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prompt: terrible things
Young and fresh-faced, straight off the plane and into the bustling city of New Orleans. It’s a brand new start for Axel, and she’s more excited than she’s ever been in her life. She can make herself over - no need to worry about what anyone thinks of her red hair and facial tattoos. Not here.
There’s a theatre somewhere in town, and she wanders around all day, taking in the sights and hoping that she doesn’t get sunburnt. Eventually, she finds it - a grand building, seemingly out-of-place with the rest of the city. Excitedly, she skips up the steps and walks in.
She signs in and wanders to the backstage area, taking everything in. People are carting props around, others stand huddled in groups with thick scripts in her hands. Axel looks back down at the script in her hand and grins widely. She’s finally here, doing what she loves.
‘Hey, matchstick!’ comes a voice from behind her. ‘Who are you?’
Axel turns around, and though she doesn’t know it yet, she’ll forever remember the way he looks in this moment.
Tall and tanned, dark eyes that sparkle with mischief. A challenging smirk plays on his lips. His hair is black and just a little too long, falling into his eyes. A gold hoop glints from one ear, and he leans against the wall with an air of nonchalance. She notices a script tucked under his arm. She’s never seen anyone more beautiful, and he raises an eyebrow while she tries to find her voice.
‘Cat got your tongue?’ he teases, walking closer. ‘C’mon, matchstick. I asked you a question.’
‘The name’s Axel. A-X-E-L. L-L-E,’ she adds quickly. If she is staring over, she might as well do it properly and eliminate the possibility of any stupid fucking questions about her name. ‘Got it memorised?’
The last part slips out before she can stop it, and she means to apologise, but he throws his head back and laughs. And there’s something about the laugh - and about him in general that makes her heart jump in her chest.
‘Pretty name,’ he tells her, and for once, she believes it. ‘But, I think I prefer matchstick. I’m Clopin, by the way. Welcome to music theatre! Oh, and, by the way - you’re coming to dinner with me tonight. My treat. See you at seven?’
Clopin winks before sauntering off, and she’s in love.
It’s been a great two months. New Orleans is the place for her. Axel (now legally changed to Axelle) feels at home among the bustling crowds here in a way that she never has before. Although she has to wonder if it’s to do with a certain boy at her theatre that she’s been seeing on-and-off for the last two years.
She turns around with a grin, and arches an eyebrow at the bouquet of roses in his hands. Clopin’s expression turns sheepish for a moment, before it settles back into its trademark sly grin.
‘So, Axelle,’ he says, as if he hasn’t a care in the world, ‘how d’you feel about being my girlfriend?’
She’s too excited to bother making a joke about the roses matching her hair.
There’s a new boy at her theatre. His name is Roxas. He’s got blonde hair that’s spiked to one side, and skin that’s almost as pale as hers. His eyes are the colour of the ocean, and Axelle thinks she could get lost in them. On his first day at the theatre he approaches her, all ruffled hair and untucked shirts and confused stares. He’s adorable.
Clopin is not amused.
‘Stupid blonde kid,’ he mutters, whenever he catches Axelle waving to him, or vice versa. ‘How old is he? Like, twelve?’
She rolls her eyes and kisses him on the cheek. ‘Your jealousy is adorable, really, but there’s nothing to worry about.’
‘He wouldn’t do that thing you like, anyway,’ Clopin says with a sly grin. When Axelle catches his meaning, her face turns as red as her hair and he laughs for ten minutes straight.
Despite Clopin’s feelings toward the boy, Roxas and Axelle get on like wildfire. They like the same music, the same movies - they even have the same favourite ice cream flavour. He listens to her bullshit stories and crazy, made-up explanations for things, and he laughs at them like they’re the best things he’s ever heard. It’s new and, she has to admit, she loves the attention and the way he almost idolises her.
Clopin hates Roxas, and he makes it obvious.
It’s been exactly three years since Axelle’s first day at the theatre, and Clopin holds a party in her honour. Roxas is there too, but wisely, he stays away from Axelle except for a small smile and wave across the room. Clopin has been by her side all night, an arm around her waist and kissing her cheek. Eventually, he calls for silence in the room. Everyone turns to look at him, and Axelle expects him to make some kind of congratulatory speech.
Instead, he drops down on one knee.
As she puts the ring on, Axelle notices that Roxas is the only one who isn’t smiling.
Neither of them are big on ceremony, and Axelle takes on the surname Trouillefou two months later.
That night, they lay pressed against each other, legs tangled. Clopin’s hand traces circles on the small of her back, and Axelle is slowly drifting off to sleep.
‘I like the name Ethan.’ Clopin says suddenly. ‘Or Evan. Y’know, if we ever decide to have kids.’
Axelle smiles. She’s more than used to his random thought patterns by now.
‘Lea or Lee if it’s a girl,’ she tells him, nuzzling his shoulder sleepily. Clopin pets her hair and she’s never felt happier.
‘How come?’ he asks.
‘I dunno. Just fits.’
‘If she looks like you I’d call her Matchstick Jr,’ Clopin muses.
She can picture it clearly - the screeching tires, and the sickening crunch of metal on metal, followed by the sound of breaking glass. Maybe someone screamed for help. Maybe they didn’t.
Her one regret is that she wasn’t there.
Axelle moves in with Roxas a few days later. She can’t afford to pay for a house on her own, especially not after quitting the theatre. She thinks that maybe being around someone who idolises her will make her forget about him a little faster.
Plus, Roxas looks sort of like Clopin if she tries. They have the same sort of jawline, and if Roxas’ cheekbones were a little more defined…
The first time she lies with him, she admits to herself that he’s not Clopin. He doesn’t joke about baby names or fiddle with her wedding ring. He lets her roll over onto her other side and pretend he doesn’t hear her cry herself to sleep.
A few weeks later, her stomach is definitely rounder. Fuller than it used to be. Axelle sees the way Roxas looks at her, and with a weak smile she assures him that it’s his baby.
She never takes off the wedding ring.
The baby is born with dark brown eyes, already sparkling with mischief. Roxas says nothing.
She names the baby Evan, and he grows up hearing stories about the gypsies of France. Evan’s favourite is about the gypsy king named Clopin. Roxas smiles sadly every time Evan asks to hear it.
Axelle, however, is more than happy to tell that story.