Guinevere stared at her reflection in the mirror frowning. Her light brown, perfectly highlighted hair fell in soft waves to her shoulders. Her almond shaped eyes were lightly lined with a dusting of silver, her cupids bow mouth shiny with a pink gloss. She was pretty, preppy, pink, and perky. Everything she was supposed to be, everything her mother and father wanted. So why did her reflection make her skin crawl?
Sighing loudly enough to get a sideways look from an equally preppy girl, she grabbed her backpack and walked out of the bathroom toward her next class.
Sitting in the too white lecture hall she glanced around at all the students. They varied from preppy, to average, to goth, to gay, and back again; English majors ran the gamut. Possibly the only thing her parents disapproved of. They would prefer she went to school to be a doctor or a lawyer, or at least a businesswoman majoring in marketing, but no, she chose the least lucrative major possible.
Something flashed in her periphery, and her gaze fell on a guy dressed in a black and blood red. His hair was longish, but not quite touching his collar, falling strategically around his face. It was raven black and shone blue in the light. His eyes were ice blue and made even more inhuman by the black liner that framed them. She gasped when that ethereal gaze fell on her, sucking in her breath and holding it as she stared.
Tilting his head to the side he looked her over, from her face down her pink and blue sweater to her pale blue skirt and pink flats. As he examined her, she looked him over more closely.
His face was beautiful too if you could get past the eyes with chiseled cheeks and a strong jaw in contrast to his alabaster skin. Alabaster skin that shown against the black graphic tee and black jeans he wore. The toe of his almost a-typical combat boots tapped a few times bringing her gaze back up to his face making their eyes meet. A look crossed his face that she didn’t quite understand, a cross between interest and predatory before it was gone, and he turned away.
Shaking it off she focused on taking perfect notes. It was so second nature to her that within a few minutes her mind wandered as she transcribed. She studied the guy again noticing tattoos that peeked out from his shirt sleeves and neckline. She wondered idly what they were and if he fit the stereotype people like her cast on him.
The professor called on her and she didn’t have time to let her mind wander again, by the time class concluded she’d forgotten about the beautiful guy and her mind quickly planned her study schedule as she walked home. If she was going to choose a major her parents disapproved of she had better have straight A’s.
She paid no attention to her surroundings as she walked to her apartment, the largest concession she’d made her parents make. She was going to live on her own and she was going to support herself. The living she made as a ghost writer for newspapers in the area as well as the freelance she did for ad companies was comfortable, but it wasn’t guaranteed income, so she had to make do with a cheap one-bedroom apartment in a questionable part of town. Though honestly if she didn’t have to worry about her parent’s opinion of her she could have had a better apartment in a better neighborhood if she could have roommates. She rolled her eyes at that thought; her parents would love that. She could hear the lecture now: All those people around your stuff, what if they don’t pay their share, what if they find out your personal business, what if they corrupt you?
The internal monologue distracted her enough that she hadn’t noticed the guy watching her, noticed him stalking her, or noticed the knife until he had it pressed against her throat. Before she could blink he had her pulled into an ally, wet from the recent rain and cold, pierced her pretty sweater when he threw her into the wall. Her face scrapped the brick wall before she caught herself.
“Give me your wallet and all of your valuables.” The mugger growled low in her ear, she caught the whiff of alcohol on his breath and a underlying stench of body odor. She didn’t bother telling him she had no cash or that she didn’t really own anything valuable. Nothing she said was going to matter to him, instead she flattened herself to the cold wet brick and then thrust her elbow back into his gut forcing him back a couple of feet.
Turning quickly, she faced h in time to see the blade glint as it swung wildly towards her, she blocked his random slashing easily as he was uncoordinated, but when his fist joined in she had to change strategy. She moved back again to give herself room and was about to execute a kick to his sternum that would give her the room she needed to escape when something warm slammed into her from the side, sending her sprawling into a puddle.
Shock had her momentarily stunned until she looked up again to find the beautiful guy from class sparring with the mugger. He grabbed the mugger’s arm and twisted the knife free, letting it clatter to the ground. When the mugger lunged for it he got a knee to the face, before being thrown toward the mouth of the ally. He stumbled away as quickly as his drunken legs could carry him even before her rescuer threw the knife into a nearby dumpster. She really needed to learn his name.
“Sorry, love. Didn’t mean to get you all dingy.” Her mouth must had hit the ground and she was pretty sure some lower places took notice too. The hot goth guy, was British? That she hadn’t expected. She still hadn’t gotten up from the puddle even though the water had soaked through her skirt and underwear. “You alright?” He asked looking at her as if she might be touched in the head but holding out a hand to help her. That’s when she noticed the slash across his forearm and the blood oozing from it.
Ignoring his out stretched hand she scrabbled to her feet, water dripping down her legs and making her skirt stick to her thighs, she grabbed his arm examining the wound. It wasn’t deep, just a graze but needed tending.
Finally, she met his gaze, “Thank you…?” She gave him a questioning look.
“Alistair, my apologies for the lack of manners.” She smiled at the near blank expression on his face before he looked down where she still held his arm carefully in her hands.
“Of course, it is.” She chuckled, then felt him stiffen and start to pull away. “No, don’t do that, I’m sorry that was rude.” She smiled at him again as he regarded her with more intensity than he had in class. “I’m Guinevere.”
He nodded and with a smirk said, “Of course you are.”
She let go of his arm and returned the smirk, “Will you let me take care of that for you?” She asked indicating his arm, “It’s the least I can do.”
He raised a brow, “You want to help me?” She nodded and took his good arm to lead him down the street another block as he eyed her.
She all but dragged him up the three flights of stairs to her apartment only letting go to open the door until she deposited him on a rather worn leather couch with instructions to sit tight before disappearing through a door to his right that he assumed had to be the bedroom.
Alistair studied the Altoid can that the perky princess lived in. Honestly, he’d seen dog kennels that were bigger. What interested him more than its small size was the fact that it was almost bare, with just a couch, a coffee table, a side table, and a small cabinet in the corner. From what he could see of the kitchen it was barren as well. The side table held an array of pictures and awards. Everything in the apartment was spare but clean as a whistle except for the pictures, they were coated with a fine layer of dust as if she didn’t care about them at all. There were pictures of friends from what seemed like secondary school, her in a football jersey, a volleyball jersey, a cheer-leading uniform, a tennis uniform, and a track and field uniform. The trophies ranged from tournaments won in the various sports to, debate team, young authors, and various other academic achievements. Their prominent display clashed with the fact that she wasn’t smiling in any of the photos but standing much like one of the royal guard.
Those photos were for someone else, not her. He looked around for some clue as to who the perky princess was, until his gaze fell onto the cabinet and curiosity got the best of him. Opening it as quietly as he could he found the princess’s treasure. Photos of her in a black gee with a dark red belt wrapped around her tiny waist. Exertion poured from her, but she beamed at the camera and the frame was spotless. Shiny trophies from sparing matches won cluttered the space as well along with a small stand displaying the red belt she’d worn in the pictures.
This was her space, this was the part of herself she hid under all of that pink and proper. Just as he was about to close the cabinet her voice came from behind him.
“You know it’s rude to go looking through people’s things.” He turned to see her holding a first aid kit, dressed in a black wool sweater that fell to mid-thigh and off one shoulder, the skirt was replaced with tight black jeans that accentuated just how toned the princess was.
He gestured toward the side table, “You forgot the swim team.” He muttered going back to the sofa where she’d left him. She took his arm with one hand and reached over to the side table with the other handing him a picture of her in a lifeguard uniform, before turning her attention to cleaning the wound. He watched for a moment as she expertly bandaged his arm. “Is there anything you don’t do princess?” He asked noting that her fingernails were pink, but her toenails were black.
She tilted her head, “I don’t play softball or basketball, I don’t like them. I don’t do quantum physics because, just no. I avoid anything involving math actually. There are quite a lot of things I don’t do.” She said, and then added, “Don’t call me princess.”
Alistair stood and took her face in his hands to examine the scrape there. “Isn’t that what you were going for with the pink and perky everything?” She pulled her face away. “You aren’t that girl,” He said gesturing to the side table. “So why do you pretend to be?” He said before she walked away. She stopped and looked at him again.
“What do you mean?” He gestured to her outfit.
“You don’t look like a pink powder puff now, and if it really meant that much to you to be the pink perky princess, you wouldn’t let yourself be seen with a single hair out of place. Yet here you are in a comfortable sweater and painted on jeans that you no doubt got from a second-hand shop.” He pointed at the cabinet, “But that shrine you’re hiding in that cabinet that’s you.” Shock shown on her face for a moment, but she recovered herself quickly.
“My parents don’t know about the fighting and they’d kill me if they found out, that’s why it’s in the cabinet. None of that means anything, you don’t know a damn thing about me!” She said almost spitting the last word. Oh yes, this was a touchy subject for the princess and he was willing to bet that her parents were the real hot button.
“Oh love, I didn’t need to see your apartment to see that you aren’t the stereotype you cling to like a vice. No princess would have taken one look at me without scowling, no princess would have fought back against a mugger, and no princess would have thanked me after knocking her to the ground in a dirty ally. You are no princess.”
She stared at him for a moment before the words tumbled off her lips without her permission, “Then what am I?’
He raised a brow, “Don’t know love. All I know is what you’re trying to be.”
“I don’t know how to be anything else.” She said with a shrug. She didn’t know why but somewhere between the ally and now she’d decided that she trusted this man. She didn’t talk about these things with anyone, why now, why him. Shaking her head, she tried to regain some of her dignity that she apparently left in the ally. “I-uhm…. would you like some coffee?” She said. He nodded and inclined his head in thanks. She walked into the space designated for the kitchen and began preparing the coffee. He watched her handle the rather impressive looking machine and the array of buttons. Within two minutes she handed him a small black mug with cuppa written on it in chalk.
“Who do you know that’s English?” He asked gesturing with the cup.
She shrugged again, “I don’t really. I did a semester abroad at Kings University. I loved it.” She said wistfully and he watched as her eyes glazed with the memory and the small smile that tugged at her lips. He said nothing, leaving her to her moment and tasted the coffee.
Shock crossed his face before he practically beamed at her. “This is real- I mean this is real English coffee!” She gave another small smile, but she was afraid he could see it in her eyes in her hunched posture. He’d seen through her façade and wasn’t sure just how much she wanted him to find out.
“I have it imported,” She muttered to the floor. She flinched when his fingers gripped her chin and lifted it so she had to meet the ice of his gaze. He didn’t say anything just stared at her a moment before brushing his lips over her forehead.
“You shouldn’t think so much, love. You’ll send yourself round the bend. “She leaned into him a little, comforted by his touch for reasons she couldn’t explain. Maybe it was because he didn’t judge her, yes, he pointed out all of her issues, but didn’t judge her just wondered why. “For the record, I like this you better.” He looked toward her bedroom door that she’d left ajar. “Mind if I take a look?” She rolled her eyes but shook her head and led him to her room flopping down on the bed as he prowled.
Even in her bedroom, her personal space, she put on a show. Everything was pink and perky except a few sparkles of silver. The closet was a study in how many shades of pink there were. “Love, you do know there are other colors, yes?” He said trying to take the cringe out of his tone, but not succeeding. “I think you stole Umbridge’s wardrobe.” Then he saw the smaller rack to the side that had all black clothes. They were chicer than he thought she would probably prefer. Silky cloth that any self-respecting WASP would wear. He turned and studied the small woman wrapped in her guilty pleasure that looked old and ragged, though her pink wardrobe probably cost somewhere in the thousands judging by the labels. His mind wandered back to the study she’d given him in class, not just his body but his attire as well.
“Your mum and da control everything you do?” He saw the fire leap into her eyes, but she didn’t respond. Anything she said would have been a lie. He nodded slowly, knowingly. “Anything pressing tonight?”
Her brows drew together in confusion, “Not really, no. Why?” He pulled out his phone and fired of a quick text, holding up a finger and then grinning.
“Because love, we’re going out. Go change into something you like, no pink.” Her eyes lit again, and she was about to argue. “Oh, come now, we both know you’re curious.”
She thought about that for a moment, she was curious, who was this guy and who did he think he was telling her what to do? They stared each other down for a few moments before he gave up and went rummaging through her secret wardrobe. In no time he’d pulled out her favorite blouse, it was a silky and translucent black with little skulls all over it. Each skull had a silver bow atop its head that sparkled.
“Throw that on and keep the jeans, you’re hot as sin in them.” He said with a wink and left the room. She couldn’t help herself she giggled a little before changing quickly. What her parents didn’t know couldn’t hurt her.
When she came back into the living room, she found him rearranging her pictures. He put all of the ones on display in the cabinet and the one’s in the cabinet on display. She smiled despite herself. It was nice that he realized they meant something to her and that he wanted to show his support for it, but in the end, she’d end up moving them back into the cabinet like the coward she was.
“So where are we going,” She asked deliberately ignoring what he was doing. He turned and gave her a mischievous grin.
“We are going to find out who you are when you aren’t trying to please your step ford parents and grant all of your dreams.” Something akin to panic rose up in her chest and she felt herself start to shake slightly. Alistair reached for her and put her arm through his, leading her out the door. “Don’t worry, love. I’ll take good care of you.” He promised though she seriously doubted it.