August 2, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Enrie looked at Gianci. He looked at her. There were more important things to be worried about right now, she knew. But he was between her and the exit, and Taikie was between them and leaving.
She looked over his shoulder, although there was nothing there. “I’ve been interested in you since I first saw you,” she admitted quietly. “But I didn’t want to make anything complicated when we’re still in our first year of school, and…” She ducked her head, abashed.
“…and you thought I was an enclave Bitrani.”
“Yeah,” she admitted softly. “It was silly. I’d heard you talk. You don’t have an accent like Saydrie or like other Cevati Bitrani I know.”
“…I think you speak more Bitrani than I do.”
“My parents are diplomats. I speak fluent Bitrani.” He was looking at her — staring at her. She made herself stare back at him.
“So,” he coughed, “more than me. Is this…” He gestured between them, “because I’m, ah, blonde, then?”
“No.” She smiled crookedly. “It’s because Taikie locked us in a closet.”
He wrinkled his nose. “You know what I meant.”
“If you must know.” Enrie sat down on a stair and looked at him. “I saw you talking to Lovdyo and some of the other smaller students, the ones that looked lost. I saw the way you took them under your wing…”
“You don’t seem like the sort of student that needs wing-taking. Were you jealous?” He leaned forward, frowning.
“Jealous? No. I was intrigued, and interested — but I was,” Enrie looked away, “… well, I was worried, because Cevati Bitrani, enclave Bitrani, they don’t tend to marry out.”
Gianci stared at her for a moment before he said, carefully, “and thus they don’t bother, say, going down to the beach with Calenyena, either. Or going to the races, and so on?”
Enrie flushed and made herself look back at his face. “Yes. I wasn’t… I wasn’t thinking about adding on a suffix, not like that. But the Bitrani — the Cevati Bitrani,” she corrected herself quickly — “they stick to themselves most of the time. And if you were… I thought you wouldn’t… Oh, I’m normally not nearly this bad with words.”
“Take a breath,” he offered. “I’m not angry with you—”
“You certainly were, though!”
“Oh, well.” It was his turn to shift and lean backwards. “I thought you were just trying to put me off. And then when everyone was saying that you and Saydrie were… well, that you were spending time alone together…” He looked away. “I suppose that’s not what’s going on either?”
“Saydrie is Cevati Bitrani,” Enrie said gently. “He is probably going to engage in Bitrani courtship before marrying a nice Bitrani girl.”
“Bitrani and royalty sometimes…” he offered uncertainly.
“Sometimes. But in our case, no. Gianci, I turned you down because I’m busy looking for a treaty that might get me stripped of my vowel and charged with treason. Not because I’m interested in taking my teammate down to the water.”