Mal put the bottles of wine on the table and stepped back, admiring her work.
"Oi loser, it looks great. You can stop organising like a house wife now."
"Shut up Di. I just want to have fun."
"Sure. So you invited people from the neighbourhood and me so you could mingle and learn about their lives and-"
"Shut up I know you're here to see Bella." Di opened and closed his mouth and decided it would be a good idea to shut up after all. On that particular subject anyway. "So when is everyone getting here?"
"In about ten minutes probably."
"Just enough time for you to change."
"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" Mal looked down at her loose black slacks and white shirt.
"You look like you're working."
"And not actually working because you have been looking way sexier at work recently. I mean obviously I know why, and I know why it's a seriously bad idea, but at least then you look ready for a party. Now you just look boring. I mean you have two more buttons than usual done up."
"I'm not trying to be sexy Di."
"At work or now? Because now you're succeeding."
"Oh shut up. I'll go and change if you be sociable with anyone who turns up."
"Fine." Di muttered, taking his feet off another chair and making himself presentable. "Go."
Mal rushed upstairs and slipped off her white shirt. She had spent the afternoon deciding what to wear so that she didn't look too sexy, and didn't look too casual and that was what she'd come up with. It was her own party, she chastised herself. She could wear what she wanted.
She could hear the music being turned on downstairs, and the voices of people arriving. She swore she could hear Phillip's high pitched giggle. And that meant... Ignoring the sudden speed of her heart beats, Mal pulled out the black jumpsuit she loved and laid it on the bed. She pulled off her slacks and slipped in to her new outfit. Then she put her phone in her pocket and went down stairs.
"Evil Qween!" Phillip pounced on her as soon as she walked through the door to the garden. She caught him and laughed, hoisting him up to sit on her hip.
"That's right, the Evil Queen is here!" She laughed and tickled him. "Has the Prince been behaving?"
Phillip nodded his head vigorously and giggled. Mal looked up from him and saw Aurora smiling at her. She blushed and looked back to Phillip who was tugging her necklace gently.
"Have you got cake?" He muttered curiously.
"I have several." Mal grinned. "But you have to eat some dinner first."
Phillip nodded his head again, so hard and fast that Mal thought his head might fall off. She lowered him to the floor as Bella appeared in front of her.
"Hey Mal. I'm so glad you're doing this."
"And Stephan's here." Bella whispered, glancing over at the man who stood next to Aurora, flashing his too-big grin at everyone. "Guess your argument wasn't too bad then?"
"I think he just didn't want to look bad in front of you all." Mal muttered back. "Would you like a glass of wine?"
"Please." Bella grinned. "Di did ask but then they arrived," she gestured to the other guests Di was talking to, "So he didn't really have a chance."
"Come on then." Mal chuckled, and they headed over to the bottles. Mal poured them both a glass and they clinked them together.
"Welcome to the neighbourhood Mal. I'm glad you came."
"If only because you've met Di." Mal winked. Bella blushed and took a gulp from her glass. "Don't worry, I get it."
"Have you two... you know?"
"Me and Di?" Mal laughed. "God no. He's like a brother. Gross."
"Thanks Mal." Diaval appeared. "Good to know someone is impervious to my devilish charms. If only because you're-"
"-Dival!" Phillip yelled as he appeared in their little group. "Hi!"
"Hey little buddy." Di grinned. "Come to slay the Evil Queen?"
Phillip gave him a serious look before he replied.
"Can't kill her! Rora says she's secwetly nice. Got to save her too."
"Secretly nice huh?" Di cast a smirk at Mal who elbowed him. "Did Aurora tell you how to save the Evil Queen?"
"She said we gots to show her we like her... and be nice." Phillip's brow furrowed in concentration. "But we don't have to pweetend, cos I really like her." He grinned up at Mal who ducked her head at all the attention and wished her hair was down, so that she could hide behind it.
"Well, well, looks like we've found your weakness Mal." Di chuckled.
"Shut up." She muttered. "I'm going to bring the food out."
"Need a hand?" Aurora appeared, smiling. "Hey everyone." She smiled at Mal gently.
"I'm sure she does." Di said quickly, before Mal could speak. "How nice of you Aurora."
"No problem." Aurora turned to head towards the door and Mal followed, glaring at Di as she did so. "So what needs doing?" Aurora asked as the kitchen door closed behind Mal.
"Everything is pretty much done. It just needs going out."
"Okay." Aurora picked up two of the bowls filled with salad and grapes. She went outside and Mal got the warm dishes from the oven. She was busy placing them on the island when Aurora returned. "Everyone is hungry apparently."
"Good." Mal smiled, then faltered. "Aurora?"
"Yes?" The blonde grinned at her as she went to pick up two dishes.
"Why did you tell your brother that you had to... save me?"
"Kids." Aurora huffed and smiled. "Can't keep a secret." Mal frowned and Aurora sighed, putting the dishes down. "It's not that I think you need saving. I just think you have this idea of yourself, because of all the things people have said about you... and I think you believe them. And you shouldn't because I've seen you be so kind and lovely and funny... you can't be both. If you were truly evil, you couldn't be the person who lets Phillip play in your garden, or hit you repeatedly with a wooden sword for the sake of an imaginary game." Mal inwardly cursed her decision to wear her hair up for the second time that evening. She turned to face the oven, away from Aurora, so she could hide her face. "And you wouldn't be reacting like this when I tell you that."
"I... hayfever. Terrible this time of year." Mal gulped.
"I'll get these dishes out." Aurora said softly, and left, giving Mal time to sort herself out.