Changing Faces - Part Eleven

Raven stared out the window, glaring so hard at the approaching carridge that her eyes began to hurt.

(She's coming back. I have no idea why. After all, she hasn't come to visit in three years. Why start now?)

Raven blinked once, allowing her eyelids to wipe away the dryness and the strain. Her hands were damp for some inexplicable reason; she felt jumpy and nervous and she didn't know why.

Like a replay all those years ago, the door swung open, and a young woman got out, her dress slightly wrinkled from her journey.

If it was possible, Annette had become even more beautiful over these years; the sweet, plump cuteness of childhood having given way to the sculpted, flawless beauty of young life. Her hair was longer, she was taller, and her mouth was pinched in a manner which would have been unattractive on anyone else.

Eloise strod out, her hand pressed agaisnt her now bountiful bosoum, her red cheeks shining.

"My darling Annette! How wonderful to see you!"

Annette smiled rather tightly, but clasped Eloise's hand warmly.

"And it is good to see you as well, dear Eloise! How is Mere?"

"Not too well, I'm afraid. She's been getting pale, and... well, you'll see. But I'm sure your presence will do wonders!"

Raven grimaced to herself, absentmindly coiling a strand of her own red hair about her finger. She turned from the window, striding back into the attic. Over the winter, she had spent even more time up here, going through boxes and seeing portraits and clothing of bygone times. The attic was like a refuge to her now, a sanctuary away from the perpetual gloom of her mother's home.

Raven ran her hands over a sleek desk of drawers, savoring the rich grain of the wood agaisnt her fingertips. She had found it last year, buried beneath old, broken furniture and boxes of useless clothes. It was in wonderful shape, and she had liberated it from oblivion, cleaning it up. She kept all of her most precious things in amongst it's drawers, hiding them away from the prying, ill-seeing eyes of Eloise and Mere.

Reaching down, Raven opened a drawer, and pulled out the ornate mirror she had found so long ago. She had kept it as a reminder of that day when beauty and hope and fear had intertwined.

Holding it aloft, she noted with some pride the growth her body had accomplished. Over the last couple of years, she had developed curves and quite a figure; comparing herself to the classically beautiful womenfolk of her family portraits, she had seen little different, aside from their skin, hair, and eyes.

Eloise often tsk-tsked, trying to cover her up more, telling her it wasn't ladylike to run around like she looked now.

Raven flipped her hair over her shoulder, snorting slightly at Eloise's ideals. As of last month, she was fourteen, which was plenty old enough to make her own decisions!

(Not as if their is anyone around here to see me) she thought glumly, placing the mirror back into it's hiding place, (except for Annette - and she never looks at me!)

Hearing voices downstairs, Raven's curiosity was stirred, and she ventured out of the attic.

Annette bustled down the hall, Eloise on her heels, intent on seeing her mother. It wasn't like she had been avoiding her mother, Annette rationalized, it was just that she had been busy, so she didn't see her as much as she would please.

Mere lay curled in a big, overstuffed chair, gazing at the fire.

A poker dangled from one hand, still warm from being used to stir coals a time ago, and there was almost a calm expression upon Colette's face.

"Mere!" her elder daughter purred, darting forward, "How good to see you! Why did you not come out to greet me?"

Colette smiled, and Eloise noticed with some relief that her cheeks were a warm pink, and her eyes were no longer so dull.

"I'm sorry, dear - I'm just not in the best of health anymore, I fear."

Annette grinned, and kissed her cheek.

"Are you ill? Or just tired? Eloise, you shouldn't allow her to work too hard!"

Colette laughed a bit. "No - I'm just under the weather - don't worry Annette, I'll be better soon."

Annette felt better. Colette looked so - weak and delicate. She recalled when she was growing up, Colette had always seemed so small, yet firey, bustling about like a little bird. Now her mother was quiet and seemed smaller somehow, as if her spirit had died.

"Well now Miss", Eloise piped up, picking up Annette's luggage, "How about I take your things upstairs, hmmm? You must be famished after that long journey - I'll make ye some dinner."

Annette kissed her mother goodbye, then followed Eloise upstairs. It amazed her - after all these years, Eloise looked exactly the same, save for her graying hair and plumper frame. She would know the woman anywhere, in any city, anywhere in the world. While her mother, who ahd turned more than a few heads in her youth, looked like a stranger to her, her daughter.

Raven crouched next to the stairs, unnoticed by the nurse and the lovely young woman. She was suddenly shy; she knew she should just march right up to Annette and welcome her, but - she didn't want to.

But it wasn't that she was scared or anything! Not at all, Raven told herself sternly, it's not like I'm intimdated by her, she's just - I don't want to.

Listening to Eloise and Annette jabber on, Raven began wishing she had just stayed in the attic.

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