Chapter 10 – Expectance (1)

Expectance – Part 1

     After fully recovering myself, I exit the bath and head back to my shelf. I notice whatever clothes I had aren’t where I left them. Instead, they’re hanging up on some kind of rudimentary hangars. Someone must have come in and organized my things. Oh god. I hope they didn’t hear me bawling like a child. That would be so embarrassing.

     As I reach the clothes and place a hand on them, I remember something, far, far more embarrassing. I kissed Rei. Holy mother of god, jesus, and bacon! “Why the hell did I do that?!” I say while slamming my head into the wall. It hurts, but I deserve it. Why would I have done that? She’s a she! And a stranger!

     For once the pounding in my head isn’t from Rei, but nonetheless, our conversation echoes in my mind- She told me that I am never alone and that I have at least one friend who will always support me. She told me that I am who I am, even when I’m the one doubting myself. It’s confusing and disconcerting but it makes my insides warm. I feel a blush cross my cheeks and jump in surprise when I hear a voice just behind me say, “Why did you do what?”

     My heart is palpitating and I turn breathless as I turn to see Kay looking at me. She may be as expressionless as usual, but her yellow-brown eyes are staring intently at me. It takes a moment for me to register what’s going on as her brown hair shakes with the movement of her head.

     That movement of her head being, up and down- as in, up and down, me. I look down to see what she’s checking out when the answer hits me hard. I’m in nothing but a towel! It’s wrapped around me, sure, but holy hell!

     I shriek and yell at Kay, “Look away! Now!” I swear if she could show emotions that she would have been embarrassed, but instead, she simply shrugs and does as I say.

     In a flurry of limbs and cloth I manage to dress myself; just in time too because Kay seems to grow bored and turns back around. “I didn’t say you could look yet!” I shriek out in a shrill voice while covering my chest with my arms, despite being fully dressed now.

     Perhaps this was a bad idea since it accentuates my breasts. Kay doesn’t miss this and looks at me with a slight frown tugging at the corner of her lips. That’s a remarkable amount of expression for her to show from what little time I’ve spent with her. But I’m pretty offended that she’d be purposefully checking me out and frowning. “I heard you crying and wanted to check on you,” Kay says while moving closer to me.

     I take a step back and slam the palm of my hand into my forehead and say, “Oh god, everyone heard that?”

      She slightly shakes her head and tells me, “That’s unlikely.” As I begin to open my mouth and ask why, I notice her beaming eyes focused slightly to my left, where my clothes just hung. I see, she’s the one who organized my stuff for me.

     That’s awfully unexpected. I figured it would have been Rose, or possibly even Mimi. A smile is now tugging at my lips, and I take a step forward towards Kay. She seems to not have expected that and her eyes widen. I reach out a hand, place it up on top of her head, and gently rub her hair.

      “Thanks for helping me out Kay,” I say and then let my hand drop.

     Kay is seemingly transfixed on my hand. I feel self-conscious and put my hands behind me. But Kay being Kay seemingly grows bored of even this, and simply reaches out and grabs my arm. She takes my left arm and tugs me forward and wraps my arm around hers.

      “Hungry.” She says and starts to walk us forward, arms linked.

     I fall in a half-step behind her and begin to properly sync myself to her as we make our way to what must be a kind of dining room. Kay takes longer strides than Rose and it’s actually a bit harder for me to keep up with her with our arms tangled like this; she definitely doesn’t exactly have the same amount of grace that Rose does, that’s for sure.

     The whole way there, my red hair, still damp from the bath gently rests just over my shoulders. I haven’t had time to put it up. Eventually, we reach a large wooden door and Kay swings it open one-handedly. As we move in through the doorway I see all the eyes on us. There’s Mimi and Rose, of course, but Nina as well. To my surprise though, is who greets us.

      “It’s the Zeroth Knight! Mama! Mama!” I hear a little boy’s voice and look down at him.

     He’s got dirty blonde hair and blue eyes- looking completely normal, relatively speaking. The little boy practically tackles my knees and I falter back a half step, my arm unlinks with Kay, much to what seems to be her annoyance. She takes a small glance at the child before walking off, seeming to be bored once again. But I disregard Kay and giggle at the little boy who stands at less than half my height.

      “Voltin, come here right this minute!” I hear Rose shout and the boy freezes. With a reluctant look, he lets go of me and runs off to Rose. 

      Thwack is the first sound that registers when the boy approaches Rose. A sound I’m far too familiar with at this point. The boy has been hit- hit by none other than Rose.

      “How dare you act like that with the Zeroth!” Rose shouts at the boy and raises her hand a second time.

      Before anyone can register what’s going on, I’m at Rose’s side, her raised wrist gripped in mine. There must be something in the way I look because Rose stares at me in fear.

     I look down at the boy, still holding Rose’s hand and ask, “Are you ok?” he nods with his swollen cheek facing me, tears in his eyes. I increase the strength of my grip on Rose’s wrist and I see her wince, but I don’t care.

      “What the hell are you thinking, hitting some little boy Rose?” I say with all of the anger I can muster. I notice at this point that no one else is looking at us. They’re all purposefully trying to avoid getting involved and are busying themselves in other tasks.

     With a huff Rose replies, “I-I am sorry my Lord, but I was merely punishing Voltin, I’ve tried to raise him with more respect than that. I was just trying to-”

     “He’s your son?!” I shout. I see the whole room flinch.

      “I’m… I’m sorry my lord. I know I’ve been sullied but the Consul insisted that it didn’t matter. They said a bastard child would cause you no concern. I never meant to keep it a secret I just-”

     With my other hand, I shove my finger into her voluptuous chest and continue to shout, “That is not the problem. How dare you hit a child?”

      My finger must be drilling into Rose hard because she’s clearly struggling to remain upright as I continue, “I don’t care who you are, who this society thinks it is, or what rules anyone else believes themselves to live under. So long as I am around I will not see someone abusing a child, or anyone else who can’t defend themselves!”

     I turn and look at the others in turn and say in anger, “Do I make myself clear?!”

     With a unison of voices, “Yes!” comes from everyone around me, Rose included.

     Then I pull my finger away from Rose and pull her wrist towards me. She stumbles half a step forward to me and I put her wrist in both of my hands and gently massage it.

      “I’m sorry for hurting your hand. I didn’t mean to grab you so hard.” I say, not even for platitudes. I truly wasn’t aware of how much strength I was using.

      Strange… Rose, and basically everyone else gasps, and Rose says in a sing-song voice, “No-no My Lord. I was out of line and I should be apologizing to you for stirring your anger. Would you wish me to be physically reprimanded, that would be getting off easy.”

     I shrug and turn to the child.

      “How are you feeling Vol?” to which his little eyes sparkle.

      He replies, seemingly forgetting about his cheek, “You’re amazing Zeroth! No one scolds Mama!”

      I let a smile slip, kneel, and run my hand over his cheek. He winces a little but otherwise lets me do what I want.

     I turn my head up and look at Rose, anger rising again. She refuses to look me in the eye, and so I move back to Vol and give him a pat on the shoulder.

      “Hey Vol, do you mind going and playing in another room for a bit? Us adults have some stuff we need to talk about.”

      He nods to me energetically but then looks towards Rose with a worried look.

     “Go along Vol, it’s fine. We’ll call you for breakfast in a little bit.”

     With that, he’s off to go play somewhere. I motion toward a chair, stand up, and Rose follows me. The other women go off to finish preparing breakfast.

      “So, care to talk to me about this?” I ask.

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     “What is there to talk about, my Lord?” Rose asks.

     “You damn well know what I’m asking Rose!” I say while slamming my fist on the table. Rose visibly flinches and cowers further back in her seat.

      “I-I-I” Rose stutters and I continue in place of her, “So, you have a kid Rose?”

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      She nervously glances around the room before replying, “Ye-yes?” she squeaks out.

     “Vol is six. His father died in an Outerlands skirmish nearly six years ago, so he never met his father,” Rose says.

      “So where’s he been this whole time then?”

      I ask and Rose tells me, “He lives in the orphanage on the other side of the city.”

     “Your son lives in an orphanage?” I ask in disbelief.

     “Of course. He’s a bastard,” Rose says so nonchalantly that for, if only a moment, I feel like I’m the one saying something crazy; but I refuse to believe it.

     “Why would you say that about your son!?” I’m nearly shouting now as I stand up from my seat and lean over the table.

     “My Lord…” Nina says from behind me.

     “Perhaps you should try and calm down Evangeline,” says Mimi from right next to me.

      I’m actually stunned for a moment, not just because I have no idea how or when she got so close to me, but by her attitude. She’s taken on a dignified air of importance as if ordering me to do something. Her, ordering me.  Can you believe it? More importantly, she used my name! It’s so ridiculous that I laugh.

     “So all I have to do,” I say between breaths, “Is lose my temper to get you to finally call me by my name?” I sit down at the table while catching my breath.

     Mimi says with a palpable bravado, “By your own admittance, My Lord, you are unfamiliar with much of our ways. So perhaps this isn’t the time or place to be going off on Rose?” Rose has a look of shock on her face. I think she’s just as amazed at this side of Mimi as I am.

     With absolutely no shame, nor care for the heavy atmosphere, Kay simply starts laying out plates in front of us, and at the spots where she and Mimi will sit.

     “Kay has the right of it,” Rose says, trying to change the subject, “I believe it’s breakfast time. I’m quite confident of it you know. I do so hope you enjoy it my Zero.”

     Just then I hear the little pitter-patter of feet on the hardwood and young Vol comes from another part of the house, seemingly a part that has hardwood flooring instead of carpet. “There you are, Vol,” Rose turns and looks at Mimi and Kay in turn and thanks them for fetching him for her.

     I don’t like this- at all. We’re not done talking about this. But I can clearly see it has to be put on hold.

     I glance over to see Rose hoisting Vol up and onto her lap. Kay and Mimi take their seats as well. “Where’s Nina?” I ask while searching the room.

     “Ninavin has left,” Mimi says coldly while cutting into what appears to be eggs- though they are blue in color. I don’t like her tone but I try to sound calm and ask, “And why did she leave?”

     I glance over to see that Rose is busying herself with cutting the food on her plate into tiny pieces for Vol. I can tell she’s listening in but doesn’t want to be a part of this conversation. Likewise, Kay just hangs her head and stares with intensity at the table while eating.

     Seeming to grow tired of this conversation, Mimi changes the subject and starts talking about the Academy. According to Mimi, the Academy is where basically all people should aspire to attend. It’s the largest, uh… Academy, in the lands. Only the richest and the absolute best of the best are allowed to attend. So it comes as no surprise that it’s currently where these three women attend. Though they’ve been on a hiatus of sorts since the Zeroth has shown up- for it is now their sole responsibility to be with me every single waking moment while being the absolutely best wives they could ever hope to be.

      Talk about a living hell. They’ve given up so much for this ridiculous charade and probably even more that I don’t even know about.

     I glance over at Rose while Mimi continues on with her inane chatter about our plans for the day. Every once in awhile Rose adds her two cents but Kay never utters a word. I see Rose smiling cheerfully while wiping Vols face with a cloth. I hurt deep inside at the thought of these two being separated. Just because it seems normal to them, doesn’t make it right. Surely I’m not wrong about that.

      Yet from what all I can gather, it’s my- the Zeroth’s fault. I look down at the food on my plate and my stomach churns. This food is weird colors and my body is rejecting it on a physiological level.

     I pick up a fork and lightly push what appears to be eggs, around my plate. “Is it not to your liking my Lord?”

      Rose says while leading a bite of food to Vol. He smiles delightfully as these… eggs find their way to his mouth. I hesitantly bring a piece of food to my mouth and lightly sniff it. It doesn’t seem bad; so I tentatively place the food in my mouth. I taste it and move it around my mouth. It’s very… alright. “It’s fine,” I tell Rose after swallowing.

     I proceed to eat the rest of my food in silence while listening to Vol tell us about his recent days at the orphanage. He doesn’t even seem sad about how he, apparently, only gets one day a month with his mother. Overall though, he seems to be getting taken care of at least. That’s something to be thankful for.

     I finish my food, feeling no worse, and no better for its consumption. It was a very mediocre affair. It’s not that the food didn’t taste good, it probably did. It’s just that my sense of taste is… dulled somehow. That makes me incredibly nervous. I don’t know what’s happening to me, and I’m terrified because of it.

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