When you pay court to the queen, you -only- pay court to the queen. One shot.
It didn't -really- matter, of course. There were still people who respected nice manners and good breeding. There were still people who realized the importance of keeping your dress spotless and your hair tidy. There were still people who knew who mattered and who didn't. And she, Arabella Buckley, mattered. Terribly so, really. Anyway, school was nothing defining when it came to social standing in the real world. Heavens, no. People like Elizabeth and Julian and Martin - oh, bother, -Martin-, hmph... There was no way any of -them- would amount to much in the grand scheme of things. Some people simply were meant for greatness and some weren't. Arabella knew quite definitely where she fell on that line.
Of course, there were some who stood exactly in between acceptable and not. It all depended on who they chose to associate with and if a better person chose to aid their development. Rosemary, for instance. She had potential. Quite a bit of it, really, if she stopped squandering it on those others. Arabella's heels kicked the chair again, suddenly vicious, little sturdy shoe sole slamming into the wood hard enough to send a tiny, sad little echo of splintering wood through the still, dry air of the music room. Wasting and squandering and spending and using. She had no idea what she was doing, the little twit. She was going to just -ruin- herself completely with those sort of friends. They were all wrong. If the little beast had any sense, she would stay with her, Arabella, a proper sort of friend.
... She had been content enough with only ever Arabella before all of this. Why not now? Honestly, she must be utterly mad. Especially -now-. What with everything that had happened and all. The lies and the sneaking and the thieving and the general unpleasantness. After all of -that-, Rosemary still tried to make up to Martin and the others. -Martin-. How could he, in the end, be a "good sort" while she, Arabella Buckley, remained outcast and belittled? It was ludicrous. The entirety of Whytleaf was wrong and jarring. Uniforms and games and other students deciding who is punished and who is rewarded. It was horridly backwards and rude. So scruffy, too, what with all of those noisy, horrid boys pelting around the school.
Her temper getting the better of her, the sweet-faced blonde stood abruptly and the chair fell backwards with a clatter, loud enough to make her jump, startled. Then the anger returned, twice as fierce, and she paced away to look out the small window. No properly behaved chair would fall over like that. Chintzy goods. The entire school was like that, though. Look closely, pay attention, and anyone with eyes could see. Arabella had grown certain that it affected minds as well. A general slow rot and disordering. She maintained her own inviolate senses, though. -She- knew where everyone was going. Such a shame that the school and the other children, yes, children - noisy, clamouring, squalling lot of improper children - affected those with a chance but no proper backbone to speak against it all.
Rosemary. Where -was- she? The silly little twit was probably making up to Martin again. Oh, the nerve. She had told her, distinctly and especially, to meet her in the practice room; she had something special to show her. Only her. She was a proper friend, a good and mousey little creature who would look up with those bright-shining, too-close eyes in undisguised adoration. Arabella scowled and traced a circle on the glass window pane. Oh, it was unfair. Horribly so. To miss that little twig of a thing. Was she truly that lonely? Or was it just the quiet attention and the fluttering hands that could hardly stay still, ready to perform if the blonde needed anything? Small hands, pale and bloodless, unimpressive until you watched her thread a needle, the cut end of the cotton between her colorless lips to moisten it before she brought it down and moved the needle and thread together, damp point through slender eye. She really wasn't terribly pretty and rather looked less than pretty when she and Arabella stood together and yet...
Arabella shook her head, golden curls shivering down her back at the movement. She was useful and sweet-tempered and good for one's understanding of social standing. A have not made into a have through useful industry and reflective mirrors. With her faintly pretty self and her small eyes and her birdy hands and her soft mouth with its uncertain smile.
There was a noise behind her but she did not turn. She already knew who it was. "Oh, you remembered me, after all?" Arabella drawled, careful to keep her temper far below the surface. Was she mad? No, of course not. She was wounded and hurt and jilted and injured beyond repair.
The tone rang true and a tiny, apologetic whimper sounded from the doorway. "Arabella, I..."
"Yes, I know." She sighed, honey with sharp glass just beneath. "You were with your new friends. You have no more time for -me-. You're so frightfully popular now and I would only be an embarrassment. The poor relation."
"Arabella, no." Rosemary's little voice trembled with emotion; she sounded as if she would burst into tears at any moment. Good, she thought, viciously. A choked noise made her half-turn, though, and she summoned a sad-eyed pout to her face as she moved. Calculated to a singular degree, it produced explosive results and little Rosemary burst into half-smothered tears.
Strangely, Arabella felt her pout waver and disappear, unsettled by the emotion the other girl showed. What a silly creature, so easily moved about, like the white queen. Even as she thought of the other girl's weakness, the blonde had crossed the room, standing close to the crying girl. Heat flowed, pulsed between them. Had the room been this warm before? Thin shoulders shaking. Hands over face. She looked near collapse, all rough breaths and wounded animal noises. Really, Rosemary, you are overreacting. You only needed to promise your devotion again, to be beside me, you know, as you are supposed to be. There was no need for this. Honestly, I don't feel a jot of sorry but you make me feel quite queer inside when you carry on like this and...
Hot, sweet, and sudden, a forceful mouth collided with a still whimpering one and all noise stopped, cut off as surely as if a switch had been thrown. Lips matched against each other, pressed hard and unforgiving. Tight fingers closed on thin arms, sure to leave bruises in tender flesh. Golden curls tumbled down to cloak their faces, one blushed with action, the other red with tears and sudden heat.
Then, just as swiftly, Arabella released her little shadow and she stepped back. Despite the flush of her cheeks, she seemed unperturbed once more, smile that of a cat in the cream. "I forgive you, Rosemary," she purred. "Come along or we will miss tea."
Turning on her heel, she never looked to see if Rosemary followed. She knew, after all, that she would. Now she would. Arabella Buckley smiled to herself, banishing all other thoughts outside of conquest. There. That solves that particular problem.
Other problems? Hardly but those could wait until later. For now, she had what she wanted.
Her little Rosemary, docile and sweet and owned.