Mal pulled her car in to her drive and turned off the engine with a sigh. She'd hit a bit of traffic on the way back; the very beginning of rush hour. That was what she had hated about the city. Everyone, everywhere, and always wanting to be somewhere else as fast as possible.
She climbed out of the car and headed to the door, swirling her keys around her finger. She guessed she had some time before Aurora came over; Phillip was usually back from school and being given tea around this time. She thought that she probably had until Stephan had come back to relax. A nice shower would do the trick. After a run? No, she didn't want to run today. it was still hot and she didn't fancy sweating any more than she had to.
Upstairs Mal slipped in to the shower, sighing in relief as the warm water slid over her shoulders. Driving in the city always stressed her out; she liked the long country roads where she could put her car to the test. She closed her eyes and let the water run through her hair.
When Mal climbed out of the shower and had dried herself she put her sound system on for the first time since she'd moved to the suburbs, and smiled when one of her favourites played first.
"I put a spell on you..." She murmured the beginning of the song, "because you're mine. You better stop the things you do.... I ain't lying..." She turned on the balls of her feet and headed towards her wardrobe for something to wear to relax that evening. "You know I can't stand it, you're running around-" There was a knock at the door and Mal froze. She wasn't even dressed!
She quickly threw on her underwear from before, a black tank top and her rolled up jeans. Then she made her way downstairs, trying not to look panicked. The music still played, loudly, upstairs and Mal wished she'd turned it off. She opened the door, her hair dripping a little on to her arms and top, and was met with Aurora's smile.
"Hi." The girl said breathily, as though she had run over here. "I'm not interrupting dinner or something am I?"
"No, no... I haven't eaten yet."
"Oh. Good." Aurora smiled. "I brought some more cake over if you'd like it?" She had a canvas bag over her arm.
"Trying to fatten me up?" Mal teased, smiling, as she stepped back and invited Aurora in.
"Well you are very thin." Aurora replied, smiling as she stepped past Mal, who couldn't help but breathe a little deeper as the smell of roses filled her nostrils.
"So are you." Mal prompted, closing the door and stepping around Aurora, who seemed to have frozen as she looked around. Mal bit her lip. She didn't often have visitors, except for Diaval, no matter where she had lived, but this place felt so like home that she felt she was baring her soul in front of this girl. Young woman, Mal reminded herself.
"It's even lovelier than I thought." Aurora smiled. "I didn't really pay attention when Phillip was missing."
Mal ducked her head and smiled.
"Thank you. How is Phillip?" She strode past Aurora as the song from upstairs finished.
"He's... Oh," The next song had come on. "Phillip is good. I love this song." She followed Mal in to the kitchen and took out the cake, wrapped in foil, and placed it on the island.
"Birds flying high, you know how I feel." Aurora sang lightly and quietly along as Mal took plates out of a cupboard. She froze, hearing the voice, which was more beautiful in song than when she spoke. She smiled at Aurora when she turned, and the blonde blushed gently and shook her head. "Sorry."
"No... you have a lovely voice." Mal put two plates out on the counter and sat on one of the stools. Aurora hesitated.
"You didn't have to-"
"Sit. Unless you have to be quick?" Mal asked, worried that she was being too friendly.
"No... no I don't." Aurora smiled and sat down. "As long as I'm not inconveniencing you?"
"Not at all. I would like the company." Mal replied. Since when did she want company? Goodness if this place wasn't changing everything she thought she knew about herself and she'd only been there two weeks. Mal cut the cake, not chocolate this time, and put two slices out, focussing on it more than she normally would have. "Fork?" She asked.
"Please." Aurora said and took one from Mal's outstretched hand. "Thank you."
"So where did you learn to sing like that?" Mal asked.
"Oh." Aurora blushed again. "I didn't... well... that is..."
"Are you alright?" Mal asked, smiling. The blonde looked positively flustered.
"Yes I just... I didn't learn. I just sort of... do it."
"Quite a talent."
"You've heard me sing one line."
"I'd like to hear more." Mal almost smacked herself. "Do you sing anywhere?"
"I used to sing in church." Aurora said. Of course, Mal thought.Of course you did; you're basically an angel. Blonde hair, beautiful voice, kind.... "But then my mother... I haven't really sung since."
"I'm sorry." Mal frowned, deciding to change the subject. "Well, hopefully another time. I doubt they'd let me in to a church."
"Why not?" Aurora frowned.
"One of my nicknames, the ones Diaval was telling you about? It was the Mistress of all Evil." She grinned.
"I can't imagine that. You're so lovely."
Mal almost choked on her cake.
"I don't think anyone has ever called me that before. I must be getting soft in my old age."
"You're not old!" Aurora cried, laughing.
"How would you know?"
"You can't be older than..." Aurora studied her.
"Be careful Aurora. I assure you my nickname is well deserved." Mal steepled her fingers and quirked an eyebrow, adopting her sternest face despite her lips twitching in a smile.
"You must be in your twenties." Aurora said. Mal laughed.
"How kind! No dear, I am thirty two."
"But that's not old at all!" Aurora smiled. "I don't think you have it in you to be evil. Although you did play a convincing Evil Queen for Phillip."
"I'm sure my old colleagues would disagree with you. I barely saw them for the four years I worked there. If they saw me coming they'd suddenly remember something in the opposite direction."
Aurora giggled and shook her head.
"Well then they missed out on a good friend."
"You barely know me Aurora." Mal rolled her eyes.
"I can always tell when someone is good or not. You might hide behind your Evil Queen mask, but I think you're nice."
"Nice!" Mal hissed, as though the word truly offended her. She liked teasing Aurora. "The girl calls me nice! I will summon the forces of hell and-" Aurora was laughing, clutching her stomach, and Mal lowered her arms from where she'd thrust them, as if she was performing a spell. "What? What are you laughing at?"
"You." Aurora chuckled again.
"Maybe I really am losing my touch." Mal joked. "I'll have to get it back before work starts."
"I'm sure a few games of make believe with Phillip will give you all the practice you need." Aurora smiled.
"Maybe." Mal bit her lip to tame her smile.
Aurora suddenly jumped a little in her seat, and reached for the canvas bag.
"I almost forgot." She pulled out a smaller bag and handed it over. "This is for you."
"What...?" Mal opened the bag and smiled. "Oh."
"I'm sorry it took a little while. I wanted to get the same edition."
"You..." Mal tried and had to start again. "Thank you. You didn't have to, really."
"Well technically, Phillip did it. It did come out of his pocket money. But between you and I, he gets too much anyway." Aurora smiled, and leant her chin on her hands, her elbows supporting her as they perched on the table.
"Well I shall have to thank Phillip." Mal smiled, running her finger over the book. Jane Eyre, returned to her.
"You really love it don't you?"
"Then I'm glad I could bring it back. It's not quite as well loved, so you might want to get reading." She giggled again and Mal smiled. "Maybe we can discuss it at some point? I've been reading it too."
"I would like that."
"I'd say now but I've already kept you so long that your hair's begun to dry."
"Another time then... soon?" Mal hesitated in sounding so eager but the evening had been so pleasant that she couldn't wait for a repeat. "I was thinking of hanging up some fairy lights in the garden... maybe you could give me some pointers?" She smiled.
"That sounds lovely." Aurora bit her lip and Mal dragged her eyes from those lips after only a quick second of staring. Stop.
"It's settled then."
"Maybe tomorrow... if Stephan doesn't stay out too late?"
"Alright." Aurora beamed and stood up and Mal followed suit, realising the woman was leaving. "I should get back to tuck Phillip in to bed."
"Of course. I imagine that could take quite a while."
"You have no idea." Aurora chuckled as they headed for the door. "Well, goodnight Mal."
They paused, looking at each other, and Mal wondered whether Aurora wanted to say something else. Instead, the blonde reached forward and hugged her. Mal was so shocked she didn't even let go of the door; the blonde drew away before Mal could even think about enclosing the girl in her arms too.
"Thank you for tonight. I had fun." The blonde beamed, and then turned and disappeared down the path, leaving Mal staring after her in bewilderment. After a moment or two she managed to close the door, and leant against it, sucking in a deep breath.
"I am so screwed." She muttered finally. Then, taking the new copy of Jane Eyre with her, she retired to bed and tried not to dwell on Aurora Rose.