I popped back at lunchtime, but she was in the shower. I grabbed what I needed for the afternoon’s lessons and also for Urtok’s callisthenics class, but I had to be on the other side of campus for my next lesson so couldn’t hang about. I shouted to her through the closed door, but with the noise of the shower, it wasn’t much of a conversation.
At the end of the day, I made my way, exhausted and sore, back to my room. Urtok’s idea of going easy on me wasn’t the same as mine. I was sporting a whole wealth of intriguing new bruises and was eager for a long, hot shower to soothe them. I wasn’t entirely surprised to find that Lizzy had gone, but she did leave me a couple of nice surprises. The first was a note:
'Hi Jenny. Sorry we didn’t get to have that chat today, but we will. In the meantime, can I just ask that you look after yourself and don’t worry about me. I know what I’m doing and things are ridiculously complicated. That they have dragged you into the situation is totally unfair and I’m really angry about that. I hope you will do as I ask and maybe we can catch up tomorrow. Lizzy.'
It was a nice touch.
The second surprise was the bathroom that Lizzy had left spotlessly clean. It indicated that her mess was by design and not slovenliness as everybody seemed to suggest, but why be a messy slob if it’s not in your nature? It was all rather odd.
I showered leisurely and found the piping hot water very soothing on my aches and pains. I felt very much refreshed when I emerged from the bathroom clad in a soft, fluffy white towel. Perched on the edge of my bed, I began to towel off my hair, and that’s when I spotted that Lizzy’s wardrobe door wasn’t shut properly. My brow furrowed deeply as sinful thoughts began to invade.
The wardrobe door was open. It needed shutting, but to do that I’d need to make sure that none of those beautiful dresses got caught, so I’d have to open it a little bit more to check.
No! And I hurled the thought rudely aside.
But it wasn’t as if I was going to rummage through her stuff. I wasn’t going to invade her privacy. I was only going to see what I saw last night when Lizzy opened the door … only a little closer up.
I desperately tried to push the temptation away, but I knew I was going to fail long before I found myself standing in front of the door.
And as she hadn’t actually shut it, she couldn’t be that bothered, could she?
The excuses just kept coming. Even as my fingers reached out and pulled the door open, some part of me kept trying to justify it while another reprimanded me. At least until the door swung open and then I became totally engrossed in the wardrobe’s contents.
It was beautifully tidy. On the floor, elegant shoes in a rainbow of colours stood in two neat rows. On the shelf above, a selection of evening purses and shawls lay, the shawls neatly folded with great care. And in between hung the dresses; such beautiful, elegant gowns, all fit for the most special of occasions. They filled the rail with just a couple of cadet uniforms at the far end and a few casual clothes. But what would a cadet need with so many elegant gowns? And why was she out every night it seemed? An unworthy thought came to me. Was she an escort or 'companion'?
No, she couldn’t possibly be. The Academy must know she was out every night. If it was for reasons such as that, it wouldn’t matter if she was the daughter of the President of Starfleet himself, she’d be out!
I found myself looking at the drawers, and don’t ask me why because I shouldn’t have done it, but I opened the top two. I immediately felt a pang of guilt, which quickly faded as I stared into them. One held neatly folded underwear, which I shut quickly, but the other held make-up and toiletries. It had the potential to be a very messy drawer. I know mine was usually a hotchpotch of containers with mismatched lids and a thin film of some unidentifiable product on almost everything, but Lizzy's wasn’t. Every last item, from deodorant to lipsticks, was neatly contained in little boxes so that nothing could spill or tip. Lids were on everything and none of the containers were soiled. A place for everything and everything in its place. How curious that she should be so tidy and careful with some things and so contemptuous of others.
I shut the drawer and returned to my bed and set about blow-drying my hair, but my eyes kept returning to Lizzy's side of the room, my thoughts drawn back to the paradox again and again.
Suddenly, I realised. The things she held in contempt were all academic things, things for Academy lessons. All the things she cared about were personal items and things of beauty. Lizzy had a beef with the Academy, but why was she here then?
Unable to resist the urge to pry further, (I find it rather disturbing that the more you do it, the easier it becomes), I took one of her datapads off her shelf and flicked it on. Her attendance record flashed up and my mouth dropped in horror. Lizzy had an appalling attendance record! She only went to about a quarter of her classes! More surprising, though, were her grades. There was nothing below ninety-two percent. How could someone get such good grades without attending any lessons?
I returned to the wardrobe and opened the door again. A vivid blue number caught my eye. There was something familiar about it. I’d felt a similar sensation the first time I saw Lizzy, but that was daft. Our paths had never crossed before; but as I stared at the dress, I knew I was wrong on that score. I had seen Lizzy before and I knew this dress, but where would I go to see a woman in a dress such as this?
My fingers played over the soft, velvety fabric and toyed with the sequin detail—and then, suddenly, it came to me!
Bella Dinares! Lizzy was Bella Dinares!
Bella was a jazz singer that I’d seen perform at the BeJazzled jazz club with Bairn the last time I was at the Academy. She had a very powerful, sultry voice and her performance had been fantastic. But what was Bella Dinares doing at the Academy?