Mrs. Rossi wandered down the sidewalk, enjoying the Paris sunshine as she headed towards a nearby cafe that she had heard good things about. She had managed to get caught up with things at the embassy and gotten them in a good enough place to be able to have a bit of time to spare for lunch out for the first time since she had arrived, and she was determined to enjoy the break.
Soup and a sandwich sounded like it would hit the spot just right.
There were students all over the place as Mrs. Rossi headed towards the cafe, some headed in the same direction while others were simply heading home or to the park to enjoy the weather. She wondered if she might spot her daughter among the students, but it was probably unlikely. Lila seemed to enjoy staying at the school to eat lunch there with her friends, and she hardly had a ton of pocket money to spend on eating out on a regular basis. Mrs. Rossi generally didn't eat out, either- it was a waste of money, in her opinion, and ate up time- but she had been working hard enough lately that she deserved a treat.
She reached the cafe and joined the line, waiting patiently as the workers at the counter filled orders. A lot of the tables outside were already filled- a pity, she would have liked to enjoy the sun a bit more- but there were certainly enough spots inside and a number of the students in the line seemed to be getting their orders to go, so at least she should be able to find a spot to sit.
The line worked forward at an impressive rate, and soon enough Mrs. Rossi was approaching the counter and placing her order. She stepped over to the side to wait for her order to be ready, and when she did, she spotted a very familiar face, apparently just ducking in to grab a few more napkins.
She hadn't met her daughter's boyfriend before, between her work and his busy schedule (and, well, she hadn't met any of Lila's friends, really, but soon! She had time now, it could happen soon!), but she had seen pictures of Adrien Agreste before. There wasn't really anyone else it could be, and so after a moment's deliberation- maybe she should just wait until Lila introduced him, but realistically, how long could that take? And maybe if she said hi now, he would introduce her to some of Lila's other friends- she stepped forward, eyes trained on the boy. He caught her eye when he turned away from the napkin dispenser and paused, clearly puzzled by the unknown lady staring at him.
"Hello," Mrs. Rossi greeted him, figuring that there was no going back now. She stuck out a hand for him to shake. "I know we've not met before, but I couldn't not say hi when I spotted my daughter's boyfriend."
The boy blinked at her, clearly puzzled. He didn't shake her hand. "Um, I think you have the wrong person. I'm not dating anyone. And I haven't- the closest I've ever come to dating someone- I met her mom, and you're definitely not her."
Mrs. Rossi frowned. Had she somehow found Adrien Agreste's doppelganger, or misremembered what he looked like. "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were Adrien Agreste-"
"I am Adrien Agreste." He was frowning now too, and looking more than a little uncomfortable as he glanced towards the door. "And I'm not dating anyone."
"But Lila said that you've been dating since she first arrived in Paris!" Mrs. Rossi exclaimed, confused for a moment until it hit her. Ah, of course! She should have mentioned Lila from the start. Adrien was a popular model and of course he wouldn't want to go around telling people who he was dating, just in case there were any jealous fans around. "And she's told me about dates that you two have gone on."
Adrien's expression flickered with something unreadable, then went oddly blank. "I'm not dating Lila. I don't date liars, bullies, or thieves, and Lila is all three. I don't know why Lila is trying to claim that she's dating me, but it's not remotely based in any sort of truth. Good day."
With that, Adrien Agreste spun on his heel and vanished into the lunch crowd. Seconds later, Mrs. Rossi saw the door open and a nest of blond hair bob outside. She was still staring after him when the worker at the pick-up counter called her name once, twice, three times. Mrs. Rossi jumped as her name finally registered, and she hurried to pick up her order with a quick apology before she found a seat at a secluded table in the corner. Her cheeks were hot with embarrassment, though she wasn't sure if she was more embarrassed about- well, whatever had happened with Adrien- or about being so out of it that she hadn't heard the worker calling her name.
Now that she was seated, she could properly puzzle over her brief exchange with Adrien. He had claimed that he wasn't dating anyone, had never dated anyone, and that Lila was a liar, a thief, and a bully. Which... well, that just didn't sound like her daughter! But Lila had said that they were dating, something that Adrien had said was false. And he hadn't acted squirrely or anything, like he might if he was making up a lie on the spot.
But Lila hadn't hesitated at all when telling her mom about the dates that Adrien had taken her on. And Mrs. Rossi knew her daughter, even if they hadn't had as much time together as they used to due to their moving and Mrs. Rossi's busy schedule. She would know if Lila was lying, and, well. Adrien Agreste was a model and, if she was remembering correctly, an actor. He would know how to hide his emotions and look as though he was telling the truth, even if he wasn't. That made him the more likely candidate for not telling the truth.
But why would he reject the very notion of dating Lila like that?
Mrs. Rossi puzzled over that as she ate her sandwich, almost not tasting it at all as she tried to work out what might have happened. The pieces just weren't fitting together- until they did.
Lila and Adrien must have broken up- recently, considering that they had had a dinner date just that weekend- and Lila just hadn't wanted to admit it to her mom. Either that, or she had thought that she and Adrien would reconcile and get back together, so she hadn't wanted to trouble her mom. If Adrien's attitude was anything to go by, though, that hope was a little overly optimistic.
Frankly, Mrs. Rossi thought that was probably for the better. If Adrien was immature enough to start making baseless accusations about Lila to her mom because he was angry at her because of their break-up, then he wasn't ready for a relationship. She would have to talk to Lila about it, which was bound to not be a very happy conversation but it was definitely an important one.
With that settled, Mrs. Rossi went back to her lunch. She had earned this break, after all, and she was going to enjoy it. She wasn't going to let a moody teenage boy ruin it for her or spend the whole time doubting her daughter, not when it was so easy to puzzle out what happened.
She was second-guessing herself.
Huffing, Mrs. Rossi set aside the paperwork that she hadn't really been reading, rubbing her forehead as if she were trying to banish the thoughts that kept haunting her. It didn't help, unsurprisingly, and so she flopped back in her chair to give herself a moment to try to pick out why she couldn't put that morning's encounter behind her.
Maybe it was because of how oddly specific Adrien's accusations about Lila were. Maybe specific wasn't quite the right word, but something about the names that he had called Lila seemed just a bit off.
A liar. A thief. A bully.
In Mrs. Rossi's experience- from what she remembered from her teenage years- less-than-friendly breakups usually resulted in name-calling of a more general sort. Accusations of being selfish, of being jealous, of being rude or smelly or inconsiderate or petty. They weren't nice names to be called, but it usually related somehow to the reason why they broke up.
But Adrien hadn't used those names, and that was what was throwing Mrs. Rossi off. It was possible- likely, even- that something had just gotten blown out of proportion and that was why Adrien had called Lila a bully, a thief, and a liar instead. Since the school hadn't called, it probably wasn't that big of a deal.
But it would be smart to call and check in, maybe. At the very least, she could make sure that the teachers were keeping an eye on the dynamics in the classroom following the break-up. It would put her mind at ease, and then she wouldn't risk falling behind again when she had only just managed to get on top of things. Hopefully it would only take five minutes at most, and then she would be able to get some quality work done and surprise Lila by actually getting home early enough to make a dinner that wasn't rushed.
Plan in place, Mrs. Rossi picked up her phone and looked up the phone number for the principal of the school. The phone rang once, twice, and then picked up.
"Hello? This is the office, Mr. Damocles speaking."
"Hi, this is Elena Rossi," she told the man on the other end of the line. "Lila Rossi's mother, I'm calling because-"
"Oh, yes, perfect timing!" Mr. Damocles boomed, cutting her off. "Lila just informed us about the trip you're about to be making and I was going to reach out and see if I could actually get through this time. I really must insist that all of the paperwork gets filled out this time- I know we let it slide for the last trip, since it was so sudden, but we can't do that again. And Lila really does have to actually complete all of her schoolwork this time around- if she falls any more behind, we'll have to discuss either summer school or holding her back a year-"
"I'm- I'm sorry, what trip?" Mrs. Rossi exclaimed, completely thrown off. "We're not going on any trips, we haven't been out of the country for more than a weekend since we got here. We've been in Paris the whole time, and- and the only time Lila wasn't in school was when it was closed for several months because of akuma attacks!"
There was a long pause on the other end of the line.
"Ma'am, the school has only ever closed for an hour or two due to akuma attacks," Mr. Damocles said slowly. "Never for several months, Ladybug and Chat Noir would never let battles drag out that long. Lila told us that you had to go on an extended diplomatic trip and that she couldn't stay in Paris alone so she would be going along. She appeared to call in from several different locations."
Mrs. Rossi's stomach was sinking and twisting into knots. "No- that's not even part of my job description! I- I don't understand."
There was another pause, followed by the shuffling of paper. "Ah, perhaps her lying disorder was acting up? I must insist, if that's the case, that Lila get medical attention because keeping a lie going for that long, she was insisting that it only makes her tell small white lies every once in a while-"
"Lying condition?" Mrs. Rossi couldn't believe her ears. "She- no, Lila's perfectly healthy. She doesn't have any sort of lying condition. She- she-"
She didn't know what to say. Her five-minute conversation to set her mind at ease was going in a completely different direction than she thought it would, and now she was left floundering.
Surely she hadn't been paying THAT little attention while she got things at the embassy under control?
There was another pause, broken by a small cough. Mr. Damocles sounded as uncomfortable as she felt, which- well, it was no real comfort.
"Ma'am, I think we might need to ask you to come in. The sooner, the better."
Mrs. Rossi rushed to let her coworkers know that she had to step out for an incident at her daughter's school, then hurried over to the collège. She was ushered into Mr. Damocles' office at once, and then got caught up on what, exactly, her daughter had been up to at school.
Needless to say, she was appalled. The number of lies that Lila had told- pointless lies, sometimes, presumably because she didn't feel like doing something (or eating something)- was absolutely off the charts. Mr. Damocles wasn't even sure that they had everything recorded, since his records were based almost entirely off of what the teachers overheard and had considered relevant information to write down and pass along. The other part of his records were based off of doctor's notes- but they weren't doctor's notes that Mrs. Rossi had ever seen before, and they were for conditions that she had never taken Lila to the doctor for. Closer inspection revealed that they were definitely written with Lila's handwriting, only slightly modified to hide the immediate similarity.
The lies were bad enough. Forged documentation so that she would get all sorts of accommodation that she didn't need? That was horrifying.
"We may need to get the police involved," Mr. Damocles informed Mrs. Rossi as he gathered up all of the "doctor's notes". Not a single one of them had been valid. "This is a very serious situation and we want to treat it as such. Add in the whole situation with Miss Dupain-Cheng, and- well, there might be a case for emotional distress or something there, I'm not sure what it would be called."
Mrs. Rossi sat up straight. Now this wasn't something she'd heard about yet, but it might explain the bully comment from Adrien. "What happened with Miss Dupain-Cheng?"
"Well. Ah." Mr. Damocles shuffled his papers, looking a little uncomfortable. "There were several accusations leveled at Miss Dupain-Cheng by Lila- that she had cheated on a test, that she had pushed Lila down the stairs, and that she had stolen a necklace from Lila. We thought that we had evidence, as the answer sheet was found in her bag, and the necklace was in her locker, and- well, Lila had been at the bottom of the stairs. So Miss Dupain-Cheng got expelled. But then Lila said the next day that her lying disorder had been acting up, which- hmm." He frowned. "In retrospect, that doesn't quite make sense. She would have had to plant things in advance, which suggests- well, anyway, Miss Dupain-Cheng was allowed back. But I do believe we asked her to thank Lila for coming forward and admitting to her condition, which, ah..."
Mrs. Rossi only just resisted the urge to bury her face in her hands and groan. She suspected, based on what she was hearing, that the girl targeted had probably known full well that Lila was lying and that she was lying on purpose. Being asked to thank Lila after going through that kind of ordeal...
Frankly, at this point, if Mrs. Rossi had heard anything about her daughter getting beat up by one extremely ticked-off classmate, she would probably conclude that Lila very much deserved it. Sure, Lila had 'allowed' her to come back- and why Lila had decided to make up a 'lying disease' to walk back what had presumably been a fairly planned set-up to get rid of the other girl was still a mystery- but that didn't change the fact that she had been targeted and been forced to go through what was probably a fairly distressing ordeal in the first place.
She was going to have to track down the student and her family and apologize to them for everything that Lila had put them through. Ideally Lila would be the one apologizing, but frankly, she didn't trust Lila to do it. She wouldn't be sincere, for one, and just based on what Mrs. Rossi had been hearing, she would probably try to twist the situation to get in another dig at her classmate.
"Anyway, we should probably discuss punishment," Mr. Damocles said, pulling Mrs. Rossi out of her thoughts and bringing her attention back to him. He looked uncomfortable, fiddling with his pen. "Ah, Lila has been akumatized a number of times. I worry that if we administer punishment fitting to the actions within the city limits, we might end up endangering the staff and students here."
Mrs. Rossi took a deep breath and let it out. She didn't want to think of her daughter endangering anyone and physically hurting them, but she had to consider Hawkmoth's presence in the city and the fact that Lila was clearly a lot more manipulative and vindictive than she had thought. She had failed so spectacularly as a parent until now, what with not catching on to what her daughter was up to, and that had resulted in not insignificant damage. Now, she had to make it right for those her daughter had hurt, even if that meant not giving in to the urge to give Lila one last chance.
"I agree," Mrs. Rossi told the principal, swallowing hard. She hadn't wanted to do this before, but Lila left her no choice. "And while I don't like it, I have a possible solution. My parents have offered to send Lila to the same school that I went to, back in Italy." She had always declined the offer before, for several reasons. It was a boarding school, and she hadn't wanted to send Lila away. While it was a good school that pushed for academic excellence, it was very strict. The sort of things that Lila had been pulling would not be entertained for even a minute, which- well, that was a good thing, but wouldn't any parent have some concerns about how fast punishments were doled out? "I suggest that I send her there. Whatever punishment needs to be carried out, it can be dealt with there. It will be out of Hawkmoth's range and she won't be able to harm her classmates more."
Mr. Damocles nodded, looking relieved. "Yes, yes. That sounds like a good idea. But..." He tapped his fingers, still anxious. "She'll still be in Paris when she finds out, won't she?"
Mrs. Rossi shook her head, her mind whirring as she puzzled together what she needed to do. As soon as this meeting ended, she would have to call both her parents and the school to make arrangements. Then- well, there would probably be more meetings with Dupont and the police to figure out the details of the punishment. She would be incredibly busy. "Once things are set up for Lila to transfer, I can tell her that we're going down to visit my parents for a weekend and then break the news there. It means that I'll have to be the one to deal with packing up her room, but I'd rather do that than have Lila akumatized again and hurt someone. I can get started on those arrangements right away."
"If you want to make any calls right now to get the process started, I can step out and let you use my office to make those calls in private," Mr. Damocles offered at once. "The sooner this is settled, the better, I think."
"Yes, yes, of course." Mrs. Rossi's head was spinning and part of her mind was absolutely screaming about how she was going to fall behind at work again, but she ignored it. There were more important things to prioritize right now, and once Lila was back in Italy, she could work as late as she needed to catch up without worrying about her daughter left alone at home. "That would be much appreciated, thank you."
"Of course, it's no problem." Mr. Damocles was standing up already, stepping towards the door. "If you need me, I'll be in the library."
"Thank you." Mrs. Rossi waited for him to step out, then pulled out her phone and dialed her mom. The phone rang once, twice, and then picked up.
"Hi mom, this is Elena," Mrs. Rossi said, sinking back in her chair. "I know this is an odd time of the day, but I have a very big favor to ask of you..."
It actually took very little time to get Lila registered for her new school, her files transferred over and her behavior record caught completely up. The Dupont staff took care of briefing the staff at the other school on what Lila had done, and over the course of several video conferences they figured out fitting punishments for at least part of Lila's behavior.
Some of it, like the emotional distress and truancy, would have to be settled in court later on. But they could at least address some of the lesser offenses right away, and they could remove Lila from Hawkmoth's range before she hurt anyone else.
Thankfully, it was easy enough to get Lila to join her on a trip back to Italy. They left mid-afternoon on Friday- what Lila had told her friends, Mrs. Rossi didn't know and at this point, didn't care- on a trip to 'visit her grandparents for the weekend'. On the drive between the train station and Mrs. Rossi's parents' house, Mrs. Rossi took an early turn and pulled up to Lila's new school.
Lila's new school, which wasn't the same as Mrs. Rossi's old one. They had told her that they weren't well-enough equipped to deal with someone like Lila and had recommended another boarding school that was specifically geared towards students with behavioral problems. Mrs. Rossi hadn't been a fan at first- there was still a part of her that wanted the best for her daughter and didn't want to subject her to the sort of environment that a school for kids with behavioral problems was bound to have- but she also wasn't willing to subject any more innocent students to Lila's behavior.
Thankfully, several campus police officers had been there and on hand to help, because Mrs. Rossi had never been more scared of her own daughter than she had been in the minutes after Lila got informed that her lies had been discovered and that she was being transferred to the boarding school. She had screamed, she had thrashed, she had threatened, she had tried to bargain and persuade her mom that it was actually everyone else who was lying. Mrs. Rossi had forced herself to ignore it all, simply unloading Lila's luggage and handing it over to one of the employees who had come out to get Lila moved in before getting back in her car. Lila had raged after her, screaming that she was a terrible mother.
Mrs. Rossi had bit back the and you're a terrible daughter as she shut her car door and drove away. It wouldn't help anything, and it would just make Lila resent her more, if that was even possible. She spent the rest of the weekend with her parents before returning to Paris late on Sunday. It felt like an elephant-sized weight had been taken off of her shoulders, though there were still things that she had to take care of. She had to get caught up at work (again), pack more of Lila's things to ship down, and check in with- well, if perhaps not with Lila, then at least one of the staff at the school.
Then, of course, she had to deal with classmates that Lila had left behind. Lila's former teachers had offered to break the news to their students that none of Lila's stories had been true, but Mrs. Rossi felt somewhat obligated to fix things herself. She had ended up too focused on her work to check in with the school, too trusting that Lila wouldn't get into any trouble and would faithfully report what was going on, and the class had suffered for it.
Besides, without a daughter in the city to look after, it would be easy enough to catch up on her work on the weekend. It wasn't ideal, of course- she would prefer to have the weekends to explore the city, perhaps, or to clean the apartment or take care of the multitude of other things that had been neglected ever since their move- but it would be easy to do.
On Monday, Mrs. Rossi headed into Lila's old school. She briefly stopped by the principal's office to check in with him, and then headed to what had been Lila's homeroom. As she drew closer to the door, she was very, very glad that she had come in person.
Because just inside the door, there were a few students chatting. And the topic of their conversation was Lila.
"Wait, Lila's not coming back?" one girl asked, high-pitched and upset. "It's not just another trip?"
"No, not this time," another classmate- Alya, Mrs. Rossi was guessing, just based on what she had heard about Lila's classmates- said. She waved her phone, grinning. "She texted me last night! She apparently wasn't actually visiting her grandparents this weekend. That was just a cover! She was actually trying out for some super-secret role in a movie and she wasn't allowed to tell anyone ahead of time, because there's a lot of details that the project wants to keep secret. And she got the part! But that means that she'll be getting a private tutor while on set instead of calling us here, because her schedule's going to be so intense that it would be impossible to keep up otherwise."
...well, if that wasn't the biggest load of bull Mrs. Rossi had ever heard, she wasn't sure what was.
"Oh, I'm so excited for her, but I'll miss her!" another girl exclaimed. "Presumably she'll come back after filming is done, though? So maybe we'll be in the same lycée class!"
"And it'll be super-cool to see her movie," the first girl added. "We'll have to all go together as a class to see it when it comes out! Did she say when-?"
Alya was shaking her head. "No, it sounds like it's a longer-term project. And after this comes out- well, they're going to be working wit a lot of big names. How often do child stars come back to normal school? I bet that she'll get offers for other projects. Which- how cool will it be to be able to say that we knew her before she got super-famous?"
"I hope she doesn't forget about us when she gets famous!" another classmate chimed in, twisting around to join in the conversation. "I mean, I know she's got more important stuff going on at the moment and I don't want to distract her at all, but there were people that she said she would introduce us to and she just didn't get around to it before."
"Oh, I'm sure she remembers!" the first girl piped up again. "Maybe she won't be able to introduce people in person, but Lila's not going to forget about us. And maybe she'll even invite us to screenings or cast parties for her movies and we'll get to meet people that way! That would be amazing!"
"It would be very cool, I'm sure," Mrs. Rossi said, stepping into the classroom. All eyes swung around to her, and- oh, good, the entire class was here. "If it was at all true, which it isn't. Clearly Lila has learned nothing."
"Uh, who are you?" Alya demanded, crossing her arms and arching an eyebrow at Mrs. Rossi. One row down, Adrien glanced up, caught sight of Mrs. Rossi, and immediately leaned over to whisper something to the girl standing next to him. "Lila wouldn't lie to us, not unless she had to, to keep her project secret!"
"I'm Lila's mother," Mrs. Rossi told her dryly. "And oddly enough, I think I have a better idea of what's going on in my daughter's life than you do at the moment. She got shipped off to a boarding school for children with behavioral problems because she wouldn't. Stop. Lying. The fact that she's decided to double down and make up some story instead of coming clean tells me that I did the right thing. I hear that she claimed connections with all sorts of celebrities and said she had a whole bucketful of ailments. Neither of those is remotely true."
Alya blinked, clearly befuddled. "But..."
"That's what I came in for today, actually." Pressing past the disappointment of finding out that Lila was clearly digging her heels in and refusing to change- it really shouldn't have been a surprise at this point- Mrs. Rossi strode to the front of the room. She refused to break down in front of her daughter's former classmates. She had done enough of that in her parents' house in Italy, wondering where she had gone wrong and if she would ever get the daughter she thought she knew back. "I wanted to break the news myself, so that I could be available to answer any questions you might have. So. If everyone's here, I might as well start, if that's okay with your teacher." She glanced towards Ms. Bustier, long enough to see her nod, then back at the class. "Okay. So, early last week, I first found out that what my daughter was telling me and reality didn't quite line up..."
As soon as she finished fielding the last of the students' questions and left the school, Mrs. Rossi leaned against the side of the building with a sigh. This wasn't what she had pictured her life being, not at all. Sure, she had her dream job, and was earning enough to be comfortable, but losing her husband and having her only daughter turn out to be some sort of twisted bully, unwilling to acknowledge when she was wrong, to the point where she had to be sent away...that hadn't been in her life plan. Not at all.
But there was no point in lingering too long on that unpleasantness, especially in a city where a supervillain lurked, ready to take advantage of negative emotions. She had to focus on the positives. By coming in and telling the class the truth about her daughter's stories, she had set at least one friendship on the road to repair. The entire class would no longer be subject to the whims of a bully. And perhaps most importantly in her own life, Lila would hopefully be getting the help that she needed now, in a school that had all of the resources to address her behavioral issues and do their best to correct them.
Mrs. Rossi took one deep breath, then another, then pushed herself away from the school building to head across the street to the bakery there. She wanted to apologize to the Dupain-Cheng family for the trouble that Lila had caused them and their daughter, and then- if the apology didn't go over badly, if the Dupain-Chengs didn't blame her for Lila's actions- she might purchase a breakfast pastry to go. That would be a nice start to the day, a little bit of sugar to wake her up before she returned to the embassy and threw herself back into her work.
And maybe, by the end of the week, she would have enough time to go out for lunch again. And this time- well, hopefully that lunch out would be a lot more peaceful.
a/n: As with most of my stories, this is a one-shot and therefore complete.
My apologies for the very much interrupted posting schedule- I had a VERY unusual end-of-season at my summer job, with my time there first getting extended by a week, and then my first attempt to drive home had to get canceled several hours in after a snowstorm (in September!) shut all of the highways going east. All of the craziness really threw everything- writing, posting, etc.- off, and I'm just now getting settled again. Hopefully that means that I'll be able to post more regularly.
As always, comments make my day! :)