7 – Another life

I felt alive. I felt as if my body was full of energy, and as if I was able to fly.

I woke up in a dusty, smelly small chamber, or maybe a large closet. The boxes were still stacked like they had been yesterday, and the room was still cold. I gazed around, rubbing my eyes as they stung from the small rays of sunlight blinding me.

I stood up and got dressed. While going to the bathroom, I heard Ysaline and Tristan talking to each other, so I assumed the bathroom was free. Knocking anyhow, I waited for an answer nobody gave before entering. I didn't want the same happening as yesterday when Tristan was still inside.

I was freshing up, when the sudden feeling of something being wrong started dwelling inside.

I did not spoke of it when I said morning to the Tristan and Ysaline. It was nothing to worry about either. It merely felt as if I skipped a day after all. I tried bringing back memories from the day before, but my best efforts kept on giving faint images of what I could have been doing instead. The calendar also proved me wrong. I was sure it was Tuesday eighteenth, though it was set on the nineteenth…

The days, weeks kept going on their own accords though. A few things changed in the mean time. I cleaned the closet I kept sleeping in. The closet had finally gained a much more open character, instead of that dusty box. The sisters had spoken to me a few times, even though it seemed by accident.

Tristan was the only one I had a conversation with from time to time, but even our time together were shortening. I had called Adrian, like he had proposed. He got me a short interview with his boss, which was his father nonetheless. The conversation went more like a, "we don't have enough people, but I don't want to hire rookies because my son asked me to. Therefore I will hire you part time and in a week or two, I'll decide".

Because of my job, I rarely was in Tristan's apartment at the same time he was. It was an easy job though. I just had to clean dishes and sometimes serve the customers. Adrian was always looking after me, always. During work, he prevented me from making mistakes. When I got off the bus, he would take me to the restaurant. I never had asked him, but with Audrey next door, he wouldn't take any chances.

My first two weeks had almost gone by, when I finished working on first of November. I changed at work and went to my old job first. Tristan was already working and I wanted to go see him before I went to bed. It was already nine PM when I got there, so the place was nicely quiet.

"Hey, stranger," he greeted me when he saw me take a place at the counter.

"Hi, how is it going?"

Tristan sat across of me. "Work is slow tonight. I think I might have a moment. I'll be right back after my round."

I watched him visit every of his customers, when my eye struck on a specific person. He looked cold and distant. Black hair, dark eyes and radiating a gloomy mood.

"Do you know that guy?" I pointed when Tristan came back.

"He came almost every day for the past two weeks. Other than that, I have no idea," Tristan said. "Why? Do you find him attractive?"

"Of course not!" I said. "He just reminds me of someone."

"If you say so," he said, looking away from me. He paused for a moment. "So tomorrow is your birthday, huh? Got any plans?"

"I don't need to work, so I was thinking of napping, watching television, and eating chocolate cake."

"That's it? You're not even planning on going outside, are you?"

"And going alone? I don't have many friends I can ask."

Tristan lifted his hand, showing he needed to help a customer. He was gone for a few minutes, walking fast paced through the brasserie. I kept a look on that boy, running my mind over and over. My guts were telling me I should know that guy, and run away from him. Nothing good would happen if I came close with him. Yet at the same time, I felt compelled to go over to his side and bluntly ask what the deal was with him.

"You are staring to him," Tristan said, as he took place.

I quickly averted my eyes, and stared at my cola instead. I felt Tristan looking at me, making me slightly uncomfortable. He probably thinks I did like him now…

"Anyway, if you're not doing anything tomorrow, then why don't you go out with me?"

"Don't you have to work?"

"And I thought you'd be happy? After letting you in my house, letting you use my bathroom, television and giving you food…"

"Hey, I pay for my food!"

"Hardly," Tristan pinched his fingers together, "I will arrange something. That's why I'll pick you up at say eight thirty tomorrow night. You'll need to get dressed warm. Also, there will be a basket standing on the dining table. You must NOT look inside."

"What's it for?" I asked curiously. "Tristan, what have you been planning? How long have you been planning this?"

"You're on to me," he laughed, "You're right. I already arranged everything. So I expect you're coming with me?"

"Sure. If there is cake at least?"

"Ssst," he whispered. "It must be a surprise."

I tried to convince Tristan to tell me what he was planning. At last, his boss ordered him to say goodbye and come back to work. The brasserie was open until midnight, and suddenly, a group of tourist had come in.

He kissed me on my cheek and reminded me not to open the basket. When I arrived at Tristan's apartment, I went straight to my closet. It was ten thirty and it had been a tiresome day. I already had completely forgotten about the basket.

The next day, I woke up early in the afternoon. Hélène was the only one at home since it were her holidays. To me, it looked like she had been on her laptop the whole day, yet again, while the television was playing on the background.

When my stomach growled and I went to see what was left for lunch, I was reminded of my date with Tristan later in the day. The basket stood next to the fridge, with a note attached.

DO NOT OPEN, it read. I threw the note in the garbage, and opened the fridge. I couldn't decide what to take, as my curiosity rose immensely. My fingers were tapping on the lid. Just a peek, I bargained.

"The cake is in the back. Sorry but I already ate a piece," Hélène interrupted my thought.

"Oh, that's okay," I told her. I let go of the basket and took out the rest of the chocolate cake I bought myself earlier. With a extra large piece on my plate I took place in front of the television, channeling until I found something I liked.

"Has he told you already?" Hélène asked.

"Told me what?"

"That he loves you."

"No," I said flustered. "He doesn't love me."

"You're wrong." She had closed her laptop and was looking straight at me. "He really does. He's just too shy to act on it."

"Tristan is definitely not shy. I saw him flirt with all the girls at the brasserie he works at while I still worked there. He never looks at me like that."

"That's not real! That's a trick so more customers come back," she sighed. "Do you love my brother?"

"Well," I paused, "He's definitely handsome."

"Do you love him?" she insisted.

"He's sweet and cute, and I like him a lot, but I don't know if I like him like…"

"Like he likes you. I see," she said. She opened her laptop again and focused on that instead of me. I resumed watching the program, while still eating cake. At last, Hélène said, "Please don't hurt my brother tonight." She stood up and went to her room, leaving me alone.

I spent my day watching television and reading a part of a book that had caught my eye. It was called City of Bones, and it was quite fascinating at first, but I quickly grew bored.

It was late in the afternoon when Ysaline got home from her lessons. She threw her keys in the bowl next to the door, walked a few times through the house, until everything she was carrying was at place. She was about the fall in the couch, when she stopped in front of me.

"What are you doing?" she said.

"I'm… watching television."

"Your clothes! What are you wearing. Your date starts in half an hour!"

I looked down to my green blouse and jeans. I looked just fine, but she made me feel like I was dressed like a hobo all of a sudden. "It's the best I've got," I told her.

Ysaline grabbed my arm and dragged me to her room. She ordered me to sit as she searched her closet. The first thing she took was a black pencil skirt. She held it in front of me, twitched her mouth and threw it aside.

"I may not like how you bewitched my brother, and how he all of a sudden let a stranger in our house, but if that stranger gets a date with my brother, then at least she needs to look decent."

She pulled a ice blue dress and held it next to my hair. She muttered the colors were shouting at each other and how difficult my red hair was with her clothes.

"It's really not necessary, though. It'll be just fine."

"Nonsense. Do you like fairy tales?" she asked.

I smiled, "Everyone likes fairy tales, don't you?"

"Then consider it like this. I'm your fairy godmother, and just this once I'll make you Cinderella." She took out the white one. She sighed deeply. "It's perfect, so change."

She pushed it into my hands. The dress was the same one I had found a couple weeks back. Short sleeves, with small holes in the front and an open back. Just gorgeous.

Ysaline also gave me a thin brown belt to wear once I had changed. She then ordered me to sit at her desk. It stood full of makeup powders, lipsticks, and crèmes. She carefully choose what to do about my skin, but settled for red lipstick only.

"What a fair skin you have," she said as she handled my hair. "I rather should have called you Snow White instead of Cinderella, don't you think?"

"Does that also mean I'll meet my prince?"

"Sure. Unless the Huntsman finds you first. Or you make a contract with a bloody imp. At the very least, this enchantment will last past midnight."

I looked at myself in the mirror. The red lipstick contrasted with my skin. My hair was pulled up, leaving my neck naked. The dress was just fabulous. For a moment, I believed she had cast a spell on me. "It's fantastic. Really beautiful."

"Just be careful with my dress. It's my favorite. No stains, no cuts, no tears, nothing! Got it? Then let's get you to your date."

I was still gazing at myself through the mirror, mesmerized by myself. Whatever reasons Ysaline had to help me, I was in her debt now. She repeated to get downstairs before I moved.

Guided by Ysaline, we met Tristan halfway the corridor. He wore his usual jeans and shirt, and I felt embaresed being overdressed. Even so, Tristan could help but to be awe struck. I saw his eyes widen, and he found himself mute. He then looked down to his own clothes, probably thinking what an idiot he was for dressing casual.

Nevertheless, he regained his posture when Ysaline kissed him goodnight, handed over the basket, and went back to her apartment. Tristan acted up by offering his arm for me to grab.

I looked at him wondering about what Hélène had said. Tristan wouldn't love me, right? Now, he barely could look at me, and he didn't say a word. He asked me to get in his car, nothing more. On the road it was silent between us. The radio was the only bit of sound.

But if so, then this date was a real date? Tristan hadn't said that though. This was just a night like any other, except we're celebrating my eighteenth birthday. Eighteen years already. Eighteen years since my parents left me…

I stared out of the window, watching the people walking through the dark. Most went in groups, pushing each other all the time. Some teens were yelling at other people who passed by for no reason. Because it must be fun, I thought, not that I'd do it myself.

We were passing a group of boys. They were smoking against a streetlight. I heard them laugh loudly. I didn't think much of them, until someone wearing a hoodie passed by. He must have been drunk as he stumbled against one of the guys. I could hear them yell, and see him push back. When the drunkard pushed back, he retaliated. By the time Tristan had passed them, two of his friends were helping him dealing punches and kicks to the stomach.

"Pull over!" I asked Tristan, "That guy needs help!"

"Wait. What?" he said confused as he pulled over. He looked over his shoulder, and I turned around in my chair. Looking back at the streetlight, I saw no one. I stepped out of the car to get a better view. I expected that the drunkard would be lying, beaten, in the gutter, and the street boys had ran already. but even the drunkard was gone.

"What is wrong, Willow?" Tristan asked from his car.

"I… they're gone."