Witch Dance: Rosalia Morgainne
Rosa’s appointment as Prefect came as a shock to everybody in the dorm. She was merely a first year student and while talented indeed, not somebody of great note. Except for the fact that she was a celebrity and still sought after actress, in spite of the recent scandal. And then it all made sense. It wasn’t her performance during the finals or Samhain Night that earned her the position. It was merely that she was a pretty face and it would be good publicity for Rosenhex. This is the conclusion that all the girls arrived too, when the previous Prefect announced that she would leave the dorm in the hands of a mere second-year student. It was the most circulated news during that summer vacation and most of the seniors loudly proclaimed they wouldn’t take orders from a kid. So Rosa’s venture as a Prefect was off to a bad start already.
She did not care for it however, because when she first got the news she was stunned. Coming to Walpurga Nacht was in a way a spur of the moment decision. At the end of middle school she had no particular plans for high school or beyond. She assumed she’d always continue acting, probably as Cherry, for the rest of her life. The series was a huge success still, even now eight years later, and according to everybody it was because the main heroine herself remained cute and relatable. As long as Rosa would continue her acting career her life was pretty much set. At least that’s what her manager told her.
Manager: It’s all about image! Do a few commercials here, a few movie roles there, sprinkle in some modelling gigs now that you’ve got the figure for it and you can profit off your cute looks for as long as you live! Trust me, starlight, you’re made for fame.
Her admission to Walpurga was transformed into a PR stunt with many interviews centered on how the ‘cute and sweet Cherry will juggle between her acting career and the demanding course work’. Ratings for her TV show went through the roof and social media was abuzz with messages congratulating her. Then, during the middle of her first year the scandal happened.
Manager: Listen, starlight. This witching dance is the best thing that could have happened to us. We’ll have you on stage, all glittering and gleaming, with those frills and ribbons - everything pink, gotta keep the signature look - and you’ll smile and wave - you know how! - and they’ll be putty in your hands. Gonna straight forget all those nasty rumors and online comments. You’ll be- you’ll be- you gonna be a supernova! Oh, yeah! All bright and shiny. Bursting into new life. It’s gonna be great. I’ve got a good feeling about this, starlight.
Rosa’s summer was spent in dance studios and rehearsing her performance. The news of her leaving the show had stirred the fanbase so much that her manager was overworked as he tried to contain the situation. All the commercial gigs, movie roles and magazine appearances - they were all swiftly retracted when the media found out about her sudden departure. From one of the most beloved young actresses she almost plummeted into obscurity. The news that she’ll become a Prefect at Walpurga Nacht and thus participate in the Witch Dances felt like a safety line was thrown their way. Regardless of how stuffy and formal the school usually was, the Witch Dances were still an event that could be marketed towards the youth and get her back some fans. They just had to play this right.
The programme that her manager suggested would be one that made full use of Cherry’s charms: it would be cute, fun, energetic and overall leave a sweet impression on everybody. The image of the beloved teen starlet preserved and fans reassured that she was still very much the perfect picture of purity and childhood innocence. They would make a legendary comeback: rescued from the jaws of obscurity with aplomb and grace. He even managed to get permission to livestream it all from the Headmistress - an unpleasant woman, who didn’t even let him inside her office so they had to have this conversation in the courtyard under the watchful gazes of the students. Creepy lot, the whole of them. Like vultures circling a dying man, waiting for him to exhale his last breath. The old hag barely listened to him and at the end turned to Rosa to ask if she was alright with this. And of course she was because she would be a fool to let go of this opportunity.
So it was settled. Or so it seemed.
The day of the performance had Rosa more nervous than she had been in any of her TV roles. As the Headmistress gave her speech on the history of the eight witches and the founding of the school, she was fiddling with the frilly skirt her manager had made her wear as part of her outfit. It was certainly cute. But then again, everything about Cherry was. Two high ponytails, nice stocking and cutesy gloves, with a top that reminded her of something a toddler would wear. It was all sickeningly adorable and she couldn’t stand it. Compared to the other Prefects who gave off a solemn or graceful aura, she stuck out like a sore thumb. It really became obvious when Marcia tried to be nice about her costume and said that it really reminded her of Cherry and it was a good look on her.
Vita: How bold of you. I did not think you would pick a fight in the open like this.
Marcia: Huh? What do you mean?
Vita: The little rose has yet to grow in her thorns, but only a fool prolongs the humiliation of a woman.
Vita’s intervention surprised her greatly. The older girl had barely spared her a glance since this morning when they saw each other on the Express. And even then she swiftly turned around and went all the way over to the end of the train where she sat next to a smaller girl with pale skin and sharp teeth. It made Rosa the slightest bit envious. She had no one to sit next to within her own dorm or with others.
At last, the Headmistress’ speech came to an end. She exited the stage to thunderous applause and joined the eight witches backstage. Stryx, who had been waiting on the overhead balcony, took flight and gracefully landed on her shoulder.
Stryx: Magnificent as always, my lady! I believe that the speech this year might surpass the one you gave five years ago and take over the third spot in my rankings! Overall-
Headmistress Astoria: Thank you, Professor Stryx. Now, young Morgainne.
Headmistress Astoria: You shall inaugurate this year’s Dance as it is customary for the Prefect of Rosenhex. Do remember that you have only fifty minutes to make sure you give the best impression of your dorm and its accomplishments.
Rosa nodded and mulled over the unspoken request: Do your best to uphold the dignity of this school. Fiddling with her salmon skirt she wondered if that even was possible for somebody like her. In the back, just next to the entrance to the stairway that would lead to the balcony overlooking the entire event she could spot her manager dressed as always in his nice suit buttering up a man who she could only assume to be someone of more wealth or influence than him.
Manager: Starlight, just in time! I would like to introduce you to somebody very important.
The man, as she found out, was none other than the president of the TV channel who had brought “Sherbet Street” to the screens of thousands of households all across Twisted Wonderland. Even though she’d worked there for almost half her life, she had not until today actually seen his face. It was not particularly noteworthy: beady eyes, and a thin black mustache were the only things that stood out to her in what was otherwise an expression of vagueness. If she had to pick him out from a crowd she doubted she could. The President bowed before her slightly and Rosa left a wave of embarrassment wash over her. She wished more than anything that she could at least be dressed into something more befitting of a high school student than this.
With a big smile, her manager informed her that the president had big plans for Rosa regarding her acting career. Her scandal, though deplorable, did bring in a wave of new viewers who were all too eager to find out about the behind the scenes discussions and drama. The ratings almost tripled and people were asking why Cherry was cut from the show. Of course, nothing was officially confirmed, but Rosa knew that returning to the show was not an option. No matter what her manager said. He must have been somewhat aware of this too because for the past months he’d been trying to get her a new big project: movie roles were not bad, but a TV show would bring in a steadier income. That’s what the president said at the very least as her manager approved energetically.
Manager: We’re thinking of a little rebranding. You know, keep up with the times. The youth of today’s just looking for something more dynamic. You know what I mean?
Rosa’s eyes shifted from one man to another - the president smiling serenely and kindly, her manager grinning and gesticulating wildly as he continued to explain.
Manager: Acting just won’t cut it anymore. We need to get you more appeal, starlight. Really bring out what makes you special, you know? We’re gonna have to go big this time. And what’s bigger than a cult of personality? Make them love you so much they just eat out the palm of your hands. Can you imagine? You get the fame and the glory in one nicely wrapped package!
From the corner of her eye Rosa could see the Head Prefect, Alkin, watch their exchange intently. His two tails swishing back and forth and eyes gleaming in the darkness. It was most likely time for her to take her place on the stage. Her manager must have caught sight of him too, because he suddenly grimaced and placed a hand on her arm to get her attention back on him. It was sweaty and clammy and she rolled her shoulder backwards to get rid of it.
Manager: Anyway, what I’m saying is: let’s make you an idol, starlight. Lil’ Cherry taking on the music scene. Doesn’t that sound just great?
The president smiled widely, and her manager was laughing as he patted him on the back. There was no equality between them to warrant that kind of presumed level of friendship, but the high was making them both a little more amiable. Finally, after months of unrest, the solution was presented to them: if one venture doesn’t work out, switch to another. Audiences might get mad at first, but they’ll soon forget, too distracted by the glamorous outfits and the musical scores. Make everything relatable enough, no matter its lack of authenticity, and you’ll have people lining up to eat it up. That’s the way the world works, after all. People don’t need quality, only packaging.
This was a fact Rosa became acutely aware of as she felt herself beginning to tremble. An idol. Not just a musician, but an idol. Glittering, shining and unattainably beautiful - she could already see it all: the cute colours, the Victorian dresses, the silly catchphrases and, most importantly, the merchandise. Notebook covers, mugs, jewelry, perfume, pillow case, toys and knick knacks - really, it wasn’t that much different from “Sherbet Street”, was it? Just the same old song, but now with a little bounce, to make it catchier.
The bars on her cage were getting a little tighter, leaving her with a little less room once more.
She almost jumped when she felt her manager pat her arm. The president was already climbing the stairs to the second story balcony where the teachers and staff would sit to get a better view of the Dances. From what she understood they’d brought some cameramen too to record the whole show. The idea of an exclusive school like Walpurga Nacht finally opening its gates to the outside was exciting enough to gather a sizable audience, but of course most were there to see her performance. That’s what she was assured of at the very least. After all, it was her show - in theory.
Manager: Anyway, we can talk about this later after you knock their socks off, starlight. Remember: it’s your big chance, so go out there and show them what you’re made of. Can’t put Cherry down just with a few rumors, right?
Right. No matter what might happen Cherry has got to stay a symbol of hope and innocence. That’s what the fans wanted more than anything. And yet the very idea made her stomach turn.
When she’d walked back to the group of Prefects standing backstage, Cassandra hesitantly approached her with a concerned expression.
Cassandra: Um, yo-you look very pale, Miss Morgainne. We could a-ask the Headmistress to let you perform later if you’re not feeling we-well…
Staggering backwards, Rosa blinked owlishly at her. Was it really that obvious that she was crumbling? Cassandra’s eyes showed such disquiet, that Rosa couldn’t even look at her directly. Averting her face she coughed shortly to find her voice again.
Rosa: No! I mean- I’m alright, senpai. You don’t have to worry about me or anything.
How horribly fake it sounded. Rosa wanted to cringe and hide her face in her hands, just like when she messed up a line during shooting. But Cassandra merely gave her an anxious smile and retreated, leaving Rosa enough room to pass by. She wasn’t convinced, but the two didn’t know each other enough for her to intervene more. If the younger girl said she was fine, she must take it as it is.
Stepping onto the stage of theatron, she felt the ground still warm where the bonfire was burning brightly a while ago. The soles of her shoes seemed to absorb the heat and Rosa wondered what it would feel like on her bare skin. The heat from the spotlights mounted along the venue were less welcoming, but more familiar. She looked over at the sea of students before her - girls who came to see and judge the Prefects of their worth, just like she did a year ago. The news that recordings would be allowed this year starting with the Prefects’ Dances had left everybody excited as they fiddled with their phones, ready to take a picture or record the thing themselves. Looking over at the balcony mounted on the right side of the wall, she saw her manager conversing amiably with the president as they looked over at her. Her manager smiled and gave her a thumbs up, before reaching over to talk with the Headmistress. The older woman sat stoically in her chair, her familiar perched on her shoulder, and didn’t even look at him as she replied. Rosa could see her manager tense as he retreated to his spot, while the president jumped in his seat when the black hooded, and inhumanely huge figure of Professor Yaga began to shake. Though faint she could hear her unholy laughter echo, only to be drowned out by Professor Dergos’ shouts. He was a sour man by nature, but today he seemed in an even worse mood than usual.
In the corner of the balcony the cameraman made sure the equipment was working properly, as he gestured to the two other colleagues seated in the audience - one at the front, and one in the back. The coverage had to be dynamic, that’s what her manager said, so no expenses were spared in setting this up.
When Professor Yaga had finished laughing, the Headmistress nodded at her as to signal that she may begin her performance. Rosa gulped, and with her heart beating loudly she turned towards the audience once more - their eyes bearing into her figure as she saw the girls in the front row shake with barely contained laughter. Her face burning, she raised her arms and gave them the best smile she could as she heard the music start.
It was time for an unforgettable performance.
Rosa was 6 years old when she got her first taste of the entertainment industry. Or rather her first real taste. When one’s mother is one of the more respected make-up and special effects artists in the branch, it’s hard to completely avoid collision with it. She remembered how as a young child, when her father was busy with work and her mother couldn’t find a babysitter for her, Rosa would be brought along to whatever movie set her mother happened to be needed on. Looking back on it, she would realize that it was not something that was usually allowed, but Rosa had been a very well-behaved child so the actresses used to coo over how cute and sweet she looked. Like a porcelain doll meant to be kept on a shelf and doted upon. She remembered how they would let her watch as her mother did their make-up - her hands moving steadily and swiftly, and with just a few brushes their appearance changed so much that Rosa would barely recognize them anymore. From ordinary women they would become gorgeous starlets, or the reverse, they’d turn into ugly and grotesque hags that scared her with their loud laughter. She would often marvel at the power that resided in her mother’s hands. When she was especially good, her mother would put some make-up on her, highlighting her delicate features and this would cause the actors and actresses on set to marvel at just how adorable she was.
She reveled in the praise, pleased at the attention she received from everybody, and would sometimes put on a show, trying to copy the way the actresses moved - gracefully, with their backs straight and heads held high - much to their amusement. Watching them in all their glory, Rosa would feel an overwhelming desire to grow up and become just that exact image of a sophisticated and beautiful woman that they projected.
Rosa: Mama, listen, listen!
They were on their way home from the shooting and it was quite late. Holding onto her mother’s hand Rosa was swinging back and forth, ponytails messy from the movement, and almost skipping with excitement. She’d always liked the city at night, with its bright and colourful lights shining all around them.
Rosa’s Mother: What is it, baby?
Rosa: Do you know what I want to be when I grow up?
Rosa’s Mother: Hm~ Let me guess… A make-up artist like mommy?
Rosa’s Mother: Then an accountant like daddy?
She scrunched up her nose and stuck her tongue out in disgust at this, which made her mother laugh loudly.
Rosa’s Mother: Ok, then mommy has no idea.
Rosa’s Mother: Hey, your mom’s old. Cut me a break here!
Rosa giggled as her mother pinched her cheek with affection and swatted at it playfully.
Rosa: Okaaaaaay, since mama’s old-
Rosa’s Mother: So old.
Rosa: Then I’ll tell you! When I grow up I wanna be a lady!
Rosa’s Mother: Oh?
Her mother raised an eyebrow in amusement, as Rosa looked at her with pride and determination in her eyes.
Rosa’s Mother: Is that so?
Rosa’s Mother: Don’t want to burst your bubble there, shooting star, but lady ain’t really a profession.
Rosa: A what?
Rosa’s Mother: A job. Like what mommy and daddy do to make sure you can afford all those Bebe Bunny stickers.
Rosa: It is a job! You said it was!
Rosa’s Mother: Huh?
Her mother looked confused as Rosa pouted and stopped. She stomped her foot loudly and crossed her arms.
Rosa’s Mother: Ok, you stop that right now. That’s no way to behave.
Rosa: But you’re lying! You’re the one who told me that being a lady is a job!
Rosa’s Mother: Now when did I do that?
Rosa: Just today! When we were watching the ladies at your workplace talk in front of the camera!
Rosa watched as her mother blinked once, then twice, then suddenly doubled over and started laughing. It startled her, as well as the people walking on the sidewalk, who then made sure to take a large detour to avoid them. When her surprise faded Rosa’s face turned red and her frown deepened.
Rosa’s Mother: Oh, baby, those are called actresses. That’s their job!
She wasn’t entirely convinced and huffed as she watched her mother collect herself and wipe away the tears that had gathered in the corner of her eyes. She stood silent for a few moments, then stomped her foot again and declared loudly.
Rosa: Well then, I wanna be an actress!
Her mother smiled indulgently at her as she took her hand, and neither really brought it up again on their way back. To her mother this was merely a child’s dream inspired by momentary awe. She was sure that in a few days it would pass and Rosa would find another thing she wanted to be when she grew up. It was perhaps a little cold, but her mother was a practical and precise person who did not deal in fantasies of such nature. But in Rosa’s heart it was already decided. She’d watched the actresses her mother painted that day dance and sing and move in front of the camera as they recited their lines, each looking more elegant and imposing as the other. She wasn’t sure what the movie was about - something about a king, betrayed by his own brother and avenged by his son, perhaps - but she remembered the three of them huddled over a cauldron, reciting spells and hexes. It left her starstruck and enamoured and she was certain that when she grew up she should be exactly that sort of woman who held her head proudly and confidently.
That was precisely what she also told her father when she arrived home and found him napping on the couch. In her excitement she forsook all the rules of good behaviour she had drilled into her head by them, and jumped onto the furniture wrapping her arms around his neck and giving him a big kiss on the cheek. He woke up startled, leaning forward so suddenly that she would have fallen down, had it not been for his quick reflexes. He gathered her in his arms and sat back again as he let out a huge sigh of relief.
Rosa’s Father: Pumpkin pie! You’re back so soon?
Rosa: Of course! It’s dark outside!
He looked dazedly outside the window, where the night had settled in rather comfortably.
Rosa’s Father: Ah, looks like I fell asleep waiting for you.
She nodded in understanding. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. Her father would almost always be asleep by the time she and her mother got home, sometimes even drooling with his mouth open which made Rosa giggle. Her mother said that her father was just tired from his job and that he needed to rest, and that he’d play with her later. But Rosa knew that later was never coming, that no matter how much her father slept he was always tired. Her mother knew this as well.
Her father smiled in embarrassment, and felt somewhat relieved when Rosa took that opportunity to change the subject. She began telling him all about her day and how much fun she had on set watching everybody play their parts, and he listened indulgently though at several points was about to fall asleep again. When Rosa mentioned that she wanted to become an actress just as the women she saw today, her father patted her head with affection.
Rosa’s Father: Hm. Now that’s a big dream, ducky. It takes talent and hard work for somebody to become a good actor.
Rosa: It’s fine! I’ll work suuuuuuuuuper hard, I promise!
Rosa’s Father: Hmmmmmm.
He pretended to think about it for a while, as Rosa watched him with trepidation. The sight of her furrowed brows and little pout was too adorable so he easily gave in and dropped the serious facade chuckling.
Rosa’s Father: Alright. Why not?
Rosa’s Father: Mm. Papa will look into it and get you some acting and theater lessons. How does that sound?
Rosa’s shriek of excitement was drowned out almost immediately as she threw her arms around his neck, hugged him tightly and kissed his cheek repeatedly. Her father laughed buoyantly, and welcomed the affection, while her mother poked her head in the living room to check on them.
That night she barely got a wink of sleep, too excited as she thought of her father’s promise. In the morning when her mother saw she was barely standing on her feet thanks to sleepiness, she scolded her, but Rosa didn’t care. She was riding the high of excitement at the thought that she was going to become just like those ladies she saw on TV with their fancy hair and intimidating gazes.
Two weeks later she started her acting classes just like her father promised her.
A week and a half after that, she was complaining and crying to the actresses who worked with her mother.
Rosa: It’s soooooooo hard! I don’t want to do it anymoreeeeeeee!
Actress A: There, there.
Actress B: Aww, you poor sweetie. Would you like some candy to cheer you up?
Actress C: Oh, dear! It’s simply heartbreaking to see her like this!
They were gathered around her, the tall, blonde one with the beauty mark below her right eye holding her to her chest as she patted her head affectionately. They all wore matching frowns as they fussed over her and tried to cheer her up. Nearby her mother was busy putting on another girl’s make-up who looked equally worried about Rosa’s mood. She scoffed as she finished applying the blush and turned halfway around to shoot Rosa a stern gaze.
Rosa’s Mother: I told you that it would be hard, so don’t go crying about it now.
Rosa: But you didn’t say it would be this hard!
Actress A: Now, now, don’t be so harsh on her! She’s just a baby!
The blonde hugged her tighter and Rosa let herself be showered in affection and attention from the three of them as they cooed and awed over her. Her mother, already exasperated with the situation, simply sighed and called up the next actor.
Actress D: You know you can just drop it, if you hate it so much-
Rosa’s Mother: We’ve paid for 10 lessons and she only did 2, so that’s not happening.
Actress B: Isn’t that too harsh?
Rosa’s Mother: Maybe if we were made of money. She’s old enough to understand that she can’t always get her way with everything. Sometimes you just got to suck it up and go through with it.
Actress C: A real authoritarian… Scary.
Rosa: Mama’s just mean!
Rosa’s Mother: Huh?! Your father’s way too permissive, that’s why you’re calling me mean, you know?
Rosa pouted as she frowned in discontent. In a way, her mother had a point. She knew that her father wouldn’t deny her anything, no matter how ridiculous her request, so she often ended up taking advantage of that for her own means. And she always ended up exaggerating and complaining afterwards, which was when her mother would finally be able to step in and scold her for her behaviour. But even though Rosa disliked it, there was something comforting about it too. Her mother, though often harsh, always made sure to give her enough direction that she never felt lost about anything. Even now, with this whole acting business, her mother had taken the time to look over the short homework she was assigned and make sure everything was in order. She helped Rosa pick her outfit for the class and listened to her recite small poems for up to 2 hours without a single complaint. When she looked back on it, she realized that her mother had always been fairer in regards to her than she ever gave her credit. It was just that as a six years old child she could never articulate it in such a manner.
The actor that her mother was currently taking care of laughed suddenly, and it startled her immensely. He was looking at her fondly as her mother sighed.
Rosa’s Mother: Eric! I already told you a thousand times not to move all of a sudden like that, haven’t I?
Eric: Ah, my bad. I was merely in a good mood.
Rosa’s Mother: Glad to see at least you are.
Eric: Child-rearing is quite difficult, isn’t it now? I understand.
Rosa’s Mother: Somehow, I doubt that.
Eric: No, no, my Vil can be quite bold sometimes too.
Rosa’s Mother: Is that so? Did he ever cry in front of your actresses while you were trying to get them ready for their role, hm? That would be a sight.
Eric: Hahahaha, I guess not. Still, you have a very cute daughter and should be proud of her.
Rosa’s Mother: It’s not the looks I’m worried about.
What a strange conversation they were having. That’s all Rosa could think about as she watched them banter with each other. She couldn’t really make sense of what they were supposed to be saying, or who the other person they mentioned was, but she still listened carefully. The actresses around her were still cooing and fussing over her, but she wasn’t paying any attention to them. Whatever her mother and that man were discussing was far more important.
Eric: Young lady, do you hate your lessons that much?
She was startled when he addressed her so directly and hid further into the hug she was receiving out of embarrassment.
Rosa’s Mother: What’s that? Did the cat get your tongue? You were crying up a storm just now.
Her cheeks puffed up in annoyance as she glared at her mother. She could sometimes be incredibly insensitive and it bothered Rosa to no end.
Rosa: My tongue is fine! No cat got it!
Eric: That’s very good then.
Rosa’s Mother: Was worried I would have to chase one around to get it back.
Rosa’s Mother: Would have stuck it right back in your mouth.
The four actresses around her suddenly burst out laughing as she scrunched her nose in disgust. Rosa was swiftly reminded that besides being mean, her mother could be really gross sometimes too. It wasn’t what a lady would do at all! The strange man also laughed, and her mother scolded him harshly just as she always did with her models. He apologized in a good natured fashion, and Rosa heard her mother sigh heavily. This incident was slowly draining her, and her due to her inner pettiness she was somewhat glad to see this happen. Though she did not get to enjoy it for too much as with a gentle smile, Eric addressed her again.
Eric: Young lady, if you’re truly passionate about becoming an actress then I think you should give it one more chance. I’m certain your perseverance will pay off.
He seemed sincere, but Rosa felt shyness overtake her again. Unlike all the actresses she’s dealt with before this man had an air that exuded dignity and power. Being in his presence was rather humbling even for somebody as young as her, so she naturally kept away from him. This seemed to amuse her mother very much as she burst out laughing again much to Rosa’s ire.
Rosa’s Mother: I’d love to see her keep to it, but she probably won’t. After drama classes we’ll get into something new. Say, Eric, what’s Vil taking right now-
Rosa: That’s not true!
Her voice was so loud that it scared the four women around her slightly, and got her mother and Eric to raise their eyebrows at how unexpected it all was.
Rosa’s Mother: What’s that now?
Rosa: I won't give up! You’ll see! I’ll become a super popular actress and lots of people will watch my movies and I won’t do anything else and you’ll look stupid for saying I wasn’t going to do it!
She glared fiercely at her, with her cheeks puffed out. The actresses seemed endeared by the sight, while her mother was struggling not to smile. It only served to irritate Rosa more. But she’d made her decision known loudly and clearly and she had no intention of backing down now. Even if her mother and everybody else clearly didn’t take her seriously, she won’t let herself be stopped by just that. The man was also smiling, though she didn’t feel any mockery on his part at all.
Eric: What a bold spirit she has! That’s necessary for any good actor, you know?
Her mother merely shook her head in amusement. When she finished his make-up, Rosa saw him rise from the chair with a little flourish. It was him, she was aware of that, but at the same time completely changed too. It fascinated her to watch him perform in front of the cameras like it was so natural. The moment they started rolling he abandoned his old persona, and took on a completely different identity. And every time he did so, he became more natural and beautiful in her eyes.
They filmed for 12 hours that day, and not for a moment did she take her eyes off him at all. By the end of it she knew that her dreams of being a ‘lady’ had been completely destroyed. Instead there was only the image of him that remained. Her heart aching to learn the secret of that magical cloak he donned on. He could be anyone in the world, and that to Rosa seemed more extraordinary than anything else.
Following that incident she did not complain anymore about her acting classes. In fact, it took her mother by surprise just how much she was looking forward to them every week. Her days had become dedicated to this small thing, and she seemed to shine brighter than ever. The advances she made took even her teachers by surprise and it was soon whispered - in fond, and almost reverential tones to her mother - that Rosa was a natural at this sort of thing.
Teacher: With proper training she could really become a star!
Her mother had smiled amiably. It wasn’t in her nature to bend to such flattery, but Rosa had eaten it all up. The words ringing in her ears on their way home, and when she told her father about the praise she was getting she was almost left breathless. It excited her to think that other people considered her a special person. Somebody that would make it big, and receive everybody’s love and affection. Her father laughed at her enthusiasm.
Rosa’s Father: If it’s you, ducky, you’ll put even the sun out of business.
He was still tired all of the time, but now Rosa was too busy to notice anymore. (Instead it was her mother who did, and they had a few fights on that matter. It made Rosa hide in her room, until they both came up to apologize to her for behaving in such a manner. And because she was a gracious little girl, she forgave both of them and let them rest on her little bed for a while even if it got her cute blankets all messed up.)
Her big break came rather suddenly.
She was on the set with her mother again, watching her masterfully put on make-up on one of the young actresses that was to star in this commercial.
Rosa: What’s this one about?
Rosa’s Mother: It’s an anniversary commercial for that expensive bakery your daddy likes so much.
Rosa awed and continued fiddling with her fork. It seemed that the bakery owner had expected her mother to bring her along as well, and on that front made sure to prepare a little dessert for their ‘cute little patron’. Her mother sighed at this, but Rosa was ecstatic at the sight of the brightly coloured cupcake that was set on the plate. The frosting was pink, and according to the baker it was all chocolate and banana inside. Rosa wasn’t too keen on overly sugary stuff, but she enjoyed the idea of others being so attentive to her. She basked in the feeling, especially as they laughed fondly when she asked for a fork so she wouldn’t make too much of a mess with her treat.
Bakery Owner: What’s a behaved little lady she is!
Rosa’s Mother: Only because it’s you and not her mother talking to her.
Rosa: Hmph! You’re always mean to me! Meanie!
Rosa’s Mother: If I was actually mean, I would take that little cupcake and-
She clutched the plate away from her mother, with teary eyes and a pout on her lips. Her mother rolled her eyes in amusement, and the owner laughed again at her. Rosa knew her mother was only joking - she wouldn’t actually steal her treat like that - but since she wanted to be safe, she kept it away for the rest of the time they spent there.
Her mother was just done with the third actress that was supposed to star in the commercial when the owner came over flustered and out of breath. He was a middle aged man, with a round belly, reading glasses and a bushy mustache and the sight of him trying his best to run across the set send Rosa in a giggling fit. Her mother immediately hushed her - rather harshly, Rosa thought - and turned to the owner who was busy wiping at his sweaty forehead.
Bakery Owner: This is bad! This is very bad!
Rosa’s Mother: What’s wrong? What’s happened?
Bakery Owner: The actress! The child actress that was supposed to play the leading role today! She won’t be able to make it!
It wasn’t as serious as the owner made it out to be. The girl, around Rosa’s age, had simply been brought down by a common cold and needed a few days to properly recover. Unfortunately since her manager was rather busy, she hadn’t been able to cancel the appointment today so the whole crew would have to figure things out one way or another.
Rosa’s Mother: Can’t we shoot another day?
Bakery Owner: No, no. We had to close the shop up for today due to the commercial and we won’t be able to do this again until a few months later. And it needs to be done by March!
He was wringing his hand as he said this, and Rosa watched as her mother scratched the back of her head in irritation. This definitely put a small dent in everybody’s plans. But just how could it be resolved?
Rosa was swinging her legs back and forth, the plate of cake on her lap completely empty, and fork carefully placed on top of it. Her gaze switched from her mother to the owner, observing them carefully, until it locked with that of the owner. He sat staring at her deep in thought, before an expression of hope was etched on his face. Rosa blinked in confusion as he turned to her mother eagerly and proposed to her a new plan of action.
Rosa’s Mother: No.
The answer was short and decisive, just like Rosa had expected it to be.
Bakery Owner: But Mrs. Morgainne! This would solve all our problems! Your daughter is perfect for the role!
Rosa’s Mother: Well, too bad. She’s not a child actress, so you’ll have to-
Rosa: I’ll do it!
Her sudden intervention startled them both, as they glanced down at her smiling face. Sometime during their argument she had set aside her plate, hopped off the high chair her mother sat her on, and made her way over to them to pull on her mother’s pant leg and smile cutely over at them both. Her mother merely raised an eyebrow at her boldness, while the bakery owner smiled contentedly.
Bakery Owner: See, if she wants to-
Rosa’s Mother: She’s six. She doesn’t get to make decisions.
Rosa: Why not?!
Stomping her feet on the ground, she glared up at her mother with a fierceness that both were surprised by. With her cheeks puffed out, her brows furrowed and tiny hands clenched tightly she attempted to unleash the fury that had been building in her in the past moments.
She couldn’t understand her mother’s refusal. Especially since it was given without even consulting her at all, which to her was deeply unfair. It was Rosa that was supposed to star in the commercial, not her mother, so she didn’t see why she was the one to make that decision. Unfortunately, telling this to her mother accomplished absolutely nothing and instead earned her a most terrifying glare as she crossed her arms.
Rosa’s Mother: Rosalia, stop this tantrum right now. You are not doing this commercial and that’s that. Don’t make me repeat myself.
In a way she could say she understood why her mother did what she did. Her mother was not a bad person, and all she wanted was to protect her from whatever could bring her harm. Rosa understood this, even if only superficially. She knew she should listen to her mother. It was after all in her best interest. The only problem was that she couldn’t just let things go like that. It wasn’t in her nature. So instead of doing as he mother asked, and not escalate this any further as a well-behaved child would have, she bit her lip and let the tears flow freely. The bakery owner was instantly at her side trying to calm her down, while her mother pinched the bridge of her nose in irritation. Even when the inhumanely loud wails started she was not moved at all and just let her cry out her heart until there were no more tears. Then she took her by the hand, gathered her equipment, and since there was no shooting happening today drove both of them home. The car ride was silent and oppressive and the moment the car stopped in front of their house, Rosa opened her door and ran inside and up in her room where she locked the door. Throwing herself on her bed, she began to wail loudly again, not because she was upset, but simply because she wanted her mother to feel bad for not letting her perform in that commercial.
But Rosa didn’t take into account the fact that her mother would see right through her act, and after 45 minutes of hearing nothing but her mother moving around in the kitchen she finally stopped. Though then the frustration took over and she began to cry for real, the sound much more subdued.
It wasn’t until later that day, when she heard the front door opening again and her father entering the house did she start her trick again. This time it was louder and more disruptive, and she could hear her father dash up the stairs to her aid. The doorknob jiggled fiercely as he tried opening the door, but the lock kept it tight and secure.
Rosa’s Father: Sweetpea, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?
From beyond the door his voice was desperate and pitiful, and she felt a pang of sympathy for him. But just the thought of letting her mother get away with what she did today motivated her enough to bury her face in the pink pillow next to her head and keep the tears flowing.
Rosa: Go away! I don’t want to talk to you! Or mama!
He pleaded with her a few more times, but seeing as it was useless descended back down again, and through the thin walls Rosa could hear the argument that was forming in the kitchen.
Rosa’s Father: What’s wrong? Why is she crying?
Rosa’s Mother: It’s nothing. She’s throwing a tantrum. Ignore her for now.
Rosa’s Father: Ignore her? Are you out of your mind?! Can’t hear how she’s crying? It’s heartbreaking!
Rosa’s Mother: She knows exactly what she’s doing. I’m telling you, don’t encourage this sort of behaviour.
Rosa’s Father: What behaviour?! Being worried about my daughter?! What the hell is wrong with you?!
Rosa’s Mother: … We’re not fighting about this. Drop it.
Rosa’s Father: Like hell I am! I come home from work, happy to see that you guys are here when it’s still light outside, and what do I see? My baby crying her eyes upstairs and her mother not giving a shit?
Suddenly there was a loud clanging noise and Rosa knew it was her mother throwing the spoons in the drawer out of fury. Suddenly, her voice, full of anger and spite, rang out and deafened out every sound in the house.
Rosa’s Mother: Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare make me feel like crap when I’m the only one trying to parent our child!
Rosa’s Father: What the hell is that supposed to mean?!
Rosa’s Mother: It’s as I said! You never take any responsibility when it comes to raising her at all!
Rosa’s Father: I don’t- Oh! So you think that I break my back everyday at work just for fun? I do it so I can give our kid the best upbringing I can!
Rosa’s Mother: Please! You throw money at her just to make yourself feel better about not being here!
Rosa’s Father: That is-
Rosa’s Mother: Not true? Then tell me about all the fun times you had with her in her piano lessons, horse riding courses, violin practice, ice skating classes, volleyball, ballet, archery, dancing- Need I go on?
Rosa’s Father: Are you seriously throwing in my face the fact that I love my child and I want to make sure she’s happy?
Rosa’s Mother: You’re teaching her to be spoiled! Children don’t need 5 different Bebe Bunny dolls for each day of the school week whose only difference is their clothes colour! She played for them for 2 weeks then threw them in her toy chest! And then you went ahead and bought her a train set just 2 days later! You’re too permissive with her!
She didn’t hear her father’s response. Instead there was a heavy silence between them, then the sound of footsteps, then the slamming of the front door and a car pulling out of the driveway. Rosa had long stopped pretending to wail by then and was holding tightly onto her favorite Sherbet Street dolly, shaking with fear. She didn’t move for a long while from her spot on the bed, and when she did, she went downstairs to check on her mother she found her with her head in her hands, hunched over the kitchen table and crying. She wanted to run in and hug her, afraid and terrified by the argument she just heard. But as she knew she was the cause of it, she refrained and silently made her way upstairs, got under the covers and wordlessly cried into her pillow until she fell asleep.
By the time she woke up her father had not come home yet. He wouldn’t come home for another 3 months, in fact. A period of time as unbearable as it was endless. Of course, she still saw him during that time, when he came to pick her up from kindergarten and they went to a nice hotel room where he told her he was staying for a while.
Rosa’s Father: Daddy can’t sleep at home, so he’s staying here until he gets well again. No, no, bluebird, I’m not sick. Just very tired, that’s all.
Rosa nodded, though she didn’t really understand. Though staying at the hotel was fun since he let her order whatever she wanted through a phone, Rosa wished more than anything that her dad would come back home. Going with her mother on trips to her movie sets wasn’t as nice anymore, now that she knew her father wasn’t waiting at home for them. She asked her mother why they couldn’t just make up anymore, but she’d merely shook her head and kept on working on her computer. She was looking more and more tired everyday, and Rosa was worried that she might be sick too. She wasn’t sure what parents would need to stop being sick, so in order not to worry them she was being nicer than she usually was. And that seemed to help things a little.
Her acting lessons were going well, however. She could even say it was great. The teacher seemed to have taken a shine to her and made sure Rosa was given as much help and attention as needed. It made her happy to be the recipient of such care, even though it did not sit well with some of the other children in the class. They would ignore her during their breaks, all sitting in a circle with their backs to her, so Rosa would take her little pink backpack and sit a little ways away with her Bebe Bunny doll, until their teacher caught wind of this. She made them move and make space for her, which they yelled about and pouted but still obeyed her in the end. It did not change much except for the fact that she was now inside the circle, but still quite ignored.
When her mother came to pick her up, the teacher would come gushing about what an honour it was to have her in their class. To this her mother would respond with polite detachment while motioning to Rosa that it was time to go. Just as they were about to exit the room, her teacher called out for them again.
Teacher: Actually! Mrs. Morgainne! There’s something I would like to discuss with you!
It seemed that besides her day profession, her teacher was also something of a manager. Not for any big celebrities, of course, but quite able to book pretty good gigs nonetheless. According to her there was a children’s brand that was looking for a model for their newest collection, and Rosa would be absolutely perfect for it in her humble opinion.
Teacher: She has just the right look for it! They want a soft look that focuses more on cuteness than anything else. She would hardly have to do anything but sit still!
Her mother was going to decline. This she could already anticipate. No matter how much her teacher insisted, she wouldn’t budge. At least that’s what she assumed.
Rosa’s Mother: Alright. Let me know the details, and I’ll get back to you.
Rosa stared at her mother with must have amounted to as disbelief and shock, though in her heart a seed of hope was planted. Was she finally going to change her mind? Her teacher did not miss this opportunity and almost immediately pulled out a business card with all the details on it. Her mother nodded as she listened carefully to her explanations, and Rosa fidgeted on the spot. She didn’t dare make a sound while she listened, and even at the end, when they were already waving goodbye to everybody she simply held on her doll. They rode in silence until they got home, and her mother was too tired after dinner to entertain her so they went to bed right after supper. Except that Rosa couldn’t sleep a wink that night, mind abuzz with the possibility that was presented before her. That man’s words echoed in her ears over and over again. She closed her eyes tightly and with all her heart prayed that morning would come sooner.
In the following months a variety of things would happen that would change the course of her life forever.
First, and most important, her parents would get back together. It happened sometime after her audition, but to Rosa it was the thing that made her happiest. She couldn’t remember the specifics at all though. All she knew was that one day when her mother came to pick her up from her acting lessons she seemed in a better mood than usual. She was wearing a nice dress, and her make up looked prettier than usual. When she bent down to kiss the top of her head, Rosa caught a whiff of her perfume which she immediately recognized as her mother’s favorite. She asked what the occasion was, what had put her in such a good mood, but all her mother did was ruffle her hair and smile secretively. It made Rosa pout in annoyance.
When they got home her mother stayed in the car and told her to go on ahead, and because she was a good girl she did so. With her short arms she went to reach for the handle when the door swung open only to reveal her father on the other side. She shrieked in happiness and threw her arms around him. He picked her up and twirled her a little until she was dizzy with excitement and happiness. To have her father back at home with her was the best present she could have gotten and she continued to hold tightly onto him as her mother came in and wrapped her arms around both of them.
However, even though he was back, things did not return back to normal. There would be changes here, they told her when they all sat on the couch after the initial excitement had passed. As her father explained to her, he would be around more since he quit his job and decided to go back to school. Rosa blinked owlishly at him as she tried to process it.
Rosa: But school is only for kids, daddy!
She was already in elementary school by this point, learning how to do maths and write and all sorts of new and difficult things, so the image of her father doing the same things seemed all too strange to her. He laughed at her good naturedly.
Rosa’s Father: No, peanut, daddy is going to a school for grown-ups. He’ll learn how to make pretty dresses so you can have the cutest clothes in the world.
Rosa’s eyes shone at the thought and her parents let out another laugh at the starstruck expression she was making. She pouted when she noticed their amusement and argued that since she was going to be a big star she would need all sorts of nice and fancy clothes. And that was the second thing which would end up changing her life: she got the part. Or rather not only did she get the part, but she gave a “perfect performance” as the director would later rather loudly tell her mother when they finished shooting.
CM Director: She had us all by the heart-strings! I’m telling you, that sort of talent needs to be nurtured! Listen, I’ve got another project coming up soon and we need a cute face for the product we’re selling.
Rosa looked up at her mother with bated breath. Today’s experience was incredible. She loved everything about it - the lights, the clothes, the cameras catching every movement she made. They had her sitting outside in a nice flower field, holding a large plush bear with a red ribbon around his neck and a nice sun hat on her head. She was supposed to hug the bear tightly and give the camera a big grin, before the wind would carry off her pretty hat. It was short and sweet and though she didn’t have to do much she put all her heart into it. It made the people around her happy to see how much she was enjoying this, so she was happy too. That was the point of being a star after all, wasn’t it? To make other people smile with your light. On that day, when the cast gathered around her to tell her what a good girl she had been, she realized she wanted to do that for the rest of her life.
Luckily it was only the beginning. Offers started pouring in as soon as the commercial was broadcasted. She was something of an overnight sensation among the TV commercial scene, and only a few months had to pass before she would start seeing her face on the large screen again and again in all different kinds of situations. Her favorite had to be the one for the bakery her father loved, where she had to look enchanted as she gazed at the assortment of pastries around her. When the kind lady behind the counter offered to give her one she would decline and pout. That’s when the nice man who was waiting behind her in line would step up and pay for the treat, which in return would make the lady fall in love with him. After that it would cut to them walking out of the party venue in wedding attire, the bride whipping a tear from her eyes and throwing her bouquet backwards. Bridesmaids would reach out to grab it, each shoving and pushing each other but it would be Rosa who caught it in the end. Then all she had to do was hold it in front of her and smile cutely at the camera. Her mother told her that this commercial was meant to promote the bakery’s wedding cake catalogue, but Rosa liked it more as a nice romantic fairytale that she hoped she’d get to experience one day.
When she told her parents that, her father faked a gasp as he put his hand over his heart.
Rosa’s Father: What? My bunny rabbit will be snatched away by some wolf of a man and run away in the world? Papa’s heart would just break if that happened!
Rosa laughed at his theatrics, while her mother simply rolled her eyes in amusement. Things had changed at their house, but it was a nice and welcome kind of change.
Since her father had quit his accounting job he was spending more time at home doing… Rosa wasn’t exactly sure what it was he was doing, but it seemed important. She knew he would read a lot, and sometimes he would be gone at odd hours which worried her a bit, but her mother told her he was only going to his classes. She frowned when she heard that explanation and told her mother that school lasted until about two o’clock, so that couldn’t be right. Her mother booped her nose and quipped that for adults it was different. She didn’t really get it, but since her father was finally back home she didn’t care much for the details. Besides it was fun having him stay at home so much, as she would get to spend more time with him while her mother was away. She missed being taken on movie sets to watch her work with her models and actresses, but having her father pick her up from school to take her to auditions was rather fun too. After the 10th one she’d gotten used to them, and even looked forward to performing in front of the casting director, but her father was always anxious and distressed over it. He cheered her on as if she was about to audition for a movie that would star Eric Venue, which made her laugh at how silly he looked compared to every other parent there. Afterwards, regardless of the result, he would take her out for ice cream which they called their celebratory treat since for the most part Rosa got every role she auditioned for. She did a lot of gigs during that time too. Modelling, commercials, and even a few TV show appearances here and there made her quite the familiar face in the industry to the point her acting coach suggested that maybe they should get a manager for her.
Teacher: Rosalia has so much promise! She will have to get a manager at some point, you know?
She smiled as she slipped the already prepared business card in her father’s hand. He looked at it apprehensively, but a few weeks later Rosa found herself in a nicely decorated office, full of light that shone through the high windows. She was sitting on the magenta leather couch, alongside her mother as the man behind the desk was telling them about his experience working with child actors and the many connections he would be able to pull for their little ‘starlight’.
Manager: You have a shine to you, kiddo. Trust me. I’ve seen my fair share of celebrities, but none as good as you. You’ve got that je ne sais quoi that all the big names are looking for.
Rosa wasn’t sure what that “je ne sais quoi” was exactly, but she felt like he could trust this man dressed in navy blue suit and wearing those funny-looking teashades, who was gesticulating wildly. She giggled when he called her ‘starlight’ again later on and from then onward he took care of every little thing that had to do with her career. He was very skilled too, from what Rosa could tell and soon enough she had enough work to do that she felt like one of the movie stars her mother would often work with. She’d graduated by that time to more TV appearances which her manager said were the real bread and butter. It was nothing solid - playing the extra in a few sitcoms, being a contestant on a variety show that had an episode specially for kids, even a little role in a crime show, which of course she wasn’t allowed to see afterwards because she was too young. Then came the big break. She remembered it was a nice, sunny morning when their phone rang and her father answered it with one hand while the other was stirring in the pot sitting on the cooker. She was eating her favorite breakfast cereals - muesli with dried raspberries, strawberries and raisins that her father added in for her - while watching him nod and hum in understanding a few times. When the call ended, he put the phone down, turned off the cooker and clapped his hands together in joy.
Rosa’s Father: Great news, dumpling! Guess who’s gonna make an appearance on Sherbet Street?!
Rosa shrieked in happiness as her father picked her up and threw her in the air. She landed safely in his arms, but the bump he gave the table set her bowl of cereal crashing to the ground and he let out a curse under his breath at the sight of milk dripping on the floor. Rosa gasped quietly and covered his mouth with her tiny hands.
Sherbet Street was one of the longest running family sitcoms in Twisted Wonderland, so the thought that she would get to star on it was exhilarating. She’d asked her father for more details while he was mopping the floor, but he admitted even he wasn’t aware of what it actually presupossed.
Manager: The role doesn’t matter, starlight. It’s your performance that you gotta focus on. Even if it’s just standing in the back and waving you have to give it your all! Make them beg for more of you!
That’s what her manager said when they finally got the script. But even a cursory look over it would have almost immediately revealed that it wasn’t just any role. She would be a guest star, playing the role of Cherry, the niece of Apricot, who was a young and naive girl from the countryside coming to visit the family during summer vacation. She would be easily tricked by her mischievous cousin Lime, who would lose her in a crowded shopping mall, and spend the better part of the episode looking all over the place for her. The episode would have a happy ending, of course, with Cherry and Lime being reunited by the kindly corner shop owner Mister Apple, who found Cherry staring widely at some candy he was displaying. Lime would tearfully embrace her and promise to be a better cousin from then on, before he found out that Cherry would be leaving the next day anyway. Her manager had wafted the script around a bit, talking with her father in hushed whispers about how the show had really lost its direction.
Manager: They’re milking it for all it’s worth, but the ratings don’t lie. Thing’s gonna get the axe sooner or later. Good thing we managed to land a ride before it went down, eh?
He gently elbowed her father in the way she’d seen him do with other people, but only received a tight smile in return. For whatever reason Rosa couldn’t figure out, her father had never really took to her manager. Not that her mother did either, but tried at the very least to be polite to him. After all, he was doing an excellent job and besides his weird fashion sense and his overfamiliar behaviour with them, there wasn’t much they could complain about. Rosa fiddled with her script as she looked over her lines. They were more than she was used to and it made her the slightest bit unsure about it. Sensing perhaps her distress, her manager kneeled down and patted her shoulders in an energetic fashion.
Manager: Don’t be looking so glum, starlight! A seasoned veteran like you will knock their socks off in no time!
That was another thing about her manager. He liked weird, old fashioned phrases like that which caused her to laugh a lot. He lightly taped her chin with his fist, which she knew now meant that she should cheer up and launched into another long speech about what a great stepping stone it would be for her. None of them - not her, or her father or even her manager - knew just how right he was.
The day of the shooting couldn’t come fast enough. It was all Rosa thought and talked about. She practiced her lines everyday, making her father do readings with her and rehearsing her expressions in the mirror every chance she got. She was more determined than she’d ever been for any of her roles, and her parents had taken stock of that. They’d given her space and made sure she was free to practice as much as she wanted to. On the day when she and her mother set out for the shooting set, her father woke up at the crack of dawn to make her his ‘special Rosalia pancakes’ even though he had an exam later that afternoon and had been cramming until the early dawn for it. He kissed the top of her head and wished her good luck, waving at them from the driveway as their car pulled out.
The TV set was bigger than Rosa had imagined. She watched with a starstruck expression as the crew moved the equipment around, set up the cameras and made a general hubbub around everything. She squeezed her mother’s hand, who paused her conversation with the show director - who seemed like he was trying to secure a contract with her - and bend down to pat her head and assure her that everything would be alright. Next to them her manager was keeping an eye out for the other actors when he stopped and also bent down to give her one of his typical pep talks. Rosa nodded at the both of them, expression determined and eyes shining. When her turn finally came - after they dressed her up, and did her make-up too - she stepped onto the set with as much determination as she could manage - and promptly tripped and fell on her face.
Loud laughter erupted all around her, while her manager rushed forward to check if she was alright, with her mother not far behind. Her eyes welled up with tears and she almost started crying, before she reminded herself that she was an actress now - a lady with class - and crying on set like that was only for little kids. She let her mother wipe her nose and fix her up, before sitting back up again and asking her manager if she could try again.
Manager: Of course, starlight! This was only a little hitch after all! Come one, go ahead and show them what a graceful little star you are!
Director: Actually, could she do that again?
The director’s voice cut through the conversation so swiftly that it startled all three of them. Her manager stared owlishly as he asked for confirmation.
Manager: You mean, the fall? She should do that again?
Director: Yes - well, not a real fall of course. A staged one. I was thinking that it would make for a more dramatic entrance if she fell during and had to pick herself back up again. Nectarine can help her up, so we get a nice bonding moment between them too. I think the fans would appreciate this type of cutesy behaviour out of her. Make her character a bit more memorable.
Her manager listened with rapt attention, seemingly drinking every word. When the director stopped talking, a large grin made its way onto his face and Rosa was hoisted up, dusted off and they retook the shot with the adjustments. The rest of the day proceeded much smoothly, as once she got over her initial awkwardness she managed to slip into the role very easily, though some adjustments were made to the script that were more in line with her first scene. By the end of it all, Rosa was exhausted but her mother and manager, not to mention the director, were quite pleased with the result. And once the ratings came out they realized they had plenty of reasons to be. The audience viewership had tripled during the second running of the episode, and when her manager had shown her the comments left on the show’s webpage she realized why that was.
Commenter 12: Cherry is so cute!! My kids loved her and kept asking about her afterwards! They’re really hoping she comes back!
Commenter 36: I don’t recognize the actress they picked for this character but she did such a nice job portraying a young country girl with such charm and innocence. It’s really humbling to see what kid actors today can do!
Commenter 53: I know Cherry from that bakery commercial she did a couple of years ago! She really has that cute charm about her that makes you feel all better when you see her smile! A really good fit for a character as energetic and wholesome as the one she played.
Commenter 89: Oooh, I really hope they bring her back for another episode later on! I had such a blast watching her! Really added some of that old Sherbet Street charm, imo!
Her heart leaped in joy. Her spirit soared. She couldn’t believe all the well wishes she had received for such a small part. Neither could her manager it seemed as he continued to giddily scroll through the message boards and soak all the positive replies up. Ruffling her hair he told her they were on the edge of something great, and he was right. Following that first success, Rosa got to star on the show several more times afterwards. Each time however was slightly different: her parts got longer, her lines multiplied and the stories became more focused on her as well. Soon enough she found herself dedicating more time to Sherbet Street than any of her other projects. Not that she minded. The atmosphere on the set was very welcoming and she had become quite attached to the rest of the cast members. She looked forward to meeting up with them again, and even had asked the actors who played Lime and Mandarin to come to her house so they could play together. That was, of course, impossible but at the very least Rosa was able to talk to more kids her age even if only during work. She was not especially good at that.
Indeed, the kids in her class, which hadn’t paid much attention to her before, had taken to her a lot after she became a recognizable figure on television. Her desk would be surrounded by them during every break and when it came to sports she was always picked first from the group. Many even asked her to come play at their house which delighted her greatly, though she’d also noticed that they’ve gotten into this weird habit of calling her “Cherry” rather than by her actual name. When she asked them why they called her that, they simply replied: “Well, you’re Cherry from TV, right?” She’d smile awkwardly and nod her head, thinking that maybe that was what she was supposed to be called and never really brought it up again. After all, she should just be glad she had so many friends to support her. That’s what her manager said as well.
So, little by little time passed by and before she’d even realized things had changed again. From a mere recurrent guest on the show, Cherry was about to become the big star. The director smiled as he told her this and Rosa was grinning too. Sherbet Street was going through a rebranding since ratings picked up again once they introduced her character in the main cast.
Director: We’re going back to the roots. A light, family comedy that everybody can enjoy. Make sure we capture the magic again.
According to her manager it seemed that her time had finally come. She’d be a big star with lots of fans from all over the world who would tune in every week to see her on their TV screens while they enjoyed a calm evening with their families. That’s what Sherbet Street was selling after all: the idealized image of domesticity in a world that was far more often than not overcome by petty concerns and lack of time. And she was instrumental in that regard. Her manager seemed to delight in the new opportunities that this position would afford them and let her know as much.
Manager: We’ve hit the jackpot, starlight! With this role you’re sure to make the most of your talents! Gonna become a symbol!
Manager: Absolutely! Cherry isn’t just a role, you know? She’s the image of a nation with a love for fun and simplicity! That’s why we’ve gotta look after our brand - after you!
She nodded along, soaking in all the information though much of it seemed odd to her still. But she understood that people were counting on her now and if she wanted to make lots of friends she had to be there for everyone. And so it had been for the next four years.
The more Cherry appeared on TV the more the audience seemed to fall in love with her. The ratings for the show doubled, then tripled, then multiplied by so much it made her manager skip with happiness every time he came over to talk to her parents and her about her career. It flattered her to think that so many people were supportive of her. At school she remained at the top of the class, with kids from higher grades coming to her classroom to talk to her and everywhere she went she had at least a few of her classmates tagging along. They’d talk to her and joke around and always say kind things about her, and it delighted her to see she wasn’t the outcast crybaby they seemed to brand her as. She got lots of gifts from her friends too - from school and all over the world. Her manager would make sure to take her picture among them and post it online along with a grateful message and she would watch as the kind comments poured in. She asked her manager if she could send them some gifts back, since that’s what friends did, but he told her that her performance alone was the best gift they could ever receive. So she threw herself into her work and year after year turned out the content that they all had been clamoring for. So single-minded was she in her quest that she failed to notice that at the same time she was skyrocketing towards fame, the atmosphere on the set was turning more and more sour. Hushed whispers, tired sighs, huffs of annoyance - Auntie Nectarine, or rather the actress playing her, had stopped thinking of her as a sweet child long ago, for reasons unknown to any, but the diminishing role she was playing in a sitcom that she was once the star of was perhaps one of the main reasons. She certainly did not appreciate her decreased salary and the rumours that she would be written out of the show soon enough certainly did not help.
It made things tense on the set, though Rosa was spared of all that by virtue of her manager’s involvement keeping everything under wraps.
Manager: We don’t want to upset the starlight over nothing, right?
He told her father, who simply nodded his head and took another sip of his coffee. He’d finished his studies a year prior, and Rosa remembered going to what her mom said was a ‘graduation’ where she watched him dressed in a long, black gown and with a funny hat on his head, receiving a piece of rolled paper. He and the rest of the people dressed as him threw up their hats at the end, and had their photos taken while she and her mother cheered him on.
Eager to start his ‘new life’, as both he and her mother called it, her father had opened right away a small boutique in the city where he spent most of his day making clothes and designs and trying to sell them. She was at first worried that she’d come to see her father disheartened and tired, as he was prior to quitting his other highly demanding job, but that did not come to pass. Instead he seemed to overflow with a zeal for life that was only rivalled by the avantgarde designs he came up with. Business was not going as well as he hoped for, but that did not break his spirit in the least, and it made her happy to see how he remained hopeful despite all. He still made time to come with her to her appointments, and take her out for ice cream afterwards, though now her manager also seemed to tag along a lot. But she’d quickly gotten used to the extra presence there, especially since he seemed to keep quiet for the most part. He was perhaps the happiest that Rosa’s career was going great, especially since bigger offers started to pour through the door at an alarming rate. Like the one he was busy telling her just then while she was finishing the last of her rum ice cream.
Manager: It’s a tertiary role, but still pretty big. Gonna be playing the love interest of the hero in a coming-of-age flick - you know, a little humor, a small musical scene, some nice message about being yourself and all that- ahem. In any case, the plot doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re making your breakthrough onto the big silver screen! And it’s in the best way possible too.
What he meant by that she would only realize when she was on the set, after a plane trip from the Rose Kingdom to the Land of Pyroxene. She watched with wide eyes the people milling about, making sure everything was in order, while her mother held her hand. This was not the first movie set she’s been onto, but even so she realized that compared to the production of movies in her homeland, the cinema industry here was far more extensive. Her manager patted her head and motioned for her to go introduce herself to the two actors she would be working for the following few weeks. The movie - which she eventually found out was about a young, shy transfer student from the countryside who upon moving to the big city earns the ire of the school’s most popular boy for wooing everybody with his amazing performance during the talent show and also winning the affection of the most popular girl in school who the rival character also likes - would have her co star with other two big names: audience favorite and Land of the Pyroxene darling Neige Revanche and upcoming celebrity Vil Schoenheit. They were both around her age, her manager told her, and he was certain she’d get along with them swimmingly.
And as fate would have it, he was right. Somewhat. Rosa took to Neige almost immediately. The young boy’s cute looks and cheerful personality was incredibly endearing, so they hit it off easily. They seemed to share the same level of enthusiasm for the work that was about to follow, and she was so happy to have somebody so nice as a co star that she stuck to him like glue for the reminder of the day. When they were not busy shooting scenes Rosa would be holding onto the back of his shirt and follow him around like a duckling, until her manager had to peel her off him since she was wrinkling his clothes. Her eyes watered at the light scolding she received, but her mood cleared up immediately once Neige offered to hold her hand instead so that way neither would get in trouble. It made her love Neige even more than she already did, and for the rest of the time they walked around the studio talking about all sorts of things while the adults around them giggled and awed at the cute ‘couple’ they made.
Neige was also nice enough to introduce her to the other boy who would be staring with them in the movie. But that hadn’t gone over as well. When they found Vil, he was talking to her mother with an air that implied that the two were already familiar with each other. He wasn’t as sweet-looking as Neige, but rather possessed a sort of beauty that left her in awe. Though she found it easy to talk to Neige who shone with kindness and light, she hesitated when it came to Vil, finding herself suddenly becoming shy and awkward as she hid behind the brunette. Vil seemed to take everything in stride however, remaining polite to her in that distant and mature way that made him look more like an adult than a child. It only made Rosa feel more uneasy around him, and though she played her part perfectly when the camera was on her - her character being on friendly terms with the rival made it so they had a lot of scenes together - she would keep away from him once the director yelled ‘Cut!’
Her manager, though happy that Rosa had already succeeded in befriended Neige, was rather insistent that she speak to Vil as well.
Rosa: But what if I say something stupid and he thinks I’m stupid?
Manager: It doesn’t matter, starlight! You’re Cherry! Everybody loves you once they get to know you! This Schoenheit kid is probably sad that cute and nice Cherry is ignoring him, you know? That’s not the brand we want to promote after all.
She nodded. He was right after all. She should try to be more friendly and endearing. That’s what Cherry would do after all. So with unsure steps she made her way over to where Vil was sitting, going over his lines with professional solemnity. Once she reached his chair she waited for him to look over at her and gave him a bright smile that she hoped would come across as friendly and encouraging.
Rosa: Hello! I’m Cherry! I mean! I play Cherry. Um…
She played with her hands, feeling her face grow warm as Vil watched her with a calm and slightly disinterested expression.
Vil: I’m Vil Schoenheit. It’s nice to meet you.
Rosa: Ye-Yeah! It’s really, really nice to meet you too, Vil!
She fidgeted anxiously, racking her brain for anything she could say to keep the conversation going but came up with nothing at all except the words her manager spoke earlier when they watched them shoot Vil’s scenes.
Rosa: You’re a really good actor! Not a look of kids can deliver that sort of performance, you know!
Vil raised an eyebrow in surprise, and even to herself the words sounded foreign and odd. It was not the way she would have phrased things at all normally but she had no clue what to say otherwise. Luckily Vil seemed to have caught on to that as well, since he merely nodded at her in acknowledgement.
Vil: Thank you. You’re doing a good job as well. You’re very talented. I’ve seen you act in your TV show and you come off as very natural there as well.
The grin she sported was mouth splitting and she felt her heart burst with happiness at the praise.
Rosa: Thank you! It’s really all because the crew is so nice and supportive! Along with the fans of course! They’re all so understanding and kind!
Vil: I see. That must feel very nice, I suppose. You’re playing to your type then.
Rosa: My type?
Vil: It means that an actor is portraying a type of role that they’re really good at playing. So people start associating them with that kind of personality. For you and Neige, I suppose it’s the happy-go-lucky, kind protagonist, as for me, it’s the villain as usual.
Though his tone was calm, Rosa sensed a certain melancholy creeping in at the edges. Vil seemed almost resigned as he said those last words, but she couldn’t figure out the source of his distress. To her who’d only played roles of cute and innocent young girls, the image of a cool and imposing rival seemed that more appealing. Seeing Vil perform today only strengthened her belief, and in her need to comfort him tried to tell him as such.
Rosa: But I think that you’re really good at playing a villain! You’re really made for this sort of role!
Vil’s expression went cold and his smile was tight. Though he looked as polite as ever, Rosa could sense his displeasure as she felt herself grow smaller before him.
Vil: Thank you. I also think that you’re made exactly for the type of role you’re playing. Naturally affable people are always more relatable. That’s why acting comes so naturally to you, isn’t that right?
Rosa: Um, not really… I put in lots of effort too. Being Cherry is a lot of work actually!
Vil: Is that so?
Rosa: Ye-Yeah! It’s really challenging at times, which is why I want to try other roles too sometimes. But…
Rosa: Um, well, my manager says it’s important to keep to one’s image, so playing anything other than what I am right now would not sell. And there’s everybody’s else image that’s also-
Vil: Aren’t these just excuses?
Vil: Aren’t you just complaining about a situation within your reach, while blaming everybody around you? What’s stopping you from auditioning for roles other than the one you’re playing now?
Rosa: Um… That’s…
Vil: Can’t you stand on your two feet?
The look Vil shot her in that moment was not something she’d ever seen in her life before. Not even when her mother was disappointed did she ever look at Rosa in such a manner. She felt shame overcome every fiber of her being, and before she was able to say anything else the director called for them to resume filming. Vil nodded at her again. Standing up, he left her alone with her thoughts. A few moments passed and then her manager and mother rushed over to check on her as she started wailing loudly. No matter how much they asked her what had happened she wouldn’t reveal anything, but simply cried her eyes out until there were no more tears to shed.
That had been the last incident regarding that movie shot, as afterwards Vil had barely spoken a word to her, and frightened by her previous experience she didn’t have the courage to confront him either. A few months later the crew had wrapped up, and the film got released, was met with incredible success and the director went on to talk about a possible sequel in the making. As for Rosa, she kept in contact with Neige afterwards, exchanging phone numbers and texting each other every week or so, until their schedules became much busier and it changed to every month or so, until it eventually got cut down to once in a blue moon.
She hadn’t talked to Vil since that day. She still felt a wave of shame wash over her just by watching the movie they starred in together, and even though her mother proposed that they visit Vil and his father, since she and Eric got along quite well nowadays, Rosa vehemently refused. She felt that if she was to see Vil again his words, which she tried so hard to forget, would come pouring out again and this time she would have no protection against them. They had such an impact on her that at times she wondered if maybe there wasn’t something true in them after all. Perhaps she should try and leave the image of Cherry behind. But just as she thought of that, she felt dread pool in the pit of her stomach. She couldn’t do that. Cherry was a symbol, after all, something that many people relied on. She would be selfish to drop that role just because she’d grown tired of it.
She was startled by the thought. Was it true? Did she really think that? It couldn’t be. Cherry was a symbol after all, and people needed symbols. So she shouldn’t be thinking about quitting under any circumstances. It wouldn’t be fair to everybody else.
And thus, with a little seed of doubt being planted in her heart she entered her first year of middle school.
Life wasn’t as different there as opposed to what she was used to. Once people realized that she was indeed the Cherry that appeared on TV their attitudes towards her shifted completely. They’d become kinder, and more willing to help, insisting on staying close by her side and making sure to let her know they could be relied on for anything. In the past she would have merely considered that a show of kindness on their part, but ever since her discussion with Vil she’d become more on edge about others’ perception of her. Was a helpless little girl all they saw when they looked at her? Was Cherry the one who they would offer a helping hand towards rather than Rosalia? The thought ate at her little by little until she felt herself become sick at the mere mention of the name every time somebody called out to her. For even now in middle school, she was still referred to as Cherry by all her classmates.
Girl A: Heeeeeey~ There you areeeeee~
Rosa turned around, spotting three girls making a beeline towards her. It was lunch time, and as usual she spent it by herself in the courtyard, ever since a few weeks ago she realized she couldn’t bear to listen to the gaggle of students that would crowd around her every time they had free time. She put down her spoon and made sure her disappointment wasn’t visible on her face as they came closer. She was really looking forward to eating her lunch in peace.
Girl A: So this is where you run off every time the bell rings? Pretty secluded.
Girl B: Meeting with your boyfriend~?
The three exchanged a laugh, and Rosa tried her best to put on an amused smile. Maybe if she humored them for a while they would leave of their own accord? Her hopes were dashed almost immediately as she saw them sit down on the grass next to her.
Rosa: Ah, no… not really.
Girl A: Come on, you can tell us~ We’re friends after all, right?
The girl elbowed her playfully. No matter how hard Rosa tried she couldn’t remember talking to this girl ever before in her life. None of them seemed familiar at all in fact.
Girl C: Idiot! There’s no way Cherry would date some rando from our school! Right?
Girl B: I bet her boyfriend is somebody famous and that’s why she can’t tell us! Isn’t that right, Cherry?
Rosa: No, it’s nothing like that… And could you please not call me Cherry?
Girl A: Huh? Why not? It’s super cute! Just like you! It fits you perfectly!
Rosa: … It’s not my name.
Girl A: Uh, oh…
Girl B: I don’t see what’s the problem. We’ve called you that all this time after all. What changed?
Rosa: I never liked it when you did it in the first place!
Girl C: Wah! What’s with the yelling? We’re only trying to be your friends because we saw how pathetic you looked here by yourself!
Girl B: Yeah! Everybody on our hallway is talking about how you’ve suddenly turned snobby and wouldn’t sit with them anymore, but we didn’t want to believe them.
Girl C: “Cherry isn’t the type of girl to do something so mean!” That’s what we told everybody, you know? And here you are acting like we’re bothersome to you.
Girl B: You should show some gratitude! We’re being nice here.
Rosa watched as their expressions turned hostile, aggravation and indignation clearly visible as she continued to rebuff their offers of ‘friendship’.
Rosa: I should be nice to you? What kind of joke is that? You guys say you want to be my friends, but only call out to “Cherry”. How am I supposed to think of anyone who does that as a friend?
She stood up, suddenly, her tray of food spilling over and staining the tips of her outdoor shoes. The girls in front of her let out startled yelps and moved away from her so that the mess wouldn’t smear their uniforms too. They looked at Rosa with dumbfounded confusion, as she clenched her hands to fists and glared at them fiercely.
Rosa: You’re only wanting to be my friends because you think that would make you more important than you really are! You wouldn’t care about me at all, if I wasn’t famous! Admit it! You’re nothing more than vultures feeding off others like the leeches you are-
As she spoke she felt her body almost burst into flames due to the indignation she was feeling. All the years of resentment she was building up towards her public treatment spilling out without care for what might come out, and with no end in sight. She felt like she could scream at them forever, but the words got caught in her throat when she felt the cold substance splash across her face. The bottle of water fell at her feet as the girl who threw the contents over her crossed her arms, and looked at her with disdain.
Girl A: You sure have a lot of nerve for somebody who’s only getting attention because she’s cute! People only tolerate you because you’re famous so don’t get cocky with us!
Girl B: Seriously, what’s with her? Acting all high and mighty when we’re trying to help her out…
Girl C: Just cause you’re a big shot doesn’t mean that you have to treat us like dirt!
Girl A: That’s right! Stop being a nuisance to others and learn your place!
She kicked at the food splashed on the ground, staining the bottom of Rosa’s uniform skirt before shooting her a final dirty look as they walked away. She stood there for a while, the events that just transpired finally sinking in and with horrified mortification she began to wipe at the tears that had started to fall. She must have looked pathetic, standing there in her dirty uniform, crying like a child and was a bit grateful that barely anybody would walk by this spot. She wasn’t sure when she finally calmed down, but once she wasn’t sniffling anymore she went to the bathroom to wash her uniform a little and change her shoes. Her arrival in the classroom was met with the usual fanfare, but she just pushed past everybody as she made her way to her desk and avoided any contact with them at all. They still tried to talk to her, even when she would keep quiet and write in her notebook, and their persistence held on for another few weeks, until slowly, one by one they began to shun her in response as well. Nobody even bothered to greet her at all, but she could still hear them whispering behind her back, and eventually they gave up any attempt to hide and treated her as if she didn’t even exist.
On TV Cherry continued to be a shining star, just like always. And even as she felt the sting of loneliness Rosa figured that it was ok. She was doing it for everybody else, after all, so that must mean it was the right thing.
It was the most saccharine melody she had ever heard in her life, and she had to be careful so that her face didn’t betray the embarrassment she was feeling at that moment. With carefully practised movements she began her performance - a little idol-like dance, her manager called it. Bubbly, cute and eye-catching so that everybody knew it was her who was performing. No, that it was Cherry.
Up in the stands her manager and the president watched with exuberant expressions as she moved across the small stage. Next to them, Alkin loafed on the edge of the balcony, eyes trained on her but expression clearly indifferent. This was mirrored by the Headmistress’ own face as she sat straight in her chair, while on her shoulder Stryx swayed along lightly to the tune of the melody. In a few chairs over Professor Dergos was leaning in his spot, cap pulled over his eyes and seemingly asleep, leaving only Professor Yaga to make unheard comments to the pale and trembling cameraman. She came in and out of focus as she twirled around and once she faced the crowd again she raised her arms and snapped her fingers. From the ground numerous paper figures rose up, and began dancing all around her in tune with the song. They were all sort of cutouts, paper dolls in the shape of teddy bears and swans and bunnies that moved all around her, and all in different colours. They blended together in an array of colourful images and ultimately joined together in a parade that was as heartmeltingly cute as it was ridiculous. From the balcony she heard Professor Yaga’s laughter echo again, and she felt irritation stab at her heart.
Why was the hag laughing? It wasn’t like she wanted to participate in any of this. If it was up to her she would- Rosa was startled to realise that no matter how hard she thought, she had no clue what it was that she would want to do. The prospect never really presented itself to her. Even after she came to the conclusion she couldn’t stand to be Cherry anymore, there was little she could do to change things. She tried to. There was no question of that. She talked to her manager, tried to convince him to let her audition for other things as well, but all the calls she brought to his attention were immediately shut down.
Manager: Sorry, starlight. We can’t afford you to star in this ultra violent action movie. The fans won’t take well to it at all.
Manager: No can do, starlight. A documentary on the Death Mages of The Isle of Lamentation will cause an uproar. And given the credentials of this production we don’t want to be involved with it anyway...
Manager: A horror movie focused on the delusions of a mad woman locked in her attic for all her life? Starlight, we talked about this…
She pushed and she pulled as hard as she could but nothing ever seemed to work. She was to be Cherry for the rest of her life - always young, always childlike and innocent even though she often felt herself burn with shame at some of the lines she had to deliver. It had all become much too perfunctory for her at some point. Not that it seemed to matter. As long as she brought in the cash, her manager told her she could be as fake as she wanted. After all, her fans would just keep eating out the palm of her hand. Unfortunately, he did not count on those very fans lashing out against her after the photoshoot she did for her father’s newest collection depicting clothing that would fit a more wild image. Fadded denim shorts, a crop top, a nice sports jacket and some accessories. She looked more like one of the Berry sisters on the show, a group of delinquent girls that Cherry befriended at some point, and it made her shine with pride. But as soon as the pictures went up on Magicam comments started pouring in, all complaining about how “indecent” and “dirty” she was made to look.
Commenter 847: Wow, this is disturbing. Don’t they know Cherry is a kid? Why are they putting her in that kind of clothing??
Commenter 267: That crop top too short!!! How could her parents ever let her be part of this!! I’m very disappointed!!
Commenter 3940: This isn’t what Cherry stands for at all!! Let her enjoy her childhood before it’s gone!! She’s somebody kids are supposed to look up to!
She’d watched the insults and the derogatory remarks pour in by the dozens, each accusing her of indecency or, even worse, going after her parents. That Rosa couldn’t abide no matter what.
Glancing at the cameras as her paper menagerie was dancing all around her, she wondered if this was what her fans wanted to see. If the little doll on the music box was spinning to their liking. Or would she be crumbled up again due to some unseen fault she was only too tired of correcting? Her manager and the president looked happy. That ought to count for something.
She glanced up at the sky. The venue was not covered so above her she could see the night sky spread endlessly. It was still dark, no stars would come out so early this time of the year. It was all for the better since she needed it to be clear so that her next move could be shown off as splendidly as possible. The stars’ light might make it difficult so the conditions were perfect now. All she had to do was to go forth with her final move and then she’d be done.
Raising her hands high in the air she commanded the paper dolls to form a line around her, which they dutifully obeyed. Facing the audience they took a deep bow, which caused a subdued wave of laughter to erupt from the stands. Rosa ignored it. There were only 15 minutes left anyway. Putting on her best smile, she looked up at the sky again to make sure her aim would be precise when and froze. Her breath was caught in her throat, and her eyes stared in horror as far away in the darkness of the night, she could see, dimly shining, the morning star.
Manager: Listen, starlight. You gotta make sure the night sky’s clear for that shot, ok? You’re a smart girl so I’m sure you can do it. Just take less time with the dancing and the magic, you know? Don’t have to show the fans everything right now. We can make them pay for the full experience later. That’s what records are for!
Her show was going to be ruined. She glanced frightened at her manager. He was too busy talking to the president to even notice her distress, and Rosa could feel her heart almost burst out with anxiety. What was she supposed to do now? She couldn’t go on with the dance. She’d have to find something else to finish off with. But what? Nobody was giving her any instruction and she’s never been more scared in her life. The crowd began to murmur among themselves, and her legs began to shake. She felt like she could collapse any minute now.
Then, as if by fate, her eyes locked with that of the Headmistress. Her gaze was still hard and critical, but Rosa could swear she saw the most minuscule of movement. Had the Headmistress nodded at her? She must have. Or maybe she was imagining things again. The stare was making her nervous. She’d seen it somewhere before - on a younger, much more vulnerable face.
Vil: Can’t you stand on your two feet?
Air returned to her lungs as she inhaled sharply. She blinked - once, then twice - and the fog cleared up. She could think much clearly now. Every tense muscle in her body relaxed. Her heart was no longer pounding in her chest. She was floating - untethered by anything or anybody, and through her parted lips, the words slipped out almost as if it wasn’t her that spoke. But there was nobody else.
Rosa: [Heart’s Desire]
She felt the world melt away. The paper dolls standing in front of her disintegrated, transforming into streams of the clearest water she’d ever seen in her life. The artificial light reflected off the surface, and the glare was so strong they had to shut it off. Now all that remained was the light of the torches spread around the venue. It cast shadows on the stage, but she was still visible in the center, submerged in the little pool that formed around her. It splashed all around, and Rosa let out a short laugh as she watched it rise, until it reached her ankles.
She leaned her head backwards, closed her eyes and willed her magic to go further. She felt herself become lighter, as her clothes were shed off, melting in the same way the paper dolls just did. The water cascaded down her body, and in its wake new cloth was made - lighter, darker in colour, resembling the shade of a plum and more open. Her ribbon and top were gone, melted away along with her gloves and skirt and boots. The material that covered her body fashioning itself into a dress which resembled something her father had once designed for one of his customers. A woman who exuded maturity and flair, and made Rosa’s eyes shine with envy. Her hair was let out of the ponytails, long locks resting on her bare back and curling ever so slightly. She decorated herself sparsely - a few accessories here and there, but nothing too overt. Simplicity was her weapon now. Beauty with no ornamentation, raw in its splendor - perhaps a crown upon her head? No. She hadn’t earned that yet. Amethyst eyes were etched in her memories, and thinking of them brought her comfort. She wondered if he was watching her too. She hoped he was. It was him after all who she wanted more than anyone else to see her now.
Her feet threaded through the mud that had formed underneath. The sensation was foreign, fantastic and made her heart soar with happiness. Was this what the Witch of the Rose felt when she first emerged on land? The coldness was more pleasing than she imagined. A scallop would be a bit too ridiculous now that she thought about it, but perhaps something else might work. The audience of girls huddled together awed when they saw the peacock tail behind her fawn out and the feathers preening. They shone brilliantly in the darkness of the stage, illuminated only by the flames around them, and though all she could see was an endless vastness before her, Rosa never felt more in control. It was her. All her. In a loud and clear voice she spoke the faceless mass in front of her.
Rosa: And thus pledge the Witch of the Rose: I follow but my master’s creed, that which she calls Rosenhex!
In the stands, her manager sat slumped in his seat, expression vacant and eyes set on something beyond any human’s sight. They were done for. This was to be the final nail in the coffin. They’ve signed their own execution order and there was no going back anymore. The president was furiously signalling for the cameramen to cut the feed, desperately trying to salvage the situation by any means possible. It was a disaster. They couldn’t sell this to the masses. People didn’t want that- he couldn’t even bear to think of the word, but rather they needed someone cute to lift their spirits. Cherry was that. She was the most marketable star he’d seen in his lifetime, but that spoiled brat had to go and ruin everything. His blood boiled as he thought of the money they could have made off of her. It was all down the drain now.
His flailing and shouting was cut short, when a large, gnarled hand emerged from the darkness and gripped the back of his chair with such force that it shattered it completely. He yelped in alarm, falling backwards on the ground. A haunting laugh echoed.
Professor Yaga: Gyahahahahaha. Looks like my aim’s not what it used to be. Forgive this old granny. Her eyes have gone bad.
He saw the shine of something from beyond the shadows - the brief glimpse of a face so twisted and warped that it would haunt him for the rest of his life. It grinned at him with such benevolent hunger that he was overcome with dread. Paralyzed he stood before the glorious horror that glanced his way as if he was a mere worm on the cement.
Headmistress Astoria: Professor Yaga. I must remind you that damaging school property is against the rules.
Professor Yaga: Is that so? Ah, how time has passed. Granny is bound to forget one or two such details.
Headmistress Astoria: I see. How unfortunate.
Professor Yaga: GYAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
The crone’s face disappeared back into its hood, and on the balcony Head Prefect Alkin stood up and stretched as he gazed down at the Rosenhex Prefect’s finishing bow.
President: This- This- This- This is outrageous!
Headmistress Astoria: I will ask you to take a few moments to compose yourself, dear. Our Witch Dances are still underway.
President: Blast them! And blast this place! I will not stand here and be made a fool of by this- this- this-
Professor Yaga: Now, now, turnip. As much of a lady as I am, I’m loath to turn a blind eye even to little men as yourself if they pester me too much. Gyahahahahahaha.
Headmistress Astoria: There shall be a small intermission soon, dear. Rest for now. There are still seven more young girls to dance.
President: You must be mad if you think I’m covering any more of this! You can take those dances and shove them-
The look the Headmistress sent him could have frozen even boiling water. As if in a trance he closed his mouth and gulped loudly, feeling his knees tremble slightly. The woman’s mere presence was starting to make it hard to breathe, even as the owl on her shoulder began to loudly chastise him for the language he was about to use. Gritting his teeth, he shook his head and turned around as he descended the stairs. The cameraman glanced after him, unsure of whether he should follow or not when a strident voice.
Professor Stryx: You!! Yes, you, young lad! What are you standing around for?! Didn’t you hear what the Mistress said?! There are still seven more performances about to take place! Don’t you dare slack off now!
The cameraman blinked, looked around and seeing that the manager had made no move except to light up a cigarette, he nodded somewhat meekly and focused his attention back on the stage, where Rosa basked in the applause she received. Bowing once more, she turned around, dress trailing behind her and made her way backstage. As soon as she was in, she felt her back being slapped with such force she was almost sent forward, had it not been for Cassandra’s presence breaking her fall.
Marcia: Whoops! Sorry about that! Didn’t think you’d be so fragile! Hahahahahahaha!
Rosa: Don’t laugh that off, you meathead!!
Cass: Sti-Still, Mi-Mi-Miss Morgainne! You were wo-wo-wonderful out there!
Marcia: Yup! Yup! Super shiny and all that!
Rosa felt warmth bloom in her chest as she took in the praise. Her knees felt very weak all of a sudden and she needed to sit down for a bit. The excitement that was fueling her before had died down, and now she simply felt tired from all the commotion. From the corner of her eye, she spotted her manager going out of the staircase, cigarette in his right hand and phone in his other. Excusing herself from the conversation she followed after him, catching the last part of his discussion.
Manager: Yeah, yeah, I understand. Really sorry about it. Yup, got it. Yeah, yeah.
He leaned against the wall, and gave out a sigh as he took another drag then immediately put it off when he noticed her presence there.
Rosa: It’s ok. I don’t care about that.
Manager: Well, you’re still a kid, starlight.
Rosa: I’m not a-
She cut herself off, took a deep breath and calmed down. Throwing a fit now would only undermine her own words. Steeling herself, she started over again.
Rosa: I don’t want to be Cherry anymore.
Manager: You made that very clear up there, starlight.
Rosa: Well, it’s how I feel. I… I’m not sorry for what I did. And if the fans are mad-
Manager: Oh, they’re mad, starlight. Trust me. As soon as you changed into… this, they all started mashing their keyboards in the comment section. It’s a cesspool.
Rosa: I don’t care.
It pleased her to see that she was telling the truth, and that indeed nothing in her was aching with shame and regret. Instead she felt freer than ever. It was a wonderful sentiment.
Manager: Then I guess that’s that.
Manager: I’m gonna have to make some calls tomorrow. I expect most of our contracts to have fallen through after tonight. But I guess there’s always a different pond you can dip your toes in, right?
Rosa: Pond? What-
Manager: Oh, that means you’re gonna have to keep off Magicam for a while, ok? Just to avoid those hate comments until things die down, alright? And since we can’t use Cherry anymore, I guess we’ll have to come up with something new too…
She stared at him in confusion, unsure of whether he’d lost his mind or not. The muttering continued for a bit before he looked over at her and with a self-assured smile patted her shoulder lightly.
Manager: Just ‘cause Cherry is dead, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. I wasn’t kidding when I said I saw something in you, starlight. You’ve got talent. We can’t let the world snuffle it out like that.
Without meaning to, she found herself grinning at him, unable to keep the joy off her face. The words seemed too good to be true, but she wanted to hope. A future with no Cherry sounded more than perfect for her. She went to hug him, full of gratitude, but unsteady as she was on her feet she almost ended up with her face on the floor. Luckily he helped steady her before that happened.
Manager: Woah there, starlight!
Rosa: So-Soryy, I think it’s really clicking in that I’ve gone a bit too far tonight…
Manager: You used [Heart’s Desire] so no wonder. Here, sit here for a while. I’ll go grab you something to drink.
He helped her over to a nearby bench and made himself scarce in search of a vending machine. He wouldn’t be that lucky in that regard, but Rosa wasn’t yet privy to that. Leaning her head against the cool wall, she closed her eyes and felt calmness wash over her. Somehow everything worked out in the end. The idea of starting over in her career scared her a little, but there was something exciting about it too. She’d have to work hard, but that meant nothing to someone as driven as her. Not now when everything seemed to be within her reach.
Head Prefect Alkin: Well done, child.
She jumped when she heard the low voice address her and looking around she was intimidated to see that there was nobody in sight.
Head Prefect Alkin: Your assessment of your surroundings still lacks somewhat, however.
She looked down at last, figuring out just where the source was and stared into the black eyes of a small sized cat. Head Prefect Alkin’s two tails swished back and forth as he gazed up at her impassively. Rosa stiffened, eye wide and expectant, wondering what he was going to say next. When he kept quiet, she worried that he might have been mad at her - after all, one of her senpai, the rabbit beastwoman told her that to the Head Prefect nothing was more important than upholding the school’s legacy. Was her little performance going to be an issue? It was a bit out of left field, she would admit, but nothing too scandalous, right? The Head Prefect continued to stay silent and Rosa began to believe that he was indeed upset about something, until he surprised her by jumping up on the bench and walking over to sit on her lap. She watched him lie his head on his paws and close his eyes after sitting down, tails curling up as well. The image was so cute she couldn’t help but smile. She reached over to find her phone so she could take a picture. Unlocking the screen she was greeted with dozens of messages from her overexcited father, who praised every single aspect of her performance, and a few from her mother, whose more serious nature led to a shorter exchange.
She waded through them, feeling her eyes water at the support she was receiving, until finally she was shocked to see a long-forgotten contact make an unexpected appearance. She opened the message, and the tears she held back until now finally poured out. Head Prefect Alkin said nothing as Rosa leaned forward to envelop him in a hug. Perhaps she was seeking comfort, or merely overwhelmed with emotions. Whatever it was he let her hug him to her heart’s content as she grasped the phone tightly in her hand, the message still visible.
Vil: You did well.
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A/N: Hey everybody, Omens here. This series is part of my series for the (Y/N)’s. These works are here to establish the backgrounds, personalities, and such of each of my (Y/N)’s, as they’re all separate characters and not a blank slate.
So far, I’m doing my three most popular requested ones which are; Hanzo, Mcree, and Genji. This is Mcree’s. I’m sure these works will have about 3-4 chapters each, with the first being the beginning of their life, to the last being present time. That being said, you don’t have to default to these (Y/N)’s either. If you have a request that’s specific like
‘Mcree with an S/O who has a body like Genji?’. I will easily do that. These (Y/N)’s are just the default if you request something vague such as ‘Mcree goes on a date with (Y/N).’ and such.
However, I do have placeholder names for each of these characters. If you would like a request with this specific (Y/N) you can use (Y/N)!Ambrose. Sorry if this was confusing but :)
| Chapter 2 - Dirty Shoes|
Chapter Summary: They say your childhood flies by faster than your adulthood. That is true. They say that you should do the things you enjoy while your young. That is also true.
They also say that there’s no such thing as monsters under your bed. That’s not true.
!WARNING! This work contains graphic depictions of violence, foul language, and other sensitive topics. Reader discretion is advised.
The Arcana Masterlist
Ask Box (Requests are CLOSED!)
“They broke my wings, but forgot I had claws.”
Your entire life, you had spent it being common. You had a 'common' sob story of losing your parents in the omnic crisis. You had the 'common' new blood mark. You wanted to be special, you wanted people to notice you. You didn't know that this wish would cost your humanity, however.
!WARNING! This chapter contains blood, violence, and death. Please proceed with caution.
Song: Dancing with the devil - Set it off
It was 9:30 at night when you had received the call from Holland. You had just gotten home to your small apartment which you shared with your (crappy) roommate. The familiar made you pull the phone from your pocket immediately.
"Hey (Y/N)! It's been a while, huh?"
You chuckle, twirling your car keys on your ring finger. "Yeah." You began, leaning against the door. "College has been busy, how have you been?" You ask, recognizing the voice immediately, your day improving instantly from this call.
"Ah, I've been better," Holland says. "I've been so busy, so I figured I wanted to go down to a bar to loosen up a little. Wanna come?"
"Sure, which one?"
"The one that opened up two months ago?"
"Hell yeah, a lot of people are saying their food is good, and apparently most of their staff are nice to look at too."
You roll your eyes, turning around and grabbing the door handle.
You're halfway out the door when you ask; "I'm guessing you want to go now?"
"Hell yeah I do, I wanna pick up some chicks."
You fake a gagging noise, locking the door behind you. "Don't ever say that again, please."
"So, you want me to meet you there?"
"I bet I can beat you." You say.
"You're forgetting I can walk really fast."
"And you're forgetting that I own a car." You retort as Holland sputters over the phone before hanging up.
Just as you expected, you showed up at the bar before Holland did. Not that he minded, of course, it would be fun to tease Holland for being late.
Soon, you see a bus roll up across the street, various passengers coming off. There, you see Holland in all his glory, just as you expected.
Same pale skin, with freckles littering his face, same round eyes, flushed cheeks, and bright cyan hair. He's wearing a nice jean jacket, a white and black striped shirt, with jeans and Adidas. His face immediately brightens as he crosses the street and sees you.
"Since when did you drive?" He asks as he wraps an arm around your shoulders.
"Since I got my driver's license back sophomore year of college." You reply, rustling his hair.
You two enter the rustic bar, taking a seat as Holland orders two drinks.
"So, has college been pummeling you into the ground?" Holland asks.
You shrug. "Well...kinda. Speaking in front of the class still makes me nervous...but I'm gonna have to do it if I wanna be an art history teacher."
Holland leans back in the chair, sighing.
"Hm, the exact opposite of me then," He muses. "I've been buried in work, might as well dig my own grave with the papers I still have to finish."
You shake your head as the glasses are passed to you two.
You down the drink in one gulp, as Holland, mimics you. The two of you slam your glasses on the counter, as Holland chuckles.
"So, other than college kicking us in the ass, how have you been?"
"Pretty good I guess. Roommate's nice."
"Okay, he sucks ass, but he helps pay rent so, y'know. He stays."
"Thank god he does. If he didn't I would've hauled his ass into the nearest dumpster."
"He's three times your size."
"So? No man is safe from a kick in the balls."
This time, you laugh, throwing your head back in the process.
"Have you called your moms yet?"
Holland scoffs. "Have I? No, have they? Yes, every day."
Holland shakes his head.
"I love them really, it's mainly just them showing me their dog doing stupid stuff like barking at the wall." Holland pauses. "What about yours?"
There's hesitance. Holland raises an eyebrow.
Your face contorts. "It's just...Mrs.Parkiston is in the hospital."
Holland's eyes widen. "Oh god. I'm sorry (Y/N). Why didn't you tell me?"
You shrug. "Didn't wanna bother you. She'll be fine, she's tough as nails."
Holland frowns. "Are you sure...you don't wanna talk about it?"
You nod slightly, swirl your drink around in your hand, watching the ice swim in circles.
Holland nods his head slowly and asks for a refill.
"Woah there, don't wanna make yourself drunk, Holls."
"Hey now, I'm a grown man. I can handle a drink or two."
This time, it's you who shakes your head.
"Damn, it's almost midnight," Holland mutters, gesturing to his watch. "Think we should call it a night?"
"Depends. Do you have classes tomorrow?"
"Only one, but it's at 5ish."
"Ha! I have no classes, so why don't we go somewhere else?"
"Like a movie?"
"With you and your loud mouth? We'd get kicked out during the movie trailers." You tease, and Holland huffs. You place your card on the counter, and spin around, surveying the rest of the bar. It's mostly empty, minus the small frail woman on the couch in the far corner of the room.
You raise an eyebrow, upon seeing the woman being approached by a man. Your nose crinkles as the man practically forces the woman to her feet and begins to walk out the door with the man.
\You pause, as the man turns to you, and for a second you feel your heart drop to your stomach, your skin turning cold. The man's eyes are wide, the lighting surely makes them red, and the blood veins are bright as ever. The minute this man looks away, that feeling is gone.
"Hey Holland, are you done yet?" You ask, trying to not stumble over your words, as you take your card back from the barista.
Holland turns to you. "Yeah, why?"
"Did that woman enter the bar with anyone?"
Holland pauses, as you gesture to the woman who's giggling and nearly falling to her feet, just outside the door.
The woman is pulled away and the two begin to walk down the street, past the window. Holland turns to you.
"I know that look (Y/N)."
You're already out the door as Holland races to catch up with you, as you walk down the street, eyes peeled.
"(Y/N), she probably called someone to pick her up-"
"I don't know, Holland. That guy looked at me, and his eyes were all...all bloodshot! I felt so cold, you don't get like that looking at somebody-"
"(Y/N), you're probably just a bit tipsy-"
"I had two drinks-"
The two of you pause before you hear a shout escape through the air. Holland freezes, exchanging a look with you.
"Don't you dare-!"
Before he finishes you take off running towards the sound of the scream. Holland is shouting behind you, but you don't hear it as you slide to a stop on the outside of the alleyway.
You feel your jaw become slacked, your gaze fixated on the black heels on a woman's legs. The legs twitch once. The figure above the body making smacking noises as they lay hunched over her upper body.
"H-hey!" You shout.
The man turns around, and your eyes go wide. Red drips down the man's mouth, and you know damn well that the man's teeth is much longer than normal. His eyes are beet red, pupils blown wide, and his skin is so pale, it's practically white and glittering off of the flickering street light above you.
You slowly peer down at the woman's face, your heart pounding in your chest. Two holes are in the woman's neck, more blood pooling down the wounds and onto the concrete below. Her eyes are wide and glossed over.
"W-what the hell did you do!" You shout, the man doesn't move.
You hear footsteps behind you.
"(Y/N)? Seriously, just-Holy shit!"
Holland stumbles at the scene before you. As the man slowly stands up.
He's muttering under his breath as Holland grips your shoulder.
"Y-Y/N, we should...we should get outta here-!"
The man screeches before launching at you two. One hand coming forward to grasp your plaid shirt, and the other grabbing Holland by his hair. The two of you are thrown into the alleyway, and Holland screeches as he lands on the woman's body.
He scrambles, practically on top of you.
"Oh god, we're gonna die...(Y/N) we're gonna die-" Holland trembled.
"We're not gonna die, Holland." You hiss.
The man, who has blood dripping onto his t-shirt, hisses.
You shove Holland to the side, and the man slams face-first into the dumpster. There are two holes where his teeth were, and you look around the area.
Your hands dart across the ground, scrambling to find something of use, and your fingertips brush against something. You pull out a....bag...from under the dumpster?
The man screeches and dives at Holland this time, Holland cries out as he's wrestled onto the floor. His legs kick out, and all over the place, trying to kick the man off. Holland has his arms on the man's shoulders, who lashes out and snaps at him like a dog.
"Call the cops (Y/N) holy shit!"
You reach into your pocket, but don't feel your phone nor your car keys. "They're gone!"
Holland screams as the man snaps at his face.
"Then just do something!" Holland yells.
You tear open the bag and with that, your eyes widen.
"What the hell..." You mutter, grabbing the piece of wood and grasping it in your hand. There's a strange symbol on the top of it. You don't recognize any of it.
The man stops, snapping his head towards you so harshly that you hear it. You make eye contact with the man, but this time you don't freeze. The wood feels hot in your hand, almost driving away the cold, and your entire body seems to get a rush from this.
The man jumps at you, your eyes flicker to the wood.
You're slammed into the wall by the man, who shouts when you plunge the wood directly into his shoulder. You pull it out again as he staggers back. His eyes go fully red, and you hear cracking noises.
The man- no, this thing attacks you again, grabbing your wrist and twisting.
You shout out as the wood drops from your hands, and the man wrestles you to the ground. Jaw snapping.
"Ah! Holland do something!"
There isn't a response from Holland at first, but the man pauses for a second, sputtering. You cry out as you see the pierced end of the stake go through the man's chest, forcing blood onto your clothes.
You shove the man's body off of you. This thing sputters, his eyes slowly meeting your own.
He reaches a frail hand out before you hear the blood drip onto the concrete, and his bloody hands smear finger marks on your cheek. The man collapses onto the ground.
Holland breathes out heavily.
"Holy...did...did I just kill that guy!"
"You...You didn't mean to! Right?"
"Of-of course not! He kept moving too much and I just went for it I-" Holland grabs fistfuls of his hair. "Holy fuck (Y/N)! Now we're screwed, we're so screwed!"
For a moment, you're stunned. There's blood on you, you know there's blood on you.
"We...We should call someone." You quavered, feeling your body tremble as you step back into the wall.
"And tell them what? 'Hey my friend and I just got back from a bar and killed a guy who killed a woman! Ooh! And we also killed him with a fucking stake from Home Depot!"
You make a face at Holland, who gestures wildly at the wood.
"I don't know (Y/N)! I could go to jail for this, we're ruined-! So ruined-"
"Holland calm down."
"Calm down!" Holland roars. "Don't you dare tell me to calm down-!"
Holland pauses, the anger turning to shock, eyes going wide.
You raise an eyebrow and slowly turn towards the bodies. The man's body slowly becomes bright, before it fades to dust, leaving his destroyed clothes behind. Just as the man's body disappears, the woman does as well. Not leaving any trace of evidence behind. The concrete is clean of any blood.
"What. the. Fuck." Holland mutters. "This is some supernatural type shit."
There's a tense silence shared between you two. You grab the stake, and the bag, and swing it over your shoulder.
"We're leaving, now."
Holland's eyes widen.
"Holland, let's go!"
You harshly grab his wrist as you two run down the street, you see Holland's gaze never leave the alleyway as you two run. Before he faces the ground, his lower lip is bitten. If you didn't know any better, you'd say he was on the verge of tears.
You slam the front door to your apartment, and let out heavy breaths.
"Now...now what." Holland whispers. "Are we going insane or something? Maybe...Maybe we had too much to drink?"
While Holland tries to rationalize what just happened, you sigh and shut your eyes.
You softly guide Holland to the couch right to the door. He sits down, hands over his mouth, eyes flicking left and right.
You place the bag on the coffee table before you.
Holland puts his head in his hands as you turn to the bag. Curiosity gets the better of you, and you slowly unzip the bag.
"Jesus, what the hell is all of this?" You ask, slowly grabbing the large wooden cross with your left hand, and a smaller stake with your right.
Holland slowly uncovers his face.
Holland shoves past you, whilst you shout out a 'Hey!'. You reach into the bag and pull out a white bottle, as well as a rolled-up piece of paper.
"Holy water?" Holland mutters, as he places it on the coffee table and unravels the paper.
He snickers. "Jeez, d&d nerd much?"
He nudges you in the side, as you raise an eyebrow.
"Why is that guy on a wanted poster."
You crinkle your nose. "Jeez, they really did him wrong. Look at his nose."
Holland smiles. "look...his teeth too."
"Cain Soloman." Holland reads. "Vampire lord....19 grand for live...capture..."
Holland tosses the paper onto the coffee table.
"I'd say that was a load o' bull, but...you know I'd be lying."
You place the stake and the cross down.
"Is there anything else in there?" Holland began. You shrug, opening the bag wide.
"Nope, that's it."
Holland shakes his head.
"Who would leave a backpack with all of this stuff under a dumpster anyways though?"
"It's not a backpack."
"Then why does it look like one?"
You let out an exasperated sigh.
"Do you...really think that thing was a vampire?" You ask, hesitantly.
"Probably." Holland leans back, head aimed towards the ceiling. "Makes sense. The eyes, teeth, super strength, dead woman with the two holes in her neck."
"He turned into dust after you stabbed him, that woman disappeared too, blood and all!" Holland adds. "Holy crap we're in deep!"
"I always wanted to be a sorcerer when I was a kid and fight monsters, but I didn't think that'd actually happen," Holland mutters.
Holland groans and puts his hands on his face again, as you turn to the bag. You pick it up and zip it up again, fingers lightly brushing the stitched symbol on the top.
"Hey, Holland. Recognize this?"
Holland sits up and stares at the golden stitch and shrugs. "I'm a doctor (Y/N). Isn't this up to your alley?"
"I was just asking for a second opinion," You reply. "It's not Egyptian. I can tell you that. Definitely not kanji either."
"Then what the hell is it?"
You analyze for a moment, your eyes going wide.
"It looks like a really straight 'M'."
You pout as Holland throws his hands in front of his chest.
"What! It does?"
You shake your head, opening the bag again.
"C'mon, let's put this stuff away."
"And then what?"
"I'll just toss it in the trash tomorrow."
"Alright." Holland whispers. "Then what?"
"I...we should just pretend it didn't happen?"
There's a silence shared between the two of you, as Holland fidgets, but slowly nods his head.
"yeah...I...I guess so."
"You uh...wanna stay over?" You ask, hesitantly.
"Yeah, I...I'd like that. Don't wanna get attacked by any uh..vengeful vampires right?"
It's about 6:50 in the morning, and you still haven't gotten any sleep. You hear Holland tossing and turning in the sleeping bag on the floor next to your bed. You aren't sure if he's asleep or not, but don't want to bother him and risk waking him up if you do ask.
Instead, you stare at the ceiling, eyes never leaving the fan that blows a soft, cool breeze onto your face.
You put a hand over your eyes as the sun peaks through the cracks of your curtains. It seems that sleep is escaping you tonight. So, you sit up, stretch and swear you hear your back crack as you do so.
You carefully roll out of bed, tip-toeing over Holland. Making your way towards the bathroom, you turn the light on.
You make eye contact with yourself in the mirror before letting out a shout and stumbling backward.
Holland bursts upright as you make contact with the floor.
"Wh-what! I'm up!"
"Why do I have a tattoo?"
"What are you talking about-HOLY SHIT!"
Holland makes eye contact with your chest, seeing the three large, black rings plastered on your left pec.
"Uh, okay then," Holland mutters. "Did you have...have that last night?"
"No." You cry out, sitting up and turning to him. "And I- oh Jesus you have one too-!"
"I'm sorry wh-holy hell I do-!"
You gesture to the very large eye tattoo on Holland's shoulder.
"Did-did you feel anything strange before you went to bed?" Holland mutters.
"No! No I didn't...did you?"
"No! I fell right asleep!"
Your fingers softly trace the eye on Holland's shoulder.
"This...could this be from last night?"
"Unless there's a boogeyman who likes to give random strangers weird tattoos while they're sleeping, I-"
The two of you freeze as you hear the doorbell ring. You make eye contact as you scramble to get to your feet. You pull on a pair of sweatpants and an undershirt, while Holland looks out the window.
"Oh shit, are those the cops."
Your eyes widen.
"Oh fuck me! Those are the cops!" Holland yells. "Well, it's been nice knowing you, pal. Hopefully, we'll be roommates in prison!"
You roll your eyes as you open the bedroom door, and make your way down the stairs. You hear another set of footsteps behind you.
However, as your hand ghosts over the doorknob, you see Holland in the hallway, hands over his mouth. He motions for you to go forward as he hides behind the wall further.
You scoff, muttering 'pussy' under your breath before you open the door.
The man and the woman turn to you, eyes widen.
"You're (Y/N) Parkinston? Correct?"
You nod. "Yes, I am."
"Good...Good. Can we come in?"
You step aside, letting the two enter the apartment.
The woman smiles.
"Ah! There's your bag!" She chippers as she races towards the bag and lifts it up.
She then pauses.
"Who opened this?"
You freeze, as the two people turn to you.
"I did it!" Holland calls out. "He-he had nothing to do with it I swear!"
The man and woman pause. The woman opens the bag and immediately pulls out the stake, eyes widening at the dried blood on the tip.
"You did this?"
Holland hesitantly nods, before the man narrows his gaze at Holland.
The woman turns to the man. "I can't find the contract."
"Means it's been completed. By civilians nonetheless."
The woman scoffs. "This is gonna be a tone of paperwork, Jason."
The woman frowns.
"What? He's got a marking anyways."
The woman pauses, turning to Holland, and nearly drops the bag in shock. She shoves past you, rather rudely at that, and you narrow your gaze at this.
She grabs Holland by the arms and examines the eye tattoo.
"This is! This is the eye! Oh my gosh, it's been so long since I've seen a new blood with one of these!"
Holland raises an eyebrow.
The woman turns to you.
"Did you...get one by any chance?"
You hesitantly nod, pulling your undershirt down to show the rings. However, the woman frowns.
"Aw." But her grin comes back again.
"New bloods! It's been so long since there have been new bloods?"
Holland raises an eyebrow as you fidget.
The woman giggles. "You see, we are monster hunters!"
Silence goes through the apartment.
Jason groans. "And, whenever a new monster hunter or hunters, in this case, is chosen, they are given a marking that explains their best abilities."
He gestures to Holland. "You, have the eye symbol. It means your powerful, confident, independent. It's rare to see a new blood be gifted one of those."
He then turns to you. You fidget slightly.y
"You have the rings. Fairly common, typically means teamwork, marriage, and all that jazz."
"Wait wait wait. Backup a minute." You interrupt. "So, monsters are real?"
"Yes," Tassy said.
"And we just killed one. So that makes us monster hunters."
"Holy crap." You mutter.
"Congratulations! Pack your stuff boys, and make sure to travel lightly, because it's safer for you to stay on base!"
"You could get mauled by a werewolf...sacrificed to a vengeful god by an evil cult...made into a thrall by a vampire, the list goes on and on," Tassy says.
"Jesus Christ," Holland mutters.
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