Now what would a fair day such as this be without the socializing of the festival committee? Of which, Miss Isabelle Gibbons was a proud member. Through this small club, she had made many friends, one of which she held particularly dear was that of the elegant, and refined Cinderella. As a princess, she was held quite highly in Isabelle's mind, and for all reasons, with her around, Isabelle was at her humblest.
As for today, some of the members of the committee were meeting for a morning tea at the Carnation Cafe` right in the middle of Main Street.
"Isabelle! It's so good to see you again!" Cinderella exclaimed as she and Charming came gently through the gate to meet the girl.
"Your Majesties!" Isabelle greeted in return, giving a short curtsy before offering a seat to the royal couple. "I'm so glad you could make it!" she continued with the pleasantries.
"So kind of you. I do hope you don't mind, Isabelle Dear, but we took the liberty of inviting a few more to join us today."
"Mind? Of course not! I'd be happy to have the added company!" she happily said with a sweet smile. She quickly ran a list in her head of just who that could possibly mean. It could have been anyone! She started to feel giddy at the possibilities. She did so idolize the royals.
"Oh look, here they are!" Charming said as he stood to greet the coming trio.
The trio as none other than the Princesses Aurora and Belle, and followed by Prince Adam! Oh Isabelle was happy!
"Aurora! Belle!" Cinderella said as she greeted the two. "And... why Adam, are you alright?"
It was now that Isabelle saw what sort of state the Prince was in. Visibly tired, purposefully sluggish, and not at all amused by the need to be brought along when obviously he could have enjoyed a long morning in bed. Isabelle was well aware of the Prince's occasional temper and made a decision to keep any comment regarding his situation to herself and ordered some tea.
"Mmhp" he growled as he took a seat.
"Don't mind him. He decided to stay up far too late last night." Belle chided.
"Not my fault he got off late." Adam continued, giving a large yawn.
"Who?" Charming asked.
"His name's Nicholas apparently." Belle added.
Isabelle's teacup almost slipped from her hand.
"Nicholas? Isn't he that boy you were telling Philip about earlier? The one you made friends with?" Aurora asked Adam, as she passed the sugar to him.
"Yeah, met him last night." Adam said bluntly, adding in as many lumps of sugar as his cup would allow. "I think he's new or something. Lives just up that way..." he motioned before trying out the mixture of sugar and tea.
"A new neighbor? Right here on Main Street?" Cinderella said with some excitement. "How exciting! Isabelle, surly you've already met him, I presume?"
Isabelle's mind raced back to her encounter with the boy. She took a quick glance about the table between the others. Everyone was eagerly waiting for what she had to say.
"Oh yes! He's such a gentleman, we've made fast friends with him, Victor and I that is. What a dear boy he is!" Such a thing couldn't have been farther from her opinion of Nicholas. And by the look of it, it was not the right thing to say in this company either.
"Have you had a welcome party yet? It is a Main Street tradition, if I remember." Charming asked.
Rats! She had forgotten about that. She even held one for that Emma girl, just in spite of her bumpkin-ness. "W-well, he did arrive at such a short notice, I hadn't the time to even think of it!"
"Why don't we help you!" Aurora happily exclaimed. "After all, the next festival is still a long way off."
"Of course! And since he's a friend of yours, you wouldn't mind hosting it would you Adam? Belle?" Cinderella asked, happy to join in the fresh excitement.
"Oh, but Lumiere had just finished a wonderful dinner engagement just last week..." Belle said, "we're not quite ready for another party so soon."
"That's right." Aurora chimed in, "And besides, we did promise the next festival organizer position to Isabelle. Didn't we?"
"Of course! Isabelle! You can host it right here on Main Street too! It's just the right weather for it!"
Isabelle donned a pleasant smile and radiated a glow of joy. "Perfect!"
The Crystal D'Orleans shop enjoyed a shady corner of the winding streets of New Orleans Square. Shady, but not always quiet. The neighbors across the way were bickering again. Victor, in his time attending shop, stayed near the door to catch each scandalous comeback the pair had for one another. It was the duty of whoever was working to give full details at dinner on what these rather vocal neighbors had to say.
But his duty was interrupted by the telephone behind the counter ringing. He swiftly made his way back to the counter and picked up the receiver.
"Oui? Please, put that line through... Bon'jour, Crystal D'-"
Victor had to pull the receiver from his ear fast, wincing as he did so. "My loved, I am surrounded by glass. You really should not shout-"
"They want to hold a party! A party! Do you realize that it was my first Lead Organizer position in the festival committee?! And they want me to hold a party!"
"And the problem with this would be...?" Victor asked, placing the phone down while leaning on the display case before him.
"They want me to hold a party for HIM."
Victor's forehead quickly fell, safely caught by his free hand. "Isabelle, my love. Do you not think your distaste in this boy is unreasonable? I mean... you gave him a single chance. Unprepared."
"Give him another chance Love. That is all. I am sure the first impression will not be so..."
Isabelle kept silent for a while, almost enough time for Victor to wonder if the line was still connected.
"Fine. I'll show him just how someone from Main Street should act when they are hosting."
It was something he could work with. Not the most ideal response, but workable.
"I'd have to invite that Kettle girl too wouldn't I..."
And downhill fast.
"It'll have to be an example to the both of them! Now Victor dear, I must be going. Much planning must be done."
With a sudden click over the phone line, Victor slowly put the ear piece back on the receiver hook. "This does not bode well." He whispered to his reflections in the surrounding merchandise. Perhaps it was time Victor stepped in. Isabelle wasn't going to be flexible about this. Heaven knows she never was the easiest to get along with.
"Very well." He declared. "I shall give him his warning."
He placed the phone back in it's spot and resumed his post by the door.
The fighting had escalated.
Nick had never stepped past the gates of that first castle, so naturally he was surprised at the instant coziness the land offered him. All around them, in that little courtyard behind the castle towers was a little village filled with charming villagers and enchanting cottages. But Emma, she was another case. This little village was one of the first places she had looked into when she moved from Rainbow Ridge, and thus was very familiar with the charm it held.
"You should see it on the 6th of January." Emma whispered as she caught Nick's wondering eyes about the place.
"What happens on the 6th?" he asked, glancing at a nearby shop's display of a suit of armor.
Emma only laughed and quickly grabbed his arm, tugging him forward. "Come on! Let's go see the castles!"
Eventually they found themselves on a little boat that worked traversing the various "canals" that ran through the western half of Fantasyland, connecting several small villages that made up the different kingdoms. Emma delighted in pointing out the different castles and the famous royals who lived in each one that she knew of. The ball this castle held and when the floating lights were set off from that castle and the gardens over by the castle far to the west.
By lunch they wound up not far from the edge of the woodlands at a small tavern. There was some ruckus across the room surrounding a dark-haired man telling some story or another, told in the fashion of a hunter, and lifting his tankard high, shouting "To Belle! The one that got away!" Nick was well aware of the bitterness in the man's boast.
"That's Gaston." Emma said slightly hushed as she pointed to a large painting hung above the fireplace and surrounded by various antlers and horns. "They don't talk about him much anymore. Not since his encounter with the Beast."
Emma nodded. "The one that Belle married? That is, after he turned back to a human."
"Oh." Nick answered back, not sure how to handle the information. "You sure know a lot about Fantasyland." he started, adding some more mustard to his bratwurst. "I thought you were from Frontierland?"
Emma shied away, bashfully looking down at her plate. "I... No it's silly." she claimed, waving it off.
She sighed, avoiding looking at Nick's eyes. "Well... while Rainbow Ridge was... nice. I... I always wanted to live here. Any of the villages really. There's a romance you just don't get in Frontierland. Now don't get me wrong, I like the moonlit Spanish serenade those boys can drum up just as much as the next girl. But... There was this magazine my Aunt had when I was little. It was all about a coronation and ball they had some years back, and looking through it I couldn't help myself! The little girl I was fell in love with all the glamour and glitz of the royals and the dresses, dashing princes, parades, and..." another sigh escaped Emma as the enthusiasm in her eyes subsided. "But when I set out on my own I found that most of the homes out here are the type to be passed down in family lines and those that aren't the prices are nearly impossible for a country girl like me." She shifted uncomfortably on her stool, giving a side glance to three drunken men laughing in the corner.
"So you ended up on Main Street." Nick summed up for her.
She smiled and gave a short chuckle, "Yeah, a small apartment above the Emporium. It wasn't much, but it was closer. Eventually I just... settled, you know?" she looked up and smiled again. Soon her face glowed with a new thought as she leaned in close to him, resting her elbows on the table. "What about you? How'd you end up on Main Street? Where did you move from? Why'd you move?" she began with a new vigor.
Nick leaned back a bit as she leaned in, his eyes wide with wonder at this sudden shift in energy. "W-well..." he cleared his throat. "I was born in Pacific Wharf... my parents had a small bakery." he shrugged. Eventually I
well... I got this job up in Hollywood Backlots. It paid... well enough." he added that last statement fast with a side glance of his own. "But, well, just like you I guess. I wanted something different. I never really liked the noise and rush of the bigger cities. I needed to get away." He leaned back, a strange tiredness seemed to pass over his face. "I didn't know what to do. Then... my sister forced me out to the Pier for a weekend."
"Older. She sings." Nick offered, "She's always looked after me since Dad and Mom were so busy at the bakery. She said she never saw me so lifeless. Lifeless. I've been called quiet, awkward, and shy, but never lifeless. It really hit me hard coming from her, you know? Well, I found this flyer at the hotel I was staying at about Main Street. And so I took another week and visited for a few days." a weak smile started to grow on his face as he leaned forward once more. "And frankly... I kind of fell in love with the place. Bought that house, had it fixed up and moved out as soon as I could." He finally ventured to look at Emma after he finished and laughed it off a bit. "Then that Isabelle girl came around and made me realize that it wasn't such a quiet town as I had hoped!"
"That's for certain!" Emma agreed with much enthusiasm. "But I'd be careful of that girl. She could be more trouble than you'd want."
"I've been getting that feeling."
They're afternoon followed with a stroll around the surrounding neighborhood. A deeply forested area with a few waterways and gardens nearby, and the only train station in the area. Nick had glanced back several times as he listened closely. There was something he couldn't help but catch, a sound, like a hammer constantly and rhythmically hitting a block of wood. It was loud, but dulled out by the apparent distance. "Do you hear that?" he asked quietly, leaning toward Emma.
Emma paused and lent an ear to the air around them. "I don't hear anything."
"No, no... there... there... there..." he began, finding the beat of the noise he had caught with his forefinger. "sounds like a clock... I think."
She stopped once more and nodded after a while. "Oh yeah, almost didn't notice that. It might be Glockenspiel."
"He's a big clock tower, we'll pass him on the train." she said as she began pulling him toward the small station. Nick would have asked why she called it a "He" but didn't have time as they rushed toward the station, a train just beginning to come in.
The trip home lead to several re-counts of what they had encountered in the day and other such small talk, with an awkward realization on Nick's behalf of several pairs of eyes watching the two of them.
Victor stepped onto the platform, stretching his back as well he could and adjusting himself to the cheerful morning on Main Street. He would have much preferred to have walked the distance, but the threat of rain in New Orleans Square had made him choose the train instead. The weather had always proved more temperamental in his home town compared to the steady skies around Main Street. He just wished that they would add another track so the trains would not have to run around the whole park just to get him one station away. With an exasperated sigh, he stepped through the busy station and into the streets below. At the very least, he thought, the trip home would be shorter.
His first business was stopping by Isabelle's home. Heaven knows, if he had made the mistake of visiting Main Street for any reason and did not stop to speak to her, he would be doomed to a fate only he would know. A doom he had once suffered for a full week before he had managed to repent.
The Gibbons house was a steady, well to do brownstone that was scrubbed and kept in such order that it looked more like a bright yellowish gold than brown. Here resided Mr. and Mrs. Gibbons, a high-ranking couple in the community and their well known daughter Isabelle. Victor always held a deep fear of Mr. Gibbons. As jolly as the man might have seemed on a normal basis, his protective ways around his only child lead to an unfavorable opinion about Victor, who's own past as a mischief maker only feed to that opinion.
Fortunately, Mrs. Gibbons greeted him at the door. For whatever reason, the level-headed, but kind lady more than approved of Victor's presence. She was a tall graceful creature with honey-golden hair piled neatly on her head in a conservative yet fashionable way that only she knew how to uphold, and a gentle but strong-willed smile that spoke far more than words were capable of.
"Victor dear! Do come in." she said stepping aside to allow the taller man in. The inside of the Gibbons' house was opulent and rich in the style of the day without being distasteful. Much of what was found within was due to Mr. Gibbons' success in his imports including rich woods, exotic potted plants, and the occasional oddity that had managed to find it's way neatly and comfortably placed among the wondrous world around it. "It is most fortunate you should arrive. Isabelle has been holding herself up in her room for the past couple of days only to visit on the dinner hour in silent thought!" the otherwise calm woman began to wring her hands. "I worry. I dare say I have never seen her in such a fury of determination! Do you happen to know what has gotten into her head? She hasn't said a mite to her father and I."
Victor was not pleased about this at all. Isabelle upsetting her mother? That was rare if even possible. "I shall see what I can-"
They both turned to find Isabelle pleasantly tipping down the stairs. "What wonderful timing! Here." she handed him a small pile of envelopes, neatly addressed and properly decorated. Invitations. "Would you be a dear and drop those at the post office for me while you're out? There is one for you dear if you'd rather take it home yourself. I've been ever so busy lately I hardly know what to do with myself!" she laughed full-hearted. "Oh Mother! I was wondering if I might have my muslin dress washed at the next chance? Or do you think lace would be better? It's such a hard thing to judge with such company as I'm planning."
"And what is it you're planning dear?" Mrs. Gibbons asked with much joy returned to her voice at the cheer of her daughter.
"A party for Mr. Baker. Victor, I've decided-"
There were many of things Victor had heard after those last two words, and in his experience she would always see through whatever she had set herself on.
"-I am going to put my all into this party. It is my duty to the committee, and I shall ensure not to disappoint them at any cost! Even if it means inviting that Kettle girl. Oh and Victor dear, would you be so kind as to deliver Mr. Baker's invitation by hand? I think that would be far more respectable than have it handed through a third party. I would ask you to do so for every one, but that would be difficult and I know you haven't much time to spare. Thank you dear!" she leaned up and unabashedly pecked a kiss on Victor's cheek, then proceeded to shoo him out the door with an almost playful air. "And do stop by later today for tea if you can manage! I have so much to go over with you!"
Confused, but more so worried, Victor found himself making his way by Town Hall to mail the invitations, making sure to hold on to his own and one last one addressed not far away. In a way, this determination he had found in Isabelle was a good thing! It was more than obvious that she did enjoy planning things where she could show off her inherited hosting capabilities. Or let alone show off. She was never shy of the spotlight. But... something within him kept tugging at his conscious. For all her effort and joy she had just expressed, he knew she still didn't like Nick.
Incidentally, Victor's second act of business was to visit the very boy in question. He walked down the street as he did that first day they had met, to the blue house, which for it's color was found rather pleasing to see. It had grown into it's space comfortably with little worry about it being blue, despite Isabelle's disapproval.
Nick had answered the door, not far in the condition that Victor had first met him in. The boy was dusted lightly with flour, only he was much saved by an apron that had happily taken much of the powered substance. "Victor!" he responded with a snap of the fingers. "What a surprise. I was just finishing up in the kitchen. Would you like to come in?"
"Oui." he responded, pleasantly surprised at Nick's offer. Isabelle would have still found it rude to answer the door in such a state, but for some reason, even from that day they had met, Victor would always think Nick wasn't Nick unless he was covered in flour when answering the door.
Nick showed him in and excused himself to the kitchen to discard his mess, leaving Victor in the parlor. Stepping inside Victor found Nick's house had become a sharp contrast to the Gibbons house. The lone sofa he had once sat on had found company in a large comfy yellow chair and a low table on top of a braided rug. The fireplace was swept and gated by an old yellow-glass screen, with a small clock and a book or two sitting on top of the mantle. There was a simplicity about the room that made Victor relax.
"Well then," Nick said walking back into the room. "What can I do for you?"
"I have an invitation for you, Mr. Baker." Victor said, taking the envelop from his pocket and handing it to the boy. "It is for a party that Isabelle is holding in your honor."
"Oh." Nick responded without much heed of Victor's last sentence. He took the invitation from Victor and opened it, reading it's contents. "Oh!" he said again as it sunk in what he was reading, his eyes growing wide and worried.
Victor took the sudden shift in Nick's face as a warning and quickly found his own invitation to read.
Miss Isabelle Gibbons cordially invites you
to celebrate the arrival of our newest neighbor here on Main Street USA,
Mr. Nicholas Baker.
On the night of the XX of XXXX at Seven O'Clock sharp.
We shall gather at the renowned Plaza Gardens for an evening of dancing and music
accompanied by snacks and coffee.
Please RSVP to Miss Isabelle Gibbons at 43 Main Street, Main Street USA.
Plaza Gardens?! This worried Victor to no end. The Gardens weren't reserved unless it was a major event, not to mention it was a pricey venue.
"She uses a lot of curves..." Nick quietly commented after a moment of silence.