Kallima scoffed and rolled her eyes. Shay and Amelia sat at their corner table, discussing something or other, as Sable filled a plate of food. The fiery dream fae quickly stepped to the small girl’s side and began scooping food onto her plate.
“I know that’s not for you,” the Briton pointed out. “You don’t like beef.”
“In Shay’s culture, it’s custom for a man’s girl to get his food for him,” she said. “To prove how well she knows him.”
“So you are dating,” Kallima said, glad to finally get a straight answer out of her friend.
Sable chuckled, placing a single orange wedge on the edge of the tray and taking it to her new boyfriend. Shay stood and whispered something to her before kissing her cheek. Sable blushed then returned to the food tables to get a meal of her own.
“Never saw that before,” Kallima said.
“It’s an inside joke. You wouldn’t get it.”
“Got that right. Just… don’t forget to be yourself, Say. From what I hear, Shay’s culture can get… strict.”
“What?” Sable laughed.
“Iggy showed me some books about the different sub-cultures of Evandial. I swear, he’s trying to turn me into some sort of politician. There are dozens! It’s as if all the different fae have different beliefs, and sometimes they overlap and sometimes they don’t... I can’t keep up,” Kallima said. “But I think I remember Shay worshiping Mahet, so that narrows it down to two sub-cultures, one of which is very harsh on women.”
“Mm. Well, I’m grateful that Andrew and Shay are kind to their girls,” Sable said, turning towards their table.
Kallima shivered, wondering why anyone would even consider joining such a culture. Then again, when Sable sat down, Shay offered her half his orange wedge, which she accepted with a smile. The tall redhead smirked at them and considered Sable’s words. Shay was good to his girl, she claimed. He would not touch her to punish her, she had said. Kallima remained skeptical of the assertions, though. She grinned as her thoughts turned to a more noble affection.
Noble. That was what Blaze was. Always hesitant, tender, and emotionally sound, Blaze seemed to treasure her mind and soul, not use her for her body or power. Ignatius constantly said otherwise, but, for all his intellect, he lacked a certain understanding and tact. In fact, much like she had tired of Mateja’s remarks, she was growing frustrated with Ignatius’ jealousy.
So, when she sat down, she made sure to sit as far from the golden senior as possible, instead taking a chair between the two girls. Sable rubbed Shay’s arm with her own, she stuck so close to him.
“Finals are coming,” Ignatius pointed out with a shrug. “Anyone need any help?”
“Nah, I’m good,” Amelia said. “I’m mostly Bs, so...”
“Same here,” Kallima said. “I don’t know what to do for my art project, but that’s more something I need Say’s help with.”
Sable blushed at the comment and said, “I... don’t know how much, like, help I’d be. But, um, you helped me with... with math. So I’ll try.”
“How are you doing in shadow magic?” Amelia asked.
“Better. Like, I’m no star pupil, but I can at least move them now.”
“So you only need to work on gymnasium?” Shay asked.
“No-not exactly. I need to, like, make my art project amazing, too.”
“It’s okay,” Kallima said. “We can set a work time and keep each other on task.”
“Mm. That would work.”
“Shay?” Ignatius said.
“Did you need help studying?”
“Ha! N-no, I’m fine. I’m p-passing algebra, right?” Shay asked. Ignatius nodded, and he sighed, continuing, “I might not be as good as Kali, but gymnasium is my best subject. No worries there. English and history are good. Spirit magic... Yeah, I’m okay. I g-got this.”
“Sh-sh-shut up,” Shay hissed.
“Shay, are you all right?” Kallima asked.
“I’m just s-st-stressed.”
“Over...?” Kallima prompted.
“Finals, okay?” Shay said. “I’m pulling a B- in Alchemy. Dad’s pissed off. Do you know what he said when he got my mid-term report? ‘Not from you.’ Andrew got a C in spirit magic, and he didn’t care. But I got a B- in freaking Alchemy, and it’s the end of the damn world!”
“I failed gymnasium last term.”
Everyone turned to the fire fae at his confession. Kallima, who already knew this, grinned softly. Ignatius stuck out his chin in ownership of the fault.
“I wouldn’t fight,” he said. “I got through Labyrinth on my brain, and Drummer wants physical skill, not mental. So he failed me.”
“I got a D in history. Slept through class,” said Amelia. “I would have failed if I hadn’t gotten an A on the final.”
“Gymnasium was, like, my only A last semester,” Sable said. “I got C’s and D’s in, like, all my other classes.”
Unable to think of a class she didn’t get an A or B in, Kallima said, “I almost got expelled for spitting on the prince.”
Amelia laughed again, saying, “I heard about that! I didn’t see it, but I remember hearing Dad talk about it, and he...”
Amelia’s smug expression vanished, replaced with one of sorrow before shifting to terror. She whimpered, and Ignatius reached over to pat her hand.
“I don’t wanna go,” she whimpered. “Is it really as bad as they say?”
“Yes,” said Ignatius and Sable simultaneously.
Amelia’s lip quivered then she began bawling. Ignatius drew her chair closer to him and held her to his chest. Her dual buns bobbed around his chin as she cried, and he pet the smooth, loose hair beneath.
“Hey, it’s okay. Just… cut down on your eating the last few weeks of school. It makes the transition easier,” he said.
“I don’t want Jane to go there!”
“I know. It’s terrible. But you’re gonna be there to protect her. She’ll be safe. She’ll be fine. And I’ll look out for you both, okay?”
“Because. You’re my friend, right?”
“And friends take care of each other, right?”
“Then trust me to look after you.”
Amelia nodded and curled up in Ignatius’ lap, humming at his warmth. Something in Kallima’s stomach tightened at the sight of another using her heater. Then a gentle cough behind her drew her attention. Shay scowled as he glanced up, and Sable snuggled closer into his side. Kallima, though, turned to the source.
Acacia stared at her, pouting sadly and clutching a small box.
“I helped Mom make these,” she said, holding out the case. “For you. An apology.”
“Apology for what?” Kallima asked. “Dropping me in a hole or making Shay miserable?”
“I will apologize to Shay when I feel he has earned it. I was trying to scare you and went too far. I gave an assassin the opportunity to kill you. For that, I am truly sorry,” the dryad said.
“Did you mean to?” Ignatius asked, still coddling Amelia.
“Of course not! I just wanted to scare her,” Acacia said. “I just wanted to scare you.”
Kallima nodded and took the box.
“The chocolates,” she said, “will buy you my pardon. But you’re not sitting with us.”
“Not s-? No? Why not?”
“I don’t want you anywhere near Shay. Iggy, taste.”
Ignatius took one of the chocolates and popped it in his mouth. Then he nodded.
“Thank you, Case. I forgive you for what you did to me. Now please,” Kallima said, shooing the dryad with one hand, “go back to your new friends.”
Sable trembled, staring at the candies. Kallima plucked one from the box before pushing it to the center of the table. Shay thanked the dream fae, plucking one for himself, and Amelia snatched two away with a squeal. Ignatius chuckled and grabbed another as well.
“They’ll be gone before you take one, Sable,” Kallima joked, selecting another bonbon.
“Kali’s sharing them, Say,” Shay said. “Go ahead.”
Sable whimpered, took a chocolate, and said, “I’ll pay you back.”
“It’s not like I bought them,” Kallima said.
“Chocolate’s really, like, expensive…”
“Chill out, Say,” Amelia giggled, swiping another treat. “When are you gonna get another chance for chocolate?”
“I don’t, like, wanna spoil myself.”
Shay rolled his eyes, snatched Sable’s chocolate away, and forced the candy into her mouth. The girl squeaked, chewing slowly before melting into Shay’s side.
“Good?” Kallima asked.
Sable nodded and said, “I haven’t had chocolate in almost ten years.”
“Is it really that expensive?” Kallima asked, only to receive a short nod from Ignatius.
“I miss Mama,” the gargoyle said with a whimper. “On payday, she would buy, like, a little box of chocolates, and she and I and Papa would have them after dinner. But when… Gavin still buys chocolate sometimes, but he, like… He keeps it for himself.”
“Dick,” Shay breathed.
“Mm. I wouldn’t, like, want it anyway. Not from him.”
“Good,” Amelia said. “Madelyn doesn’t like you living with him, even.”
Sable flinched and said, “You did a seance, didn’t you? You went behind my back.”
“No! She just- Every time you leave, she gets this painful look on her face. It’s pretty obvious she doesn’t want you around him.”
“Stay out of it, Amy,” Sable warned, standing. “I won’t go back. I’d rather put up with him than go back there.”
Sable retreated from the room quickly. Kallima excused herself to chase after her. When she caught the grey girl, Kallima took her arm and silently accompanied her to their room. Sable sighed and leaned on her roommate.
“Are you sure you don’t like girls?” the gargoyle asked.
“No. I mean, yes, I’m sure,” Kallima said. “I am dating Blaze. You are dating Shay.”
“Mm. If you say so.”
Scoffing, Kallima lightly shoved the girl rubbing on her arm.
“What? You started it,” Sable said, blushing.
“Do you like girls, Say?”
“Not really. Gavin says-.”
“Oh, this’ll be good.”
“Says that it’s all I’m good for, so I might as well get used to it.”
“Sable, we talked about this…”
“I know, but it worked on Shay, so-.”
“What?” Kallima shrieked.
Sable cowered on her bed and hugged a pillow to her chest.
“He’s already making sure I get, like, whatever I want. All I have to do is suck him off every so often. It’s not so bad, being, like, a lord’s plaything. And Shay’s the best. He’s gonna buy me a new violin. Kali, I haven’t had a violin since… He’s gonna keep it at his house, so Gavin doesn’t pawn this one off. He won’t touch me, Kali. He promised. He said, like, ‘not unless you want me to.’ Is it weird that I, like, kinda want him to?”
“Considering your age, a little.”
“Mm. I bet his hands are softer…”
“Softer than what?”
“Huh? I said soft,” Sable said.
“No, I heard ‘soft-er.’”
“Psha. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re drunk,” Sable said with a chuckle.
Kallima rolled her eyes and sat down. Using her homework as a distraction, she kept the question teasing the back of her mind in her head, though every time she paused the words played in her thoughts again.
Are you drunk, Sable?