everything."
Her eyebrows drew together. "But I thought you were planning to leave this summer. That's what Miss Clavel said."
"My dad wants me to," he admitted. "But it was never my plan. I'm not a good student, Madeline. If I went to a university I'd be wasting my time, my parents' money, and hurting their trust. And though I enjoy doing all of those things, I'd rather do it here than at some stuck up university where they would make me sit through classes and follow their rules." And it would mean being farther away from her. He'd done that once since he'd met her and it was too painful for him to enter into willingly.
Madeline smiled. "Well, then. We'll just have to make it up along the way."
He reached for her hand and they went into the old house covered in vines.
The bouquet of flowers lay trampled in the street, forgotten.
Very small section for this one; almost didn't want to put it up.
The French and Spanish text I translated mostly from memory and iGoogle translate, which is why I won't put up the translations here. I did the best I could to have my point across.
Please leave any comments/feedback for me.
Hope you enjoyed what I have so far.