Seth: “So, Etta! Are you ready to work on my Robotics project? I’ve already glued the servos to a battery pack and-“
Etta: “Oh, sorry, Seth, I can’t tonight.”
Tori: “How come? Don’t tell me you have something better to do on a Saturday night than Seth’s Robotics project?”
Tori’s voice was heavy with sarcasm and her eyes so curious it made Etta sweat.
E: “Oh, nothing, really, it’s just….”
Seth: Exactly! Nothing’s better than this, so move your butt right now and go start the curcuits.”
Etta: “No! I mean, I can’t! You see, I have this thing! A school thing for math club….”
S: “Do you think I’m stupid? I was in the math club when I was a sophomore, too. I know they don’t meet up on Saturdays.”
E: “Apparently, they do now! Annoying, right?”
T: “Oh, come on, cut the bull-plum, Etta!”
Etta hesitated. She didn’t want to tell them, especially not Tori. Her sister knew she had had a crush on Dante for ages and she had tried to talk her out of it before. She didn’t want to listen to that again. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a choice, since no one was buying her lies.
Etta: “Ugh, FINE! I… I have a date.”
E: “Now, if you excuse me, I gotta go get ready.”
She heard Seth grumbling as she stood and practically ran to her room. Wonderful, just great, she thought, angry at herself. Tori showed up after a while and measured her from head to toe with curious eyes.
Tori: “Sooo! Whatcha wearing?”
E: “Why do you care? I thought you didn’t approve?”
T: “I really don’t! He IS a player, Etta. But that’s none of my business, right? It was my sacred duty of a sister and a fellow female to warn you about him, but the decision’s all yours.”
T: “And no matter what you decide, I’ve got you covered.”
Etta was taken aback momentarily and sat down in her surprise.
Etta: “Oh. Okay. Thank you!”
Tori exhaled sharply and joined her on the bed.
Tori: “Awesome! So what are we waiting for? Let’s talk clothes!”
E: “Right! Ehm, so I was thinking jeans, since I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard and maybe a…”
Tori: “Ehhh, jeans? Forget it! You can’t wear jeans to your first date, that’s just lazy. What about the skirt you bought last week? The grey one? I think I have a blue top that would go perfect with it, here, let me see.”
Tori was in her element. The words just kept coming from her mouth and she was running around the room frantically, pulling out all sorts of clothes from her closet and coming up with million outfit ideas Etta had to try on. It was exhausting but also nice to spend time with her sister. Besides, Tori seemed to know what she was doing and Etta was grateful for any help.
A few hours later, she was not so sure about Tori’s choices.
Etta: “Hmm, so where exactly are you taking me?”
Etta said it with a smile, trying her best not to sound annoyed. They have been roaming around a mysterious forest for quite some time. The trees were not awfully dense, but the forest path was steep and narrow and the sandals Tori chose for her were not the most appropriate footwear for hiking.
Dante didn’t stop to answer.
Dante: “Scared, are we?”
Etta: “Of course not! It’s only getting late and dark outside and I’m going alone into a deserted forest far away from civilisation with a strange man.”
Etta: “I mean, what could possibly go wrong?”
He chuckled and turned around.
Dante: “Oh, come on. A strange man, really? We’ve known each other since you were eight.”
Etta: “Well, yeah. But there’s a difference between knowing someone and KNOWING someone.”
Dante: “I agree. And you KNOW me. I told you things I’ve never shared with anyone before. I always say Amon is my best friend, but I feel like that’s not exactly the case anymore.”
Etta: “Woah, careful there, cowboy. If he heard you… I mean, I could easily blackmail you with this piece of information.”
Dante laughed again, the sound echoing in the forest around them.
D: “Looks like someone had a funny soup for lunch, huh?”
Etta: “Sorry. I’m a little nervous, I guess. This is not quite my comfort zone, if you know what I mean… Oh, wow!”
They finally walked out of the forest and found themselves on high cliffs overlooking the ocean. The view was breathtaking.
Water, alive with constant motion, was stretching into the vastness of sky and the sunrays fell upon the waves, swirling light into a mosaic of reflected colours. She stood still and soaked in the gentle breeze until she felt the waves within, in her mind, in her lungs, in the earth beneath her feet and clouds above her head for the waves moved through all of us, through everything. For a brief second, the world was her and she was the world.
Dante’s soft voice broke the silence.
“I know not how it falls on me,
This summer evening, hushed and lone;
Yet the faint wind comes soothingly
With something of an olden tone.”
His words flowed into the waves and the breaths and the golden light until they were one.
It took time to come back, to face the world in its prosaic realism, absolute and ordinary.
E: “I didn’t know you liked poetry.”
“I like all things beautiful and true.”
He stroked her cheek and Etta blushed under his eyes, shy and unsure. She had fantasized about being with him many times before, but she had never allowed herself to go too far with her imagination, she had never dreamt this big.
E: “Is it… your own work?”
D: “I wish. It’s Emily Bronte.”
Etta blinked with surprise. He was beating her at her own game. She thought she knew him quite well. She had crafted an image of him in her head and she genuinely thought she had him more or less figured out. And yet here he stood, with this side of him she didn’t know, so new, so unexpected.
He turned with an amused smile on his face, gesturing her to follow him.
D: “Yes, really. Why so baffled?”
E: “Oh, I just… I find it fascinating how people from so long ago lived through experience similar to ours. The times were so different and yet, we somehow share moments and feelings and thought with them. It’s so…”
She fell silent mid-sentence as they came across another stunning view.
Etta nodded slowly and smiled as he continued talking about poetry and she continued to be astonished by him. She had learned in the past months that he was more than a shallow high school jock everyone thought he was, but this exceeded all her expectations. He had such deep knowledge of not only poetry and music but of all the things he cared about; he spoke with joy and he listened with passion – a deed she never knew was possible; he joked and it was actually funny; he was charming and profound and tender, he was…
And then it dawned on her. He was perfect. Too perfect. Unlike all the other clumsy teenage brats in school, he knew what he was doing. She suddenly remembered the rumors, the girls, she remembered her sister’s words. This was his comfort zone.
Etta really wanted to enjoy it, but the better it got, the harder it was for her to ignore the nagging thoughts in the back of her head until finally, Dante noticed.
Dante: “Etta, is everything okay?”
His tone was concerned and warm and his elbow brushed against hers as he shifted weight. Etta found it challenging to focus on anything else but his body just inches from her own. For a second, she played with the idea of saying nothing.
E: “Oh, I was just wondering how many girls have you brought here before?”
She tried to keep her tone as casual as possible, but he frowned nonetheless.
D: “What makes you think…. why would you even ask something like that?”
E: “I’m sorry! But tonight’s too good. YOU are too good. I just can’t help feeling like you must have had a lot of practice to be so. Damn. Smooth.”
He seemed upset and flattered and shocked all at once.
D: “Well, I’m sorry? That’s just… I don’t know what to say to that! You’re the first girl to complain the date is too good. I mean, it is! But how is that a bad thing?”
E: “Because I just don’t want to be one of your many conquests.”
D: “What? That’s what you think of me?”
E: “Dante, come on – that’s what everyone, including you, thinks of you. Must I remind you that you have spent hours talking to my brother about all the times you’ve got laid? I live in the same house as he does, just sayin’. “
D: “Yeah, I guess you have a point. But that was then. Now it’s different. You’re different.”
E: “Seriously? A ‘you’re not like the other girls’ cliché?”
Dante stayed silent. He slowly looked into the distance, brows furrowed in a puzzled expression and Etta felt that her words sounded harsher than she intended them to.
E: “Hey, look, I’m sorry. I’m not trying to make you feel bad about it. I’m just making sure we’re on the same page here. And that I don’t end up as the next item you’ll brag about to my brother.”
D: “Etta, please. That would be the last thing I would ever do, we both know that.”
D: “And don’t apologize. I think I get it. I have a reputation and I would be lying if I said it’s undeserved.”
D: “But see? This is what I meant when I said you were different. You are so genuine. You are as nice as any girl, but you don’t play games. You call people out on their plum. You do the right thing.”
D: “The way you handled Amon during the party? I mean, woah, that was absolute fire!”
Etta couldn’t help but laugh. She knew she deserved the teasing – that party was definitely not her proudest moment.
E: “So that’s what you’re into? If that’s the case, I can scream at you anytime you like.”
D: “Oh, I do intend to make you scream – but in a totally different context.”
Etta opened her mouth in shock and blushed as she thought about the exact things he wanted her to think about and she hated herself a little for being so easily swayed by him.
E: “Maybe just… slow down a bit? I’m new to this, remember?”
He smirked and came even closer.
D: “Well, I didn’t say it would be tonight, did I? I just wanted you to know that your strong moral compass is not the only thing I like about you.”
E: “Of course not. There’s also my cooking, right?”
D: “Wow, asking me to slow down just to start with this kind of dirty talk? Talk about mixed signals.”
Etta grinned and quickly kissed him.
Etta: “How about this? Does it help clear things up?”
He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her back.
Dante: “I don’t know, does it? We better give it another shot.”