Drumming his fingers along the steering wheel, Fitzwilliam ponders over the several strange occurrences to have transpired a few hours ago. One being that strange look on Wilhelmina’s face when she bowed her head. She had ducked her head quick enough, but not enough that her infuriating smile escaped his attention. He knows that smile – that was the same smile that got him covered in mud, three bruises and cookies in his shirt when they were five. That was also the same smile that led to four broken ribs, a totaled Ferrari and two very enraged professional wrestlers. What a weekend that was.
Perhaps he will have to take a closer look into Wilhelmina’s scheming later. He has other matters at hand, for instance, the other strange occurrence. He smiled. Had he? Yes. He can’t deny it. He did smile. That in itself isn’t strange; it is why he smiled that makes his stomach churn in disgust. It is that loathsome woman’s fault. As much as he hates to admit it (and Lord knows it’d take Heaven and Hell to pry from him the damnable words), but Regina Parnall made his lips quirk up. And he’d be damned if the thought alone doesn’t immediately send him to Hell or worse, her, so she can beat the living daylights out of him.
Peering to his right, seeing the white leather of the passenger seat and then to his left to see the hard, grey cement of the school parking lot, Fitzwilliam blows out a breath of relief. Well, he’s still here. Maybe thinking such thoughts aren’t tantamount for eternity in fire, but he sure feels the gravity of some huge depravity gripping him. To have any pleasant thought of Regina Parnall may as well be the same as cutting off his tongue and then having to rip apart his every ideal and belief with no more eloquence than a babbling toad.
A harsh sigh rushes from his lips as he presses his knuckles to his cheek, leaning against his elbow propped up on the steering wheel. It isn’t exactly a pleasant thought, he reminds himself as he eyes the school entrance warily. The damn redhead simply said something that made him involuntarily smile. It isn’t bound to become a regular habit and besides it’s not even like what she said was even that humorous. Then why did he smile?
The moment he heard his name being called right after a ‘Regina Parnall’, he immediately threw together a plan to keep from losing an ear and a nose because he already calculated the likelihood of charming his way out of it. It’d be a cold day in Hell before that happened. Which drew him to his plan: cold indifference. He began the very second, the very millisecond the words entered his mind and shifted his view ever so slightly to keep his eye from catching her ripped sleeve. As if simply looking in her direction could prompt a fight, which he wants to avoid at all cost.
Ever since grade school, ever since their first encounter, that first, almost seemingly uneventful, unimportant meeting, nothing he did made her react differently. Smile. She’s mad. Frown. She’s mad. Polite conversation. She’s mad. Make a clever joke. She’s mad. Nothing, absolutely nothing he tried swayed her, so eventually he stopped trying and willingly went along with her obsession to argue him.
Grant it may have something to do with what he did when they met, but it’s not like she was much more pleasant that day either.
In the end, he decided on indifference. He never exactly tried that before. She was mad like usual, but this time was a bit different. She was ready for arguing, yes, but this time it was easier to corral that anger and have a somewhat passable concept of ‘conversation’ between them.
Jolting up when the door swings open, he slumps back down in disappointment to see a blond, short boy stumble down the steps of the school and race off towards the bus stop. Wait. Disappointment? Did he really just feel that?
“Oh, curse every demon that’s seeking my destruction,” he mutters as he digs his palms into his eyes, trying to alleviate his sudden aching head.
Puffing a sigh, he slams back into his seat, letting his arms fall into his lap. He is not disappointed. She’s coming. Why it matters to him, he doesn’t know, but what he does know is that she will be here. She will be, no matter how much she hates him, it’s the hatred that will force her here. And damn him, why does the thought of her coming to him make him want to smile so hard? Why does having a ‘not-conversation’ with her make him want to smile? He’s not going to smile because then that would mean there is something to smile about. And there’s not.
The door catches his attention again, this time the familiar flair of spiked red hair pulled back in a ponytail appears. He doesn’t hesitate in pulling up right next to the stairs, his face already in a mask of disinterest as he looks up at her. From this angle he can see her vividly in stark detail, more so than when he only glimpsed the back of her (and not so much then since he was focusing on Euberta and beginning his plan). Now he can clearly see her cut-off black t-shirt with “Black Sabbath” printed across the front in chipped, white block letters with a white tank covering up her belly. Long leather, knee-high boots, red and black striped socks and ripped jean shorts clasped her legs, and finishing her punk-wannabe look, of course, are black bracelets dangling on her wrists. He muses how much they’ll clash in public. He’s in a blue button-down with black slacks and a golden wristwatch.
Even from the bottom step, he sees her roll her eyes and he swears he tastes the seething hatred dripping off of her like venom off fangs.
“Ms. Parnall,” He gives her a mandatory grin, the kind his father gives to work associates whom he’d rather bite the heads off of but needed for business purposes. Damn him. Why did he have to suggest working out in public with such a despicable woman? He asks as an afterthought, “Pleasant day at school?” Indifferent he may be, but indifference did not equate loss of manners.
“Cram it down your throat, Salomen,” She hisses. Her shoulders are ridged and her eyes akin to sharpened blades.
Fitzwilliam feels his grin loosen from being forced and actually feels a genuine smile break free on his lips. Oh, right. That’s why. She has such charming things to say. That must be why he smiled. One strange occurrence solved. With that, he feels as if a lead burden has been freed from his stomach and now he can safely go back to their petty rivalry.
Stepping out of the car, he quickly darts to the other side and opens the door for her. “Allow me, Ms. Parnall.” He gives her another grin, this one out of etiquettes, which she sneers at, slapping his hand away.
“Don’t make me cut your arm off,” she warns as she slips into the passenger seat.
He quirks an eyebrow at her, smile gone. “I was only trying to be civil. Manners, Regina. Really. I am taking us to the library to study, am I not?”
“I would rather you not.” Crossing her arms, she sits in the seat defiantly. Leave it to her to make sitting defiant. Not that he doesn’t heartily agree with her…
After settling back into his seat, he looks over and his frown deepens.
Feeling his eyes on her for a few seconds too long, she snaps her head in his direction and snarls, defensively, “What?”
Another brow hitches up, his mouth a firm line. No amusement. This is serious.
Sighing exasperatedly, he points to his shoulder, prompting her to look down at hers. Finally, when she still doesn’t seem to get it, he just tells her, “Your seatbelt. I’m not moving this vehicle an inch until you’re safely strapped in.”
She grunts in disagreement. “You’re not my mother. I don’t have to wear a seatbelt.”
The silence stretches thin, his dark stare only intensifying as the seconds tick on.
Throwing her hands up in resignation, she groans, “Fine! Fine!” And with that, she’s nicely snugged in her safety belt. “There. Happy?” Snorting, she adds, “I didn’t think you were a safety nut.” To herself, she mutters, “A nut perhaps…”
Smiling, he pulls out of the parking lot and heads for the library. It’s almost endearing that she thinks whispering to herself will not allow him to hear her. “I’m not. I don’t want you smashing your face into the windshield should some imbecile cross my path.” Then he adds to himself, mimicking the way she had tilted her head when she mumbled, “Wouldn’t want to get smudges on the glass…”
She growls at his answer and he raises a brow at the noise. Certainly she’s grateful that he’s even concerning himself with her well-being. He even made a jest. Oh, wait. She doesn’t respond well with jokes. He lets his smile drop, reverting back to his default state of heavy indifference. No matter. This whole ‘friendly’ charade is only for the sake of the project. They’ll be back at each other’s throats par routine before Friday.
As they drive along, silence soon eats up the space, leaving in its wake heavy tension. Whose idea was this… oh, right. Why had he thought this a good idea? It would lessen their time together thus shorten the uneasy, awkward moments like this one. Curse his flawless logic! He stifles a sigh. The more awkward moments to the library reduces the awkward moments at school. Still, being this close and so quiet is nearly unbearable. Surely not even she and her loud mouth can remain so stoic for so long. Why does her silence drive him over the edge? If anything this should be a blessing. It’s the first time in their acquaintance that she’s not peeping a word. Then why, bloody hell, is this so much more infuriating?
“What did you have in mind for our project?” he asks casually, trying to keep his voice neutral.
From the corner of his eye he watches her brow crinkle, but otherwise doesn’t move. She remains so still that he begins to think she may not have heard him and has been in her own thoughts the whole time. He’s about to repeat the question, when she suddenly speaks up.
“What if we look into something about the brains of criminals?” she noncommittally shrugs. “There’s bound to be something interesting in that.”
He almost flinches. He catches himself last second, nearly in the motion. Her voice is so soft, so nonthreatening that he finds it threatening. She has to be planning something. What is she up to? What sort of sick trick is waiting him? Blue hands? Bodily harm? His head minutely turns and he catches her serene expression. She doesn’t look like she’s plotting his demise. But, it’s too soon to dismiss anything. She has never talked to him like that before. Normal. He tries to, but he can’t recall a single, real moment where her voice directed at him was below a yell or was less than a feral tone. Now he just has to make sure it remains this calm.
“Criminals,” he repeats, successfully, albeit narrowly, without heavy hints of disdain.
Already he can feel her eyes glare at him as if he is some sort of offensive monster. “What’s wrong with that idea?”
He inwardly sighs. So, much for keeping her in a neutral mood. “I didn’t say it was a bad…”
“You didn’t have to. The way you said it…”
“I was simply restating what you said.”
“You said it like you were touching garbage!”
“That’s almost not too farfetched. Being so close in the presence of…”
“If you want to keep that tongue attached to your mouth, you better not finish that thought!”
“The tongue is attached to the hyoid bone.” He can’t stop himself from adding, “If you paid more attention in anatomy, you would know that.”
Somewhere in his mind, something isn’t exactly monitoring what filters from his mouth because he specifically remembers wanting to remain neutral and, well, would you look at that? His foot somehow found a way into his mouth. Impressive, since he is driving at the same time.
Regina doesn’t find it as impressed. His foot-in-mouth abilities seem to mildly fan her flaring anger. “I do pay attention and if anything’s distracting me, it’s your giant ego-complex blocking the board.”
“Call medical advisory, your eyes are blind. I sit behind you to the side.” He eyes her skeptically for a moment. “My ego can’t possibly be obscuring your vision.”
“Please, your ego is so big it was named an official planet,” she hisses, arms folded across her chest, slumping against the leather seats, seething. She is the picture of teenage stereotypes, Fitzwilliam thinks as he eyes the library coming into view.
He sighs. They haven’t started the real project yet and already they aren’t starting on ‘good’ terms. The next few days are going to be some of the longest days of his life. He won’t be surprised if by the end of this day, he will find a grey hair. He truly never has been together with Regina longer than the handful of class hours, even then it isn’t as if they constantly talk – what little talking they do is usually heated arguments over the tiniest things.
What fresh hell has he brought onto himself now?