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The M Word

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mu·nif·i·cent

(adj) extremely liberal in giving; very generous

 


 

 Aurora is smiling brightly as she leaves her father’s apartment, running as fast as she can despite her bare feet. The elevator out of service again - most certainly once more because of the triplets who live on the same floor as Stefan - so she rushes to the stairs. She slows down when she notices an old lady, greeting her with a slight bow of the head, before resuming running. Aurora finally reaches the building doors; three people are standing behind them. She puts on her shoes and exits. Phillip is, as always, arguing with Cindy, so the first to notice she is here is Cindy’s boyfriend, Charming. Aurora had never understood why, but Cindy only called him by his last name. As well as it suits him, it is really distant and rude. He doesn’t seem to mind, though.

 ”Hi, Aurora.”

 ”Good afternoon, Henry!”

 Phillip and Cindy stop bickering and smile at her, like nothing had happened. Aurora waves awkwardly - she hasn’t seen Phillip since their argument, and even if they had called each other over the phone to talk about it, she had only forgiven, not forgotten. Cindy locks her arms with Aurora’s and starts walking.

 ”Show me the ring!”

 Aurora turns her head to look at her excited friend.

 ”What ring?”

 Cindy rolls her eyes.

 ”The one your Ms. Moore bought at Tiffany & Co last week, duh.”

 Aurora opens her mouth and frowns a little. She had no idea the engagement ring had already been pointed out by journalists. Her mother hadn’t called to ask about it, which was weird, as she read the press just as much as Cindy. At least, Aurora now knows what her father will talk about at dinner that night, and they will ‘disagree loudly’, like every other Tuesday. Cindy suddenly grabs Aurora’s left hand and gawks at the sight of the ring.

 ”It didn’t look that big in the photos. Your fiancée's got good tastes.”

 Cindy glances over her shoulder, so Aurora does the same. The boys are talking about video games, but Phillip is glaring at Cindy. Aurora shakes her head - she couldn’t expect him to be accepting of Mal so quickly.

 ”Do you have any plans for the wedding yet?”

 ”All we know is that we’ll be married before September.”

 It’s all they really talked about, the date. Because Stefan wants the wedding to be held this summer, just so he can look happy there and get his popularity back quickly.

 ”That’s early! I thought you had been together only for a few months…?”

 ”Actually… it’s been a year.”

 Phillip snorts.

 ”You managed to lie to me for a year?”

 Aurora sighs. Is she really so bad at lying that nobody can believe she’d be able to hide a relationship? She just lied to Cindy, and lied to her mother some days ago, though. God, getting better at lying can’t be a good thing.

 ”It wasn’t really lying, more like hiding the truth because we wanted time to ourselves?”

 


 

 They had been sitting at a table in a Starbucks - Cindy showing the articles about Mal that she had found and the boys pretending to be interested - when Cindy received a message from her parents to tell her that they were leaving the house - so she left with her boyfriend to enjoy an empty home with him.

 And now Aurora is all alone with Phillip and a heavy silence. They exchange a few glances between sips of coffee, and green tea for Aurora.

 ”I’m sorry.”

 Aurora looks up from her cup, eyes widening in confusion.

 ”For treating you like a defenseless kid. And for insulting Ms. Moore…”

 He had never apologized for the way he talked about Mal, for calling her a pedophile, so Aurora stays silent, waiting to hear if he has anything else to add.

 ”As worried as I was from the start, the idea didn’t seem that bad, you know… it meant that there’d be someone else to look out for you. And well, Ms. Moore is attractive.”

 Phillip shrugs. He lets out a sigh and tips his head down. Aurora can see his hesitation, it’s obvious there he has something else to say, something he doesn’t want to say.

 ”She makes you smile, Aurora. It’s been a week and you’re already comfortable around her. I feel like I’m nothing special.”

 ”What are you talking about?”

 ”You like her, Aurora.”

 She blinks repeatedly. Of course she likes her; Mal is honest and nice in her own way. And beautiful. But that isn’t a reason to like her more, it’s only a bonus, right? She feels her cheeks blushing. She is being ridiculous, thinking that Mal’s beauty is a bonus. Aurora starts fidgeting with her empty cup of tea.

 ”Well, you know I tend to like every person I meet!”

 Phillip smiles hesitantly.

 ”Yeah, I guess you do…”

 Another silence settles in between them, less uncomfortable than the previous one but still heavy. The noises surrounding them, the conversations the other clients are having, make it easier to stand.

 ”Do you want to go play a game? We could hang out at the apartment until my father comes back.”

 Aurora’s smile widens as she asks, surprising her best friend, who abruptly raises to his feet.

 ”Yes! Please! Let’s do that!”

 People stop chatting to look at Phillip, and all Aurora can do is giggle, unable to control her laughter for a few seconds. Phillip is visibly growing more embarrassed so Aurora stands up to exit the coffee shop.

 


 

 Sitting cross-legged on her bed next to Phillip, playing video games, laughing at every idiotic comment he makes when he loses, Aurora feels like everything is back to normal - back when she didn’t know Mal and didn’t have to worry about getting married before the end of college. Life used to be easier, not that it’s ever been actually complicated with wealthy parents who managed to find time to take care of her despite their jobs.

 ”Are you going to look in your old stuff to find this… thing you made for your dream wedding?” Phillip asks when Aurora pauses the game to take the water bottle between them.

 ”That would be way too embarrassing!”

 Phillip snickers and takes the bottle from her hands.

 ”Will Cindy be your maid of honor?”

 ”Unless you want to be!” Aurora exclaims, chuckling.

 Phillip almost spits out the water he hadn’t swallowed and starts coughing. He clears his throat and pushes her shoulder playfully.

 ”You just want to see me in a dress, don’t you?”

 Aurora simply smiles. Not wanting to continue talking about the wedding and make the situation awkward again for both of them, she doesn’t add a word about it and resumes the game. Enjoying the rest of day with her best friend is the only thing she wants, because it’s been too long and because she knows they will have less time together in the future.

 ”It makes me feel stupid to say it, but I’m glad you don’t hate me anymore.”

 ”I didn’t hate you, Phillip. I was angry and disappointed. Still am, a little…”

 Phillip opens his mouth, but he is interrupted by a door slamming. Aurora glances worriedly at him - he is not supposed to be here if Aurora’s nannies aren’t around to keep an eye on them. Phillip rushes off of the bed and puts on his shoes, readying himself to escape Stefan’s wrath.

 


 

 Stefan hates many things, but the boy Phillip has a special place on that list, next to Moore. The boy is an idiot, clumsy, barely able to walk without tripping on his own feet or to talk without stuttering. He had always believed him to be unworthy of his daughter’s time and attention. So when Stefan sees him exiting her bedroom, it takes all his restrain not to literally kick him out.

 ”I’d rather you invite Moore over for dinner than see this brat again.”

 It is almost true. Almost, because unlike Moore, the boy of terrified by Stefan and shakes in fear whenever he sees him. Moore is unbearably bold and blunt. He sighs and takes a beer, the last one, from the fridge.

 ”Maybe we could invite her over.”

 Stefan turns slowly to face his daughter, seated at the bar. He must have heard wrong. Either that, or she is just as fanciful and naive as his ex-wife.

 ”To talk about the wedding, I mean.”

 Stupid fucking wedding. He wanted to forget about that, at least for today. Leila had called earlier to yell at him for letting their daughter marry before graduating college. He had miraculously managed to calm her down, by telling her the same lies he prepared for the press. And then, Moore had called.

 ”She called me to ask that I pay half the costs for your wedding.”

 ”The wedding was your idea, father.”

 Stefan snorts and takes a sip of his beer.

 ”Technically, it was my girlfriend’s idea.”

 Aurora frowns a little and tilts her head. If she pouted, she’d look exactly like his ex-wife when she wanted something from him.

 ”I’m going to pay for it anyway. To show that I’m cooperative.”

 His daughter nods silently, excuses herself and goes back to her bedroom without another a word. Stefan sighs once more. All he can do is hope that the wedding will not be as expensive as his had been and that journalists would soon compliment his acceptance. An interview is all he needs now.