It all happened in slow motion to Rita. Like a nightmare she couldn’t wake up from. Like a hallway she was running down but could never reach the door. She tried to scream but nothing came out. She couldn’t stop it. She saw it coming, but she was too late.
“Oh! Flynn!” Estelle had said as she and Rita walked through the Zaphias Castle halls together.
This happened a lot. Princess Estelle usually was greeted by some member of royalty or whoever. In this case it was Knight Commandant Flynn who Rita also knew. Rita did what she always did in this situation and simply stayed at Estelle’s side, closest to the wall, farthest away from everyone.
Something in Rita’s heart pumped a strange anxiety through her veins. What was she so afraid of? She knew Flynn. This shouldn’t be so bad. But a voice in her skull was trying to tell her something. What was it?!
“Lady Estillise!” Flynn called out, his stoic expression transforming into such a cheery brightness. It practically blinded Rita. Who smiled like that!? … Okay, Estelle did, but hers was cuter. “You are doing well, I presume?” He peered over Estelle to the tiny gremlin Rita at her side. “Oh, and Rita is with you once again! You must have quite the need for a mage!”
Why does he always have to notice me? Rita tried to give a smile and a half-hearted wave, but it probably came off more like a ghoulish moan and a zombie-like shamble. I just want to take a break with Estelle in her room.
“I’m doing great, thank you!” Estelle said happily. Were they going to talk about the weather next?! Anything but that. “Actually, Rita’s coming to my room and we were going to have a bit of tea and relax.”
Flynn, of course, couldn’t seem to wrap his head around that statement. A genius tactician, but maybe a bit slow in the social department. … I guess I shouldn’t talk. Rita thought to herself, noting how she literally refused to talk.
“Oh! Tea? That sounds quite wonderful. Is there a special occasion? I’d be remiss if I were to forget a special date.”
Estelle giggled. She was so cute. “It’s nothing like that! Although, I guess you’re close with the ‘date’ part there!”
And that’s when it hit Rita. That’s when she knew everything was going to go wrong. That’s when she knew what she was so worried about. Oh. NO. She tried to tug on Estelle’s hand, but the knight princess was too powerful. She held her ground with ease, never understanding the danger she was putting themselves in.
Don’t do it, Estelle!!!
“You see,” Estelle went on, clearly excited. “Rita and I are dating!”
Rita’s heart stopped. Damn it. The words were out into the open, like an incantation, a demon summoning spell. And standing before them was none other than the well-intentioned-yet-too-dense Flynn Scifo.
He blinked. A monstrous understanding gleaming in his kind eyes. “What? Why that’s such wonderful news, Lady Estellise! I absolutely must treat you two to dinner to celebrate this joyous occasion!”
Rita’s thoughts swirled in the torments of her mind. No! Noooooo!!! Anything but pleasantries! Anything but Flynn’s cooking! Rita clenched Estelle’s hand hard. She was trying her best to tell her girlfriend that she did not want this. Estelle merely glanced back at her goblin girlfriend and smiled back. She squeezed Rita’s hand tight.
Oh god, she thinks I’m trying to be romantic/supportive.
“We would love that!” Estelle said. Rita barely smiled but screamed internally all the same. Perhaps attempting telepathic communication wasn’t the best way to tell Estelle to get out of this.
Rita didn’t think it was possible, but Flynn matched Estelle’s excited cheer with his own. “Great! What time would work best for you? I’ll actually be off duty soon and I have no pressing matters tonight.”
Never! Never works best for us! Estelle, can you hear me?! Tell him never!
“Tonight would be perfect!” Estelle replied. Agh, why did Rita try telepathy again…?
“Splendid!” Flynn said. “I shall begin preparations as soon as I am able. We shall meet at dinner time in the dining hall! I will reserve it specially for us.”
A tall gangly knight practically stumbled up to Flynn’s side. He whispered something like, “I say…” and some nervous stutters.
Flynn furrowed his eyebrows. “An anonymous letter asking us if our food storage device is running at the proper cooling temperature? And if the answer is yes, then we must go and retrieve it before it flees the premises?” Flynn sighed so deeply and mumbled to himself, “Yuri, why must you keep trying to waste the knight’s time with your jokes…?” He bowed quickly to Estelle and Rita. “My apologies. I’m afraid I must deal with this before the army is mobilized yet again for a prank letter. Rest assured; our dinner date shall still be on schedule!”
“We’ll see you then!” Estelle said happily, waving to them as the two rushed down the hallway.
Rita practically deflated. Ugh. If only Yuri was a bit more chaotic…
The chaos and despair had already begun. So far Rita only had herself to blame.
“I didn’t want to go!” Rita argued in that frustrated yet semi-quiet We’re-in-Public-Don’t-Make-a-Scene voice.
“You didn’t say anything…!” Estelle argued back gently. They were back in the halls, heading ever closer to the dining hall. Estelle frowned deeply, but Rita knew she was blaming herself more than anything and that cut deep into Rita’s supposed cold heart.
“I--well--how could I?” Rita said, waiting for a knight to pass by an acceptable distance before she spoke. “He was right there!”
Estelle kept that sad confused frown that left Rita heavy with guilt. “I don’t… but it was Flynn! You know Flynn. I thought you would speak up like you usually do.”
“It’s been a long time, okay?” Rita grumbled, silently slowing their walk together as one of the knights ahead was patrolling way too in sync with them and could probably hear everything. “I don’t want to just yell at people like I used to. Or…” Truthfully, even Rita wasn’t sure why she didn’t speak up. “I don’t know.”
It was so strange. Rita didn’t usually care what other people thought of her. Rita didn’t care if she yelled at some random idiot across the street back when she was by herself. But ever since she started spending her life with Estelle, something changed. Was it for better or worse? Sure, she wasn’t as cruel as she used to be, but in some ways, it felt like she was even more of a shut-in than before.
Do I just not want to embarrass Estelle…?
“Well…” Estelle sighed. She was clearly frustrated, too, but in her own incredibly sweet way. “How about I just cancel?”
Sirens blared in Rita’s brain. “No!” Rita said too loudly. One of the nobles looked her way. Agh! “We can’t just cancel now; he’ll know it’s because of me!”
Do I really care what he thinks of me…? Or am I just worried about Estelle’s image with me…? I would bring her down to my level.
Rita’s outburst was just met with a harsher expression of sadness that only deepened Rita’s troubles. “I’m sorry,” Estelle said. She couldn’t figure out what to say and defaulted to apologizing.
“No, no, it’s-it’s not your fault!” Rita tried to explain, but she must have only looked even more emotional. It’s my fault! For some reason! I just don’t know how to explain this!
“How about I just cancel and say it’s because I am… busy?” Estelle offered. “Then he’ll know its me!”
“No, don’t do that!” Rita blurted out again. He’ll think worse of you when it’ll be my fault! You’d lie and sacrifice yourself for me! I can’t let you do that!
For once, Estelle’s eyes furrowed in what looked like anger. “Rita. Then what can I do?”
I keep messing this up! “Nothing! There’s nothing you can do now,” Rita said, frustrated with herself and the situation. “This is just what needs to happen, and we have to just get it over with.” Why did you say it like that???
“I don’t want you to be miserable…”
Now I’m making her worried and miserable?! Rita wanted to strangle herself. “I won’t be miserable!” Rita sighed. Deep breath. Okay. “I’m making this out to be way worse than it is. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Estelle replied, the hint of a smile returning to her lips. “I’m sorry for putting you in this situation.”
“Y-you don’t need to apologize!” Rita assured her. “It’s my fault! I’ll deal with it.” Somehow, that only made Estelle’s eyebrows furrow again. Rita had to fix this. She had to.
This always cheered Estelle up. Rita looked left. She looked right. No one around for once. She leaned up to Estelle and planted a quick kiss on her lips, a tiny blip of energy coursing through the two of them.
“There, see?” Rita said. Actions speak louder than words or whatever.
Estelle loved kisses. Her quiet sadness already evaporated, and her cheeks were already glowing with that usual Estelle cheer. “Okay. Well. Just let me know if you want to leave early, okay?”
She was smiling again! That made Rita’s heavy heart lighter already. The anxiety washed away. Mostly.
“Okay.” Rita held Estelle’s hand tight as Estelle knocked on the door to the dining hall.
Rita could already taste the food that would be approaching them. Flynn’s style of cooking was both bland and overly spiced at the same time. It would be an ‘efficient’ meal in Flynn’s eyes, filled to the brim with everything at once so as to get the ‘maximum’ nutrients a healthy knight needs. Its texture would probably be a good mush while the spice levels would be enough to make her eyes water. He’d ask his usual mundane questions about what Rita had been doing the past few years and Rita would have to answer something in return.
Not that Flynn would really judge her. Not that Estelle would let him even if he did. Flynn was a good man. This wouldn’t be as bad as she catastrophized in her head. In fact, maybe it’d even be kind of nice to catch up with Flynn again.
It would be okay. Estelle was here. As long as Estelle was by her side, Rita could handle anything. As long as Estelle was by her side, Rita’s life was heading in a better direction, to a better place.
She’d do her best to make sure Estelle’s life was improving too.