Following the owner into the small office, the newcomer knocked her knee on her own case which had been stowed to the side of the door frame. Hissing at the attack of her own luggage for the umpteenth time that day, she closed the door behind her. "Fahh-!" sucking air into her mouth through her grit teeth to prevent a curse from escaping, the younger woman mumbled to herself as she moved around the object. "I really need to find a place soon; I can't keep this crap here." Looking up from glowering at the neon purple case, she waited for the gesture to sit down. Getting a welcoming wave, the taller woman joined her long-time acquaintance on the other side of the desk.
Marisa took two glasses from the compartment under her desk, and then a gold label bottle of hard liquor quickly followed. "I'm sorry I couldn't greet you at the airport this morning."
Wafting her hand, the newcomer sat up straight against the back of the leather chair. Verdant eyes scanned the numerous frames of the business owner's feats. Her son's, and the others she had taken in. She was about to yawn from her seven-hour travel when she caught sight of a certain cluster to the older woman's left. "That's mine..."
Following the younger woman's line of sight, Marisa noticed what her guest was talking about. "Ah, yes. That was your second Ballroom win."
"I wasn't here then."
"I knew you had something before we met by ourselves back in 2007."
"And there was me just thinking you wanted to use me against my mother."
"I would be both upset and angry if I thought that you held the same contempt for me as you did your mother."
"You don't have to address her so formally just because we're blood."
"Regardless of either of our relationships with her, I still respect what she has accomplished."
Citrine eyes slid from the amber alcohol and back to the splay of awards covering more of the walls than the pale emulsion. "I don't."
"I have my own reasons for not getting along with her, but as a mother, I wish you wouldn't dislike her so intently." Pretty feature tightened under the pressure of silence. She watched the younger woman scowl off like she was having a teen tantrum, but she wasn't a teen, not anymore. She still held that disdain clear in her eyes against the woman which had birthed her and if that wasn't enough, then the crease between her brows and the downwards pointed corners of full lips made it clear.
Hyōdō Marisa had known Valentina Belova for just over twelve years now. Marisa had seen the younger woman dance swing and urban unofficial competitions in the UK when the girl was sixteen. At the time, she had no idea that she was the daughter of a wicked woman she had the misfortune of knowing for so much longer.
Leaning back, the guest twiddled an unlit cigarette between her thumb and middle finger. "On that front, you know that I'm yours no matter what." Eyes down, Valentina nodded more to herself than her company. "My loyalty lies here. I am here, with you, thanks to you. Not her."
"As your mentor, I'm insurmountably grateful to hear you say that. As a mother myself, I feel my heart break a little every time you tell me so."
"Perhaps she should have been a little more motherly, and then she would reap the benefits of one."
Marisa pulled back as she sucked in a deep breath. "Ah, you're so cold, Valenshka."
"I hardly see it that way. I actually wanted to ask you a favour." The woman's fair features crinkled. "I would appreciate it if you could tell your son to stop fretting about me."
"It looks like you told him just fine all by yourself."
"It's not funny, Marishka." The younger woman placed the cigarette to her lips and sucked only to remember it was unlit. "It's bad enough hearing the things my Mother and sisters say about me. I don't need lenity from a kid as well."
Taking a sip from the premium whiskey she had been gifted a couple of months prior, the owner of the studio inspected the female in front of her. "Both Kiyoharu and Shizuku look up to you as a dancer, and a sibling figure – you're never going to run away from that. You can't expect them not to worry about you after what happened."
"Their worry hurts more than any injuries I've had, so, please..." Downing the shot, she took a breath and looked away. "Tell them that, or else I don't think I can continue to work here."
"They're strong words." Marisa took a deep breath and looked down at the paperwork on the desk in front of her. "What are you going to do if you can't make it work here, go back to England? Russia? Or are you going to live in the mountains somewhere away from everyone so you don't have to deal with the care and compassion humans are inclined to give?"
"Don't get philosophical with me. I agreed to help you as an instructor because your top dancers are getting ready for the next competition and they don't have the time to help out with your casual members. Don't make out like I came here asking for hand-outs."
Holding her hands up, the older woman chuckled. "You're really quite serious, aren't you?"
"I'm being pushed into a corner no matter which place I look to."
"I guess my favour is out of the question, then?"
Pushing her hair off of her face with the front of her hand, the newcomer stared at the afforded shot. She knew she shouldn't drink another. She had a good handle on her alcohol tolerance, but it was the kind which was in front of her which was the issue. "I owe you everything."
"I wouldn't like to put it like that."
"My sanity, at least; if nothing else." Her eyes softened and curt huff laid flat in the air.
"When have you ever been thought of as sane?"
"I guess that's true." Green eyes scanned the woman who had helped her at her lowest. Before she could argue with herself, Valentina had picked up the glass again. "No point in starting now then, I suppose."
The older woman clasped her hands in front of her. Sultry eyes lowered and the fingers of her left hand curled over her guest's. "Please, help me."
The tone the older woman had used had split Valentina's heart. Marisa had never asked for help in earnest – not from her, not from anyone, as far as she knew. The chubby fingers which held the expensive glass had moved on their own. Valentina chucked the shot to the back of her throat. The burn was barely beginning to run up her gullet when the glass hit the worktop and her palm slapped the wood in their homeland's gesture for another.
Sucking her tongue, she tapped the worktop between them, gesturing for another hit before the obviously bad topic happened upon her. "You've only got a decade on me, Marishka. You've already asked me to marry your son, and to carry out your ideals on the floor, so what else could you possibly ask me to do for you? Murder?" The younger woman's brows flickered. "'Cause you know I'd do it for you if only you asked."
The owner's smile faded with the words. The pair continued to hold their gaze. "You've always overcome your standards - both those of your parents, and those in the world of dance," Marisa glanced away as she replaced the alcohol bottle on the table after the refilling of their glasses. "How about you show me that same tenacious snip which made you a phantom on the big stage?
"Are you asking me to go against what my doctor said?"
"When have you ever listened to somebody telling you not to do something?" The studio owner placed the tip of her chin on an upraised palm and tilted her head. "I want you to make it clear before I ask any further."
"If I do what I think you're asking, you know she'll come for both of us."
"If you get your confidence back, I'll fight her tooth and nail."
"I don't know what you see in me besides the fact I refuse to lose."
"Isn't that enough?"
Valentina knew something was off in that moment. Marisa was never satisfied; nothing was ever enough - They shared the same gene which made them pirouette in a parking lot, and groove their feet in a queue, and sway their hips in a grocery store, and groove to a tune playing out of a passing car, so Valentina knew. She was going to be pulled into something unsightly, and it was going to be a giant pain in her ass. Unfortunately, she didn't have much wiggle room at the moment. Not so unfortunately, Valentina considered herself a pro at twisting a situation to fit her needs. Marisa wondered where she got the nasty habit from; Valentina didn't want to let her tutor's head swell; Kiyoharu indulged in watching the pair make underhanded plays to make it all seem natural.
Updated: 11th December 2019
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