(Chapter 1, Part 2: I have never ever…)
Story written in collaboration with Lady Oscar.
"Novel, are you ready? The party has started already."
Oscar opens the door of my room without waiting for my answer. She raises an eyebrow.
"Novel, what the hell are you doing? Why haven’t you put on your dress?"
I shrug, keeping typing on the keyboard.
"I can’t go to the party, I'm busy."
"You can continue working later. You have more important things to do right now."
"I don’t think so." I lean back on the chair and adjust glasses on my nose. "What about a popcorn machine in the belly of Val? I mean, who doesn’t like having a snack after sex?"
She sighs and closes the door behind her.
"Novel, pour l'amour du ciel, stop it: the 'Valentine' project is just a side idea. I am not even sure we can make money out of that."
I look at her. She is wearing a suit with a black tie. No earrings or other jewels, except for the ring with our heraldry on her right hand. I shrug.
"That is your job, Oscar. Mine is making things work and I would do it faster if you don’t interrupt me with these stupid things."
"These 'stupid things' are the ones that pay all your whims." She crosses her arms. "So stop complaining and put on your dress. And do it quick or we will be late."
I snort and blow tuft of hair from my left eye. Oscar sighs.
"Listen, Novel; I know you don’t like this celebration, but we need it. If we play our cards well, this will be our springboard for a brighter future. We can make the Jarjayes name great once more!" She smiles, baring a cloister of white teeth. "Don’t you want it, Novel? Do you want us to be in the spotlight as our grandpas were?"
"Y-yes, but…why do Rimutu, Ondine and I have to show ourselves tonight?"
"Cause this way we can prove that our success is the result of something unique, a team that cannot be bought or copied or separated," she closes the fingers of her right hand in a fist. "If we stand together, no one will be able to stop us."
Her words are so warm…so convincing…yet, if I close my eyes, I can see myself surrounded by strangers. Dozens, maybe hundreds of men and women looking at me, studying me and judging me. I am alone, while their whispers grow more and more…
Oscar caresses my cheek, pulling me back to reality. I am hyperventilating.
"I-I don’t know if this is a good idea, Oscar. I mean, I will not know anyone…"
"That’s not true at all. You will know many of our guests. There will be the General, your cuties…even our cousin Catia."
I blush and let out a smile thinking to my sweet cousin. My breath slows down.
"Okay, Oscar. I will do my best."
My big sister giggles.
"We will show them that our blood is strong and that the times when they laughed at us are over."
She pinches my cheek, stands up and takes the dress from the bed. She stands before a huge mirror between my libraries.
"Come here. I will help you with it."
I reach her and she drapes the dress over me. It’s a black silk trumpet dress, with small crystals on the straps.
"Why can’t I stay with my hoodie? I am a scientist, not a top model; I don’t need to look pretty."
"You are not a simple scientist: you are a Jarjayes. People must look at you from below, worshipping you, envying you…even hating you if this gives you power over them."
She moves her hand on the dress to make it adhere to my body. She kisses my forehead
"You will be beautiful, little sis. Beautiful."
She takes a brush from the drawer and start brushing my hair. She moves it more and more on my head, but my hair is too messy to be tidy. Hers, instead, is a work of art that probably cost her maid Avia countless of hours of work.
The hand that is holding the brush is well manicured, with short nails covered in red nail polish. I have no nails: I bite them when I am nervous and even the best nail polish crumbles under my constant scratching.
Oscar gives me another kiss. I look at her: in the reflection of her eyes I can see the bottle-top glasses I have on me. I grab the dress and hold it in my hands.
"Mh? Do you feel all right, Novel?"
Her voice is firm and warm. Mine a childish tone.
Her shapely and elegant body. My skinny frame.
"Novel, you are hyperventilating again: what is happening?"
Her strong and commanding figure. My shy and insignificant appearance.
I can see it again: the crowd all around me. But this time Oscar is the centre of the scene. They look at her with shining eyes. Oscar moves her mouth without producing a single sound, but I can feel the aura of charisma she is generating. I am just right there, but no one seems to care for me. Oscar takes the admiration, I receive only pity.
The dress rips in half in my hands. Oscar does a step back, her mouth wide open. I let the two halves fall on the floor.
"I…I can’t do it, Oscar. I am not you…"
"Novel, what the hell are you talking about?"
I sit on the bed.
"Please, Oscar, do it without me: we both know I would do a total disaster."
She raises an eyebrow.
"We have no time for complaints. I will ask Avia to take another dress and…"
"Listen, Oscar. I…I will make a mistake for sure…"
"No, you listen to me!" She grabs my shoulders and forces me to stand up. "You have no fucking idea of how much I have worked on this and how much I have sacrificed to have all the elite of Eroland here. I will not let you ruin it! Now wear a damn dress, before I lose my patience!"
Her eyes are wide open. Her chin is trembling. Her right index finger cuts the air before my face. I struggle and push away her left hand.
"You just want to exploit me and my work for your ambitions!"
Her slap pushes me on the bed. I whimper and touch my lips: on my hand there is a drop of blood.
I turn my head, insults ready to be spat out from my mouth, but I stay silent. Oscar is crying.
"How dare you?" Huge tears crawl down her cheeks. "Everything I have done, it was for us, not for me alone."
I can’t remember last time I have seen her cry. It feels…wrong.
Her words are somehow more hurtful than the slap. They mark me inside. They make me despite myself so much I would like to puke.
I stand up and move away. Oscar grabs my right arm, but I wriggle out her grip and run out the room. Somewhere safe to hide. The need for escape pushes me to the labyrinth in the garden. I follow the secret path amongst the hedges that leads to the centre, with its ancient oak surrounded by stone benches.
I fall on one of them, wetting it with my tears. The image of Oscar crying is stuck before my eyes.
A noise behind my back. I tremble and turn my head: there is a girl standing at the entrance of the centre of the labyrinth.
She is black haired, with the right side of her head shaved. She is wearing a leather jacket, a t-shirt, jeans and more studs than I thought a human could wear.
I wipe my cheeks.
"Who are you?"
"Ehm…my name is Lisbeth Rose."
The sun is setting down on the horizon, painting the sea surface crimson. I remove my shoes and socks and sink my feet in the humid sand. I see a wave coming closer than the others and kick it, splashing water all around.
"You look like a kid at her first day at the beach."
I turn my head: Lisbeth is arriving. She has a six pack of Gorgeous Blondie in her right hand.
"It’s just…I haven’t been here for years. First the study, then work…my sister Ondine spends all her time at the sea, while I spend all my time in my lab."
"You should rest from time to time. It helps you work better."
She sits next to me, takes a can of beer and opens. She gives it to me and opens another one for herself.
She takes a huge gulp. I caress the can: it’s cold and covered in condensation. I give it a small sip and end up coughing.
"There, there…it seems it’s the first time you do it."
"N-not at all, I drink all the time!"
I take a longer sip, keep it in my inflated cheeks and swallow it.
"S-see? I can be wild too!"
She giggles more and pats my head.
"Sure you are a wild lovely lady."
I tremble a little. My head moves to make me feel more of her hand in my hair. Her fingers are thin, but strong.
She moves her arm back and drinks another sip.
"I love this place: it’s not too hot in summer and not too cold in winter. Also, this part of the town has a very bad reputation, so most people tend to stay away from it."
"How did you find it?"
She smirks and moves a thumb in the direction of the pub where she bought the beers.
"I was working on a case and I needed some information from the bartender. I took her to the backyard to…convince her to talk and we had a really problematic conversation," she licks her lips. "The morning after, we both woke up on this beach, naked and with too many bottles of beer and whiskey around us. I had my information, she had…something else."
I blush, clenching the can tighter.
"So you two just fucked. From the way you started the story, I thought you had fought with her…"
She gulps all the beer left in her bottle and taps on it with a black enamelled nail.
"Well, it started as a fight. A hard one at that. Then, when the heat of the confrontation reached the peak…it just turned into passion. You know, sometimes endorphins play strange tricks to your brain."
I lower my eyes on the sand. A wave is able to reach my feet. I shiver at the cold touch.
"No. I don’t really know. I have never been in a fight or something like that."
"How so? You grow up with…like five sisters, haven’t you never punched one of them in the face?"
"I have dreamed of doing it so many times…but my sister Oscar and my brother Richard always made sure that there were no big fights among us. At least, not that kind of fight."
"Too bad. Roma may have been an apprehensive father, but he taught me the ropes as soon as I was able to do it and he made sure I had the best fighting training possible."
She sighs and leaves the empty can on the sand. The wind howls from the sea, shaking her mohican and bringing me the scent of saltiness.
"You know…we are two girls who know exactly nothing about each other and we have a huge amount of beer…" Lis turns her head to me. "I think we could play a game."
"It’s called never have I ever…"
I raise an eyebrow.
"Doesn't ring a bell for me."
She takes a new can and opens it.
"Never have I ever…ridden a bike." she takes a small sip of beer." See? Since I have ridden a bike, I must drink."
I nod and drink a sip too.
"I think I have got it."
"Your turn, so."
"Never have I ever…" I frown and bite my lips. "Kissed a boy!"
Lisbeth nods and drinks a little sip. I don’t follow her.
"Who was he?"
"Oh, I have kissed many of them. No one was really important."
"Who was the first one?"
She scratches her head and shrugs.
"His name was Ciryl and was the son of one of my father's butlers. I was ten…no, eleven and he was one year younger. We were doing a 'kissing game' with other children and I chose him cause I liked his eyes."
I imagine the scene: this cute, little punk girl kissing a boy with beautiful eyes. I dunno why, but I cannot figure him without a pair of glasses on his face…
"Ehm…and how did it go? Did you two end up together?"
"Oh, he would have loved it at the time, but I was not interested. We are still good friends, though. He has taken the place of his father in the Mansion and now he is a butler…he still blushes every time he sees me."
Lisbeth smiles. Her black lipstick makes her teeth look even whiter.
"So…never have I ever…worked for a week without sleeping."
She drinks a sip of beer. I raise my can, but she stops me.
"I haven’t finished."
She drinks two more sips, emptying her beverage.
"I had some huge investigations…I really put my body at its limits there. Maybe I will tell you more about it one day," She smirks. "Show me what you have got, girl!"
I smirk her back and drink all the beer left in the can with a single, long sip.
I give Lisbeth a defiant look…and let out a hiccup that makes me blush.
"I-I am tougher than I look...I can work even for a month without sleeping!"
She raises an eyebrow.
"A month? Are you crazy? Why should you do that?"
"Well, you know…Oscar made me work like crazy on the 'Kitsune Army' Project and I have many other things to take care of."
I take another can of beer and raise it. My hand trembles…what could I choose now? I look at Lisbeth and bite my lips. How many adventures has she experienced? How many things has she done while I was working day and night? I look at the waves that arise from the see, pushing white foams on the sand.
"Never have I ever…dove into the sea completely clothed."
Lisbeth caresses her chin with a thumb and bites her lips. She shrugs.
"No, I don’t think I have never done it."
I gulp half the can with a single, long sip. Some beer drools out my mouth.
Lisbeth laughs and pats my legs.
"Daaaaamn, girl! This is wild as fuck. When did you do it?"
I let the can fall on the sand and stand up. I run to the waves. The cold water covers my legs and splashes on my belly and face.
I dive underwater, swimming with all my strength.
I close my eyes.
It’s just me and my heartbeat.
My lungs burn, but I keep going. An armful after another, until my arms hurt too.
I move my feet on the sandy bottom and push myself to the surface. I take a deep breath and look on the beach: Lisbeth is standing, looking towards me.
I swim back and go out the water. I feel my wet clothes adhering to the immature shapes of my body.
Lisbeth looks at me. What is that fire I can read in her eyes?
"Damn, Novel…you emerge from the waves like Venus!"
My heart loses a beat. A heatwave explodes from it, irradiating in all my body. I jump on her and push her on the sand. I press my wet body on hers and my lips on hers in an eager kiss.
Lis tenses, trembles…and relaxes. Her hands move on my spine making me shiver. They reach my shoulders…my neck…my cheeks. She grabs my face and looks at me.
Her chin trembles. Her eyes get lucid.
My kiss stops her and seal our mouths.
Our tongue dance together as I slip my hands under her t-shirt and caress her abs and hips- I feel hard muscles under soft skin.
My heart loses another beat. My body craves for more, yet I force myself in separating our lips. We look each other in the eyes panting.
"I am all wet…"
"I see it."
"Do you know a place where I could remove my clothes…somewhere where only you can see me naked?"
She opens her mouth wide. I giggle.
"Never have I ever…seen a rogue, beautiful biker blush."
She caresses my cheek with hers.
"I can see it, now…into the reflection of your eyes. I should drink now."
"I think there is some beer left here for you…"
I kiss her again. Our tongue dance, letting the taste of beer and sea water mix in our mouths.