Etta was mad. Disappointed too. And slightly embarrassed. But mostly mad.
At first, she was mad at Dante. Or she wanted to be. But she knew it wasn’t really his fault – people couldn’t decide what to memorize. It wasn’t like he did it on purpose.
Besides, Dante was still visiting them regularly for his music lessons and Etta found it impossible to stay away from him. Getting a chance to be around him and not taking it… still felt like a terrible waste. Everytime she saw his face or made him smile or simply heard him ringing the door bell, it made her heart flutter like there was a humming bird trapped inside her chest – and she was getting addicted to the rush.
Dante was not helping, either. Clueless about what he was doing to her heart and mind and her whole existence, he started scheduling his lessons with Devi more often. And what was even worse (or better), he hanged around their house longer after each one of them.
They were never up to anything fancy. Mostly he watched her cook dinner and although she never persuaded him to help with preparations, he always happily helped with eating.
They also talked a lot. About school and after school plans, about music and football and food. About their families, too. Etta told him some embarrassing childhood stories about Amon and Dante regularly shared the craziest family histories with her.
Sometimes, he played a few songs for her while constantly making fun of his lack of skill, although that joke was getting less and less funny every time, since Dante’s playing was actually getting better rapidly. He usually played some sappy love song from the 80s, because they had easier chords, as he explained.
Etta didn’t mind. There were only very few things in the world she found more mesmerizing than Dante at that point of her life, but singing Dante was definitely one of them. The lyrics were often so suggestive that Etta was sure he chose them on purpose to torture her.
Still, it was a strangely pleasant torture. Too bad it was always over when Amon came home, since Dante was only sticking around until Amon showed up and then they headed out together. But Etta was grateful for every second. The boys were already seniors in high school. Soon, they would graduate and leave and her few stolen moments with Dante would end forever. She just couldn’t afford being angry at him, when their time was so limited.
So instead, the poor girl was mad at herself. She was mad for being so naive, for letting herself hope that someone like Dante could ever be interested in her. He was the most popular guy in their school, a talented athlete and musician and also the most handsome person she has ever seen. He could have any girl he pointed his finger at.
It was hopeless. She knew it. But no matter how much she fought it, she couldn’t get rid of those feelings. On the contrary. Few weeks went by and Etta realized that what was once a pure physical reaction changed to actual affection. She cared about him. She cared about his well-being, she cared about his daring dreams, she cared about his heart, simply because she knew now he had one, no matter how hard he tried to hide it with his playboy manners and indifferent attitude.
She cared about him. And it was almost unbearable.
But Etta was not the only one to notice the change.
Etta was suspicious, but her aunt just winked at her like it was no big deal.
After Etta’s hesitant little nod, she smiled brightly.
Etta was glad she came. Watching Devi perform was energizing and uplifting. She knew Devi was highly skilled and talented musician, she had heard her practice many times before. Daily. But seeing her perform, seeing the energy she poured into her music was a totally different experience.
Afterwards, they sat to eat veggie burgers Etta prepared for them and after a very brief, pleasant small talk, Devi looked at her niece knowingly:
Etta sighed. She did feel like talking about it, she just didn’t want anyone to know that such a ridiculous matter was troubling her. It was such a petty thing in the grand scheme of things, after all.
It sounded even worse than she imagined it and Devi’s badly hidden ‘I knew it’ look didn’t help.