THIRD PERSON POV
As they stood outside talking, Aquilina tried to divert her attention from them. It felt like she was prying. But her eyes landed back on the screen from time to time.
They looked like they were arguing. She sighed and gazed at the ornate clock on the wall and gasped.
It was almost 5:30 and she had not informed Jason of her whereabouts... and Javier. They had a project to work on.
She decided to grab her bag and clothes, wet or not and tell Francesco that she had to leave. She was almost done collecting her belongings when a very upset looking Francesco walked in.
"Hey," she said warily, an eyebrow arched. "Is everything okay?"
"Of course," he responded a little sharply.
"Okay... I'm sorry but I just remembered I have something to do and will like to leave, if you don't mind."
"Fine," he said coldly. He had never used that tone on her before. "The driver is waiting right outside to take you home." He nodded a farewell and walked inside.
She did not know why... she felt hurt. Maybe somewhere deep within, she had thought they had become friends.
Well, I guess I was wrong. She swallowed hard, the pain with it and stepped out the door.
"Where have you been?" Jason asked the moment she passed through the door.
"I'm sorry, I was supposed to work on something with... someone." She had almost said, a friend.
"Javier's in the study. He's been here for over an hour. Really, Lina you should have told me you were going to be so late."
She flinched inwardly when he said Lina, for that was what Francesco also called her. But she willed herself not to dwell on it.
"I'm sorry, Jason. It won't happen again." She gave him a forced smile.
He stared at her for a moment and walked into the garden shaking his head and muttering some unintelligible words.
Aqui hurried on upstairs, she was famished but that would have to wait. She had to see Javier first.
She dropped off what she needed to drop off and entered their study room.
His back was to her, and he was reading a book.
"The Queen finally graces us with her presence," and he turned to face her.
"Look Javier, I'm so sorr — what?" She was puzzled by the look on his face.
"Who gave you that dress? Frances?"
She glanced down. Of course, he would have recognised it.
"You were with him all this while?"
"Something happened and he lent it to me," she said expecting a snarky comment from him.
Surprisingly, he was silent; expression unreadable.
"Shall we get started then?" He asked after a moment of silence.
"So, you will be doing this project work with your assigned partners for the year," and the class groaned.
"Now, don't give me that," Miss Ivy went on. "All you have to do is learn more about each other and write down something significant about the other person."
"What did you mean by learn their languages?" A boy in front asked.
"Well, I assume you all know that not all of you originate from here. So by the end of this project, I will be expecting you to be able to say a few words in your partner's native tongue if their native language is not English. Nothing much."
The bell rung.
"Okay guys! That'd be all for now."
And she left the class.
"I think I've got mine covered,"
Natalie said leaning on Aqui's desk.
"Oh? How is that so?" Aqui raised an eyebrow and grabbed her bag, rising up in the process.
"Cassie is a mean rich snob who doesn't care about others feelings. Throw in some horns and a few pictures of hers, then I'm done. Simple as that." She beamed, pleased with herself.
Cassie was her partner. A pretty brunette who seemed to have had enough plastic surgeries that the doctors might not have enough to work on the next time.
"Right... a simple way to get an F."
"There is no way I'm gonna stick close to that girl." She placed her hands on her hips.
Their playful banter was interrupted when Audrey Clarkson, an aspiring singer, and a said relative of the Italian Royal Family, approached her with her posse.
"Hey Aquilina," she said in her high pitched voice. "I hope you are doing well?" She asked condescendingly.
"Of course, she's doing well." Natalie responded firmly, clearly peeved.
Audrey had a reputation of bullying those not in their social circle.
"Well, I just wanted to make sure she doesn't need any calming medicines. I saw Rosa Vega at school today — and she was speaking with Francesco."
And the girls around her giggled.
Natalie opened her mouth to respond, when a voice spoke up.
"Well seeing how you all are so hyper, I think you should keep those medicines for yourselves. You'll need it when you go to bed at night," a male voice caused their giggles to cease.
Francesco walked to Aqui and took her hand.
"Let's go, dear." And he led her out.
He did not say a word till they were in the confines of the MediCentre.
Gladly, no one else was to be seen around.
"I think it will be best to stay here for now." Francesco finally said.
"Why is that?" Aqui said, her cold mask back on.
"They will say all sorts of things and I don't want you to hear them."
"I will be okay." It's not the first time. She almost added.
"I know you're strong. But I will be hurt if you go through that because of me," he gave her a sad smile.
"Okay, fine. I'm supposed to come here anyway."
"Okay. And I also wanted to apologise for the way I spoke to you yesterday. I was well... upset about something. Forgive me?"
He looked worn out. And she couldn't hold it against him.
"Sure," Aqui said.
And he finally smiled.
"Don't worry. This will all soon be over," and he gently patted her cheek.
"Oh, and remember the event I told you about? The one I want you to attend with me?" She nodded. "It's this Saturday. And after that, you would not need to pretend to be with me anymore, okay?"
"See you later, Lina."
After Francesco had left, Aqui heard a voice behind her,
"So it is all a lie."
Anyohaseyo! I hope you're all doing well by GOD'S Grace. Here goes another chapter.
Love you all! ❤️❤️❤️
(Rosa Vega above)
"Uhm... where did you say we are going again?" She asked — again.
I smile at her and continue to speed off. Seriously, teasing this girl is becoming my hobby.
I must admit, she is beginning to grow on me.
There is something about her, which makes her just... unique. And different. Even different from Rosa, I hate to admit.
It can't be her clothes, for she dresses ever so simply and conservatively. But one can't deny, she has a certain beauty which makes everything she wears look good on her — even though she wears no make up — with her naturally rosy lips, and long lashes.
"Do we have to paint so far away?" She asks again with a trace of a whine in her voice.
"Little girl, if people fly miles to see an artwork, I think we can travel to the moon to paint it." I wink.
She gapes, then shuts her mouth folding her arms over chest, a signature stance of hers.
I smirk, it's been so long since I was ever this entertained.
And in case you didn't realise who this is, this is Francesco, and I just allowed you a moment into my Royal mind.
THIRD PERSON POV
"Okay, so your idea of getting inspired for the artwork is to swim in — the middle of nowhere?" Aqui gestured around her. "Fine, but you're on your own."
Francesco had driven them miles away only to end up in a secluded mansion surrounded by trees and bodyguards.
She wished for the hundredth time that she had had enough sense to have grabbed her phone from home. She had left with him right after school.
"Can you at least grab me that glass if you're going to leave me all alone in here? I'm thirsty."
She did his bidding and grabbed the glass. But as she handed it to him, she felt his hand grab hers and pull her into the water.
She gasped and thrashed for a second before resurfacing, to the resounding laughter of Francesco.
"What if I didn't know how to swim? I could have drowned!" She exclaimed, exasperated.
"Then I would have had the chance to be your knight in shining armour."
"A knight in a bathing suit would be more like it."
She splashed him and he laughed. She had gotten fond of hearing his laughter. It settled her. "My uniform is all wet, and my glasses seem to be in tears."
It was a miracle her glasses had survived that.
He climbed out and offered her his hand, which she gladly accepted.
He then grabbed a towel and gently ruffled her wet hair loosening her ponytail. His closeness was unnerving.
He took her glasses off next, and asked,
"Can you see okay without it?"
She did not want to lie for she could see very well without it but rather said, "I'm not blind, you know."
He smirked and looked at her strangely.
"What is it?"
"Nothing just... has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?"
She turned slightly pink and looked away. She had been told. Many times, but that beauty was no longer of importance to her.
She had learnt over the past months, that beauty was meaningless. It could not give life to her shattered soul.
Francesco cleared his throat and said, "Come on, let's go inside."
"Here, wear this." She glanced at what he was handing her — a dress.
Hold on. What is he doing with a girl's dress?
"It was... Rosa's. But she never really wore it."
"Thank you," she mumbled and went into the bathroom he had shown her earlier.
The dress wasn't the longest, but at least, it covered her well enough.
She returned to see Francesco with a steaming cup of hot chocolate waiting for her. She accepted it gratefully and sat on the sofa next to his.
"I sometimes feel like everything is a buzz in my head... pressures from my family, my peers, this whole social circle. But it's a big relief to just come out here and clear things up."
"It's... beautiful." She finally admitted. And it was. "And it's serene."
"So you're not mad at me for bringing you here?" He asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
"Well, no. I've got hot chocolate." And she smiled raising the cup. "And it tastes amazing."
"Do that often."
"Smile more. It's comforting."
She was about to respond when they heard the sound of a car outside. He switched the TV to the security cameras and paled when he saw the car parked outside.
"I'll be back." He said. His eyes held no emotion and he looked completely different from the guy who often joked with her.
"Okay." She said, but he was gone already. Her WACO instincts took in every detail on the screen, the car, and its number plate.
Then, a girl stepped out as Francesco walked outside.
She had seen that face before.
Rosa... Rosa Vega.
Hi, wonderful family. I just wanted all of you to know how grateful I am that you've stuck around this long.
Yay! A double post.
Your comments mean a lot to me and help me to keep going. GOD bless you all.
(Hopefully more interesting chapters are ahead.)
Oh and, I wish I could speak Chinese and Korean, and Hebrew too,(shh… By GOD’S Grace I’m learning some of them.) :)
Which country do you wish you could visit now?
Love and Blessings,
THIRD PERSON POV
"Aquilina, please be on your best behaviour," Moriah Yvette Jaye said straightening her little girl's bow.
She pinned Aquilina's golden royal insignia to the shoulder of her navy blue dress.
Moriah then linked her arm through her husband's and they along with their seven children filed into the grand castle of King Domingo II.
They were there for a simple dinner but received a grand welcome.
As they were ushered into the King's personal dining chamber, Aqui trailed behind the rest of her siblings content to be obscured from view.
The Spanish King welcomed them himself, acquainting himself with all the children.
He was there with his new wife — who was one of the daughters of the King of China — and her three children. Her first husband having died some years before.
The two countries had formed an alliance through their marriage. He then moved to talk more with Moriah and her husband.
"I am sorry, but my youngest son could not make it."
He must not have noticed the little girl shyly standing behind them. Aqui was glad, for she did not really relish attention.
But, as they all moved to sit, he finally spotted Aqui and froze for a moment. His lips then shook before he composed himself.
"This is our last born. Aquilina, greet King Domingo." Her father introduced.
Aqui recalled her instructions with care and curtsied.
"You are..." he cleared his throat before continuing, "You are Aquilina?"
"May I hug you, Aquilina?"
She was baffled, for he hadn't done that even to her parents. One look at her mother told her she must comply.
She agreed and was soon enveloped in the surprisingly warm embrace of the King. He did not release her for a long time. And when he did, his eyes glistened.
That whole night, he gave her preferential treatment, allowing her to sit right by him — where his wife should have sat.
Her younger mind had not comprehended why this was. But she enjoyed it nonetheless. He acted like another father to her.
And after that, he always sought her out and sent her gifts claiming her as another daughter of his.
It was sometime later, when she had grown a wee bit more, that she learnt the reason... She looked just like his ex-wife used to look when she was younger. She had abandoned him and their young son not long after his birth.
Her location? Only GOD knew.
"I never knew that, that same reason would come back to play some day again in my life."
Aqui hummed a simple tune as she walked through the deserted hallways to her cubicle in order to take her coat off.
Everyone else is in class by now. I guess I'll just stay in the cubicle then, and maybe read a book. Or, I'll visit the old library.
She welcomed the thought of that, and smiled a little to herself as she entered the code to her cubicle.
When oceans rise,
My soul will rest in Your embrace...
She sang softly, and entered the cubicle. She turned the light on, turned around and froze.
"What— How did you get in here? Javier!" She nearly screamed feeling her heartbeat speeding over its limit.
"Do you always have to turn the lights on?"
"Do you always have to sneak up on me?"
He rolled his eyes and turned the lights off, walking and acting every bit as the prince he was.
He took out his phone and turned the flash light on, wincing a bit as it came on. He pointed it further away and sat in a corner on the floor.
"Hey... are you okay?" Aqui said assured her heart rate was back to normal as she took a seat beside him.
He leaned his head against the wall and with his eyes shut. He finally opened his eyes and fished something out of his jacket.
She saw it was the bottle she had given him — and it was empty.
"Oh... did you try it?" She perked up at the thought. She never thought he would.
He gave the teeniest bit of a smile she had ever seen him give anyone.
"Works like Heaven... but I'm out."
"Huh?" She looked puzzled. "It should have lasted four or five days."
He tucked it back into his pocket.
"When I realised how good it felt after taking it per your prescription, I decided to up it a bit. Now though I'm not taking it, it doesn't feel as bad. But I will like to have more down."
"No, you should take it per the prescription lest there be any side effects. I'm not giving you anymore." She folded her arms across her chest.
"How much should I give you for it?"
"I'm not selling it. My Grandma... came up with the concoction."
He groaned and held his head.
"Are you alright?" She asked softly.
There was more groaning. She sighed and opened the locker in the cubicle and retrieved another bottle.
"Here, take this. But no overdosing. If you use it up in 24 hours, no more for you."
The groaning stopped, he looked up and... smiled mischievously.
"That wasn't so hard, was it?" He snatched the bottle from her hand and rose to leave.
Aqui opened her mouth to protest.
"Oh, and I'll see you at your place for our group work today."
She just stared at this point, arms folded against her chest once again.
"Okay, fine. But I'll be home late." She had promised to help Francesco out.
She then moved to take off her coat.
But he turned as he opened the door about to step out.
"And Aquilina..." She turned to face him. It was the first time he had spoken her name out loud. "I won't overdose this time around and... gracias." He finished quietly and left.
It was after he had left that she remembered, "I forgot to ask him how he got in."
And she groaned.
GOD bless you wonderful family of the Prose. Hola! And thanks so much for everything so far. I'm so sorry for any mistakes. It's night here.
What did you think about this scene, please?
And... if there were to be any language in the world you wish you could speak but you don't already, what would it be?
I'll tell you mine in the next one, GOD willing.
THIRD PERSON POV
"You must be Aquilina," a cheerful looking young nurse greeted. "Please do come with me."
Aqui hurried alongside the nurse in the bright 'MediCentre' of the school. Every surface and corner sparkled.
I guess I would love working here, even as an assistant.
"Meet Dr. Brown, and Dr. Brown, this is Aquilina," she introduced him to the resident doctor. "Our surgeon is not always seen around. But he comes by often enough."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, young lady. I believe you were given this position because you can handle it," Dr. Brown said shaking her hand firmly.
Aqui only smiled in response.
"I guess Rose will show you the ropes. It can get tiring, especially with your school work involved. But hey, make the most of it while you can."
After a few pleasantries, Ms. Rose led her to the normal nurses' office which was highly equipped. For all the workers were professionals.
She handed her a working coat and taught Aquilina the various medicines that students often needed for minor issues.
And a few major ones.
Aqui noted them down obediently though she was familiar with a majority of them. It was interesting how different countries used various treatments. She loved to learn them all.
"Are you always this quiet?" Ms. Rose surprised her by asking.
"Uhm..." Aqui blushed a little.
"Maybe..." She added a tiny smile.
"Aww... I think I'll like you. You're so cute." She pinched Aqui's cheek.
"Oh, and by the way, you'll be working here during lunchtime, you can order in from the cafeteria anytime. And also, during your free periods." She sat at her comfortable-looking desk and went on.
There goes my free time.
"Things are not always busy here, you can rest in any of the rooms whenever you want or leave but only for a short time. Oh, and no PE for you."
Who wouldn't want that? She thought.
"Thank you so much, Ms. Rose."
"Oh, please. Call me Rose, Ms. Rose makes me sound just so — prim and proper."
Aqui chuckled at that.
"Okay, Rose. Thanks so much for everything."
"You're welcome, honey."
Aquilina worked tirelessly to arrange the newly brought-in medications. She had a free period that morning before lunch and had decided to set out to work early.
From France, Israel...
She smiled, as she placed each in its designated area and ticked them off on the tablet she had been given.
She then tidied up the place — though it all looked clean, she loved to work.
Yes, even at home, her parents had trained all of her along with all her siblings the joy of working hard.
When the bell rang for lunch, she realised she had forgotten to tell Francesco about her new position. He might look for her.
Well, she could at least not have to worry about facing Javier. She had carefully avoided him during and after class afraid of what his reaction about the medicine might be.
If only I could text Francesco now... She groaned inwardly.
"Hey, I'll be stepping out a bit. Feel free, and page me on that device over there if you need me."
She nodded, "Alright."
She was done with her work for the moment, so she took out her school-provided music device and sat at her own desk which had been provided for her.
After plugging in her earphones, she began to listen to a podcast on Neuroscience — to remain up to date even out of work — as she began to sketch randomly in her book.
She did not hear anyone enter but felt the presence behind her before a gentle tap.
"Hey," Francesco said.
"Hey!" She unplugged her earphones and responded in surprise. She then eyed him. He had a food package in his hands.
"Guess who brought lunch?" He said setting the food package on the desk and began to unpack them.
He had learnt her food preferences well. She smiled to herself.
"Well, someone didn't tell me she was working here now. I had to find out from your friend... Natalie." He said with mock disappointment.
"Oh... I'm so sorry. I forgot to tell you. It happened just yesterday. Please, forgive me?"
"Okay, then how about a trade-in?"
"I'll forgive you if you join me to paint the main artwork for the block."
Wow. That is pretty huge.
"Let me think about it. Mmm..." She placed her hand on her chin and pretended to contemplate deeply. "I think I'll take you up on that offer."
He chuckled and flicked her nose.
"Come on, dig in."
As they ate, he shared a few stories of his childhood with her. A few about him with Rosa and Javier. But she soon realised he never went too deep about Javier.
I wonder why that is? She mused quietly.
"So that is how I got grounded for three weeks, being stuck at home to learn the history of my ancestors," he sighed. "I guess that was when I got to love art. It became an escape for me."
Aqui had enjoyed chatting with him. He had shared something special about himself with her.
She sighed when the bell rang again to signal lunch was over.
"Well... Rose isn't here yet. I guess I'll have to wait."
"Yes, the Nurse."
"Oh, I see."
"So are you skipping class then?"
"Sure... a nice escape," she said mischievously.
"Becoming a delinquent, are we?" He said in a teasing tone and tugged her ear gently like a little girl.
"No, I'm not. I'm just... prioritising my responsibilities."
"Well, then, I guess I'll keep you company." He said with an easy grin.
"Who's the delinquent now?"
"I'm only prioritising. Putting my girl first —"
"Who do we have here?" Rose said as she appeared in the door way with her arms folded against her chest.
"Oh! You're back!" Aqui said flustered. She felt like a deer caught in highlights.
"Hi, you must be Rose," Francesco said turning on his charm mode.
He flashed her a smile, and Rose blushed a bit. He had that effect on a lot of people.
"And you are Francesco. Nice to finally meet you."
They shook hands. She finally seemed to have composed herself.
"Well, if you are going to put on a show of PDA here, I suggest you use the worker's resting room," She said teasingly. "Aqui, you have the keys, I believe."
"No, it's not anything like that —" she started.
"Actually," Francesco put his arm around her shoulder. "My Lina and I would take you up on that offer."
"No, Rose that's not the case at all —"
"Aquilina! How dare you try to hide this from me."
"Yeah, Lina. Are you ashamed of me? You've hurt my feelings." Francesco said with his arm over his chest feigning sorrow.
She noticed that they were just teasing her.
She huffed and took Francesco's arm off her shoulder.
"Fine, you all win. Now, I have a class to attend."
She stomped out to the laughter of Rose and Francesco. Once outside the MediCentre, she realised that she was still in her assistant's coat which she had worn over her uniform.
I guess I'll have to stop by my cubicle before heading to class.
Hola, mi familia. Thanks so much for making it this far. GOD bless you all.
I am so grateful for the words of encouragement to continue.
Who is your favourite so far? Javier or Francesco?
When all have failed, or you can't seem to break through, just love, like you have never been hurt. It is the greatest weapon.
THIRD PERSON POV
Aquilina woke with a start as the bell sounded through the old deserted library. She rubbed her eyes and yawned.
She glanced at her wrist watch and groaned. She had missed her last period but wait — where was Javier?
She had dozed off after singing to him and certifying he was asleep. But now, he was nowhere to be found.
Oh, well! She thought.
She yawned again, and headed home on the bus — filled with *ahem* only Commoners — after grabbing her bag from her cubicle.
She plugged in her earbuds and listened to some classical music whilst gazing out the window.
She shouted after code-unlocking their door. She had noticed her cousin's car parked outside — and another; a black Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
A neighbour? She thought. They lived in a decent neighbourhood but who would drive a Rolls-Royce?
She kicked off her shoes, and in her socked feet headed straight for the fridge. She gulped down the water in one go. She felt weary for some reason, and had not paid much attention to her surroundings.
After quenching her thirst, she heard a slight movement behind her and turned around expecting to find Jason.
"Ja-" She paused.
Gazing at her with his ever so violet eyes, was Javier. He sat behind the kitchen counter with his phone in hand.
She gulped at the intensity of his gaze.
"Oh, hi?" She said looking puzzled.
He only stared coldly as Jason descended the stairs toward them.
"Oh, you're in! I couldn't find you after school. Where were you?" Jason asked.
"I sort of... dozed off somewhere today," Aqui replied, sipping some water to muffle the sound.
Jason cocked an eyebrow at her, "Weirdo."
"I guess you already know Javier, right?" Jason grabbed his keys on the counter. "He's the friend I mentioned this morning. We are going somewhere, we'll be back late. Don't wait up. Oh, and there's food in the fridge."
And with that said, they both walked out leaving behind a very baffled Aqui.
Wait, what? She replayed Jason's words in her mind. When did the two of them become friends?
She capped the bottle back and headed to her room.
At least, she knew Javier was okay. She wondered why he had had the migraine and if it happened often — her medical brain analysing.
It was sometime after midnight when Aqui awoke to the uneasiness in her chest. It had been a while since this happened.
She turned the lamp on and slowly got out of bed. She held her chest tightly and groaned a bit.
She unlocked her door quietly, not wanting to disturb anyone. She had heard Jason return sometime past (she was a really light sleeper).
After drinking a hot hibiscus tea, she felt the pain subside. She sighed, grateful to GOD.
As she turned to leave, there he was — again. Standing on the stairs this time around.
His black hair was slightly tussled, but the aura that emanated from him was intact.
"I wanted to talk to you." Javier said, quietly but cold enough.
She suddenly felt conscious of her night gown. It wasn't that short but neither was it the longest. She had not been expecting to encounter anyone.
"Okay. I'm listening." She wrapped her arms around her body in an attempt to ward off the cold air from outside.
"I think you may have misunderstood somethings today that I wanted to clarify." He walked a bit closer.
"What happened, does not change anything... I still regard you the same. And I will be grateful if you keep enough distance from me. I am not someone you would want to cross."
"I understand." Aqui said after a moment of silence on her part. She felt hurt. More than hurt, but she kept her face neutral and her eyes blank.
That had not been a hard thing to do... the smile had long since left her eyes. But perhaps, somewhere deep within, she had longed to smile again...
"Bueno. We still have our project to work on. That can be done with yet enough distance."
Then he walked up the stairs.
Aqui waited for him to shut the door upstairs, and run to make another cup of tea. She really needed it.
"Aquilina S. J. You are needed in the Principal's office."
Came the voice over the intercom.
She gulped and ignored the stares that were upon her as she walked to the Principal's office.
"Is she getting expelled?" She heard someone say in a not-so-much of a whisper.
On arriving at the Secretary's desk, she was quickly ushered in.
It looked like a Presidential Office. With lots of awards and photos featuring Kings and Presidents from all over the world hanging around.
She immediately felt nervous when she saw Ray Fitzgerald, her boss' assistant at the WCO stand to greet her.
Tall and lean with his jet-black hair, he had never been her favourite. He was too cold and difficult to read. She sometimes found certain actions of his suspicious.
"Please, do have a seat Miss Aquilina," the Principal said after shaking her hand.
He was a jovial elderly fellow, balding and a bit heavy. He had always been fair to her, kind even. Probably because he knew her identity.
She sat on the comfortable plush chair.
"How has your stay been?" Ray asked, taking his seat as well. He seemed to be in a hurry to get to the point.
Aqui only gave a brief, "Fine."
"Well, I am here today inform you on how your investigation is going." He laid down the file he had been holding.
"Please." She had long learnt that there was safety in few words.
"I regret to say we have made not-enough progress yet. And while there are not enough facts to prove your guilt by association, there isn't enough to prove your innocence either."
He leaned forward in her direction, "And because of that, the WCO wishes to inform you to continue your studies here. Your missions are still suspended for now. And you are making fine grades here. Do continue, and don't hesitate to let us know if ever you need help."
She was young, only 17, but had been around long enough to understand those words.
Her case, had turned into a "Stagnant Case". And oh did the WCO have enough of those.
Some, she heard of, had lived and passed away never clearing their names.
"But as you're here," the Principal cleared his throat and added, clearly trying to lighten up the mood.
"We would like to offer you a position, to be a part of this school's medical team.
The WCO has agreed to that and are more than glad to let you join us. We can not bear to see your talent go to waste."
Aqui walked down the now crowded hallway feeling dejected.
We wish you the best. Ray had told her as she stood up to leave.
Her future felt shattered. She wanted to run, right now.
Lord, what do I do now? She questioned.
She slowly turned around to the voice of Natalie. She was running to catch up with her.
It had been almost 24 hours since they last spoke to each other.
"Hold up!" She threw an arm around her shoulder. She looked worried. "I heard your name being called to go to Mr. V's (the principal). Everything okay?"
"Yeah, everything is fine. I was given a position, to be a part of the Medical Team. An assistant, nothing special." Aqui forced a smile to encourage her friend she way okay.
"Oh! How nice!" She beamed. "Wait, I thought they only allow those interested in doing medicine to become assistants."
"I guess my Science grades convinced them."
"Probably. Look, I wanted to say that I'm sorry for everything that happened yesterday. I'm still a little sad, but you probably had your reasons. Forgive me?"
"I don't hold anything against you." And they hugged each other. "I'm sorry too for everything that is going on."
"Well, I have a question for you." And Natalie pulled back.
Aqui braced herself thinking she might ask about Francesco.
"Do you think I've grown fat? Come on, tell me the truth."
"No, I was going to say that you've lost a little weight."
"I knew Cassie was being mean."
And Aqui smiled.
It's funny how a little conversation can cheer up someone whose life has just been turned upside down.
Aqui sat quietly in the cafeteria beside Francesco not quite touching her food. Javier was absent, and everyone else ignored her, but she was grateful for that.
"Come with me." She felt his hot breath on her right ear.
Francesco nodded his head towards the exit. And she stood up and left with him, ignoring the stares and looks of disgust by some around her.
They passed through the hall, and took the elevator (yes, they have elevators). Francesco led her to the last floor and ascended some stairs obscured from view with her.
"Where are you taking me?" She asked again.
"Non ancora."(Not yet.)
She had acted like she did not understand whenever students spoke their languages around her. But that was not so. She had understood most perfectly.
She realised they had gotten to a chamber on the roof. It had flowers and a long bench.
"Wow," she exclaimed out loud.
Francesco just glanced at her and pointed her toward the seat.
She sat down and glanced around some more.
"I needed to get away, and to talk to you as well. Being in a quiet place is much better," he said after a moment of comfortable silence, his arm rested on the back of the bench. She noted the slight Italian accent.
"Look, I know what I have asked of you is very strange. And has cost you a lot. But I really need your help. I want you to understand. The thing is," he sighed and leaned forward.
"There is a girl."
"There's always a girl." Her eyes widened when she realised she had said that out loud.
Way to go, Aqui.
Contrariwise to the serious tone of their conversation, that caused Francesco to laugh out loud.
It was not a rowdy laugh. It sounded rather smooth.
"Yes, I guess there is." He wiped a tear from his eye.
"Well, her name is Rosa. Her father is the first ranking businessman in Europe."
Aqui nodded for him to continue. She had heard of her.
"We grew up together, she, Javi and I. It has always been understood that she will get married to Javier. I thought so too, until one summer, Javi traveled and it was just the two of us."
He had a far-away look and she could tell those memories were dear to him.
"And then, Rosa and I realised we didn't want to be just friends. When Javi returned, he said it was okay, it was a family arranged thing after all. But I knew it hurt him."
"So last summer, I told Rosa I had met someone else I loved and that she should move on with Javi. She was hurt. But she later realised it wasn't true. Two weeks ago, I received her call. She's coming back."
"Oh... I see."
"Yes, I need to make her believe it. And that's where you come in."
"But what about you? Will you ever forget?"
"Javi... has been through a lot. Seeing him happy, though it hurts will bring me great joy."
"I get your point."
Somehow, he looked different to her. He did not look like the same old, arrogant-but-handsome Prince.
He looked... normal at that moment.
"You did not look very cheerful in the Cafeteria." He did not question or push. It was a simple statement.
Something about his sincere gaze made Aquilina open up.
She couldn't say everything of course.
"It's just that... I heard some very discouraging news today. And I feel like I'm at my lowest. No way back up."
There. She had finally shared some of her true feelings with someone else for the first time in a long while.
"Do you remember the first time we spoke?" He asked suddenly taking her by surprise.
"Ugh... during your Art Class?"
"Which someone had interrupted."
"I did not. I was minding my own business. When you all waltzed into my path." They both chuckled.
"Right. But do you remember the painting and the explanation you gave?"
"How can I forget? It's the reason why I'm stuck in this mess." She said half-joking.
He gave her a stern look.
"Okay, I remember. The drowning man... and how he found hope even in the depths of the sea." She finished softly.
It clicked. There was hope for her even in all this. She smiled a tiny bit. But it was heartfelt.
It amazed her how easy it was to open up to him. He made her feel warm.
"You're welcome. We have some minutes left till lunch is over," he said glancing at his watch. "I'll grab a snack before that. Wanna go with me?"
"No, I'm okay. See you later."
They left together.
It was after the talk with Francesco during lunchtime that Aquilina finally had the courage to do it.
He had hurt her, and said mean things to her, but there she stood — in the deserted classroom. Lunch break would soon be over, and she had excused herself from Francesco's side to do this.
I must not chicken out.
She looked at the bottle and little notes of instruction that she had written.
"Am I being foolish?" She asked out loud.
When she had woken up for a jog that morning, she had seen Prince Javier García sitting in his car with his head bowed in his hands. He hadn't seen her. But as he rubbed the left side of his head with his eyes closed, she knew. The migraines were back.
So here she was, at his 'permanent' desk. She knew this age old medicine — which was a mixture of herbs — concocted by her GrandMa could help alleviate his migraines.
If not permanently, it would be useful whenever the migraine dropped by for a visit.
After taking in a deep breath, she left it underneath his desk.
Thank you for making it this far — for the votes, and comments. I am very grateful
AFTER THE STORM
After The Storm ☔️
As the rain falls heavily, and the mighty wind continues to blow
I feel there has never been a better description
Of pain; my pain
Of sorrow, my sorrow
The waters seem to have been pent-up for ages
Just as my tears have been
And now, they are releasing
Like a mighty flood, they do flow
The thunders and lightenings that seem never-ending
Make me wonder, how long shall this be for?
Will the pain ever go away?
Will the sun ever shine again?
I glance about, just looking at the havoc it has wreaked
Till I catch a whiff of the fragrance of the waters hitting grass
It sends a new sensation down my battered heart
I notice the heavy rain washing away the debris
And the grass drinking happily away
Perhaps, this sudden storm is the breakthrough everyone needed
The breakthrough I needed
For it is said that out of the sadness of the countenance, the heart is made better
Come to think of it,
My heart does feel better
A smile replaces the frown,
Just as the sun will shine after the storm
And I lift up my hands to JESUS
And bless HIS Name forever more
THIRD PERSON POV
Aquilina quickly dressed after her hot shower and tied up her hair, dressing up in her uniform for school.
She entered the elevator tapped the home icon leading her away from their hidden underground training centre. She sighed as her tummy grumbled. But that was the least of her troubles.
"If you still think it was your fault, would you do anything to help me as a payback?"
"Okay. If only possible." Aquilina responded.
"You can. So will you?"
"Okay," Aquilina replied naively, despite the alarm bells going off within her.
"It's a promise. No going back."
She nodded in affirmation and raised a palm, "I won't go back on my word."
"Pretend to date me for ten days." Prince Francesco had said.
Aquilina blinked, "Really, tell me what you want."
"I just did."
"You did not. I hate games, please."
"I am serious. Listen... I need your help with this to get me out of a situation. Come on, you owe me one, right?"
"No, that will be a lie, and I don't like the thought of deceiving anyone."
"Okay, fine. You don't have to say anything. Just ignore them if you are asked."
"No, anything but that."
"Please?" He made an innocent face at her. "Just do this for me? As a friend. I just need you to attend an event with me. And say nothing about us... not even to Javier — for ten days."
"You do not even know me."
"Well, that could be rectified. Come on, you promised. Are you going back on your word?"
She bit her lip and furrowed her brows and wondered, she had given her word. And she is not going to actually be anything to him.
"I'll be in deep trouble if you don't help me. Please?"
"Why me?" She finally asked after a moment of silence.
"You are different — and won't take advantage of the situation."
"Okay, but no funny stuff. No shenanigans. And I won't lie to anyone."
"Deal." And he offered her a ringed hand. The significance of that ring made her question her decision. She had seen that kind of ring before. And an encounter with it had left her broken.
But she had given her word. She reluctantly shook it.
"Deal." And she offered a tight smile.
Breathe. This is just as another project... mission, she thought to herself.
"Okay, may I have your number then?"
"Sure." She tapped it into his phone.
"Just a second." He stood behind her and quickly raised his phone for a selfie. "Smile."
"What for?" She scrunched up her nose and looked at him.
"To give them something to gossip about. Just do it." He pushed her back to him.
And this time she did.
I hope it looks real enough. She thought.
Aquilina quickly moved away and shoved her items into her pink cute satchel bag.
"I will drop you off — and I won't take no for an answer." He went off toward his easel and grabbed his keys.
She hit her head against the back of the elevator and groaned just as the doors swung open.
What have I gotten myself into? Sometimes, having a high IQ does not necessarily mean, having enough common sense. I should have said no.
She looked up to find Jason looking strangely at her.
"Everything alright, cuz?" He scratched his head, and continued, "I sort of stumbled upon your picture last night — with Francesco. What's up?"
"I wish I knew..."
He cocked an eyebrow.
"Don't worry, it does not mean anything." She tried to sound as nonchalant as possible and picked her nutritional bar from the kitchen counter.
"If you say so. And lest I forget, I'll have a buddy over tonight. I hope you don't mind."
"I guess not... do I know this 'person'?"
"I think you know him." Jason gave her his adorable dimpled smile and headed upstairs.
Who could it be? She wondered.
As the lunch bell rang, Aqui was relieved to finally leave the whispers and stares of the classrooms and hallways.
Natalie was also not on speaking terms with her,
"I thought you were my best friend and we shared everything."
No amount of trying to explain without actually explaining seemed to be working.
She decided to skip the Cafeteria altogether and walked toward her cubicle to drop her belongings before heading towards the library.
But she did not travel far before Francesco found her.
"Yeah, it would be nice to give you a nickname don't you think?"
She suddenly felt conscious of the many eyes staring at her.
"Uhm... did you need something, please?" She asked uncomfortably.
"Come on let's go to the cafeteria together." And added in a low tone, "We had a deal. Remember?"
She gulped and slowly nodded.
Breathe. This is just as another mission.
She reminded herself — again.
She straightened and gave him her practised smile, "Shall we go then?"
Francesco smirked and led her to the cafeteria. She felt her anxiety level rise as they walked to the centre table where no "Commoner" dared to approach.
It was elevated, and the table and seats were sophisticated. It was not that the other tables were unpleasant. They were above the normal standards. But these surpassed all.
He led her in the direction of where he normally sat — a hand placed at the small of her back — and seated her right between himself and Javier, who did not look the least bit pleased.
"What would you like to have?" He inquired.
She told him and he left to get her meal.
Despite the diplomacy and show of flamboyance, they allowed all, Royals or not, to serve themselves.
When Francesco was out of sight, Javier leaned in, with his violet eyes a shade darker and looking more dangerous whispered to her,
"I knew you were no good. But I never pegged you as a gold digger also."
Aqui swallowed the pain and reminded herself of the words that had gotten her this far, told to her by her eldest brother and best friend, Luke, the Crown Prince.
What everybody says is not important. Not even what I say. But what GOD says about you, is all that really counts. And HE says you are HIS Child.
Thinking about that, made her smile — a real smile, though not broad, it was something. Javier noticed, and it infuriated him.
"It's okay if that's what you think of me." She said softly, barely above a whisper.
It was a simple statement. But her soft voice triggered something within him. He quickly hid it with his signature look — an icy glare.
"I was not asking for your approval." He finished his bottle of water and left, leaving his food untouched.
Francesco appeared then with the tray of food.
"Hey." He said.
"Hey." She gave her not-so-real smile again. "Thanks," she mumbled accepting the tray of food.
Francesco watched the retreating back of his friend and then turned to look at her. But her eyes were diverted.
He then squeezed her hand underneath the table, as if to say, "Don't be troubled."
He had told her the previous night as they had driven towards her home not to take Javier's rebuff to heart. But she was used to such behaviours now.
After Lunch, during which most of the Royals had barely spared her a glance, Aqui decided things had ended better than it could have.
Her schedule told her she had a free period then, so she happily walked to one of her favourite places in Velvet Regent — the old library.
It was no longer in use and housed almost empty shelves.
Did she find it uncanny? A little at the first. But she was used to it by now. She had never crossed anyone there.
But what drew her attention was, the Old Piano the school had left at the furthest corner.
After dusting a little bit and tuning sometime afore, she often found solace in playing the old guy.
It was in good shape and she wondered why the school had neglected it. But probably, they had better ones.
She hummed, a little tune as she walked to it. The tune reminded her of the good old days when she would perform with her twin brother for their family.
But now, she rarely sang, though her twin brother was now a popular artiste (a story for another day.)
Then she sat down, and after some time, began to sing softly and play the chords gently,
I was sure by now
God, You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say, "Amen"
and it's still rainin'
Well, as the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I'll raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away...
She wanted to cry it all out, but couldn't. She had long since lost the ability to let the pain out through tears.
After singing the chorus over and over, she stopped. Despite not being able to cry, that had felt... good.
She wanted to sing and play some more when she heard the groan.
She had not bothered turning all the lights on, just the ones around the piano this time.
She was startled, but not frightened. She rather analysed the sound. Where was it coming from? It came from the corner of the library. And it sounded like someone was in pain.
She slowly walked to the light switches and turned the other lights on.
"Turn it back off." And the person cursed in Spanish. His voice sounded pained.
"Why should I?" She asked after the shock of realising who it was.
"Por Dios, Chiquita (For God's sake, girl), I have a migraine here," Javier said rather crossly.
She saw the pain in his violet eyes and did his bidding.
In the faint light, she could see him sitting on the floor rocking back and forth with his head now buried in his hands.
She timidly approached him and sat on the floor beside him. He did not object. She did not say a word.
"Where does it hurt?" She whispered softly, knowing strong sounds would cause even more pain. She was glad the song from before was soft.
After a long awkward silence, he replied,
"The left side." He rasped out.
"Would you mind if I massage it?" She had learnt the pressure points for releasing migraines from an old man once in Taiwan and had used it on many occasions.
"If you want."
She gently lifted his head, being aware of any wrong movement, and started tapping and massaging around the pressure points.
She felt him being to relax. He then laid his head on her lap.
"Thank you." His throat sounded dry.
"Don't mention it. Are you thirsty?" She still kept her voice low.
"Yes, but... please don't leave me." He asked like a little boy afraid his mama would leave him.
"And can you sing that song again?"
Hello, hello! *waves shyly* Please I hope your day has been pleasant.
Thank you all for your love, votes, and comments. Kindly let me know what you all think.
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THIRD PERSON POV
"You have completed your 2-hour workout." Came the voice of the trainer through Aquilina's wireless earphones.
Sweating and breathing heavily, she drank heavily from her bottle of high PH water and hit the showers.
She turned the tap to hot to relieve her aching bones and allowed her thoughts to wander to the events of the past day.
After accepting the offer of Mr. Francis, Aquilina found herself looking forward to the bell ringing for the day. She realised how much she missed drawing and painting.
How much of herself had she had to bury after the incident that changed her whole life?
"Okay so you missed the party last night," Nat said when the teacher was not paying attention. She sounded like she had missed the world's greatest event.
"I am sorry, I could not make it. I had a lot to catch up on."
"Right!" Nat rolled her eyes. "You could pass every subject if you skipped every class."
"Okay, I will make it up to you. How about a Pizza at Uncle Jone's later."
"Puh-lease. Not that Vegan pizza again!" She groaned.
"Hey, you enjoyed it last time."
"I was starving. A hungry man or woman finds EVERYTHING tasty."
"You were asking for more to take home."
Natalie blushed, "My Mum is a vegan."
"So, you did not have more at home?" She cocked an eyebrow.
She gave in, "Maybe, let's say I ate more than 99% of it at home. I'm not saying I ate all. But back to the topic... guess who came to the party?"
"Let me guess... EXO's Do?"
"You wish! Don't tell me that's what you had to 'catch up' on."
"Maybe or maybe not..." Aquilina shrugged, amused at her friend's reaction.
"Aquilina!" Nat whisper-yelled. "You missed the greatest event of history."
"That is what you said about the party last week."
She looked confused and Aquilina wanted to burst into laughter looking at her friend's face. But she kept her look neutral.
"No. This week broke the record."
"Oh, dear! Okay fine. Tell me. What happened?"
"Well, as the clock struck 9:30ish..." she beamed entering into storytelling mode. "The big doors of Garret's hall where we were having the party swung open — the Golden Friends appeared."
"Really?" This piqued Aquilina's interest, for Prince Javier rarely attended any such event - to the best of her knowledge.
"And that is not the best part," Natalie went on, basking in the attention Aquilina had finally given her story.
"Guess which other people I saw?" She was clearly delighted. "Drumroll, please... Prince Lu Xia and Prince Lu Feng Mian."
"The twins?" Aquilina stated more than asked.
"Yes, the Chinese Princes!" Natalie was grinning from ear to ear now. "I have been in this school since I was in my diapers but I can count on my fingers how many times I have come across them. "
Aquilina sat back, processing it all.
"Wow," was all she could utter.
"I know, right? They probably all felt the need for some fun. Or Garret struck a big deal." She looked satisfied with herself as she relaxed back as well.
But Aquilina's mind was reeling. She had known the twins for some time, no, a long time. Prince Lu Xia the stern twin, would not have been there for anything.
Something had gone down, and she could sense it.
After stowing her belongings she was not going to need in her little cubicle after lessons —and yes, they had cubicles instead of simple lockers other normal schools had — she excitedly picked up the key she had been given to the Art Studio and headed out.
Hers was simple but sufficient. Others richer than she had even bigger decorated ones, which she had happened to glimpse before.
But she loved hers the same. For she had long since learnt, that joy was not found in the abundance of properties... which she had been blessed with.
None of them gave joy. But being content in that which GOD gives at any given time is truly what makes a man rich.
She got to the Art Studio and strangely found the door unlocked and the lights on.
Was Mr Francis still around?
She slowly opened the door and glanced around cautiously till she met a pair of baby-blue eyes.
"I am sorry, I did not know you were here. Mr Francis gave me the key."
"Yeah, he told me he did. Come on in." Francesco said.
"I do not mean to impose. Maybe I will come back another time." Or never, she wanted to add.
Surprisingly, he chuckled.
"You are no imposition. Come on here. There is room for more than the two of us."
An understatement. A whole community could fit in here.
"Then, I will work over there."
Aquilina quickly moved to the far end — away from Mr. Blue-Eyes and Overconfident. She dropped the key and the few belongings she had carried along on a different stool and settled into work.
She had no idea what to draw. And feeling a pair of eyes watching her every move did not help.
After a few minutes of practicing her strokes, she dove into drawing her favourite — Landscapes.
Funny, how she could immerse herself in landscapes and how it made her feel like she was in her own world. A world in which there was no hate, or abuse... or debauchery or false accusations.
She felt so immersed that she did not hear the footsteps nor hear the sound of breathing so close to her.
"That is so beautiful, and you say you have no talent?"
Startled, she missed a spot she was shading and turned abruptly to face the blonde-haired Prince behind her.
He stood so close, and he reminded her so much of him.
She felt too startled to speak.
"You did not draw these too fastidiously. The feathered lyrical strokes tell me you felt greatly about what you drew..."His gaze moved away from the art behind her and stared point-blank into her eyes.
"What were you thinking of?"
Aquilina turned to look at the simple artwork again. It was not much. But he had read her intentions well.
It was a landscape of a humble cottage; away from the world, away from everyone. And a lake lay just behind it.
To her, it was an escape.
"Just a place I think will be fun to be in." Or run away to.
She quickly explained and pulled to the side, away from him and not towards the easel.
"Oh... would you mind if I include this sketch amongst those that would be painted around the Art-Block?"
"I believe I wouldn't mind."
"Alright. I will get the tripod and capture this."
He walked towards the large shelves at the back and retrieved a tripod. But as he reached towards the camera lenses, a loud crash was heard.
"Are you okay?" She said running to him.
A sharpening blade had been mistakenly left on the lenses and hurt him. It was nothing big. A little cut around his elbows, where his shirt had been folded to.
"I'll be right back." She ran to her bag which had a few emergency medical supplies that she needed and hurried back to him.
She made him take a seat and began to treat his wound.
"It's nothing to worry about. It's only a little scrape."
She did not respond but worked on it diligently. Applying a cream to avoid scarring. It was really effective.
"It was all my fault." She mumbled.
"How was it your fault?" He looked rather amused.
"Hold still." She said putting finishing touches to her work. "If I had not come here today, you would not have needed the lenses and this would not have happened."
"That is a far stretch."
"It is not. It's my fault and I'm sorry."
But he strangely did not reply.
When she was done, she packed the items back and cleared up the mess on the floor. He was still silent. So she decided to turn and leave.
As she moved toward her belongings he reached out to catch her hand, and finally spoke, "If you still think it was your fault, would you do anything to help me as a payback?"
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3RD PERSON POV
"I guess, I will think about it then," Aquilina said with false cheerfulness.
There is no way I am going to allow myself to get close to them, she thought.
The warnings from the WACO replayed in her mind.
She was expecting Francesco to get mad, he was probably not used to being turned down. Instead, something flicked in his baby-blue eyes before he smiled.
"The registration for the Art experiment ends on Tuesday next week," he declared, wiping his hands on a piece of cloth. "I believe I will see you before then."
He bid Mr. Francis farewell and glanced her way again, looking a bit amused before turning to walk away.
The rest of the students quickly placed things in order before filing past, whispering as they went.
"Young lady, I believe you know where to find me." Mr. Francis said, before walking out on a confused Aquilina.
What have I gotten myself into?
Aquilina sat at the kitchen counter eating a salad when Jason walked in. Nutrition was something that was held in high esteem at the WACO. Always keeping fit.
"Hey, you heard about the party tonight?" Jason laid his face towel on the counter panting heavily.
Her blond-haired cousin, though calm looking actually enjoyed boxing downtown at night. When in his mask, no one identified him as the cool looking kid in Velvet Regent.
He was popular, both in the ring and in class—and extremely handsome. The only person he could not defeat in the ring... was his cousin.
She was said to have been born with an "iron fist." So she rarely engaged in battles except to defend. And with that, she did the minimum she could, not wanting to injure any person.
Having received training in martial arts, she learned to hit certain pressure points on the body that seemed to do the trick.
"I did." She said with a sigh. "But I am not going."
"What do you mean you are not going?"
"I have a lot to do—to think about."
Jason could sense how pensive she was and decided not to push her—only this time. She used to be so fun and bubbly.
But after a few months into her trial, his cousin had changed. She hid from everyone as best as she could. She barely said a word.
And she did her best to hide her beauty. Her golden-brown-like locks were always tied up. She also wore thick-rimmed glasses.
Burying herself in work — surgery after surgery, and mission after mission — had become her habit. Till she joined Velvet Regent anyway.
All she now cared about was school and working hard to stay under the radar.
"Que s'est-il passé, Lina?" (What happened, Lina?) He asked in his rich baritone voice.
And she told him.
"I think you should do it. You can't stay hidden from them forever. You are in the same school."
He gulped a glass of milk he had poured himself from the fridge and then he continued, "The WACO did not mean do not talk with them at all. Just, fait attention." (Be careful.)
He sighed and left when she said nothing.
She did not mean to be rude. But bottling up her feelings had become her forte. She wanted to tell Jason everything. But that part of her that seemed to always get betrayed and hurt made her hold her tongue.
She wanted to say, I am scared. Scared of what might happen if I let go. If I relax and let down my guard... like that night several months back.
"... So, I wanted you to know how grateful I am for the opportunity you've given me. But I am sorry, I have a lot to study as I am pursuing law, and cannot accept at the moment."
Aquilina breathed in relief after reciting her thoughtfully crafted speech to Mr. Francis. She forced a tiny smile at the end of it.
They were the only ones in the Art Studio.
She did not want to actually do that to Mr. Francis. He had, after all, given her something most others only dreamt to have.
She held her breath waiting for what he would say.
He took off his glasses and sighed.
"Young lady, I was not expecting this... but I am very fond of you," He folded his palms on his desk.
"How about this? Join the Art Block painting and train after studies each day. Show me your works when done. I am really interested in working with you. I will leave you with the keys."
He sounded so sincere. That caused her heart to melt even as she also remembered the words of her cousin.
"Alright, I'll give it a go." Aqui smiled a little bit at him. She felt excited but tried her best to suppress the feeling.
"Wonderful. Report here after school each day. You can go home and freshen up before returning."
He reached into his desk drawer and the jingle of keys was heard.
"Here is a spare key. I will inform the security of this. Feel free to show me your works during school hours whenever you are done."
He smiled and handed the keys over. She gratefully accepted them. And after a quick farewell, and expression of gratitude, she walked out.
However, Mr. Francis stood and walked to his window, remembering... of course he knew who she was.
Despite her tied-up hair and change in appearance, he would always spot a Jaye when he saw one. She looked just like her mother - a woman he could never forget - with her father's eyes.
Hmmm... This is going to be interesting. He thought.
Ni hao, lovely people!
GOD bless you once again for reading. Above is a picture of how I sometimes picture Aquilina.
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And do you think Mr. Francis has her best interests at heart?
Students file out of the classroom after the bell rings. Natalie mumbles something about talking to Mr LeBlanc about getting a different partner and runs off.
I quietly grab my few belongings into my bag, including my music-only device which the school provides. And that's something I am grateful for. As I hang my bag on person, I feel the glare—again.
Calculating the distance because of the sound of the breath I can hear - due to years spent in the WACO - I realise he is just behind me.
Sighing, I turn to face the source of the glare. He is facing me as Francesco stands beside him.
I force a smile and nod politely deciding it best to say nothing for now. I turn to leave when he speaks.
"Ah... I guess I'm stuck with the trash this year," He says sounding cold and condescending.
He looks at me to judge my reaction. I swallow and do what I have done for years when I feel the most overwhelmed. To show no feeling.
His violet eyes turn even darker and he stomps out. Francesco looks at me quietly for a second, a blank look in his eyes before he swaggers out, hands in his pocket.
I wait for a few minutes, and finally decide to visit Mr LeBlanc's office. I cannot allow myself to be close to them.
After a moment of pleading and beseeching, I finally leave Mr LeBlanc's office, dejected. He refused to change it.
"You know our policy, we can not change who your partner is for the entire year. Whoever was picked for you, will have to remain your partner in every other subject also."
"No buts, Missie."
Thoughts of depression flood my brain and I begin to wander around not bothering which direction I am heading to.
What if I am not able to win the court case due to this association? How will my parents feel? What if all the other secrets get out to the public?
I walk around the art park aimlessly, (yes, the art class has one for outdoor paintings) when I hear a holler.
I look up awkwardly and find all the students looking away from their canvases and staring at me. I sigh inwardly, I guess today is a day of stares.
"I am sorry, I was not watching where I was going," I say quietly to the Art Teacher, Mr. Francis.
He was not my teacher, but I had heard enough about him. He was really hard to please and had only one favourite student - Prince Francesco.
"Well, if you are here, come and explain this piece of art to a student who knows no more than you apparently." And he glares at the boy standing before him with his head bowed.
I walk slowly to him and study the piece of art. It was a bit quizzical at first. But then, I noticed the patterns.
"I think, Sir, that the Artist seemed to have been going through many lows."
I study it again, "With the use of dark hues, he portrays the body drowning, but his soul is painted in lighter hues which seems to float atop the surface."
I gulp and continue not minding if I am making a fool of myself before Mr. Francis and the rest of the students.
"I think he sees a future hope ahead of him. Though he is drowning now, he believes even the worst of situations can be salvaged."
I feel startled when I hear the sound of clapping.
I am as shocked as the others when I realise it is Mr. Francis clapping.
"That is what I am talking about." He says with a pleasant look on his face.
"Why are you not in Art Class?" He asks me, to the further surprise of everyone. It is well known that not just anyone can enter his class.
"Oh, I do not think I have any special talent." I blush slightly.
"I think you should consider it." A different voice says from behind.
I turn to see Francesco, in his signature pose - hands in pocket.
"Francis knows talent when he sees one. Just give it a try. We are going to be painting the whole Art Block this week, show us what you've got."
Seems like I do not have a choice, Mr Prince.
Hello, fam. GOD bless you for sticking with us this far.
Thank you so much for your support. Much love ❤