Sir Richard Vaizey.
Sheriff of Nottingham.
Mariana scoffed cynically, glaring the cocky right out of him.
"Don’t you?" She retorted, remaining perfectly still for a moment to let the accusation sink in. Then in attendance of the cherub on her hip, she shifted Matthew’s weight in her arms, lifting him up so he was propped against her chest, staring over her shoulder at their big, beautiful home.
Mariana licked her lips and shook her head and fiddled with the keys in her hand, accessing the house key and moving towards the front door, bouncing the little one in one arm as she did so.
How long had it been since Richard had seen him? The son that he had been offered multiple chances to see; exceedingly more than what the average person would deem generous or even fair. It felt like an age. But he was so beautiful… His skin was so soft and so smooth and so pale; so, so pale. The pink in his squidgy cheeks was barely present; colourless skin and piercing blue eyes. They were a very light shade of blue like his father’s; icey and curious and more like a precious stone after it’s been processed and cut, rather than any natural qualities. His hair was growing through thin and tufty and brown; the brown was inevitable, though with his complexion, ginger had been a serious option.
Could Richard even confess to know the boy any more as though he were family? Did their connection really go any deeper than the biology?
If this had become a competition – And it seemed any conversation that they bothered to have these days, did – She was dangerously close to winning. The accusation thrown back in his face stung, but he had been expecting it. Anything to knock him down a peg or two, closer to the ground, where she felt he deserved to be. He had done terrible things for which he doubted redemption would be easy, but he would continue to fight for her affections – As long as it didn’t intrude on his own business, or his personal life, or his free time, or who he was currently fucking. Richard didn’t have a leg to stand on.
“Look—” He sighed, stepping in front of her and setting one hand on the door handle, his thumb over the lock. It wouldn’t hold her for long, but – And it was cynical and tactical and decidedly not father-of-the-child – At least she remained at a disadvantage by holding Matthew. “—You’re jumping the gun again. You just need to be reasonable about this, Ana.”
"Yes, but the simple fact is that we’re separated and we hate each others’ guts." She retorted bluntly, looking phased at her own outburst and instantly turning to look at Matthew again, for fear that such a harsh reality might upset him. Then again, he didn’t know much better…
"I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be getting under your feet when you’re working or have you bumping into me when I’m in the kitchen - let alone the bathroom. Also, precious - two bedrooms. Two, not three. You may be far more liberal minded than I am but when I bring a date back to my bed, I don’t expect you to be in it! And I don’t want any of your little trollops rolling into me either. Should I go on with the list of reasons why us sharing the house wouldn’t work, or will that suffice?”
Hate was so strong, and meant so much; there was nothing that could match it. His own floodgates were unfathomable – Although he was fair sure that there was a good deal of hate churning somewhere in those waters – But he didn’t need to see Marian’s eyes to know she loathed him with every fibre of her being, from her aggression to the way she held Matthew so close, the opposite hip to Richard, to his father. Once, she had expressed that while she wanted the boy to have a father, he certainly didn’t need one. It appeared she was perfectly prepared to follow through with that threat.
“Come on – It’d be just like old times.” He sneered, and would have retracted the expression a second later if he thought it was going to make the blindest bit of difference to how she thought of him. He was barely worth her time of day – Apparently, she had only bothered to speak to him because he had something she wanted. “Don’t you want to be a de Laci again?”
His name? His name like hell! Marian’s eyes widened and she shifted her weight from one foot to the other, giving him a look of thunder. It was a look which accused him of knowing exactly the details of their marriage, as she did, and therefore called his bluff. It was a look that only a married couple could exchange; so full of all their years together.
"It’s both our names on the deeds and we’ve both contributed - just because you’ve got the majority share, why the hell should that mean that I lose out?" She questioned, as though their divorce lawyers were already by their sides. Strengthening her jaw, she pointed one very definite, very commanding, very scolding finger at him. "We’re getting the house, or else we sell the damn thing. Or, indeed, need I remind you that our marital agreement didn’t involve a prenup?”
Of course he was a little phased by the look in her eyes, but he wasn’t about to end up on the back foot because of it. He simply understood the wrath of Lady Marian scorned – Hell, he had been on the receiving end plenty of times before – And sought to avoid ending up with a restraining order against his own son. “You should back down, because you were the one so intent on moving out in the first place! You want this house so badly? Come back and live in it! Matthew’s got a lovely little nursery painted up, just waiting for him.”
Punish you? Why would I punish you? What have you been doing?
She got a little kick out of watching him work it out and fail to process the harsh reality of it all. She could already see it in his body language; he was preparing himself for a romantic speech that would get him off the hook. I need you, we’re meant to be together, we can still have a family bla bla blaaaa…
Her eyebrows raised, and she glanced to Matthew as if to ask his opinion.
"Oh, I wouldn’t say it’s ridiculous, would you, little man?" She asked, pressing a kiss to his temple before turning her attention back to Richard, "There’s one of you and two of us. You’re the one who can afford to get another place. I think you’re just being selfish, to be honest, and I’ve been generous. You’ve had your elaborate bachelor pad for months now-"
Marian’s eyes turned down to the baby, and he could see how much she cared. Matthew would have been the perfect target to have her under his thumb again, if Richard could have detached himself emotionally from the idea that his blood ran through the little boy’s veins, that he was Matthew’s father. Granted, Vaizey’s concept of fatherhood wasn’t all that strong, and more than a little screwed up thanks to Rumpelstiltskin, but this was the son that Will had decided he wanted, from the moment he married. This was the family that they could have been.
“If you’ve been generous, I dread to think what selfish really looks like.” She had been no such thing, what with only fleetingly permitting him to see Matthew. His time father-son bonding with the boy couldn’t have made up more than 24 hours throughout his entire lifetime. “—Yes, and I intend to keep it. It’s my name on the deeds, and it’s my money on the rent. I don’t care what you have on me, you are not getting everything you want this time.”
Marian was the very picture of a middle class suburban mum. Long auburn hair all gorgeous and curled, tight jeans and a baby on the hip. In a few years when MJ was a little more confident on his feet, she’d be a proper soccer mom. Oranges at half time and everything. First things first though; she needed a house. She needed her house back.
Looking up at him over the roof of her car, she swept her free hand up and removed her glasses, settling them on the top of her head.
"Well, I think it’s fair to say that both your son and I have been patient enough with you." She said, "And the thing is, we’re not prepared to wait a moment longer. Hence why I called you here. How quickly can you pack up your things?"
Richard scoffed, meeting her gaze. Her eyes were cold, none of the motherly love and affection they were usually so full of when she spoke of Matthew. “Patient enough? You’ve been demanding every scrap of me for weeks, so you can stop selling me the sob story.” He wasn’t going to cave to her every whim, like he used to in either world. She was so used to being able to snap her fingers and have him at her beck and call, or be able to talk down to him like she owned him without rebuttal. Her little wildlings got a good kick out of that one, too.
“How quickly can I— I see. You want the house.” It had taken him a moment to piece it all together. It was such a ridiculous idea that she had apparently got into her head was achievable; he would have laughed, had he not been convinced that there was a sword or a crossbow tucked away on the back seat of her soccer mom car. He didn’t doubt that she could do just as much damage with baby on hip as without. “Marian – Don’t be ridiculous.”
With every other confrontation regarding their marriage to date, Mariana had approached her own driveway with apprehension. She’d indulged in a full, conflicted internal monologue which dreaded every instant; considered the best and worst possibilities. There had been a will-they-won’t-they tension underpinning these last few months which stank of a weak soap opera dynamic and she was feeling more than happy to bring this to an end.
Richard Vaizey had to go, and about time too.
Where was her son? By her side, of course. He would inherit this house when he was older, and in the mean time he wouldn’t be shoved to one side so ‘Mummy and Daddy could talk’.
Her tyres skidded against the gravel drive as she pulled up next to his ridiculous flashy shiny black Merc, her door narrowly missing his paintwork as she stepped out. Glancing through his window, she pushed her shades down her nose to see if he was in there or not and seeing that he was, she merely acknowledged the fact and pushed her shades back again, moving to Matthew’s door to get him out.
Of course, he had been tempted not to show. It was childish and he would only have suffered more for it, but Marian consistently asked so much of him, and provided very little in return. She kept him in her debt because the affection remained one-sided. While it had become painfully evident that she didn’t give a shit about him, Richard persistently cared for her, and she persistently used that to her advantage. But he had shown, because their son hung in the balance, and there remained a very real chance that, if he so much as looked at his mother the wrong way, she would whisk the boy out of his life for good.
Leaning back against the headrest, eyes closed and hands clenched, he hadn’t bothered to move since arriving – Confronting her outside would be so much easier than inside, he was sure of it. While repeatedly inviting her into his personal space might have made him feel better about their steadily collapsing marriage for a few scant moments, it was no good in the long-run. They needed fixed positions – And heard rather than saw her car pull up beside him. He dreaded to think what she had dragged him out of work for – And whether or not he would be able to refuse. One way or another, the women of this town were going to be the death of him.
Flicking the handle up and the door open, Richard slammed it back into its frame a little harder than was absolutely necessary, looking to her on the opposite side of the vehicle, with no intention of getting any closer quite so immediately. “And what can I do for you, my lady?”