“Okay, that’s enough for today,” said Mr. Statusian. “Remember, everyone leave the building by the top of the hour, and I’ll see you back here in the morning. We’ll be beginning our final days of practice, so I hope you are ready for some serious work.”
The class grumbled. Someone murmured that that whole “last day of class” comment way back when was extremely misleading, and another person literally growled.
Beatrice, of course, was extremely pleased with herself.
It was just a couple weeks until the Winter Ceremonies. She had long since mastered the rituals in execution, but she quickly learned that that wasn’t all the rituals were about; she also had to stay attuned to her magical partners around her. They had actually created a water generation spell by accident the other day, so it seemed that everyone was growing a lot closer together. Beatrice had even started hanging out with Bodhi and some of the others after practice sometimes.
Today was not one of those days, however. No time for hanging out with friends; she was about to meet Emi at the library for a date. They had spent many days together recently, but always ended up wandering around the city and looking for food to eat, not really doing anything special. This time, though, they were going to travel the Gonda Tower, the tallest building in Elince. Apparently, its top floor was so high that you could apparently see all the way across the kingdom if you looked out from the top floor. It sounded so romantic!
It was normally closed to the public, but as long as you had the right connections, that was no hurdle. Emi, of course, knew the owner’s granddaughter, Felisa L’Flare. It was great having a rich and famous girlfriend–er, friend who may or may not have been dating her. They hadn’t exactly clarified that just yet…
Beatrice grabbed her bag and slipped it onto her back. With the Winter Ceremonies practice and her relationship–if that’s what it was–with Emi both going strong, she had a strong smile on her face. She scurried over to the library, where her Dad and Emi were currently talking at the service desk.
Emi L’Hime. Sigh. The girl of her dreams, the main thing on her mind every time she closed her eyes. Beatrice could remember when she first saw her at the marketplace, all that time ago, and was instantly smitten. And as much as she tried to ignore it, her life was forever changed that day, she knew, because she found someone worth knowing for the rest of her life.
Just look at her. Wearing nothing more special than a turtleneck and a long skirt. She made no attempt to stand out, no attempt to separate herself from the crowd, and yet she was radiating. Tall, with shiny pale skin looking something out of the most vivid dream. Beatrice had held those curves in her arms, felt those thin hairs, breathed in the smell of shampoo and perfume. She was more than just beautiful. She was Beatrice’s. (Maybe.)
“Oh, Tris, hey!” Emi exclaimed as she saw her enter.
“Hey,” was what she said, but what she thought was more along the lines of, every time I see your dark brown eyes my heart is sent into a flurry, my mind hazes up, and my entire being is sent into a blinding hailstorm of affection. She only thought it, but she conveyed it with her smile.
“You’re friends with Emi L’Hime, Beatrice?” Dad asked. “I didn’t realize that.”
“Yeah,” Beatrice said. “We, uh, sit together at the study table sometimes. You never noticed?”
“Uh, no, I never pay attention,” Dad said, with a smirk that suggested he was not exactly telling the whole truth. “But she’s a good girl. She’s been coming to this library since she was about this high.” Dad held out his hand flat to measure about twelve inches.
“Your father’s the one who got me into my favorite book series,” Emi said. “It’s called The Elf Cycle. It’s a really great mystery series with a lot of action and adventure and romance.”
Ehh… Beatrice knew her Dad read pretty much everything, so his taste in fiction books was a bit… odd. She didn’t always enjoy his recommendations when it came to fairy tales and adventure stories, and she learned as much when he convinced her to go through A Beautiful Bloodbath when she was thirteen. Not a wise choice at all, Dad…
“I’m really glad you two have become friends, though,” Dad said.
“Heh, yeah…” Beatrice coughed, and then turned to Emi. “So, are you ready to go?”
“Go? Where are you doing?” Dad asked. “Wait–” he interrupted himself. “Oh, I almost forgot. You have a letter. Mailed to the library, for some reason.”
Who would send her a letter, and why here? With a moment’s hesitation, she broke the seal and tore it open. The letter read, in a scrawled handwriting:
“You must meet me IMMEDIATELY. I have made a new breakthrough! TOP SECRET. I need your help to align the spirits and perfect our society. If you do not arrive or send response in twenty-four hours, I will have to assume you have been apprehended by forces beyond your control and will be forced to take drastic measures.
“Is it something nice?” Dad asked.
“Oh, brother.” He rolled his eyes. “Do you need to go meet her?”
“I guess I do…”
“Who’s Runa?” Emi asked.
“Oh, Emi. We might need to postpone the, uh, thing.” She was trying not to be too explicit about their date plans around Dad.
“What, do you have to go meet them or something?” she asked.
“Yeah…” There was no way she could get out of meeting Runa, she knew, even as her mind flashed through all the excuses she could possibly use.
Although… Maybe this was a fortuitous opportunity after all. This could be a chance for a very different kind of date for Beatrice and Emi, and for Emi to learn more about her. Like marketplace traders often said, she could turn lemons into lemonade.
What was a lemon?