“No,” Dominique repeats.
“Oh, come on! Please?” I try for the classic Paeline Thresh pout, but fall miserably short. I probably achieved the face of a disgruntled madwoman. “The Craveya Jubilee is a tradition,” I insist. “Surely you stuck-up Mossies understand the importance of such things!”
“I already told you, Azure, I can’t go. I’m sorry.”
I slouch in my chair, feeling the wintry post-cleetz air on my face, trying to calm down. I should’ve guessed that Dominique wouldn’t want to come to a silly small town party, especially after hearing him talk about the extravagant celebrations they have in Mosstueetue. Now that I think about it, I shouldn’t even have asked.
My thoughts wander, filtering out the bustle of the Market around me and turning it instead to white noise. For the hundredth time today, my brain skips back to Peter and our almost-kiss. Peter’s face so close to mine, his unruly, dark hair sweeping across his face, brushing mine, our mouths breathing the same air…
I shut the image down forcibly, refocusing on Dominique, trying to bite back the words even as they leave my tongue. “Fine. Don’t go. I don’t even care.”
Dominique gives me an ugly look. “Good,” he starts, “because I’ve grown tired of this silly little town. I’ll be gone for a few days.”
My heart sinks a little bit. Things had been going well last night… until Peter. And I’d taken my confusion out on Dominique, the one who didn’t ignore me. All because of one stupid almost-kiss and some confusing, muddled emotions that I still can’t seem to control.
I look down at my dusty boots. Lifting my fork to my lips to take another bite of chocolate cake, I ask, “Will you at least be back soon?”
“No,” Dominiques responds, a bit too tersely. “What do you think this little excursion was for?”
I glance around at the lovely outdoor sweet shop, the vendors dishing out peppermints and gliorial candies to children beneath the diamond-checked overhangings.
Before we came here, we’d been all over the Market, scouring jewelry booths for something that I liked. Dominique had said he’d buy me anything I wanted, within a hundred ehteren. At last, I stumbled across a bracelet of little pearls like bubbles, surrounded with little chips of qerbek, a rare gem mined from Shatique.
Dominique paid for the bracelet and then gently clipped it onto my wrist. It seemed to shimmer even more brightly against my skin. My teardrop pendant looked simple by comparison. The difference was that Peter had probably used every last coin he had to buy the teardrop pendant for me… while Dominique had barely spent anything at all.
“Are you sure you don’t want anything else, Azure?” he’d asked, gesturing to the other vendors, who were selling extravagant jewels that I never could have afforded, in a billion years.
I shook my head. I should have felt grateful, excited… but looking at the teardrop pendant, side-by-side with my new bracelet, I’d felt a wave of sadness.
It had not made me feel better when Dominique had told me that he wasn’t planning to go with me to the Craveya Jubilee after all.
With a reluctant sigh, I meet his annoyed gold eyes and say, “You brought me here to say goodbye to me.”
He nods. “I’m sorry that I cannot go,” he says. “Disbelieve me though you may, I have a reason not to attend. Unfortunately, I will not be seeing you until the Jubilee ends.” He sounds genuinely apologetic. Fresh guilt stabs at me, sharp and insistent. “I have some ideas for what we can do once I get back, though.”
“Okay,” I say, masking a tinge of disappointment. “Fine.”
“Well, I should be off. I’ll stop by your house tomorrow morning before I leave,” he says.
I nod as he rises, only snagging his hand at the last moment. “Goodbye,” I whisper.
Dominique gives me one last smile before pulling away from my grip and turning to go. I watch, miserable, as he disappears into the infinite sea of heads that crowds the dusty Market streets.
I decide to return to eating my cake. My mind wanders to the streets surrounding me, ears picking up on snippets of random conversation. A man argues with his wife about garden tools; a little boy whines over a scraped knee. I sit quietly, wondering what to do.
Dominique and I were supposed to spend the rest of the day together, but that hadn’t happened. Instead, he’d announced that he wasn’t in the mood to go to the festival with me. Or even spend the rest of his time in the village with me.
Tears nip at my eyes. I try to blink them away, annoyed.
I have to clear my head.
With that resolution in mind, I give an exasperated sigh. I stand and dump the cake into a nearby trash heap - which smells of rotting food and damp old paper - and then leave my plate on a table for the mainere to take care of.