Thursday, 25 August 2011

Beauty and the Tainted: Chapter 3

Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, and the things you never want to lose. Well, I wanted as ever to hold onto the memories of my family. Their warm embraces, their loving faces. I will always remember them. I will not let my memory be tainted by the warp instinct of the Heartless, no matter to what extent they haunted my dreams...
I mould over my thoughts as I enter the kitchen. The edible aroma knocks me into a stupor. Herbs and salts mask the air, filling my senses, stirring my empty stomach. I blush as my stomach makes its presence known with an audible growl.
"Oh, dear, you must be starved."

I yelp, heart racing, as I search franticly for the source of the warm caring voice. I didn't even realize that there was anyone in here along with me. My searching led my eyes to a young brunette woman. Standing over the stove, she stirs the unknown contents of a boiling pot with a wooden spoon. Her hair is tied back in a long platted ponytail with a soft pink ribbon; it hangs like rope past the curve of her waist, curls framing her lifted cheekbones and green eyes. Her smile lifts the tense stance that had instinctively settled into my muscles.

"U-uh, yes, ma'am."
She giggles light-heartedly. "You don't have to call me 'ma'am'. My name is Aeris." she halts in her stirring to walk over to me. I offer her a smile, glad to have someone for whom I could address normally.
"My name is Danella. Um, Aeris," my curiosity gets the better of my good manners as I look into her evergreen eyes, "do you"-it felt rude to say 'serve'-"work here too?"
Her smile falters slightly, looking on me with sadness before she regains composure.
"Yes, but I do so voluntarily. I've known the little master for a long time."
I am taken aback as she referred to...Sora as 'the little master'. It is hard to imagine Sora ever being little to anyone; he brings upon his person, such a threatening feeling. Almost as if he looks down on everyone, daring them to speak up.

"I must say you look charming in that dress." Aeris quickly changes the course of our discussion as she claps her hands together softly, beaming. I blush, fiddling around with the hem of the sundress, self-consciously.
"Are all those dresses for me?"
"Of course. The little master made sure to send someone off to the town to get appropriate attire for you. Your clothes were soiled from the night."
"Oh, that was...kind of him." I cannot stop the frown that slips across my face. It was a kind gesture. Knowing all those dresses – the ones for which I can never hope to deem myself worthy of – have been bought for me, alone. They are lovely garments. However, a servant should not be expected to wear such things. In all honesty, I am braced for rags.

"The little master may be cold, but it is not..." she drifts off as a musical ringing fills the air, singing over Aeris' voice. A silver bell, hanging over the kitchen door. Aeris is back over to her boiling pot in the blink of an eye.
"That would be the little master, he's on his way to the dining room," she dashes from station to station, brown hiking boots scuffing across the tile floor as she goes, "you might want to seat yourself before he does I'm afraid, Danella."
"Right," I said, quickly rushing through to the dining room, "thanks, again."
"Think nothing of it, dear."
And with that, I am out the door and seating myself on the freshly set dining room table.

My heart is hammering against my chest as Sora enters the room, hushed footsteps tracing across the mahogany floor. He does not acknowledge my presence in any way – not that I expected him to, of course. I do not know why he wants me to sit with him; it is beyond senseless - he is not making any other effort to make me feel welcome. I bite back a greeting, not wishing to be ignored by any other means.

Maybe he is giving me a taste of what it is like to be...equal. To meet and dine with him, dressed in fine clothes and served food that could make me drool for more. And once he is finished hanging the half eaten roast in front of my eyes, he will snatch it all back, never to be seen again. The dresses, the food, and the company. All of it.

I am a servant after all.

I try to remember my table etiquette from my past formal dinners. I have not attended many. Why did they have to give us, poor souls, so many forks and knives? I can just as easily use one set for two or so courses. Oh, but no, that would never do. They had to have four forks, two knives, and two spoons. With them placed down all at once, from the very beginning, how am I supposed to tell 'steak' from 'butter'? The soup spoon, the pudding spoon, the steak knife, and the butter knife. It is confusing enough. Sora knows that I have no idea of how things are set. He would be counting on it.
He is not going to beat me that easily.

Hiding under my lashes, I glance up at the beginning of each course, keeping track of which utensil he chooses. I pray I am being sneaky about it...
"I presume," I jump as Sora's voice splinters the ice curtain dangling between us, "that your room is cleaned thoroughly."
"U-uh, yes Sor-sir." No - I am not allowed to address him by name. 'Sir'. Always 'sir'.

Oh, for pities sake! I sounded like a total blubbering idiot!

He does not look up to acknowledge my little blunder once again. He hides his cerulean eyes quite well. "Good. I would hate to think you were abusing my hospitality by defying my simple instructions."
I suck in a quivering breath before speaking, "Of course not, sir. I must pay homage to you, sir - for you were gracious enough to grant me the use of your spare room and clothes."
I almost stumble over myself as he looks up, blue depths smouldering with some unknown emotion. " truly thankful. You saved my life; I could never cross you..."
My gaze finally breaks, I can no longer look into those eyes. They burned, deep within me.

"Yes...well," he pauses, as if uncertain how to continue, "I see you have gone through the garments I have supplied you."
Does my change in attire really stand out so well? Aeris and now Sora had both commented on it. His tentative eyes lingered on me longer than was necessary. Or was it just my wishful thinking?
"It suits you," he said as if it is such a simple thing to say, "I do not want you dressing in your own clothes as long as you are under my services, do you understand?" I am still flushed from his complement, but I nod with a whimpering 'yes, sir' as I nervously pick at my own finger nails.

One more course to go, and then I will be free to go off to my room – right after I thank Aeris for the lovely meal, of course. A bowl of crystallized gold cream, glistening like spring snow, is placed before me. A single mint leaf decorates the rim of the bowl. The aroma is so enticing; I cannot wait to dive into it.
"Aah," I barely hear Sora's sigh of pleasure through my mind's musings, "Aeris' favourite dish. She has chosen to treat us tonight."
He said her name with such ease, so normal and light.
"...May I ask what this dessert is?"
"Paopu fruit ice-cream."
Ice-cream? 'Paopu fruit' ice-cream? Never heard of that before.
"It is one of Aeris' specialties. It has been so long since she has last made this dish for me..." for each word that passes through his lips, his brow is pulled further and further together, troubled, as his eyes grow more and more distant. Memories are powerful things; they can take a hold of you so suddenly and strongly. With Sora, right at this moment, there is no exception.

"Soraaa!" the door bashes the wall in as a lean young man slips into the room. A dark purple-black silk wrapped top hat adorns his head of messy crimson tresses. Never have I seen such a hedgehog looking head of hair before. A cluster of spikes fan out behind his head and down his neck. Lime green eyes glow under his maroon brows that are raised up high into his hair line. Purple tear-drop tattoos mark his cheekbones, right under each eye. So properly dressed and polished, there is no way he is a servant.

"Sora, Sora, Sora," he mocks disappointment as he closes his eyes, slipping his hat from his head, and placing a gloved hand over his 'wounded' heart, "I'm hurt."
I hear Sora's scoff turn into a groan as the crimson-haired man trudges his way over to his seat, wrapping a casual arm round the brunette's shoulders.
"How dare you keep this young lady all to yourself! Introductions must be made. It's good manners y'know."

I stare, wide-eyed, as he makes his way over to me. Grinning like a Cheshire cat as he ghosts his fingers along my arm before drawing my hand up, never taking his eyes off of mine, as he brushes his lips against the skin of my knuckles.
I'm surprised all the feeling remains in my limbs as I feel my cheeks flame with blood. Certainly all of it is filling up my face at this very moment.

"My name is Axel. And what a lovely flower you are, my dear. Surely your name is just as pure."
Gawking like a fish, I try to blink away the flaming urge to scream in embarrassment. His flirting is so obvious, and so overdone. I did not deserve his attention.
"Back off, Axel!" Sora said curtly through gritted teeth, eyes steely as he glares daggers into the back of the lean man's head.
"My, my," Axel raises a teasing brow at Sora as he pulls his lips away from my fingers, and yet refuses to let go, "aren't we possessive?"
"I am nothing of the sort!" he said sharply, looking away, red filling his right cheek angrily.
Axel chuckles, and fails miserably in covering it up with a cough.
"Whatever you say," he turns back to me, dazzling his lime green eyes at me as he releases my hand, "I'm sorry but I must leave you to your captor, my little rose petal."

Your rose petal? He couldn't honestly be that interested...right?

I must look like a doe caught in the headlight as I watch Axel exit the dining room, adorning his head with his top hat once again.

" the way..."
I turn back to Sora, catching only a second of what he has been muttering under his breath. "I'm sorry, pardon?"
I bite my lip. If he had not been in a mood before; he was defiantly in one now. Eyes sour and cold, my throat dries up at the mere sight of them. Why is he so mad? It is not like I did anything to lead Axel on. No doubt he is an honoured guest of this mansion of Sora's. Maybe I have embarrassed Sora with my blank surprise and presence. I suppose he wants me to go unnoticed by the others that live amongst the mansion. I am of no importance; he wants to keep it that way.

"I'm sorry..."
Without a word, Sora is out of his seat, ice-cream long forgotten and melted, and storms out of the room. I am left to my shame. He is defiantly mad with me. Why did Axel have to come along? He ruined what little progress I had made with the master.

Sighing, I gather the uneaten ice-cream bowls and glimmering silver cutlery, hair hiding me away as I walk back to the kitchen.
"Lemme take those off your hands, dear." Before I can protest, the bowls are slipped out of my grasp and placed into the bubbled sink. I feel the responsibility fall upon my shoulders to pass my regrets onto Aeris.
"I'm sorry that we were unable to sample your Paopu fruit ice-cream – we were a little distracted."
"That's alright, dear. I'll be sure to save the rest of it for tomorrow night," she leans forward, cupping a hand on the side of her mouth as if she is telling me a secret, "just for you and me - Sora can sulk off to bed without dessert."
I giggle; Aeris really is a good soul.

"Looking forward to it. Would you like any help with the dishes?"
"Oh, no, no, no," she smiles sweetly, turning me round and urging me out the door, "you just leave the kitchen to me. Now off to bed with you, you've got a big day ahead of you."
"I-I-I do?"
"Yes, of course. We can't have you falling asleep on us."
I do not know what to say. What could possibly be so draining that I have to go to bed and rest up for at...I looked up at the ticking cuckoo clock propped over the stove...nine o'clock? Must be pretty something.

"'Kay. I'll see you in the morning than, Aeris." I cannot help but mirror her smile.
"And I'll have breakfast all ready for you, don't mind me calling you 'Danny' right?"
"Of course not." It makes me feel so much more welcome. Like I am home, back in my town.
"I hope you like vanilla pancakes and syrup."
"I love vanilla pancakes and syrup. Especially with whipped cream." I said before I leave Aeris, remembering the last time I had vanilla pancakes. Mother, Father, and Roxas... Memories are powerful things, especially when it comes to remembering the ones you love...and loved.