#7545
Location: Courtyard of the Katoracov Home • Date: Easter Sunday - 5 May

"So let me get this straight," Malanda repeated herself slowly, her eyes drifting to the group of people milling about.

Easter was almost as big as Christmas for her mother, and the entire courtyard had been decorated with flowers and there was a great feast being cooked in part by her aunts, Crina and Daciana, and it was mostly family in attendance. The Balcescus, of course, and Vera had come along as well. The Ardeleans came, both older and younger, and whatever bribe Darius had given his wife must have worked because she was not only in attendance but she also seemed to be having a rather engaging conversation with Darius' brother.

At least Malanda thought it was his brother, frankly it also could have been Darius.

Her attention was elsewhere, though, on the one person that was there that the young woman was genuinely surprised to see: her friend that did not live in Romania, barely spoke Romanian, and whom she had not realized was even in the country until church that morning.

It was only polite to invite her to the luncheon, but Malanda still had unanswered questions.

Which she was attempting to figure out now while most everyone was distracted.

"Luca... invited you to church... so you decided to give it another try? Even though you have not enjoyed it in the past?"

Something wasn't adding up.

Played By: tundratown
#7554
"Yup," Michelle answered Malanda with a quick nod of her head.

The service had been just as dreadfully boring as the first time she came. Michelle at least knew to wear flats this time with her off-the-shoulder white dress and floral head scarf. Also, the seating arrangements had been awkward. Michelle was stupid to assume that Stefania wouldn't return to her husband for a family holiday, let alone a religious one at that.

"He's a nice guy so I thought why not?" Hopefully that didn't sound too complimentary.

Played By: Arsene
#7602
The young woman stared at her friend as they stood in the grass, Malanda's feet bare and her embroidered dress shifting slightly with the breeze. Michelle might have seemed like a good liar to others, but Malanda knew her too well and was too good at sensing these things. Something just didn't seem right.

But why would she lie about visiting for Easter?

Her eyes briefly drifting to her husband, the one that Michelle often liked to make eyes at, Malanda considered this for a moment. Her birthday was in just a few days, so it could have been that sort of surprise.

Except, so far, Michelle had shown up empty handed. Which wasn't her style.

"Well, I am at least glad you are here," she smiled finally, briefly placing a gentle hand on Michelle's shoulder.

"It has been awhile since we have been able to catch up."

Played By: tundratown
#7652
Those were tense moments as she watched Malanda believe her lie. She didn't want to be discovered so quickly even if she stole glances in Luca's direction. It was murder - no pun intended - sitting amongst the families and unable to reach out and hold his hand. Here they had to act like familiar strangers. Too unfamiliar and it would seem suspicious; too familiar would end with the same result.

She wondered why she had come. Michelle also wondered why Luca invited her if they were going to merely act as friends. "Yeah," Michelle said, breaking from her thoughts.

"All of the kids have grown since the last time I saw them." Constanta stood farther away, talking with a group of people while a child clung to the hem of her dress while he tried to balance himself on his own two feet.

"How was school this term?"

Played By: Arsene
#7791
"Stressful," Malanda laughed, the bell-like noise carrying through their corner of the courtyard.

"The warm weather has the students ready to leave for summer, so almost none of them are paying attention... ah!"

The young professor's expression changed as the smallish boy ran up to her, waving a pair of red dyed eggs at his 'aunt.' Malanda beamed as she scooped him up with ease, in a rare show of the strength she had gathered from her side job. He was getting big enough that she was not sure how long she would be able to do this, but for now she was all smiles as she took one of the eggs from the boy.

"What is this, bufnita mica?" she cooed, admiring the egg.

"We have to hit them together! And whoever's doesn't break is lucky!" Dominik announced cheerfully, waving his own around.

"Hmm, I think that we should let Tanti Michelle try," Malanda laughed, handing her friend the egg and giving her a look.

"Since she came all of this way to see what Romanian Easter is like."

Played By: tundratown
#7883
It was a little strange to see Malanda interact with children. She had her warm moments, but Michelle knew that Malanda could be cold, cunning, and ruthless. Michelle also thought about her friend's miscarriage. But Malanda was right, Michelle was here to see what a Romanian Easter would look like. Luca was busy playing the faithful husband and father, anyway.

"Here," she said, taking one of the red eggs from Dominik. Michelle grasped the egg in her hand, turning her palm upward. "Give it your best shot."

Played By: Arsene
#7998
"Are you ready?" Malanda urged the boy, smiling to herself as she hefted him in her arms to steady her balance.

"Yeah," Dominik declared, and in a short moment he had smashed his egg against Michelle's. In a perhaps unsurprising turn of events, however, both shells cracked and revealed the hard-boiled egg beneath the red, which led Malanda to laugh and Dominik to whine in defeat.

"Can I have another one?" He asked, staring at the woman who held him with an all-too-familiar gaze and a formidable pout.

"Alright," Malanda laughed, setting him down before turning to Michelle. "You can eat those, by the way. They're quite good. I'll be back in just a minute, though, I should probably make sure he doesn't take the whole basket... ah, Hristos a înviat."

Her smile grew a moment as Luca approached, and she gave him a small wave before taking Dominik's hand at the boy's request.

Played By: tundratown
#7999
"Adevărat a înviat," Luca chimed in response, though he did not wave in return since his hands were full with two glasses. It looked like he finally might have a moment to speak to Michelle, now that Stefania had left to have lunch with her mother and the children were off playing and no one was paying attention to him. No one but Malanda, anyway. But she was so callous sometimes, would she even notice anything between them? She barely seemed capable of affection in her own relationships, much less picking up on the small cues of others.

"Did you enjoy the service?" He asked Michelle, his tone as friendly as he could manage as he smiled at her.

Malanda looked like she was leading the boy away, but not fast enough.

"I hope you were able to understand some of it. I tried to do my reading more slowly so you might be able to catch it."

Had she caught him looking at her, too? She really shouldn't have worn a dress like that to the service.

It was extremely distracting.
#8043
Michelle smiled brightly, but then let it dim a little as she tried not to give too much away. She felt like all eyes were on them, as if everyone knew already. But what mattered was that he was here with her.

"I picked up a few words and took things in context," she said. "There's only so many readings you can do at an Easter Mass."

Played By: Arsene
#8051
"Well maybe next year you'll be able to connect with all of it," Luca smiled, glancing briefly back to Malanda.

Was she suspicious? He wasn't sure, but she was at least out of earshot enough that he could hand Michelle one of the glasses he was carrying. It wasn't hard to find things other than water or lemonade or the fizzy soda pop the children sometimes liked, but it wasn't exactly out on the table with everything else.

"Here," he told her with a grin, a look of mischief in his eyes. "I thought you could use something a little stronger than Nadezhda's lemonade."
#8056
He almost called her out on being mean to Nadezhda, but her comment about Alina made him smile.

"So did you," Luca told her in a lowered tone, looking mischievous again.

"You looked beautiful, I mean. In your dress. You always do, but... I was really happy to see you. And we don't have to... I don't think anyone is... I think we're okay. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable, but... I'm just... you're here and..."

He was rambling again. She probably hated that.
#8062
Though he badly wanted to say yes, Luca glanced back over at his friends and family.

They were not being noticed, probably, but that might be pushing it.

At least his wife wasn't here.

"Maybe in a little while?" Luca offered, though he immediately felt bad about it. Again.

"There was a place in the woods Antony used to go when he thought no one would notice. I am almost sure Adrian knew all about it, though... not that I think we would get caught. I've seen enough teenagers at work to know what mistakes to avoid... did you get anything to eat?"
#8084
"Not really," Michelle said, playing off Luca's rejection as if it was nothing. The longer they stood here, though, the more she wondered why she had come. Michelle couldn't indulge in showing Luca any affection because then the kneazle would be out of the bag. But that was also the life she chose as a mistress. Everything would have to be done behind closed doors.

Michelle then remembered the egg she'd been holding that entire time.

"I mean, I have this hard-boiled egg, but I'm not sure it will pair well with wine. Malanda was curious as to why I was here so I had to play 20 questions with her until Dominik came and distracted her."

Played By: Arsene