Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Shizuka Usagi


Chapter 2

Sophia brushed a strand of hair from her face. She walked at a brisk pace towards the Leingod residence. The brunette still had a bone to pick with Fayt for possibly reading her diary. Then again, it was possibly not actually. Even so, her doubts would be cleared up once Fayt informed her of her prom date.

How could I have been so careless? I should have known how nosy Fayt could be. I should have brought one of thoselocks from the department store … on the other hand, if Fayt happened to read THAT entry then …

Sophia stopped abruptly. She was right at the Leingods' doorstep. How would he have reacted to that entry? For a fact, he would be disappointed that I didn't tell him but … would he approve? She looked up towards Fayt's room. The light was on which meant he was home.

Suddenly, she mentally kicked herself. It shouldn't matter what Fayt thinks, should it? He doesn't need to know EVERYTHING about me. I'm entitled to some privacy, aren't I?

Well, here's goes nothing. Just as Sophia was about to answer the door, Fayt swung it open.

"Hey, Sophia. What's up?" He said in an unusually cheery tone.

"Um, not much. What about you?" Sophia responded.

"I was just playing this new video game. It's called—oh, excuse me, come in."

"Thanks." Sophia said, gratefully. "It was beginning to get chilly."

"Yeah, sorry about that, again." Fayt looked embarrassed. He scratched the back of his head, an adorable habit of his. Sophia could see why Mirage was endeared by him.

"So, you hungry? I can order some pizza, if you like." Fayt asked.

"Not really. Are Aunt Ryoko and Uncle Robert out again?" Sophia wondered.

"Yup, as usual. I haven't seen them as often since our vacation to Hyda IV over the summer." Fayt said with a solemn undertone.

"I'm sorry." Sophia apologized. I should've known, my parents being the same way.

"Don't worry about it. It's kind of nice. No parents to nag me about studying all day." Fayt rolled his eyes and Sophia giggled.

"Now, Fayt." She wagged her finger at him, disapprovingly. "You shouldn't be playing video games excessively, either."

"Yes, mom." He said, teasingly.

"Anyway, how about I cook something for the two of us? You must be starving." Sophia skimmed through the items in the fridge.

"Sure thing. Fighting in the battle simulator has worked up my appetite."

Ten minutes later, Sophia laid a plate of fajitas and flan on the table. They ate in comfortable silence. Occasionally, starting some pleasant banter.

"So, Fayt … who did you ask to take me to the prom." Sophia blushed slightly, unsure of why she did this.

Fayt didn't seem to notice. "Oh—you see, um—there was nobody left, except for Albel—you know, the son of Glou Nox—so I had to, um … ask him." He braced himself for flying projectiles. Although, none came.

Sophia was quiet for a while. To Fayt's surprise, when she spoke, her voice sounded bashful. "W-what did he say?"

Should I tell her I had to bribe him? He pondered this for a moment. Nah, what she doesn't know won't hurt her, right? Besides, I don't think the outcome would be too pretty if I did.

"H-he said yes." Fayt half-lied. Technically, he didn't say no.

"Really!" Sophia gasped, brightly. Then, realizing her mistake, coughed. "I-I mean, really?"

"Um, yeah. In his own way, of course. Heh, heh." Fayt laughed uncomfortably.

Sophia noticed this and raised a brow. "Fayt, did you force him to—"

"—No, no, not at all!" Fayt said a bit too quickly. "I admit he wasn't all too happy to oblige—but his father forced him to get out more so…"

"Oh … I see." Sophia said, dejectedly.

Fayt had never felt so low in his life. He made Sophia felt bad and he didn't even tell her the truth. What a jerk he was.

"Don't feel bad, Sophia. That's just the way he always is. Maybe he'll change his mind about you, once he sees you in that stunning dress." Fayt grinned.

"Hehe … you think?" Sophia giggled, forgetting to question Fayt over the diary situation.

"I don't think, I know." Fayt assured her.

"Still, he would probably think I'm just another wench asking him out, as he would say." Sophia sighed.

"Don't say that Sophia. You're something special. I'm sure once he gets to know you, he'll like you." Fayt took her hands in his, looking straight into her eyes.

"I hope so." Sophia smiled back at him. "Thanks for cheering me up Fayt, you're the best."

"No problem, Soph."

"Oh my, look at the time. I must be heading back home." Sophia gathered her things and headed out the door.

"Okay, see ya, Sophia."

"Take care, Fayt. Oh, and good luck with Mirage." Sophia winked.

Fayt blushed, scratching the back of his head again. "Thanks, I think."

Sophia laughed in reply and walked away. Fayt watched her until she left his sight. He sighed softly.

"Sophia, my dear, Sophia. If only you knew how I used to feel about you. Then things might have been different." The wind carried his words away. "You never returned my affections so I assumed you didn't like me. Then, I had to move on …"

Fayt shook his head, wondering where that came from. The past is the past. She likes Albel and I like Mirage now. Isn't that how it's supposed to be? He went back inside to drown his thoughts out in video games. His secret hideaway.

I just hope things don't turn out horribly wrong with Sophia, knowing how unpredictable Albel can be.

The next day, Sophia was invited to spend the day with Nel and Mirage. Because the mall was only a block away, Sophia decided to walk. She stepped outside and took a moment to savor the gentle breeze. The summer weather was beautiful today. Cumulus clouds covered the sky. The sun's rays warmed her face.

Despite all this, Sophia's intuition told her something bad was going to happen. She usually trusted her instincts. Ever since she was little, she had a strange ability to determine things before they happened, like déjà vu.

This time she ignored this and continued on towards her destination. What she didn't know was that she was going to pass by the Nox mansion on the way. Blissfully unaware, she looked both ways and crossed the street. All of a sudden, she heard voices that seemed to be in an altercation.

"Leave me alone, old man. You're beginning to bore me."

"Albel, listen to me, you still haven't got your suit tailored for the—"

"Quiet! I've had enough of your worthless banter, you old coot."

"Now Albel, you listen to me. Your father told me—"

"Bah. Who cares what he says? All he does is order me around all day."

"Albel Nox!" A cane smacking against a hard skull was heard. "How dare you speak that way about your father? Must I notify him of your misbehavior?"

"No, Woltar."

"Good. Now we must be off to the tailors. Your father's suit doesn't quite fit your effeminate frame."

"I am NOT effeminate … just a little on the lean side."

"Whatever you say, Master Albel."

Footsteps were heard moving away from Sophia's position. She had an amused and confused expression upon her face. Whenever she heard Albel's crisp, gruff voice, her heart skipped a beat. She was annoyed with herself for having such cutesy reactions around his presence. She chastised her teenage hormones and continued on her way. Just as she turned the corner, she bumped into someone.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Are you alright?" Sophia automatically apologized.

"Watch where you're going, worm!" The person she collided into automatically replied.

When the two looked up at each other, they froze. Sophia felt a blush creep into her features, while Albel forced himself not to act rude. They both pretended they didn't see each other and resumed their trip to their destination. That is until …

"Lady Sophia! What a pleasant surprise!" Woltar joyfully cried out, which caused Albel to cringe.

"Um—um, Sir Woltar. Uh—I didn't expect to see you here …" Sophia attempted to smile politely.

"Master Albel and I were on our way to—"

"Shut up, old man!" Albel hissed vehemently.

Woltar continued as if not interrupted, "—the tailor's to fit his suit for the lovely graduation party. Isn't that right?"

Albel muttered something about restraining himself from strangling old men while Woltar beamed cheerfully.

"How would you like to accompany us?"

"NO!" Albel and Sophia shouted simultaneously.

"Hmm?"

"Excuse me, Sir Woltar, my deepest apologies, but I already have other plans—" Sophia tried to explain.

"Oh, nonsense. No need to be so humble. Your presence would be an honor. I'm sure Albel would be delighted."

Albel smashed his metallic gauntlet against the iron railing. "Woltar! You're beginning to drive my patience. Let the girl go."

Sophia noticed his choice of words when mentioning her existence that didn't include fool, worm, or maggot. In addition, he appeared to be defending her in his own sort of way, of course.

Woltar finally gave up his matching making frenzy. "Oh, alright. But if you ever want to stop by the Nox mansion …"

This time Albel didn't respond. He simply grabbed Woltar by the scruff and dragged him away, knowing he would be admonished for it.

"Goodbye Lady Sophia. Albel sends his regards." He called over his captor's shoulder.

Sophia blinked a few times and mumbled a weak goodbye, watching the odd duo until they left her sight.