The mood at the Rossini Residence was bleak. Etta hadn’t spoken to her brother since his atrocious outburst a couple of days ago and she wasn’t planning on changing that anytime soon. To get back at her, he was refusing to do the chores as he had promised before and as a result, Melia found the house in a terrible state upon her return from San Myshuno and neither of them wanted to talk to her about it. Or to each other.
Melia couldn’t wait to share everything from recipes to behind the scenes gossip with her daughter and she started describing her trip in great detail, but she was soon interrupted by loud steps on the stairs. Etta recognised Amon’s walk immediately and, unwilling to face him just yet, she kissed her mother goodbye and left for school early.
Normally, Etta would be feeling under the weather about it. She was not the type to hold grudges and she despised family conflicts because of the never ending Amon vs. Seth quarell that was exhausting everyone around.
But Etta wasn’t her normal self lately. At first, she had been obsessing about her little breakdown at the party, worried that she had embarrassed herself in front of Dante. She couldn’t understand why he had to catch her at those low, tearful moments all the time – first at the pool party at his place and now this. He must think her an insufferable crybaby.
But her paranoid scenarios were over when he texted.
Etta’s heart made a backflip when she saw his name pop up on her screen. It took her good ten minutes to craft a somehow satisfactory response. He answered back and they had been texting constantly ever since. It was ridiculous, utterly absurd how happy it made her feel. Etta was sure her eyes changed into actual hearts every time her phone beeped.
She still didn’t find the courage to actually tell him about her feelings, though. And he didn’t imply anything, either. They had been circling around the topic for days, talking about everything but their feelings for each other.
They had become close, sure, but Etta didn’t want to ruin it with a big confession like that. He probably only saw her as a good friend. Come to that, he was not acting particularly romantic towards her.
But every time she persuaded herself to finally do it, there was this little annoying voice in her head, planting seeds of doubt.
Unable to decide the dilemma on her own, she decided to wait for some kind of a sign, a prove, a hint that he liked her back at least a little – an outcome she still considered close to impossible. She still found it fascinating to think about, though. So much that she could barely do anything else, ever.
But not everybody in the house was that clueless. Aunt Devi definitely figured some things out.
Devi’s observation skills were impeccable and she had all the evidence she needed. Etta longingly staring at her phone for hours. Dante coming over daily to ‘hang out with Amon’ and then not bothering finding Amon at all and chatting with Etta for hours instead. Etta suddenly caring about her appearance a lot. The moment Devi saw her in a dress for the first time she she was six years old, everything added up.
Etta recognized her aunt’s prying tone, but she didn’t took the bait and answered as innocently as she could.
Etta laughed, impressed by her aunt’s unusual knowledge of slang and she was about to compliment her on using it correctly, when Amon walked in and ruined their pleasant morning.
Etta rolled her eyes, quickly grabbed her oatmeal from the microwave and tried to leave with her aunt, but Amon was quick. He turned and stood next to her chair, successfully blocking her escape route. She reluctantly returned to her breakfast while Amon grabbed some eggs from the fridge.
Etta snorted with contempt and tried to leave again. But Amon was not done.
He paused for a moment and after he was sure she gave up her attempts to escape, he took Devi’s seat and started eating.
She was, of course, lying. She didn’t need to think about it because she knew she was coming the second he asked. She would not waste the opportunity to see Dante.
A few hours later, armed with popcorn and a push-up bra, she was making her way downstairs to Amon’s ‘gym/man cave’ as he called it. Dante was already there but the two boys didn’t noticed she entered, because they were too engrossed in what seemed like a serious conversation.
Upon hearing those words, Etta quickly backed out of the room, eyes wide open in shock. Her heart was once again beating like a runaway horse when she realized they were talking about her. She knew she shouldn’t but she was dying to hear it.
Etta gasped. She couldn’t believe Amon would drag Angie into it. She was dead, for Watcher’s sake. He didn’t need to stoop so low. It was none of his business, anyway.
She didn’t get to hear the rest, because Tori and some other kids from school were coming down the stairs and the boys’ voices faded in the loud stomping and cheerful chatter.
Etta quickly walked into the room, trying to keep her face as straight as possible.
Dante was already seated on the couch. He smiled at her when their eyes met and patted the cushions next to himself, suggesting she should sit there.
They sat together in silence. Etta was really trying to concentrate on the movie but every now and then, she could feel his eyes on her and it made her so painfully self-aware that she barely dared to move.
For some reason, she could only think about how uncomfortably her tongue rested in her mouth and how odd and clunky her arms were, just hanging around her body like that. She was glad when someone finally dimmed the lights during the chainsaw scene and hid her awkwardness in the dark so she could finally relax a little.
Thirty minutes into the second movie, she suddenly remembered the argument she had witnessed before. The movie was terrible anyway, so she occupied herself thinking about that. Amon and Dante were friends since they were kids and she had never seen them arguing before. She knew Amon loved Dante like he was his brother – actually, much more than that – and she didn’t want to be the cause of their conflict. But at the same time, it made her feel so hopeful. Dante woudn’t ask those things just for fun. He wouldn’t risk his friendship with Amon over nothing. So it could mean that – and she barely dared to think it – he felt something, too.
Encouraged by this train of thought, Etta waited for Amon to dissapear in the bathroom with his girl of the day and then, she spoke to Dante in a low voice, preventing other kids from hearing her.
Etta interrupted him with a nervous laugh and shook her head a little.
Dante froze for what felt like ages. Etta was already cursing herself for ruining everything, when he swiftly moved closer to her and smiled.
Dante slowly rolled that word in his mouth in a way that sent shivers down her spine and it lingered in the air between them like a physical object. Then he slowly leaned even closer and whispered.
Etta was internally screaming with joy. She had to make effort to stop herself from jumping up and doing a happy dance right there and then. It was just too good to be true. She probably fell asleep while watching the movie and started dreaming.
To her surprise, Dante just laughed warmly, still looking right at her.
Dante nodded and hesitantly reached for her hand.