I’m still gripping the gray-colored paper in my hands, slowly crushing it between my palms.
I haven’t known Dominique Birdbox for a very long time, although he came to town about five years ago. Or so Peter told me when I asked him at my fifteenth birthday last year. It had been a short conversation because Peter had some bad history with Dominique that I didn’t know about.
Dominique’s probably one of the most handsome boys in the village. His gold eyes are full of confidence. His thick blond hair comes in unruly waves. Once upon a time I’d had a girly crush on him. But that was before Peter kissed me.
“Hello, Azure,” he says. His tone is light and amicable, though his speech holds a noticeable Mosstueetue accent. “I was on my way home - I live on this lane, you know - but I saw your house, and I’d had my heart set on knocking at your door to see if you were there for quite some time now.” His eyes wander my face until settling on my eyes. Heat crawls into my cheeks. “I hope you don’t mind my stopping by.”
“Not at all,” I say, my words running into each other like hungry children in line for food.
“Birdbox?” Paeline blurts. “What kind of a name is that?”
No, not now! Paeline turns her puppy-dog brown eyes on me. “Is he a bird or something? Or a box? He doesn’t look like a bird or a box. Or maybe a bird in a box. He doesn’t look like that either. Maybe he’s an alien, and Birdbox is the alien word for DEATH!”
“Okay, okay, that’s enough. Paeline, why don’t you go play with Ro?”
Paeline pouts, crossing her arms. She closes her eyes. I can practically see the gears turning in her head.
After a moment, she opens her eyes again and says “Fine.”
Before she turns to leave, she looks at Dominique and whispers, “But don’t think little sisters can’t see EVERYTHING, bucko. Because we can.”
She whips around and storms into her room, slamming the door shut behind her.
Dominique raises a gold brow. “Feisty.”
I nod, smiling. “Yeah. I hope you don’t mind her rude behavior.”
Through the door, Paeline shouts, “I CAN HEAR YOU!”
Dominique grins. “I understand. I, myself, have a sibling… the problem with him is his inattention to detail.” Without waiting for me to respond with some stupid forced comment about sibling troubles, Dominique continues, “I’d rather like to… experiment with a courtship. With you. I’ve noticed that you don’t care to attend large social functions, and I wondered if something more quiet would be preferable.”
My heart stumbles in my chest. “Me.”
“Yes,” Dominique says softly. “You.”
“I’m a bit shy, but going out with you would be wonderful.”
Stupid. You’re a bit shy now? And did you have to use the word wonderful?
Dominique cocks a brow at me. “In two days’ time, perhaps? Have you ever been at Cora Rei’s Finest?”
I think of the fancy antique place near the middle of our village.
“Uh… yes,” is my answer.
“Is it official, then?”
A memory tugs at the back of my mind, of the one precious kiss I’d shared with Peter. Of the words he’d said before he kissed me. I care about you. I won’t let you down.
But he had. And he hadn’t made any move to show me otherwise for almost a year. I nod to Dominique.