Best Laid Plans
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters from TLW (wish I did), nor do I own the Araweté, I just borrowed them. I have since returned the TLW characters and the Araweté are not as I portrayed them. See my endnotes for more information.
Dedicated to: My beautiful and wonderfully talented evil twin - Ryalin. Love ya twinny!
Slowly turning onto her back after waking up, the dark-haired heiress realized what had pulled her from her dream - laughter. She could hear Veronica and Finn laughing, and hearing their laughter brought back the memory of her dream. It had been about the time when she was around 12 or 13 when the other girls in the convent told her why they allowed her to be seen with them. She remembered how hurt she'd been when they'd told her it was only because she had money. She remembered how ashamed and embarrassed she'd felt because everyone knew she had been adopted after being orphaned, but they never saw her adoptive family.
I suppose I should get up. If I don't someone will undoubtedly come torture me, Marguerite thought to herself as she stretched and slowly got out of bed. Once dressed the fiery woman buried the melancholy she was feeling and went upstairs.
"Sleeping beauty awakes," Roxton, commented when he noticed the familiar dark curly head emerging from below.
When she passed him, Marguerite gave him a rather weak smile. Roxton stifled rueful grin thinking, Best say nothing more now, old boy, or risk her wrath. He knew better than to interrupt her when she was headed for coffee.
As Marguerite sat down at the table, Veronica and Finn entered the room, giggling. They were both wet from swimming. It had become routine for the two younger women to swim in the morning. Marguerite eyed them as she sipped her coffee. As soon as the jungle girl and her younger companion sat down to eat, the enigmatic heiress thought to herself, It's too bloody early to be that cheerful, as she got up to leave. Before she could get far, a hand on her arm halted her retreat.
"You didn't eat much," a familiar husky whisper reached her ear.
Without turning to face the voice, "I'm not that hungry. I have a lot of mending to catch up on," she replied, motioning to the pile of clothing near the balcony.
"Is anything the matter?"
"No, it's just the sooner I get this done, the better." With that Marguerite walked to the pile of clothing and took a few of the items to the balcony to get started. She sat out there for a few seconds just staring out at the sky. After a while she sensed someone was watching her. No doubt it's John. Worried that something is bothering me, the mysterious beauty thought to herself as she started the mending.
The dark-haired lord wondered what was troubling the woman who owned his heart. She had seemed so happy while they were at the beach but now, since they had been back; he'd noticed that the happiness was beginning to fade. Roxton knew if he pushed Marguerite to reveal what had her so down they would only end up arguing. The hunter decided he would wait until his ladylove was ready to talk. He elected to clean his guns while he bided his time.
Meanwhile Finn and Veronica could be heard making plans to go visit Assai and do some trading with the Zangas. As the adventurer sat cleaning his Webleys, he couldn't help but notice Marguerite watching the two younger women out of the corner of her eye. They hadn't noticed, as they were too busy making plans. Roxton didn't miss that, once she realized someone was watching her, the older woman turned her back to the other inhabitants of the Treehouse and continued working. The handsome explorer continued cleaning his guns while listening to Veronica and Finn make their plans.
"We should leave at first light tomorrow; that way we'll have plenty of time to find a good spot to camp overnight," the excited girl from the future suggested.
"Finn, why are you always in such a hurry?" Veronica asked, laughing.
"What? You're not excited to go?" Finn asked, looking at her older cohort.
"In a way I guess I am, but I've been to the village many times, so I know how long it takes and where all the good camping spots are," the jungle beauty stated.
While the two blondes continued making their plans, the good-looking hunter, stopped tending his weapons as an idea came to him. His eyes widened as he rapidly turned it over in his mind, carefully considering every aspect. Yes, that might possibly work! He paused a moment more, as he thought about what might happen if it didn't work. But he had little choice; he had to try.
Making sure the fiery heiress was out of earshot, Roxton moved to the other end of the table where Finn and Veronica sat.
"Ladies, I hate to interrupt but I couldn't help but overhear your plans to go visit Assai," he whispered, wanting to insure that Marguerite wouldn't hear him. If she finds out I suggested this, there will be hell to pay, he thought. He turned to make sure she wasn't watching.
"Hiya, big guy. Vee wants to go see Assai again before the rainy season starts," Finn told the man she had come to see as an older brother.
"I see. Sounds like fun."
"Would you like to come with us? The more the merrier," the older blonde offered.
"No thank you, but I have a feeling that someone else might like to go along," the dark-haired lord said, motioning towards a certain fellow inhabitant sitting on the balcony.
Veronica and Finn followed his gaze. "Aw, man, if she comes she'll complain the whole way. You know she will," the younger woman muttered.
"Finn, she might not," Roxton admonished. He had realized while watching Marguerite watch the two younger women that their closeness might be what had the usually confident woman so down. He thought maybe she was feeling left out. Even he had noticed that, ever since Finn had appeared, Veronica and the young girl had become closer and closer.
"You want us to invite her?" Veronica questioned when she realized what Roxton was hinting at.
Roxton gave Veronica his trademark "Cheshire cat" grin. "That is the idea, but don't let her know I had anything to do with it."
Finn rolled her eyes as Veronica laughed. "Ok, I'll go talk to her."
When Marguerite had mentioned the mending; she really wasn't in the mood to work. She had just used it as an excuse to keep Roxton from questioning her on what was wrong. Then Finn and Veronica started making plans. She wasn't about to invite herself along knowing how close those two had gotten. Instead she did what she did best, retreated into herself and away from the one person in the house who could read her like a book. Little did she know he had already figured out what was troubling her. Lost in her own thoughts, the older woman didn't notice the footsteps getting closer to her.
Veronica cleared her throat when she realized her approach didn't alert Marguerite to her presence. "Marguerite, I was wondering if you'd like to go with me and Finn tomorrow to the Zanga village."
The heiress kept working, pretending she didn't hear what the young jungle woman had said. This caused Veronica to move into Marguerite's light.
"Do you mind?" the dark-haired woman quipped without looking up.
"I asked you a question. Didn't you hear me?"
"I heard you."
"Well?" Veronica asked leaning against the rail.
"Well what?" the enigmatic lady replied.
"Would you like to go with us or not?"
"Why would I? You're only asking because Roxton asked you to," Marguerite said as she set down the shirt she had been mending.
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are. Honestly, Roxton couldn't whisper if his life depended on it," the fiery woman exclaimed as she got up and crossed to her room.
Veronica watched her go; dumbfounded that Marguerite could have heard the conversation between her and Roxton. She walked back to the table where Roxton was sitting and sat down.
"She's bluffing and you know it," he whispered.
"Am I?" Marguerite called from her room.
"How does she do that?" Finn wondered aloud.
"Roxton, she most likely read someone's lips," the redheaded scientist commented as he entered the room.
"How could she? My back was turned to her," the young lord protested.
"You forget my boy, she was a spy," Challenger smiled.
"No way could she have read our lips from the balcony," the youngest member of the group stated, disbelieving.
"She might have. She'll never tell us though. No wonder she's upset with me," Roxton said, as he watched the heiress retreat to her room.
"Roxton, I'll talk to her. You, Challenger, and Finn can work on another plan if this one backfires," Veronica said as she headed towards her friend's room.
Why would they think I'd want to join them? I know when I'm not wanted, Marguerite thought, sitting on her bed. There was a knock on the doorframe.
"May I come in?"
"It's your Treehouse."
Pushing aside the curtain that served as the door, Veronica entered the room. Marguerite's back was to the doorway, and she didn't turn around
"Marguerite why won't you come with us?"
"Would you have asked me to join you if Roxton hadn't prompted you?" the brunette asked, turning to look at her young friend. Veronica regarded Marguerite for a few seconds as she tried to figure out what was bothering her friend.
"I might have. You could have asked to join us, you know," she suggested as she sat on the bed.
"No, I couldn't." Marguerite said quietly.
"Yes, you could have."
"Not really. You and Finn wouldn't want me slowing you down. Besides, you know how much I dislike hiking and camping," the dark-haired woman stated.
She turned so that Veronica couldn't see her face. She didn't want Veronica to know how left out she was feeling. Before Finn came along, Marguerite had hoped that she and Veronica would continue to grow closer. She was loath to admit it to herself, much less to anyone else, but she truly missed having a good friend.
"Come on, Marguerite, go with us. You can help Finn pick out some fabric for some new clothes," Veronica suggested.
"I didn't know she wanted new clothes. I thought she was perfectly happy in the ones she has."
"She is, but I've managed to convince her that having a change or two of clothing for back-up is a good idea. She was supposed to come talk to you about helping her with making them," the jungle woman added, gauging her friend's reaction.
"Figures. Why am I always the last to know when you all want something from me?" Marguerite groaned. The thought of helping Finn wasn't what bothered her. It was the fact that Finn hadn't come and asked her. Marguerite just chalked it up to Finn being more interested in "playing" than worrying about clothing.
"Well she was supposed to come talk to you. I take it she hasn't," Veronica said, smiling a little. Marguerite might be complaining…but she was at least looking a little happier than she had earlier. "You know, I think I heard Roxton mentioning to Challenger the other day that his birthday was coming up soon," the jungle beauty added for good measure.
Marguerite turned to look at the young woman, "Really?"
"Yes. I seem to recall overhearing them as they left to go hunting. I think you were still sleeping," Veronica responded.
Marguerite hesitated a bit before speaking again. "Are you sure you wouldn't mind me coming along?"
"Of course not. It will be fun. Just the three of us, no men to worry about or clean up after for a few days," Veronica answered, smiling.
"I guess I should pack then, right?" Marguerite said, pulling her pack down from where it hung on her wall.
"I guess so. I'll go tell Finn that you're coming along." Veronica offered getting up.
"Tell her I'll try not to complain too much," Marguerite added sarcastically.
"You heard her? I'm sure she didn't mean it."
"Yes she did. I don't think she likes me much."
"Why do you think that?" Veronica asked.
Marguerite shrugged and started packing, signaling to her young friend that she didn't want to talk any more. Veronica left the room to let the others know Marguerite would be going with her and Finn in the morning.
The rest of the evening went without any problems and dinner was rather quiet…since Marguerite wasn't talking to Roxton and he knew better than to try to get her to talk to him. He knew she was upset with him for letting Veronica and Finn know she was feeling left out. But he just wanted to see her happy again.
The others tried to make conversation to cover the silence emanating from the older couple. Soon they gave up and dinner was finished in silence. Marguerite excused herself and went to her room, mentioning something about turning in early since they would be leaving at first light.
As she was getting ready for bed, Marguerite heard footsteps coming closer to her room. That will be Roxton trying to apologize, she thought as she sat brushing her hair. He was standing in the doorway watching her and she knew it. She continued to ignore the handsome lord. The fiery heiress decided to make him think she was really upset with him. Maybe that will teach him to keep his mouth shut, she thought as she set her brush down and crossed to her bed.
Finally Roxton worked up enough nerve to knock on the doorframe. "Marguerite, we need to talk."
"Oh really? About what?" Marguerite feigned innocence as she leisurely slipped under the covers.
"You know about what. I didn't mean…"
"Roxton, it's late and I have to get up early. Can we talk about this some other time?" she asked.
"Are you upset?" Roxton responded, already knowing the answer.
"Good night, Roxton," the weary fortune huntress whispered while closing her eyes.
He wasn't sure how long he stood there; hoping that she would look at him and tell him everything was all right. Even with her eyes closed, she could sense that he was still in her room, wondering when he would leave. When the perplexed nobleman finally left the mahogany tressed woman realized she had been holding her breath, waiting for him to leave.
After making sure Roxton was asleep, Marguerite quietly slipped out to the balcony where she had left the pile of mending and retrieved one red and white striped shirt. It had seen better days and it gave the heiress an idea of just what to give the handsome lord for his birthday. Once she had her prize in hand, the brunette returned to her room, stuffed the shirt in the bottom of her pack, and crawled into bed.
Continued in Chapter 2