Follow the Fool
However much pride Franziska von Karma took in her mental strength and physical endurance, she, like her father, was mortal. And, having not had a proper meal in almost two days, she found that she was rather hungry. Famished, even. Though the American woman had had good intentions, Adrian Andrews’ attempt at cooking an omelet had been an unquestionable disaster—and the young prosecutor grudgingly admitted that she’d never bothered to learn how to really cook anything more than the simplest of dishes for herself, either. She’d not had the time, after all.
Since, as it turned out, there was no food in Franziska’s pantry worth mentioning, the two women decided to head out to find something to eat. Franziska excused herself, ducking back inside her bedroom to change out of her formal work attire—there were benefits to the weekend, after all. Once the door closed behind her, the prodigy sighed heavily to herself. That went…well, to be perfectly frank with herself, Franziska actually had no idea how that had gone at all.
Some of her worst fears—that
So… why did she feel so vulnerable, all of a sudden?
My father needed a successor, but I couldn’t live up to that… and I don’t know if I want to. I thought… I thought that Miles needed his older sister, but he was actually better off without me… he doesn’t need me anymore. Maybe he never did.
I thought that
Franziska closed her eyes, shaking her head to nobody in particular. Was that just it? Did I worry about her for four months just out of some pathetic impulse to be needed? Is that why I memorized the date her sentence ended, or gave Miles that phone number to give to her… or gave a damn about her? Was I trying to fool myself into thinking that there was somebody on this planet who actually needed me?
…that doesn’t feel right. No, I know that’s not right. But… it’s the only explanation that makes sense. What… what else could there be?
She sighed again, kicking off her boots, for once not caring that they weren’t in their specifically designated spot. Franziska entered her bathroom, twisting the dial on the wall that caused the nearby shower to hiss into life, streams of water cascading onto the porcelain bathtub below.
The young woman disrobed as she waited for the shower to heat up, hanging the various pieces of her usual outfit in her closet or putting them in the laundry basket where appropriate. Franziska, testing the water with her hand to make sure it wasn’t too hot, pulled the curtain to the side and stepped in, closing her eyes as the warm embrace of the water and the gentle caress of the rising steam enveloped her body, washing away two days of frantic work and exhaustion.
Franziska stood in the shower motionless, letting the streams of water dance over her face, dripping down onto her skin and then to the ceramic surface below, letting it rejuvenate and calm her. I’m such a fool. She… who was I to think that she could need me like I imagined she did? Look at her now… she knows more about herself and who she is and what she wants than I ever have. Who am I to place myself above her like that?
If everything I felt towards her, all that responsibility and maybe… maybe even a bit of caring… was that just for such a puerile, selfish reason? I refuse to believe that. But then why haven’t I been able to stop thinking about her?
She was in the middle of washing her short, blue-gray hair when she heard a knock on the bathroom door, and a muffled voice call, “Franziska?”
Who told you you could come into my room without my permission? She wanted to ask, but instead responded, “…yes?”
“I’m trying to make a reservation at a restaurant for us. Do you know anything good, or have any preferences?”
Franziska shook her head, even though
A minute later, there was another call. “Franziska…?”
The German woman sighed to herself. “Yes?”
“…there’s no section in the dictionary about making a reservation at a restaurant. And they don’t speak English.”
She sighed again. “
Well… maybe she still needs a translator. But nothing more.
Franziska placed the black newsie-style cap on her head, thankful that her relatively short hair dried quickly. She quickly checked herself in the mirror on the sliding door of her closet, making sure that she looked as perfect as one could expect in her situation. She was wearing a dark sleeveless shirt that fit her snugly and exactly, and was just short enough to leave a bit of her midriff exposed. Her pants were black with a white belt more for the visual contrast than to hold them up, a white that was matched by her white pumps that she often wore when not in her formal court attire.
She exited into the main room of her apartment, slinging the thin strap of her purse across her shoulders as she did so.
The American woman smiled again. “You look great in it, Franziska. It suits you well.”
After a moments hesitation, Franziska managed to slip a smile onto her own face as well—for once, not the cocky grin of the confident and collected prosecutor, but a genuine smile that carried up into her eyes. Franziska couldn’t remember the last time she’d smiled like that. “…thank you. Miles helped me pick it out.” With that, she headed to the door,
“I think I found an Italian restaurant a little walk away,” answered the other woman, idly taking off her glasses and running a hand through her long blonde hair that had caught the drift of a gentle summer breeze. “I… I think so, anyway. Gian DiMarco… or maybe just Marco. It was something like that.”
Franziska nodded, letting the wind’s caress cool her skin for a few moments before speaking. “I believe I know the place. Very well then, shall we?”
The two of them had been walking for about a minute before
The younger woman arched a blue-gray eyebrow silently. “Miles is my younger brother,” was all she volunteered, reading the signs of the various eateries and restaurants they passed trying to find one that sounded like the name Adrian had gave her.
“Oh? What does he do… is he a fashion designer or something?”
Franziska turned her head to look at her companion, a look on her face that seemed to fall exactly between “incredulous” and “ticked pink.” “No,” she said slowly, with a tone that sounded like she was explaining a concept as simple as basic addition to a child. “Miles is a lawyer. You’ve met him before.”
With the same tone she’d used before—as though this was the simplest, most fundamental concept in the world—Franziska simply responded, “He’s Miles. That’s all.” She returned to scanning the names of the establishments they passed before seeing a little Italian café that was, sure enough, named ‘Gian DiMarco.’
Her companion’s face brightened at the sight, “Oh! I was right about the name! I thought that was what he said, but he had a very thick accent…” she trailed off.
Franziska signaled to a waiter with a brief tilt of her head, nothing more, and the short, thin little man hurried over to the two ladies, leading them to one of the several outdoor tables that had several other couples seated around them, enjoying the balmy weather. The two of them sat down at their table, Franziska idly drumming her fingers on the meshed metal it was made out of. “Wait…”
The prodigy sighed softly. “He’s Miles,” she repeated, but something spurred her to elaborate for the blonde woman. “I’ve known him since I was…” she paused, thinking to herself before admitting, “I actually can’t ever remember life without Miles. My father was… well, he was my father, and the staff wasn’t much family. My sister went to university when I was 5, so she was never home much.”
She smiled, a wistful smile that spoke volumes completely silently. “He was… I guess the closest thing I ever had to ‘normal’ family. I’d already become so preoccupied and… obsessed, really, with my study of the law that I wanted to act as adult and mature as I could. So, I pretended that he was my younger brother and—and he looked up to me as a big sister.” Franziska rested her chin in her hand, staring off into space with no real focus whatsoever. “I don’t actually think my father ever legally adopted him, come to think of it. But… that didn’t matter to me. He was Miles, my little brother. That’s… just how it was. How it always would be.”
Franziska shook her head softly, feeling her face flush in embarrassment. “It’s… it sounds so silly, saying it out loud.” The volume of her voice softened suddenly as she continued to speak. “I… I don’t actually think I’ve ever told anyone that before,” said the attorney, a look of surprise on her face. That was… almost easy. It just slipped out. What… I’ve never told anyone that before!
Something had changed in the time between when she’d frantically jumped out of bed that morning and the present. She could… feel a looseness hanging in the air somehow, as if there had been something plugging and stopping up her breath, and now that thing was gone, and she could speak and talk and breathe and she had smiled. What… what had changed? Franziska prided herself on her skills of deductive reasoning and logic, but this made no sense.
“It’s not silly,” said
“Have you decided what you want to order yet,
The American woman shrugged to herself, and Franziska thought she saw her faintly blush. “I… I left my book at home,” she said, “I was sort of hoping you… could order for me? Since I don’t know how to say it…”
Franziska nodded to herself as she perused the options. “Okay. I can do that if you want. What do you want me to tell them?”
“…the menu’s in German, Franziska. I can’t read it either.”
With a deadpan look on her face, the young prosecutor arched an eyebrow in disbelief. “
“You do when the course descriptions are all in German!” pointed out
The prodigy nodded as she set the menu down on the table. “All right. I was going to just get plain spaghetti, is that okay with you?”
Her companion shook her head softly. “No, that’s not it. I don’t… I don’t really know if you could say I have a family, really. I was an only child, so I never had any brothers or sisters. My mother… she died when I was 9, of breast cancer. My dad remarried but I… I never got along well with my step-mom.”
She laughed, but there was no real feeling behind it and Franziska could tell it was forced. “My step-mom remarried after that. So, I legally have parents, but… neither of them are really my family. I haven’t talked to them since I graduated from high school.”
Franziska’s voice was an ashamed whisper. “I’m so sorry,
“I… I envy you your ‘little brother,’” said the older girl. “At least you had him. That must have been nice.”
“Miles went to
The American woman laughed softly again, more at the absurdity of it all than out of any real humor. “What a pair we are,” she echoed her statement from earlier in the day. “But… at least I had a bit of a childhood, Franziska. Your life—it’s amazing. I can’t even begin to think what it was like…” she shrugged, and the two of them were silent for a few short eternities.
“I only ever told Celeste that story,” said
“What was Celeste like?” Franziska’s conscious mind immediately snapped at her for asking such an invasive question, especially after the debacle with Adrian’s family… but it had just slipped out completely naturally, and Franziska had no idea how or why. To her surprise,
“Celeste… was amazing,” said
“She was everything to me,” admitted the blonde woman. “She was everything to me… a friend, a mentor.” There was a pause before she spoke again, as if she was thinking fiercely over what she was about to say. “I guess… I guess I was in love with her,” admitted the gentle American, her cheeks flushing red.
Franziska nodded absentmindedly. “So you’re a… you’re a… a…” she trailed off, stopping the question by sheer force of will alone. The two of them might have been discussing very personal information with as much hesitation or anxiety as talking about the weather—which in itself was inexplicable—but Franziska refused to go that far. That was absolutely none of her business, and yet she found herself inexplicably curious.
She pushed her glasses a bit farther up along the bridge of her nose before shrugging. “I don’t know. I don’t think it mattered to me one way or another, really. I didn’t feel the way I did about Celeste because she was a woman, I know that much. I loved her because… because she was Celeste. And that’s all that really ever mattered to me.”
As if she’d been deeply struck by a realization,
Looking up at the younger prodigy of the prosecuting stand,
For one of the first times in her life, Franziska had absolutely nothing to say, going over dozens and dozens of potential responses that all felt empty and trite—but luckily,
The two of them sat in silence for about a minute, looking anywhere but at the other, before
“Why…?” Franziska’s control wasn’t enough to keep surprise off her face for a split instant. Why did I? It just… I have no idea. She shrugged, keeping her tone even. “Oh… I was just wondering. No real reason.” Her cheeks were hot, and she had absolutely no idea why. Perhaps the exhaustion of the past few days had caused her to come down with a fever?
Franziska looked up suddenly, and smiled—it came easily, deceptively quickly. “Thank you. For… for trusting me enough to tell me all that.”
“You’re welcome,” responded
Then their food arrived, and so Franziska was left wondering what exactly the blonde woman had meant by that.
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