Asinoe sat in the lounge, waiting for her daughter to come home. She checked her watch…it was just after 8.
Her mouth tightened in irritation. Her daughter knew dinner was at 7:30, and now the food had been sitting on the sideboard warming for the last half an hour. It would dry out the chicken and Asinoe hated that.
Lorelei, meanwhile, had been standing outside the big front doors for a good few minutes. She'd been lingering all day, stopping to have an extra coffee, taking a look in a book store, in a tea shop, in a quaint little boutique, anything to drag out the time before she had to go home to this conversation. She took a deep breath, drawing her anger about her like armour before walking in and slamming the door behind her.
Asinoe was just reaching for her cell phone when she heard the noise, her mouth twitching in amusement. The girl had no idea how much like Baelian she was.
-I wonder if she cries like he does- she wondered briefly, before gracefully getting to her feet and sauntering into the entrance hall. She caught her daughter trying to sneak upstairs.
"Good evening, Lorelei. How good of you to join me," she said nonchalantly, leaning against the wall.
Lorelei knew she’d had an unlikely chance of getting up the stairs before her mother confronted her, but thought she'd try it anyway. A little shiver went down her spine as Asinoe leaned against the wall and she regarded the cool eyes and the slight smirk that greeted her.
-This dance could go on a while-
"Good evening Mother,” she said, smiling sweetly at Asinoe, “I'm sorry I'm late, I got caught up in a lovely little tea store, and I saw this charming tea set that I thought you'd like. Would you mind terribly if I get changed before dinner?" Lorelei reached into a bag and pulled out a box wrapped in black tissue paper, handing it to Asinoe before turning to go up the stairs.
"For me?" Asinoe’s sarcasm was almost painful, "You shouldn't have..." she took the package and set it aside unwrapped, eying her daughter and noting that she was wearing the same clothing that she’d had on the day before…signs of a late night smeared across her face.
"Dinner is already ready, as you would be quite aware," she paused, then tilted her head, "A little more time in your current state won't bother you I’m sure…since you were fine in it all day and didn't bother to change…come."
Asinoe turned to walk to the dining room, not waiting for her daughter to respond.
Lorelei's eyes flashed with anger, but she descended the steps and followed Asinoe's swaying hips into the dining room. Walking straight past her mother, radiating anger, she sat in her designated chair and took a deep breath, forcing a smile.
“It smells lovely, thank you."
"It probably would have tasted lovely before it dried out on the warming station," Asinoe replied sweetly and sat. Without a word a maid darted into the room and started to serve the plates. Asinoe ignored her and watched her daughter in silence, letting her feel the weight of her stare until the maid left. Taking a sip of her wine, she smiled at Lorelei.
"Tell me about last night. Where did he take you?" she asked in a friendly tone. Now that they were seated and eating her black mood lifted slightly…Lorelei's discomfort also helping to alleviate it.
"Last night was...interesting,” her daughter replied, “We went to an afterparty for the Australian Ballet Company. I met some of the dancers, they're just...phenomenal. So beautiful and graceful in everything that they do, I just…I want to be like that someday.." Lorelei thoughts turned back to the night before, or what she could remember of it. Niki had been charming, a lot more like Baelian than she'd imagined he would be. She wasn’t sure how she felt about it.
"That's wonderful," Asinoe laughed, "And a perfect choice for you. You’re already quite good, with the new teachers you will become even better. I'm sure with time you will join their ranks, if that is what you wish…"
"I hope so," Lorelei tilted her head to the side and looked at Asinoe through her lashes, "I don't know if I ever properly thanked you for helping me. Ballet is one of the few things in my life that was always there, the one thing I could always come back to. You had a huge part in helping continue that…so thank you," She looked down, frowning. She really did owe Asinoe for that, she was certain she would have gone crazy without her dancing.
"It was my pleasure, Lorelei. As much as it doesn't always seem so, I do want you safe and happy," Asinoe sat back from her plate, relaxing into her chair as the maid returned to remove one course and replace it with another, waiting until the woman had left again before frowning slightly, “I just…I have to know...your father...he didn't...?" she trailed off, lifting an eyebrow, "Hurt you?"
Lorelei blinked, then looked down at the hands she held clasped together in her lap.
"No, he didn't. I kept...waiting for it, to be honest. All anyone ever told me about Niki was that he was a monster…but he didn't. He kept watch over me and smirked and laughed a lot, but he never laid a hand on me except to help me In and out of cars and chairs. He was a perfect, charming gentleman. I don't know what that means..." Lorelei looked up into her mother's cool blue eyes, trying to gauge her reaction.
A flash of interest went through Asinoe’s face, but mostly her mask stayed in perfect place.
-How very interesting- she thought, shifting her expression into one of relief for the benefit of her daughter. The feeling wasn't feigned; however, she was relieved that Nikolai hadn't taken advantage of Lorelei. Bethany was one thing; the Black princess had started that game herself…but Lorelei didn't need that trauma added to her already colourful past. Besides, Lorelei was hers.
"Niki is a new creature," Asinoe mused, "Well…sort of…" she nursed her wine, staring into it with a small smile before looking up at Lorelei, "As far as I understand it everyone is still in there and the feelings they had for us also remain. Niki’s no doubt shut most of it down in order to deal with the onslaught of Baelian's emotions, but Baelian would never have touched you…and now it seems that’s carried through to Niki...at least for now."
Asinoe put her glass down and pinned her daughter with a cold stare.
"I heard about your heartfelt apology to Claudia Monére," her mouth turned down in annoyance, "Did you think that was funny or cute…or can you just not control yourself and behave like you have a brain?"
Lorelei blinked, surprised at the sudden change of topic, her face falling slightly.
"Look,” she began, “I do feel a little bad about the Lyra thing…but I was angry, and from my point of view, she took my father from me! If she had made me go away, how would you feel? I know I didn't react very well…I have this strangely strong anger and, I'll admit, an immature streak in me. I'd never really experienced it to this degree before…" Lorelei looked at Asinoe. She knew there was no point defending herself, it was better just own up to being silly.
Until of course she thought about that night, and the anger flared up again, along with the strange urge to grab Lyra by the throat and squeeze until she made her bring Baelian back. It passed moments later, leaving Lorelei wide-eyed and startled by her own imagination.
Asinoe stared at her for a moment, then nodded.
"You are young, I sometimes forget how young," she acknowledged, "I understand how you feel. I imagine it would have made you extremely upset. But you must understand that keeping your emotions in check and controlling yourself will keep you safe," she examined her nails for a moment, "This is a new game, one in which we do not know exactly where we stand…" she looked back at Lorelei, "You are still our heir, you are still his firstborn child and one of the most powerful pieces in this game. I am your mother, but that doesn't necessarily mean that either of us are safe. Claudia is currently the one that holds all the cards and the most power element in this game...do you know why?"
"Not really. Honestly I'm not sure I understand any of this," Lorelei said slowly, looking back at Asinoe in search of answers.
Asinoe studied Lorelei's face and a small bubble of panic floated in her chest. If her daughter couldn't grasp the rules quickly there was a good chance she’d pull them both down.
"Claudia Monére is insane, Lorelei. Not the kind of crazy you have seen in Baelian, which is trauma induced, but a certifiable, hallucinating, sadistic, psychopathic crazy that was until now only held in check by Baelian and Eden's bleeding hearts. If your eyes were open on Friday, you would have seen her create a scientific miracle. She merged a patient with DID seamlessly. That's supposed to be impossible,“ Asinoe narrowed her eyes, “Claudia is the cleverest of us all, she was the Professor's darling, she learnt everything he taught her and she’s been studying his journals since he died. All I have are Alina's memories of her from Fundays and those are not complete, but I have been watching her over the past year and she’s been steadily spiralling downwards. The most important thing to remember about her is that she has our triggers…she controls Niki, she controls me. She has the triggers for Katorga, she may have knowledge and triggers for all of us that we don’t even know about yet. She is currently pulling all the strings. Do you understand? This person is controlling your father."
Rising from her seat, Asinoe moved to sit down beside her daughter, taking her hand and ignoring the way Lorelei flinched at the contact.
"At any time she can decide that we are not 'good' for him and get rid of us. All it takes is a trigger. She can remove his memories and put in whatever she wants. Do you see now?" Asinoe looked at her earnestly, "She can change his emotional connection to you from ‘love’ to ‘hate,’" she clicked her fingers, "Like that. And then it’s over. She can at any time have a psychotic break and order him to kill us." Asinoe waited a moment for her words to sink in, then patted Lorelei’s hand and removed her own. “So…” she finished, “What do you think we should do?"
Lorelei’s face had turned ashen, her lips parting in shock as her mother spoke. She shook her head, perplexion filling her features.
"But...but she's the only one...she knew me, from before. She's the only one who can help me remember…and I was just about to talk to her. I need her,” the young girl bit her lip, “I need to know who I was…and where I was…and what all these funny dreams I keep having mean. If she's like that, then I can't...if she controls us, then how do I find out?”
Asinoe’s expression darkened as she watched her daughter’s reaction, silently categorising the emotions as they surfaced and resisting the urge to roll her eyes.
-My God it’s like Baelian all over again-
"We need to stay away from her Asinoe…we need to stay away from her, and maybe Niki. But...but we can't leave him…" Lorelei tried to stop the fear and panic from setting in, but she couldn't help it. She had loved Lyra, she had feltsafe with her…she’d been sure that they were family before the blood tests had come back and shattered her illusions.
-This is too much-
She just couldn't wrap her head around the idea that Lyra was bad. Shaking herself a little, she looked to Asinoe, silently pleading with her not to say that they'd have to abandon Baelian. Lorelei knew she couldn't do that.
"Oh no dear, we aren't going anywhere…" Asinoe purred, taking her daughter’s hand again with a frown, "You need to learn how to hide your emotions, Lorelei. Did you really let them run wild like this with your 'Daddy'?" she raised her eyebrow, "What we do is simple. We make friends with them. Both of them. We get closer to them and ensure that they like us and trust us and find us useful. Claudia can still help you, Lorelei, just not right now. If you think about this logically, Baelian hounded her for a year to get Alina back. Jasper was constantly trying to get her to merge him…I think she’s had enough of everyone expecting her to fix them for a while. I would refrain from asking her to help you find your memories until she is in a better head-space to be able and willing to help you."
Lorelei frowned at her mother, then pulled her hand away.
"Obviously I'm not going to ask her now. I don't trust her in my head…even if she were willing…” she paused, then bit her lip, “Things were easier with Daddy. I just stayed in my room until he needed to parade me about or...anything else. It was rubbish, but simpler…"
"Good, you are learning..." Asinoe replied. The maid came in with dessert, faltering slightly to see her sitting with Lorelei, but recovered quickly and put the chocolate-covered soufflé in front of each of them before leaving in silence, "You need to learn how to control your emotions, Lorelei. You show nothing of what you are feeling except what is appropriate for the situation. You get angry at them, you smile. If you can't keep it in…then leave to go to the bathroom or something…”
Lorelei took a moment to calm herself and nodded.
"Am I still allowed to go out with…with Niki? Next time he wants to take me somewhere, I mean. Is that okay?"
“Absolutely, I encourage it,” Asinoe nodded, “Spend as much time as you can with him. Allow him to spoil you and take you out. Keep him close..." she paused for a moment, "Just don't fuck him. You are his daughter not his slut."
Lorelei stood abruptly at that, pushing her chair back loudly.
"Thank you for dinner, Mother. You're right, the chicken was a little dry…if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and shower…" her voice was cool as she quickly moved away from Asinoe, disappearing through the door faster than she had thought she could.
The comment about being her father’s slut had stung, she’d never had any sexual interest in Baelian and couldn't think of anything worse than having her new father treat her like her old one had.
-This isn’t the same-
Taking a deep breath, Lorelei stepped into the bathroom and gazed at herself in the mirror, practicing smoothing her face into a cold mask. Asinoe was right about one thing, she did need to learn to control her emotions. That flash of hot anger shivered through her again, leaving her fingers tingling.
-Things are so different now.-
Back downstairs, Asinoe had merely laughed at her daughter’s retreat, sitting back and crossing her legs as she listened to her slam about upstairs.
"Case in point, my sweet little girl. No control at all…" she mused out loud, picking up her spoon to taste the dessert.
-She flaps around just like Baelian- danced the thought through her mind then… -She flaps around like Grigori-
It made her laugh again, without humour.
"God, maybe this is my father's fault," she mused out loud, her mind turning to the charismatic Marcus Bellamantis. The life of the party indeed…but not as ridiculous as Grigori.
-No…this is all Baelian's fault. As per usual-
Sighing, Asinoe sat in silence as she finished her dessert.
Written by Chastity De Vice and Katie Karandais.
All characters and story lines remain the property of N.Ristovski and the Underground. All character writings within the Underground are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2016. Natalie Ristovski.