World War Burst S2: Part 8

Back to Campaign

[20:27:00] <~Oxford> The early-morning storms promised by a layer of creeping gray cloud never materialized, leaving Henriette a chance to escape the confines of her room and walk through the gardens for a few brief hours after the others have left for school. The air is warm, thick, and pregnant with moisture, and reeks lightly of the beach at low tide.
[20:31:51] <Henriette> Relishing in the reminders of the outside world, Henriette can't help but be distracted by the ever-present shadow of the mansion, long and faded as a pale sun behind dark clouds produces a dull glow. Her eyes dart back to the front door to the mansion, and then to her bedroom window, open wide on the second story. Far from pleasant, her walk is tense and offers only the slightest relief
[20:31:51] <Henriette> from the Reaper in his blue job inside.
[20:39:57] <~Oxford> She has seen very little sign of the Colonel since her escapade to Dirk's house. Further ahead, over a low ridge, she comes upon an orchard of twisted peach trees, their pale pink blossoms just beginning to open after the unusually harsh winter.
[20:45:12] <Henriette> The call of a bullfinch from the tree draws her attention. Lips pursed, she temporarily tries to forget her troubles by mimicking the feet-feet-two-feet of the little bulbous avian. The muggy atmosphere should have facilitated her. Perhaps she's bad at bird calls.
[20:48:19] <~Oxford> The low ridge seperating the orchard from the more open ground around Wightshead marks the southern edge of their property. Henriette is at least a mile out from the mansion, perhaps a bit more. Through the rows of trees, she can see a smaller house with a blue slate roof and a long shed. The orchard-keeper's home, presumably.
[20:52:21] <~Oxford> And there, making her way between the swaying branches of the peach trees, is a girl just about her own age. Without a school uniform on, and instead a simple floral-pattern dress and white apron, Henriette almost didn't recognize Angela Caraway.
[20:52:44] <Henriette> This far from the mansion, the natural mounds of loam provide Henriette the blessing of being unable to see any trace of the grandiose building. A warm feeling in her heart boils into her throat at the sight of a quaint little house. Her path leads there, tracing natural ridges and tree roots. Being amongst the beauty of nature is nice. "Ce doit être comment Lily se sent," she mutters.
[20:54:35] <Henriette> Truth be told, Henriette is hard-pressed to put a name to the face she finds so familiar. Having been missing from school some two and a half weeks now, her memory of the students save Dirk is reduced primarily to facial recognition. Her wings, strangely enough, aren't tied down. She hadn't expected to wander so far, and certainly not into anyone else!
[21:00:21] <~Oxford> Her classmate catches sight of her, and pushes aside a low-hanging branch to wave a greeting. A few loose peach-petals, still wet with dew, stick in her long hair. "Well hi," she says, smiling. "Didn't expect to run into you on the way."
[21:05:02] <Henriette> Struggling to call a smile to her face, Henriette's expression is a strange grimace. "You are… ah… it began with an A, non?" she says, struggling. "Désolé… I am not trying to offend."
[21:07:19] <~Oxford> "Angela," the girl provides, seeing Henriette falter. "Has it really been that long? Well, don't worry; I'm sure you'll learn all our names soon enough."
[21:10:55] <Henriette> Angela's strange graciousness causes Henriette's mouth to gape openly. "Angela… Je… You know I do not have interest in Kevin, non?" she finally forces out. "Je serais heureux- err… I would be happy if I had not made such an impression on you."
[21:17:12] <~Oxford> Angie brushes at her long brown hair unselfconsciously, shedding some of the less determined petals. "Oh, that was just a misunderstanding. You're going with Dirk now, of course, so everything works out fine." She puts one hand on her hip and dries the other against her apron. "My Kevin's a good man, but, well, boys! Always so predictable, aren't they?"
[21:20:28] <Henriette> "Err… oui, I suppose?" The certainty that Angela has isn't enough for the two of them. "H-how did you know about Dirk and myself, Angela?"
[21:22:43] <~Oxford> She looks confused by the question. "He told me, of course," she says, smiling a little. "Well, in a town this small, you can't really expect to keep secrets, can you?"
[21:32:28] <~Oxford> Angie raises a hand to her mouth, but doesn't try very hard to stifle a light, high laugh. "Well nothing /bad/, dear!" she exclaims, picking up on Henriette's expression instantly. "He's very taken with you! But not seeing you for weeks, that's hard on him, and it's normal that he'd try to talk about it with a friend."
[21:42:08] <Henriette> Henriette's vision blurs as tears form in her eyes, Angela's form turning to a vague blob. "Je… I had not meant to make him wait. I… I have not been allowed to see him… They hound me at every turn!" The glassy feathers on her wings shrivel in her frustration, plastering the strange hovering appendages against the back of her white blouse.
[21:43:09] <Henriette> The feeling of their cold touch causes her to gasp. "I… I have said too much! Je…" Her face strains, and her fists ball up as she tries to compress the wings into her back, to make them disappear somehow, even if it means causing herself pain.
[21:47:07] <~Oxford> All around them, the branches sag with damp. The bark of the peaches is a shade darker than usual, and where the petals have been soaked through the blossoms take on a deep ruby hue. "Hey, relax a little," Angela says quickly, putting a hand on Henriette's shoulder. "You seem like you've got a lot on your mind, but bottling it up won't help anything."
[21:49:05] <Henriette> "I c-can't tell you…" she says, though the wings aren't disappearing. Surely Angela has noticed? Should she say something? Explain them? Explain how? Make her swear to secrecy? Another one in secrecy? "I'd put you in danger," is her answer.
[21:53:42] <~Oxford> "Danger? Dear, he's just a boy. No need to be so melodramatic about it." She looks over at Henriette and cocks her head. "Unless you mean… you're not worried about me and Dirk, are you?"
[21:57:30] <Henriette> "N-no! I don't think that." Is she avoiding the question? Is she just dense? "I wasn't talking about Dirk… je suis heureux he has been so patient. If I could simply abandon… non, I shall not say." She stares into Angela's eyes firmly and says, "Have you not noticed them?"
[21:58:25] <~Oxford> "What? Your wings?"
[21:58:47] <~Oxford> A beat passes. "Why would I care about those?"
[22:01:22] <Henriette> What. "What." Her eyelids flutter in disbelief. "Because they are… Non, it is not whether you will care or not. It is whether you will tell others… No one can know! I have already put Dirk at risk, and now…"
[22:05:02] <~Oxford> "Know that you're one of the Air Force's angels, you mean?" She wrinkles her brow as if she, too, were trying to understand, and then shakes her head in amazement. "Well duh, sweetheart. I mean, it's kind of obvious, isn't it?"
[22:07:21] <Henriette> More blinking. "But… they told us no one must know! We must be… I was told Dirk would be in danger because I told him…" It is kind of obvious, isn't it? They're not very good at their job.
[22:09:38] <~Oxford> "Five girls from all over the country show up all the sudden with this bogus evacuation story, and it's just a coincidence that enemy planes start getting shot down left and right?" Angie sighs. "I don't know who was in charge of your cover, but they're clearly used to dealing with soldiers who'll believe whatever you tell them."
[22:11:22] <~Oxford> "Though…" she adds, pausing, "I was really surprised the 'angels' had actual wings. That seemed sort of far-fetched, but now I've seen it for myself."
[22:12:09] <Henriette> "Oui… they are un peu incompétent, non?" A refreshing laugh comes to her voice. It is obvious, so why worry? "They are… a curse from overusing my abilties… I did not desire them."
[22:14:04] <~Oxford> "Ah, so the other girls don't have them at all? You're missing school because they couldn't figure out a way to hide it, then?"
[22:17:54] <Henriette> "Oui… well… Marina has something like wings. Il n'est pas simple, vous savez?" A long pause. "Et… oui, because they believe there is a spy amongst the town, telling the Novgoraadi our location. They…" Tears well up again. "I mean… our superior officer, not the other filles, believes me to be the spy."
[22:18:05] <Henriette> "Mais non! I would never betray Albaea!"
[22:25:43] <~Oxford> Angela nods quickly, and leans in closer. "Oh, I believe you. No offense, but you're probably the first person someone would suspect, so you'd be an awful spy." Her next words come quickly, with a note of conspiratorial excitement to them. "I've lived here my whole life, and I don't think there's any of the regular townfolk who'd want to betray you, either. They're good people, and loyal. But…"
[22:28:44] <Henriette> … Vaughn must be really fucking dumb. Or a devout believer in Occam's Razor. "So is the spy fictif? Er… not actual?" Henriette's eyes turn to Angela's hopefully, and her body tenses, as if any moment she might jump at Angela, arms outstretched. It's a distinct possibility, even.
[22:34:19] <~Oxford> Angela frowns and shakes her head distractedly. "Lately, I've been seeing this strange guy hanging around town. He never talks to anyone, and nobody knows his name or anything." Her hands rise to her chest as she speaks, clenched in excitement. "People say he's a tourist or something, but he comes in the middle of the work-week and he's been here at least three times in the last month."
[22:35:54] <~Oxford> "And! I bumped into him once intentionally, and when he said 'excuse me'," she pauses, for dramatic effect, "he had a Nov accent!"
[22:37:15] <Henriette> "Really?" A hopeful and naive grin attaches itself to her face. "And this- That must be him!" And in that moment, Henriette's arms are firmly entrenched around Angela's shoulders, nose buried in the crook of her neck. "Merci, madame! Merci! If… if I could get into the Colonel's good graces, perhaps the wheels would begin to spin in my direction!"
[22:41:06] <~Oxford> "I…don't think that's a real idiom…" Angie says to herself, muffled by Henriette's embrace. "If it'd help you out, I'll come get you next time I see him." She does her best to gently pry Henriette off of her.
[22:45:03] <Henriette> Henriette isn't budging. "Oui! Oui! Merci, Angela!" Her right hand flexes instinctively. "Ma main droite… I will find a way to make it up to you!" Finally, her embrace is released as she looks over Angela's clothes. "A dress? I could make one for you! You could impress Kevin, ma belle~"
[22:49:24] <~Oxford> "I'd like that," she says, once she can get enough air to take a breath. "Er, that reminds me, I have something for you," she says before another squeeze renders her speechless again.
[22:51:04] <Henriette> "Oui?" Henriette allows Angela her space, though a large part of her wants to hang on and not let go.
[22:56:19] <~Oxford> "Of course. I wasn't walking over to your house just for exercise." The peach blossoms glint golden as a ray of sunlight manages to make it down through the clouds and dance across the orchard. "When I told Dirk I was skipping today, he asked me to bring this to you."
[22:56:31] <~Oxford> She pulls out a thick envelop from the fold of her apron, staring at it with undisguised curiosity and x-ray intensity. "He seemed embarassed about something…"
[23:01:29] <Henriette> The golden light shines behind Angela, and for a moment, Henriette is convinced she has been greeted by an actual angel. "Mon ange…" she murmurs, awed. "Merci!" Excitedly, she takes the envelope, and, without much patience, begins to open it across the top with a nail.
[23:09:59] <~Oxford> Henriette unfolds the letter, and two more pieces of paper - her own previous letter, and the one of his that she sent with it - fall out. As her gaze follows them, it catches Angie, staring unabashedly over Henriette's shoulder. She flushes suddenly. The peach blossoms glow like a thousand pink candleflames against the dull gray sky.
[23:10:52] <~Oxford> "Ah! Heh…" she exclaims, laughing nervously. "I should let you go, then. Take care!"
[23:11:53] <Henriette> Henriette, of course, is likely as beet red as Angela is, though not out of embarrassment at having her mail read so much as having read her own mail. "O-oui… take care, ma belle… Come soon so I can take measurements?"
[23:18:49] <~Oxford> "Ah. Oui," Angie says quietly, backing away. She steps back through the nearest row of peach trees, passing behind a veil of orange-pink flowers, stained dark by the dew. The air is hot and wet and close, like a fever, or a lover's embrace beneath an umbrella.
[23:19:13] <~Oxford> /mini