Regina doesn’t move.
The air has been sucked out from around her and gravity weighs her down more heavily than usual. It is the sound of her own aggravated sigh that throws her back to reality. Rearing up in her seat, she moves to scream her frustration at her persecutor - “Ms. Blanchard,” – when a smooth voice flits over her and demands attention.
She whips her head, glaring daggers at the person who is the source of all her broiling anger. Fitzwilliam Salomen.
He makes it a point, a rather sharp point considering that he is directly diagonal to her and she is in his field of vision clearly, to disregard her presence and continues his power of persuasion.
“Ms. Blanchard, lovely teacher as you are, your classroom never fails to uphold my highest expectations,” he addresses her in his velvety baritone voice as he laces his fingers together, propping his elbows on his desk, leaning forward, eyes staring over his steel-rimmed frames with the stark chill of indifference veiling them. “But, may I, if I be so inclined, suggest mild complaint on how science partners were chosen for our next big endeavor?”
Euberta Blanchard, teaching for some thirty-odd years, is not one to receive complaints well, especially not those of the spoiled brat of a billionaire CEO. Regardless of how Salomen charms the pants off all his other teachers, (effortlessly, if he may say so himself) his charms always fail to reach Euberta. And somewhere deep, deep down beneath all his cold indifference towards the woman, there may be a little piece of respect for that. A little piece of respect next to all the hatred this woman is managing to rake up with her every attempt (and sometimes successful triumphs, he hates to admit) of making him obey her rules. Fitzwilliam Salomen got things done by his means and his ways.
If Euberta is in a fair mood, meaning, yes, by some strange miracle she had gotten up feeling refreshed in the morning, and yes, the coffee was absolutely perfect, then, yes, she becomes putty in his manipulating hands and he can have a recess, free-for-all with his projects and assignments. She will giddily be accepting of whatever excuse or hair-brain scheme he has brewing in his insanely brilliant mind and he will be given extra time on whatever homework he had stowed away for the night in favor of tinkering away at another crazy invention of his. Those were some of his better days with the teacher.
Unfortunately, today does not seem like one of his way days. Euberta is scowling.
“Hold your tongue, Salomen, before it digs you into deeper holes,” she snarls and, turning to Regina, she demands in a firm voice, “Sit down.”
“Ms. Blanchard,” Regina and Fitzwilliam object at once. Both spare one another burning glares before the teacher snaps back their attention.
“Ms. Parnall, Mr. Salomen, control yourselves this instant!” Her bark silences any further interruptions and the fiery redhead slips down into her chair quietly. “Now, I am not asking you two. I am telling you – you are science partners; you will work together; you will not question it again.” She pauses, letting her words sink in.
The rest of the students, more or less, are dying to make a raucous comment about the two being madly in love, and to stop denying their feelings for each other. Several girls are squirming around in their seats, thinking of prime jests for the class’ favorite ‘lovebirds’. Euberta’s stern gaze banishes all such words, condemning them to death on the students’ lips.
She breathes deeply before continuing. “Regina,” She glances at the girl, noting a hardly contained grimace. “Fitzwillim,” A glance is thrown towards the brunette who is staring indifferently over his glasses. She holds in a much needed sigh. The stress of these two will last lifetimes. “I can not have the two of you starting a full-fledge brawl every day. Your petty fights are becoming hindrances to other students’ learning. And some of the distraction seems to be going beyond the fights and into some imagined scandal.”
Her eyes narrow towards a group of giggling girls, silencing them. Eyes back on the two in question, she gets to the point. “I’m growing tired of having to break up these meaningless battles. First, it was about how the sight of each other made you both want to vomit, then you started fighting about who started this and that, and I am fed up with it. You two are to learn to work together or fail. Do I make myself clear?”
She is met with silent, hard stares. Furrowing her brow, she repeats, “Do I make myself clear?”
Whether or not venom is heavily lacing her words and whether or not that affects their actions, Regina and Fitzwilliam nod simultaneously (much to the group of giggling girls’ delight).
Euberta nods. “Very good. Now back to our lesson…”
The rest of the class hour passes in high strung silence. The only sound is the snap of the pencil in Regina’s clutched fist.
The books being shoved in her locker may have been suffering more abuse than they deserve, but she can’t be blamed for being a little irritated this afternoon. Nope. No one will blame her after the crap thrown at her today. And by Ms. Blachard, who else? What the heck? What did she do to all the… well, whoever the heck is listening up there, to deserve this crap deal?
Fitzwilliam, that freaking snob with perfect hair (how the heck is he doing that?), has been nothing, but a royal pain in her derriere, excuse her French (is that what that phrase meant?) since grade school and hasn’t gotten any more pleasant since, not even in their tenth year of school. Not to mention how downright annoying his smug smirk is when he thinks he’s won an argument.
Regina grunts. Look at her. He isn’t anywhere near her and yet she is already fuming about potential screaming contests.
With a purposeful swing, she slams the door shut with a satisfying thump. She fantasies about ways she can crush Fitzwilliam’s head between her locker doors, then she turns. Then she screams. Speak of the devil, she thinks bitterly as her vision is filled with the glint of glasses and loose, brown hair.
In a moment, she shoves him a way and is in her guarded stance. “What the heck are you doing, Salemon?” she demands, pointing an accusatory finger. “What do you think you’re doing stalking around my locker?”
She can’t make out his eyes, but in the pause that follows her outburst, she can almost feel them giving her the one-over. What a creep. Her muscles tense tighter, fist at the ready.
He barely has a few inches on her, but the way he stares down over his glasses makes her feel like he’s towering. This only furthers her fury, and she’s about to snap at him again, when he speaks up.
“My apologizes, Ms. Parnall, I do not intend to come across as a stalker.”
“No, I’m not, you’re… wait, what?” Regina had raised her fist, only to slowly lower it and stop short of her planned tirade. Did he not insult her?
He hooks his hands behind his back, straightening a bit taller, making his stare all the darker. His voice, nonetheless, remains even. “I do not wish to provoke you or to make you see me in quite a colorful light.”
Her brows dip towards her nose. “Oh, you don’t want to provoke me? Then, of course, by all means, wait behind my locker door at the last minute to give me a freaking heart attack!”
“I’m sensing sarcasm?”
Even and calm as they are, Regina doesn’t mistake the mocking undertone to his words. She swears she sees his lips quirk up, but a blink and they’re a thin, firm line, revealing no emotion.
“No,” she draws the word out, forcing a despicably pleasant smile. “I love when complete creeps sneak up on me!” She scowls and spits, “Of course, I’m being sarcastic!”
He doesn’t bat an eye. Instead he peers over his glasses, green irises flashing momentarily before he opens his mouth. The words spoken carefully. “Let me be the only creep to keep you company today.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” she snaps.
“It means I want to get started on this project of ours – the sooner we finish the better. I am merely suggesting we spend today at one of our homes to go over planning.”
Regina gawks at him. Is this a homework assignment or a business negotiation? And who does he think he is calling all the shots?
She rolls her eyes. “Look here, Salomen, no one is going to anyone’s house, got that?” With less bite, she huffs, “It’s not due until Friday. We have four more days. We can work on it in class.”
If anything, refusing him is only because she doesn’t want to be near him. It has nothing to do with the fact that she has never been to a guy’s house before or that a guy has never been to her house. Nothing at all.
Sure that her answer will have him leaving, Regina is surprised when he doesn’t move an inch from his position.
“I am aware of when it is due,” he states. “However, I propose that we should come together-”
“In holy matrimony,” a random girl cuts in as she ogles the two from across the hallway.
Regina glowers at her, but Fitzwilliam remains indifferent even as the girl strolls right on up to him and throws an arm around his shoulders. The sight makes Regina flinch by the suddenness. When has this guy ever let anyone near him, let alone touch him?
“Hello, Wilhelmina,” he addresses her, slightly turning his head towards her strange, green hair that spills out over his button-down.
An achingly beautiful grin that can melt anyone in its presence splits her lips at the sound of her name, so pretty that Regina almost forgets her earlier remark. Almost.
“Hey,” Regina pauses, forgetting her name though spoken a moment ago, instead focusing on the flowers tucked behind her ears and settles with, “Flower Girl!”
Wilhelmina turns that soul shattering smile on her, but Regina does not waver, not even when the green-haired girl asks in a soothing voice, “Yes, love?”
“Don’t ‘love’ me!” She snaps (as ridiculous as those words sound) and grits her teeth. “Don’t ever say something so bullheaded again!”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“You know what! That… that… holy crap! There is no holy anything going on between me and” -she gestures to Fitzwilliam- “that!”
Speaking of, Fitzwilliam has yet to remove the arm snaked around his neck. Not that Regina cares. It’s just irritating how indifferent he’s being to all this. She also doesn’t care that the girl is almost his height while she is starting to feel humiliatingly short all of a sudden.
Flower Girl seems to wilt at the words, lip quivering and everything. “But… but… but…” she gasps in exasperation, (finally) taking her arm from his neck, so she can turn to face him. “But, you two are so lovely together!”
A dark brow wings up as he glances over his rims at her. Then he ignores her as he turns to Regina. “Let me apologize for her.” The words because Lord knows she won’t for herself are left unspoken, but heard loud and clear. “She insists that I need a lover.”
Regina thinks for a moment that she sees his eyes flicker behind his glasses – like an exaggerated roll – but then decides it’s only the light bouncing off the lenses. This lapse in attention gives Fitzwilliam enough time to continue without her heated interjection of denial of being his potential lover.
“Do not get too flustered-”
“I’m not! Don’t flatter yourself,” she manages to bark out as he continues.
“She has found a lot of girls over the past few years, claiming each of them would make an exceptional wife. However,” He clicks his tongue. “I find each of them disdainful.” He nods to Flower Girl. “Perhaps the reason why is more blatant than I thought, especially if you think I would ever want to ‘hitch’ myself, as I’m sure is common lingo for you” - directed squarely at Regina – “to a woman so revoltingly uncultured.”
“And I wouldn’t want to espouse,” – she relishes in the bewildered look Fitzwilliam momentarily exposes before retreating back to his mask, and even gloats – “That’s right! I can use fancy words, too!” – turns back to Wilhelmina – “I wouldn’t want to espouse a rich, pompous snob!”
“Did you learn all those words from British television?” quips Fitzwilliam smoothly.
Before Regina can retort, he shifts his whole body to face Wilhelmina (the most movement since he statured himself behind Regina’s locker) and asks her, “Come now, Mina, what, pray-tell, makes you believe that we” – gestures between himself and Regina with the subtlest twitch of his hand as he brings it from behind him – “make a compatible couple?”
If her smile is poison, the way her eyes light up as if on fire from the inside makes her deadlier than a viper ready to spring for the kill. A few would not be hasty to claim seeing fangs when the girl’s mouth breaks into a mischievous grin.
“Why, isn’t it obvious?” She swings her arms out towards the two, willing them to get closer to each other. Of course, they don’t, so Wilhelmina will have to settle on making it clearer for them.
Sucking in a large breath, she begins in the most dramatic frail of her arms and shouts for the high heavens to hear, “How can you be so blind? I saw it! I saw the passion in your eyes when you stared at each other-”
“That was rage,” Fitzwilliam barely gets out as Wilhelmina heedlessly trudges through her theatrics of this ‘whirlwind romance’.
“I saw the way you two longed for each other’s embrace! The way you two crave each other’s caress!” Her arm drapes dramatically over her forehead in a woe-is-me motion. “But, alas! This love is doomed!”
“It never started.”
“Doomed and cursed is a love this powerful! Because you two won’t realize your undying affections!” She throws her hands in the air, then slowly lowers them, staring purposely at the living tragedy before her. Romeo and Juliet reincarnate. It breaks her heart. She sighs. “Fitzy, you have to be doll for once and let girls play with you.” With agile fingers she plucks a piece of lint off of his shoulder. “Your cold demeanor drives them away.” She flashes a well-meaning smile. There isn’t one in return.
“Are you sure you’re not the one driving them away?” He turns a glance feigning surprise towards Regina. “How are you still here after all that?”
Without missing a beat, she replies, “I deal with you all day. Your acting is worse.”
If one is staring as intently as Wilhelmina, then someone besides her would’ve caught the ever so slight upwards quirk of Fitzwilliam’s firm lips, and someone would’ve for the briefest of moments caught a glimpse of emotion leaking through his carefully made mask. Fortunately, no one, but Flower Girl is watching for his reaction so obsessively, so not even Regina sees the stir she caused in him, if only for a breadth. But, Flower Girl saw.
“Hey,” Regina growls. “Close your mouth! You’re giving me a front row seat to a food gallery I didn’t ask for!”
Wilhelmina snaps her jaw shut, haven’t even realizing it was open in the first place. But, a big grin soon stretches across her face. Backing away, she starts, “Ah… um… I…” She’s too giddy to think straight.
Fitzwilliam’s brow twists in consternation. “Mina? Are you all right?”
Straightening up, she tries again, voice firm. “Yes. I just realized I have to be somewhere. Anyway, sorry for whatever that was.” She gestures behind her as if that in itself is clear indication of ‘the past few moments’ and continues on. “I’ll let you guys alone. It’s clear there is nothing between this.”
Her head bobs down - seemingly a return nod to the one Regina gives. Then in a flash, she’s scurrying away before anyone can say anything.
Thank God, that’s over, Regina thinks as she watches the green hair swish around a corner. She’s shrugging her backpack on her shoulder, ready to leave and be done with all this nonsense, when the snob speaks up.
“That was a tad off topic.” He flicks an eyebrow up, eyes focused on the hall Flower Girl disappeared into. Then his gaze settles heavily on Regina, completely swallowing her up in the sharp, menacing green orbs.
Regina is a step away from swinging a right hook into that pretty face of his to keep those pools of puke from staring so fixedly on her, when he abruptly continues.
“About my offer?”
“To work on the project.”
Regina shakes her head firmly, frown present. “No way, you freaking creep!” She spits the last word, punctuating her answer. “No one is going to anyone’s house, especially not after that lovey, lovey, doe-eyed romantic was trying to get us to lock lips only after seeing us stand next to each other.” A cringe can’t be fought back at the next thought. “I don’t want to know what she’ll think seeing us walk into a house together.” Folding her arms, she leans back, eyes seizing him up with contempt. “Besides, I don’t let in mutts. House rule.”
She waits for his insult. It doesn’t come. He only stays rooted solidly in place as if he was there his whole life and always will be, his only goal glaring straight ahead. She can’t say she’s not uncomfortable with his silence. For once, she wishes he’d fight back, something. A quiet Fitzwilliam is an unfamiliar Fitzwilliam, therefore, dangerous and a threat. What is that pigheaded idiot plotting now?
He blinks behind his lenses (the first time, Regina notes unconsciously). Opening his mouth, he says one word, “Library.”
Regina scrunches up her face. “What? What about-”
“The library. It’s a secluded area, not many people visit and we’ll not run the risk of people thinking scandalously of our reputations.” He cocks a brow, a challenge, daring her to find fault in his oh-so-freaking flawless logic. Oh, she will find it all right.
She shrugs. “I don’t have a car. I have no ride.” Ha. There. She can’t go; she isn’t about to walk a few miles by herself.
“I can drive you.”
Crap. “I don’t ride with strangers.”
“I’m no stranger.”
“Right, let me rephrase that, ‘I don’t ride with sociopaths’.”
“Have you always been this charming or have I been blind to it our whole acquaintance?” He doesn’t wait for an answer. “Nevertheless, I have already taken the necessary steps and phoned your mother for permission.” A sly grin, the first open expression of emotion on his face since this conversation began, curls his lips wickedly as he tells her, “She was thrilled to hear her lovely daughter would be accompanied by such a brilliant, young man on her way to the library to further her studies.”
If her anger were any hotter, Regina is sure it would’ve blown out her ears in comical steam. Curse him for winning her mother’s approval; how he got to be so charismatic, she’ll never know! How he found time to charm everyone’s pants off is an enigma.
She opens her mouth to scream bloody murder at him. “You freaking-” She near bites her tongue as a realization comes over her, causing her great confusion. Did he just say she was lovely?
“So,” he hums, breaking her thoughts. “Library? Our project?”
Anger ever evident in her mind, she grits her teeth and seethes, “Why would I want to spend any more time than I have to with an arrogant, self-absorbed brat like you?”
He ducks his head down, leveling his eyes with her. The action is so sudden Regina jerks back, half expecting a head butt. He merely stays there, locking eyes with her and she doesn’t break the contact, if only to be defiant in whatever angle he’s playing at here. In that steady voice, he explains, “That’s what I’m trying to accomplish. The more we work on this project, the faster it’ll be complete. If we start now, we’ll finish before it’s due and be out of each other’s hair.”
Regina forces herself not to furrow her brow. She hates everything about him, but she hates it more when he purposes a decent idea. She swears under her breath. The only indication he hears is a slight tick in his brow, otherwise he remains silent, waiting for her answer.
Rolling her eyes and heaving a sigh, Regina growls, “Look, rich boy-”
“Pants-in-a-Fitz,” she hisses, narrowing her eyes. “Let’s get one thing clear – I will go to the library and we’ll work on this project, but the moment we see someone we know, you’re trash to me.” She shrugs. “Don’t take it too personally; I just don’t want people thinking we’re friends or anything.”
His eyes flicker across her carefully. The firm, thin line of his mouth has not wavered. A cold, calculating voice shimmers through his lips as he whispers, “No. Trash should not be seen mingling amongst diamonds.”
“Uh, yeah, whatever, Dude.” Regina dismisses his weird whatever it is he’s doing today. It seems he’s just bound to be off.
“Right then. I’ll be waiting for you after school.” And like that, he is on his heel and away before Regina can yell at him some more.
Regina feels her fists clench up as she falls against her lockers and slides to the floor. That happened. Not only is she doing a project with the most obnoxious person in the universe, but now they are going to go to the library. They’ll be in each other’s proximities. In public. What is she getting herself into?