Sunday, 12/15/2250 – Kayla Salmon
The snow was starting come down in soft flakes once again as Dora trekked back to the Primary Building. The swan maiden had been asleep all through the night and into the late morning and Dora had only left her side to get something to eat. When she had gone back, she heard her best friend at the end of the infirmary was awake and… She didn’t know. She felt awkward and like a horrible friend, having let Aelita down, her one best friend. The person who had helped her through so much in her own life, and then she wasn’t able to be there like she needed to be for the swan when her father was gone.
All because she couldn’t return her feelings. She had known since Aelita’s third year that the girl was a lesbian and it had never been anything but a passing thought. Aelita knew about the horrors Dora had gone through in her own childhood, and it was only due to years of therapy that she was only within the last year or so able to handle anyone showing her any sort of physical affection. Dating was almost a possibility at this point… but she’d never been interested in girls. Especially not Aelita, not because she wasn’t beautiful, or smart or any of those things. She was more the sister that Dora had needed, her closest confidante.
Instead she’d gone back to the Eagle’s house and sat in their quiet room as she decided what to do. How to feel. She never wanted to lose Aelita, they’d been best friends for six years, but if that was what Aelita wanted… The problem was she didn’t know what Aelita wanted. She knew about the crush, so she wanted them to be more than friends, but would she want to – be willing to – just keep their friendship? Dora had no clue. Instead she eventually summoned the courage and gathered some of Aelita’s belongings into a bag, things to keep her occupied while she was in the infirmary and headed downstairs.
She knew that the violin had been broken, she’d seen Gwen fiddling with it when she had come in, but to find that Rayden had been horrible enough to throw it into the fire made her irritable and even more anxious about talking with Aelita. She didn’t know if anyone had told the seventh year her violin was broken and now she’d have to explain there was little to nothing left of it. She kicked some of the snow out of her way as she took the steps up to the Primary Building and pressed through into the warmth of the main hall. Night had already fallen and the white lights of the academy lit her path to the infirmary. The dining hall was full of noisy students, but she blocked it out as her gut turned.
Pausing by the door to the infirmary, she twisted the strap of the bag in her hands and peered inside. It was quiet, but the lights were on, even if a bit dim, and she didn’t see Ourani at first, so she took quick steps into the room and towards the back, where Aelita had been sleeping before. The girl was indeed awake, slumped on the pillow of the infirmary bed, her phone in her face as she scrolled her finger across the screen.
Aelita, who had been asleep a majority of the last twenty-four hours, still felt exhausted. She barely remembered the night before- she remembered the faint sound of Christmas music through the haze of her memories. One moment she had been dancing and then she was in the infirmary, and her head and hand hurt. She’d landed on it and Ourani assured her it wasn’t broken at least, but it still hurt. There was actually only a little blood (comparatively for her) to speak of, but Ourani had been very adamant that she stay another night.
And really, Aelita couldn’t complain. She’d woken up finally around eleven. Her first visitor had been Ross and then Amelia and Camilla had come by. Camilla got her caught up on the wrangling of their house the night before and Amelia had a ‘get well’ card that she’d passed around. Aelita appreciated both. She’d been forced back into solitude for a little while as Ourani checked her bandages and made sure she was healing properly- and then, at three, she got a nice annoying call from her mother. Mom was angry, berated her for losing control of herself and Aelita just agreed with everything she said to get her off the phone, and then quickly turned her phone off for a bit, choosing to take a nap and try to forget the feeling of disappointment.
She woke up again a couple hours later and realized she was terribly bored. Ourani promised to talk to Ross to get her some things to work on, but she had paperwork to do. Aelita grumbled and mindlessly flicked through facebook- Desiree and Cleo had stopped by and shown her where to find the video that had already been posted of her fall. She watched it once and then quickly tried to forget how dumb she’d looked on stage. She was looking through some pictures someone had posted earlier in the day – Nikaia and Malena were putting paper snowflakes all over the Owl’s dorm. The door opened, and she briefly glanced up, expecting some student who needed Ourani.
Instead she saw her… best friend? Aelita wasn’t sure what they were right now- but her first reaction was a wide smile. “Dora!” Her smile faded just a bit as she quickly reined herself in, the familiar embarrassment of her confession sinking back in. “How, uh, how are you?”
“I’d be better if you weren’t in the infirmary,” she said lightly, taking the last few steps so she stood at the foot of the girl’s bed. She hadn’t quite known how Aelita would react to her, since all the swan had done over the past few weeks was avoid her at all costs. She felt a little bit of her nervousness lift at the familiar response, even with the awkward question that followed. She brought the strap of the bag over her head and set it gently on the bed.
“I brought you some stuff, your textbooks, binders, uh, your music player and headphones-” she trailed off as Aelita sat up in the bed and looked at the bag and the items within with interest. She was glad that Dora thought to grab things for her, especially the textbooks, since finals had only just started and would run through the rest of the next week. However, her worries and plans quickly became unimportant when Dora sighed heavily.
“Aelita, we’re still best friends, right?” Dora asked hesitantly, worried about what the swan’s answer would be. Aelita could feel the tension between them and the hesitance in Dora’s voice. She folded her hands neatly in front of her and looked down for just a moment. The last she’d really talked to Dora, Aelita had run from the room trying not to cry. Ever since, she’d done nothing except every part of her being into school and music, because those were two things she couldn’t possibly screw up. And the embarrassment that flooded her every time she saw Dora was damning.
She tapped the sheet over her legs on the bed once and then looked back up toward Dora. “We’re always going to be best friends.” She replied, “I do love you, because you’ve been my best friend for years and I don’t know what I’d do without you. But that doesn’t mean I have to be in love with you.”
Finally, she looked down again and gave a sort of half shrug, pink brushing her cheeks. “I just don’t want to lose you, whatever that means for us.”
Dora let out a sigh of relief and nodded her head in agreement. “You’re my best friend and basically my sister, my mom would adopt you if she could,” she said, a slow smiling spreading across her lips. “I know it must be weird and awkward, but I’m willing to do just about anything if it means we can still be friends.” It was true, outside of actually returning her crush, Dora would be willing to do almost anything if it meant keeping her best friend.
Aelita nodded again as well. She couldn’t say she didn’t still have feelings for Dora- and it kind of hurt that Dora didn’t return them, but she knew she had to put that aside. Dora was too important to her and Dora had been through enough. Aelita just wanted to have someone back on her side, after losing all three of her most important people in the span of a month.
“I’m sure your mom would.” She replied, another small smile returning. “I don’t think I’d even mind, my Mom went nuts when she called after J’Dvouir told her about the fall.” She laughed, “I’m pretty sure she thinks I’ve become a hopeless drug addict.”
The sixth year shook her head as she sat on the edge of the bed. “You? A drug addict? Maybe if someone put something in your hot chocolate,” she teased, glad to fade back into their normal banter. “You can just move into my room at Mom’s apartment and be done with it.” She was finally feeling the warmth of the infirmary and she pulled her coat off her shoulders, holding it in her lap.
“I’d miss Grandma’s nitpicking and Phil’s fudge too much.” Aelita replied, readjusting herself to more comfortably talk to the other girl. While Phil’s fudge was amazing, Dora didn’t get along all that well with Aelita’s grandmother. The older woman had never been outright mean to her, or anything less than polite, but she would occasionally give a backhanded compliment or act like she was talking about things that Dora couldn’t understand.
However, Dora knew how Aelita got around midterms and finals, which was always a full blown panicked frenzy. Usually it just meant that she forgot to eat for a day or two, or that she was up for two or three nights in a row practicing on her violin, or studying for finals. But finals had only just started and this had been going on for weeks. She knew it had to do with her father’s death, and Dora had been prepared to help her try and cope with her grief, but she couldn’t with the swan avoiding her.
“Are you okay, though?” Dora prompted after a slight pause, becoming more serious, “Eggie and the others told me about the texts and the constant practicing…” She’d been worried, but hadn’t been able to help or do anything, not with the swan avoiding her at all costs.
Aelita shrugged again at the question. “I don’t know, I think I just needed to shut everything out for a bit.” It was hard to explain. “Mom’s still dragging her feet about the arrangements, and Gwen won’t let me talk to her at all.” She tapped the sheet again, “But the concert is over, and break will be here soon.”
“Lita,” Dora said softly, putting her hand over her friend’s, “You need to talk to Gwen, about everything that’s going on, about your dad and your mom… She’s worried about you, I’m worried about you,” she stressed. “We all are.”
“I’ve tried talking to her.” Aelita replied, glancing toward the window now. “She doesn’t want anything to do with me- I think she blames me.” It wasn’t that Aelita was mad at Gwen, not at all. She knew how close Gwen was with their dad, and how alienated she often felt from their mother and grandmother- too often compared to Aelita herself and not allowed to take a different path, be her own person. Dad had let her, he’d taught her how to paint and helped her dye her hair crazy colors. “I don’t know how to make her listen.”
“I should have taken her to the hospital.” Aelita went on, her voice softer and still not looking toward Dora. Of course, Aelita wasn’t a crier, it was exceptionally rare that anyone would see her cry. Ross – and Amelia. She wouldn’t now, but her gaze was a bit steely. “Or… maybe told her differently. I don’t know.” She was afraid- she was going to lose Gwen, even if Gwen forgave her, the girl had changed. Dad was the one who knew how to talk to Gwen.
Dora nodded her head slowly as Aelita spoke. “Maybe,” she said quietly, “But I’m sure you told her the best way you could at the time,” she consoled. “You didn’t know how serious it was, and like you said before, he’d been in the hospital so many times, you didn’t have a reason to think this would be different.”
She paused before repeating something she’d said before, “Your mom shouldn’t have kept it from you and once Gwen gets through her own grief, she’ll know that. She knows how your mom is, and she’ll rant to you about how it was such a stupid and horrible way to handle it.” She’d seen these kinds of arguments happen between the pair of sisters before, even if they had never lasted this long, or been about something this serious. Besides, she didn’t know what else to advise on Gwen. She hadn’t looked angry with Aelita when Dora had seen her staring so intently at the broken violin in the common room, and she’d certainly been pissed off at Rayden about burning it. Just like that Dora remembered the violin and she felt the color fade from her face. Crap, she was going to have to tell Aelita about her violin.
Aelita didn’t really have much to say at first. Yes, her mother had fucked it up. Maybe Gwen would realize that, or maybe the grief would separate the two girls permanently. She couldn’t tell, with Gwen avoiding her when she could and giving her nasty comments when she couldn’t. There was nothing Aelita could have done, or could do now, besides give her sister space, but that was driving her insane.
Instead, she narrowed her eyes in confusion as Dora suddenly went pale. “What’s wrong?” She pressed- had Gwen told her something?
Dora pulled her hand back and wrung it in the other, staring a hole into the spot next to where her hand had been a moment before. “So…” She paused and licked her lips before looking up and making eye contact again. “You know how you… you know, were holding your violin when you fell?” She asked quietly.
Aelita hardly remembered the damn fall, to be honest. Just… playing, and then nothing. Like in a dream, when you were moving but not quite fast enough. “Yeah?” She replied slowly, “Ross said it fell next to me, and that Gwen had it. Why?”
Dora wrung her hand again, but this time kept eye contact. She had to tell her, or else she would feel so ashamed about keeping it from her. Aelita expected the worst, certainly. She wouldn’t be surprised if the violin was broken, and honestly- that wouldn’t be too awful. Aelita had gone through several violins growing up, and obtaining an extra wouldn’t be too difficult. However, this violin was quite special to her. But even broken- she could make something of it, maybe hang it on her wall, or get it fixed up to display, even if it wouldn’t play to the level she needed.
“Yeah,” she said, nodding her head slightly, “It…it broke when it fell, and Gwen grabbed it and has it-” she cut off as she bit her bottom lip before blurting out, “Rayden was being an absolute fucking bitch and took it and threw it in the fire in the common room!” She exclaimed and then froze, because she rarely ever cursed and she hadn’t meant to, but in forcing it all out, it had slipped in.
Dora put one of her hands over her mouth in surprise at her own outburst as Aelita’s eyes widened. “The fire?” She exclaimed. “Why the fuck would she do that- it’s gone??”
Dora threw her hands up, a mixture of emotions swirling in her. She was angry at Rayden for doing something so horrible and stupid, happy that her and Aelita were okay, and still worried for her best friend. “I don’t know! It’s like she’s a freaking idiot or something,” she exclaimed, “And, Gwen- her and Noklie used the fire place’s pokers to get bits out when I was coming over here, so I don’t know what they managed to get out-” She cut off, calming down. “I already felt like crap because of everything and then that happened and I wasn’t there to stop Rayden from being just, the nasty bitch she is… I’m sorry.”
Aelita growled to herself, raising both hands and smacking the bed. Rayden had been the bane of her since their first year together, and she didn’t understand how Rayden seemed to have not a single drop of common decency. “I’m going to fucking kill her, I swear to god.” She hissed, “She just wants to make it all about her and have a nice laugh about destroying my shit.”
Dora nodded her head in agreement. Usually she was more than happy to try and play peacekeeper when Aelita and Rayden began to get into it, but this was not the time. Here she was trying to help her best friend grieve over her father’s death, while also trying to wrangle the Eagles, and Rayden was going around making everything ten times harder.
Aelita huffed again, calming as she got over the shock of the news. “It’s not your fault she’s an asshole, how the hell did she even get it?”
“Gwen had it,” she explained, “she was working on it, or seeing if she could put some of it back together I think, and she was in the common room, and I guess Rayden just grabbed it and threw it in the fireplace!”
Aelita hadn’t thought too much about Gwen having the violin- mostly assuming that Gwen would have grabbed it just because, or maybe someone had given it to her to hold onto. It surprised her a bit- Gwen was trying to fix it. Maybe that meant Gwen didn’t entirely loathe her, not anymore.
The realization didn’t help very much, though, as she continued to gripe and rave, “She just took it from her?” What so now Rayden thought she could bully her little sister too? Aelita tried to be friendly – okay that was a lie, but she at least was never outright mean.
“Apparently!” Dora said in response. Even though she wished Rayden hadn’t done anything to what remained of the violin, she was almost a bit glad to have something to be angry and annoyed about, instead of focusing on the awkwardness of their time apart, or the guilt about not being able to help Aelita more.
“When did this happen?” Aelita demanded before carrying on without pausing, “What the hell is Ross going to do about it? Murdoch should just kick her out already, all she does is ruin people’s shit! I can’t believe she saw my sister holding my broken violin, and thought the right thing to do was incinerate it! Who does that?”
“Just now,” Dora explained, answering her questions in order as best as she could, “I haven’t had a chance to talk to Blackhall or Murdoch about it, I was on my way here and,” she shrugged, “I needed to talk to you about everything and then this happened and I didn’t want you finding out on accident from someone else.” She shook her head, “It’s late now, so I bet Murdoch is at his house, but I’ll make sure to track Blackhall down and give him a write up for it, because that is absolutely ridiculous.”
“Thank god.” Aelita replied vindictively, “Hopefully they come to their senses, Rayden’s had to have broken two of my phones at this point.” She vividly remembered Rayden smashing her smartphone on their first day of school together.
“I mean, she’s not here on a scholarship, or she’d have been out of here years ago,” Dora said with some annoyance. Sometimes it was nice that the school was so lenient on its students behavior and other times it was just annoying, especially with some of the students who didn’t take their schooling seriously or were just mean to the other students.
Aelita crossed her arms and sighed, before looking back at Dora with a raised eyebrow, and a quirk of her lip. “Did anyone ever actually write me up for that group text?” She asked, “I guess I should apologize to Valentina?”
Dora laughed at the memory and shook her head. “Ha, no, they were annoyed, but they didn’t. I think if you had done it again, they might have.” Eglantine, Eugene, and several of the others had found her that morning and showed her the texts. She’d been exasperated and tried to talk to Aelita about it, but when she’d tried to corner the swan in the auditorium, she had grabbed her violin case and ran.
Aelita nodded- she’d felt a little bad about the texts (though she was still vaguely annoyed they brushed her off so easily, the timing may have been wrong but a bit more practice would have been great). Maybe she’d send a few of them gift baskets, or maybe she could pay one of the dwarves on campus to deliver a kiss-o-gram.
She shook off the topic, glad that they were clearly still friends- conversation came easily, but there was something she thought was more pressing. “So, if Rayden took it from Gwen… how is she? Is she… still angry?”
Dora tilted her head as she thought about how Gwen had been during everything. She’d been pretty heated, but then after the concert, she’d been quiet and reserved, like she was lost in her thoughts. “I don’t think she’s angry anymore, at least, not with you and not as much with the world,” she said with a slight tease about the younger girl.
While she hadn’t been there to witness Gwen retrieving the violin, others had. “Some of the sixth and seventh years who were cleaning up told me she got it herself and took it back to the Eagle house,” she explained. “She’s been fiddling with it ever since.”
That was good- Gwen was at least starting to calm down. Maybe she hadn’t accepted reality yet, but she was learning to live with it. “I wouldn’t want to be Rayden tonight.” She replied idly, picking up her phone to check the time. “It’s not hard to set Gwen on a warpath.”
She looked back at Dora. “What do you think I should do? Should I- Should I talk to her?” Or would Gwen just be worse again, losing Aelita’s violin, and that was what really made Aelita angry. Not that she lost the violin, but that Rayden had took it from her little sister when Gwen just wanted to fix it. “I’m never sure what will set her off anymore.” She confessed.
Dora leaned back and shook her head, “No, I asked her to come with me, and I thought she might say yes, but just said, ‘not right now’.” She was hopeful that it meant she’d find her sister soon and talk to her, it had been almost a month and neither of them had been in a good place since their father’s death.
“I think you should leave her alone until she comes to you,” Dora added. “I’ll try and talk to her about it.”
Aelita nodded, she didn’t want to wait, but she knew she couldn’t push Gwen. Maybe in the meantime she could try and figure out what the hell was going on with her Mom. “Hopefully soon.” She replied, “I have plans I want-”
The door from the office opened, and the nurse was on her phone. She looked up and over, and sighed heavily when she saw Dora. “What are you doing here! It’s almost nine, go back to your dorm.”
Dora’s eyes widened and she looked at Aelita once before standing up and pulling her coat back on over her shoulders. “I just came to give her some things,” she said quickly, giving Aelita a smile. “Sorry, I’ll head out now.”
“Party pooper,” Aelita complained with a smile, waving goodbye, “I’ll see you later Dora, remind me to tell you about my plans later.”
Ourani raised an eyebrow, and stepped aside to usher the girl on, “As long as it’s not in my infirmary. I can’t leave until you do.”
Dora nodded her head at both Aelita and the nurse, letting the older woman usher out of the room before the door shut behind her. She was fine though, she had her best friend back, and her stomach was no longer in knots. Even if her violin had been broken, things would be alright. First, she needed to find their head of house so she could write down what Rayden had done.