New Year’s Kiss
By Midii Une
Lady Une gave the smaller girl a gentle shove, smiling benevolently down on her reluctant Cinderella. New Year’s Eve, a time to make amends, to right past wrongs and strive toward the gracefulness he so desired to see in her. Her growing maternal interest in Mariemaia promised to be its own reward, the little girl would need lavish love and attention as she worked toward the full recovery the doctors promised in time. And then there was the launching of her young, impoverished cousin into her rightful place as an Une topped her agenda as After Colony 197 approached.
Outside the window a small white star twinkled gently and a slow smile curved her lips as her long, delicate fingers played wistfully with the ends of her satiny-brown hair. Her little cousin Midii stood hesitantly, looking over her shoulder at her newfound fairy godmother for reassurance only to find her far away in a dream of her own.
How well Midii knew that dreamy look, that distant gaze and part of her resented Lady Une for prodding her back into the world of reality. It was too late to do any good now, she had seen and done too much to make her personality revert back to its former innocence so it would match the angelic appearance of the reflection of herself she saw every time she passed a mirror-like surface.
Sensing her older cousin would be no further help tonight, entranced as she was by the distant star, Midii felt free to disappear into the anonymity of the crowd and douse her memories and lost dreams in the sparkling champagne that flowed freely and was passed in sparkling crystal glasses by an army of black-clad waiters . . .
. . . If she let her vision blur the battalion of servers could almost become an army of black space Tauruses. The slender blonde jerked her head away and reached for a glass of champagne, lifting her head in surprise as another hand reached for the same glass and they found themselves at an impasse. Dorothy Catalonia scowled down at the shorter girl, accustomed to deference from lesser beings and was surprised by an equally determined lift of the chin and defiance shimmering in the luminous gray-blue eyes that met her lavender ones without fear.
Instantly Dorothy took the measure of her opponent and shrugged, loosening her fingers from the slender glass stem and signaling a waiter to bring her a glass from a fresh bottle.
“They say champagne that sits loses it’s flavor every second,” she said smugly, taking a dainty sip of the freshly poured, ice-cold liquid.
The other girl smiled wryly. “I never heard that,” she said softly. “And I was raised in the shadow of the famous vineyards in Champagne.”
“Peasants may know how to grow grapes,” Dorothy bit back. “But they don’t know the first thing about drinking wine.”
A shadow dimmed Midii’s eyes. Was even small talk with some obnoxious aristocrat to be forever colored by memories of the past? Her father had been no peasant, but rather the disgraced alcoholic son of the noble Une family and he had certainly known too well how to drink wine. She let the glass slip from her fingers, barely hearing the satisfying smash of crystal on marble, barely hearing the taller girl’s exclamation of annoyance as the golden liquid spattered her expensive dress.
Dorothy watched the girl in innocent and pure white satin disappear without a word of apology. Anger boiled up inside her and curiosity too. The girl’s eyes didn’t match the image the face and the dress projected. She felt so restless, the adrenaline rush of the happenings on Christmas Eve, the short-lived battle with Dekim Barton’s forces and her own part played in it fading fast and leaving her alone again with her regrets.
A murmur ran through the crowd and Dorothy gulped her champagne quickly. Her eyes were drawn instantly to Miss Relena, whose face glowed as she hurried to the doorway to greet her knights. All five so handsome and noble in the traditional dress of Cinq. She was no coward, no one could call Dorothy Catalonia a coward, but every good commander knew when it was time to retreat. She denied herself even a glimpse of the boy whose halo of platinum waves shimmered beneath the sparkling lights and withdrew into a small, hidden chamber behind a satin curtain.
Her full lower lip jutted in an annoyed pout. She was there already, curled cozily in a huge rose velvet armchair, heedless of the wrinkles her posture was creating in the sumptuous fabric of her dress. Dorothy wondered if the girl was consciously posing, she looked as pretty as a picture there, the deep rose sash of her dress perfectly matching the chair and loose ringlets of pale blonde hair framing her face.
Midii ruined the portrait she painted of serenity and girlish beauty by lifting a champagne bottle to her lips and taking a deep gulp of the bubbly liquid, she awkwardly wiped her lips with the back of her hand. Her eyes narrowed as she heard the definite sound of derisive laughter from the doorway. Still she was relieved it wasn’t cousin Anne to find her like this she would be so disappointed.
“You owe me an apology,” Dorothy challenged, anxious for a distraction from the young man who had dominated her thoughts for more than a year. His charitable words and honorable actions fresh in her memory although it had been a year, no a year and six days since she had seen his face.
“Hmm, I’m as bad as that pathetic Lucrezia Noin, so smitten with Zechs she counted the minutes they were apart,” Dorothy thought, but she looked to the skies beyond the tall glass windows that framed the silent Midii’s chair. Lucrezia was happy at last though, shuttling off to Mars with her one true love and Dorothy fancied she could see their shuttle far away in space, shimmering like a fast-moving star. Lucy had always vowed Milliardo wasn’t dead, her heart had been right. If only she, Dorothy, could be so sure of her own feelings.
“What are you hiding from,” Midii asked, her eyes watching Dorothy knowingly as her question pulled the other girl from her romantic thoughts.
“I could ask you the same,” Dorothy asked and feeling suddenly devoid of energy and the odd feeling of hope the thoughts of Noin and Zechs’ happy ending had given her, sank into the chair opposite the other girl.
Midii’s face took on the visage of a dark little storm cloud and anger bubbled. Anger that no one could ever understand what she had faced in the war. No one here could know what poverty had driven her to. What could this rich and pampered girl know of her pain?
Dorothy held out her glass and Midii arched a brow, but refilled it from the bottle she held.
The champagne she drank dissolved Dorothy’s natural reticence and she spoke at last.
“I must confess I’m hiding from him,” she sighed, her voice soft as his face came unbidden to her mind, turquoise eyes gleaming at her with interest and sincere sympathy that she would have been unable to abide from no other human but when it came from him was suddenly welcome and oddly comforting.
“Ah,” said Midii softly, wondering if she ever saw Nanashi again if she would hide as well. No matter, he was gone forever and here she sat with some spoiled rich girl who played hide and seek no doubt in some paltry lovers’ game. She took another long sip of the champagne, again wiping the excess moisture from her lip with her fingers but this time somewhat more delicately in deference to the fact she was no longer alone.
“I suppose I’m hiding because I don’t belong here. My cousin thinks I do but I don’t, not just because my father was the family disgrace but because of what I’ve done as well. I’m not sorry I did it, my family made it through and my brothers deserve this chance that Lady Une has given us,” Midii said.
Dorothy giggled wondering what the sweet little thing across from her could possibly have done that rivaled her sins. She took another drink, letting the champagne warm her insides before raising her eyes to the other girl’s shining ones.
“Let me tell you a story Miss Midii,” Dorothy said, remembering the rumors now about Lady Une’s poor little cousin and leaning forward slightly. “Once upon a time there was a little girl who grew up in a beautiful and perfect world, she had everything money could buy and a papa who doted on her. She loved her papa so very, very much and her pride in the fact that he was an important soldier was not the least of the reasons why she loved him. She loved war and she loved her father but when war killed her father what was she to do? She couldn’t hate war because without her father there would be nothing left to love, except for battle. Those people out there don’t understand, no one understands, except for one.”
“Then why are you hiding from him,” Midii asked simply, feeling a bit ashamed that she had fallen prey to the selfish feeling that only she had suffered in the war. She knew so well that that wasn’t true. Nanashi had taught her that.
“I don’t want to,” Dorothy confessed, her voice almost too soft to be heard by her companion. “How can you understand, I almost killed him, it was only accident that I didn’t and still he forgave me, he understood. I knew in that moment that he and I were the same. How can you understand, how can anyone?”
Quatre sighed as he saw Trowa disappear behind a draped satin curtain into one of the little alcoves that lined the ballroom. He shook his head a little in sadness and a bit in familiar amusement. This kind of gathering was close to torture for his stoic friend. He was rather disappointed too, Miss Relena had said Dorothy would be here and he so longed to speak with her. But she was nowhere in sight. He found himself pushing aside the curtain and following Trowa into the little room. Quatre spotted his friend leaning against the window, arms folded and eyes on the ground.
“Trowa,” Quatre asked suddenly, surprising even himself with the question, “what did you mean on Libra that night, when you said how sad it was for a woman to be unable to cry.”
Trowa was silent and Quatre prodded him. “Were you thinking of Cathy?”
Almost too quickly Trowa nodded, but he turned away from Quatre to look up at the stars. The stars sparkled like tears and he was assaulted by a memory from long ago.
“He left me behind and I wanted to be with him forever,” Midii finished, tears streaking her face as Dorothy stared at her, compelled with fascination by a story so like her own. Shocked by the pain of a little girl forced to choose between her family and the young boy who had saved her life. As always the war held its unimaginable horrors and surprises
“You did what you had to do,” she said. “You believe that don’t you?”
Midii found a napkin and dabbed at the tears that wet her cheeks, she nodded.
“Yes, I wouldn’t change what I did, I had no choice. But he couldn’t see that! He didn’t understand,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” Dorothy said. “Perhaps if you saw him again things would be different.”
“So, is he here tonight,” Midii asked simply, “the one you’ve spoken of?”
Dorothy nodded dumbly, the thought of him out there somewhere merely beyond the wall making her heartbeat almost audible.
Midii stood, wobbling slightly with emotion and too much champagne and went to the window. The palace clock tower showed the time was almost midnight.
“If he were here, my Nanashi, I’d go out there and find him tonight,” she said wistfully.
“I can’t,” Dorothy said, her voice uncharacteristically timid and small.
Midii turned on her like a small whirlwind and grasped both her hands.
“Please! For both our sakes, show me that at least someone’s dream can come true, it would be like a reason to keep believing. How can you hide in here when the one person in this world that understands you is just beyond that door,” she scolded. “My God Dorothy you commanded armies you can do this!”
Dorothy laughed, the tone both wistful and self-deprecating. “You win, I’m going,” she conceded, a high flush heating her cheeks and making her eyes sparkle prettily with hope and youth.
Midii gave her a lopsided smile and a little push of encouragement but Dorothy turned and pulled the other girl to her in a tight embrace.
“Thank you,” Dorothy said and disappeared behind the satin curtain.
Midii sighed and turned back to the window.
Quatre sighed and turned away from Trowa’s continued silence. Perhaps Dorothy had finally arrived, she seemed like the type to make a fashionably late entrance and he could picture mischief gleaming in those haughty lavender eyes of hers. Surely she wouldn’t be avoiding him when he wanted so much to see her again. Her words on Libra had touched his empathetic heart with feelings stronger than anyone ever had.
“Trowa--,” he started but he could tell his friend was lost in a reverie of his own and no amount of curiosity on his part would make the quiet soldier talk of things he wanted to keep private.
Quietly Quatre slipped from behind the curtain, his eyes landing on his target just as the lights started to dim in preparation of the New Year’s countdown.
As Quatre stepped out from behind the curtain Duo took notice of what he considered a vacancy and the exuberant American tugged on Hilde’s hand pulling her into the little room to celebrate New Year’s with her in private. Trowa scowled at the sudden, intrusive sound of happy voices. He moved silently to the little door hidden in the wall paneling bent on escape and he disappeared unnoticed into the adjoining alcove while Duo and Hilde fell giggling onto the velvet-upholstered couch just as the lights went out.
Midii stood alone in the darkness watching her own reflection in the window as a cacophony of voices chanted the New Year’s countdown.
10. . . 9 . . . 8 . . . 7. . . 6 . . . 5 . . . 4 . . . 3
Midii lifted her eyes to the window, her breath catching in her throat, a boy’s face was reflected there above hers on the dark glass. Her heart pounded as if he were real and her fingers reached to trace the image, the wild brush of hair of indiscriminate color because the window only reflected the dark, vague outline of him. A prince he seemed to her in the old-fashioned clothing straight from a fairy tale and she felt again like the Cinderella her cousin had compared her to as she dressed.
. . . 2
Dorothy restrained a shocked gasp as a warm pair of hands grasped her bare shoulders in the darkness and strands of soft, fine hair tickled her cheek. She could feel breath on her cheek and the heat from the stranger’s hands traveled along her cool skin like hot water streaming from a shower as she melted into the embrace that seemed somehow familiar.
Holding her close in his arms Quatre could feel her heartbeat pounding close to his chest. The soft fragrance of roses surrounded him, an old-fashioned variety that grew in only one garden in the whole world. He’d heard her telling Miss Relena that once, once upon a time in the Cinq Kingdom, in a room above the very ballroom where he held her now. He felt her heartache and her reluctance and made a New Year’s vow. Dorothy would not be an easy prize to win, but oh so worth it. A small taste of victory was so close, he sensed the nearness of her lips beneath his.
Dorothy Catalonia, his mind whispered as he covered her mouth with his in a gentle kiss.
Quatre Raber ba Winner, her heart answered although her mind denied it, as she wrapped her arms around his neck for a fleeting second.
. . . 1
Midii closed her eyes and touched her lips to the smooth cold glass, leaning her forehead against the soothing coolness as well, her thoughts a haze of champagne and the memories she had shared with Dorothy. The coldness of the glass burned against her lips and made her tingle as if she really kissed those phantom lips.
Happy New Year, voices screamed cheerfully. Dorothy’s eyes fluttered and she found herself alone, her lips throbbing from an anonymous New Year’s kiss.
“Happy New Year Nanashi,” Midii whispered, closing her eyes and laying her cheek against the icy glass, over the heart of the boy’s reflection in the window.
Trowa looked down silently on the small girl at the window as the lights came up, frozen in place by the name she spoke, that name that wasn’t a name at all.
Loose ringlets nestled on the soft white skin of her neck and her dark lashes brushed the delicate skin beneath her eyes as a crystal tear crept from beneath one of her lids and sparkled on her cheek. Any second now she would open her eyes and see him there. Midii. Midii, the mistress of sweet, endearing gestures that made you believe she was an angel.
A golden cross dangled before his eyes but he tore his glance away from the shining bauble to glance at her shy, downcast face. He shook himself almost visibly. She would open her eyes and turn to him and tell him she hated him. Hated him for leaving her, hated him for being free. He had imagined he could hate her too, although he had never second guessed his decision not to kill her for her betrayal those years ago. He knew instead he would keep the memory of seeing her again, the picture of her kissing his reflection in the silent recesses of his hidden heart.
Slowly Midii opened her eyes and looked at the window seeing there only her own reflection mirrored on the image of garden and fountains and stars beyond. He had disappeared in the light.
She took a deep breath and patted her hair, attempted to straighten her rumpled gown and ducked out behind the curtain into the lights of the ballroom. Her eyes scanned the room for Lady Une, she wanted to go home, it was past midnight and after her imagined kiss the rest of the evening would pale in comparison. She could still feel the cool smoothness of the windowpane beneath her lips.
At last she spotted her cousin across the floor, talking to a tall, handsome boy who leaned against the ornate paneling. As she stood watching them they turned to look at her, Lady Une smiled and held out a hand to her while placing the other gently on the boy’s arm to make him stay.
This year, Midii thought, as she walked slowly across the floor toward her future, I’ll find a way to tell you Nanashi.
(Happy New Year 2002—Go After Your Dreams!)