“There!” the princess leaned back in her chair the next morning. A few locks of hair lying beside a pair of scissors on the desk in front of her, she smiled at her reflection in the hand mirror she had propped up. Two new curls framed her face, covering her cheeks, covering her scar.
A knock sounded at the door.
“Hold on, Antenor!” Hataru scrambled to make herself decent as she crossed the room and wrenched the door open, “I’m coming─ oh!” She cut off mid yawn.
Shading out the sunlight, Captain Levi Spry ─ not Antenor ─ stood smiling with a serving tray in hand. “I brought you some brunch…” his brow furrowed, “I’m sorry, did I wake you?”
“No, no. It’s fine,” she gulped, frantically running her fingers through her hair. She noticed two domed platters on the tray instead of one. “But, I don’t think I’ll be able to eat that much.”
“Actually, I…” the captain shifted his feet, “I was hoping that I might be able to join you?”
She blinked, her slow, still-sleepy mind attempting to contemplate what he was saying. The seconds of silence weighed down upon them like the heavy boulders executioners might use to press their victims to death, until she finally uttered, “Well, it is your own room, isn’t it?” The gesture was meant to be playful, but without a smile, it came off as rude and almost patronizing. Hataru wanted to thwack herself upon the forehead as she stepped back to let him enter.
They sat across from one another eating their buttery egg croissant sandwiches and sipping tall glasses of orange juice, neither one of them daring to meet the other in the eye. As opposed to their friendly conversation the day before that had flowed as smoothly as a lazy river, this morning’s encounter was going nowhere but down. Like a torrential waterfall, the silence roared, filling the room with its heavy, stiflingly humid air, but Hataru tried to ignore it. She noticed a freshly-cut yellow tulip in a small vase sitting on the food tray that the captain had brought, and silently wondered, How in the world did he get a hold of a flower on a flying ship?
The princess stared at Levi curiously, while he focused on his food ─ too busy to notice her peeping eyes for the moment. Whether she agreed with his lifestyle or not, she realized, she couldn’t blame him for his actions. Stealing for survival? Her cheek tingled. She didn’t have to try very hard to imagine what that was like, and it was for that reason that she found herself unquestionably intrigued by this man. He spoke about his life with such candidness, like no one she had ever met, and yet he seemed to clothe himself in mystery. How was a pirate cultured enough to own so many different books, for instance? How could a thief be so selfless to bestow candy upon impoverish children? And why did there seem to be a constant sadness hidden behind the joy in his face? She wondered if she would ever figure him out.
Unable to stand the insufferable silence any longer, Hataru finally spoke, “So… will your grandmother really be alright? We could have stayed longer if she needed more assistance. I hate that you left her like that just for my sake.”
Levi wiped crumbs away from his mouth, “She’ll be perfectly alright. Grandmama raised me when I was young and my father was away on his… ah, escapades. I remember having to help her to bed after each of her little supernatural incidents.”
“About that… what did she mean when she said ‘the animals are stirring?’”
“I wish I knew,” he shrugged.
“And she said that I would help you. Help you with what? And what are you supposed to protect me from?”
“Again, I don’t know. Maybe she was referring to how you helped me pass out our goods to the villagers, and how I saved you from those men. It’s hard to say with Grandmama’s prophecies.”