Today was going to be a good day.
Or so Marinette kept telling herself. It was Chloe Bourgeois birthday, and everything had to be perfect. She and her father have made that very clear. The young woman was to receive the shiniest jewels, the finest gowns, and the sweetest pastries. The Bourgeois family was so insistent with this, it left their whole town in a mess, scrambling to make sure everything was perfect, lest the sheriff arrested them for "ill behavior", or so the Bourgeois fondly liked to accuse.
Like all others, the Dupain-Chengs were kept just as busy. Being the finest bakers in town, they were approached for all the sweets Chloe desired. She wanted a tower made of chocolate, sugar cookies decorated as ladybugs, a vanilla cake with her face painted on it, cream puffs, custards, eclairs, breads; the list went on. And it was to be perfect and delicious. Not too rich, not too sugary sweet that a bite could make one cringe, not too gooey or coarse.
It had to be just right.
Eager to please, all three were kept busy trying to make all the delights that Chloe wanted. When it was all done, Marinette's arms were sore from mixing, her hands stiff from gripping spoons and whisks too tightly, and her legs stiff from standing up all day. When she collapsed on her bed, scattering flour across the sheets, she had no plans to rise any time soon. Sleep was a tempting call.
Despite her exhaustion, Marientte couldn't stop the excited smile that bloomed over her. She breathed in deep, the smell of all the fine desserts they made wafting up into her room. It was going to be worth it. It always was. No matter how hard she worked, how many times she ran around, helped in the kitchen with the pastries and the dishes; it always brought a smile to her face when she heard a customer hum in delight when they had one of their treats.
They have yet to receive an unsatisfied customer.
The Bourgeois family was going to be another.
Madame Chloe was going to love it.
Now that just left her personal gift to Chloe.
Marinette groaned as she rolled over, gazing at the stand that stood across from her bed.
The blonde expected everyone in her class to bring her a present. Something she would love. The blonde even went so far as to make personal requests to a few of her peers, letting them know what to exactly get her. Alya was one of them, and the ginger was furious to be told to make an embellishing poem about Madame Bourgeois. "Something that would charm a prince," Alya mimicked her voice sharp and high.
Marinette knew she also approached Nathanael for a portrait.
Nino for a song written about her.
Madame Chloe hasn't approached Marinette for anything; but that didn't stop the noirette from making something, though it was more for herself than Chloe; but she is sure that the blonde would like it.
With her birthday coming, Marinette took the chance to create a dress, a very rare project. Mostly she's done hats, pillows, scarfs, gloves, skirts, shirts; dresses she hasn't had an opportunity to experiment with too much. They were usually very large pieces to do, most had a lot of complications to work on, all the dye she would need to gather to color it. She's dabbled and tried a few times, but this was her first official dress she was giving away to someone outside family and friends.
It made her nervous to think what Madame Chloe would think of the surprise present. Looking it over from where she laid, Marinette couldn't see the blonde hating it. For an experiment, it was a nice gown. It was a light cream blue that would complement Chloe's eyes; she had a bright, golden straps that she used for shoulder straps that would match Madame Chloe's hair; and to complete it, she had a cream colored sash wrapped around the waist.
It was easy on the eyes, comfortable, the stitching near invisible. Chloe would be happy to know all the time and money she poured into it. Even when tired after a long day's work at the bakery, Marinette stayed up to work on it. Her allowance was almost half gone buying material and dye. And to get the right measurements without Chloe knowing, Marinette gave up a few free treats to Sabrina.
It should be a very nice summer gown.
Marinette wouldn't have minded wearing it. She knew Alya wouldn't either. She really did think Chloe would like this present.
Only thing she could think of as to why she wouldn't was the material. Due to her limited price range, and having no desire to spend all her savings on expensive silk, Marinette got cotton instead. But, even if cotton was on the cheap side of material, the gown was still expensive to make it. Especially to get the dye. And it looked very nice, was comfortable, soft to the touch. It should be fine! ...Or so Marinette hoped.
Sighing as she sat up, Marinette grabbed a cloth stationed by her bed. She patted her hands and arms clean of flour, and approached the stand. She ran shaking fingers over the soft material, hosting a wry smile. It grew when she saw a ladybug crawl around, resting on the shoulder strap.
It'll be fine, she repeated to herself, letting the little red and black bug crawl on her finger. She set it safely in her balcony garden.
It was going to be a good day.
The dress looked nice, was comfortable, and expensive to make.
All things Chloe would love.
The Bourgeois family will be very happy.
The finest desserts and a gown from the Dupain-Chengs.
It was going to be a good day.
She just had to get ready for it.
The Bourgeois family was the wealthiest family in town, and as expected, they had the nicest home. Their manor easily stood three times bigger than any other. The exterior walls were marble white, doors a wooden orange, and the roof a jeweled blue. Every time she came helping her father drop off orders, she felt like she was visiting a castle. For Marinette, this was the closest building she had to compare a castle too.
It was awing in a slight intimidating, lovely way.
At this moment, in a pink spring gown she made for herself, carrying boxes of sweets and breads; Marinette felt small as she slowly walked up to the manor. Staff fluttered around them, carrying plates, streamers, food, and drinks. It was so busy she felt dizzy watching the bodies around her. She could only clutch her parcels and dodge the rushing bodies as best she could.
Her father managed to catch one of the staff members, asking where to put the desserts while Marinette scanned the growing crowd for anyone she recognized. It looks like guests haven't arrived yet, just the preparations. Which they were technically apart of. It'd be another hour before Alya and other guests started showing up.
Slipping inside the manor, Marinette dodged rushing bodies, holding the boxes of desserts carefully and wincing at how worse the chaos was here. Distantly she could hear Madame Chloe, screeching at whoever was doing something wrong. Rolling her eyes, she followed her father to the buffet table, sighing in relief to drop off the weights. Flashing a shared smile to her parents, they set out to present the desserts, making sure they were appealing to the eye.
They were almost done when the familiar voice of Monsieur Bourgeois called out to them. "Dupains!" They turned to their host, smiling as the large man came to them, arms spread wide in welcome. "I was beginning to worry that you wouldn't make it!" Her father quickly reassured him, waving to all they had to carry over, she and her mother finished the work.
Monsieur Andre Bourgeois was a selectively kind man. He did not shy from showing off his wealth, especially for his daughter; but Marinette found that Monsieur Bourgeois had a little more class to him than Madame Chloe. Just, a little more. It was often that he wound up taking Madame Chloe's side in any dispute, leading to unjust punishments that his daughter saw fit. Sheriff Roger, the Bourgeois' family second hand, almost lost his job when he had a disagreement with Madame Bourgeois on a punishment, and the reason for it.
The Rogers never made that mistake again, and most of the town learned to tread very carefully around the Bourgeois. It was very, very rare for Monsieur Bourgeois to disagree with his child's desires.
It was known to never count on Monsieur Bourgeois to save you from Chloe's ire.
Licking away any frosting that got on her fingers, Marinette waited patiently for the two men to stop talking. Luck was on her side as Monsieur turned a patient smile to her, silently asking what she wanted. Returning it, she held up her wrapped gift for Chloe.
His expression brightened. "In the back!" he instructed. Nodding her thanks, Marinette hurried away as her mother approached, asking about the birthday girl and Kim. Once she was sure that she was safe from being seen and dragged into that conversation, Marinette made face. Kim and Chloe. Just what she was looking forward to hear at the party...
Kim was a part of the wealthier residences, though nothing near as wealthy as the Bourgeois. And being pretty well off, Kim had the same air and thought process of the wealthy. He was arrogant, blunt in his thoughts, easily insulted, and always ready to show that he was better. And like any wealthy fool, he thought himself perfect for Chloe Bourgeois. Charmed by her wealth and appearance, he became one of her most insistent suitors. Even going as far as to spout that they would wed one day.
Which was pretty far from the truth. If there was anything about him that Chloe was interested in, it was his physique and a chance to irk her father's preference for her to marry a Kubdel. Jalil Kubdel she recalled.
She didn't know much about the Kudbels, only that they were either just as wealthy as the Bougeois, or maybe even more. They lived very well off in Paris, and had a summer home here. Despite Monsieur Bourgeois' insistence to push for a match, Marinette wasn't sure if the Kubdels would accept.
She could understand very well if Monsieur Kubdel didn't desire to wed Chloe. She would be a very... difficult person to be with.
As if to confirm it, Marinette could hear Chloe a little clearer, hissing about her hair. Ignoring her, Marinette sought the presents. Finding a large growing stack, she carefully set hers on the pile.
Turning, she flashed a brought smile to Madame Marlena Cesaire, a woman that was easily her second mother. "Hello Marlena!" she greeted.
"You got everything all set?" Marlena asked, glancing up at the presents.
Marinette nodded. "All pastries are on the buffet table, and my gift is safely placed with all others. What about you? Do you need help? Is Alya here?"
"She's running a little late," Marlena sighed, then gave Marinette a broad smile as she said, "I would appreciate some help. Monsieur Bourgeois asked me to handle decorations. I could use your help with them. You have a very good eye Mari."
Flattered and with no job for the moment, Marinette easily agreed.
When they were done, the Bourgoeis manor looked fit for a princess.
Gold, pink, and purple streamers were hung from the walls and around windows and doors. Any spares were wrapped around rustic brown curtains like a colorful bow. A bowl of white roses set on every table. Black napkins set on every plate. The only thing left for Marinette was having the swan ice sculpture tilted just a little to the right...
And they were practically done just in time. Another ten minutes for guests arrived and the birthday girl could grace them all.
"Thank you Marinette," Marlena bid, smiling.
"Any time Marlena," she reassured, beaming as she peered up at their work. As was Monsieur Bourgeois. From where she stood, she saw him looking at the decor in awe. He was very pleased.
"By the way, Mari, I'm wondering," Marlena voiced. Marinette hummed, letting her know she was listening as she gave everything one last check. "How is it going with Nathanael?"
Marinette stiffened, her face flushing as she jerked to Marlena.
"What?" Marinette uttered.
Marlena chuckled, "No need to be so shy Mari. I'm just wondering how it's going. Sabine mentioned that he seems to watch you. That's usually a sign that he likes you..." She gave Marinette a wink.
"Ahm," was all Marinette could say.
"Not interested?" Marlena asked knowingly.
Laughing, the older woman agreed, "He is a bit shy. And a little hard to approach. I understand wanting someone with a little more confidence."
"Marlena," Marinette whined. She did not want to go over this with her. She already got this from her parents, who both voiced that they would be content if she wed Nathanael, who was a "very sweet boy".
And he was! Marinette couldn't breathe a single bad word about him. He was very sweet. Gentle. Patient. Caring. Thoughtful. He would be a very kind husband to have. Very supportive. She couldn't imagine herself going wrong with him as her match. He certainly wouldn't hold her back from her passions and interests. And they could be well off together. She could be a tailor and occasionally help in her parents' bakery; and he was growing in publicity as an artist. Alya often joked that they'd have the most creative and sweetest kids.
While she couldn't imagine going wrong with Nathanael and have a very comfortable life with him, though probably a very quiet one...
She just... her and Nathanael... together. It just. She just couldn't get grounded to the idea.
Yes, she was of courting age. Has been for two years now. Her window of opportunity was only open for so long. And it was better to marry someone for comfort and contentment if not happiness; and better someone she was familiar with instead of a stranger... especially an older stranger. At this moment, Nathanael would be her best bet. But...
"It's ok," Marlena reassured softly, giving Marinette's shoulder a light squeeze. "You're still young. And this year will be long, and so will the next three. This is your time to feel around. See if Nathanael would make you happy. If not, there are other fish in the sea." She gave Marinette a sure smile. "You may come across someone better."
"I suppose," Marinette agreed with a small smile.
Chuckling, Marlena added, "And maybe you'll get your ladybug blessing after all."
Marinette elbowed the older woman, making her laugh harder as she drew away. The fifteen year old couldn't deny that that was what she was hoping for. Ladybugs are a symbol of good luck and fortune, and every now and then, they will guide two people together, those they're fated to be happy with. It's how her parents got together. Her father was curious and followed a ladybug, finding her mother instead, joining her great uncle in his trade across Europe. Marinette fantasized her own meeting through ladybugs.
And they have always flocked to Marinette, so the concern wasn't a lack of ladybugs; but one has yet to land on Nathanael, or anyone else around her.
If she was fated to have a happy match, he wasn't in this town.
Marlena exclaimed, "There she is! Alya! And Nino! You two came together!"
"Mooom!" The two laughed at Alya exclamation, red faced while Nino tried hard not to chortle with them.
Chloe Bourgeois soaked in the attention like sponge. This way and that she turned, her golden hair whipping around, gushing and giggling as her blue eyes gleamed. All around her, guests were quick to throw congratulations and compliments, making her so giddy she couldn't tell the difference from a true smile to a forced. Which was fine with the visitors. A happy birthday girl led to a happy party. And a happy party brought a peaceful week.
It was a good day.
Marinette smiled in relief with how swell it was going. It was actually a little fun. Something that was rare with the parties that Chloe hosted. She, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, was actually having fun at a party Chloe was hosting.
She wanted to laugh at how strange this was.
Maybe it was the little wine they were allowed to drink., loosening her up, wilting her cares away. Perhaps it was the company of friends she could chortle and chat with, good food to enjoy, fine music, and just the levity in the atmosphere.
It was nice.
It was actually really nice.
She was even able to talk with Nathanael. The sweet boy was a stuttered mess and was as red as his hair, but he seemed to smile just as much, loosened by the wine.
And she even didn't mind offering her congratulations to Chloe, and simply rolled her eyes good naturally at the blonde's pleased clucks.
And even danced with Kim when he asked. She didn't care if it was a roost to get Chloe jealous, she was in a giggling fit as they twirled on the dance floor, the upbeat music bouncing through her bones and the strong warm hands guiding her. She felt like she could fly.
Gradually the party hyped died down, most relaxing and nibbling on the provided foods with their selective company. Alya was teasing her about her dance with Kim when Monseiur Bourgeois called for their attention.
"It is time for my sweet honey suckle to open presents!" he stated. The crowd clapped as Chloe jumped up with a loud squeal. Sabrina shared her enthusiasm while Kim winced at the volume, slightly rolling his eyes at her. With a wave of his hand, Monsieur Bourgoeis turned the crowd's attention towards the open hall, where servants were dragging the tower of gifts into the main room for birthday girl to open. Marinette rolled her eyes when she saw that they had a ladder ready.
In her summer gown, Chloe peered up at the tower critically. Everyone seemed to hold their breath as they waited. "This is from everyone?" Chloe asked.
"Everyone did ask where to put presents," her father cooed.
Chloe turned her eyes back up to the stack, a slow smile spreading over her lisp. "I suppose this a pleasing enough size," she bid, waving at a servant to bring her the first gift, at the tippy top of the tower.
Tossed down between the servants, an old butler presented the first gift.
"From Kim," she uttered in a bored tone.
Marinette heard him whisper to Sabrina, "I tipped the guy to make sure she got mine first!"
Having a servant tear the wrapping away for her, she opened the box and peeked inside. Her bored look transformed into one of absolute glee. With a squeal, she revealed white, polished riding boots for all to see. "I needed new riding boots!" she exclaimed.
Alya muttered with a roll of her eyes, "Yeah, after the previous ones got muddy."
"Thank you Teddy Webby," Chloe cooed to Kim, blowing him a kiss.
"Any time honey buns!" Kim called back, smirking. Only to look away quickly when Monsieur Bourgeois shot him a look.
Marinette and Nino shared a chuckle while Alya visibly gagged. "No ridiculous pet names like that," the ginger warned him.
Nino teased, "But my delectable morning flow—"
Nino was silenced by a sharp jab at his foot.
Slowly, Chloe worked through the presents, barely tearing at any of the paper that covered the boxes she was given. Most of the gifts she seemed content with. A drawing of her from Nathanael seemed to please her. She didn't seem to know what to make of the telescope Nino got for her, much to the boy's agitation. And the small book Alya settled to get her instead she tossed away like it was a piece of junk. She was very pleased with the African imported jewels Sabrina got her.
The gifts went on: shoes, hats, necklaces, rings, brooches, bracelets, little figurines, a peacock fan, and a dashing coat that had Marinette twisting in envy. At least they were nearing the bottom, and Marinette held her breathe when Chloe picked up her gift. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears, watching as the wrapping was torn away, and Chloe slowly brought the gown out.
Chloe seemed to like it. Her eyes sparkled at the make, appreciating the blue and the gold laced on it. She even pressed it against her form, just to see how it would compliment her. Marinette sunk into her seat with a sigh of relief and bliss. She liked the dress. Picky Bourgious liked her dress! It was a very good sign for her possible career in the future.
Only to be dashed when Chloe spoke, the joy gone from her tone. "Cotton?" She sounded offended, rubbing the material between her fingers. "Who brought this?" she demanded, looking to the servant that was now holding the dress' box. Marinette sunk in her seat, her blood running cold as he read aloud, "From Marinette Dupain-Cheng."
Her blue eyes shot to Marinette accusingly. Marinette bit her lip as she looked away from those eyes. She felt Alya's hand grab her own, squeezing it while Nino shifted, somewhat blocking her from the blonde. It did little for her.
"Cotton?" Chloe pressed, her voice tight.
It's what I could afford, along with the dye for it, Marinette thought grimly. Sheepishly, she said, "It's what I could afford Madame Chloe. I assure you I put a lot of effort into it. It's the finest dress I've made yet."
The blonde frowned at her, humming absently as she looked over it. It was nice, despite the material. "I suppose I can where this sometime…"
"I'm glad to hear that," Marinette bid with a relieved sigh.
"I expect silk next time Marinette Dupain."
"Of course," she said.
"Sweetie," Monsieur Borgeois voiced, coming up to his girl, holding out a present for her. A big excited smile bloomed over Chloe's face. She dropped Marinette's gown and instantly started to rip the present apart. She squealed loudly at what was inside, jumping up and down as she babbled in excitement. Monsieur Bourgeois' smile grew at her happiness. Chloe pulled out a far finer gown than what Marinette made, making the dark haired girl wince.
The dress was beautiful, both in make and appearance. It was pearl pink, with ivory scarves wrapped around it, forming a bow in the back. It looked like something out of a fairy tale, the sort a princess wore. From where she stood, she couldn't see any mistakes on it. The stitching was invisible to the eye, nothing was out of place. It was far, far better than what Marinette made for her. "Imported from London," Chloe's father couldn't help boast as his daughter hugged the dress to her, her smile wide.
"It's marvelous daddy!" Chloe gushed. "The perfect dress!" She shot Marinette a look before turning to her father. "I'm going to try it on!"
The birthday girl fled leaving the party to mingle. Marinette tried to ignore the bubble of disappointment weighing in her chest, taking a small sip of her wine. She was grateful when Alya dragged her into a new conversation.
The event was almost over, Marinette reassured herself. Now that presents were opened, all that was left was the prized dessert.
The chocolate tower.
Already some have been eyeballing it, licking their lips. Nino being one of them. "Can't wait to try it," he told Marinette. "What chocolates have you used for it?"
Giggling at his question, Marinette eagerly answered, "We used quite a mix. Dark on the bottom, classic milk in the middle, and cream at the top. You see the bit of gold on it?
Nino's mouth watered, humming loudly as he eye balled it.
"Hey!" Alya snapped, "I know that look! Don't you dare sneak a bite!"
"I wasn't!" Nino defends.
"We'll be having it soon," Marinette reassured. "And if you want, I could probably make you one for your wedding."
"Yes please!" Nino exclaimed while Alya blushed and scoffed. Marinette giggled, turning her eyes up to the chocolate tower, one of the finest, most detailed works of her father. They would be having it soon. After all, Chloe couldn't resist flaunting her wealth when giving the chance and an expensive dress like that just had to be shown off.
True to her prediction, Chloe was soon to arrive, wearing her princess dress and holding a white fan to compliment it. Winking and smiling to the crowd, she slipped in among them, her head high like she was a true princess. Compliments flew to her like bees to a flowerbed. And like before, Chloe soaked it all in. She walked with grace, her head high and shoulders back, one hand held the hem delicately while she absently fanned herself. She could not get lovelier tonight with how much she was glowing.
Today was a good day, Marinette decided, downing her wine. Even if her dress didn't wind out as appreciated as she hoped, Chloe did seem to like it. And she was happy. A happy Chloe brought a peaceful town. No drama of any kind to fret about. It would be a rare peaceful week.
Getting up to set her empty glass down, Marinette headed towards the buffet table where her empty glass would be taken away. She didn't see the laughing couple backing up to her, bumping her hard in the side and jamming her straight into the chocolate tower.
The world went slowly.
Marinette found she couldn't do anything as the chocolate tower jerked, wobbled, and tipped over. Its dark shadow fell over Chloe in her new dress, the blonde turning just in time to see it come down upon her. Nobody moved fast enough to save her as the tower went over with a loud splat. Marinette was left on the table's edge, her elbow and side bruised and throbbing, cringing as she stared at the pile of chocolate that covered the blonde. The silence was insufferable as fear spread over her in waves.
There went the good day.