Up. Down. Smooth. Graceful. Feel the music. Feel the rhythm. Become the music and enhance it.
“Hey, Ari? Are you gonna be busy on Spooky Day?”
Arienne stopped her ballet exercises and looked down at the other girl sitting unceremoniously on the dance floor. Rose Schafer looked back at her, a curious expression on her face as she waited for an answer from her friend.
Arienne plopped down on the floor beside her friend, her exercises forgotten in light of the more interesting topic.
“Not really. Why?” Arienne answered Rose’s question. Her family was planning on going to the Fall Festival on Spooky Day, but Arienne wasn’t sure she wanted to spend the day with her family. Her little brat of a sister was going to go too and she just knew she wouldn’t be able to enjoy the day with the little menace there as well.
“Do you want to come trick-or-treating with me?” Rose invited Arienne. “I’ve invited a couple of others as well, and we’re gonna have a big sleep-over afterwards and tell ghost stories and have midnight feasts and just have a lot of fun. So? You wanna come?”
Arienne rested her head on her hand, contemplating the request before shrugging. “Sure, why not?” she accepted the request. She was pretty sure her parents wouldn’t really mind. She would’ve liked to spend the day with her dad, but she knew she was going to have to share him with her brother and the brat, so in that case it would be better to spend the day with Rose instead.
But first she had to get permission, of course. Her mom was already away at work when Arienne returned from her ballet class, so Arienne searched the house for her dad to ask him for permission. She found him in Lyra’s room, trying to get the brat to go to sleep.
Arienne scowled at the sight of her sister. Lyra might be her sister, but she really didn’t like the girl. Lyra was just an irritating, demanding little brat who stole her dad’s attention away from her. Arienne wasn’t too fond of any of her siblings, but she definitely preferred her brother over the brat.
Her dad suddenly noticed her and turned to her with a warm smile. Arienne immediately felt the scowl melt away from her face as her dad approached her and bent down to welcome her back with a welcoming hug.
“How was your day, little princess?” her dad asked warmly and Arienne felt a bubble of happiness at the pet-name. Her dad always called her his little princess. It was her nickname, and even Lyra didn’t share that name. Arienne knew her dad had a nickname for her sister as well, but it wasn’t ‘little princess’. That was her nickname and hers alone.
“It was great!” Arienne answered her dad’s question enthusiastically. “We learned a new move at ballet today and it’s really difficult but really fun as well and Madam Michelle said I’m gonna be really good at ballet someday! But then Ingrid said she thinks - ” Arienne continued babbling, enthusiastically telling her dad about her day. Her dad didn’t say anything, just listened, but the expression of interest on his face was enough to keep Arienne talking.
Later that night, when Arienne laid in her bed and waited for sleep to claim her, she realised she had been so caught up in her retelling that she never asked her dad for permission to go to Rose’s sleepover.
Luckily, her mother was home the next morning and in the kitchen the same time as her dad, so Arienne took the time to ask them both. She didn’t miss the loaded glance her parents exchanged, but she pushed it to the back of her mind when her parents gave her permission to go to the sleepover; on the condition that she spend the morning and early afternoon with them at the festival before going to Rose’s house. It was a condition that Arienne accepted without any difficulties. She did want to spend the day with her dad, after all.
Spooky Day finally arrived and with it, the day of the sleepover and the Fall Festival. It was the last day of autumn and the first frost of the pending season had formed the previous night, so everybody was bundled into warm clothes. Arienne snuggled deeper into her new jacket as she waited for her mother to finish dressing Lyra in warm clothes. The brat was being a menace again.
“Lyra, please,” her mother impatiently begged the terror. “Stop being so difficult.”
Arienne sighed and looked away, wishing the brat didn’t have to come along. They’d be at the festival already if it wasn’t for the brat. At least Renard hadn’t thrown such a fit.
Her dad’s chuckles sounded from behind Arienne. She looked up at him, smiling slightly when she saw the warm smile on his face. He always made everything seem to be alright when he smiled like that.
“Don’t be so impatient, Chantia,” he gently admonished his wife. “Lyra is just having a bad day. She’ll settle down once we’re at the festival,” he promised.
Arienne watched her mother scowl and couldn’t stop her mouth corners from twitching when her mother promptly deposited the brat into her dad’s arms.
“Well, you can take care of her then,” her mother declared with irritation evident in her voice. “I don’t have the patience to deal with this.”
Her dad just chuckled again before he turned his attention to the brat smiling smugly to the world. Within minutes, the brat was bundled up in her little pink jacket and happily swinging her stubby legs from her dad’s hip, her feet snug in the little white shoes she had thrown such a fit over.
Her mother scowled at her dad, apparently disgusted by the ease with which he had handled the troublesome child. Arienne couldn’t help the smile on her face from spreading as her dad’s amused laughter followed her mother stalking towards the car.
At the park where the fair was being held, the festival was already in full swing. Music blared over the speakers mounted on the lampposts for the day, and everywhere children could be seen running around, trying out the various activities available. In the distance, Arienne could see her best friend, Maxwell Arroyo, wave at her, calling her over.
“Go ahead,” her dad suggested. “We’ll be over at the playground with Lyra and Renard if you need us,” he promised, gesturing at the mentioned playground. Renard was already trying to direct his mom towards it, eager to play on the playground.
“Okay,” Arienne agreed, heartened by the fact that her parents wouldn’t be far while she played with the people she wanted to play with. It was the best of both worlds: she could play with her friends and spend time with her dad.
“Hi,” Arienne greeted Max once she reached him. Her friend grinned broadly before he grabbed her hand and started pulling her towards the ghost house.
“Come on!” he demanded eagerly. “I’ve waited all morning for you to come!”
Arienne rolled her eyes at his exaggeration, but followed him nonetheless.
The morning passed in a blur. Rose joined Arienne and Max sometime during the morning and the three children spend the entire morning trying out the various activities. Arienne checked in on her parents every now and then, but her siblings had sufficiently captured her parents’ attention, so Arienne felt little remorse over spending time with her friends instead of her family.
“So, have you decided what you’re gonna be tonight?” Rose asked curiously several hours into their play. “I’m gonna be a tiger!” she declared enthusiastically.
“A pirate!” Max announced his costume. Even though he wasn’t invited to Rose’s sleepover (he was a boy), he was going to join them at trick-or-treating. Arienne was glad he was going to accompany them. Rose might be her friend, but she wasn’t nearly as close to her as she was to Max.
“I’m going to be a bunny,” Arienne announced her own choice. She was really looking forward to the evening. Her mom had helped her make a costume and her dad had offered to paint her face. She was going to be the cutest bunny to ever exist!
Several hours later, Arienne was getting dressed in her costume. It was nearly time for the trick-or-treating to start and she wanted to make sure that her costume was perfect! Her clothes and pyjamas were already packed, ready for the sleepover.
A knock sounding from the direction of the front door drew Arienne away from her thoughts. She perked up at the sound. It was probably her grandparents! They had said they wanted to try and spend the evening with her parents, and they wanted to see her costume! She ran to the front door, eager to see her grandparents.
But it wasn’t them.
“Hey, pipsqueak. Your dad home?” the man at the door asked. Arienne knew him. His name was Ethan. He was her dad’s best friend.
Arienne let her loud yell of “DAD!” answer for her.
“Don’t yell like that, Arienne,” her dad reprimanded her from the kitchen door. Arienne stuck her tongue out at him before giggling and skipping off to her room. She vaguely heard her dad’s friend announce he needed her dad’s help, but Arienne paid no heed to his words. It wasn’t as if it was relevant to her, after all.
It became relevant very quickly.
She was waiting for her parents to take her to Rose’s house, but they remained in the kitchen, talking to her dad’s friend. Arienne couldn’t really hear what they were talking about, but she knew she was going to be late if they didn’t go already!
“-contact with known terrorists. We need –”
“-me? Why not –”
Arienne tilted her head, trying to make sense of the bits of conversation she got through the door. Before she could hear anything else though, the sounds of chairs scraping of the floor sounded through the door, signalling the end of her parents’ conversation. The door opened and her parents came out, her dad still in conversation with his friend.
She was caught a bit off guard when her dad smiled apologetically at her and followed his friend outside.
“Where is Dad going?” she asked her mother, confusion colouring her voice. “Isn’t he going to take me to Rose’s house?”
A long silence followed her question. Arienne was beginning to think her mother wasn’t going to give her an answer when she finally did. The answer wasn’t what Arienne wanted to hear, however.
“Sorry, Arienne. We can’t let you go tonight.”
Arienne scowled, immediately upset about the unfairness of it all. Her parents had promised to let her go!
“But why!” she demanded angrily. “You said it’s okay!”
“I know, sweetie,” her mother immediately replied, “but things have changed. Your dad…he’s going to help the police catch a very dangerous woman tonight. She’s threatened us before, and we don’t want you to be in danger, so we can’t let you go. Not tonight,” she explained patiently, but firmly. “We just don’t think it’s safe.”
Arienne glared at her mother, highly upset. “You promised,” she complained sourly. “You said it’s okay!”
“Well, I’m sorry, but you can’t go,” her mother repeated firmly.
“I hate you!” Arienne screamed angrily at her mother before turning around and running to her room in tears. She threw herself on her bed, sobbing into her pillow. It was just so unfair! They knew how much she’d been looking forward to the sleepover!
She cried for seemingly forever, but she would’ve cried a lot longer if she hadn’t felt a familiar presence sit down beside her. She turned her head slightly to glare at the intruder, not in the mood to deal with anybody.
Her glares did absolutely nothing to deter the ghost. Charlotte merely kept quiet, absently swinging her legs, and waited for the much, much younger girl to start talking, which she eventually did.
“I hate her,” Arienne finally mumbled, unable to stand the ghost’s silence. She didn’t know why, but Charlotte always had a way of making her talk when she didn’t want to talk.
“You don’t hate her,” the ghost pointed out. “You’re just angry with her. There’s a difference.”
Arienne pouted, already calmed down by the ghost. “It isn’t fair,” she complained sulkily. “She knows how much I wanted to go.”
“She does,” Charlotte agreed, “but she also wants to keep you safe, Arienne. She’s reasoning that by keeping you home tonight, she’ll be able to ensure you more freedom later. This woman your dad is helping the police catch is a constant threat to your family’s safety.”
Arienne frowned at Charlotte’s explanation. Put like that, it made a little more sense why her mom didn’t want to let her go, but it was little consolation. She had made plans with Rose. They were going to show off their amazing costumes and tell ghost stories and have midnight feasts and…and she wasn’t going to be there! It wasn’t fair!
“But she promised,” she complained half-heartedly.
There was a long silence before Charlotte answered. “There are some promises worth breaking,” she murmured softly.
Arienne frowned at that sentence. No, there aren’t, she thought. Nothing makes a broken promise right.
She remained sulky the rest of the evening, but she didn’t complain further. It was horribly unfair and mean of her mother to say she couldn’t go, but Charlotte’s calm explanation had drained her of anger. To make up for it, her mother allowed her to stay up later than usual and made her her favourite food for dinner. It was a small consolation, but Arienne had to admit it helped, a bit.
The wind started howling outside as the hours passed without a sign of her dad. Arienne caught her mom shooting worried glances at the clock hanging on the wall several times, but she said nothing about it. Still, she was determined not to go to sleep until her dad returned.
Despite her attempts to stay awake, the late hours and her tears from earlier eventually caught up to Arienne and she fell asleep on the sofa she had been sitting on.
She was stirred from her slumber by the sounds of people talking softly to each other. She blinked groggily at the voices, but when she recognised her dad’s voice a sense of calm she didn’t even know was missing settled over her. Her dad was back home.
“So it’s done then? She’s caught?” her mother asked in a soft voice. “She won’t ever bother us again?”
“She’s safe in prison,” her dad confirmed, relief clear in his voice. “She won’t be able to bother us again.”
She must’ve drifted back into sleep after that, because Arienne couldn’t remember anything else. The next thing she was aware of was her dad lifting her up from the sofa and carrying her to her bed. She sighed contentedly and snuggled deeper into his chest, his familiar warmth and smell soothing her.
“Sleep well, little princess,” she vaguely heard her dad say. She smiled peacefully, and slept well.
Since this chapter was from Arienne’s POV, there are things happening in the background that she is unaware of/doesn’t care about, so here’s a little explanation:
Valeri had started to make a name for herself in the underground world. The army (of which Ethan is part of) started getting involved when Valeri made contact with known terrorists. Since she’s a legitimate danger to the community, the police decided to arrest her. Catching her prove to be more difficult than they expected, so they got someone who knew her methods/thought patterns – Sam.
I love Arienne. I really do. I’m actually a little sad she isn’t my heir. :( To those wondering, Lyra is the heir. Since the chapter doesn’t really contain a good shot of her face, here are some better ones:
On an unrelated note, Mia finally procreated! I was beginning to think I would have to force a child on her via MC. I’ll get a pic when the child’s a bit older. Right now she’s only a toddler. And since this author’s note is already too long, I’ll stop talking now. >_<