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Starving Artists by peppersweet
Chapter 19 : Breakfast Epiphanies
 
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Chapter Nineteen - Breakfast Epiphanies





Helpfully, things started to pick up a lot more after that.


In retrospect, my pouting, storming off and slamming doors (or attempted slamming doors) escapade was probably not the best of ideas. After we apparated back to the house (a chunk of my hair went missing thanks to Scorpius’ erratic apparition skills, but I was too busy pouting to care) we both went our separate ways with barely a word – he to the washing up, and me to my single bed in the attic, where I lay awake and glowered at the ceiling for three full hours, listening out for his footsteps on the stairs. The house was silent the whole time. I never asked what he was up to or dared to go down and see, but I briefly entertained the idea that he’d apparated back to London. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had.


The next morning was a different affair. After my dark night of the soul (lots of tossing and turning, preoccupied thoughts, tears of angst and rage) I’d expected an awkward, fidgety breakfast. I’d envisioned a horrible scenario where me and Scorpius sat opposite each other in total silence, avoiding eye contact, both trying to pretend the other was invisible. I envisioned this going totally wrong. I envisioned myself reaching over for a slice of toast, accidentally brushing his hand, awkwardly snatching my own hand away and then upsetting the milk jug right into his lap. I envisioned Rose sitting at the head of the table, smiling.


I envisioned her with a rather gloating smile. One that was smug, victorious and arrogant all at once. I envisioned that, once I’d spilt the milk over Scorpius, dropped my toast (which would land jam side down) and also probably set fire to the house, she’d turn to me and say I told you so in the most condescending voice she could muster. Then, almost skipping in her smug happiness, she would lift Scorpius up above her head (because, let’s face it, she could overpower him any day) and then run off into the distance, possibly chanting some sort of barbaric war cry – then she’d use her newfound law/ministry powers to sue me for being an idiot. And, of course, being an art student, I would have no money to pay her and I’d end up in Azkaban for the rest of my life.


This is the sort of thing that happens when I’m left alone with my imagination.


Luckily, none of my prophetic visions of awkward Scorpius/gloating Rose/me in Azkaban came true. In fact, when I came down to breakfast at the spectacularly early hour of ten in the morning, Rose was out and Scorpius was sitting cross-legged on the kitchen counter, directing dishes into the washing-up bowl with his wand. From the radio, jangly guitars jangled and a mournful voice crooned.


‘Hey,’ he said. ‘We left some bread for you.’


I took up the two slices of wholemeal (because, of course, Rose would only eat wholemeal bread) by the toaster and jammed them in, face burning with the memory of the previous night’s argument.


‘Where’s Rose?’


‘She popped down to the shop, we’re out of milk.’


‘Ah. Right.’


I felt as awkward as a wire coat hanger stuffed inside a pillowcase; Scorpius, by contrast, was taking it all in with apparent ease. He hadn’t dropped a single plate yet, which I supposed was a record. He was even humming along to the radio.


‘I like this song,’ I said vaguely, perching on the edge of the table.


‘Me too. Always have.’


He continued to hum along, sending an unwieldy frying pan into the sink. I shielded my eyes as soapy water splashed up and slopped to the floor.


‘It’s funny,’ I blurted out, in a desperate attempt to say something. ‘They’re so you it’s unreal. The Smiths, I mean.’ I finished off with a completely insincere laugh, drawing my cardigan tighter around myself as if to pinpoint just how awkward I still felt about the previous night.


‘Really?’ he said. ‘Well, actually, this is…sort of…the song.’


‘The song? Come again?’


He looked flustered; a ramekin overshot the sink and clattered onto the draining board. ‘Argh, wait-’ he sent it back into the sink and then set his wand aside, evidently judging that the washing up was done. I cocked my head and listened to the song, waiting for him to speak.


‘You know what I said a while back…’


…a dreaded sunny day, so we go where we’re happy and I meet you at the cemetery gates…


Somehow I understood. ‘This is your song?’ I nearly shouted. ‘This?


He nodded, suddenly speechless.


‘Oh, you,’ I couldn’t help but smile. ‘So typical you, so typically cheerful, so romantic, so upbeat…


‘Oh, shut up,’ he grinned, putting his head in his hands in mock shame. ‘I didn’t pick it.’


‘Why this?’


‘Um,’ he went bright red. ‘Well…first time we met up out of school-’


‘First date?’


‘Sort of…Highgate cemetery. London.’


‘You…you went to a cemetery?


‘Oh, god, not, like-’ he dithered, flapping his arms about. ‘She picked it-’


‘She would, wouldn’t she?’


‘No, I meant, I was reading Dickens that summer and Dickens is buried there…er, well, she thought I was reading Dickens, but I totally wasn’t-’


‘Ugh, you’re such an intellectual.’


‘Only pretending. I’m a pseudo-intellectual.’


‘I know Rosie is keen as mustard on her muggle literature, did she shove Dickens onto you or something?’


‘No, muggle studies project…Lucy, I’ve barely read a page of muggle literature in my life, but it was a nice gesture at the time.’


‘I only read what they forced on us in muggle studies.’


‘I might have…browsed some poetry, now and again-’


‘I imagined you’ve browsed more than your fair share of poetry,’ I said. ‘You know, being a poet and all.’


‘A miserable, poverty-stricken poet-’


‘More like miserable, poverty-stricken arteeste-’


‘Nihilist,’ he added. ‘Barry’s grown on me.’


‘Cynicist.’


‘Vorticist.’


‘Experimental musician.’


Bloody awful experimental musician,’ he corrected me.


‘If anything, self-parodist.’


‘That’s true,’ he nodded, grinning. ‘I mean, the song that reminds me most of the girl I’m supposed to love is about bloody plagiarism-’


Right on cue, the front door slammed. Rose was home. The conversation died instantly; Scorpius took up his wand again and resumed the washing up just as Rose strode through the door, carton of milk in hand.


‘Someone’s toast is done,’ she indicated to the toaster. I’d been so wrapped up in the conversation with Scorpius that I’d barely noticed that my toast had popped up, nor that the radio had changed to playing something appropriately sterile and bubblegum-y for Rose’s entrance.


‘That’s mine,’ I scuttled over and made myself busy with raspberry jam, ignoring the happy couple behind me.


‘You’ve done all the washing up wrong,’ Rose snapped. ‘Do cutlery first, greasy frying pans last.’


Or not-so happy after all.


‘Sorry,’ Scorpius slid off the counter, letting Rose take over the washing up. I watched with some interest, nibbling at my toast.


‘And you’ve stacked the mugs all wrong,’ Rose continued. ‘And the carafe hasn’t been washed properly…’


Rose, up to her elbows in soap bubbles and complaints, didn’t notice Scorpius sidle over to me, lift the second piece of toast from my plate, and then take up position at the back of the room to nibble and observe. I let him take the toast without protest- my mind was still digesting the song that reminds me of the girl I’m supposed to love.


Supposed was the best word I’d heard all week.


‘So, beach today,’ Rose declared. ‘And I found this place on the beachfront that hires pedalos.’


She waited for a reaction. None was given.


‘Pedalos,’ she repeated. ‘Thought we’d get into the holiday spirit.’


‘Fan-dabby-doo,’ was the most I could contribute to the conversation. ‘Pedalos.’


‘Look at this,’ Rose held up an elaborate serving dish. ‘Look at this…filth.’


I strained to see the miniscule speck of dirt she was pointing to. Scorpius rolled his eyes, cramming more toast into his mouth.


‘And this!’ Rose suddenly cried, sweeping an admittedly dirty plate into the air. Scorpius, startled, choked on the toast; I thumped him on the back as he spluttered apologies in Rose’s direction.


(Look at this filth! I imagined Rose shouting, brandishing a finger at me. Look at this degenerate faux-arteeste filth!)


‘Chill, Rose,’ I said. ‘They’re not too bad…’


Rose ignored me, plunging most of the draining board back into the sink. She stood back, tutting to herself, and whisked her wand through the air, sending the crockery into a frenzied sort of ballet with scouring pads and dishcloths.


‘Should I go and get ready?’ I asked tentatively. Rose gave a curt nod and I turned from the room, ditching my crumb-encrusted plate on the table. Much to my surprise, Scorpius followed me.


‘Pedalos?’ he whispered, once we’d put three closed doors, a set of stairs, three brick walls and a whole storey of the house between us and Rose. ‘Not being funny, but…what’s a pedalo?’


‘A pedalo is a torture device Rose is going to use on you as a consequence of your lack of washing-up skills,’ I said. ‘No, it’s like a small boat you have to pedal. Rose’s idea of fun.’


‘Um, great,’ he didn’t look at all enthused. ‘Isn’t it supposed to rain today?’


‘Does it ever stop raining?’


‘True…well, thanks.’


I took my time over getting ready; I had a lot to ponder. There had been a rather noticeable change when Rose returned – she’d definitely been the rain on the pseudo-intellectual parade. This comforted me. Nobody likes a killjoy, and she was the biggest killer of joys I’d ever known. There was also a noticeable lack of intimacy between her and Scorpius – noticeable to me, anyway, but, then again, I was the vengeful third wheel and Rose was my arch nemesis.


I kept forgetting I was related to her. That's actually how annoyed I was. Blood, thicker than water? Pfft. Not on your life.


Half an hour later I joined them at the foot of the stairs. Rose, raffia bag on arm and lurid colours on shirt, gave me a cold smile. Scorpius stared at his shoes. I stared at them too, because I needed something to look intently at or it’d be really awkward.


‘I thought we’d walk down,’ Rose said brusquely. ‘It’s not raining.’


I found that very hard to believe, but followed her outdoors anyway. Surprisingly, it wasn’t raining – although the sky was a moody, overcast grey; perfect for my inner mope. We took the path down to the main road and then followed that along to the beach. I saw sand dunes in the distance, remembered the night before, and then stared at Scorpius’ shoes so as to hide my embarrassed, stupid face. I’d left the empty bottle out where I’d been sitting.


I was quite content with my staring until Rose rudely interrupted me.


‘There we go,’ she indicated a shack on the beachfront. The walls had been painted in a variety of drab, pastel colours, and a number of swan-shaped pedalos had been left outside the front. Rose made a beeline for the front door, abandoning Scorpius and I outside.


‘This looks…interesting,’ Scorpius said, running a hand over the chipped paint of the nearest swan pedalo.


‘Definitely.’


I glanced up at the rusty sign swinging from the shack – Skipping Centaur Pedalo Hire, the sign proclaimed in bright letters, above a cheerful drawing of a frolicking centaur. Somehow, I suspected that no Centaur worth his salt would be caught frolicking. Especially not outside the front of a shack painted in bloody pastel colours in front of all those twee swan pedalos.


I was turning into quite the cynicist. I think it was Tarquin’s influence.


Then, unexpectedly, Scorpius said-


‘This is such a joke.’


‘Huh?’


‘This place,’ he spread out his arms, indicating Mordenton-on-Sea at large. ‘I mean, everything is beige. It’s all just…beige beige beige. Beige or twee. Or dead boring. And that art gallery we went to the other day? The art was rubbish. Just, you know, totally naff. No meaning or concept whatsoever. Just pretty little biscuit tin pictures. It’s all so…commercial.’


‘Er…’ I started.


‘It’s just…it’s all so cheap,’ he continued. ‘All those little paintings of beach huts and…swan pedalos! No artistic integrity! I don’t even…’


In a moment’s panic, I wondered whether Rose was beginning to rub off on him, whether she’d tapped some secret source of Scorpius Art Rage that had been hitherto concealed.


‘I’ve been wanting to say this for ages,’ he said, ignoring the fact that we’d only been in Mordenton-on-Sea for four days. ‘But Rose just loves this place to bits.’


‘I hate it here,’ I cut in, quick to agree with him. ‘Yeah, total lack of artistic integrity and whatnot. And, like, it rains even more than it does in London.’


‘I don’t mind the rain,’ Scorpius tilted his head back to scowl up at the sky – his way of summoning a thunderstorm, I supposed.


‘Yeah, rain’s great,’ I figured that the more I agreed with him, the better. ‘Super-duper rain.’


Rose emerged from the Skipping Centaur pedalo shack at this moment, oblivious to Scorpius Art Rage/Diplomatic Lucy.


‘We’ve got number nine for an hour,’ she said, patting the head of a nearby swan. ‘We can go as far as those orange buoys.’


I looked to the sea; the orange buoys weren’t too far out, which was a little disappointing. On the walk there, I’d briefly entertained a wild fantasy in which I kicked Rose off of the pedalo and pedalled as fast as I could back to the beach with Scorpius.


Of course, this would never happen. Rose decided to take charge as Rose always does, and so forty minutes later I was slumped in the back of the pedalo, staring at the vast, flat expanse of sea. Rose was driving. I say driving, but, really, she’d just done a bit of fancy wand-pointing at the pedals and was sitting at the front with her hands on the steering wheel, jabbering on about law school. Scorpius, bless him, was doing his best to sound interested, but was staring wistfully out at the sea as if he thought he’d rather be hanging out with the sea anemones than with Rose.


‘And, in a Magnusson case, so named after the famous Scandanavian representative to the International Confederation of Wizards, the defendant…’


I was bored out of my mind. I leant over the edge of the pedalo, staring down at the water. Something silvery glimmered before the surface – I leaned in closer, but it flashed and then was gone, quick as a bolt of lightning. Careful not to attract Rose’s attention, I grabbed Scorpius’ shoulder and pulled him over.


‘Down there,’ I whispered. ‘In the water…shiny.’


He seemed to understand. We leaned over the edge of the pedalo (blissfully unaware that we were sitting somewhere in the swan’s backside and this probably all looked a bit strange), both staring intently at the water.


‘There it is!’ I hissed, as the silvery thing darted up to the surface again.


‘What do you think it is?’


‘I...maybe…a fish or something?’ I tried to summon my paltry knowledge of everything sea-related. ‘Like…a Shrake?’


‘Dunno…could be…’


‘It’s pretty.’


‘Shiny,’ Scorpius agreed.


Rose, sensing that she’d lost our attention completely, turned from her position at the front.


‘What is it?’ she demanded. ‘What?’


It wasn’t one of her finest moments. She’d turned so sharply that, by accident (or maybe it was on purpose? Wouldn’t put it past her), she’d yanked on the steering wheel and the pedalo suddenly veered to the left. Ordinarily, this would’ve been a minor wobble, but this was a pedalo with Rose’s own brand of magic driving it, and it was going quite a bit over what the normal speed limit for a pedalo should be.


Which is why Scorpius and I were unceremoniously turfed out into the English Channel.


Panic ensued; one minute I was happily admiring an unknown shiny object from the comfort of the pedalo, the next I’d been plunged into something shocking cold, shockingly deep, shockingly wet. I flailed about for a bit until my head broke the surface, which is when I discovered that the shiny object in question was actually a large piece of foil.


That was probably the biggest anti-climax of the whole holiday.


Dissapointed, soaked, and pedalling water, I clung to the side of the pedalo for dear life. Scorpius was doing much the same beside me, his fringe plastered to his head and glasses hanging on by one leg.


‘It was just foil!’ I told him.


He responded by spitting out a mouthful of seawater. The pedalo slowly drifted to a halt, then rocked dangerously as Rose clambered over.


‘Hang on!’ she screeched, grabbing for Scorpius’ wrist instantly. ‘I’ll get you out!’


‘Take Lucy first!’ he cried. I was momentarily flattered, but then he added – ‘she’s smaller!’


Rose, shocked, let go of him, reaching instead for her wand. ‘Right – Wingardium Leviosa!’ she spluttered.


Being levitated into a pedalo whilst dripping wet is not an experience I’d like to repeat.


Whilst I lay there, gasping, still clutching the foil, Rose helped Scorpius back on board – and then the panic was over, the sky above splitting to reveal a watery sun.


‘Well,’ was all I could say. ‘Well.


Scorpius seemed to be speechless. Rose, looking as shocked as I felt, pointed her wand at us both in turn, our clothes drying instantly.


‘Sorry!’ she blurted out. ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean it! I’m really, really sorry!’


This was the moment where I wanted Scorpius to stand up, hands on hips, and say ‘No, Rose. You are not sorry. You are a charlatan and a knave and I command you to take us back to land right now so that Lucy and I might escape to London, where we can prepare for our elopement to Gretna Green. Coincidentally, you’re not invited to the wedding.’


But instead he simply swept his sodden fringe out of his eyes and said ‘…it’s okay, Rose. These things happen.’


Well, it was a rather far-fetched fantasy. And, besides, it’s virtually impossible to stand up in a pedalo, especially when you’re someone like Scorpius ‘Coordination? What coordination?’ Malfoy.


‘Maybe we should head back,’ Rose bit her lip. ‘Hour’s nearly up.’


‘Yeah, cool,’ Scorpius said.


In the name of all that is duck! I wanted to scream. Why do you like her?


Rose steered the pedalo back to the beach – carefully, this time – and we jumped out into the shallows, trouser hems and trainers soaked. I didn’t bother drying mine, it wasn’t exactly a big deal considering I’d been completely underwater ten minutes or so previously. Scorpius and I waited outside again while Rose returned the pedalo.


‘That was interesting,’ I observed.


‘Hmm,’ Scorpius hmmd.


‘Pretty crummy of Rose to dump us in the sea like that.’


‘I don’t think she meant it,’ he frowned. ‘But it was crummy.’


‘This whole place is crummy.’


‘Yeah…’ he murmured, but then Rose returned and we both shut up.



*



Considering all this, it seemed that Scorpius was slowly being won over to my side. Of course, I’d blown the whole thing out of proportion and made it into a battle – it was me versus Rose, even if Rose didn’t realise. The pedalo incident was a small victory, Scorpius’ Art Rage was a small victory, the conversation we’d had at breakfast was a victory smaller still – seeing the two of them together just proved to me that it was a match destined for disaster. Scorpius was a completely different person around Rose. He was basically a mute around Rose. He barely said a word, and, if he did, it was usually some sort of apology for something he’d said earlier. Rose, by contrast, became even more lippy and demanding when he was there, as if she was hyper-aware of herself. If I hadn’t been so caught up in stealing Scorpius back off her, I would have found the whole thing rather amusing. And a little bit tragic too.


I can be accused of being a little hypocritical, though. I mean, I know I changed a lot when I was around Scorpius (wibbliness/stupidity levels went through the roof). This was also rather amusing. What wasn’t amusing, though, was Rose’s behaviour when she was with me.


That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Generally, she was alright. Generally, she just ignored me. Generally, she acted like we barely knew each other, keeping words to a minimum. I didn’t see her on her own much anyway – she was usually with Scorpius, or I was schlepping about by myself. But the night after The Great Pedalo Debacle, I somehow ended up on my own in the kitchen with her.


It started off perfectly innocently. She was chopping potatoes by the sink. I was stirring sugar and milk into three fresh cups of tea. Tinny bubblegum-pop drifted from the radio in the corner. A song finished; Rose hacked at one last potato and then put down her knife.


‘What is Scorpius to you?’ she asked.


I flinched, noticing the dangerously close proximity of the knife to her hand.


‘Um…’


‘I mean it. What is he to you?’


Future husband if I get my way, the voice in my head said. Instead, I said -


‘Just a friend. I mean, he’s my best friend-’


‘You’re lying.’


‘Er…I’m not?’


‘No, I know there’s something else, Lucy. You’re not very good at hiding things.’


I was frozen to the spot, a teaspoon hanging limp from my fingers.


‘I suppose I knew it when I found that photograph,’ Rose said, keeping a remarkably steady voice. ‘Of you and him and the two others – I know you left it there on purpose, I know you wanted me to see it.’


‘I didn’t,’ my voice, by contrast, quivered with fear.


‘You just had to rub it in by turning up with Albus, didn’t you? I could have found him of my own accord, I was planning to, but then you had to wedge your foot in the door like that – you’re getting in my way, Lucy.’


‘I don’t know what you mean,’ I lied.


‘I know what’s gone on between the two of you,’ Rose’s voice was pure ice. ‘And it shouldn’t have. I want you to take your foot out of the door.’


‘Nothing went on-’


She turned to face me. ‘I also know what you think. I know you think that you’re better than me – you should see yourself when you’re around him. It’s pathetic.’


Pot calling the kettle black, much?


‘I don’t think you realise that he’s happy now,’ she continued.


I don’t think you realise that you’re deluded, I felt like retorting.


But then came the biggest weapon on Rosie’s arsenal.


‘I don’t think you realise he doesn’t want you.’


Bam. Tears.


I stood there, still holding the teaspoon, sniffing away. Rose’s glacial mask slipped a little – she almost looked guilty.


‘Don’t – don’t even try,’ she said, although this time, she sounded uncertain.


‘Try what?’ I whispered.


‘Don’t take him from me,’ the words came out in a rush. ‘Please, please, please don’t take him from me.’


There was really nothing meaningful I could say. My mind had gone totally blank. I snatched up my tea and backed away to the door.


‘Goodnight, Rose,’ I said.


I climbed the stairs in a daze, my mind reeling. I’d just reached the second landing when I found my path blocked by Scorpius – I tried to squeeze past, but he caught the sleeve of my cardigan.


‘Hey,’ he said. ‘What’s wrong?’


‘Nothing!’ I attempted my best cheesy smile. It did nothing to take the look of concern off his face. ‘Just – something in my eye. You know, dust and stuff. Or grit. Or an eyelash. Stuff like that. It’s like an eye pain party here, I can’t help it. Dead silly and all,’ I said, thumbing the tears and smudged eyeliner off my face with my spare hand. ‘Your tea’s ready, by the way, in the kitchen.’


‘Are you sure?’ he asked.


‘Yeah, just made it myself, it’s sitting by the kettle-’


‘No – I mean, are you alright?’


It hurt to smile up at him, to lie so extravagantly.


‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Completely and utterly one hundred percent awesome and then some.’


‘Er, alright,’ he said, as I continued past him and up the next flight of stairs. He didn’t seem reassured, but went downstairs to join Rose anyway.


Despite all the tears, I couldn’t help but crack a smile when I reached the sanctuary of my bedroom. For despite Rose’s steely, stern speech and despite the fact that I still had to lie to Scorpius and such – Rose had sounded more than a little desperate. Even more desperate than I had a few days previously, which was saying something.


She obviously saw me as a true threat.


So I didn’t have Scorpius back yet. So I was standing at the top of the stairs facing my single bed whilst he went to spend time with Rose. But Rose was desperate. And for now I had my tea, and another small, small victory – Lucy one, Rose nil.



a/n: phew, just made another cheeky wee update there! There's lots of pseudo-intellectual references in this (I set myself a bit of a challenge, including getting the words 'carafe' and 'ramekin' into one chapter). Most notably, there are references to The Smiths, and the line 'a dreaded sunny day, so we go where we're happy and I meet you at the cemetery gates' is from the song 'Cemetery Gates' by The Smiths. The chapter title 'Breakfast Epiphanies' is not mine, but is a widely popular play on 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' by Truman Capote - I couldn't find the origin of the pun, but, you know, whoever made it up was pretty cool. So, crediting done. I also had to slip in a 'skipping centaur' reference for one reviewer...
as usual, thank you for reading & I hope you enjoyed!
edited 20/06/2012


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