The girl from the marketplace was sitting right there at that desk. Right there across the room. Emi was petrified.
It had been a few minutes since she saw her, and all she could do was stand there and glance every now and then. Earl seemed to be having a bit of a hard time finding the economics book he had recommended, so Emi was having to awkwardly stay there and pretend her insides weren’t disintegrating on account of the world’s greatest coincidence coinciding right before her very eyes.
A blonde-haired beauty, bespeckled and freckled and peering into her book with the intensity of a studious scholar. A girl who, from the first glance, absorbed all the breath in your body, leaving you suffocating, leaving your eyes sucked dry. This girl, whoever she was, already had the grace to show her presence to Emi once before. Now she was doing it all over again.
Emi wasn’t prepared. She wore the exact same dirty-hem light dress she had worn that day at the marketplace, just something casual for a trip to the library. She wore no makeup, hadn’t even combed her hair. It was one thing feeling panicked around crowds. It was another thing entirely feeling panicked because you decided to be a slob and then met the most beautiful girl in the entire world for the second time.
Balarand had a hundred thousand people, all living in fifteen square miles between the Balarand River and Lake Geoffrey. As cramped as the city was, it was still massive. There was no feasible way for two strangers to meet again, not so soon, not in a place like this. But it happened, and so… What was Emi going to do? Talk to her?
No way. Just look at her.
The girl was completely absorbed in her book. She took notes without even glancing away from the text. Emi didn’t recognize her uniform, but she was probably a student at one of those prestigious local private schools Emi’s parents never let her attend.
Yes, private schools were very common back in those days for the wealthy. Very strict, very stringent, very expensive. What’s that? You wish you went to private school? Well, sometimes I wish you got sent off to Yates for a year or two. You could really learn some discipline if your mother didn’t spoil you so much at home.
Anyway, as for Emi, she fought every urge to stare–her face was already red enough as it was. She truly had been cursed by the Gods, running into a divine creation at the least opportune time, in the least opportune way. The difference between them was staggering.
The girl leaned over her desk, poring over everything, composed as she composed. Her lips were moist, her glasses rest gently on her nose. She was small, nearly dainty, but the large desk chair made her appear even tinier, like a doll brought to life, and somehow even prettier.
Compare that to Emi, who looked like she had just gotten out of bed, because she did, in a way, having only woken up about three and half hours ago. She carried no presence, because she had none. She was one with the background, and dangerously close to merging entirely with the service counter behind her.
If the girl actually took the time to look up and glance this way, Emi was pretty sure she would shrink into nothingness and disappear–that’s how powerful those blue eyes seemed.
It took a few minutes for Earl to return and finally hand her the book. A few harrowing, beautiful minutes. “Well, here it is. A tough one to find, because I sorted it in the wrong category altogether. I really should come up with some sort of numbering system for all these books.”
“Well, thank you, er, very much,” Emi said, her voice cracking. The tension in her voice was apparently very evident, because Earl’s eyebrow raised slightly.
“It’s due back in two weeks. Have a nice afternoon, Emi.”
Well, now that she had her book to study with, she was going to have a very nice afternoon indeed. But as for the girl at the desk… What could Emi even do? Was she really going to just pass up the opportunity of a lifetime to talk to the most beautiful girl she had ever seen just because she felt a bit awkward about it?
Yes, she was. Maybe if fate had something in store they’d meet once again, but for now, she was going to go outside, just like she had–