Ch 120: Lemon Drink
We are very behind schedule.
I want to ask my parents, did you two have fun? Abandoning your own small helpless children to their grandparents, so you can do what? Discover and raid a dungeon? Have a second honeymoon? Did you, the horrible awful no good parents, have fun rolling around underground in some horribly deadly romantic getaway!? Huh!?
But I won't say anything because I really don't want to know. I don't want to hear anything, no excuses, no gross stories, just hand over the money and go!
But first put me down.
"Rosa~ Oh my, our little baby girl is so cute even when she sulks. My, my, my, just wherever does she get it from?" Mother coos and kisses at my face, all before leaning up to sweetly peck at the man holding me.
"Is it here?" she presses.
"Maria, we're under the light of day." he chuckles in between soft kisses, his mouth sounding increasingly compromised. That's clearly not enough of a no, especially for Mother. The horrible sound of lips and skin increasing still.
AAAAAhhhhhh!!! I see nothing, but I can hear it? How mortifying!
How did their affections get so blatantly worse in the time we've been apart? How? How did that happen?! It's awful, where did any sense of shame and propriety go?! Father, how could you be so public-ally disgusting? Oh the red hot shame, the horror!
Said skin-crawling shame has forced me to erupt, and accidentally headbutt my own mother. Of course, at my current height, it only hits her on her very heavily naturally padded chest. No harm there, but it certainly gets her attention, and a whimpering groan as she slowly pulls away.
I'm going to die either way, aren't I? Either by Mother or the shame, it's killing me.
"Oh ho ho, awwww I know what my Rosa wants."
Money. Pay me.
Mother pays in the completely wrong currency. I do not take kisses and shameful displays of affection. Cash and liquidate goods only.
This little body of Rosalia isn't very lucky. When the original wanted attention or affection, she got money and gifts. When all I want is money and gifts, I get worthless grossness. Where are my riches? My funds? Pile it on!
No, not kisses! Money. I want the money!
Panting and overheating, I squirm to avoid the onslaught that is Mother. But the nerd's arms are a lot more solid than they have any right to be. I'm trapped! Trapped I say! I can't even burrow myself into his waistcoat at this angle. Help!
My constant fight back must have some effect since Mother stops, but I don't like the cruel teasing look on her face.
"Hmmm ooooh, I see."
Like I was a small animal to be sacrificed, slaughtered, Mother plucks me easily out of the hold and places me up to Father's somehow still pristine face. It's been a month or so since I've seen this devil. It's quite bewildering, especially so up close.
Taking a deep breath, I tell myself to think Gable. This horrible man in front of me is nothing! His hair is red, his nose hair is probably red, how laughable, he's absolutely nothing. So he's kinda good looking even grossly up close, so what? Who cares about unholy facial symmetry and picture-perfect golden ratios. Who cares if those mesmerizing eyes cast molten gold under those fiendishly inspecting look. That curiously pleased crook somehow making an imperfect smile all the more charming
Wait, why am I in this position in the first place?
"Go on then." Mother shakes my little body lightly, raising me up to knock against...
AHHHHHHHHH, get me away! Ahhhhhh! No, no, no! Don't you dare! Too out of character, too OOC! This isn't in line with that cold cruel fiend or even the nerd I know. Stop! Don't break Father's character stats even further!
Instead of stopping the madwoman or even trying to be the respectable person I know Father likes pretending to be, he breaks out into a pearly smile at my plight. It's as if the earth has split to reveal a whole new world, perhaps a dark dungeon of horror and riches.
Shaking his head, he leans down, despite my great struggles and fight, and lays a wretched curse upon my forehead. Right onto the center. I can feel the laugh on his terrible lips against my head, the sensation practically cool on my overheated face.
The OOC character limit is far past broken. Please hold. Rosalia operating system on cooldown, rebooting.
When I come to again, it's inside the rocking carriage. The road being absurdly bumpy even in a carriage as obscenely large as this. It's the size of a large room, and it's just the riding compartment, not any of the luggage. The best and most comfortable that money can buy, especially if I'm to survive my motion sickness. Still, it's as bumpy as if we were riding against tiresome cobblestone. A sensation that isn't felt even against rough muddy roads. While the carriage itself is pretty soundproof, if one leaves a window open, the sights and sounds can still make their way through.
Outside bustles colorfully with people, markets, the sound of a lively city. Or whatever can count as a populated city in an olden world like this.
"My my my, did you have a good nap, Rosa? What good timing my little darling, we're almost there." Mother pats over my side, my head of short curls spilled over the folds of her dress on her lap.
"Rosa! Rosa wakey now!" Lilyanne clamors from her other side, sounding excited.
Both mother and daughter are dressed rather lightly, with layers of soft fluff. In the warming summer weather and for any travel, it looks to be convenient and easy to move around in. To my modern senses, I could say it passes off as a slightly tougher chiffon dress, however, it's a never before seen style here. Even more drastically different than the current popular trends of dark richly dyed and stiff heavily embroidered and jeweled fabrics.
The silky dress that wraps around my mother is already an expensive shade of amethyst purple, even if the fabric looks unconventionally flimsy. Her favored ribbons wrapping around her waist in an outdated for this current century's style, but giving her structure and a more womanly, though currently unfashionable shape.
Mother's bountiful chest is usually bound and buried under bands and layers of thick fabric to make it look as piously flat as possible, as is the trend. The ideal woman in these times is at most, the size of unripe apples, but clearly, my mother is the whole prize-winning selection of melons. Not that Father, or any man really, would complain. My mother can pluck her eyebrows thinner or even lighten her skin with masks and makeup to meet this world's beauty standards but she can't do anything about what nature has blessed her with.
Changing fashion is really weird.
Perhaps because we're just traveling, with no outside eyes on us, that Mother can dress so comfortably and not have to worry about being seen.
Though as if to really make sure no one would dare to call this dress cheap, opal and sparkly diamond beading caped at the shoulders, pinching the semi-sheer sleeves together as they draped down the arms.
I'm so busy calculating how much each diamond encrusted opal bead would cost if I stole and pawned them, and the strange dress as a whole, that I hardly pay mind to Lilyanne's flower blue dress in the same material, minus the shape and gems of course.
"Mama it’s not fair, Rosa always nap when Lily awake and wake when Lily naps. Rosa keeps leaving Lily to play wit da big bruders all da time. Big bruder Lukas hits really hard and calls Lily stinky! Lily no stinky. Big bruder Amar lots nicer but still owie." Lilyanne apparently tattles, not just on me.
At least she's not telling about the time Amar somehow got Lukas to bite her back for all the times before. That would be bad.
From across the carriage, I hear something snap. A feather pen perhaps? Do we need some sturdier pens? Designer fountain pens maybe? How do ball tips work? A darkening aura grows behind the desk where Father works even in commute, broken pen all but forgotten.
Wait, we managed to fit a whole desk in here?!
"Is that so?" Father responds dryly.
"Now now my sweet, that's uncle Lukas." Mother tuts at Lilyanne, wrapping her head in a little embroidered bonnet for going outside.
I can't stop my mouth from immediately asking, "Why is that one an uncle?!"
"Why, that's how it works!" Mother cheerfully croons to my confusion. Somewhere Father sighs as if he's heard this before and failed repeatedly to make any sense of it. Which might be exactly what happened.
Lilyanne nods in a slow attempt at understanding, trying to classify a child a mere few years older into that of an 'uncle', allowing Mother to finish tying off two extra fat ribbons on either side of her head. A ridiculous if adorable look that a baby girl as cute as Lilyanne pulls off easily.
"I still don't get it." but who am I to stop nor try to understand the great Mother?
It's already good enough that I've been left in peace long enough to recover from the gross horrors of this morning. In the time I was forcibly knocked out, we must have loaded the carriage and made our way far out to this city.
Mediolanum is a city that sits past our border's northern territory. In fact, it's the largest city in the connecting areas, making it a popular congregation of nobles and businesses. It's not as fashionably renowned or refined as the capital of the midway lands, but that's not exactly a fair comparison. For this peninsula it's known to be one of the oldest, and thus largest.
Many come to big cities like this one to gain better prospects. From making their livelihood long term to trying to make a quick venture, a payoff, trade, and deal. From the auction houses to the fine shops that line the most expensive streets. It's a landlocked location, but the exact spot amidst so many routes makes it an ideal trading hub.
Unfortunately, it also borders Bicchieri territory.
No matter. That's not on the schedule any time soon. For me personally or Father.
We really are behind schedule, though to be fair Father has a rather inhumane set of standards. It would be safe to say that I believe he's thrown all plots to becoming anything of a prime minister or greater politician of the republic.
Seriously his schedule makes no sense if he's going that route, but it's as if he doesn't even care? It has deviated far too much, going into construction, agriculture, and even architectural planning. Sure internal court work and territory management are being maintained, even improved with work being delegated across the board. But it's just so baffling how much the course of history is going awry.
I don't know what to make of it all. Is this all my fault? It seems too extreme if my meddling has rippled into this sort of butterfly effect to change my very capable father's public career path.
At least we're still insanely rich. Yes, keep those investments and businesses going, shady or not.
If I'm going to have to suffer the next few years as Rosalia Ventrella, I better be doing it in the lap of luxury with no financial difficulties. That's the one thing I can admit this parent did right. Awful as he was, he never let his family want for money.
That's something a spoiled little princess like the original goods could never appreciate. She knew her own entirely different set of hardships, one that the majority of people never could see even in their hellish nightmares, but not like that.
She never had to taste what being poor was like. Lucky girl.
Oh, but did she know how to use it against others to do her bidding. Money really does make the world go round, and the scent of hunger and desperation is universal. Can't do anything without money. Not even be left to exist. Nothing is ever free.
"This is a very strange dress, Mother."
I play with the excess material on her sleeves, eyes still glued on the shiny pins and buttons. While their costs are quite high, the dye to make this shade of purple alone is more than a low-class laborer could ever make in their whole life, even if he works till his body gives out.
"Do you like it, Rosa?! Isn't it so light and marvelous? Mama and Papa worked very hard to gather lots and lots of this wonderful spider silk. To think spider beasts made silk?" Mother raves, waving a soft dyed sleeve across my little hands to play with.
"All spiders do my love," Father remarks, replacing his broken pen, "they're simply too thin and small to be of any use. Nor do they collect enough prey to make use of the cocoon wraps."
I remember. The spider silk that would be discovered in that underground dungeon. As lovely as it was surprisingly strong. It cut a dramatic cost against imported silks from the East. Just as long as no one knew where it really came from. Or how many people were eaten alive in the quest for them. Not like anyone knows how regular silk is made either. Made a pretty profit for adventurers or gatherers who knew the secret, if they survived.
Though it was never used in the way that mother is wearing it now?
"Oh, it felt simply divine when your father first draped it over me. My poor dress was just so damaged against the hoard and it's not like I fell in with any of my luggage. Oh, boohoo. It was so difficult to make do without a single needle or pretty ribbon. It felt as if I had returned to those horrid times in the wilds." Mother holds a lace handkerchief to her glistening tears, her not very convincing sobs revealing much more than I ever asked.
I mean there's nothing wrong with her face. It's very much a tragic saddened beauty, crystal tears at her eyes, delicate heavily lotioned hands wiping them away. Though there are definitely more calluses on them than Mother would like. But her words? Every day with this woman breaks my grip on reality even more. It makes me want to somehow dig and find the original Rosalia, then shake her about this horrible game of spot the deadly differences.
To be a little fairer to the original goods, she was a villainess. Maybe villainy children just don't notice these Addams family horror when they grow up in it?
How about no?
"For some odd reason though, your father's clothes and extra supplies survived just fine." Mother giggles, as if remembering something funny.
"Hmmm." Father makes a noncommittal hum as he resumes work, avoiding eye contact.
"It's a good thing a fine lady always knows how to sew, even with nothing. And that papa long practiced me on how to work leather and armor from scratch. I suppose some of those things are useful... Otherwise, I really might have been left with nothing to wear that whole time! Oh, wouldn't that have been shameful? Isn't that right darling? Ohohohoho~"
"A great shame indeed," Father says expressionlessly.
"Ah, it's been so long since I had to practice like that. What a challenge! Darling, do you think my lady-like sewing skills have significantly improved? Speak honestly now~"
"Wonderfully my love. Gone are the days you ran around unblemished like a cave-dwelling siren. Pure and simple but for the leaves. "
"....Oh Frederick, hubby, my oh so wonderful gentleman whose mouth should be put to better use... I'm finally going to shop to my heart's content now that we're here. To make up for it all."
"We're going to need.... oh so much."
"Of course. Anything your delicate heart desires my goddess. "
"I would like more dyes. More colors! All the colors! Oh, it's so fun making pretty things~ I didn't know you could make them pretty! Oh, this is why papa and Rosa like it so much! And I know soooo many girls, such sweet lovely girls, and their babes, who would love to weave, oh if only there were some better mills to make me more cloth! Oh, traveling is so far."
"Right away my dearest wife."
"Could we get more fine lace-makers? Oh, I do so love my lace! Cant' do anything about jewels though? I'm just going to need to shop for more matching accessories. Oh but beads! Beads are so much fun! Anything can be made a shiny bead to string along. Just like you string me along!"
"The world is your jewel box and I happily serve, Maria."
"Do you now hubby?!"
The whole time Father nods along without looking up, though he gets increasingly faster and more effective at paperwork under this strange pressure. The horrible lovey-dovey pink aura is still here, very gross, but there seems to be something dark and sinister barely concealed underneath. Like a monster you know is right outside the covers...
Let's not think about it!
Yes, it's not my fault the original memories failed to mentally prepare me for any of this. I'm bad at horror. Really bad at scares of any kind, even cheap jump scares. Traumatized even, from the modern era. No, nope, not into it at all.
Lilyanne peacefully rolls around the seat over Mother, equally amusing herself with pretties and sparkles. Her little dress was made of layers upon layers of the thin silk, and dyed a tri-color gradient of blue, resembling a natural flower. Like a pure flower, she is blissful in her innocence, making no sense of Mother's and Father's.....flirting.
Well someone has to keep that villain in check. Why not Mother? Suck him dry, Mama!
Increased cloth production would be nice, not just ribbons. Hmmm.
Can you ask for more mills? Looming and weaving mills? Can we somehow hook up spinning wheels to the mills? They all spin? That's Father's specialty no?
"Now now my little rosebud, Papa is busy enough for now. Let's not make him work so hard he runs away again. Mama was very tired getting him back~"
As she coos and smiles at me, Father's writing speed increases even more. He sounds very busy, yes. I guess it's going to be another thing to add to my mental schedule. The weave and fabric that make up Mother's new dress aren't so bad though. Even if it's not anywhere near the current fashion, I can make use of it and create a luxury demand?
Hmmm but how? Yes, it's so light and breezy but noblewomen don't care about that. They like dark expensive colors and heavy things that scream expensive.
"Ah does my Rosa's little head ever stop? It would be nice if my girls could....share a little more evenly." Mother murmurs as she undresses me like a doll, stopping every so often to right a giggling Lilyanne off where she had fallen.
Wait, why am I getting stripped in the first place?
"Be good now Rosa, and don't rip it like the others~ Mama worked hard on this!" she pulls out a tiny matching gradient flower dress, but in cherry blossom pink.
Oh no. Oh no no no. You don't put a redhead, not that I am a redhead damn it, in so much pink?! Nooooooo!
But who am I? A weak little girl, stuck in a bumpy carriage. I'm powerless against Mother's swift hands. They prod and pry until I'm tied up in a horribly pink version of Lilyanne's bonnet and bows. Even down to the frilly expensive socks?
Hey, where do elastics come from? How exactly are they made in this world? How are these socks staying put? Ai, there's just so much work that goes into a product it makes me sigh.
Well, at least I'm very cute if Mother's excessive squealing is anything to go by. Her sense of color is really messed up though. I'm so pink?
"Cute cute cute kyaaa so cute!!! Oh, darling look! Aren't our lovelies just so cuuuuuute?! '' Mother exclaims, hearts and flowers almost visibly radiating out of her.
For once, Father looks up, blankly gazes upon Mother's happy face and my not so happy one then looks right back down to continue work.
How terribly rude.
As the carriage sharply turns and slows, Mother coos and fusses with those last-minute touches. Sticking tiny alpine forget-me-nots in Lilyanne's hair and bonnet while littering mine with something that looks like fat pink cherry blossoms.
She's so happy and busy over our petaled flower girl looks that when the carriage finally stops to unload in front of the palace-like hotel, she almost walks right out uncovered as she is.
Oh, this foolishly bold woman.
"Your cloak, my wife and lady." Father comes to the rescue, suddenly appearing by her side to drape a dark glittering evening cape over Mother's shoulders. All at once covering up her lack of flat layers and sheer see-through sleeves while further highlighting her great beauty.
The crystalline cape in combination with her dress gives her the impression of a cut gem, straight out the sharp sparkling rock. A real amethyst!
"Oh, dear! Silly me, thank you hubby~" Mother chuckles, ribboning it off as Father steps out first, like a mere servant, to escort the lady down.
Of course at that time first, he plops Lilyanne and me out down and about. The carriage is so high that footmen outside have set stairs. While my balance is a little woozy straight out, I appreciate solid ground and the opportunity to stretch my legs.
I can feel more than see all the eyes directed on us. After all, I am very childishly short.
We're not the only guests obviously. But a long clean carpet has been rolled out, leading straight to our lodging's lobby. The hotel's footmen and maids already standing in line to provide any necessary aid and unload the luggage. Bystanders, as well as other wealthy patrons, whisper and gossip, greedily drinking in the sight of my father escorting Mother down the stairs like the enviously beautiful couple that they are.
"Chip. Cheese. Don't wander." Father reminds us before we can even take a step, unaware of how awful his nicknames are. That or he sadistically does not care.
"Ok, papa!" "Yes, Father," we respond at the same time.
"Hold hands, girls. You may walk ahead but stay close, my loves." Mother tuts us along the aisle.
"Ok, Mama!" "Of course, Mother," might as well do the twin thing, god knows Mother dressed us like this for that very reason.
Surprisingly, I'm very unused to these sorts of stares. It's not like we ever traveled out like that as a family in Rosalia's youth. Let alone with Mother and Lilyanne so healthy and in public. There were also all the bodyguards and security to secure the premise, maintaining our safety and privacy.
Like this it feels like a famous celebrity couple and their kids at a premiere, stepping out on the red carpet.
At the end of the carpet stands Alfonso, standing out even in this line pressed and perfect as ever with his straight posture and black jacket. Not so behind him, my travel-worn assistant Georgie looks like he's about to faint, out of breath from something, but he tries. In his arms, he carries a tray with two fine crystal glasses. One shorter and stout, straight brandy for Father. While the other looked more like one of my mock bar cups if not for the delicately handcrafted glass, clearly much higher quality, hosting a lighter aperitif for Mother.
Oh, how wonderful to have everything ready and prepared. This is the luxury I would like to be served with, but I am three and no one is handing me a cocktail any time soon.
In public, this isn't the place to act or demand like how I usually do. With Lilyanne's hand clasped in mine, we toddle up slow and sweet. Me controlling her speed and keeping her from trouble while playing cute myself.
As horrible as all this pink is, if I have Lilyanne's face, then I'm cute enough to somehow pull it off. Two is better than one. Super cute twins unit!
"I pray your journey was comfortable, my Lord and Lady." Alfonso bows to my parents.
"Acceptable. No time to dally, Alfonso, we have a meeting to get to. I trust all arrangements for my girls are set. Maria my love, rest well and I shall return by moonlight."
"Have a good time at work husband. Thank you as always Alfonso, make sure Frederick takes his meals and remind him when the clock ticks down."
Alfonso, the all in one butler, secretary, steward, father babysitter, possibly shadily more, bows and promises before my mother. She then lifts up both Lilyanne and me to present like puppy dogs, once again up high under Father's nose.
"Say bye-bye to Papa now. Remember to be very mad at him if he doesn't come back again on time." Mother giggles.
Oh, the public embarrassment.
Having already fainted once before today, I blank-facedly accept Father's forehead kisses on each of our heads. When Lilyanne smacks a wet one on his cheek in return, followed by a "bye-bye papa Lily love you!" I give her a dead look. When Father stares at me purposefully for 30 seconds too long despite his rushed schedule, I give him an even deader look.
Have you no shame?
He pulls out not one but three silver coins. Then evilly gives it all to Lillyanne to grasp and play with. I grimace, rightfully condemning this vileness.
No matter what I may say or do for the sake of money, I sincerely hate him.
"Papa noooo~ Papa don't go, stay with Rosa and Mama! Papa! Papa, don't you luv us anymore? Papa has to love Rosa lots!"
Translation, I better be paid premium putting up with your grossness and this farce.
Turn on the Lilyanne face to about 39%, adjust it a few degrees to what I'm personally more used to on my old face to make it more natural. Throw in just about 10% crystal kiddy tears to really sell it. Pout and whimper cutely while making useless reaching hand motions to cling on.
Take that Lily, that's how you put on an act.
Unfortunately, the very rude man that is this body's father pinches my cheeks and curses me again with kisses on the top of my head. Ack, what is wrong with the OOC limits lately?! Also, my cheeks hurt!
"Remember Rosalia. Never do that in front of anyone else, ever," he whispers in my ear, dangerously close to laughing with that devilish smile of his.
I see it's another shameful failure. It's really discouraging to be shot down every time when I put in so much thought and effort. I'm so naturally cute too? Cut me some damn slack, will you? I'm still biologically your kid!
"Awwwww." Mother coos, putting us down to wave off Father as he walks away.
That cheapskate didn't pay me!? I did all that, in public, for nothing?!
Despite standing in a subservient line, I can see how Georgie fails to maintain professionalism, failing to hold in his own wide-eyed laughter over my failed performance. He'll have to pay for witnessing that. He needs a new face mask to really pull tight that tired oily skin of his. I'll make him pay.
"No fair." Lilyanne pouts, saying out loud exactly what I was thinking. For some odd reason, she drops the coins, the tragically beautiful clatter ringing on the floor.
"Hey, you don't want that right? Right?! Great mine now~" I quickly act.
Even though it's a pitiful compensation, money is money, and placing it in my hidden purse immediately helps pick up my mood.
There's something wrong with my senses though. I can hear snickering and whispers from beyond our immediate area. Feel as if it's a second instinct when eyes are on me or my little sister. Something Rosalia was definitely very well versed in.
This time though, it feels very different.
"Did you see that? The youngest and wealthiest Bichierri? I was a prospect of his when we were but children. So promising then. What a waste."
"Ventrella now. You'd think she'd be fairer and prettier with all that money. But that's the vulgar nouveau riche for you. What awful fake hair, either go blonde or don't, it's hideous."
"What is she wearing under there? Rags? Just look how it drags."
"She uses the children to keep him. How malicious. The innocent things, oh but who does she buy those little matching dresses from? They flutter like blooming fairies!"
"When will she move out of the way and stop being a spectacle? My noble husband is arriving soon to take me to the opera. I'd hate for him to try and make polite talk just because he served under her honorable father in his youth. "
"Oh forsaken spirits, what is she doing? Why is she coming this way?"
Something that always scared Rosalia about her mother was the scarily accurate hearing that I suspect all mothers possess. Any murmur, any under the breath curses and then some, would be caught by her. Even if she didn't take immediate action under the wave of her fan.
She doesn't need to. Mother is a Ventrella. One convincing word from her and your family’s face and business may never be seen again.
Mother downs the offered glass on Georgie's tray as she walks, and thanks him kindly, smile far too bright and cheerful to be proper.
"Allow me to lead you to the suites my Lady," my young assistant bows and hurries to keep up, handing over the tray to another pageboy.
"Oh no need Georgie, it's been a tiresome journey and I'm suddenly feeling peckish."
"Er, um we'll have a meal shortly prepared up in a private terrace-"
"Oh, no need, why there's a perfectly good parlor right over here. I'm sure my girls are quite thirsty as well, right my loves? You don't want to wait?"
"Yay! Juice juice juice! Mama, Lily wants juicey."
"Alright, calm down now. You must behave like a lady, just like Mama. Georgie dear, call ahead for a sweet juice for my Lily and something sour for Rosa, she always needs it after riding the carriage. We'll have tea and refreshments right down here. Why it's so lively!"
Without my father to stop her, Mother risks social suicide. With a clap, she has two of her personal maids on standby come forth to....take off her cloak.
Can both of my parents stop overloading me with shame? I'd prefer not to faint again. It's quite bad for a young child's developing brain?
Oh, I can't watch it.
The tea parlor and half the very large hall go gapingly silent.
"I'd like a table by the garden, prepare it with a view. Such lovely warm weather we're having today. With such breathtaking flowers in bloom. Right girls?" Mother dotingly asks, blind to her surroundings.
Of course, the poor male servants don't dare look for long, rather they rush off with her order at once. The young waiters handling the floor keeping their eyes and burning red faces down.
The patrons and noblemen seem to have no qualms rudely staring though and my hands itch to go poke some eyes out.
"My! Little slugger Maria, is that you? Why I should rephrase that, you have little ones of yourself now! Beautiful! Such little bellas! Of course, with a mother like yourself!" an older white gentleman with a potbelly comes walking up from the entrance. Someone who most likely had muscles a few years back, now gone all jiggly.
"Oh, uncle Franco! What a surprise!" Mother plays so dumb I don't know what's real or not anymore. She goes up to him for a warm familiar greeting, mock cheek kisses on both sides.
"Why hasn't the honored lady been seated yet!? It's not just!"
"Oh, don't make a scene you silly," hypocrite "We've just arrived, fresh and weary from the carriage."
"Oh, you don't look like it! To think you're already a signora! My, I haven't seen a lovely and energetic woman as yourself since I was a youngin worshiping at those foreign temples on the festival days. We always did joke that your father and poncy Ga-ahem, prayed for a flower sprite to bless them with you."
"Shhhh. You won't believe it uncle Franco but I think it actually worked this time. After all these years, and it's a boy."
"You're joking! You're not joking?! When?!!"
"Well I only figured it out recently myself but he's already six years-"
Tugging on Mother's skirt because I can no longer bear the loose train of this conversation, I interrupt with a "Mama, I'm tired."
"Oh, how could I be so terribly rude. Sit sit sit, I see my wife over there. Please sit while you wait. My apologies to the cherry pink bambina. Oh this one, oh hee hee, no one can say you're not your father's child. Oh just look at her! You sneaky thing Maria, trying to hide such vibrant hair underneath there. Aye if that old madame could see Frederick's baby now. Does she have his problem mouth too?"
Excuse me as I curl up and cry underneath my mother's skirts now.
It's time to curse out Father for these messed up genetics. I swear Rosalia wasn't originally like this. But then again she always stayed shaded and wore her riding helms diligently. Boohoo, I blame Grampa and Father for everything.
"Unfortunately yes, but Papa does not help. Oh, you know how he is. Now let's not be rude any further, please introduce me to your current wife!"
At a table ideal for people watching across the lobby, some stiffly dressed woman with stiffer smiles bow and play nice. Some are horrified as if their worst nightmares have come true, while others try not to gape at anywhere from the jewels on Mother's person to down her not so modest bust. The clasping opal and diamond buttons have one chalk faced woman checking the rings on her fingers to see if they even compare.
"Uncle Franco you dog, such a young wife! How do your grown children feel about her? There should be no problem with her right? Oh, no need to be shy! May you be blessed with many fat healthy babies, oh ho ho ho!"
A woman in too red lipstick instantly pales further behind her makeup, looking ill at the mention of her stepchildren and more. The others unsure how to comfort her, or if they even should.
"Oh my, oh pardon-" Mother quickly takes out a handkerchief, holding it to her nose. Her beautiful face scrunched up as if she had fearfully sensed something unpleasant.
"What is it little Maria?"
"It's just the awful smell. We're sitting in a fine establishment and yet it smells as wretched as our untreated stable house, oh you remember how bad some of them got at the troops back then don't you uncle Franco dear?"
"Some people are so insensitive. Do you know how so many women like to dye their hair blonde these days? Well, merchants place so many things in there, you never know but, pardon my language, the wastes of many creatures are quite a common ingredient. My husband told me. Some poor ladies don't realize but most simply don't care. "
"Ah, women these days! Rubbing horse and cow shit into their hair trying to get it to lighten?! Back then we had no choice but to hide our scents in mud and shit and here they pay to do it! Ahahaha I will just never understand it, no matter how old I get!
A woman at the next table faints. From another table not too far away I hear the sound of someone spitting up, perhaps vomiting. The remaining ladies at this table sit still as corpses, makeup already cracking.
"How funny. What are all those little broken vase lines on your faces? Are they a new fashion trend? Oh do excuse me, it's just soooooo hard to keep up?" Mother asks bluntly, honestly being no better than Father.
Oh dear god, they're perfect for each other.
Oh god, Lilyanne is listening to everything!!?! Lily no! You're too young and impressionable!
"Lily, let's play a game called cover your ears? Let's play with big sister now. Ready set go." I feel like fainting along with that other woman. Mother's silly voice still very much reaching my own poor ears.
"I wish my darling husband would allow me to try on such...lovely cosmetics. You're all so beautifully pale painted like that, I'm sure your husbands give you all plenty of rest. Oh boo hoo, that handsome tyrant of mine is just sooooo tiring when he loves me this much. Oh, is our table finally ready? Well, it was wonderful seeing you again uncle Franco, mua mua! Ladies!"
"Please, your terrifying father would never forgive me if I didn't at least escort you and your lovely family here."
"Oh ho ho you silly old goose, you were never afraid of Papa. You always teased him too much!"
"A goose...yes indeed... I never said it was Ronald I'm scared of. Come now, this service has been slow enough for a lady! Up up, let me see you to your table and cover your tab. Say no more, it's my honor to do so. Remember to put in a good word for me if anyone tries turning me into poultry again. " the jolly old man offers his arm to Mother. Her snapping for us to follow along like good little ducklings.
While I try to keep very close to the safety of my mother's skirt, I catch more than one lady slapping her male companion across the face in indignation when their eyes stray, following after my mother's figure.
Well, at least I didn't faint.
So can we eat yet? I want lemonade!
...Bonus that you really don't need to read. Do not proceed in case of J.J. and grossness allergies.
A Shameful modern memory/dream Rosa refuses to remember (but absolutely does) even as she faints into dreamland earlier. Ft. Rosa before UT (aka Meng)
"J.J., I'm begging you. Please. Please go wash that off." Meng was crying, she was so close to crying, again. Face shamefully hot behind her hands as she hid on the cafe table's wooden surface.
It's been a long last two hours.
"I don't know, I'm sort of feeling this look." her companion admired himself on the camera on his smartphone. He looked back and forth at different sides of his profile, happy at any view he saw.
Not his usual color but he thought he looked quite good in it. More importantly, it made him feel ridiculously good. The fevered memory still tingling fireworks on his skin.
"I'm so so sorry. Please. Please just wipe that off." Meng's muffled voice whimpered, still not daring to even look up.
Not even when a passing waiter came by with their orders. The smell of coffee and sweets clinking down as the plates were set.
Said waiter was presumably male, a pervert. Because not only did he obscenely whistle, he even gave a loud high five to Jung-Joon at the table.
Meng was just going to die on this table ok?
The extra bad, highly rated horror movie killed her and now this was really just obliterating her off the face of this good earth. She always suspected that Jung-Joon Park was going to kill her one day. Today was just it. Goodbye.
"So, do you want brick toast before or after you die? Because the ice cream is going to melt and you're going to get mad later if I eat it all." he already started without her.
She darted her hand out, catching his outstretched wrist in a stubborn grip.
"...So you want to hold hands?" he adjusted that hold.
"Fuck your shit Jung-Joon." the young woman seethed, glaring at that hand. It was a good thing she didn't have laser vision or any such powers otherwise there would a hole from how hard she was staring, absolutely fuming.
But she still didn't dare look up, let alone make any eye contact.
"Are you imitating a ghost?" he teased, watching as her dark hair and angry eyes create a similar sort of appearance.
No matter, his girl was still loveably cute and adorable in his eyes. Even if she's a little scary sometimes, or a lot of the times. It was especially when she was so embarrassed her ears burned red hot, a good sign. Maybe she'll finally be conscious of her feelings towards him. Maybe she'll finally wake up to his flirting attempts number....ah fuck it.
Switching spoons to his other hand J.J. continued eating. Even if it failed he had a more than a nice date and payout today. Saw a movie, ate ice cream brick toast while holding Meng's hand, this really wasn't so bad.
"Wash. It. Off!" she twisted at his finger, bending it downwards.
"Ack, Meng, but you won't even look at me."
"How the hell am I supposed to look when your face is covered in that shit!?"
If she just concentrated on maybe breaking his fingers, this might just work. Make him suffer, force him to give up, kick him to the boy's bathroom, and then eat up the rest of the dessert while he's gone. Great. Problems solved.
"Hey Meng, check my story, I just tagged you."
"Huh? You did what?"
Letting go she quickly rummaged for her phone and purse, only to remember J.J. was still holding on to it for safety while she was busy dying in shame. Still dying really.
"Hand over my phone you dork." she held out her hand open-palmed.
"Open your mouth first, I made a loaded spoon for you and it's going to fall. "
Grimacing, Meng closed her eyes to avoid seeing anything and accepted the loaded bite. Chocolate syrup, strawberry slice, buttery sweet toast, whipped cream, crispies, and rich matcha ice cream all in one bite. It chilled the roof of her mouth and made her squeal a bit in sweetness.
From behind the cafe counter, that same waiter wolf-whistled again and Meng made a mental note to leave a scathing review later.
As she chewed, J.J. finally slid her phone over. Silently sipping his steaming coffee as he watched the entertaining show that was her facial expression. From happily pleased, to mildly displeased, grumpy but with food in her mouth, to finally blushed red as fuck.
It never got old.
That was exactly what happened when Meng opened up her social media, tapping into a familiar boy's profile, and watching in horror as his story popped up.
She practically threw her phone.
It was just a photo, a selfie really.
Jung-Joon being ridiculously self-absorbed as he snapped his face at a gross but still flattering angle. Eyes dark and grin bright but hatefully cocky. A single thumb rubbing at his unnaturally smeared pinkish-coral lips. It was so posed it wasn't funny or sexy in any capacity Meng sneered.
The caption simply read "Scary movie night w/ wifey. Guess how that ended?"
So why the fuck was his face covered in lipstick kiss marks?!?!!
She made the mistake of looking up to attack though. The same embarrassingly unfiltered face was looking right back at her in real life, enjoying what he, and literally anyone else, would call a date night. Absolutely covered in her lipstick, the marks impossible for him to make on his own.
He looked absolutely ravished and went around showing it off.
Meng went back to hiding, choosing to scream only in her head, possibly muffled into her arms.
"Delete your whole fucking existence! Go wash that off already!"
"Mengmeng. The ice cream really is melting."
"Your face is melting!"
"Honestly? Yeah, it really was. You really went wild on me back there."
She screams while he laughs, it was a very unfair exchange. This whole night was unfair and it started with that stupid movie.
Meng should have never agreed when Jung-Joon Park of all people, pulled out two already paid for tickets to that new 4D theatre. She should have been suspicious when he said it was just them with no other witnesses. She looked up the movie beforehand and read every spoiler on the net.
But she didn't, and it turned out to be the mistake of her night. Maybe the rest of the month. She was going to be seeing a lot of hyper-realistic horror movie corpses in her nightmares for a while.
If it was any plain scary movie, she was honestly fine having a decent tolerance for horror and even more experience in the time she's known this boy and his family. But this?
This wasn't some summer thrill blockbuster. This was legitimate horror from across international waters. People probably gave up their souls and their unborn children's souls to make this shit. They probably raided graves and morgues and raised even more unholy forces to act in front of the haunted camera to spread its evil reach to poor innocent moviegoers.
"It wasn't so bad?"
"Speak for yourself! No wait don't! You're fucked up!"
Normally as much as she cried and complained, she could sit through an hour or two of a movie. This, however, was all too much. The seats did not help. They rocked and moved the air, mist, and other special effects all helped to make the theatre as chillingly thematic as possible.
Nothing helped. Not snacks. Not laughing it off. Not even crawling into Jung-Joon's lap and hiding half her body under his clothes. This movie was just too long and scary!!!
She was so goddamn terrified, getting jumped scared and soul shattered, screaming bloody hell over and over again. If she saw anymore she wasn't sleeping for the rest of the year. Send her to the psych ward or something.
But the problem was that she was so scared that her legs didn't work right. If she wasn't being hidden safely in Jung-Joon's hold, she might have already passed out foaming at the mouth. The fucking ghosts would have free reign over her unconscious body.
By 3/4th of the extra-long film, Meng was reduced to a begging crying mess.
"Please please please let's go, please please please?!" she shivered in his arms, giving up her seat entirely to seek protection. She was weakly mewing and whimpering, her heart already hurting from beating so much and just so desperate.
Unknown to Meng, especially in her fear, Jung-Joon was having a much better time than expected. Money well spent. 10/10. Would do it again.
"I don't know, it's almost over. I really want to see how it ends."
"Pleeease Jung-Joon?! Please. I'd say I'd pay you back triple, what else do you want?! Please! anything. Just get me out of here!" she cried silently in the theatre, face gleaming wet with tears.
"Anything? I don't know Mengy. You’re usually cheap out right after~"
"I won't! Anything, just get me out of here please, please. I can't. I'm gonna have an induced heart attack and die. Then get possessed and monsters will torture me every day in their haunted funhouse and-" she sniffed, choking on her own scared sobs.
He taps at his cheek.
"Prove it. Prove to me you're serious."
"....you want me to hit you? Because I can do that!"
"I'll throw you off if you do."
"Noooo, don't! I'll be good!"
He tapped again, leaning down to where she hid her face. Somehow an insane part of her knew exactly what he was asking for in the dark, without a single word. It was only due to the dire circumstances, her life at stake, that she listened to it.
She kissed him on the cheek.
Electricity and warmth burned through from that small point of contact, humming pleasantly in his brain and under his skin. It was rare though not impossible to get Meng to initiate any of such affection first. The shock of it feeling fresh and new every time with his insanely stubborn girlfriend. If he were any less of a persistent guy, he'd get fucking nothing.
But damn was it worth it.
He tapped the other side of his face, and Meng near clawed his eyes out at the next jump scare on screen.
"My face will be uneven if you only do one side," he said, perfectly serious.
"God damn it!" a mile a minute wasn't anywhere close to the terror that Meng was feeling. She was hypersensitive, fight, or flight. That was definitely what was making her heartbeat so dangerously fast, prompting her to act crazily.
This time she pulled him down, pressing hard against the other side of his face. Fire and chaos burned through Jung-Joon and he completely forgot the last hour of this movie, that was fine. More than fine.
"Can we go now? Please?!" she whispered against his skin.
He was going to agree, knowing it was never wise to push too far with this hot-tempered girl. His brain just needed a moment. Not one but two kisses, self-initiated kisses from Meng, this last one lingeringly long.
Money very well spent. He'll look up other horror attractions later. Right now he was enjoying this too much to think.
The blank moment though was apparently too long for Meng's anxiety and fear. The surround sound still playing outside, shadows and spirits on-screen giving too much tension before the next chase, the next victim.
She kissed his cheek again, then again and again continuously after that. Short sweet full pecks, butterfly kisses almost if they weren't so urgent and messy. She changed over to the other side again just in case he would complain about some bullshit like it being uneven. Each fearful press caused a hammering against her chest, and she prayed he would hurry up and just accept it so they could go?!
How was she supposed to know that J.J.exe completely crashed and stopped operating?
Jung-Joon felt it was his duty to stay and see this through. As if he wasn't melting in his seat, face on molten fire. Just gratefully accept all that Meng was suddenly willing to give. Completely sober too? Besides just look where staying still got him?!
It was dark she would later argue. She was scared and desperate to get out of there, what is aiming? Somehow lipstick unevenly got all over his face, even across smirking lips that maybe pressed back in his shock.
Maybe she missed a bit, whoopee doo. Maybe it got smeared?
Either way, Meng was very sorry.
Even when a rude moviegoer in one of the back rows yelled at them to get a room, she didn't know it was that bad. Even when J.J. had laughingly carried her out of the still playing theatre, high off adrenaline, endorphins, and whatever else shitty movies caused, she still didn't know or care.
But once she calmed down and the artificial lights showed what the fuck she had just done, did Meng near faint in shame. Maybe she did because she wasn't sure how they got from the movies to a cafe?
Now here she was crying into the table, occasionally opening up for bites of brick toast. But that's it!
She hasn't forgiven anyone at all. Not Jung-Joon, not the whistling waiter, not the movie directors, not even herself.
Also, Jung-Joon still had lipstick, all the lipstick, on his damn face.
Meng was throwing it away after tonight. She was converting to matte and lip tint only. Who cares if it was her color or an expensive brand, it wasn't worth the shame J.J. seemed intent on milking.
"Please wash it off before you go home tonight. I'll die if anyone in your house gets the wrong impression."
"They didn't. We made out. It was sweet."
She threw a spoon at him. The napkin holder was screwed down so that was out but the plate was an option.
"Please don't throw the plates. I don't think the staff is that cool with me to get away with it. "
"Clean your face before I force you through a carwash!"
"So Jung-Soo being mean and wants to know how drunk you were, which you weren't so fuck him. Sunny is asking for a wedding date so she can win the betting pool. My mom says hi,... and that you're coming over at 6 tomorrow to help make kimchi."
"Ah man, it's kimchi day again? Fine but I want cucumber banchan and, hey wait- "
They say after enough time and exposure, you simply get used to something. Thus Meng felt she was strong enough to handle the few seconds it took to aim and splash water into Jung-Joon's face.
Or at least try to.
"Get back here, I have to wipe that off!" she lunged at him with a handful of napkins. It was just ordinary creme lipstick, she'll get it off in no time if he would just sit still.
Instead of dodging this time, the taller youth caught her in his arms.
"I have some ideas. Ones that do not involve running around, breaking things, and getting kicked out. Sorry, we should only do that at hyung's place."
To that, Meng agreed, though still trying to wipe off any evidence of her moment of insanity. Gross violence and property destruction were for the old bar, where the only one who really suffered was the bossman.
"One, I won't go home tonight so you won't be embarrassed about anyone seeing me."
"Bad plan. What the hell are you going to do if not getting the fuck home to sleep?"
"Staying over with you. Because you're going to be too scared to sleep alone tonight."
She smacked him lightly in rejection, strike one.
"Two. My favorite plan." he pitches again, readjusting the girl in his lap.
"I hate it already. Get it over with."
"I wipe it all off, clear up my post, and explain everything to everyone who asks anything ever."
"Oh my fucking god, I actually like it but that's what you're supposed to do in the first place!"
"IF. You didn't let me finish. If, you manage to kiss all the spots you left before. Every spot, I'll wipe off that mark. So?" he leaned in as if expecting praise, or maybe for the plan to start right at that very moment.
She hit him repeatedly for that. Every mark right? Fine, Meng decided. She'll slap every corner of his face silly.
"Okay. Okay, I'll take that as a no, for now." he blocked, trying to calm her down with a sip of her drink. Holding the chilled cup and straw up in mercy plea.
"What did you order me? I wasn't even like, awake for that part."
"Lemon yakult tea? You get nauseous after these things so something sweet and sour?"
For an older girl, even one that constantly rubbed it in, she sure did look childish sipping boba tea on his lap.
Well, that was another cute part of her, so J.J. doesn't mind. It's also his own damn fault for liking her in the first place.
"Any other plans before I bash your face in through the nearest car wash?" she looked up at him cutely, wide brown eyes sparkling with flecks of gold, a galaxy he couldn't look away from. She sounded very serious about her statement though.
She'd do it. He knew it, as did anyone who knew them. It was better to live another day than to really make Meng mad.
"...I take you downtown to the makeup shop and buy you another lip thing? You can use me as a swatch again?" he sweated, just a bit.
"Very acceptable, you're learning! There's makeup remover there. Let's go!" she happily patted at his cheek, feeling just a bit bad for earlier.
They had different levels and tolerance for a lot of things. Horror movies for one. But Jung-Joon came from a big family, even if it was an Asian one like her's. Displays and shows of affection were just different for him, Meng reasoned out after calming down.
So she allowed herself to give out a familiar, and very platonic, two soft pecks in thanks, one on each side of his face.
J.J. still melted. Ready to carry this girl on foot, all the way downtown, if that's what she wanted. Get her whatever shade of pinks or plums that she likes to smear on her lovely pretty lips. He's so gone.
"I also want another lemon tea. Screaming is thirsty work."