Delphine pushed Claude away with a frown. He sighed and sunk back into his seat, resting his hands against the steering wheel. Delphine wiped at the corner of her mouth where his kisses had smudged her lipstick, then crossed her arms tightly over her chest, staring out the car window.
“What's wrong?” Claude asked after a minute.
“What do you think is wrong?” Delphine asked sharply without bothering to look over. “My entire life has just been completely fucked up.”
“If you want to stay so badly then why don't you go live with your dad?” Claude asked, sounding as annoyed as Delphine felt.
“He doesn't have time to look after anyone but himself,” Delphine explained. “You know that.” Claude sighed again, rubbing the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “How can you be so calm about this? I'm going to be thousands of miles away from you and Alex and Claire and Christine and all you can do is sit there and tell me to stop complaining.”
“I never said that,” Claude said.
“You might as well have,” Delphine replied. She heard the fabric of the seat pull as he shifted a moment later, kissing her jaw and her neck. Delphine sighed, and tried to relax into the touch, but when his hand dropped to her chest, her annoyance flared again and she shoved his chest. “Just take me home.” He huffed out a disbelieving laugh.
“Seriously? We're not going to be able to see each other before you leave, you know that, right?”
“I said take me home, Claude,” Delphine growled. Claude sighed, irritation radiating off him in waves, but started the car, and backed out of the parking space. The ride was tense and awkward. Delphine's jaw was tight, her back teeth clenching and scraping in anger and irritation. She left with a terse goodbye, ignoring his try for a kiss. The tires on the car squealed as he drove off.
Marie was Skyping with John when she got in. Delphine could hear his baritone vibrating through the air from the kitchen. The conversation stopped when Delphine shut the front door behind her. She heard Marie tell him to wait, followed by the sound of her name.
“Delphine, is that you?”
“Yes,” Delphine replied, trying to make it upstairs before her mother could corner her. She wasn't so lucky.
“I thought you would be out later,” Marie commented. “Where's Claude?” Delphine paused halfway up the stairs, and half turned with a shrug.
“He's not staying tonight,” she said.
“Oh,” Marie replied, nodding slowly. “Well, make sure you pack up the last of your things before you sleep, since you're home,” she continued, walking off.
“Okay,” Delphine replied to the empty air, trudging the rest of the way to her room. Only days ago she'd hardly been able to move for all the boxes that packed their small house, but now her room was a skeleton of what it once was. There was hardly anything to pack; just the essentials that she'd left out to take with her on the flight. Delphine stepped out of her shoes with a sigh, and dropped her bag on the floor.
She wanted her mother to be happy. There was nothing wrong with John. He was certainly nicer than Delphine's own father. Cosima was... interesting, for lack of a better descriptor. She was just as kind as her father, but a bit weird, Delphine thought, and she spoke so quickly about such complicated things that Delphine had trouble following what it was she was saying, and spent half of their conversations feeling completely lost. Delphine just wished that her entire life didn't have to be uprooted for her mother to find peace. She loved France, and their house, and her school, and her friends. She didn't want to leave them behind to live with people she hardly knew.
Delphine threw herself onto her bed. There was a new one waiting for her in her new home in California. Hers would be given away to charity when they left. Delphine buried her face in her pillow with a soft groan. The only positive was not having to be in school for the foreseeable future, but even that would be short lived once they were settled in.
The departure was a tearful one. There was no time before the flight to say her goodbyes, so they came in the form of a night out with Delphine downing more drinks than she could remember ever having had at one time. She was hungover in the morning, feeling sick and sensitive to everything with Marie all but walking her through the airport and security and the terminal. She caught a precious hour of sleep before the flight boarded, but the noise on the plane was too loud for her aching head to ignore. The trip felt like a lifetime. Delphine was relieved to have solid ground beneath her feet again, even if it meant the end of her old life, and it was refreshing to see familiar faces. Cosima's smiles had a way of cheering up everyone around her, and to see it directed at her eased someone of the pain she still felt.
She missed home. The house and neighbourhood were nice, and Cosima and John were lovely, lovely people, but she wanted her own house back, and her own room, and bed, and friends. Cosima tried to include her, but Delphine just wanted to be left alone to sulk and mope, and wish she was out with her friends instead of waiting for them to get on Skype. The chaos that the move brought was enough to let her fall to the sidelines, at least for a while, but it didn't provide any distraction at night, when she lay in bed feeling like there was a gaping hole in her chest, and yearning for the town she'd spent her life in.
The wedding was upon them faster than Delphine could fathom. It was small, and private. One of Marie's friends flew over, completing a party that consisted of the bride and groom, a friend of John's, and Cosima and herself. Marie looked gorgeous in her dress, tearing up while her and John exchanged vows. She stood at her mother's side, sharing glances with Cosima. She looked different without her glasses. The intensity of the stares that Delphine occasionally caught her giving were amplified by their absence. She was smiling, but looked like she was about to be sick. Delphine shared her unease.
The reception after was the only reprieve. With all the adults well on their way towards intoxication, there was no one to keep Delphine from stealing what was left of a bottle of wine and filching her mother's cigarettes, escaping to the quiet of the back porch. Cosima was the one who found her a short while later. She pulled up a chair and sat, rubbing at her eyes behind her glasses. Delphine thought she'd been crying until she rolled her eyes and said,
“I hate wearing contacts.” Delphine hummed in response, and placed a new cigarette between her lips. Cosima motioned to the wine bottle resting against her thigh. “Could I have that?” Delphine silently handed it over, almost dropping it when Cosima's fingers brushed over hers. “Sorry, clumsy,” Cosima mumbled, her face a light shade of pink. Delphine held her hand close to her chest, toying with her cigarette. She sighed, and ran her fingers through her hair.
“I can't believe that happened,” she said. Cosima set the wine by her feet, and licked her lips.
“Yeah,” she said. Her voice was thick, laced with something that Delphine didn't know her well enough to be able to pick out. “It's crazy.”
“Yes,” Delphine agreed. “Crazy.”
A couple weeks later, the paperwork for the school had cleared, and Delphine found herself awake early in the morning deciding which shirt she was going to wear while she waited for her straighteners to heat. She was ready before Cosima was. Her new sister stumbled down the stairs just before they had to leave. John drove them, the radio filling the void that the lack of conversation created. He accompanied her into the office, letting Cosima go off to class without her.
“Will you be okay?” John asked.
“Yes, thank you,” Delphine replied, smiling at him. He squeezed her shoulder and left, leaving her waiting for her name to be called. She didn't wait longer than a few minutes before she was shuffled into a small room in the back, the door shutting softly. The name plate on the desk said Campbell.
“Here's your schedule, Miss Cormier,” the woman said. “Now, your step-sister, Cosima, she's here today, yes?” Delphine nodded. “Just wait here a minute and I'll have her come down and show you around. It'll be much easier with someone you're comfortable with.” Delphine almost said that she would find her own way around, and that her and Cosima barely new each other, and that she'd probably be more comfortable with a complete stranger, but Ms. Campbell left before she could do anything. She sat in silence in her chair, crumpling her schedule between her fingers. The minutes ticked by slowly.
“Delphine.” She jumped at the sound of Cosima's voice, whipping her head towards the door. Cosima smiled awkwardly. “So, she told me to give you a general tour. Like, show you where your locker is, and everything, and walk you from class to class so you don't get lost."
“Okay,” Delphine said, getting to her feet and slinging her bag over her shoulder.
“You ready?” Cosima asked. Delphine nodded and fell into step beside her. “It's not hard to get around,” Cosima explained. “Everything is pretty well laid out. Let me see your schedule.” Delphine handed the paper over, pausing when Cosima did. “You're in AP Bio?” she asked. Delphine blushed, and nodded again. “Cool. Me, too.”
She tried to keep up with what Cosima was saying, but she was rambling again and talking too fast and Delphine couldn't keep up with her. It was an exhausting first day, and the amount of catching up she had to do in a few of her classes had her wanting to crawl into a hole and die.
“Delphine?” Marie called when her and Cosima got home. “How was it? Is the school nice?”
“Yes,” Delphine replied. “It was fine.” She wondered why Cosima looked mildly puzzled on her way upstairs before remembering that her new sister's French was poor. “I'm going to my room,” Delphine continued.
“I'll call you when dinner is ready,” Marie replied.
Delphine's addition to the AP Biology class made the number of students uneven. The teacher put her with Cosima and her partner, a boy with brown hair, glasses, and crooked teeth. He smiled nervously when Delphine sat next to him.
“Delphine, this is Scott,” Cosima said. Scott laughed anxiously, his eyes darting across Delphine's face and torso before flicking quickly away. Cosima's smile had frozen on her face, her eyes narrowed the slightest bit. It would have been intimidating, if Scott hadn't been intently staring at the table. The expression faded after a few seconds, Cosima's face morphing back into a neutral mask. Even though she kept her face carefully controlled, her eyes danced with interest. Delphine spent the class period half watching her, and half ignoring the way Scott kept looking at her.