The House of the Seventh Minuet XVII

Maltese: Id-Dar tas-Seba’ Minuett

Once all the Chinese food was eaten, Stefan got out the mead and we attempted to play more games on the Switch until we simply couldn’t. We went from Mario Party to 1-2-Switch, and eventually watched a movie together. Stefan was the first to quit drinking; he didn’t want to feel sick the next day. I actually appreciate that about him. He’ll drink and have a great time, but never to excess, and he made sure the rest of us didn’t get carried away, even if we were at a party with others.

Part-way through the movie, I got up to get some water. I noticed the bottle of orange juice in the fridge, and decided to have a small glass of that, too. I had rinsed out that glass and was getting some ice when Stefan walked into the kitchen.

“Good to see you taking care of yourself,” he said with a silly grin. He smiled more when he was drunk.

“Come to make sure I’m not having another cider?” I teased.

He shook his head and stepped closer to me. “I trust you to make your own decisions, Leila. Actually…” He tossed a lock of hair behind his back. His cheeks were rosy, but I couldn’t tell if that was from the mead or if he was blushing. He pulled me into his arms and held me close. Not overly tightly, but surely. “I just wanted to say again that I’ve really missed spending time with you.”

His shirt felt so soft on my cheeks. It was silk, black with a pattern of blue dragons. He smelled of incense and steel and– well, I was used to him smelling of leather, too, but the season was too warm for that. He’d chosen a thinner fabric for his pants that evening, something dark to match his shirt. He didn’t wear short sleeves often, but the season made it unbearable not to, so I could see a couple of his tattoos. He had a circle of runes winding around one wrist– he wore a Viking-style bracelet of the other– and a Helm of Awe on one bicep. His other arm had a depiction of Sleipnir and a pair of crows. It wasn’t a full sleeve, but it was pretty big.

“I’m thinking of adding to it,” I heard him murmur.

He must have noticed me running a finger along the outline of Sleipnir. I moved just enough to look up at him curiously.

“It’s not definite yet,” he added. “Maybe Fenrir or Jörmungand… Or both. We’ll see.”

“You’ll have to send a picture when you do,” I said, trying not to focus on the fact that he was still holding me. I didn’t exactly know why, just that breaking away might hurt his feelings.

“Or you could come with me when I do it,” he replied. “I promise not to try to talk you into getting anything.”

I laughed softly. I wonder if he remembered that the guy I dated during our time in community college was always telling me that I should get a tattoo. A Celtic knot at the base of my neck, or a butterfly on my ankle, or a stylized dragon on my lower back. He had a few tattoos, which I didn’t mind, but his incessant suggestions got old fast. Matching magic mushrooms, flowers on my breasts, a unicorn near my– never mind. Let’s just say I wasn’t too heartbroken when he decided to hit the road. I knew before he even mentioned it that Stefan would never pressure me like that.

“Let me know when you pick a day,” I told him. “There’s a decent chance I can be there.”

His grin became even wider, and he hugged me a little closer. “You’re a great friend, Leila. Oh, hey, have you been practicing with your oboe?”

I laughed a little at the question. “I haven’t played it for a long time, Stefan.”

“That’s too bad,” he sighed, slowly releasing the hug. He laid his hand on my shoulders and gave me another warm smile. “I always liked practicing with you.”

I smiled back. “And you were always better at it than I am. Hey, I’m really thirsty.” I turned around and went back to filling my glass. “Do you want some water, too?”

“I should, but you don’t have to do it for me. Go back and enjoy the movie; I’ll be there shortly.”

The couch was still warm from where Stefan had been sitting. I took another sip of water before setting the glass on the coffee table. Before he came back, I heard him unzipping the bag he’d brought with him; I found out what he’d been getting a moment later.

“You still have that thing?” I asked him.

“Of course I do,” Stefan replied as he wrapped a soft, fuzzy blanket around himself like a cloak. “It’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given.”

I smirked and shook my head. he sat back down beside me. The blanket was covered in Norse designs, knots that formed the outline of Sleipnir, and tumbling runes. It had once been black with white lines, but the black had long since faded to indigo. Stefan had taken good care of it ever since I’d given it to him for his eighteenth birthday. He looked pretty comfortable holding it close around him while he watched the movie.

We were all yawning by the time the movie was almost over. I asked Killian where he kept the spare sheets and pillows so I could get ready to set up the couch bed.

“You don’t have to sleep on this lumpy thing if you don’t want to,” he told me.

“But didn’t Larsa take the second bedroom when he moved in with you?”

Killian laughed, then caught himself when he realized I might might not appreciate it. “There’s no point to having my boyfriend move in just to make him sleep in a separate bed?” He winked at me. “The spare bed is still in there. Larsa didn’t bring a lot of stuff with him from Sweden, so he only uses the bedroom for its desk and closet.”

“Oh… okay, that sounds good, then.”

“There’s an extra mattress in there, too,” he added, looking to Stefan. “It’s more comfortable than the couch bed, but wherever you want to sleep is fine with me.”

Once the movie was over, I headed to the spare room to change into pajamas. The bed was already made, so all I had to do was move my stuff aside and let Stefan have the room so he could change. When I came back from brushing my teeth, he and Killian were about to pull a sheet onto the mattress on the couch bed.

“Why not use the spare mattress I saw in the closet?” I suggested. “It looks a lot more comfortable, and we can just lay it in the floor next to me.”

“Are you sure?” Stefan asked.

“Of course,” I told him. “It’s easier to fall asleep in a bedroom than a living room, anyway. You know I trust you.”

There was no way that Stefan was going to try anything inappropriate; he’s one of my best friends, after all. He gave me a thankful smile, and before too long we’d bade Killian and Larsa good night, and it was just the two of us in the room.

“Ready for lights out?” Stefan asked as he closed the door.

“You bet,” I said with another yawn. I was exhausted.

“I want you well-rested for all the dancing you’ll be doing tomorrow,” he grinned. Then he flicked the switched and I could hear the sheets rustling as he made himself comfortable on the mattress.

“Good night, Stefan.”

“Sweet dreams, Leila,” he replied. “May yours bring you visions of music and enchantment.”

Today’s minuet:

About Legends of Lorata

Eleanor Willow is the author of the high fantasy series Legends of Lorata, which takes place on a medieval-style world filled with elves, dragons, and faeries. There is also a fourth race, one that is rare and magical: the angelic Starr. Lorata is a distant planet watched over by four deities: good, evil, elemental, and celestial-- and there are plenty of legends about them all! One of the most important ones is the prophecy of Jenh's champion, Loracaz, who is promised to return to the realm whenever evil threatens to take hold. There are currently three books completed, and the first one can be read online. Book four is currently being written, and a fifth will most likely be in the future.
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