"How has your first week been?" Diaval asked as he settled in to the arm chair next to the window.
"Good." Mal sighed, curling up in the chair opposite. "Tiring."
"And your friend?"
"Aurora is not going to be a problem."
"So you asked for her to be given a new supervisor?"
"No. Why would I? The girl likes winding me up and teasing but that's no reason to run for the hills."
"Alright, whatever you think is best."
"Diaval, I feel like I should resent your lack of trust in me."
"Not at all Mal. I have a great amount of trust in you. Just not in your ability to always fall for the wrong person."
"I'm really not in the mood for this Di. Can we just have a nice relaxing time?"
"Sure. You're making me feel old though."
"We are old."
"No. You're only as old as you feel. And according to a few of my students they'd like to feel you."
"I think a couple of mine are the same."
"Well you did rather step it up after that night out."
"I had to."
"You know your mask isn't really protecting you if you don't want people to like you. I mean most people think you're terrifying and gorgeous. You're going to end up with a group of followers who want you to-"
"Di, seriously. This is my safe space. Stop."
"Yes, well. I can tell things are different here." He replied, looking at her jeans and baggy black jumper. "No scary mistress of evil today huh?"
"Nope. Just comfort and tea." She picked up the mug next to her and wrapped her hands around it to take a sip.
"Good. I do love this place Mal. I think you'll love it here."
"I already do." Mal smiled, sipping her drink. "So, your visit has nothing to do with me telling you that Bella is coming round for lunch?"
"Nope. Is she? I can't remember you telling me that." Diaval feigned innocence.
"Sure lover boy. Just be yourself. I don't want to have to watch you being sappy while I eat. I'll lose my appetite."
"Shut up." He snorted. "I'm amazing and never soppy."
"Uh huh." Mal smirked.
There was a knock on the door.
"Do you want me to get the door?" Di jumped up.
"Sure lover boy. If you want to look desperate."
"Sit down idiot." He sat. "I'll get it."
Mal went to the door and opened it.
"Hey Mal." Bella grinned.
"Hey. Come in. We have a third for lunch; I hope you don't mind. I made enough for more anyway."
"Sure, who is..." Bella stepped in and Di appeared.
"Hey Bella, good to see you again."
"Diaval... You look... I mean it's nice to see you too." She smiled and Diaval grinned even harder.
"You look wonderful."
"Thank you, I just... well you do too."
Mal rolled her eyes and chuckled.
"Di, why not show Bella round the house and garden while I finish up?"
"Great, yeah, if you'd like that Bella?"
"I would love to." She giggled.
"Like two teenagers." Mal muttered once they'd gone outside. She busied herself getting the food out of the fridge and warming some bread. As she finished the two returned.
"Your house is lovely Mal." Bella grinned.
"Thank you. Would you like to eat here or in the garden?"
"Oh it's a lovely day; why not the garden?" Bella replied.
"Sure. Grab the stuff and I'll get a blanket. I really need to get some chairs and a table for out there."
"Oh that'd be lovely! You could have a party, like the one Stephan had when we met."
"Sure." Mal fidgeted. She wasn't sure she knew enough people for a party.
"Yeah, invite the neighbours and you'll get to know them! And people from work maybe?" Bella grinned, trying to be helpful. Di laughed.
"Most people at work have already started running from her. She's strict as hell there."
"Oh. Well maybe you ought to let them see how nice you are really?" Bella smiled.
"I'm not sure that's advisable." Mal shrugged. "Go, take the food. I'll be with you in a minute."
The two left, carrying as much as they could, while Mal found two blankets and took them and the rest of the food out.
"I love it here." Bella smiled as she handed Diaval a glass of wine.
"Thank you. Yes, Mal chose well."
"Well, I just liked it. Fell in love with it."
"And you have settled so well! I mean the way you were with Phillip at that party, and Aurora seems to like you! We don't get to see them much."
"Why not?" Mal asked, curious.
"Well..." Bella suddenly fidgeted. "I mean... you saw how Stephan can be. He's lovely most of the time I just... I wonder if that's the face he shows when it's just him and the kids."
"You think there's something wrong there?" Mal frowned. "Why haven't you reported it?"
"Well, they haven't been there much longer than you and I don't really know them. Stephan seems sociable; he's had a couple of parties since they moved here. But he gets a little... brisk? With Aurora. And she never looks very happy with him. I suppose she just misses her mother, poor thing."
"She's an adult though." Diaval reasoned. "She would leave if something were wrong, wouldn't she?"
"I... yes. Probably." Bella shook her head and smiled. "Anyway, let's not pry in to other people's lives." She took a sip of wine. "Mmm, delicious."
Bella and Di chatted, but Mal was frowning at the trees that barred her view from her neighbours house. Maybe something really was wrong. It would explain Aurora's behaviour changes when Stephan was around, or even mentioned...