“It's so nice to finally hear your voice.”

Adélaïde smiled against the receiver. But she was quickly brought back to where she was by the insistent tapping of Judith's foot behind her.
They were in Clarice's shared-house. She had generously offered them to use her phone when she learned theirs had been confiscated. They drew straws to figure out who would go first, which happened to be Diti, who was already back at the house.

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For the first time in forever, Adélaïde was able to call Pierre. And she might have been taking a little too much time for her friend's taste. Well, it was her last call, and she wouldn't be long now. Plus, she'd really needed that after the start of week she just had.

“I know, it feels so good,” she agreed.
“But it would feel even better to actually see each other,” he completed, and was that a playful tone Adélaïde heard in his voice? She smiled again.
“Definitely... But I don't see that coming anytime soon.”
“Well, actually...” he trailed off a little, “Guess what?”
“What?”
“I finally got a car.”
Adélaïde froze, expectation building in her chest.
“So that means...”
“I can come as soon as you want me to.”
The words she'd been craving to hear for so long.
“So...”
“How about next weekend?” she interrupted him.
“I was hoping you'd say that,” she could hear the smile in his voice, and thought that she couldn't wait to see it in real life.

They agreed to see each other saturday, early afternoon. Pierre only had one class friday morning, but he wanted to use the rest of the day to grade papers. That way, he would be completely available for her, and he would get on the road early morning on saturday. They would meet right outside the village, in a woody area, so as to not attract attention.

She hung up, and finally left her spot to her blonde friend with an apologetic smile. But despite Judith's scolding glare, she couldn't fell sorry.

The whole week had been something of a nightmare. The wait was almost worse than when she didn't know when she would see Pierre. Now that they had the opportunity to meet, waiting felt like a chore, an unnecessary obstacle.

And then, she couldn't help thinking about what had happened with Corey monday night. Well, how could she forget it? She saw the girl everyday in class. Even though it felt good to finally have a face on “The girl in dark ocean waves” and to have some answers, it all only brought up even more questions.

Exactly what was the deal with that girl? How did she know so much? Why did she seem to be collecting informations? And on what? Sure, Corey could be considered her ally now, but what kind of ally?

Adélaïde closed her eyes and breathed. Now was not the moment to worry. She'd have plenty of time for that later. Despite Corey's revelations, her plan for Pierre's letters still worked for now.

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Brealynn only checked the letters the students sent, not the ones they received. So all she'd have to do was convince Judith that she would have to occasionnally send letters to a fake L. Asting, so as to not make it suspiscious that she would only receive from him. They invented him as a cousin of Judith's, and Adélaïde had agreed to give her the letters' contents, which she would just have to write herself.

Judith wasn't really pleased by this whole thing, saying it was starting to be a lot of work. It was even harder to justify it, as Adélaïde couldn't tell her how she got the info about Brealynn's surveillance. For some reason, she felt like it would be dangerous for her friend to know about Corey. The blonde gave in anyway when Adélaïde gave her the puppy eyes for a couple minutes.

But again, none of that mattered for the moment. She had a fun weekend ahead of her, and that's all she wanted to focus on right now.

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On satuday morning, Adélaïde's mood finally perked up. Before Pierre, she actually had a meeting with an old friend of hers, Arthur. He was spending the weekend at his grandma's, who happened to live close to Catachan. They had agreed to meet in front of the village's church, and then take a coffee to catch up.

She immediately spotted her parisian friend. He stood out like a sour thumb in the elegant and refined atmosphere of Catachan and the Academy's castle in the background. He was rocking his usual cargo pants, Sex Pistols distressed tank top and leather jacket. But his mohican had changed from the last time she'd seen him. It had gone from a summery green to a fall-appropriate orange. He greeted her with a big smile.
“Ça va, la bourge?”*
“Ugh! Stop calling me that! I'm not even wearing my uniform!” she complained.
“I'll stop if you give me a cigarette,” his smile got even bigger somehow.
She rolled her eyes but was secretly pleased. Their dynamics hadn't changed, which she had actually been afraid of. She gave him one and they exchanged a bise.

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After they had a smoke and the café owner was done gawking at Arthur's hair, they found a spot in the back of the shop. They gave their orders, and Adélaïde immediately interrogated him about life in Paris and her former high school. He told her all about it. From the newest school gossips no one had told her about in letters, to the number of detentions he got for spray painting Karl Marx's face next to the portrait of the President.

“Oh! That makes me think...” she interrupted him.
Fumbling in her bag, she took out the Communist Manifesto and gave it back to him.
“Oh, so you finally read it?” he dramatised.
“Hey! I devoured it as soon as you sent it to me!”
“Yeah, and how many years have I been harassing you about it?”
“Well, it's done now, so next time you do I'll have every right to put a restraining order against you.”

They'd teased each other like this ever since they met in middle school. It was kind of a miracle they even became friends at all. Arthur's parents weren't exactly from the same background as hers. They were from the middle class, but Arthur was discovered as being a genius in primary school. So they made tremendous financial efforts to put him in private school, and give him more of a chance to express his potential.

The both of them started hanging out. Adélaïde's parents tried to pull her away from Arthur when they learned about his family, but she persisted. She loved Arthur. He was different from all the preppy children she'd known all her life, as her parents only surrounded themselves with the “top” of parisian society. And their friendship really opened Adélaïde's eyes on her priviledge, on the biases of her upbringing.

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It definitely didn't help her parents to accept him when she started questionning everything they taught her. And when Arthur started having very liberal political opinions, adding to that a punk appearance, they almost disowned her. Adélaïde thought they were probably afraid her and Arthur might fall in love or something, and that her daughter would be “degrading herself” in the working class. But by the time they had those fears, they had too little power over their daughter. How ironic that another kind of romance would actually get her in trouble.

“So what did you think of it?” he asked.
“It's definitely interesting... but it's idealistic. I don't think people would be able to give up on private property for instance.”
He rolled his eyes playfully.
“Of course you'd say that.”
She couldn't help but chuckle. She knew he didn't mean anything by it. He knew she was so much less of a bourgeoise than her posh, idle mother.
Their coffee arrived at that moment. He then went on and talked about the latest exhibit he saw. A small contemporary sculptor had exposed his latest work in a small garden in Montmartre. Her soul pulled painfully in her chest at the idea of Montmartre, of art exhibits, of small gardens surrounded with old artist houses.

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“Ugh... I swear I miss Paris so much sometimes,” she complained.
“Why did you go so far away? There are boarding schools in Paris too.”
“I had to! My parents wouldn't let me stay in Paris. They wanted me to get as far away from Pierre as possible, and it was already hard enough to make them accept this school,” she remembered all the bargaining and arguing she'd had to do, and the weird look her parents exchanged when she first told them about Hearthstone Academy, “I mean, their first choice was an ultra-elite school in Vienna, in Austria. They had walts classes there, Arthur. Waltz classes.”

Her friend laughed at the emphasis.
“That does sound like your parents,” he chuckled.
“Yeah...” she took a long sip of her coffee, “Anyway, at least with the Academy I'm still in France, and communication with Pierre and everyone else is a little easier.”
“But it's not Paris.”
She shook her head.

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“Anyway, what about Pierre? You still see him?” he asked.
She told him everything, from the schemes she came up with to evade Brealynn's watch, to her plans to meet him in the afternoon. She always told him everything. He sat there silently, listening as he sipped on his coffee. Once she was finished, she looked at him, still silent, and sighed.
“You still don't approve, do you?”
He took a little time to answer.
“I just think it's a bit weird,” he started carefully.
“What? That he loves me?”
“Well yeah.”
Adélaïde stiffened up. Her face suddenly felt cold.
“Wow, thanks.”
“That's not what I mean, and you know that...”
“Then what do you mean?” she challenged him.

He sighed as well. He'd been quiet about his disapproval of her relationship until now.
“Alright, I never told you because I didn't want to push you into his arms even further. I thought it was just a fling, that it would pass, but... This is getting really far, Adi,” he looked her in the eyes, “I mean, look at you! You've changed schools, you're far from your home, and your friends, the city you love so much... Is it really worth it?”
“Yes.”

He ran his hand on his face in frustration. Adélaïde regretted triggering this conversation.
“Look,” he continued carefully, “It's not an attack, ok? I'm just worried about you,” he searched for her eyes again, but she had turned them to the window, “Even though he's pretty young, he's still a teacher...”
“He's not my teacher anymore.”
“He was when you met him,” he paused, “And that doesn't change the fact he has a lot more experience than you. I mean... he's your first boyfriend, isn't he?”
She didn't answer. She couldn't even look at him.
“I just don't understand what he wants from you... Where are you going?”

She had stood up and was gathering her things.
“I thought you would be the one person who would always understand me,” her voice trembled as she threw some money on the table for her drink, not sure how much it cost or even how much she gave, “But...but...” she couldn't even finish.

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She stormed out of the café, ignoring his calls to her. She walked around, not sure where she wanted to go.
Thousands feelings were battling in her chest. First of all, she felt betrayed. Arthur had been like the brother she never had. She thought she could always count on his support, that he would never judge her. She thought he trusted her judgement to make her own decisions.
But also, there were those last words.

“I don't understand what he wants from you.”

What the hell did that even mean? Sure, Pierre was older. He was more established in life and society, but she never felt threatened by that. On the contrary, she thought it was part of his appeal. He was so confident. And if he was with her, that meant he saw her as his equal, right? What difference did it make that she never had more than harmless flirts before him? She learned a lot since they started dating, and she didn't feel like a child anymmore. She hadn't in a long time.

Her anger spread to her legs, and she felt like running. So she sprang in the streets, still going in random directions. Thank god the village was quiet at that moment, because she must've looked crazy.

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She reached the cemetery and her body had had enough. Leaning on one of the graves to take her breath, she looked up at the sound of the church's bells. It was 1:30.
Shit. It was almost time for her rendez-vous with Pierre.

She stopped at her house on the way, to get some stuff, and decided to wear her uniform. She remembered he wanted to see it, and she hadn't been able to send him a picture. But no matter how much she wanted to feel excited, a cloud had been cast on her mood. She was glad Judith was out, because she didn't feel like talking to anyone. She came out breathing heavily, trying to shake away the feelings of her last conversation.

She almost ran to the entrance of the village. She spotted Pierre's car, all white and new, parked on the side of the road that was surrounded by trees. He was leaning on the bonnet nonchalantly, smoking a cigarette. He startled when he saw her running wildly towards him, and just had the time to throw his cigarette before catching her in his arms.

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They stayed like this for a few seconds, twirling as in a cliché romantic comedy. Adélaïde breathed him in, and couldn't think of anything else at this moment. When they separated, they looked at each other.
“So that's the infamous uniform, huh?” he said, looking at her up and down. She could feel the teasing coming.
“Shut up,” she laughed, “I knew I shouldn't've worn it.”
“Oh, on the contrary, I'm glad I could see that...” his eyes became lustful, and he caught her waist in his arms as he leaned to her ear, “You look great in it.”
He kissed her right below the ear and she was a goner. She tightened her grip on his blazer, but it didn't stop him from straightening back up.
“And you never sent me that picture,” he continued, accusatory, as if nothing happened.
“I couldn't find a camera! It's not my fault!”
“Excuses, excuses,” he chuckled, “Anyway, I have one, so we will take as many as we want.”
“As YOU want, more like,” she faked skulking.
He laughed.

They got in the car and drove, and all it took was a second of silence for Adélaïde to remember Arthur's words. A weight grew in her throat.
'Come on, Adi, pull yourself together.' she whispered to herself.
Pierre looked to her while driving, and she knew he must've noticed.
“Hey, darling, you ok?” his voice sounded concerned.

That's all it took for the tears to start spilling. Pierre seemed to panic and parked the car back on the side of the road. He took her in his arms and Adélaïde told him what happened in the morning. She told him how betrayed she was feeling, and all the doubts Arthur had planted in her head. Doubts she'd never really had before.

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“Darling, listen to me,” he started calmly, “You have every right to feel betrayed. He shouldn't have told you that. He talks about things he knows nothing about, and he had no right to make you feel like you are below me, because you're not,” he looked her in the eyes and wiped the tears off her cheeks, “If anything, I'm the one who's incredibly lucky to have you.”
He kissed her forehead.
“In fact, it makes me think he might be jealous.”
“Jealous?” she startled.
“Well, yes, of course. Jealous of what we have... Maybe even jealous of me. Ever thought he might have some feelings for you?”

She thought for a second. Their relationship had always been so platonic, she never thought it could be ambiguous. But did Arthur feel like that too? Now that Pierre made it a possibility, it didn't seem so crazy to her. After all, they'd had people ask them if they were together, and she was always the one to deny it first. And Arthur had never had a serious girlfriend, that she knew of.

“I don't know...”
“Well, considering what he told you, I think it's more than likely,” he paused, “But darling,” she looked back up at him and his stare became intense, “All that matters is that we love each other. It's all you need to keep in mind. You don't need him. You don't need people who doesn't support you. We only need each other. Alright?”
She nodded, and realised the weight in her throat had disappeared.
“Good,” he smiled softly, “Have you eaten?”
“Uhm... no.” she hadn't realised until the sudden question.
“Well we can't have that,” he scolded her gently, “But I have a plan.”
“You haven't told me where we were going.”
“You'll see,” his mischievious smile melted her into silence.

They stopped at a small grocery shop and picked up some fruit, wine, cheese and bread. Then, they drove until the vegetation became more sparse, and they arrived at a beach.
“How about a picnic?”

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Adélaïde was ecstatic. Sure, it wasn't the Mediterranean sea, only the English Channel : the sky was grey and the water was cold ; but there was something incredibly picturesque about this lonely, almost gloomy beach. The wind ruffled the tall grass, but it wasn't too strong, so they settled on the cold, humid sand and watched the waves battle in the distance.

They could see the English coast far away, and it inspired Pierre to tell her about the battle of Dunkirk. It took place in the beginning of WWII, on a beach similar to his one. He told her about the French soldiers who stayed in the land to make sure the English soldiers could escape. He told her about the countless aerial raids the German army dropped on those soldiers on the beach, while they waited for the boats. He told her about the unhoped-for number of soldiers saved, thanks to the bravery of English civilians who took their own fishing boats to save them.

That afternoon was magical. She loved the passion in Pierre's eyes when he talked about history. She loved his laughter when they started goofing around in the cold water. She loved the lust in his smile when her uniform ended up soaking wet. And nothing else mattered.

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After the picnic, she joined him in his hotel. They'd planned on eating out, but ended up staying in the humble motel room, as they couldn't get their hands off each other. Adélaïde couldn't even believe she was still only half an hour away from Catachan. She felt far away from school, from her problems, from the world.

The next morning brought a painful separation. They waited for the very last minute, when Pierre didn't have a chance but to leave if he wanted to be back in Paris before sundown. They promised to see each other the next weekend, and Adélaïde stepped out of the car.

On the way back to her house, she still couldn't believe all of this had been real. And she could believe even less that she'd have to go back to normal Academy's life. But she did. In fact, she had quite some homeworks to catch up on.

As she thought that, she realised she'd been approaching her house, and that someone was in front it. The person wasn't moving, and she realised they were looking in her direction.
'Please let it not be Corey' She didn't have the energy for a confrontation such as monday's.

But it wasn't. It was a tall, solid young man with ebony skin wearing a long stylish tweed coat. He took a puff of a cigarette before talking.
“Are you Adélaïde de Broglie?”
Adélaïde felt slightly uncomfortable under his piercing, intelligent gaze.
“Yes?”
He extended a hand with a polite smile.
“I'm Matthew Hawthorn, head of the Hearthstone Chronicles.”

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Adélaïde shook his hand. With everything else that had happened, she'd almost forgot Mr. Samuel's recommendation.
“Nice to meet you,” she smiled.
“Nice to meet you as well. I wanted to personnally inform you that we accepted your application for the critic column, and we'll gladly be working with you.”
Her smile became much larger.
“Thank you so much!”
“My pleasure! How about you come by on tuesday evening, after class. You can meet the team and we'll show you how we work.”
“Sounds great! I'll be there.”
“Good,” he smiled again, “The newsroom is in room 308, on the third floor.”
He left soon after.

When she sat at her desk, she reflected on her weekend, which started so dreadfully. Adélaïde thought that a page had to be turned. Maybe she couldn't be the girl she was back in Paris. Arthur's betrayal surely was a sign of that. Things had changed, and new opportunities were now opened to her. Maybe even the Corey alliance could be a great thing, despite the mystery of it all. Maybe the mystery was nothing but an invitation.
And maybe she should take it.

Image by ☾𝕲𝖗𝖎𝖒𝖎𝖑𝖉𝖊☽

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Translation : *You good, preppy?

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Sorry this chapter is a little long haha, I had a lot of things to establish before my next (official) chapter.

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