Eliza wanted to reach out to her siblings and reconnect. She hoped to ease the guilt built up over the years. The silence given by Charlotte hurt; she had not returned any calls since leaving. The anger Eliza felt towards her sister grew over the months. Her disappointment with Charlotte’s continued silence after Vicky’s death. Their aunt supported Charlotte’s pregnancy, the least she could do was call Milly. Accepting Charlotte needed time away had long passed. Eliza refused to entertain her sister’s selfish behaviour any further. It was not alright to abandon family, Eliza learnt this the hard way. What Charlotte had done was worse as she neglected two innocent children.
Patrick squeezed Milly so tight a strained voice begged him to let go. He laughed, that same belly sound their father made when he pretended to be Father Winter. It seemed fatherhood suited him. Patrick moved on quickly from pleasantries to discussing the twins. Daciana seemed fascinated with Sparky. She loved to imitate him, snuggling at nap time and sitting with him to eat her dinner. The mention of the pup Eliza had to leave behind brought a wave of sadness and a yearning to have another pet. Luliana showed her true colours, becoming the more vocal of the two. She could also be a madam, reminding Eliza of Charlotte at that age. The younger twin demanded attention. Luliana followed Patrick or their nanny, talking loud. Patrick grumbled describing how she folded her arms in protest when naughty.
There was bitterness; while he gave the girls unconditional love, Patrick blamed himself. The similarity with Luliana increased his guilt. Patrick wished he had ended her relationship with Caleb. The man was older, and he charmed Emilie, as he did Charlotte. Caleb abandoned her during pregnancy, it devastated Charlotte. He was too blind to see it, Patrick realised then, he was not enough to hold his family together.
Eliza squeezed his hand, noting the glossy reflection in his eyes. They both carried the weight of blame. Milly had sat silent, munching her food, wondering if Patrick fancied a change of pace. Eliza had spoken of the festivals in San Myshuno, including the Romance festival. Patrick shook his head, needing to be back home. After his recent dates, Patrick thought it best to focus on the twins.
The Romance Festival depicted a celebration of love. Couples came to take their vows and singles begged the Guru for positive vibes. The main draw came from the pink sakura tea. Milly’s eyes fell on the new neighbour Hunter who had joined their trip. He was tall, slender with broad shoulders and green hair. Milly felt this could not be his natural colour. His eyes matched, and if she was to guess by his dress, green was his favourite colour. He did not seem to notice her as he made a beeline for the food stall. Eliza was already distracted. Her school friend Lee had been telling jokes since they met him on the tube. As for the object of distraction, Scarlett, they were getting drinks from the bar. Milly moved off; she scanned the options. Merchandise stands, food stalls and the Guru held the interest of the majority. There were plants and flowers that a person could harvest and gift to their love. A white arch adorned with pink flowers sat central to the festival. Petals littered the floor, and benches arranged to create an aisle. Milly walked to the far corner. Here was the place to explore creative love. Four easels surrounded a board which hosted the city artists selling their work.
Eliza sipped the sakura tea. The effects were warm, and she could taste the sweet plum of the fruit with a salty aftertaste. It wasn’t bitter or unwelcome, but a perfect balance with a dizzying influence. People around her seemed to take on a pink aura. Eliza knew aliens possessed this gift. Their emotions through the design or their bodies emitted a vibrant glow. This tea gave mere mortal humans a temporary show. The design was to enhance the natural pheromones. Eliza hoped it might be enough to entice Scarlett. Her secret crush was laughing at another of Lee’s awful jokes. Eliza stood near the Guru, distracted, watching Scarlett. Tantalised by how their lips moved with the words. The flash of teeth as they laughed and the pink aura surrounding them. Lee had a girlfriend so he offered no threat to Eliza. Besides, Scarlett had expressed to him a preference for female companionship.
The Guru cleared their throat. As other patrons awaited their turn, Eliza realised they believed she was in the queue. Her eyes widened, agreeing to hear what her future held. The Guru glanced over Eliza and studied her palm. Their face fell, brows lowered, and lips pursed, with a reluctant tone shared how she would fail to hold onto love.
Eliza rolled her eyes and made her way through the couples. As a skeptic, she decided not to give weight to the words. There was a possible romance in her future, the red-head who made her heart beat faster. Scarlett had a soothing voice; it gave Eliza goose bumps. As the festival wound up, Scarlett touched Eliza’s arm. Their eyes met for a fleeting moment, and a reddish tint flicked in the brown depths. It was a second, Eliza could still feel the place they touched. Their fingertips were soft, the place they rested tingled. Excitement fluttered in her stomach.
Was it her imagination? The desire to lean in for a cheek kiss bubbled as they reached the apartment. Could she have enticed Scarlett? Eliza wanted to believe in magic for the first time. As they said goodbye, Eliza noticed Scarlett lingered, their lips parted. Milly called from inside the apartment, and whatever was on Scarlett’s mind had to be for another day. As would the kiss.