With all the recent drama, Aurora’s first pregnancy passed by practically without notice. But when the time came to deliver, Aurora was bursting at the seams with excitement. She was more than ready to meet her very first baby, and to begin filling her house with children – and with the laughter and the joy (and chaos) they would bring. Aurora knew her duty as an heiress was to produce a girl to carry the legacy into the next generation – but she felt no nervousness over the gender of her baby. Boy or girl, it didn’t matter. With as many children as she planned to have, one of them was bound to be a girl! If this one was a boy, she would have plenty of other opportunities to fulfill her legacy.
But it turned out that there was no need to worry. Like every Hasslich heiress before her, Aurora’s firstborn was a girl, and an eligible heir to the legacy.
Her name was Coralie – both in honor of Andalie, and as a reminder to Aurora to be a better mother to her children than Andalie had been to her.
Welcome to the world, Coralie Hasslich!!
Meanwhile, in a neighborhood across town, Roxas was enjoying his brand new home. He loved his family, of course, and even his sister, regardless of her mean spirit and unkind words. But the distance between them had served as a breath of fresh air, and Roxas was ready for a change.
He sat in front of his new computer in his new office, and he researched the spa procedures that would create his new look. The spa’s website let him upload a current photo of himself and experiment with different changes, nipping and tucking to his heart’s content.
The new Roxas Hasslich would be classically handsome, well-built, with a strong, masculine jaw. His nose would be smaller – less pointy, but proportionate – and an eye lift would completely transform his down-turned Hasslich eyes. He struggled to choose a new skin-tone, and even added a pricey eye-recolorization into the mix.
In the end, he filled out the form for the highly reputed spa, ticking off the procedures he wanted as he scrolled down the page. He took another look at the computer generation of his “makeover,” cringed as he filled in his payment information (BOING!), chose an appointment time, and hit submit.
By this time tomorrow, Roxas Hasslich would look like this:
…And have a body that would look like this:
The next morning, Roxas awoke with a knot in his stomach. He was having second thoughts about the procedures – but he quickly pushed his doubts aside.
This is the path to happiness, he thought. This is the change I need.
And so he put on his shoes and took a long look in the mirror.
This was the last he would see of the “old” Roxas Hasslich. The last time he would see his mother’s eyes in his own reflection.
He reminded himself that this was a good thing. He tied his shoes, and walked out the door.
When he arrived at the spa, the receptionist instructed him to change into a robe. He laughed darkly, thinking how silly it was to make this surgery seem like “pampering.” As if going under the knife was as simple as a foot massage. His shaking fingers fumbled as he unbuttoned his shirt. For the first time, it occurred to him that this was probably going to hurt – he blanched at the thought.
Straightening his spine, Roxas gathered his courage.
This is a good thing, he repeated to himself. This is the path to happiness.
He walked slowly down the hall. One foot in front of the other.
This is a good thing.
This is the path to happiness.
This is a good thing.
This is the path to happiness.
This is the path to happiness.
This IS the path to happiness.
A voice spoke beside him.
“What’s the path to happiness?” asked the voice.
Roxas stopped in his tracks, feeling dazed. Had he said that out loud?
“Hello? Are you okay?” The voice was gentle, soothing. Feminine.
Roxas turned and tried to regain his speech.
He cleared his throat.
Roxas: Oh. Hi. Um – well, I guess you could say I’m here for a makeover. A few cosmetic procedures to, ahem….enhance my appearance.
The girl laughed.
Girl: And that’s the path to happiness?! Sorry, I just don’t get it! Why would cosmetic surgery be the path to happiness?
Roxas: I just – well, I mean, it’s only – and my sister said…. What I mean is, well – I’m ugly, anyone can see that. And I’ve decided to not be ugly anymore.
Roxas cast his eyes downward, avoiding her gaze. There was something about this girl, something that made him feel suddenly embarrassed of his own vanity. He waited for her response, braced himself for whatever would come next.
But she only laughed – a hearty, unbridled belly laugh that Roxas would never have expected from the owner of that sweet, soothing voice. She even slapped her knee once or twice.
“UGLY?” she roared, still giggling to herself. “That’s not even a real thing! Not something you can fix with surgery anyway. I mean, how do you fix someone’s personality with surgery?! That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard!”
The sound of her laughter was infectious, and soon Roxas found himself laughing right along with her. An involuntary chuckle that quickly snowballed into a full-on laughing fit – Roxas laughed so hard he cried, harder than he’d laughed since his parents died, since… Actually, maybe he’d actually never laughed this hard. What was he even laughing at? He couldn’t remember – and the absurdity of the thing just made him laugh even harder.
Finally getting a hold of himself, Roxas formally introduced himself to the young woman in front of him.
“I’m Bethroot Elstree,” she replied. “You can call me Beth.”
Beth: Look, I promise you that cosmetic procedures are NOT the path to happiness. Wanna know how I know that? It’s because I’m on the path to happiness! And I sure as plum am not getting any surgical procedures done! – I’m just here for a foot rub!
Roxas couldn’t help but smile.
Roxas: Okay, then, Bethroot – since you’re the expert – what IS the path to happiness?
Beth: It’s all about new experiences, Roxas! Travel! Meeting new people and trying new things! Opening yourself up to the world! It’s why I’m here – to experience all the world has to offer!
Roxas: Even the ugly things?
Beth: I told you, Roxas. There’s no such thing as ugly. Do you look at me and think I’m ugly?
Roxas looked at her –really looked at her – for the first time, and felt his breath catch in his throat.
Beth was radiant, he realized – beautiful in a way that transcended the physical, the visual – the superficial. She laughed with abandon, and made friends out of strangers. She welcomed the unknown and found joy where Roxas saw problems. Beth forged ahead with unbridled enthusiasm, never stopping to worry what others might think. Carefree and vibrant, the world paled in comparison to Bethroot Elstree.
Roxas was enchanted.
Oblivious to the adoration written on his face, Beth breezed on, never missing a beat.
Beth: Well, beautiful isn’t really thing either, Roxas. But if you mean my soul is beautiful, then I’ll accept that.
Beth reached out and touched his arm, a mischievous glint in her eye.
Beth: How about this – I’ll make you a deal. If you cancel your procedure and come on an adventure with me, I’ll show you the real path to happiness.
And so it began.
They started simply, right there at the spa. Beth insisted they take a photo first, before their tackling their first joint adventure: yoga.
Their afternoon adventure soon ran into the evening, and then far into the night. The next morning they met again, and then again the morning after that. Each day they set out on a fresh new adventure, discovering and exploring their world together.
It turned out there were lots of things that Beth had never done before. Their trip to the beach was the first time Beth had ever seen the sea, and the night they went dancing was the first time Beth ever drank juice. She had never seen a farm before, or hiked in the mountains, and she had certainly never seen a waterfall or met a real live hermit! And of course, everywhere they went, Beth made sure to document their escapades as they unfolded.
When Beth admitted she’d never been fishing, Roxas determined to take her to his favorite fishing hole – a magical, secluded place deep in the forest.
Roxas: I can’t believe you’ve never been fishing before! I mean, what, did you grow up under a rock or something?
Beth laughed, knowing he was only joking. But what he didn’t know was how close he’d actually come to the truth….
Beth: Something like that! Let’s just say I lived a sheltered life until now. That’s why I’m here on this adventure with you! When my sister left home, I realized how much of the world I haven’t seen, how many people there were to meet! I just had to know what else was out there, you know?
She pulled out her phone and drew Roxas in for the requisite selfie.
Beth: Speaking of my sister, I think she’d love to see what we’ve been up to! Not that I know where she actually is….
She sent the photo off, and turned back to Roxas.
Beth: You know, there’s something else I’ve always wanted to do…. Would you take me to a cemetery?
An hour later, Beth followed Roxas through the ominous wrought iron gates of the Newcrest Cemetery. A little nervous, she hung back and let Roxas lead the way. He did his best to seem brave, but deep down he was feeling a little jittery himself.
Roxas: So legend has it that this place is haunted by the ghost of Victoria Newcrest. She was the daughter of Newcrest’s founder, Augustus Newcrest, and as a young woman she was jilted at the altar by her lover. No one knows for sure, but they say he was a Lothario – poor Victoria was so devastated by the rejection that she threw herself into the canal –
Roxas screamed, shrill and high-pitched, like an infant or a little girl. In any other situation with any other person, Roxas would have been mortified – but the pair immediately devolved into laughter, and it never occurred to Roxas to be embarrassed.
I’m completely myself when I’m with her, he realized.
And in that moment, he knew – Beth was The One. And there was no turning back.
A few nights later, Roxas called Beth and asked her to meet him at the most romantic place he knew. He gave her directions (of course she had never been there before!) and patted the tiny box in his pocket before heading out the door.
Roxas: Bethroot Elstree, you are the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. You’ve helped me to become the very best version of myself – and with you, I know that’s more than enough. You were right all along – the path to happiness has nothing to do with looks or appearance. Beth – YOU are my path to happiness. I know you want a life of adventure – and all I want is to go on that adventure with you. Wherever you go, I will go too – as long as you’ll have me.
He looked up at her, hope in his eyes.
Roxas: Beth, will you marry me?
Beth nodded vigorously, unable to choke out the words.
Beth: If I’m your path to happiness, Roxas – then you are my adventure.
She pulled him in close and whispered in his ear.
Beth: And as long as we’re on an adventure, there’s one more thing I’ve never done that I’m just dying to try….
First, a big thank you to Sabreene for sending Beth to Roxas!
For those of you unfamiliar with Bethroot Elstree – Beth is the sister of Merriweather Elstree, founder of the Elstree Prettacy. Beth and Roxas’s story will continue as part of the Elstree legacy (which you can check out here!).
Also…I have used quite a bit of gallery content in this chapter. I will update with lot names and creators as soon as possible!