I can do this... I can do this... The mantra repeated in my head, driving me forward and helping to sooth my nerves. It's been so long, so many years since I'd been here and I couldn't stop the tugging of my heart as I gazed out at the scenery. I had walked this path so many times in the past, I knew this place like the back of my hand. Driving across the well-maintained road, not a single crack or bump tarnished the asphalt, I gazed out the passenger window at the row of homes that we continued to pass. Everything seemed the same, not a single thing has changed since the last time I was here.
"Such a quiet neighborhood." Natsu commented softly, his own charcoal eyes glancing around in awe. A humble smile made it's way to my pink lips as I turned my eyes towards him. It's true, this area was usually quiet during this time of day, as can be seen right now. There wasn't a soul in sight. No one cutting the grass or gardening, no movement behind windows nor were there any kids running around playing on this beautiful day. To any normal person, this would seem odd, but I knew better. We passed several more homes, each one the same as the last except a few minor personal touches here and there.
"It's not a neighborhood. This is all my fathers property, and these are the homes of all the people who work for him." I explained, albeit a bit nervously. I wasn't really sure how Natsu would react once he realized just how I was raised. So different from him and the others. "My father likes to have the workers close by, so he had all these homes built so that they wouldn't have to go too far." Natsu turned towards me with wide eyes, it was clear that he had never heard nor seen such a thing in his life before. Which is saying something since we live a life that pays handsomely and know several of the wealthiest people alive. And pretty soon, he would meet the richest man in the world.
"Wow," was all Natsu had managed in response as we began to climb up the large hill that I knew led towards the estate. We didn't have much further to go, the anxiety within me continued to grow as we grew closer. The mansion slowly came into view and Natsu stared out the front window, astonished at the sheer size of the building that sat in front of us, it's entrance blocked by the large, black iron gate. Stopping just before the gate, Natsu rolled down his window and looked over at the tall silver pole that stuck out from the ground and held a large box on it. On the box was a screen that flickered on after a moment revealing a woman who looked to be in her late sixties.
"Yes, can I help you?" She asked politely, her eyes scanning over the pink haired man behind the steering wheel. Her eyes held a certain warmth and gentleness that I had always found endearing. Her face was marred with lines of aging that only added to her grandmotherly appearance and gave her the look of a wise old woman who had seen many things over the years. I couldn't stop the grin that spread across my face, it was great to see her again and to know that she was still alive and kicking after all these years. I wasn't truly sure of what I was coming into upon making this trip, but there was always the worry that something bad had happened while I was gone.
After a moment of no response from Natsu, I leaned forward and allowed for me to be seen passed Natsu. The elderly woman turned her eyes to me on the screen before a gasp made it way passed her thinning lips. "Mistress! Is that you?!" Natsu turned to look at me, a pink brow cocked slightly when he heard the word 'Mistress'. A smile quickly followed by a nod told the elderly woman what she wanted to know before she turned to gaze at something that was off screen. "It's the Mistress! Quickly, open the gates!" A bit of shuffling could be heard for a moment before the sound of metal clanking reached our ears. The large gates slowly slid open, revealing the path towards the estate. "I'll be right there, Mistress!" With that said, the screen faded to black and Natsu shot one last glance at me before driving forward.
"Mistress?" Natsu asked, keeping his dark eyes upon the road as he drove. I knew from the start that all of this would seem weird to him, that seeing where I'm from was a big risk. But I had faith in him. He wasn't the type to judge and I know that he loves me for me and not for what I am or where I came from. Hell, he didn't even know who my father was until I explained it all to him. Even then, he didn't seem to care. I shrugged my shoulders slightly in response, my eyes trained on my childhood home that was steadily growing nearer and larger as we approached. "Yeah, my father made them call me that. They called me Lucy whenever he was away." I never liked being called that, it always seemed so cold to me. As if they weren't my friends.
Natsu stopped just by the front entrance, within the circle that surrounded the large marble fountain. Turning the car off, Natsu glanced my way, a reassuring smile gracing his handsome features. "You ready for this?" He questioned, the warmth in his eyes helped to sedate the ever growing nerves within me. I nodded, returning his smile a bit before opening the door and stepping outside. I could hear the splashing of the water in the fountain. The smell of freshly cut grass and wild flowers caused a sigh to filter through my lips. Even the mansion was the same, down to the smallest detail. The garden that my mother had created when we first moved here was meticulously taken care of, even to the point where all of the flowers remained the same.
The colorful arrangement of flowers stood out against the all white stairs and entrance. Once Natsu made his way to my side, we began the trek towards the door and the anticipation of what was going to happen next continued to build. Just as we made our way to the stairs, the front door burst open, revealing a group of people with wide eyes and equally large smiles. They rushed forward, ignoring the pink haired man next to me and immediately engulfed me in a large group hug. Cries could be heard coming from each of them, welcoming me back and each proclaiming of how much they missed me. I smiled, I just couldn't help but feel happy at seeing them all still alive and well. "I missed you all too. But I'd like you all to meet someone."
My words caught their attention, each pulling away and finally acknowledging Natsu's presence. At the sudden turn of events, Natsu gulped slightly, his nerves getting the better of him at the moment. "This is Natsu Dragneel, the love of my life." I stated simply. Gasps followed my words and just as quickly as they had with me, they pulled him in for a hug as well, each throwing their own introductions into the air as they smiled and greeted him. The elderly woman that greeted us at the gates was the first to pull away. She let her wise eyes glance over towards me with a smile before turning back towards Natsu once more. Ms. Spetto had always taken care of me, ever since I was just a child. She was like a second mother to me.
"Oh no, this simply wont do." She said softly, a hint of amusement shining in her eyes. Her delicate hand reached up and pinched her chin as her eyes gazed over at Natsu. She took in the sight of him for a moment, before stepping forward and reaching towards his shirt. "A gentleman must always tuck in his shirt, my dear." She immediately began to fuss over him, trying her best to tame his wild mane of hair, buttoning up his shirt a bit more, fixing his collar and even going so far as to remove a bit of dirt from his face. I couldn't hold back my laughter as Natsu stood there, looking like a small child being fussed over by his mother. After a few more moments, she pulled away and examined him as if he were her masterpiece before grinning. "There, much better!" She stated happily.
"Now, why don't we make our way to the drawing room for a cup of tea while we notify your father or your arrival. You will be seeing him, won't you?" Ms. Spetto asked as she turned to face me. There was a lingering hope within her eyes this time, and I knew all too well just what she was thinking. Though, I didn't believe that there is a high chance of what she wished for, I still hoped the same myself. It has been quite some time since I left, and a lot has happened since then as well. If only my father and I could make amends. There is no way of returning to the way we once were when my mother was still alive, but maybe, just maybe, we can get to a point where we don't argue every time we see each other. "Yes, that's one of the reasons we came today. I think it's time, don't you?" I replied and Ms. Spetto's face immediately lit up like the star on top of a Christmas tree.
"Wonderful!" She cried out and brought her hands together joyfully. "Right this way, I assume that peppermint is still your favorite?" She asked quickly as she began to climb her way up the stairs to the entrance. I hummed in approval, it's also been quite some time since I indulged myself in the simple pleasure of a cup of tea. "What about you, my dear? What kind of tea would you like?" She asked, glancing towards Natsu for a moment. Said man looked over at me, as if asking for my help without words and I couldn't help but giggle. It was clear that he was out of his comfort zone. "I think a nice Ceylon Black tea would be fine for him." I replied in his stead.
Natsu let out a small sigh when I answered for him, he wasn't familiar with the different types of tea and knowing him, he'd prefer something a bit more on the spicy side. Ms. Spetto nodded happily as she opened the large cherry wood front doors. Upon stepping inside, I was immediately hit with a sense of melancholy as I took in the sight. A large grand stair case sat directly in front of us, a maroon carpet with gold trimming ran down the center of the stairs and all the way to the entrance. Beautiful pieces of art hung from the cream colored walls but one in particular will always catch the attention of anyone who entered. Looking up the stairs, there is a landing just before they split and go in opposite directions. On the wall of that landing hung a beautiful portrait framed with gold and held three smiling faces.
The first was of a man with blond hair that was swept back and a thick yet well trimmed mustache. He was dressed in the finest black tailored suit that money could buy and it fit him like a second skin. His strong jawline was set yet a smile could be seen beneath the whiskers and his eyes were brimming with happiness as his arm wrapped around the woman standing next to him. Her own long, blond hair was pulled back into a tight bun and framed with a band made of an assortment of flowers. Big brown eyes gazed over the entrance, greeting all those who entered warmly. She was elegantly dressed in a fuchsia gown that was trimmed with a bit of lace as her arms wrapped around a small bundle of light pink blankets. A tuft of blond hair and big chocolate eyes could be seen underneath the blankets. And, although the portrait itself was beautiful, I couldn't take my eyes off the woman that stood there holding the baby.
"You look just like her." Natsu leaned in and whispered in my ear. There was no denying that I was my mothers child, I had heard that same thing all the time while growing, but back then, it was a hard thing to take in. But, hearing it from Natsu, I felt a sense of pride swelling within me. I smiled, the melancholic moment vanishing at his words. I felt his hand grasp mine and gently squeeze it slightly to reassure me that he was here for me. The staff surrounding us remained quiet during this moment, they knew all too well just how hard this was for me. How hard it was to come back, let alone face the demons of my past. When I turned back towards Ms. Spetto, she took that as a sign that I was ready to move on and quickly ushered us to the drawing room.
Once more, everything was the same. From the midnight blue carpet to the elegant, peach colored couch and love seat. I sat down on the love seat, Natsu taking the spot next to me as we glanced around the room. Natsu, taking in the scene for the first time and me remembering all the good memories that I've had here. This used to be one of my mothers favorite rooms. The dark blue curtains were drawn back, letting in the morning sun and spreading it's warmth throughout the room. Shelves lined the walls, filled with all different types of books starting from dictionaries and encyclopedias all the way to fictional romance novels and fairy tales. One section in particular was my favorite and always will be. A certain selection of fairy tales that my mother had read to me as a child countless times sat in the middle of far right shelf, everything exactly in it's place and appearing as if it hadn't been touched since the last time my mother read one of them to me.
"We will be right back with the tea." Ms. Spetto announced before her and the rest of the staff left the room leaving Natsu and I alone. I could remember sitting on this very same couch, sitting in my mothers lap as she read one of the many books to me. I can remember her voice, the smell of her sweet perfume and the way her eyes wound shine with love as if it were just yesterday that I last saw her. The memory of her will forever remained locked in my heart. But now, with Natsu in my life, the pain of loosing her wasn't nearly as bad and my heart was making room for the love that I held for him. During this time we shared alone, I told Natsu about the memories I shared in this room with my mother and he listened intently, smiling as I was swallowed up in the memory of her. "She sounds amazing." Natsu stated and I agreed completely. I'm just glad that he shared my opinion of the woman who had mattered most to me.
Ms. Spetto returned quickly with the tea tray and sat it down on the coffee colored table in front of us. Picking up the first teapot, she poured my tea before moving on to Natsu's and then handing us the cups. She took a seat across from us, her once smiling face falling slightly before she sighed. A sense of dread began to swell up within me, it was clear that whatever she was going to say, couldn't be good. "Before you meet with your father Lucy, there is something you must know." After taking a small sip and the deliciously minty tea, I sat it back down upon it's saucer and gave the maid my full attention. "When you left, I believe that may have been the breaking point for him. He became even more of a recluse than before. Putting every minute of his time into his work and never leaving his office."
Ms. Spetto paused, running her hand through her gray hair and sighing. It was obvious just how worried she was for my father, and from the sound of it, she should be. "He rarely eats, and when he does, it's not much. He no longer leaves the house for meetings or anything, just takes them all over the phone. He even sleeps in there. I don't know what to do Lucy, I'm really worried about him. He's putting his health at risk living like this." The idea of my father becoming like this because of me leaving was pretty hard to swallow. All I could truly remember was his cold attitude and the fact that the only thing that ever interested him was money and working. So why would he suddenly care once I left? Natsu just sat next to me, silently taking in what he was hearing and watching me to make sure that I was okay.
Though I am fine, I was growing worried for my father, just as Ms. Spetto is."Lucy, I'm very happy that you are here and that you are willing to talk to him. Maybe you will be able to pull him from this stupor and make him care about his health once more. I know that he was cold and seemed uncaring when you left, but he does love you, he always did. I just think that it was hard on him after, well, you know when for him to cope so he shut himself up. It only became worse when you left as well." The sound of glass rattling against glass filtered through the room and I immediately set the teacup and saucer down onto the table. My hands had begun to tremble slightly and holding that only made it that much more obvious. "Don't get me wrong, child. None of this is your fault and no one blames you for leaving. Truly, we are happy that you found yourself a new life and even someone to love. So please, do not blame yourself for this. I just wanted you to know what was happening before you walked into that office."
I felt the warmth of Natsu's hand upon my back, rubbing it soothingly, but after hearing all this, it was a bit hard to remain calm. Just what happened while I was gone? There is no way that this was all because of me leaving. The only time he ever truly cared about my existence is when he wanted to introduce me to some wealthy family's son in the hopes of arranging a marriage between us only to increase his own wealth. So why this? Was it really as she had said and I had been the breaking point for him? And if so, how could I ever face him in such a state?
Hello again, sorry about the long wait for the next chapter and I'm very sorry to those readers who had voted for stories that didn't win. But, don't worry, I will continue them, I promise. But, things became hectic once more. Also, to the guest that reviewed about managing my time a bit better. I do apologize if I upset you, truly I am sorry. But, it's hard to manage my time when I juggle a full time job, two kids, a husband, a home among many other things. I'm very involved with my community and the school. I can tell you that almost every day, my calender is completely filled and the only time I have to write is late at night when all the chores are done and the kids are asleep. It also doesn't help that a home my husband inherited over in Baltimore caught fire and a squatter unfortunately died. So, at the moment, that's a bit tough to handle. The house has been empty for years and we never thought to check on the place to see if someone had begun staying in there. So, I really am sorry for letting you down and I do appreciate the fact that you told me how you felt and also that you enjoy my stories.
To everyone else, thanks for sticking with me for so long! For enjoying my stories, for talking to me. For reviewing, favoriting, and following. Feel free to talk to me at anytime about anything at all. Just be wary that the reply might be a bit delayed.