Pouting was something I attributed to the self-absorbed high society women my age, but never myself. Yet somehow I found one such pout plastered to my face on the carriage ride back to the ship, and why? Because Jericho was off doing who-knows-what with who-knows-who.
I looked around the carriage at my companions. Aster was chewing on her lip again and fiddling absently with the beading on the sky-blue dress of Egyptian cotton we had picked out directly after the tour. Jacer was sitting perfectly still and staring blankly out at the night sky, perhaps feeling nothing for its beauty. Well if the Captain wasn’t around, then his orders shouldn’t stick, I decided.
I turned around and flashed the driver my most charming smile through the little window. “Hello, I didn’t catch your name.”
He was young, maybe a year or two younger than me with the barest hint of a beard and cheerful eyes. He grinned but kept his eyes on the winding road ahead of him. “My name is Firad.” His accent was extremely pleasant to listen to.
“Pleased to meet you, Firad, my name is Eddy.”
He couldn’t help but glance at me and give my face a once over. “That’s a strange name for a woman, is it not? Especially one as lovely as yourself.”
I blushed straight down to my toes and noticed Aster was feeling herself again by the stifled laughter from behind me. “Eddy is short for Edwina, but hardly anyone calls me that anymore. I was wondering if there is anything exciting going on in the city tonight? My sense of adventure is burning bright and I’m not ready for bed yet.”
A mischievous glint sparkled in Firad’s eyes. “I know just the place. It’s the last day for the Festival of Song if you like to dance.”
“Eddy what are you doing?” Aster whispered, yanking on my dress to get my attention.
“I just want one night to feel alive under the Egyptian sky,” I said in earnest. “I never got to do it with my mother, and who knows if I’ll ever get another chance. Jacer will keep us safe if anything goes wrong.”
Aster looked uncertainly at Jacer whose expression hadn’t changed once and nodded.
I could barely contain my beaming smile as I leaned through the window again. “Take us to the festival please, Firad!”
A few minutes later the carriage was parked beside a large clearing in the center of Cairo, decorated with strings of multicolor lights. There were people selling food out of carts everywhere and from somewhere close by came the most beautiful, upbeat music Eddy had ever heard. The best part was the way that both Aster and Jacer’s eyes lit up.
“Find me when you want to leave and I will take you anywhere you want to go.” Firad winked at me and wandered off into the crowd.
I took hold of Aster’s hand and started pulling her towards the sound of the music. “Let’s dance!”
“You girls have fun and I’ll stand watch,” said Jacer, scanning the mass of people for any signs of a threat.
“Oh no you don’t!” I said sternly, grabbing Jacer’s hand with my free one. “You’re dancing too.”
Jacer didn’t pull free from my grasp but he wasn’t going to come quietly either. “Eddy, I wasn’t programmed to dance.”
“Jacer, you were programmed to keep me safe and happy. I would be so unbelievably happy if you danced with us.”
Jacer looked startled but finally smiled at me—a smile that was beginning to look like his old one.
The source of the music was a tiny old woman wearing a black dress almost identical to mine. She sang her little heart out, flanked by a group of men playing hand drums and strange string instruments I’d never seen before.
For what felt like hours, Aster and I took turns spinning each other in circles and dancing so hard the beads on our dresses looked like they would fly off. Jacer started by nodding to the beat of the drums, and ended with a few outstanding moves I’d seen my father use to liven up a few stiff dinner parties. He surprised Aster and I by twirling her and throwing her into an artful dip, causing Aster to collapse in a fit of giggles.
Firad reappeared and joined us for one last dance that left our little group tired but in good spirits.
“The night has aged, where would you like to kiss it to sleep?” asked Firad, once again in the driver’s seat.
“Cairo Airship Bay, please, good sir!” I managed through a deep yawn, and settled sleepily onto Jacer’s shoulder.
In no time Jacer was shaking us awake. I tipped Firad generously and kissed his cheeks, hoping sincerely that our paths would cross again someday.
“Eddy, who’s that?” asked Aster, once we’d gotten closer to the Heliopause.
There was a scantily clad brunette woman standing by the entrance, looking as though she were trying to find her way inside.
“May we help you?” I said loudly as I approached her.
“I doubt it; I’m looking for Captain of this ship.” She tossed her long hair over her shoulder, hardly acknowledging me.
“Yes, well at this hour Jericho is probably asleep.”
That made her pause. She looked me up and down, a coy smile appearing on her lips. She walked over to me slowly until she was inches from my face, and shoved an article of clothing into my hands.
“He left this at my place,” she said, her accent making the words almost unintelligible. “See that he gets it? I wouldn’t want him to get cold without me.”
With another acidic smile the woman walked away leaving me in a state. Without preamble I put Jericho’s jacket into Jacer’s arms. “Give that to our dear Captain would you? I’ve got to go scrub the harlot off of my hands before bed.”