Thursday, November 20, 2014

NaNoWriMo 1K-A-Day: Day 20

“Actually,” I told him, “I think it was the best thing you could have done. If you hadn’t, I might never have gotten the courage to leave Mirrorvale with Larryn.”
“And if she had never left with me,” Larryn added. “We might have never met Greyna.”
“And if the girls had never met me,” Greyna spoke up, “I might have wandered around and never found acceptance or belonging.”
Belak glanced between the three of us. “That still doesn’t explain the crazy stuff,” he said. “Like the fact that you all seem to think that a plain earthen oil lamp could be anything approaching pretty.”
I glanced sidelong at him as a mischievous smirk played around my lips. “Belak! I’m surprised at you. I didn’t know you fancied yourself an authority on pretty things!”
I teased him, but the expression on my friend’s face plainly showed how serious he was. “Of course,” he puffed out his chest. “A man in the merchant business needs to have a good eye for appraisal. I know a pretty thing when I see it.”
I glanced back at the beautiful lamp; even if what Belak said was true, that it was just a plain lamp, I didn’t see why he should regard it with such distaste. “But even plain things have their own kind of beauty,” I insisted.
Belak shook his head firmly. “To be truly beautiful, a thing must have all of the hallmarks of appearance that would be acceptable as beauty. True beauty is flawless, impeccable, and above all, most desirable.”
Larryn snorted. “To hear you talk, Belak, I cannot help wondering if you’ve ever seen something that fits your lofty standards of beauty at all!”
He chuckled in assent. “That’s a fair point, Larryn—the more I learn about beauty, the more I tend to find it in things more often than people,” his eyes passed from Greyna to me, and back to the lamp at the center, “and in Mirrorvale, not at all.”

Just then, Delia stepped into the room, bearing cups and a pot of fragrant tea. Silently, she laid out cups for us and left it on the table.
Larryn and Greyna, who had been fidgeting nervously as Belak and I grew deeper in conversation, took the opportunity to excuse themselves, as Greyna "wanted to see the other shops," and Larryn "knew just the ones to show her."
When they left, I poured tea for Belak and myself as he remarked off-hand, "Knowing Larryn, they will probably come back all fussed up like she is!" He chuckled, but there was more mockery in his tone than I would have liked.
It nettled me to hear him talk about my good friend like that, after what he had just said about all of us being crazy. I set down my teacup and the words tumbled out of their own accord.
"I suppose you think plain girls have no business dressing in beautiful clothes."
Belak swallowed and sighed. "Of course," he mumbled awkwardly. "The business trade is all about appearances; one's looks are the first selling point in a transaction."
I frowned at him. "I suppose intelligence doesn't matter so much to you, then?"
Belak shrugged. "Oh, an educated woman is fine," he said, "but it's her looks that are the deciding factor for me." The minute he finished, he looked absolutely stricken. "I'm sorry!" He said as my face burned red. "I didn't mean to say that."
"Perhaps it was a sentiment best kept to yourself," I couldn't help the cutting sound to my words, as I struggled to keep from bursting into tears just then, "but there was little doubt that you meant it!"
Belak fell silent and focused on drinking his tea. I felt the liquid doing strange things to my mind and tongue. Had Delia brewed some kind of Wordspinner magic into it?
I could tell Belak was experiencing the same thing, but had even less idea of the source of the strange effects he felt. He looked at me and spoke again, unwillingly.
“Trust me, the only reason I came to the Decorum Banquet was because I wanted to see if I could catch the eye of the prettiest girl out there. I was sure if I displayed all the right skills and wore all the right clothes, I would have a better chance of being matched with a desirable girl.”
“What about me?” Under normal circumstances, I would not have dared speak to anyone like this—but I was positive it was the tea working its influence over us, so I decided that we might as well let it. “You think I wanted to be matched with a man like Kollan? I might have performed at the Decorum Banquet along with all of the other eligible, unattached ladies my age, but Belak—honestly, I only ever wanted to be with you for the rest of my life!”
There! I had said it! No more trying to hide the speculative feelings; no more forcing myself to concentrate on only the present, only the things I could see and prove. I could not conceive of a way to prove how strongly I felt for Belak, but at least now I was able to tell him exactly how I felt!
“I don’t care if you think I’m plain,” my mouth went on while my brain and heart took their leave to sit back and watch. “To be perfectly frank with you, I think you’re rather plain, yourself, in spite of all the ways you try and show off. “
“I am not!” Belak insisted.
I smiled at him. “Hear me out: I look at you and I see your broad shoulders, your dark hair, and your deep brown eyes—yes, a lot of young men could fit your description.”
He grinned in return. “But a lot of young men have not made your acquaintance as I have,” he tried to throw my words back at me, but only succeeded in proving my point.
“Exactly,” I said, pouring myself another cup and letting the soothing warmth spread from my head all the way to my toes. “You place a lot of stock on appearances—but it is not the clothes that make the man… it is who he is as an individual. You are extraordinary, Belak, because you are my friend—just like Larryn and Greyna are beautiful girls in their own right, not because their hair is the correct shade or their noses are straight, but because Larryn is full of life and courage, and Greyna possesses the humility and virtue that make her a worthwhile woman for any man noble enough to accept her!”
Belak didn’t speak or look at me for a very long time. Part of me wondered if I’d said too much, or if he was thinking about something else entirely and I had been speaking to the air. In the uneasy silence, I saw him flinch and heard him gasp.
“What?” I asked.
He brought up his hands and rubbed his face. “I don’t know, it’s just that—I think I have something in my eye…” He blinked very hard, and when he glanced back at the table again, he jerked almost completely upright.
“How in the blazes did you do that?” He yelped.
I glanced at the table. There was the teakettle, our two cups, and the lamp; nothing had changed. “Do what?” I asked him.