"How were they today? Any glitter accidents? Tutu mishaps?" Elari internally winced at the sound of her own voice: clearly trying too hard to be happy. Hollow. She chastised herself in her head - she had to do better.
Mr. Melanthe smiled softly as he accepted the money from her outstretched hand, which totaled to just a little more than his (admittedly quite high) hourly fee. It wasn't a bribe; it was an apology. Elari bit her lip as she eyed the faint outline of the wire that snaked its way underneath his cashmere sweater, up and around his neck. He deserved more than a few extra dollars, but any more would arouse suspicion. She glanced back up to the aging but always warm face of the man who, once upon a time, was also her piano teacher. It wasn't hard to pick out the new wrinkles on his face. His fear made itself known.
Neither of them could afford any more suspicion.
"Both very well," he started, pausing for a moment, letting the compliment sit for a second before moving to his critique. Elari tried to take solace in this decade-long consistency, the fact that some things never changed. "Genevieve could use some more work on her form. Her fingers still tense up, just like yours did back then." A forced, painful smile. "Levaya has so much talent - she just needs more discipline. Tell that Ortega boy to stop letting her cheat out of practicing," he added, chuckling.
Almost as a reflex, her airy laugh matched his. It was second nature for the businesswoman in her to play the part, to captivate her audience. For Elari, the rush of reading a room, putting on a face, and ending up on top had always been exhilarating. She lived for that rush.
Well, she had lived for that rush. That hollow pang hit her in the gut again as the memory of her resignation resurfaced. It had become too much: the constant tails, the constant fear, the constant eyes on her. And more than anything else, the thought of those same eyes trailing her daughters? Alone? She could handle herself just fine, but when every waking moment came with a picture of her daughters' kidnap… She had had enough.
To top things off, the vicious rumors had followed her closer than any black van or not-so-subtle tail ever could. Elari had never been one to listen to the gossip, but the whispers around her choice and her family had been loud enough to be screams.
Do you think Mr. Jostlin fired her? Do you think they were… you know?
It must be her husband - I've heard he's finally cracking under the pressure. Gamemakers can never make it through a full decade.
No, it's her younger daughter! Are you kidding me? Just look at her - she can't be right in the head!
Elari pushed the thoughts down, meeting Melanthe's expectant glance with her trademark musical laugh. "Sorry, Morton," she exclaimed, "Just thinking of having to come up with dinner when I get home." She playfully pressed her hands into her temples. "The stomachs on these little girls - massive! Absolutely insane! I don't know where all those carbs are going!"
On cue, the car engine revved on, drowning out Mr. Melanthe's laugh. "I think that's my sign that the little monsters are hungry," she thought aloud, turning back to her former teacher with a genuine frown. The thought of leaving this sweet old man alone and vulnerable made her angry and sad and scared and ashamed.
Naturally, she curled her frown upwards into a melancholy smile. Now more than ever, the sensation of letting her true emotions show felt bizarre, foreign to her constantly masked face. That wasn't quite right. It's not that it just felt bizarre now.
It felt dangerous.
Mr. Melanthe nodded, a grin popping onto his face as he saw the girls wave goodbye from the car. He turned back to Elari, and while the grin stayed, his eyes - always warm, always excited - froze over. "Take care, my dear," he said, his upbeat tone in stark contrast with the pronounced worry in his eyes. "Take care of them."
His eyes shattered her. Not that she had been put together before - ever since she and Ortega had been coerced into this life, Elari had been constantly broken, left to pick up the pieces only to break again. This life where their words could be turned on them at any moment. This life where her heart seized every time she took her eyes off of Levaya and Genevieve for just a moment. This life where everyone she loved was in danger because of her.
Elari threw her arms around her old teacher, tears pricking the corners of her eyes, smearing her carefully-made mascara. As she did, she felt the outline of the wire press against her stomach.
A reminder. A warning. Immediately, Elari pulled away sharply, laughing and furiously wiping away the stray tears. She couldn't bring herself to look Mr. Melanthe in the eye again. "Same time next week?" she joked. Without waiting for a response, she turned and waved as she hurried to the open passenger door.
Burying her head in her hands, she allowed herself a moment of weakness. Once the chauffeur swung his door open, she turned back on. She turned to him - Damarin? Damarick? - and smiled brightly. "How was the drive over?"
"Same as always, ma'am. An accident on the ramp made traffic extra messy today."
Elari barely heard him. She turned to watch as Mr. Melanthe walked back into his studio. She fought the tears that threatened to spill over once again.
She let out her musical laugh.
howdy fellas i'm guessing you all scrolled down here for the list but! would love to hear your thoughts on this lil bit w elari! mostly i haven't written in YEARS and would love to know if? it blows? yeah
alrighty the tribute list is below (please check all the districts as i've had to move some around) - i really appreciate everyone's submissions! if you weren't accepted i'm really sorry just couldn't squeeze everyone in :(
without further ado here is the cast of A Hero's Welcome!
Female: Anders Andersson
Male: Khiron Ancello
Female: Kiani Sideris
Male: Aristide Marou
Female: Nuria Aitan
Male: Luca Mathise
Female: Adela Lussiana
Male: Shoal Salucci
Female: Kendra Thorpe
Male: Kosmin Noakes
Female: Venezia Delune
Male: Han Delgado
Female: Adaire Iglasies
Male: Novie Tamaya
Female: Tegan Rask
Male: Corvin Gaer
Female: Isobel Maretta
Male: Emeric Melor
Female: Bethan Alloway
Male: Torrance Rosa
Female: Deidra Calvetti
Male: Rion Devior
Female: Elorah Hagan
Male: Lycus Malvo
the blog link is aheroswelcomehg . blogspot . co m
go check that ish out and leave your thoughts on your early faves! pls i luv blog reviews so much
see y'all soon!