Chapter 4: Just a Middle-Aged Fool in Love

Though the idea would have delighted her just a few years prior, Cecilia didn't exactly enjoy sharing a room with Nicholas. She missed her peace and quiet, the freedom to sit on her bed and write in her diary in solitude, not having to carry her clothes in to the bathroom to change. And besides, he was dirty! Cecilia wasn't always the tidiest girl in the world, but she came to resent the muddy boot-marks on her rugs, the disorganized piles of junk and treasures that littered his side of the room. She decided to take it up with her father in private.

"…What's the trouble, Ceci-dear?"

He was sitting at the front desk of the library, signing papers with a slightly leaky fountain pen that he could never bear to part with.

"Dad… I know Nicholas is my friend, but I don't know if I like him in my room…"

"…Oh? You're not getting along?"

That wasn't exactly the problem. Usually, they got along just fine, and even managed to have some fun. The two of them would occasionally stay up late in to the night, laughing, playing cards, and telling funny stories. It reminded Cecilia of when they were small and would spend the night at each other's houses.

"No, it's not that… It's just that I don't really have any time to myself, you know?"

She watched her father shaking his pen, spattering ink everywhere. Russell frowned.

"…Right. You're your father's daughter, after all. I wouldn't like being stuck in my room with another person all day, either. Sabrina and I were talking about having someone put another room on the back of the library, so we'll see what comes of that. If it works out, you'll have a brand new room, all to yourself!"

"…That's almost worse! I want my room."

Russell wasn't quite sure of how to handle this strange, testy young woman who had suddenly taken up residence in his house.

"Okay… Then Nicholas will have his own room. Is that better?"

Cecilia thought for a moment.

"That would be fine."

"Good! And in the meantime, you two enjoy yourselves. You never know what you'll be nostalgic over in a few years, you know?"

She knew well what he meant, but she decided that her father, once again, had no idea what he was talking about. She would never be nostalgic for the days when the people who made her suitor in to a brother cruelly forced her to spend every night locked in a room with him, tormented by what she couldn't have, and unable to be alone and wallow over it. Cecilia felt cornered.

Even so, there was something to be said for making the most of things. When she was in the mood for company, spending time with Nicholas in their room was surprisingly enjoyable. They read books, played games, and worked on endless art projects. Between the two of them, they nearly filled the room with the folded paper cranes that Mei had taught them how to make many years ago. But, when she felt like being alone, which seemed to be more and more often as the days went by, Cecilia had taken to escaping to other places. She'd wake up early, grab a book and a few snacks, and head out in to the misty dawn. Eventually, she'd find a place that seemed comfortable, such as the mansion staircase, or the mouth of a cave, or the crook of a large tree, and lose herself in the book until she figured it was time to head home for dinner. On the rare occasion when she actually felt herself getting lonely, she would walk to the ruins to visit Sharon. Cecilia thought that the gently eerie, vanishingly reclusive wisp of a woman was absolutely beautiful. And, most importantly, she was quiet. She'd greet the young elven girl and say little else, aside from offering a cup of tea. Cecilia would sip the warm, fragrant liquid as she watched Sharon standing by the still water, brushing her long, silken, silver-grey hair. Cecilia wanted to be just like her one day. Beautiful, so mysterious and quiet, and, most importantly, able to be utterly alone whenever the need struck her. These escapes to quiet places soon became vital, and ever more frequent. Who needs a room, anyway? And besides, she trusted Nicholas to take care of her things. Perhaps, she later thought, she shouldn't have.


Cecilia had grown used to the cool quiet of the mansion, where she had spent that afternoon, so being confronted with Nicholas so soon after having left it was something of a shock.

"Uh… Hello there, Nicholas."

She sat down on her bed with her book, hoping he wasn't expecting much in the way of conversation.

"Guess what I did today?"

Apparently, he was. Cecilia realized that she didn't exactly mind, and a companion that does more than offer you tea and sit looking at the water with you might actually be a nice change of pace.

"Um… I haven't the faintest."

Cecilia, having recently come across that phrase in a book, had taken to using it. She loved its intelligent, serious, somewhat unusual sound and feeling.

"Well, I went to Leo, and I made this for you!"

Nicholas rifled through his pockets for a moment, pulling out a shining blue necklace. It was very simple, nothing more than polished aquamarines strung on a thread, but it was absolutely beautiful, they way the blue stones sparkled in the sun, like clear water. Cecilia was speechless. Her first thought was that it was absolutely lovely. Her second was that she hadn't been more disappointed since the day that she returned to the library crowned with ivy, and went from feeling like a fool in love to feeling like a fool, period. She had wanted to make the necklace! Just yesterday, she had been considering forgoing her solo wanderings in favor of spending the afternoon in the hot, sooty shop, boring holes and stringing beads.

"Nicholas… You could have asked me."

"What… You don't like it?"

"I like it fine! I just wanted to make it myself is all!"

Cecilia wanted to storm off, slam the door. But she was, of course, already in her room. Nicholas, suddenly stunned and downhearted, decided that he would be the one to leave. Cecilia sank in to her bed, examining the sparkling jewels, and wondered why she had acted as she did. It really was a beautiful necklace, and he had only wanted to make her happy. Perhaps it was one last token of love before the nature of their relationship forever and truly changed. Even so, something about sharing a room had made her territorial. The thought of Nicholas taking her stones from her desk and taking her plans in to his own hands made her feel like she was about to panic. Unsure of how she felt about it, she shoved her necklace in to one of her desk drawers, where it would wait until she could form an opinion. Feeling at once guilty for her reaction and angry that Nicholas had over-stepped his boundaries, Cecilia fell backwards on to her bed, staring up at the ceiling that she and Nicholas had decorated with colorful paper stars all those years ago.

"Cecilia, eat your curry rice."

She didn't really think that Russell had a right to tell her what to do, given that he seemed just as distracted as she was. He was gazing in to space and swirling the wine in his glass in to a small whirlpool.

"…Dad, it's not like you're eating, either."

"Well, yes, but…"

Sabrina cut them off.

"…But you both should hurry up and eat. Ivan is coming over after dinner."

Admittedly, Cecilia was a bit curious. Ever since she was a little girl, she'd found the young merchant incredibly handsome and intriguing. And now, apparently, he was to be visiting the house.

"Really? How come?"

"Because I told him to bring over some clothes for us to try on… You know, for the wedding."

Cecilia looked down at her plate, pushing a few grains of rice around in the brown sauce. She didn't want to be forced in to some stuffy new dress that she would only wear once, and on the worst day of her life, even. Still, to her surprise, she found something about it slightly appealing. Cecilia had been developing a new interest in being pretty, and a lovely new dress might be just the thing.


The four of them had finally finished dinner, and were waiting in the library when they heard the knock at the door. Russell and Sabrina, nervously cheerful, were the ones to answer it. Cecilia and Nicholas hung back shyly, anxiously wondering what their young, awkward bodies would look like in their formal grown-up clothing. Ivan wrapped Russell in a brief but warm hug, and then did the same for Sabrina.

"First off, I'd just like to congratulate you two. I'm sure you're looking forward to a long and happy life together."

Russell smiled and pushed his glasses in to place.

"…If all goes well, that's the plan."

Ivan looked around the room for a moment, before his eyes landed on the stiffly-posed adolescents waiting by the stairs.

"Hello, Nicholas and Ceci. You're growing in to quite the lovely young lady and gentleman."

Cecilia smiled nervously. She knew he was just being nice, but she still hoped that he really thought she was becoming pretty. Ivan cleared his throat.

"…Anyway. I have the traditional wedding garments for you two, and then a few things for the kids to try on. Is that alright?"

Sabrina shrugged.

"Seems golden."

"Right, right… How about you two try your outfits on first, while Cecilia and Nicholas pick something out?"

"Sounds like a plan… Doesn't it?"

She nudged Russell with her elbow.

"…Oh! Yes. Sounds good."

Russell was feeling just as nervous as his daughter. He was worried that he would feel like a fool in that getup, but it wasn't like he could say that out loud. Sabrina took his arm, leading him in to the library bathroom, bringing a large pile of folded white clothing with her.

"Well then, what are we waiting for?"

Playful as always, Sabrina was nothing but excited.

Once inside the bathroom, Russell was more nervous than ever. It wasn't as though there was anything new left for Sabrina to see, but there was something about having to stand in a small space and change in front of another person that reminded him of his military days. Disrobing with another person in a bedroom or out in the woods or on the beach is romantic, but this was something different. Reluctantly, he removed his shirt. Sabrina laughed.

"…How are you still so shy?"

Russell coughed, feeling cold and conspicuous in his underwear.

"I'm not shy, this is just a different situation."

Sabrina smirked playfully.

"What, scared I'm going to snap you with a towel?"

"No, I… Hold on, you snapped me with a towel just last week! It raised welts…"

Somehow, that defused the situation, and Russell managed a laugh as he buttoned

His shirt and waistcoat. He wondered who had started the tradition of wearing such needlessly complicated clothing.

"…Russell, could you zip me up?"

Sabrina's dress, on the other hand, seemed simple enough.

"Oh… Sure, I can do that."

All his right hand wanted to do was to lovingly trace the pretty tan lines on the smooth skin of her back. But, somewhat reluctantly, he grasped the zipper, pulling it upwards slowly and gently, trying to draw out the moment. He loved that their heights were just different enough for him to gently bend his neck down and rest his chin on her shoulder. With the zipper closed, Russell wrapped his arms around her from behind, not yet ready to let go. Enjoying the moment herself, Sabrina leaned in to his embrace.

"…I love you, you know?"


"Yeah. More than you'll ever know… Just don't forget your pants."

The bathroom was filled with laughter once more.

By the time the two of them came out, Cecilia still wasn't sure which dress she wanted. It didn't matter, she figured, because she wasn't much of a fan of this entire concept. Even so, she had to concede that Sabrina did look pretty in her dress, and if Cecilia could look half that lovely in her own… Well, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Nicholas, who had chosen a sharp black-and white suit, decorated with ornate golden embroidery, smiled.

"You two look like the top of a cake!"

Sabrina laughed.

"We do, do we?"

She wasn't sure about that, but she did love the way they looked together. She watched as Russell tugged at his collar, gently adjusting it to accommodate his sensitive neck. He really was a terribly handsome man, albeit in a weedy, bookish kind of way. Or at least in her opinion, which was the only one that mattered. She was especially delighted to find that he had the sort of face that improved with age. Over the years, she had watched the grooves around his eyes deepen, watched his jaw and cheekbones advancing forward, giving sharpness and authority to his boyish face. The strands of silver in his mouse-brown hair made his light, gentle coloration appear softer than ever. Of course, Sabrina didn't think he needed fancy clothing to look wonderful. In fact, she liked him best in nothing at all, allowing her to take in his pale skin with its fascinating scars, to admire the sharp tips of his shoulder blades. Most clothing made him look scrawny, but his arms and back, though narrow, had a wiry solidness that she found beautiful. In fact, his white suit was just well-fitted enough to give a hint of his true shape. Sabrina smiled.

"Ceci, your father's a heartbreaker."

Cecilia looked up from the row of folded dresses that she was studying intently, and watched Russell as he pulled at his collar, nervously adjusted his glasses. She supposed that, objectively, he was a rather nice-looking fellow indeed, but it wasn't like Cecilia could be objective. She couldn't see anything but her father, whom she had seen in too many undignified situations over the years. Dropping large stacks of books, or standing shirtless at the stove and frying eggs. Sitting in his chair looking dejected, a thick book in one hand and an over-filled glass of liquor and ice in the other.

"Um, if you say so…"

Sabrina shrugged. Even if no one else could see it, she certainly could, and since she was the one who was marrying him, she figured that her opinion was the only one that really counted. Before anyone had anything else to say about it, Nicholas burst out of the bathroom.

"…Okay, I made my choice!"

Sabrina stifled a laugh.

"Are you sure you don't want to try anything else?"

"Um… Yeah? This is my favorite."

"Nicky, you look like a butler."

He grinned from ear to ear.

"I know!"

"…Alright, then. I'm not one to stifle my child's self-expression."

She patted her son's head, then turned towards Cecilia.

"Ceci, aren't you going to choose something?"

Cecilia hadn't been having much luck. All of the dresses that Ivan had brought seemed somehow wrong for her. They all seemed to be in colors she knew would make her look sickly, or were too grown up, or too childish, or just looked like they were made for someone with a different personality than hers. She wanted something that would make her look and feel like Queen of the Elves. Finally, she spotted something with potential.

"Um… This one, I guess."

As soon as Cecilia had the dress in the bathroom with her, she knew it was perfect. Instead of running straight across, the hem hung in uneven points, and there were ribbons running up the back corset-style. It was made of layers of a gauzy material, colored in shades of lavender and pale blue. The neckline was decorated with leaves embroidered in silver thread and tiny sparkling glass beads. Having slipped in to the ethereal-looking garment, she examined herself in the mirror. She was pretty. The pale blues and purples had brought out a sunny pink tone in her hair, made her skin look cool and radiant. She felt as though she could see the kind of woman that she was going to become, and found her perfect, couldn't wait to get there and be her at last. And, with a twinge of sadness, she wished that she could have received this dress in another time, another place. She wanted to wear it with Nicholas, Nicholas in his adorable butler's outfit, and kiss him at a festival by the beach, at a masquerade ball, in the abandoned mansion, anywhere. Cecilia sighed sadly, let the idea go, and stepped out in to the library.

"Wow, I think that's the one!"

Sabrina was smiling. And Cecilia, for the first time since this whole miserable thing began, managed to smile back. Even Ivan seemed to approve.

"Good, good… I don't know much about fashion, but let's see how you all look together."

The four of them gathered in front of the stacks, self-conscious and dressed to the nines. Cecilia looked to her left, and felt a sharp pang in her chest. She realized that she didn't, and would never, belong. Here was a middle-aged librarian, standing with his wife and stepson. And what was she to them? Admittedly, she wasn't quite sure. She was related by blood nor marriage, a sharp-eared little interloper. She stood of straight and set her jaw, proud. Even if she didn't belong in this scene, she was pretty, and that should count for something. Seemingly out of nowhere, Ivan produced a camera. Cecilia confronted the lens with a brittle smile.

The evening after the four of them had posed for a snapshot in the library, Russell and Sabrina sat in the kitchen together, at a loss for anything to do, but enjoying one another's company nonetheless. Russell, as always, had a book, and Sabrina had pulled her chair close to him, resting her head on his shoulder and occasionally reading a stray line. It was a dense book about the history of mining. Russell, of course, would read anything he could get his hands on, due to a seeming interest in pretty much everything in the world. Sabrina loved this, because, seen through his eyes, everything was interesting. Still, she didn't like letting him stay shut up in the house for too many nights in a row. It made him listless and depressed, and she couldn't stand seeing him like that. With a sigh, she let her body sink in to his.

"…What do you want to do tonight, lover?"

Russell shifted in his seat.

"I don't know… Finish this book?"

"I meant where do you want to go tonight, actually."

"…Yeah, I had that figured out."

Sabrina shrugged.

"Well, we could always go to the bar… Do some celebrating, you know?"

The book slammed shut.

"…You know you don't really have to ask me that, right?"

Humming with an almost illicit sort of excitement, the pair took off in to the soft dusk.

Russell loved the walk to the bar, feeling the cool breeze on his face, the warm weight of Sabrina on his arm. It was only a few yards, really, but it always felt like a journey. Sabrina, oddly enough, was the chivalrous one of the pair, and always held the heavy wooden door open for him, leading the way in to the dark, pleasantly stuffy interior. Emmett seemed happy enough to see him.

"Well, if it isn't our favorite newlyweds!"

He was also a bit eager, evidently. Russell nervously scratched an imaginary itchy spot on the back of his head.

"Um, not quite yet…"

Sabrina flung an arm around his shoulder, just roughly enough to feel playful.

"Oh, come on. We are in all but name…"

Russell gave her a nervous smile.

"…Well, if you say so…"

Emmett was already rummaging around behind the bar, clinking glasses as he went.

"You to getting your usual?"

Sabrina lead Russell over to their usual seat at the bar, volunteering, as always, to do most of the talking.

"That'll be good… Right, dear?"

Russell smirked slightly.

"Can't see the problem with it."

Emmett nodded and began filling the glasses, a red wine and a whiskey on the rocks. Russell sat down on his usual stool, pushed up his glasses, and took his first sip of the night, savoring the taste, savoring the stinging, numbing sensation even more so. He had been waiting for this for days without even realizing it, and was glad to finally be here, in the safety of the dim light, preparing to drink himself calm once more. Until, that is, he heard a voice from the shadows.

"Listen, Russell… Russell… She's a handful… Oh, but don't worry, I'm sure it'll be the best… The best six damn months of your life…"

It was, of course, Neumann. Russell cradled his forehead in his hands. Not this again… Neumann had been getting on Russell's case off and on for the past few years, ever since he noticed that his ex-wife had fallen for the librarian, of all people. With a sigh, Russell turned around to face him.

"Neumann… Just leave us alone tonight, okay? I don't bother you, so try and do the same for me, okay?"

Russell realized that, unfortunately, he had only made things worse. Neumann had gotten up from his chair, and was now coming towards them.

"You don't bother me, eh? Well, what do you call… She was my wife, and then you…"

Neumann and Russell were now face to face, and Russell feared violence. He had developed a decent right hook in his soldier days, but that was a long time ago, and he had never found himself in a bar fight before.

"I didn't do anything, Neumann. Sabrina… You know as well as I do that it's impossible to make her do anything…"

Sabrina raised her glass.

"I'll drink to that!"

Sometimes, Russell wished she would take things more seriously.

"Listen… I'm sorry if you think someone did you wrong somewhere along the line, but tonight… Look, we just don't need any trouble, alright?"

"You… You make trouble! Head full of books, never… Never did an honest day's work in your life… How am I supposed to compete with you… I…!"

Words failing him, Neumann decided to communicate his feelings by ramming a fist straight in to Russell's guts. The force of the impact was enough to make Russell curl in on himself, stunned and gasping. Emmett's patience had finally worn thin.

"…Neumann, you've had enough. Go home, get some rest, and come back tomorrow, if you think you can be civil."


Neumann, go. This isn't personal, I just can't have you making a scene."

Struggling to find a rebuttal, Neumann finally jammed his hands in his pockets, and, with a sigh, shuffled out of the bar. Russell straightened up and promptly finished his drink, which Emmett immediately refilled.

"This one is on the house… Some people, eh?"

Sabrina shook her head.

"And he wonders why I divorced him twice… The real question is why I had to do it twice, right?"

Russell shrugged.

"He's not a bad person…"

"No, you're right. He's just…"

"I know what you mean, yeah…"

Someone new had joined the conversation.

"Russell… I'll tell you right now… I'd have slugged him right back for his trouble."

Russell laughed nervously.

"You don't say, Edward?"

"…Call me Ed… I don't really know, actually… It's nice to think I would, though."

Sabrina chuckled.

"Aren't you supposed to be some kind of pacifist?"

"Not… Not when they had it coming!" He put an arm around Russell's shoulder. "…Anyway, I just want to say congratulations on the engagement! Look at you, Rusty! You're doing pretty damn well, if I do say so myself."

Edward, or, rather, Ed, seemed to prefer the shorter version of pretty much every name he encountered, even if the bearer never actually went by it. Russell, or, rather, "Rusty," had gotten used to it by now.

"I've been feeling pretty great, yeah."

"Good… You know, it's amazing how far you've come in just ten years… I'll just go ahead and say it… When I first took you off lamp grass, I mentally gave you about three, four months before you just up and…" He made a whistling noise, and moved his right index finger in a downward spiral. "…Offed yourself, you know?"

Russell liked Edward, as a person, but had never been a fan of that then-unspoken prognosis. He finished his second drink.

"…Well, you know. I had a kid. Thank Cecilia."

Edward nodded.

"When the time comes, you bet I will… But to be honest, I still kind of worry about your drinking… But we won't talk about that. It'd be pretty hypocritical.." He shook the glass in his own left hand back and forth. "…Hell, I'll even buy you your next round!"

Emmett laughed, and refilled Russell's glass. Sabrina took a sip of wine.

"…Ed, don't ruin my fiancée's liver. I'm pretty sure that's malpractice."

Russell took a gulp, struggling a bit to get all of the warm, numbing liquid down his throat.

"…And I'm personally capable of ruining my own liver, thank you very much."

All four of them had a good laugh, and eventually, Edward returned to his table. Sabrina gently placed her arm around Russell's shoulders, drawing him in to her body. Russell sighed contentedly.


She put her hand on his head, playing with his hair.

"Just what Ed said a few minutes ago… I'm glad you stuck around is all."

"…Oh. That. I was pretty mixed up back then, you know?"

Sabrina thought back to those days, when she read to him as he drifted in a sleepy haze.

"I know."

"And I hope you also know… Well, that… All in the past… Emmett, my glass is almost empty!"

Russell was starting to get blurry. Admittedly, Sabrina loved him when he was like this. It felt like the vulnerability and playfulness that she so loved in him were fully exposed at last. And the gentle slur in his voice reminded her of when he had first started hitting on her, in this very bar. Neither of them seemed quite sure of whether or not he was joking, but either way, it was more than welcome.

The final visitor to their space at the bar was major Lynette, who, unbeknownst to either her or Sabrina, Russell had somewhat fancied for a brief period, shortly after she came to the village. It was partly the same connection that Russell had felt with Edward, the three of them all being former military people. But it was also her authoritative stance, the firmness that Russell craved from a woman, someone who possibly could, once and for all, hold him down until he stopped struggling. And then there was the night that she leaned across the bar, somewhat conspirationally, and let him look under her eye patch… Of course, it never could have worked out. Lynette was different from Russell and Edward in that she still seemed to think that there was honor in war, and Russell didn't know how he could ever feel truly close to such a person. Still, the two of them had something like a distant friendship, and when Russell, Sabrina, and Lynette clinked their three glasses together, there was something satisfying in it. Goodbye, Lynette… We could never understand one another, but I'm sure someone will love you. Russell fell back in to Sabrina's arms, and drank until Emmett cut him off. And so, the evening was a success.

"…Russell, you're swerving all over the street!"

"…I'm what now?"

Sabrina, just barely more sober than he was, broke in to laughter.

"You can't even walk straight…"

"I'm… Straight as I can… I…"

With that, he fell to the cobblestones in a heap. Sabrina realized that he was quietly laughing to himself.

"…You're such a drunk, Russell."

"I… Yeah, okay. Sabrina… I am so damn plastered right now. Nothing I say would help my case, would it?"

"Probably not… Do you need help?"

"I think I might…"

Still laughing, Sabrina helped her lover to his feet, and went about all but dragging him to the library.

Dear diary,

Well, it seems like my father IS getting married… I still can't really believe it, but the wedding is planned for a few days from now… Diary, I'm not sure about any of this. Not only because of all of the things I've already written about Nicholas (though I do still feel for him, GROSS as that may be now), but because of other things, too. Like that I'm not really sure why my father is doing this, or if he's happy. I figured out that he was in kind of a bad way after he adopted me, and when I asked him about this last year, he said it was all in the past, and that he's fine now, but (this seems to be a theme with me lately), I'm not so sure. Can you really be the way he was and then just be okay? I kind of doubt it… And since I know that he didn't really tell me how bad it was back then, why should I believe him when he says he's doing well now? I worry that he's just doing things because he's confused… Like me, I suppose.

And I don't know, I like Sabrina… (I kind of grew up with her, so I suppose seeing her as a mom isn't much of a stretch.) …But I worry that she isn't right for my dad. She married and divorced the same guy twice, and she didn't even really know Nicholas' father, so how do I know she won't just get bored with my poor dad and drop him? Oh, and it seems like she likes to drink, which isn't so bad, I guess… But dad already drinks too much, I think, so I worry about that. (They're at the bar right now, if you believe that!)

Oh, well. I at least like my dress for the wedding… I put it on and felt SO PRETTY! It's kind of floaty, so it reminds me of Sharon (who is another issue… I'm scared that I'm in LOVE with her, Diary, so that might make me weird), except it only comes past my knees, and it's blue and purple, not white… I'm thinking of wearing it with the necklace Nicholas made for me… I know I said that I'd never wear it, since I was mad at him for taking the job of making it away from me, but it's so pretty… And I don't know, he was just trying to be nice, so why was I so mean to him? Questions, questions…



P.S. today I found a magic crystal, a four-leaf clover, a pretty dead wing, an amethyst, and TWO diamonds! So I guess it was an alright day.

When Russell and Sabrina finally returned from the bar, Cecilia was sitting at her desk, sipping strawberry milk, munching on chocolate cookies, and scribbling in her diary. Nicholas had taken a lantern in to Misty Bloom cave to see if he could spot some Lamp Squid. He had asked Cecilia if she wanted to come, and she had politely declined. She wanted some time to herself to think, and besides, he should have known that she'd been somewhat frightened of Lamp Squid since she was small… Something about those transparent bodies… Cecilia shuddered, finished writing, clapped her diary shut, and turned the key in the shining gold lock. Satisfied that her secrets were safe, she hung the key, with its gold chain, around her neck, and fell backwards onto her bed. Through the walls, she could hear her father clumsily trudging around, his words sleepy and indistinct. Sabrina was laughing, and Cecilia heard the two of them falling into her father's bed, and then next to nothing. She thought about what she wrote, decided that she was worried about him, and then decided to do something else, something to get her mind off of everything.

Cecilia grabbed her new dress from its hanger by the window, slithered out of her pajamas, and slid in to the wispy curtain of watery blues and flowery purples, beads and silver threads shining around her neck. She felt better already. And then shyly, reluctantly, reached in to her desk drawer, grasping for the aquamarine necklace, which she, without another thought, slipped it over her head. This was even better. Only one thing could be better still… She reached under her bed, and there it was, now dry and delicate. Her ivy crown. It crackled in her hands, and she had to be careful not to break it as she placed it on to her head. Its withered state gave it a new aura of sadness, which fit her just fine. She heard sounds in the next room, and hoped that her father wasn't going to throw up, as she had walked in on him doing before after a long night at the bar. She shook her head. Even if he did, there was nothing she could do about it, and she probably wasn't even supposed to be awake right now, so she didn't have to concern herself with what went on over there. Now fully bedecked, in her flowing dress, her string of rough-tumbled aquamarines, her wilted crown, she surveyed herself in the mirror.

I am pretty. I am a queen.

A/N: Ahh… Another long one! But the plot is thickening, so I guess that is to be expected… And the next chapter will have the WEDDING! So that's something to look forward to. ;)

Anyway, I actually quite like this chapter… Writing everyone drunk was fun, if I do say so myself! As was designing Cecilia's dress. I tried to keep the description just a bit vague, so everyone can imagine it for themselves. It's also a return to the focus on Cecilia's thoughts, but it seems like there was a heavy Russell focus as well, hence the chapter title. And if you'll allow me to go on a bit… There was something powerful about that last paragraph, and the image of a young girl escaping reality by adorning herself in her prettiest things while he father is (possibly) throwing up drunk in the next room… Poor Ceci and Russell… Whatever it to become of them?

…Well, you'll just have to keep reading to find out! ;) But do keep in mind that I will be away for a while in the near future, so I don't know when I'll get around to posting… I do have Chapter 5 started, so that should speed things up a bit!