“And so to conclude this staff meeting, are there any questions or comments any of you would like to make?”
Shifting her glasses up onto the top of her head, she looked up to see a single hand raised amongst the staff. Pursing her lips, she called on him.
“I know no one’s going to ask this, so for the sake of everyone here, I’d like to ask where Lelouch is and if he’s okay.”
There was a tense pause before she stiffly said, “Lelouch is currently taking a well-deserved break, which he is spending with his son back at home. Now if there are any other rumors you’d like clarified, now would be the time, or so forever hold your peace.”
When there was none, she stood up. Closing her notebook, she perched her hand on her hip.
“Alright. Then let’s finish prepping and open for lunch.”
She watched as the kitchen and dining staff stood up and pushed their chairs in before filing away. When the last of them disappeared behind the kitchen doors, she finally let out a sigh. Covering her face with a hand, she bit her lip as she tried to calm herself. Everything would be fine. Everything was going to be fine, nothing was wrong, everything would be good. But even as she told herself this, her hands were shaky as she nervously toyed with her necklace. And how could they not be? When every day Leopold asked her where Papa was, and when the staff whispered to one another over the strange absence of their work-a-holic boss, compounded with her own worries. Oh, God, it had been years since she had last prayed, but ever since he had gone to speak to Shin and never come back…
Tears welling up in her eyes, she heavily took a seat. There was perhaps no one else other than her son who missed Lelouch Lamperouge as much as she did. It had taken her a while to admit it, but she did miss him. She had always missed him, and those nights they had spent together had only served to make those pre-existing feelings stronger and stronger, thus leaving her in this state: afraid and depressed.
Straightening up, she fanned herself as she tried to dry her eyes. The work day had only just started. She was far more professional than this; the least she could do was respect this dream they had built together over the years and do her job without letting her personal life get involved. He had done it all throughout their divorce, and so she would do the same during this…this crisis.
She only hoped she wouldn’t have to keep up this guise for much longer. God knew how much longer she could keep lying to their son.
. . .
“He’s still on his business trip, silly. Remember? Maman told you yesterday.”
“Can I at least video call him? I want to show him the book I wrote in class today. It’s about me and him and we make the world’s biggest pizza together.”
“I promise you can show Papa the minute he comes back home, but right now, he’s very tired. He works hard all day long so that he can make you the best pizza ever. So let’s let him sleep, hmm?”
He pouted but eventually gave in. Kissing her son on the forehead, she smiled at him and patted his hands as she tucked him in.
“Good night, sweetheart.”
“Good night, Maman.”
She closed the door softly behind herself before collapsing on the sofa. Burying her head in her arms, she pursed her lips tightly, but all the same, the tears started anyway. It was just so hard without him. Not just with the restaurant, not just with Leopold. It was just hard not knowing and having to bear this fear that he was gone forever. Before she hadn’t wanted to admit it, but with everyday that passed without her seeing him and her not hearing his voice crushed her heart and made it ache with such intensity, she’d spent these past nights in tears. She just missed him so much…
She glanced at her phone at its chime. Sluggishly, she wiped her tears away and wrapped a shawl around her shoulders before dragging herself to the front door. Heaving it open, she blearily looked up at the late-night visitor.
“What do you want, Alexei?”
“I thought I’d find you like this,” he said grimly. Sniffling, she turned away and asked him what he wanted. She had to go to the restaurant early tomorrow morning and so had to go to bed soon.
“Where is he?”
“Where is who?”
When she caught the look he was giving her, she furrowed her brows and stepped back.
“What does it matter to you where he is?”
“Because it’s obviously hurting you. That’s why it matters to me. Because I care about you and want whatever’s hurting you to stop. And I know Lelouch Lamperouge isn’t the type of man to leave without an explanation. He loves Leopold too much to. He loves you too much to.”
She tried to swallow, but for some reason, there was a large lump in the way. Covering her face, she tried to bite back a sob, but when he told her that Lelouch did in fact love her too much to leave, she couldn’t hold it in anymore. Falling to the ground, she hid her face. When he tried to hold her, she pushed him away.
“N-no. I don’t… I’ve already said too much. I shouldn’t have even said anything to you.”
Taking hold of her, he carried her inside. Shushing her gently, he took her to her room and, setting her down on the bed, carefully peeled away her shawl and handed her a box of tissues.
“You love him, don’t you?”
With a sigh, he drew a basin of warm water from the bathroom and helped her wash her face. Drying the water from her face, he sadly studied her. It really did break his heart seeing her like this. He could still remember the first time they had met over the summer; she had been such a vibrant person then. To have her broken like this was just so…
Gently he lay her down to sleep. Kissing her lightly on the forehead, he tucked her into bed before turning the lights off and showing himself out. While it was true he loved her and that Lelouch Lamperouge was technically his rival, he also knew that the restaurant could in no way continue to function correctly for much longer with its currently sole manager in this state.
So he’d try to find him. Both for her and for Il Romantico. While he may not think much of Lelouch Lamperouge as a man, he could at least do that much for the woman and the restaurant. They at least deserved better than this. So Alexei went out to begin his search.