True to Ricardo's words, he did have a lot of information on Marionette de Camilla. After reading over the documents and histories Ricardo had collected over the span of who knew how long, even Gemma and Garrett could pass as Marionette had they looked the part. Whatever Ricardo's research method was, it proved to be very thorough.
Garrett looked up from his textbook to see a frowning Maybel tugging on her colorful strands. Standing behind with scissors in hand was Gemma, who nervously bounced from one foot to the other. In order to play the role of Marionette, Maybel needed to cut off a portion of her chest length hair.
As is the style of most upper-class women, the hair from the top of their head to their chin was thick while the strands below the chin was cut so that the rest of the hair appeared thinner. The picture of Marionette depicted the girl wearing the cut off portion in a bun while the rest flowed to her hips. Maybel's hair was shorter than Marionette's, but that was something no one felt the need to worry about.
"I've never cut hair before," Garrett heard Gemma say, scissors in hand while the other ran through Maybel's rainbow locks. "Is there anyone else who can do it?"
"Ricardo could send someone if we asked," Maybel replied, "but I rather not have a stranger touching my hair."
"What if I mess up? I could cut your hair too short. Worse, I could cut it crooked, and you'll have your hair falling diagonally by your face."
Garrett sighed and closed the book he wasn't really reading. "Do you want me to cut Maybel's hair?"
"You're a boy," Gemma pointed out. "Boys don't cut hair. They shave it."
"So you're the better candidate to cut Maybel's hair?"
Gemma chewed on her lower lips, scissors and hair still in her hands. She kept shifting her weight from foot to foot, a little dance of undecidedness. No effort to answer was made.
"Would someone please just cut my hair already?" Maybel asked, irritated. "We are expected to meet Ricardo tonight so that we can have dresses fitted for me. I think it would be better if I looked as much as Marionette as possible while his tailor attempts to dress me up as her."
Without hesitation, Garrett rose to his feet and approached the girls. He held out his hand, ordered, "Scissors," and gently pushed Gemma out of the way. He ran his fingers through Maybel's hair, figuring out how he should cut it. Slowly, he pulled out a lock by Maybel's face, careful to only take half of the hair, and cut it without a second thought. Gemma gasped as the hair fell to the ground, but Garrett smiled. "That wasn't so bad now, was it?"
"Just shut up and keep cutting," Maybel said. "The sooner we finish this, the better."
Each snip of the scissors was a little stab in the heart. Garrett didn't realize until it was too late that he didn't want Maybel to look different. He wanted her to appear as she's always had for as long as he's known her. The new look was physical proof that this was really happening.
For a while, all that could be heard was the snipping of scissors. Garrett was careful and precise, and when he had finished, Maybel's hair was cut to perfectly mimic the style they were trying to obtain. As if afraid, Maybel slowly reached up and touched the now shortened locks.
"This will take some getting used to," she muttered before blowing away the strands that fell on her face.
Garrett fluffed out the top of Maybel's hair. "Considering that you're supposed to wear the shortened part up, you should be fine."
At Maybel's persistent frown, he tried, "You still look beautiful."
This got Maybel to smile at him, causing his heart to beat wildly in his chest. As with every time before, Garrett threw up his walls so Maybel could not sense what he was feeling. They had a great relationship. She was his best friend. He would never want to ruin their friendship with something as annoying as feelings.
"I just can't wait to see the outfits!" Gemma exclaimed, bringing Garrett back to the moment.
"Ugh, I am not excited to try on fancy dresses," Maybel replied, tying up her now shortened portion into a bun. It took a few tries, but she managed to pull off the style.
"But you always look so pretty in them."
"That doesn't mean I like wearing them."
"Well, too bad!" Gemma giggled. "You might not have fun, but I'm certainly going to enjoy see the new pretty outfits. What about you, Garrett? Don't you think May-May looks pretty in fancy dresses?"
"She looks great in whatever she wears," Garrett commented, careful to keep his composure. "Maybel is one of the most beautiful people in the world."
"Of course you would say that, you flatterer." Maybel snorted.
"Only for you." There was so much truth in Garrett's words. So much truth he would never speak aloud.
Maybel had yet to come to bed, and Gemma couldn't sleep until she knew how her friend was doing. Shifting out from under the covers, her bare feet touching the cold floor, Gemma lit a lantern and crept out of her and Maybel's room. When Gemma did find her, Maybel sat with Garrett on the railing that hovered over the ground level. Neither spoke with each other, but Gemma knew such was normal for the two. They found comfort in the silence that Gemma thought of as tortuous. It was how their friendship worked.
Careful to not disturb the two, Gemma slipped next to Maybel and sat besides her. The lantern set aside, its light cast shadows of the three against the entirety of the ground floor. Knowing not to say a word, Gemma kept her mouth closed as she lied her head on Maybel's shoulder.
The letter to Seńor de Camilla announcing his daughter's sudden return had been sent days prior. It would be a few more weeks before Maybel would arrive to his manor under the guise of Marionette. However, Gemma and Garrett were set to start working as servants in that same manor when the sun rose. With the turnover rate so high, it was easier than either expected to get a job there. It took no more than a week to know both got the jobs.
It would be the first time they would be separated from each other since their group formed. None of them were ready. That was why no one said anything as the three of them sat in the dark, Gemma's lantern casting their shadows against the walls.
Life without the twins was lonely. The feeling was one that weighed heavily in Maybel's chest. Days were spent with the twins working as servants and gaining an inside look of the very place their friend was to infiltrate, and nights were still spent alone as both Gemma and Garrett always returned tired and were in bed not long after making it back to the factory. Going from have an intimate relationship with both of them to hardly seeing either twin was a sudden change no amount of mental preparation for could have readied Maybel.
The only thing keeping her sanity was the "homework" Ricardo sent her every week to prepare for being Marionette. What he needed her to do by this point was learn Marionette's hand. Thus Maybel spent most of her day and the previous learning to mimic the penmanship in Marionette's old letters. There was nothing special about the letters; they were simply thank you notes to whoever hosted her family that week. Every word was generic, implying Marionette felt no connections with the people she was sending a written thanks to.
Maybel worked diligently to get the handwriting right. It wasn't difficult for her to write in a different hand, but it wouldn't be easy to treat Marionette's handwriting as her own. After spending too long with a penmanship, to take up a new one wouldn't be easy.
When she decided to give her cramping hand a break, Maybel finally gathered the courage to open the bag containing her new dresses. She needed to find something to wear when she finally met Seńor de Camilla that next week. Removing the lid, Maybel was greeted by a small note.
The first three were hand selected by dear Gemma to wear the day you take up Marionette's identity. She was too nervous to voice this to you, so I made sure to include this little note telling you such. Think carefully which dress you wear, and don't hurt your friend's feelings.
Maybel snorted. Nobody, especially Ricardo, needed to tell her not to hurt Gemma's feelings. If anything, Maybel was hurt Gemma didn't choose to point these same dresses out to Maybel herself. Putting the thought aside, Maybel laid out the top three dresses, the ones Gemma favored over the others.
The first was a dusty pink, long-sleeved velvet dress. The chest and waist had vines of gold flowing in a waving pattern, and the hips and ends of the sleeves were ribbons of soft violet. It really did seem like something Gemma would love.
Royal blue was the color of the second dress. Unlike the first, this one was sleeveless and hugged the waist more snuggly. It also lacked a back, a new fashion trend that Maybel had yet to understand. The only other design to it was the green sash that wrapped down it, somewhat like a snake on a pole. Maybel almost snorted at how appropriate the look was.
The final dress was a dress made for dancing, evident by the shorter skirt. The red-orange fabric was silky to the touch and the loosest fitting of the three. The front of the dress was cut into the shape of a V, meant to expose the whole neck and some of the collar bone. Black beads connected the top of the cut, giving the impression that the wearer was also adorning a necklace. A thick, black sash was tied around the waist, and the sleeves cut off at the elbows. This truly was a dress made for dancing and not for being reunited with a family who Maybel supposedly had not seen in years. Why Gemma picked it out, Maybel could never guess.
Despite how inappropriate the choice was, Maybel didn't think twice about it before she said aloud, "I like the red one. That's the one I'm going to wear." Then she shook her head at how silly she felt talking to herself.
Heart aching for her friends, Maybel ran her fingers through the silky fabric. It was almost a shame she had to wear a colored-contact – the red dress really would have brought out her eye.
Well, she thought, I think the dress will bring it out regardless.