The next afternoon the doorbell rang. Since it was Pagan’s day off, Eliza was the one to answer it. And she was sure glad she was. On the Darlian’s doorstep towered a burly Arabian, sporting a thick beard. She smiled up at Mr. Hopefully-Right-or-at-Least-Right-For-Now and was about to commence drooling when she became distracted by a small voice from below.
“Hello! Is Welena here? I come to play wit’ her.”
“And who may I ask is calling?” Eliza queried the little one who stood between her and the man of her dreams.
“Quatwa Baba Winnaw,” the blond spat out quickly, hoping that neither Eliza would ask him to repeat himself, nor Rashid correct him. He wished his parents hadn’t given him such a hard name to pronounce. ‘Why couldn’t they name me Fred, or Ralph, or even Abdul. I can say “Abdul”.’
“Well, Mr. Winner, if you’ll come with me I’ll show you where she is.” She looked back up at his companion,
“Will your, um, friend be joining us?”
“I have a few errands to take care of, Master Quatre, but I do believe you will be safe here with Miss Eliza until I return.”
Eliza frowned. “Well maybe next time.”
“Yes,” Rashid agreed. “I can be back for him at 4:30. Will that be satisfactory?”
‘Let’s see… wash up, change, fix hair, apply makeup.’ “Yes, that will give me plenty of– I mean that will be fine.”
Rashid smiled briefly at the nanny. “4:30, then. Master Quatre, I will expect you to be on your best behavior during your visit.”
The two waved good-bye to the mammoth bodyguard, then moved to the playroom to join the others.
“Miss Relena, you have company,” Eliza announced.
“Quatre! Wu Fei!” Relena cried out, looking up from her game of checkers with Duo.
“Wu-who?” Eliza spun around and found not one, but two boys behind her. “Where did you come from?” she asked the young Asian.
“I was always here,” snorted Wu Fei as he made himself comfortable on one of the sofas by the TV, “You would have seen me if you weren’t ogling the he-man.” He threw about an air of intelligence for knowing the word “ogling”.
Eliza was about to comment on the rudeness of the boy when she was cut off by Relena. “Pop ‘im in the nose, Eliza. That’ll shut ‘im up,” she giggled. Quatre soon joined her as muffled laughter could be heard from beneath his blanket.
Wu Fei glared at the offenders of his dignity. Truth be told he had respect for Relena after last night’s incident. Only a smidgen, though. She was, after all, a girl.
“Duo, this is Wu Fei,” he heard the girl say. He stared hard at the boy he was being introduced to, memorizing him, when he realized that he was being eyed with equal intensity.
“And this is Quatre.” The stare quickly faded to a small smile before Duo looked away and focused his attention to the little golden one. Wu Fei couldn’t help but notice the intensity in Duo’s look returning once again, only this time it didn’t dissipate so easily.
After the introductions had been completed, Relena and Duo returned to their checker match with Quatre as a spectator. Wu Fei pulled a book out of the small pack he had brought with him and began to read, occasionally looking up at the game whenever he heard Duo call out, “King me!”
“I call the next game,” announced the quiet Asian, as he watched Duo’s latest acquired king jump crazily over the board ’till Relena was left wide-eyed and checkerless.
“Don’t wanna play any more,” she sulked, dumping the checkers back into their container.
“Hey! I do!” cried the now always braided boy as he reached for the board.
“Miss Relena, remember the conversation we had about being a sore loser?”
“Yeah! An’ I didn’ even do my victory dance this time.”
Eliza sighed, reminding herself that she would also need to speak with Duo about good sportsmanship.
“Since there are four of you now, why don’t you play a game you can all play together?”
“Hide an’ Seek!” suggested Quatre.
“I don’t hide,’ Wu Fei quickly pointed out.
“Wu Fei’s it!” announced Duo as he and the other two “not-its” scattered to their hiding places.
Wu Fei groaned.
Eliza snickered from behind her hand. “Watch out for him, he’s tricky.”
Wu Fei nodded in agreement. “How high do I count?” he asked.
“Given the circumstances I’d just count to ten.”
And so Wu Fei gave the others until the count of ten to hide before he went in search of them.
Quatre was wandering around the strange house, still looking for a place to hide when he came upon a room that was off the beaten path of the rest of the mansion. He peeked inside, wondering if Wu Fei would think to look in there.
“Well, hello there.”
Quatre directed his attention to the desk at the other end, where a man sat. His hair, beard, and mustache were a muddy brown; several shades darker than his new friend, Relena’s. He looked very important. This must be her father, he thought.
“Come here,” the man waved him over.
A queasy feeling began to stir in the young boy’s stomach. He had never felt it before, didn’t know what it meant, but he knew he didn’t like it. He wanted to run, but at the same time didn’t want to be rude, either, so he slowly inched his way over to the gentleman.
When the boy reached him, Mr. Darlian picked him up and sat him on his lap. “You’re the Winner boy? I met your father last night.” He leaned forward, pulling one of the desk’s drawers open and pulled out a package of chocolate chip cookies. As he opened it he asked, “Would you like one?”
Quatre took the offered treat and munched away politely.
“Do you like playing with Relena?”
“That’s good.” Mr. Darlian patted the boy on the knee. “I have to be careful about who I let my daughter play with. Take the Maxwell boy, for example. He’s not exactly the type of boy I’d like spending time with Relena. Not like you. You’re a little gentleman, aren’t you?”
Quatre would’ve answered had he not been distracted by the sudden increase in nausea, as well as the movement of Mr. Darlian’s hand, which now rested on his thigh. He didn’t understand why, but he had to get away from him. But when he tried to squirm away, the man grabbed his arm and held fast.
“Whoa! Keep wriggling like that and you’ll hurt yourself,” he warned.
“Quatre?” Relena could be heard from the hall. “Where are you?”
Mr. Darlian’s grip on the boy quickly loosened just as his daughter entered the office.
“There you are! We couldden find you!”
“Relena! You’re little friend here was lost, we were about to go looking for you.”
Quatre scrambled off the man’s lap and took his friend’s hand. Together they headed toward the door.
“You two behave yourselves, and Quatre, I hope to be seeing more of you around here.”
“You okay?” Relena asked once they were in the hall.
“Don’ feel good.”
“Eliza will make you feel better. She makes me feel better. She knows magic.”
Quatre’s eye’s lit up. “Weally?”
As soon as they found the nanny and Quatre described his ailment, Eliza set a pot of water on to boil. While it was heating, she gathered several herbs, spices and other medicinal plants and placed them in a steel ball which, in turn, was set in a tea pot.
Once the tea was brewed and cooled some, she offered a cupful to the boy, sweetened just enough so someone his age would drink it willingly. Quatre found it didn’t taste bad at all, not like the stuff his father enjoyed drinking. It tasted even better when Eliza brought him back to the playroom to join his friends. There, she let him rest his head on her lap while she sat on the couch, rubbing his stomach gently. He was able to relax and the sick feeling drifted away. And so did he. To sleep.