- Hiro -
As the door clicked shut, Hiro pulled out the chair from under the dressing table and sat down, her dress squelching in the process. Sir Renkai sat down on the edge of her bed and studied the palms of his hand.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, breaking the silence between them.
Sir Renkai looked up at her, his eyebrows raised in question.
“For what?” he asked, linking his fingers together.
“I feel like I’ve disappointed you.”
“Why would you feel that way? You’ve done nothing wrong.”
She sniffed sulkily and said, “But his mother looks so dissatisfied at him that I thought you might’ve felt the same about me.”
Sir Renkai studied her before replying, “How could I ever feel that way? I finally have you back. There’s nothing I feel that can beat the happiness and relief that’s in my heart. Besides, I think it was rather funny. Reminded me of the times when your mother and I first met.”
Hiro looked up at him and for the first time, she began to doubt herself. Before she or Sir Renkai could say anything else, Elisabeth bounded into the room and bowed her head low at Sir Renkai.
“You called for me, Sir?”
“So I did,” he answered, distractedly. “My daughter needs a new dress for an important announcement later this evening.”
“What’s wrong with this…one?”
Hiro felt her cheeks burn with humiliation as Elisabeth’s eyes wandered up and down the dress in inspection.
“God! What’d you do Hiro? Take a bath with the dress on?” she yelled in exasperation.
“No, but close enough,” Hiro answered, feeling ashamed. “I fell in the fountain out in the maze.
“Oh no,” Elisabeth moaned. “Why did you do such a thing? This dress I was going to reuse for a photo shoot that will promote the next season’s dress line.”
Hiro opened her mouth to stammer a response but the door opened, interrupting her.
“Sir Renkai, I believe it an opportune moment to announce the marriage promptly when everyone has been seated for dinner,” the young man’s mother announced.
All three heads in the room turned to look at her.
“And how long do we have?” Sir Renkai asked, frowning.
“A little more than half an hour,” she answered, looking at Hiro. “I suggest you get a move on finding her something suitable to wear.”
“I can’t make a whole new outfit in half an hour!” Elisabeth protested, her eyes round with panic.
“Now, Elisabeth. Calm down!” Sir Renkai soothed, extending his hand out to her. “You can think of something I know you can. I wouldn’t have chosen you if I hadn’t known you were capable of quick thinking and imaginative skills when it comes to fashion.”
Elisabeth smiled and pursed her lips in thought, her fingers tapping her chin as she racked her brain for something. All eyes watched her as she looked at the ground and frowned in concentration.
“Aha!” she exclaimed, surprising everyone. “I have a dress back at my apartment, but I’ll have to resize it to fit you. It’ll be a bit too big so don’t worry about squeezing into it. Slip into the dress and come back here for me to adjust it. I’ll get some other things, but meet me back here.”
She hurried to the door and excused herself to the mother to leave.
“Wait!” Hiro called after her, standing up.
Elisabeth poked her head back into the room and asked, “What is it Hiro? I have to hurry!”
“I’m going by myself?”
“Well yes, you’ll have to. I have to get the arrangements,” Elisabeth replied, her eyes searching Hiro’s face to see what the problem was.
“If you want, I can go get him to escort you.”
“No, thank you,” Hiro responded, grimacing.
She felt the young man’s mother’s eyes on her and she looked away, pretending to notice something of interest on the door handle Elisabeth held.
“Well,” Elisabeth paused in thought. “I can get Issik to take you, he’s downstairs with Grandpa, helping with the catering.”
“Please do!” Hiro accepted quickly.
“I’ll call him as I go, so just meet him at the entrance, he’ll take you in whatever vehicle he arrived at.”
The mother opened the door wide and motioned for Hiro to get a move on. Doing as she was told, Hiro hitched up her dress and hurried out of the room, Elisabeth following her down the stairs onto the main floor.
“I know you’re still new to the place so I’ll just tell you. Take the next left and keep going, there’ll be a side hallway to the right, take that and it’ll lead you to the entrance,” Elisabeth instructed.
Hiro nodded and scampered off in the direction Elisabeth told her. Elisabeth herself turned in the opposite direction and practically ran down the hall to the room she was staying at, pulling out her phone and dialing the number to Issik.
“Issik? This is an emergency?” she said, speaking her words really fast.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, a clang sounding in the background.
“Tell Grandpa I’m sorry and that I need you to meet Hiro at the entrance of the mansion,” she answered, wringing the door to her room open.
“Will do, is there anything else I need to know before I get my running into action?”
“Take her to my apartment and then call me for further instructions. Don’t worry about the key, I have a friend staying at my place so she’ll open the door for you.”
“Alright, I’m on my way.”
Elisabeth hung up and stuffed the phone into the pocket of her skirt. She scanned her room and spotted her makeup bag. Snatching it up, she grabbed the hair curler beside it and rushed out of the room, closing the door with a swift kick.
“Ow,” she groaned, hobbling down the hall back up to Hiro’s room. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
- POV Switch -
Issik closed his phone and turned to his grandfather, who stood right beside him, handing out a pastry to a smiling and rather drunk woman.
“Grandpa?” he ventured, knowing his grandfather would be upset at the loss of a helping hand.
“What’s wrong Issik?” he asked, looking sidelong at his grandson.
“Elisabeth said there’s been an emergency and that I need to help Hiro out by meeting her at the entrance,” he answered in one rush.
His grandfather stared at him for a moment then sighed heavily and nodded his head in understanding.
“Go on,” he said, waving Issik off. “There are less people here than before, I can handle it.”
“Thanks Grandpa,” he exclaimed, turning to leave. “Oh and, Elisabeth said she was sorry.”
“What is that silly girl thinking,” he chuckled. “I can take care of myself!”
Issik watched as his grandfather turned back to work and slowly slipped away, running toward the entrance. He dipped his head low and charged down the corridor, leaping off the stairs and landing with a loud thump. He stood shakily and winced at the impact. His pain was shortly forgotten as he continued down the hall and turned toward the open room.
As he spotted the entrance to the mansion, he slowed his pace down and sucked air into his lungs. As he crept closer he noticed a hunched form standing beside the door.
“Hiro?” he asked, stepping towards her.
She looked up from her crouched position, gasping for breath.
As she stood up straight, Issik couldn’t help himself as his eyes roamed over her, taking in her disheveled curled hair and her soaked evening gown. The wet material clung to her body and outlined it in a way that made his face heat up. She was still beautiful despite looking a bit unkempt.
“A-are you alright?” he stammered, feeling suddenly shy for himself.
“Yeah,” she replied, grinning. “Did Elisabeth tell you what’s happening?”
“Yeah, let’s get going before we become late for that dinner and announcement thingy she was talking about.”
Leading the way, Issik opened the door for her and held it open as Hiro slipped out into the cold night air. Closing the door behind him, Issik stepped forward and guided Hiro down the front steps to where all the cars were parked.
“My ride should be around here somewhere,” Issik called over his shoulder to Hiro. “It’s just past this nice looking car.”
As they walked around the sleek black car, Hiro’s disappointment was clearly shown upon her face as Issik handed her a helmet.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, snapping the clasp together underneath his chin.
“Nothing, it’s just that,” she looked smugly at the worn bicycle and gestured at it. “I thought for a guy with spiked up hair, you’d have something like a motorcycle, or something.”
Issik looked at her with surprise and stammered some sort of apology.
“I didn’t think you were into that type of thing,” he remarked, lifting the kickstand up.
Hiro secured the helmet upon her head and shivered, rubbing her arms with her hands. She shook her head and stepped back for him to wheel the bike around.
Issik got on the bike and held it steady for Hiro to climb up on the back rack to sit down.
“Are you alright there?”
She shivered and nodded her head, clutching the folds of her dress up so that it wouldn’t interfere with the bike. Issik watched as she gathered the dress into her arms and lap, goose bumps covering her arms. Issik took off his jacket and swung it around Hiro’s shoulders.
She looked up in surprise at him and started to stutter a protest but Issik shook his head to silence her and said, “It’s okay, don’t worry.”
“But your t-shirt has such a short sleeve! Winter is coming, I can’t-”
“Stop fussing, you worrywart. The one closest to getting a cold right now is you. You’re soaking wet and cold. I’d worry about myself before fretting about anyone else, if I were you.”
Without waiting for her to answer, Issik pushed the pedal forward and made his way down the driveway and out into the empty road, heading toward the busy part of the shopping area.
- Hiro -
Hiro wrapped her arms around Issik as he sped down the sidewalk, turning occasionally into the road to go faster. As they approached the shopping center, he sped with expertise around shoppers and spectators, swerving neatly with precision around diners and customers. He slowed as he neared Elisabeth’s apartment building.
Stopping beside the line of bike racks, Issik turned in his seat and held a hand out for Hiro to help herself down. After Hiro had swung herself down, the folds of her wet dress clinging to her legs, Issik locked up the bike and walked with her into the building. Eyes from the employees as well as from the inhabitants watched as Hiro and Issik made their way to the elevator. Whispers began among a pair of old ladies and Hiro huddled under the jacket, pulling it closer around herself. Issik looked around the elevator, tapping his foot as he waited for the doors of the elevator to close.
When it finally did, the two of them breathed a sigh of relief. They looked at each other and began to laugh softly.
“They probably thought something wrong,” Issik exclaimed, smiling sheepishly.
“Yeah,” Hiro agreed, feeling a bit awkward. “Those old ladies now have something to gossip about.”
Issik chuckled and looked away from her. Hiro looked around her and an empty silence fell between them.
The doors finally opened and the two hurried out, stepping to the side as an elder man attempted to pushed his wife in a wheelchair into the elevator. Issik offered to help and the two of them succeeded in pushing the wife in. They thanked Issik and the elevator door closed, leaving Hiro and Issik alone again.
“Her room was this way,” Issik exclaimed, looking quickly at Hiro. “Let’s get going.”
Hiro nodded her head and she seemed to look more appreciatively at Issik, smiling a little as he lead the way down the vacant hallway. They turned left and stepped quickly toward the room at the end of the hall.
As Issik turned to the wrong room, Hiro tugged at his hand and motioned to the room opposite, saying, “This is the one, silly.”
Bewildered, Issik turned toward the correct room and knocked, blushing as Hiro’s hand still remained in his.
The door opened and a tall young woman looked out at them, she didn’t seem the least bit surprised to see them. One hand held the door open wider and another had a phone held up to her ear.
“Yeah, they just came,” she answered to the person on the other end of the phone. “Come on in.”
She nudged her head toward the room and stepped back to allow Hiro and Issik in. Closing the door behind them, the lady made her way quickly into Elisabeth’s room and disappeared for a while, coming back out later with a silver dress in her hands.
“Change into this in the bathroom,” she relayed Elisabeth’s instructions with an almost monotone voice. “Hurry now, you’re running really, really late.”
Hiro nodded her head and rushed toward the bathroom.
“And you,” the lady motioned toward Issik. “There’s a pressed suit in the small guest room, grab that and change into it. You’ll be escorting Hiro into the dining area.”
“Me?” Issik exclaimed in surprise.
The lady shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly but pointed to where the room was. Issik nodded his head and left to do as told. The lady remained standing and listened as Elisabeth’s voice hastily gave more instructions.
Hiro came out of the room first, the damp navy blue gown draped across her arm. She held it uncertainly and looked at the lady for some assistance, who, in turn, asked Elisabeth what to do.
“Hang the dress on a hanger and place it on the rail above the window leading out to the terrace. It should dry nicely there,” the lady said, delivering the message word for word in a bored tone.
Elisabeth said something in the phone and the lady’s lips twitched into not quite a smile, but something close enough. Issik stepped out of the room and stood with his clothes folded and stacked atop his hands, as though he were holding a tray.
He wore a nice, sea blue dress shirt tucked neatly into black dress pants. His silver tie matched the dress that Hiro had on, which was a strapless silver dress that came to above her knees, too short for Hiro’s own comfort. It was a bit wide around her waist and fell straight down in an unshapely way.
The lady relayed what she saw to Elisabeth who in turn asked Issik, “Does the jacket fit you?”
“No, it was way too big. Did you want me to put on the vest?”
“Yeah, see if it looks better.”
Issik slipped on the silver vest and stood straight for the lady’s sharp eyes to scrutinize.
“Yeah it looks good,” the lady answered Elisabeth’s question. “It should do fine for him; on the girl it looks really funny.”
There was a moment of silence as Elisabeth spoke to the lady. The lady nodded once and hung up, motioning for the two of them to follow her.
“I’ll take you back, that way you can just sit and relax and not ruin your appearance any further.”
They made their way back down and walked a bit away from the building to the parking lot. They got into a really old and wrecked van, which hesitated to turn on but did after several turns of the key in the ignition. They made their way surprisingly swiftly back toward the mansion.
Thanking the lady, the two of them stepped out of the car and quickly out of the way as it lurched backward out of the driveway. Issik’s phone rang and he picked it up, walking with Hiro toward the entrance.
“Meet me back in Hiro’s room,” Elisabeth instructed, breathlessly. “Hurry!”
Issik told her what Elisabeth had said and the two of them rushed into the building and up the stairs toward Hiro’s room.