AR 1212-12-02 Rissa and Sardi watch a meteor shower and remain Just Friends

“Hey everyone,” Rissa said to a tableful of her classmates as they finished dinner, “I hear the pond out behind the barn is frozen, and our innkeepers have some extra ice skates. Who’s up for a sunset skating session?” She paused, but received a response devoid of any real enthusiasm. “Oh c’mon you guys. Verona, remember when we used to go skating when we were little. It was so much fun.”

Verona smiled with nostalgia as she recalled visions from her childhood. “You’re right, I used to love ice skating. I haven’t done it in years.”

“Think you can still manage a double axel jump?” Rissa asked, drawing her in.

“I bet I can! Let’s go!” Verona turned to Yari, “You’re coming too, right?”

Now was Sardi’s chance. “Actually, I was hoping to have some words with you in private, Yari. It’s pretty important.”

Yari nodded. “Sure thing, Buddy. Sorry, Verona, you girls go ahead without us.”

Six months ago such a comment would likely have elicited much pouting. But tonight Verona simply said a disappointed “alright” as she leaned over and kissed Yari’s cheek.

Krunch interjected, “I gotta see this skatin ya be boastin about. Mostly ‘cuz I can na wait ta see one a ya prissy girls fall flat on yer arse.”

Several others in their group joined in, either as skaters or spectators. The mass of teenagers left for the skating pond leaving Sardi and Yari alone at the table. Sardi turned to his friend. “You’ve got some business with Elsie to attend to, right?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“And it’s pretty important, right?”

“Uh huh…?”

“And you and I just had words about that fact,” Sardi said as if mentally checking items off a list.

“Yes, we did, and you promised to keep quiet about it!”

“Well, hey there you go! A perfect alibi with no lying, courtesy of your best friend.”

Yari blinked at his friend a moment, the gears turning, then gave him a large hug. “Thanks,” he whispered. “What would I do without you?”

Sardi patted him on the back. “Pro’lly get in way more trouble than necessary.”

“That’s true.”

~~

It was well after dark when Sardi rounded the path to the barn and saw the mage light coming his way. The skating party was headed back to the inn. Hopefully he had bought Yari enough time alone with Elsie. He probably should have stayed there in the common room until Yari came back downstairs. Yari might need someone to talk to when all was said and done. Sardi knew that, but here he was on the path to the skating pond. He got impatient waiting.

Was it impatience? Or did he not want to be alone? No, that wasn’t it. His little brother and Quinellia had stayed behind in the common room so he could’ve joined them if he wanted company. Maybe he just wanted to spend some time with Rissa. Was that selfish? Shouldn’t Yari come first? Maybe he should turn around now and be there for his friend?

No, he had plans for tonight, and he was going to stick to them. Ever since he and Yari had watched the meteor shower together, Sardi had wanted to share it with Rissa. He wasn’t quite sure why that was important, but it was. And so far, something had always come up that prevented them from getting together to see it. Who knew how much longer it would last? Tonight was the night. Sardi took a deep, calming breath and stayed his course. Yari could wait until tomorrow.

The others were upon him. Verona called out, “hey, where’s Yari?”

“He didn’t feel like coming out,” Sardi answered.

“What are you up to?” Rissa asked.

“I thought maybe you’d like to watch the shooting stars tonight. It’s quite a show.”

“Oh yeah that sounds cool,” Rissa agreed. “You guys wanna?”

Sardi didn’t really care what ‘you guys’ wanted, but he had to be polite. “Right, everyone’s invited of course. I know the perfect spot where we’ll have a great view.”

Verona made it clear that she was going back to the inn to ‘check on Yari’—no doubt uneasy about him being alone with Elsie. Most of the others mumbled about it getting too cold, or wanting to have a few drinks around the fire before bed, or just a general lack of interest in the celestial pyrotechnics. The only other person who seemed interested was Franziska, but when she realized her presence would prevent Rissa and Sardi from being alone, she quickly came up with an excuse to return to the inn with the others.

Rissa turned to Sardi. “So, guess it’s just you and me, pal. Lead on. Where’s this special place of yours?”

“There’s a real pretty meadow up the trail that way…well, at least it was pretty in the summer when I was there last.”

“Was that the time you came here with Yari?” Rissa asked.

“Yeah, I had plenty of time to myself to explore these trails while Yari was…”

“…banging Elsie,” Rissa finished the sentence for him. Sardi snorted, to which Rissa responded, “Oh let’s not pretend like that’s not what was going on.”

“For the record, I didn’t say anything. I don’t know what was going on behind closed doors,” Sardi said in Yari’s defense.

Rissa scoffed. “Well, I’m sure they were closed for a reason.”

Sardi had no rebuttal for that. The pair fell into silence until they arrived at the meadow. In the summer, with wildflowers abloom, it surely must be a pretty sight. But now in the clutches of winter it was merely an expanse of dead, dry grass ringed by bare skeletal trees.

“Ooh,” Rissa pointed toward a streak of starlight, gone before she could even point to where it had been. The falling stars made no sound at all. Rissa thought it odd that they wouldn’t screech at their impending doom. They were probably just too far away to hear. Another one flew overhead. And then another. “Spectacular,” she whispered to the boy standing next to her.

Sardi replied in an equally hushed tone, as if it would be irreverent to speak at normal volume, “Yeah, and this isn’t even as intense as it was the other night.”

Rissa smilled at him and returned her gaze skyward to enjoy the show and the complete silence of the night.

The complete silence.

“Oh, my…there’s no voices!” She realized out loud.

“Huh?”

“There’s no voices in my head!” Rissa said excitedly pointing at her skull. “Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve heard any since we left the caves.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you still heard the voices,” Sardi said with a touch of uneasiness in his voice.

“Well Gaia hasn’t spoken directly to me in a long time,” Rissa said. “But I hear whispers all the time. Most of the time I can’t make out what they’re saying but I know they’re there, at the very edge of my mind. But not now: they’re gone.”

“Are you okay?” he worried.

“Yeah, fine.” She said that in such a neutral tone that Sardi wasn’t sure whether it was true or not. He got the impression she wasn’t sure either.

“It is kinda cold though,” she said rubbing her arms.

“Oh, duh,” Sardi said taking off his backpack and opening it up. “I brought a blanket.” He draped the blanket over his shoulders, stood behind Rissa, and wrapped his arms around her so that she was enveloped by the fabric too.

“Mmm, that’s better,” she said contentedly.

Suddenly Sardi shifted so that he was standing next to her, rather than behind, with a single arm around her shoulder. The movement was sudden enough that it startled Rissa. “What’s the matter?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Sardi replied nervously.

“Alright…well it was warmer the other way,” Rissa said as she moved back in front of the boy and pulled his arms around her. As she did so, Rissa felt something press against her buttocks. It shifted slightly. It wasn’t his hands…. “Oh!” she said aloud as it dawned on her. Sardi’s body was telling her what she had been longing to know: he was attracted to girls—to her.

“Oh dear Odin, no! You felt that, didn’t you?” Sardi sounded completely mortified. He backed away from her, causing the blanket to fall to the ground. “Rissa I’m sorry! I—”

“It’s okay,” Rissa said reassuring.

Her words didn’t’ seem to register as he continued to stammer uncomfortably. “I didn’t mean to—I wasn’t thinking about—it just happened. I’m so sorry.” He really stressed those words. Then he snatched the fallen blanket from the ground and held it in front of himself like a fleece shield. “Oh gods, how embarrassing!”

“Really, it’s okay, Sardi.” She tenderly placed her hand on his forearm. “You don’t need to be embarrassed. It’s perfectly natural for… that to happen to guys. My mom told me all about it.”

“You’re not freaked out?” Sardi asked.

Rissa shrugged, “Why would I be? No, you’re the only one freaking out, and there’s no reason for it. It’s normal, and I’m fine with it.”

“I wasn’t trying to get fresh with you, honest,” he said, still apologetic. “It’s kinda got a mind of its own sometimes.”

“Well, I for one think it’s got good taste,” Rissa said, trying to use humor to lighten the mood. It worked, eliciting a slight snicker from the boy. She smiled. “I mean, I’d be more worried if it didn’t do that.”

“Oh it does that, at the worst possible moment!” he said with self-deprecating humor.

Rissa rolled her eyes. “Shut up and get back over here with that blanket. I’m freezing.”

“Oh, right,” he said. Sardi wrapped a blanketed arm around her shoulder, but still stood to the side. Rissa wasn’t having that. She slipped in front of him again. He was still erect.

“Just think of something else,” she offered.

“Believe me, I’m trying!” he said in frustration.

“Well try—harder.” Rissa burst into laughter at her own joke.

“I’m glad you find this so amusing.”

“Oh, okay, I’m sorry,” she said. “Truth be told, I actually find this kinda…flattering.”

“Y-ya do?”

“Yeah, and your arms wrapped around me, it feels kinda nice,” Rissa said, gently caressing his arm as he held her.

“Yeah?”

“Mmm-hmm,” Rissa nodded. She could feel him trembling. Was it the cold, or nerves?

They stood there in silence for several moments more. A streak of light flashed across the sky, followed closely by another, and another in rapid succession, each one eliciting a gasp from Rissa. Sardi smiled at Rissa’s wonderment, happy to be sharing the moment with her. Finally Sardi squeezed her a little more tightly and whispered in her ear, “You’re right. This is nice.”

Now it was Rissa’s turn to get nervous. “Yeah, but uh, don’t get any crazy ideas there pal. We’re still just friends, right?”

“Of course,” he said plainly. “Just friends.”

“Right,” said she.

“Right,” said he.

Sardi pressed his cheek against hers and the pair gently swayed to a rhythm that was not there. Rissa became acutely aware of her heart beating out a tempo in her chest. After several long minutes, she spoke. “Maybe we should head back to the inn.”

Sardi nodded, “maybe that would be best.”

AR 1212-12-02 Rissa and Sardi watch a meteor shower and remain Just Friends

Thraes lkjergensen