“Okay, Olivia. Are you ready?” Basilio asks with slight amusement.
“Do you really think I’ll ever be?” I reply, blushing hard. It only makes his smile grow.
“Well, we’ve been doing this long enough. Give it your all.” The ridiculously tall man pats me encouragingly on the back--a little too hard for my tastes--as the host of the party announces my name. I step out from behind the curtain, balking at the sight of a such a large crowd. What did you expect from a rich landowner? And it’s not like you haven’t seen this before…
With barely any time to recover, the music starts and I’m alone on the floor, dancing fluidly, loving it but hating it all at the same time--oh gods, why do they stare like that?--until I can forget it all and lose myself into my favorite routine.
That is, until I see him.
He’s in the shadows, dressed up in a simple yet elegant white button-down shirt and leather pants, though it doesn’t seem to fit him comfortably. He’s leaning against a pillar, sipping a drink. His hair is dark and short, naturally tousled--at least, I think so--like he just ran his fingers through it.
And he’s not looking at me. His eyes...I can’t even guess his eye color, he’s that far, but they’re downcast, like he’s admiring the floor. I know they’re polished to the point you can see your reflection, but it’s not that interesting. Certainly not more interesting than me.
“Olivia!” Basilio loudly whispers. “What are you doing??” I look at him and down at myself, realizing that I’ve stopped keeping time with the music. Nonono, now everyone will look at me even more! Blushing harder than before, I speed up my movements to match the song, still keeping an eye at the only person not looking at me, willing him to do so.
Wait. Isn’t it good that he’s not looking at you?
Yeah but...this never happened before.
By the time my routine ends and I’m bowing deeply as I get roses, too many roses, thrown at me, I find to see that the man has disappeared.
“What’s wrong, girl?” Flavia questions absentmindedly. She’s supposed to keep me company when Basilio’s away, but it usually ends in awkward silences as we do our usual day-to-day business: I practice new routines and Flavia...I don’t even know, quabbles with Basilio and enters fights in a ring for prizes, always on the hunt for the new best warrior. Now I’m brushing my hair as she reads paperwork. Okay, I’ve been thinking about that man the other night too much and I’m just listlessly holding the brush nowhere near my hair.
“...Remember that party the other night? With the landlord?” I glance at myself in the mirror, the blush starting to appear.
In the mirror, Flavia doesn’t look up. “Yeah. What an ass, harassing you like that.”
I bite my lip, my heart sinking. “He harassed you too…”
“Yeah, but I can cut him in two seconds flat, but you’re just a shy dancer who...you don’t need that.”
“Thanks, Flavia.” I actually forgot about my interactions with the landlord; at this point I just block most unpleasant things out.
“So what is it you were saying?” The blonde hero asks, finally meeting my eyes in the mirror.
“Oh, I saw this...man, and--”
Now I have her undivided attention. “Again? Oh gods I need to cut--”
“N-no, it’s not like that!” I say quickly; she started unsheathing her sword, and I really can’t have Flavia wreaking havoc just to find one man I’ll probably never see again.
Flavia raises an eyebrow, letting go of her sword. “What is it then?”
“Well…” I put down my brush. It wasn’t going to happen anyway. “Nothing actually. I just...saw him in the corner while I was performing, and...he wasn’t looking at me?” The blush starts to spread.
The blonde squints her blue eyes. “Is that so? That’s odd…”
“R-right?” I pick up my brush again, feeling a burst of indignation at the man’s aloof attitude.
“But...you don’t like it when people look at you while dancing. Which doesn’t make sense actually, like--”
“Okay, but,” I cut in, refusing to go into the logistics of my shyness, “it really bothers me? The fact that he didn’t...like my dancing wasn’t good enough.”
“Oh gods girl, of course it is! Everyone loves you, and you’re so sweet.” The way she says it sounds like she’s ready to fight anyone who doesn’t agree. Which I’d expect, actually.
“O-okay…” I resume brushing my hair, letting silence fall between us.
After a while, Flavia gets up from the plush armchair in the corner and approaches me. I don’t realize until her cool hand rests on my shoulder, startling me. “Wha--?”
“Would you like to go out with me tonight?” Her blue eyes are filled with mischief.
The blush from earlier comes back in full force. “W-well…” My eyes scan my few lipsticks scattered at the vanity mirror.
The blonde laughs heartily. “Not like that, girl. I’m going to a fight and I would like you to accompany me.”
I look up at her this time. “Really? Have I been requested?”
She snorts. “No, you’re just a guest this time. Don’t worry, I won’t let anyone hurt you.” She adds, noting the apprehension in my eyes.
“Still looking for that champion to represent East-Ferox, huh?”
She laughs again. “Of course! Can’t have Basilio besting me again! Now get out of those dancer garments and put some actual clothes on.”