It's Been a Long Time Coming
A little of Gwen's background story. Enjoy.
The door shuts.
Gwen exhales, feeling the hot air escaping through her lips. Something inside of her skull throbs in the most nausea manner and the way her heart thump against her ribs still scare her. The darkness of the night envelops her skin - the little scenes repeating makes her feel as if she's losing grip on herself.
Then, she lifts her chin up and notices the dim light coming from the living room. Her legs don't fail her when they move swiftly, drawn to the living room as if it's the only resource of life she could gather. Gwen doesn't know why she's still surprised to see her eight-years-old nephew sleeping on the couch, with the television running.
Gwen shakes her head.
Her fist clenches, her nails sink into her palm and her anger agitates. She doesn't know why she still holds on to whatever her sister, Wendy says - why she still trusts her. Wendy has always been reckless, from the littlest of things and even to her own son. Gwen drags her feet to the couch until her nephew's face is as clear as the sky: that every lines are vivid and his lashes are the only thing she could see.
God, he is a masterpiece.
Claudius Alcor Thénardier is the most perfect image Gwen has ever set her eyes upon, besides from late Mom. Sure, he is not hers. Never been. But just at times like this, Gwen entertain the idea that he is. His cheek is clean and slightly chubby, a pale color. His hair is dark but brown, straight and messy. He gets it from his biological father who abandons without any trace of hesitation. His eyes are bright and his smile is gorgeous.
Gwen remembers the first mention of his existence - the moment Wendy announced her pregnancy.
They were young. Wendy was at her early stages of sixteen years old, Gwen was eighteen. She feels rather older though - her eyes were worn and her spirit tired. She just received her letter of acceptance to Northwestern University then, and Wendy looks messy - black eyeliner color her face and eyes saggy, opinions drowsy.
Father was upset.
He couldn't bare the idea her daughter was pregnant; his reputation was ruined. Wendy was still a rebel, but she's mostly confused. Gwen was just perplexed. But she helped around. Especially after Wendy decided to keep the pregnancy. Father was never the same towards Wendy afterwards - he was never the same after Mom's death, but this time it was definitely different. Sure, he accepted the baby and tolerated with that fact, but he didn't necessarily interact or got involved.
Sometimes Gwen thinks it was better that way.
He was there though, after Wendy gave birth. Gwen just turned nineteen. Even a day old, the baby was already something magnificent to Gwen's eyes. Wendy though, she didn't think so. She didn't even dare herself to shift and stare at her own newborn. Father observes; his eyes squint and judge, but he didn't snarl and that was always okay. "What do you want to name him?" Gwen asks, clasping the baby's small palm with her two fingers.
Wendy was looking outside, her voice sounded forced. "Whatever."
Father looked grim.
Gwen swallowed, but didn't let her smile drop. The baby was looking at her, appearing to say something although no such voice was formed. "I mean, I'm sure he could use a name about now. It's -"
"I don't care."
Father snorted, Gwen frowned. She looked at what Wendy was staring; outside. The sky was blue, the cloud was white and the people were walking. "Claudius," Gwen muttered out, then carved a smile. "I think Claudius seems appropriate, right? Cloud. You're just as beautiful as those things, aren't you?"
The baby was staring intently at her, a calm expression on his young face.
Gwen thinks she saw Father's lips curved just slightly by the corner and predicted that this baby was more than they bargained for. It was a nice change, Gwen remembers thinking.
Reaching eight months year old, Wendy ran away from home, bringing Claudius along. After so long of neglecting her only son and refusing to admit the baby as her own, Father and Gwen truly believed Wendy went off to kill the infant. They didn't see her again for the next couple of years. Father shuts down completely and shun her out, and Gwen continued living regardless. A thousand worth of efforts and posters didn't find Wendy and they gave up.
Wendy showed up with a cigarette sticking from her lips and hair dyed in an unfamiliar blonde color. Gwen just got her first official job and was still studying - it was her last year in Northwestern. Wendy was shoving a toddler into her grasp.
"I need you to take care of him."
"What?" Gwen didn't know if she was facing reality. "Wendy? What happened? Is this Claudius? You didn't - you aren't dead."
"Of course I'm not, Stupid." Wendy gruffly responded, her lips were darker than before. Her cheeks were sunken. "Rascal was just too noisy for me to handle and I just- how to say this in your language? Ah yes - I can't afford having him around. Don't worry, I won't be gone for too long. Like, a week or two."
"You can't just - " The baby in her arms started to wail out. "Wait, is this baby even Claudius? Your biological son?"
"Yes, it's Claudius, Gwendy. Ugh, seriously - are you actually getting more dense with all those books you're reading." Wendy looked annoyed, restless. She coughed her smoke up. "I'm asking simple shit, Gwendy. Take care of him - or in another word: clean him and feed him. Keep him entertain sometimes. For two weeks. That's all I'm asking. I got to go. My boys are waiting-"
"Wait, where are you going?"
Wendy laughed - a throathy, rough laugh. "I'm taking over the world!"
She went away for nearly four months. Father finally came to visit ever since Gwen gave him the news that Claudius was with her. Her first job went well. Claudius finally identified her after a few weeks and Gwen got the hang of it - being somewhat a mother figure. She learned how to cook, how to clean and how to get Claudius into a proper education. He was really struggling in the speech department, but they got over it together.
By the time Wendy came back, Claudius was really attached to Gwen.
"Hey kid, you're looking good." Wendy started, still a cigarette in between her lips. Claudius was hiding behind the sofa, near to his room - his face was of afraid. "Come here. Come here to Mama, you little Rascal."
Claudius shook his head.
"What do you mean No?" Wendy's expression harshened. Something shrunk inside of Gwen's stomach. "You can't say No. Not to me, you can't. I'm having too many of that lately, don't you know that? I don't need my own fucking son to say it to my godforsaken-"
"YOU SHUT UP!" Wendy's eyes are wide and threatening. "THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!"
"Wendy, calm down."
"Calm down?!" Wendy threw her head back, barking out a seemingly sarcastic-laughter. "I'll calm down when my FUCKING SON LEARN TO FUCKING RESPECT ME."
She's coming after Claudius then, but Gwen was swift on her feet. Grabbing Claudius in her arms were quick and easy, especially since the young boy was reaching out to her initially. Their force were harsh, but it was better than seeing Claudius being taken away from her arms. Not after the years they went missing, not after the four months Wendy left him. Not after everything.
Wendy was mad, but she left after lashing out and almost rip everything apart.
After she left, Gwen was not sure if she'd see her sister ever again. She didn't ponder for too long though for the next thing she knew, she was heading to New York with Claudius in her care. They adapted soon enough and began to live a wonderful life. It wasn't magnificent - because even when he's with her, he's still not hers and Wendy's shadow lingers - but as long as Claudius waves his hand before he enter school every morning and sent her those smiles each night, she will be content.
Wendy entered their life again when Claudius reached the age of six years old. According to her, she's trying to be good and she's willing to change and that she realizes her life was a wreck and the only thing that mattered was Claudius. Her request was simple: she wanted to stay with them. Claudius was hesitant, but Gwen was more gentle-hearted. She accepted her apology and allowed her to enter in her son's life, even if it would interfere with the relationship Gwen had build up with Claudius all these years.
That 'change' Wendy proclaimed she'd go through only lasted for two months.
She went partying almost every night and neglected the fact she's a mother to a boy. Gwen was disappointed, but as long as Wendy didn't go too far, she promised herself she would tolerate with this situation. And so, here they are: Wendy once again forgets to come home to Claudius even when Gwen made her promise to, two years later.
Gwen brushes a few strains of dark brown hair from Claudius' face. The boy shifts and let his eyes flutter open.
"Hey," Gwen offers a sad smile.
"Hey." Claudius smiles sleepily, trying to sit up.
"I'm sorry your mom didn't come home," she apologizes, feeling the regret dawning on her whole body. The last thing she really wants is to disappoint her nephew, one she loves even from the first time she sees him.
Claudius shakes his head, "It's not your fault."
"Yes, it is. I thought- " Gwen feels her mouth goes dry. "I thought she would just come home this once. This once. I was so-"
"Gwen," Claudius calls and Gwen stares at the eight-years old. The boy smiles drowsily, "I'm just glad you're home now."
Gwen chortles, feeling the anger subsides. She clads her finger against his neck and presses her lips against Claudius' forehead, letting his heat comforts her from the rush of the night. "Me too," she whispers, then pulls back. "Come on, let's get you to your bed."
Claudius nods, yawns. His fingers tug on hers and they're on their way to his room. Just as Claudius descends on his bed, he voices out, "Where did you go tonight anyway, Gwen? You look a little messier than usual."
Gwen feels the heat envelops her neck up to her cheeks - she's just glad it's too dark to see. She clears her throat, "I just ... I went out."
"Did you have a great time?"
"I, uh..." Gwen shrunk, letting her hair falls on her vision of sight. "I guess."
Claudius snuggled with his own pillow, "Goodnight, Gwen."
"Goodnight, my Brave Knight." Gwen whispers, brushing another strands of hair away. "Sleep so you could save me for another day, won't you?"
Mumbling out, Claudius replies. Always the same answer. "You know I will."
Summer is approaching really fast and Claudius is excited.
"You will take leave for a few days, won't you? I got like a millions of places we need to visit, Gwen and I don't want to miss it!" He exclaims over breakfast, chunking his flakes away. Gwen smiles over the tea she's sipping on.
"Of course, just not when it's near the deadline. You know I'll be extremely busy-"
"Yeah, yeah. I know." Claudius nods his head, his expression telling her he's had her schedule in his heart.
Working in one of the largest magazines in America, THE BEAUTS, Claudius has more than once witness how Gwen is whenever it's near deadlines. People were busy, running around with samples and drafts and yells and shouts and Gwen has to follow the pace, of she'll have her job on the line. And she can't afford that. No, not at all.
Sure, she could turn to Father if she needs any money - but she's not that kind of person.
"Mmm!" Gwen glances over the clock, now swallowing off her tea. "School! You're going to be late."
"Oh, right." Claudius finishes his flakes.
"You have everything, right?"
"Yup. Ready to go."
Rushing to school is always hectic, considering both of them don't want to confront the teacher again about how Claudius attendance being 'incomplete' due to his frequent lateness. Honestly, it's whatever. The school should be thankful Claudius still wants to go to school, late or not.
Dropping Claudius off just in the nick of time, Gwen rushes off to work.
She greets the security guard, Chuck, stops by the receptionist, Beatrice and asks if there's any messages for her. After collecting her messages there, she goes off to her desk and starts to shuffle her paperworks. A co-worker comes by to tell her Mr Martinez calls and she complies to his request. While walking, another co-worker, Phillip and Molly begin to fill her in with gossips and suggests a few people she could 'have fun' with. To tell you the truth, those two are more invested in her love-life than Gwen herself.
Just as she reaches up to Mr Martinez's office, her eyes catch something.
"Did you know Bentley got his nephew working for him now?" Molly hushes busily.
"He's a hottie," Phillip grin. "Sorry ladies, especially you my Single Gwendolyn, but he's mine."
"There he is!" Molly jumps on her heels, her curly blond hair bounces on her shoulders.
Gwen peers at the direction they're staring at. She observes the figure - the only sight she gets is his back. Tall and lean and devilishly handsome, even from behind. Mr Bentley Weston is a man who knows what to wear, it should be no surprise if his nephew follows suit. The figure is stepping back now and he's turning around and his face becomes clear.
Molly shrieks, Phillip sighs. "His face is sex."
"And his body is God."
Gwen pales up. She knows that person. Oh my god.
It's the gigolo.