The castle loomed in the distance, high and mighty, rising into the sky. Courtney had her head down in the back of the estate car, fingers moving flawlessly across the buttons of her neon pink Nintendo. She had made this journey every summer for the last eight years, which was her entire life. It was a long drive from Sacramento all the way down to Orange County. For the seven hour journey, Courtney barely said a word. Her parents were whispering up front for most of the way, while Courtney colored or played games by herself.
It wasn't that Courtney didn't want to spend another summer at Taylor Towers- it was one of her favorite places in the world- but this year she was old enough to spend her break from school away at a summer camp, which was where all her friends had bragged about going. Courtney had, of course, bragged about staying at her parents hotel, making her peers jealous, but her heart was not in it. She would rather be spending her summer on a lake front, learning all kinda of valuable life skills, instead of lounging in front of a swimming pool with her mother for three months.
The car came to a halt sometime into the evening, the early summer sun dipping behind the West tower. The sky danced with colors, setting a glow across the entry way as Courtney stared up at her second home. The scowl on her face reflected her inner thoughts as she made her way up the steps. She was vaguely aware of her mother calling her name, but she didn't stop.
At the top of the short staircase stood a line of staff that took care of the Towers year-round. Courtney knew them all by name, and they her. They all smiled warmly in her direction, the main hotel manager greeting Courtney and politely asking if he could take her rucksack to her room for her. She shook her head, continuing on in through the glass doors.
There was a boy standing in the lobby that immediately caught her eye, someone Courtney hadn't seen before. He was around her age, with neatly combed dark hair and bright eyes that peered out from behind Cordelia Evans' legs. Courtney knew Cordelia very well, she had been one of the top directors of the hotel since before Courtney was born, before her parents had even owned the hotel for themselves. But the young boy was a mystery to her.
There were some families that stayed in the hotel every summer, without fail, just like hers. Courtney knew every family that stayed on the regular, made herself known among her peers at the hotel, gathering friends of various ages. If this boy had visited before, Courtney would have known about it.
He was chewing on his lower lip, watching her as intently as she was watching him. The scowl on her face had grown, so much so that Cordelia stepped in with her usual chipper voice, "Hello, Courtney. Welcome back to the hotel. How was your school year?"
"It was the same as always," the young girl shrugged. "They refuse to let me into a higher grade even though I surpass all my peers in grades. I'm simply not challenged enough with them." As she finished speaking her eyes dropped back down to the boy, who now had his head tilted to the side, staring at her more curiously than before. Courtney flashed her eyes at him, sneering. She didn't appreciated being stared at unless it was for an accomplishment.
"Oh, Courtney," Cordelia gasped, as if she hadn't noticed the two children in their stand-off. "This is my grandson, Duncan. He's David's oldest son. He'll be staying here with us for the summer. I hope you can show him around a bit, he hasn't long arrived, and we've all been terribly busy around here."
Courtney slowly nodded her head, still staring down the boy. David was the main concierge. Courtney knew he was married and that he and his wife had a few children. Courtney only remembered because she's been jealous when she found out- not that she'd admit it. She always wanted siblings and didn't find it fair when she found out David had such a big family. Not that Courtney had ever expected to meet any of his children, most of the staff kept their family separate to their work day. She found herself wishing this was still the case as she stared at Duncan, wondering exactly what his problem was as he continued to stare right back.
It was an early night for the young girl that day. Courtney didn't feel like staying up much longer than she did, so her mother tucker her into bed in the East Tower that was situated at the very end of the service quarters, and left for the dining room. Courtney didn't see her parents until the following afternoon.
She had always been capable of taking care of herself, Her mother joked about Courtney could change her own diapers before she learnt to walk. On her first morning of the hotel, Courtney had risen early, changed into her swimming gear, and taken her towel and her backpack up to the roof pool. It was the most exclusive spot in the hotel, only a few frequent members knowing it existed. It was always quiet first thing in the morning, only the resident barman and life guard were usually present, but on this particular day Courtney found herself frozen in the private doorway between the pool area and her tower, as her eyes laid on the boy occupying the sunbed at the far side of the pool, large sunglasses covering most of her face as his head bent over his game console.
Courtney hadn't agreed to show Duncan around as Cordelia had asked. She'd left that conversation as fast as she could. She was, in fact, planning on avoiding him at all costs because the bad feeling she got around him didn't shake when she wasn't around him. It was like that feeling when you'd been tickled too much and now all you felt was achy and sick. She considered turning around and heading back to her bedroom to bury herself under her covers until one of her parents (more likely her mother) came to dig her out again. But this was her hotel, her pool, her spot. She wasn't going to back down and let the new boy take it over.
The sun wasn't so strong this morning, but Courtney flicked on her pink Barbie sunglasses regardless. She strolled over to her own sunbed, the one across the pool from where Duncan sat, and rolled out her towel before pulling out her own Nintendo. It was one of her most treasured items, an early birthday present courtesy of her father. Courtney hadn't put the console down since she'd received it on her last day of school, playing the same games over and over again until she had completed them all four times over. Her favorite had been, surprisingly, Mario Kart. It was her mother who had picked that one out for Courtney, but her father had tried to take it back, telling Courtney it wasn't a game for little girls. Mrs Taylor had, however, taken it away from his clutches and given it back to their daughter. As competitive as Courtney was, she fell in love with the game.
Mario Kart was her game of choice on this particular day. She tucked her backpack under her lounger, like she had seen her mother do before, and proceeded to load up a new race. The thrill of winning urged Courtney on, knowing she was faster than the rest. Her prize driver, Princess Peach, was top of the leader-board. And bottom of the leader-board. And every place on the leader-board in-between.
She was just finishing up another round when the unfamiliar beep of a game request sounded up. Courtney had been lost in her console, had forgotten where she was. Her eyes snapped up, staring curiously around the pool area until they unbearably landed on Duncan. He was coated in a pink glow that came from mixing Courtney's sunglasses with the sun, waving his own Nintendo in the air in her direction. He had a grin on his face and Courtney felt sick.
Staring down at the screen, Courtney chewed her lip, pondering if she should accept it or not. She knew she wasn't going to turn it down, Courtney never backed down from any kind of competition, but she didn't want Duncan to think she liked him to accept his game straight away. She did accept, selecting her favorite player and waiting for Duncan to catch up.
Courtney glanced up at him, above the rim of her glasses. His sunglasses were propped on his head, his eyes shifting back and fore, locked on the console in his hand. He looked frustrated, as if not sure which player to choose. Courtney rolled her eyes, turning back down to her own Nintendo, waiting for him to catch up.
The screen flickered into the race, the countdown beginning. Her Princess Peach was up against his Mario. 3. 2. 1. She held down her A button, willing for her kart to move faster than his. Courtney couldn't say she was impressed with the track he'd chosen- Figure-8 Circuit- one of the most basic ones, round-and-round in circles. She was gaining on him now, from last place into 7th, into 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd. Into the second lap, Courtney skillfully avoiding the banana pile as she watched Duncan's Mario race ahead of her again. She dodged side to side, her kart moving forward, sliding into a mystery box. Red turtle. Courtney was sure the grin was glowing on her face as she hit the 'L' button in the back.
Mario went flying right before her eyes as Princess Peach soared past him on the track. Courtney was sure she heard Duncan huffing from across the pool, only furthering the triumphant smile on her face. She watched her kart zoom forward, catching up to Yoshi in second place. Duncan was just behind her, and she laughed as she watched him aimlessly try to hit her with a green shell. It bounced off the inner track wall, hitting Yoshi down instead. Princess Peach took second place just as the third lap began, Bowser within her sight.
Courtney could feel the rush of excitement hitting her as she caught up to first place. There wasn't a lot left in the race, and while winning was her favorite thing, she thought that winning against Duncan was going to be all the more satisfying. Then came the lightning. The young girl watched as herself and Bowser shrunk down to tiny size, thrown off balance, and then Mario to come flying past them both, into first place.
She quickly glanced up to see Duncan's face grinning, his eyes gleaming with pride. He was in the lead, the finish line not far away at all. Courtney didn't lose hope, but her anger swelled. She managed to pass Bowser just as she returned to normal size, seizing up the last mystery box of the track, praying for something useful. And her prayers ran true. Now it was Courtney's turn for a shit-eating grin as she pressed the 'L' button for one last time. With the finish line now in sight, the blue shell flew into the back of Mario's kart, sending a blast of power strong enough to knock his kart into the air once more.
Princess Peach took first place, Mario second. Bowser brought up the rear in third but neither of the children cared about that. Courtney was on her feet, jumping up and down on the lounger, laughing to herself as Duncan yelled from across the pool, "THAT'S NOT FAIR!"
"I won fair and square!" Courtney loudly replied, sticking out her tongue for good measure. She had never doubted herself, of course. Mario Kart was her favorite game for a reason; she never came less than first.
"I want a rematch!" Duncan demanded, now on his own two feet himself. He stood on the lounger, catching Courtney's eye. She continued to grin at him, already setting up the second round, knowing she could beat him all over again.
They continued on this way through the rest of the summer, it was how they kept themselves sane among all the adults. Courtney introduced Duncan to all of her DS games, easily beating him in every single one, but enjoying his company all the same. The other kids, the ones that Courtney had always hung around with when they visited the hotel yearly like she did, wasn't as interested in playing with either of them anymore, because all the two did was play on their Nintendo's. Courtney still introduced Duncan to all of her friends, but he didn't seem interested in any of them except for Courtney.
She still felt the sickening feelings when she looked at him, it wasn't something she could control. But she suddenly didn't care, because, for once, he was the only person she wanted to be around too.
A/N: I'm not too happy with this chapter...
I'm not great at writing children, it's something I'm working on. Duncan and Courtney's Mario Kart battle though is based off a childhood memory of me and my brother racing to the death, some of the fondest sibling memories I have XD I did write the entire race from memory as Mario Kart is one of the childhood games I don't still own for my DS :( Sad times, but I think I did a pretty decent job!
I don't know if I mentioned it last time, but this is going to go between past/present each chapter. I've got all the past chapters mapped out, it's now the future ones I need to work on. I think I've got a good idea of where I want it to go though :D
Thanks for reading, please review (: