Warning: Darker screenshots scattered here and there. May be difficult to see on certain devices.
ExtraWarning: Strap yourselves. Emotionally and physically.
It’s a pretty late chapter again but THIS TIME it’s a big one 😀
Salandra is awesome.
It doesn’t seem to be common knowledge, but I’m not sure how I would’ve managed these last few weeks without her. Who knew behind those pretty blue eyes there was such…resourcefulness? Kindness? General smartness? Let’s just say it’s a hodgepodge of those.
She seemed to know exactly what to do for Elvis every single time. We didn’t get to see him as often as I would’ve liked, but when we did she was right on top of things.
I…I’m not very good in these kinds of situations. I have no idea what to say because I have no idea how they feel or what they need. I really wanted to help Elvis, but I didn’t know if he should be left alone, or if I should apologize for not finding a way to help his brother, or if I should act as if nothing had happened…All of those options felt wrong.
Last time we talked to Elvis he actually thanked us. He thanked us for the support and for what we’d tried to do for his brother. He knew there was nothing really we could’ve done, but he still appreciated that we’d tried. For now though, the funeral was coming up soon and his family was going to spend some time together alone. He promised us he’d call.
Having Elvis tell us that, really lifted the guilt from my shoulders. I still think there was something more I could’ve done…but knowing he doesn’t hold it against me helps ease my mind. It lets me put my full attention on this new mystery I have to solve: my sister’s mysterious dance partner.
So, I snuck onto pa’s computer when he wasn’t looking.
It’s not that the computer is forbidden to use…but it’s kind of low key known pa has priority on it, and he’s on it most of the time.
On the taxi ride back, Nikita had graciously shown me where the special Friday dance club was, just to insist on the not bringing me there. Finding it on the web wasn’t difficult, it’s the requirements to attend that are giving me trouble. Namely: the dress code.
I heard pa sneak up behind me too late. I didn’t have the time to close the web page. “You’re planning to go dancing? Nikita was right on taking you out. You must’ve had fun.”
“Er sure,” Better than the reality I guess. “Was thinking of going on Friday.” I said, hoping he wouldn’t make the connection. I’m pretty sure my fathers don’t know my sister’s dancing schedule or locations though.
“Alone?” Pa asked. I glanced at the still open webpage. “If you’re going to choose a place like that, I’d rather you have someone to accompany you.”
“Oh yeah, yeah,” I lied. “I’m going with someone it’s all good.”
“A date?” Pa grinned and I winced. “Do you have proper clothes? This is a fancy place. I’m pretty sure you don’t have any.”
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing now?” I said, tugging at my jacket.
“Going to need a new pair of pants, and a chemise at least.” Pa droned off.
“A chemise?” I groaned, cause I knew he was right. Dress code and all. Guess jeans won’t cut it. Why’d you have to go to a place like this Niki?
“A buttoned shirt.” Pa clarified.
“I know what a chemise is pa.”
There was absolutely no point in resisting. Next thing I knew, pa had bought me some fancy clothes. Course, he said it was still pretty casual, but it was a compromise. He almost managed to get me a vest to go with the whole outfit. Ugh.
Oh and then, he announced he’d be my taxi driver on Friday. Probably to make sure I’m not lying.
Means I really am going to have to find someone to tag along.
I was a little last minute, considering it’s on Thursday that I went looking for a partner in crime for Friday. It’s not like I was going to search long anyways.
Who’s always been more than willing to help me on my missions?
I watched as she pulled her books out from her locker and closed it before talking.
“Want to go out dancing with me tomorrow?”
I couldn’t resist a silent chuckle at her reaction.
“W-What?” She asked, caught off guard.
“I need someone to help me spy on my sister. She’s been dancing with a mysterious ‘prince charming’,” I explained, air quoting. “I just want to make sure he’s not a psychopath, you know?”
She shook her head with a short sigh and a smile. “I’d love to help out. But why do you need me?”
“It would look weird if I go alone. It’s kind of a fancy event. Plus my pa is giving me a ride and he thinks I’m taking a dat—someone with me.” I cleared my throat. I just about slipped out the word pa used, but this is a recon mission, not a date. “Oh yeah, I mentioned it was a fancy place right? There’s kind of a fancy dress code too.”
“That’s fine.” She smiled. “I have a few dresses.”
After giving her a few more details on the place and time and all that jazz, I gave her a quick salute. “So it’s all set! Friday, the mystery is revealed.”
She grinned and brought her own hand to her forehead.
“It’s a date!” She said with a wink.
I froze a little.
A date like a meeting, like a friendly rendez-vous, like a get together, like a –
“See you Friday then!” I ended up saying rapidly, spinning on my heels and heading for my next class.
And then I realized how lame that’d been because we were going to see each other after school today, tomorrow morning, tomorrow during math class and lunch, and probably tomorrow after school too.
I pulled at the car handle, but I heard a click as the door locked on me. I pulled a few times again, frowning at pa who was sitting inside.
“Pa? The door’s locked!”
I squinted inside the tainted car to see my pa gesturing at the back seat.
With a groan, I opened the back door and slumped into the back. I never get shotgun.
“You were going to make your date sit alone in the back?” Pa asked me as I clipped my seatbelt in my unhappy slouched position. I hadn’t thought of that. I bit the inside of my cheek, staring outside the window as pa started up the car. “Where does she live?”
Suddenly, I realized I hadn’t told him we were supposed to go pick up Sal. “Oh um, just head for Salandra’s house.” Pa gave me a look which I chose to ignore.
“I’ve never driven to her house.” He said. I tapped my foot on the floor of the car, before leaning forwards between the two front seats.
“I can guide you.”
We reached Salandra’s house safe and sound and with minimal amounts of my pa gushing over what he thinks is a date.
We arrived right on time, and we saw the lights flicker inside as pa parked in front of her house. I got out and waited by the car doors for her to come join us. The sooner we reached our destination and my pa left, the better.
Her front door opened, letting out a stream of light as she stepped out waving goodbye at someone still inside.
She’s certainly dressed the part.
I feel a little underdressed.
Maybe I should’ve worn a vest.
Wish I had my jeans, they’re comfier.
Blue really suits her.
I mean, no surprise there.
Our eyes met and she took in my outfit. Her eyes widened a bit before she glanced away.
I probably look weird, this is why I don’t like wearing buttoned shirts and suit pants, they’re just weird in general, at least one of us looks decent, hope she won’t be too ashamed of being seen beside me-
“Wow.” My mouth said on its own.
“You’re beautiful! Perfect, we’ll fit right in no probem.” I said. It wasn’t false.
She smiled, her cheeks turning a little pink before she came down the stairs. I opened the door for her, and thankfully pa only said a hello before starting up the car.
That’s pretty much all that was said for the car ride.
Pa maybe asked one or two random questions about school, otherwise he kept his mouth shut which I was very grateful for.
Good thing the car ride was only a few minutes because I wouldn’t be able to take this silence for much longer.
Pa dropped us off and handed me the emergency phone so he could come pick us up when we were done. He also insisted on paying for the entrance fee, which I very reluctantly accepted. I worked now, it’s not like I couldn’t pay it myself.
The club was a little more grand and imposing than on the internet. It reeked of fancy.
“Nikita left over an hour ago, so we shouldn’t have that much trouble finding her.” I said as we headed for the door. “It shouldn’t take too long.” I added.
I glanced at Salandra, who was looking up and around at the place. Wonder what she’s thinking about.
I brought my arm up and she looked at it quizzically.
“If we’re going to fit in…” I said with a tentative smirk.
She replied with an amused frown, linking her arm through mine.
“There! We already look more adulty!” I said, puffing out my chest.
She giggled, the most sound she’d made so far, and I laughed a little.
I paid at the entrance and they handed us some ‘optional’ masks.
We tried them on for kicks, messing around a bit, but we both agreed they were kind of uncomfortable and wouldn’t be very useful. They didn’t hide much of anything anyways.
I could still very clearly see her bright blue eyes.
We slipped past the various groups of people chatting in an attempt to reach the dancing room itself. If there was any place my sister would be, it’d be here.
However, she wasn’t here. The piano was playing some ambiance music, as people chatted to themselves at the bar, or at the tables. A few glanced our way, but didn’t seem more interested than that.
“Do you see her?” Salandra asked. I shook my head.
“No. It’s weird, she should be here by now.” I frowned, casting another glance at the masked faces.
Nikita wouldn’t have lied about the place would she?
“Maybe she and her prince charming eloped.” I heard Sal snicker behind me.
“I hope she’s not that stupid.” I scoffed. She better not, she doesn’t even know the guy.
“Or maybe she’s just in another room in this club.” Sal suggested. That was a lot more likely.
“Maybe…if I know my sister she’ll be back here eventually.”
Salandra shifted from side to side. “We should find a good hiding place then, so she doesn’t notice us.”
We started making our way towards one of the more recluded corners with couches, when we were ambushed. There really isn’t any other word for it.
The song playing on the piano switched to something that apparently had people getting up from their seats and joining together on the dance floor – which we happened to be on.
Sal and I got tousled a bit as people got into waltzing positions (of all things) and started to dance.
“We better play along.” Salandra said as the path to the couches started getting more and more obstacles. I nodded a little nervously.
We did as everyone else was doing. I put my hand on her waist, and she put hers on my shoulder.
Well, we’d managed to achieve a waltzing position. From then on…I tried to glance at how the others were dancing.
I know I’m the guy so I’m supposed to lead but…
“I can’t waltz.” I admitted glancing away a little shamefully.
My parents took the time to teach my sister cause she wanted to learn, but I didn’t so they never taught me. Maybe they should’ve just for this moment.
I looked at Salandra, whose expression was reflecting my exact sentiments.
“I can’t either.” She said with a small shrug.
We seem to be in a predicament.
“But…” She started, letting go of my hand.
“I can boogie.” She said with a hesitant smile and a demonstration of said boogie.
I couldn’t help but laugh at how cute it was. I joined in with a grin.
We had some fun belting out the weirdest dance moves we could think of. I had a preference for the robot.
It didn’t take very long for the people waltzing (and still sitting at the bar) to start giving us weird looks. While I was in the middle of a robot sequence, Sal grabbed my arm.
“I don’t think we’re being very adulty anymore.” She whispered, and I nodded, noticing the increasingly unhappy stares.
“We better leave the dance floor before they kick us off.” I said.
I reached for her hand so I wouldn’t lose her in the crowd and she took it without any hesitation. We weaved our way off the dance floor and out of the room.
We still hadn’t spotted my sister. We decided to go to higher ground to spot her the moment she walked over to the dance floor.
There was a stairwell that led to some kind of interior balcony that gave us a perfect view of the door leading to the room we’d just left from. It looked more like an area for wedding receptions, so the place was empty.
Salandra sat on the couch and I leaned on the small fence, staring at the door as I waited for my sister to show.
There was a moment of silence, peaceful silence, where we could faintly hear the chatting and music downstairs. As I waited for my sister to appear, I started to wonder if maybe I was being a little too protective.
“You’re really worried for Nikita aren’t you?” Salandra asked. “Are you really so sure she’s frequenting some kind of psychopath?”
I sighed. “No…It’s probably some normal boring guy.” I said, sitting on the railing.
I slouched and felt the need to fill in Sal’s silent reply. “She always comes back late on Fridays. You know, she’s supposed to have a ‘knee curfew’, because if she uses them for too long they start to hurt – and real bad.” I said with a scorn. “Every other day of the week, it’s fine, she makes her curfew. Fridays? Always several hours late. She comes back home and immediately sits down to treat her knees to some ice and swallow some pain meds. It’s stupid. Just for some guy?” I groaned.
“Nikita’s not dumb.” Salandra said.
“That’s what I used to think.”
“We know the masks don’t hide anything, she probably knows who it is.” She said, dusting off the couch.
“Why is she pushing herself so much, just to see this guy?” I said, gesturing at the floor beneath me.
Salandra shifted on the couch, and I heard a teasing tone in her voice. “Looovvveeeee.”
I scoffed. “She should just get his number and find a way to go on dates without busting her knees again.”
“Maybe she just likes him for his dancing.” I heard her get up from the couch, her high heels making small sounds as she took slow steps towards me.
“Ugh, she’s a lost cause. It’s always like this when she gets a boyfriend. She puts her all in it…only to dump him a few weeks later? Or her. It’s been her a few times. Love, what a ridiculous excuse.” I rolled my eyes. Oh I love him, my sister would say. He’s the one. And then the next week she’d be with someone else, and when I’d ask her what happened to the other guy she’d tell me he never brushed his teeth or he forgot to call her one night or she grew bored of how he dressed.
“My, my, you don’t believe in love?” Salandra asked. I cast her a look. Am I being made fun of?
“Believe? It’s just a word, it doesn’t actually mean anything.” I said, turning back to watching the bottom floor. “She kept calling it love…how can it be love if you keep jumping from person to person constantly? It’s an illusion. A self-destructive illusion.” I gestured at thin air again.
“I think you’ve got the wrong definition of love.” Salandra said with a confident smile.
“There’s about 500 different definitions to love. Familial love, romantic love, friendly love. You’ve got eternal affection or sexual attraction. There’s no true definition. It’s too broad of a concept. And it doesn’t justify destroying yourself for someone else.” I stated. Glaring down at where Niki was supposed to be, that is within my line of sight.
“I don’t think…love is as easy to attain as Niki claims she has.” Salandra carefully began. “But I do believe it exists. I see it as….a deep respect for someone. A desire to keep harm from them. A need to make sure they’re happy. Love is completely and entirely selfless. It’s a dedication to someone else’s well being. And it doesn’t happen instantly. I think it’s something that builds over time. Along with trust and respect. I believe if people do reach a level where they can say they love each other, and truly mean it, then there’s nothing that could stop them. Having someone who 100% of the time has your back and happiness at heart, and for you to feel the exact same way…that’s like two halves of a whole. The two would complete each other, and that sounds like an unstoppable force to me.” She finished, her eyes somewhere else. I stared at her.
To think I used to find her boring and devoid of any deep thoughts. No wonder, we only talked about school then.
“See that?” I said, gesturing at her. “If love was a thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was it. You don’t really see that often though do you?”
Salandra opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Yeah, if you think about it, those perfect ideal couples don’t exist. “What about your parents?” She ended up asking.
“My dads? Meh…I mean I guess I could say they love each other, but it’s nothing like your definition. It’s mutual cohabitation? Unless that’s what love really is. Just two people linked through marriage and kids, seeing each other rarely during the day because one works all the time and the other writes all the time. But being more than willing to drop and leave everything behind, even your kids, to find a way to save this person.” I said, with a slightly annoyed tone.
“At least they’re willing to sacrifice?” Salandra offered uncertainly.
“Well, sure that’s great. But it doesn’t mean much if you’re only really there during the stressful times, and not the peaceful ones as well, you know?” I said. Guess I was still harboring some negative feelings about dad’s whole escapade thing. “Wow that derailed.”
“There she is!” I exclaimed as I spotted my sister heading for the dance room. I knew she’d head here eventually. No sign of her prince charming though. He might already be inside waiting.
She seemed nervous. It’s probably my imagination, but she doesn’t seem steady on her feet. I frowned.
“Oh she’s gorgeous. Just like usual.” Salandra said.
“Let’s go.” I said, and we sneaked down the stairs.
We peeked inside the room and I spotted them instantly. My sister was already dancing with her prince charming.
“There,” I said, pointing at the couple. Salandra stood on her toes to look over my shoulder.
My sister had a real genuine smile on her face, that made me almost feel bad for trying to burst her bubble.
“Doesn’t he seem…” Salandra began, squinting at the back of the man my sister was dancing with.
I shook my head with a scoff.
“Figures. He’s just as stubborn as my sister.” Which would explain why they both still had their masks. Pride was the only thing keeping them apart right now.
“You know him?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s him. Just looking at that hair.” I said. The couple shifted and we got a better a view of his face, confirming my guess.
“It’s Tyzel!” Salandra whispered.
“Hmph, I don’t know who he is, ha! They both work at the same place, my sister sees him practically everyday. No way, she didn’t recognize him.” I snorted.
“Oh that’s so cute.” Salandra giggled. “They both won’t admit they like each other so they’re playing the mask game.”
“Like I said, stubborn and prideful, both of them.” I said, crossing my arms. I watched both of them dance with those goofy smiles. “You know…if it’s him I don’t mind.”
“Yeah.” If there was anyone who could stand up to my sister it was Tyzel. “We better leave before she spots us. She’d be beyond pissed!” And even though I personally wouldn’t mind pissing my sister off on this, I guess I can be nice and leave her to her bubble and then tease her about it when she comes back home.
A few hours later…
“It’s starting to get late Niko.” Dad said as he finished preparing his lunch for work tomorrow.
“Just a little more dad.” I said stifling a yawn and turning the page to my book. “She’ll be back any time now.”
“Or she may still be out with some friends till late in the morning.” He said unconvincingly. I could tell he just wanted me out of the living room. Nato buried his face in the couch and exhaled.
“I just really need to talk to her.” I said, blinking the fatigue away. She should’ve been back by now. Her knee curfew had long since expired.
“You should head to bed. I’m sure it can wait till tomorrow.” My dad repeated, but with a more serious tone.
I cast him a quick glance. He sensed something didn’t he?
My dad opened up a drawer, containing some of Niki’s pain meds, just as Nato suddenly shot up and barked. For once, my dad didn’t scold my dog, instead they both looked towards the front door moments before somebody burst it open.
I jumped to my feet and ran towards it.
To my surprise, there was Tyzel, holding a pained Nikita in his arms.