The House of the Seventh Minuet XXXIV

Swedish: Den sjunde menuettens hus

I was sitting on the edge of the bed in my flower-print swimsuit when Stefan emerged from the bathroom wearing his favorite swim trunks. They were black with a wavy green pattern that practically played tricks with my eyes– he looked good in them nonetheless.

“Ready?” he asked as he got to work on gathering his hair back.

“Ah– yeah.”

I don’t know why I was so distracted in that moment; maybe it was the long drive and the busy afternoon. It couldn’t have been the sight of his bare chest and the way his tattoos spread across his muscles. I didn’t think he was the type to work out, but maybe he’d decided to take advantage of his apartment complex’s fitness room without telling me. Whatever he was up to, he was doing great.

I hopped off the bed, plugged in my phone, and grabbed the small bag I’d thrown together to take to the pool. It already had my room key in it, plus some hair ties and a couple bottles of water. Stefan plugged in his phone next to mine and pulled a few dollars from his wallet.

“Want to grab something from the soda or snack machine on the way down?”

“I’m good,” I said as we headed to the door. “I can hold off ’till dinner. What about you?”

We stepped into the hall and started towards the elevators.

“I think I might be okay, too,” he told me.

The way he smiled down at me was like a warm beam of sunshine on a quiet winter’s day. I couldn’t help but smile back, even as we skipped the snack machine and stepped into the elevator. We rode down in silence, content just to be together, for things to be calm. Once we reached Killian’s room, Stefan knocked firmly, and I heard a yelp coming from inside, followed by giggling. Stefan and I shared a knowing glance while we waited for the door to open.

“Hallå!” Larsa exclaimed when he saw us. “You got here fast!”

“Did you need more time to put on less clothes?” Stefan asked him, raising a questioning brow.

Larsa was blushing again. He he had on blue swim trunks and a form-fitting swim shirt designed to look like the flag of Sápmi, though admittedly they did look a little disheveled.

“I’ll be right there!” Killian called from further inside the room.

“He’s almost ready,” Larsa told us.

I think Stefan could tell how much he was trying to sound calm and casual, because he was grinning like a fox. “We can just meet you down there if you two need a few minutes.”

“Uuhhhhhmmmm….” Larsa turned to look back in Killian’s direction.

“Don’t tease him!” I ordered Stefan, pretending to punch his arm but not actually making contact. “He might just take you up on your offer, and then we’ll be be lucky to even see them at dinnertime.”

“No,” Killian called again. “No, I really want tae go swimming.” A moment later, he was at the door. “Hey, you two. Did ye call tae invite us tae the pool when ye were already ready, or what?”

I decided not to mention how red his cheeks were. “No,” I told him, “but we didn’t get as distracted as you two did while we were getting ready.”

Larsa gave me the wiliest grin I’ve ever known him to have. “You should though, he told us. You two could have a lot of fun together.”

I swear my jaw hit the floor with a loud thump at that comment. I looked over at Stefan, who was now even brighter red, and practically choking.

Thankfully Killian was not nearly as speechless as we were. “Come on now lad, if ye go ’round matchmaking, I’ll hae to cut ye off early tonight.”

“But wouldn’t you be depriving yourself?” Larsa asked him.

Killian shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Beer, Larsa,” Killian told him. “I meant beer. These two have been friends for as long as I can remember, and if ye try forcing them tae make anything more of it, I’ll make very certain ye don’t get drunk tonight.”

“But Killian!” Larsa whined.

“That’s enough, lad,” Killian told him. “Do ye have everything ye need?”

I offered to hold their stuff in my bag, and once they were ready to go, we headed back over to the elevator. Larsa still seemed amused with himself, though part of me thought he was just trying to get attention from Killian. At the same time, I wondered whether Stefan wanted to talk about what Larsa had said. I chickened out of saying anything, though; there was no reason to poke at the subject unless he brought it up.

Thankfully, the indoor pool wasn’t too crowded. Stefan grabbed us some pool towels and we claimed a couple lounge chairs next to each other. Larsa was the first one in the pool– I was just sitting down to tie my hair back and he was already underwater.

“He was pretty disappointed when the apartment complex closed the pool for the season,” Killian told me. “Swimming is one of his favorite activities.”

“It sure looks like it,” I said. “So he has you wearing a swim shirt, too, now, I see.”

Last I remembered, Killian only swam in swim trunks; now he had a swim shirt with a dark gray body and light blue sleeves, which more or less matched his trunks.

“Aye, lass,” he said with a nod. “He’s used tae wearin’ one since it keeps him warm. It’s a little more aerodynamic, too.”

“It looks nice on you.”

His smile brightened. “Ye say the sweetest things, lass. It’s pretty comfortable, really; I ended up glad he got me to try one.” He paused for a moment before adding, “I hope he didnae cross any lines with what he said earlier.”

“Killian,” Stefan said with a laugh, “You know I’m not so sensitive as to be bothered by something like that. The thing to remember about Larsa is that he always– and I mean always— means well.” Then he looked to me. “Ready to race across the pool underwater?”

That was always one of Stefan’s favorite things to do in the pool– aside from cannon balls or doing tricks on the diving board, neither of which were allowed in the hotel pool. Back when we were teenagers, we’d go to one another’s houses, and sometimes to the water-park, and played any number of water games– the underwater race was always a staple. We both sat on the edge of the deep end, and Killian did the count-down for us. We slid into the water, and Stefan was piercing through it like a torpedo while I was still getting my bearings. I swam as fast as I could anyway, and emerged close to the other side to find him lounging on the stairs, grinning as he watched me.

“I swear, Stefan, you are part fish,” I told him as I stood before him.

“I prefer dolphin.”

I turned around to glance at the way Larsa was swimming circles around Killian. “Not compared to him.”

He chuckled. “That’s hardly a fair comparison. He practically lives in the water.”

Stefan got out of the pool and walked along the edge towards the deep end. I followed along in the water, chatting with him as we went. Once were were there, I noticed something that had me practically grabbing his ankle.

“Stefan, what is that?”

He looked down at his right calf as if uncertain what I could be so excited about. “What… you mean this?” He knelt down so that I could see his leg a little better. “You didn’t notice it earlier?”

I shook my head. “You mentioned you’d chosen what you wanted for your next tattoo, but I didn’t know you’d actually started it.”

“Yeah… this is just the outline, but it’s going to be Fenrir with some knot-work around it.”

“It looks good so far,” I told him. “I still wouldn’t mind being there with you as you get it filled in.”

He grinned and sat down on the edge of the pool, his feet in the water. “I might just call you,” he said, his voice somehow more pleasant, richer. “Larsa went with me last time, but I think I need to distract you from that owl.”

“You think so, huh?”

“Yeah.” He hopped into the water. “Backstroke race!” he declared even as he was already taking off.

I laughed and followed him. We swam together for at least an hour, switching to the hot tub now and then to relax and chat. It was Larsa’s growling stomach that eventually prompted us to head back upstairs to get ready for dinner.

We didn’t get off the elevator to walk Killian and his boyfriend all the way to their room, but waved them off and let them know we’d call before we came back down to head to dinner together. Back in our room, Stefan offered to let me be first to take a shower.

“I don’t really need one tonight,” I told him. “I can shower in the morning. You go ahead; I’ll get changed while you’re in there.”

He nodded and promised to warn me when he was ready to come out of the bathroom and make sure I was dressed. Then he disappeared and turned on the shower. Stefan always showers after swimming; he’s very careful with his hair and makes sure to not let it get discolored or damaged. Some of the guys back in high school– and even a few in college– used to tease him for taking such good care of himself, but the joke is on them as far as I’m concerned. His hair is soft and thick and strong, and–

I pulled myself away from thinking about Stefan’s hair; my stomach was going to start growling soon. I stood on my towel as I slid off my swimsuit, then used another towel to get the rest of my skin dry before digging through my suitcase for what I wanted to wear. Once I was dressed– black leather pants and a lacy shirt in red and dark shades of gray– I pulled a few other things out of the suitcase to hang in the miniature closet to they wouldn’t get wrinkled.

Stefan was still in the shower, but I didn’t necessarily need a sink, so I sat near the mirror and combed out my hair. I was in the middle of spraying a little detangling conditioner into my curls when I heard a sound from the bathroom; something between a yelp and a groan. I paused and listened for any other sounds, but since all I heard was the shower after that, I went back to combing my hair. Then I put in some little pewter skull earrings and slid a couple Celtic knot rings onto my fingers.

Eventually, the shower turned off and I heard footsteps in the bathroom. By then, I’d put on lotion and socks, and was lying on the bed checking my phone messages. A few minutes later, Stefan knocked on the bathroom door and it creaked open slightly.

“Are you dressed?” he called to me through the crack.

“Yeah,” I called back. “It’s safe to come out.”

The door opened the rest of the way, letting out clouds of steam.

“The Warwick is great,” Stefan said as he stepped into the main room. His hair was wrapped up in a towel and sat on the top of his head, and he had on his favorite terry-cloth robe with Viking designs. “Their showers are big and actually make enough hot water for me.”

I laughed a little at that comment; Stefan loved hot showers.

“Are you okay?” I asked him. “I heard some kind of shouting earlier.”

“Oh– it was that loud?” he replied, laughing it off as he turned around to search his suitcase. “I stubbed my toe in there. Not to worry, though– hey, what’s this?”

I sat up to see Stefan reaching for the things I’d hung up. One of them was the dress I’d just bought, which was obscured by a layer of delicate white paper and then plastic.

“No peeking,” I told him. He was really close to it, so I hopped off the bed to stand between him and the dress. “You’ll see it tomorrow–“

“But why–“

“When I’m wearing it,” I insisted.

I didn’t give Stefan time to protest, but handed him his own leather pants and the green and white shirt that he liked to wear with them. “Get dressed,” I told him, firm but still playful. “If we take too long, Killian and Larsa are going to find other activities to occupy them, and then we’ll be the ones waiting.”

Stefan laughed. “I’m sure Killian has a snack or two he can give Larsa to tide him over.”

My eyes widened– not because I was too prudish to let him make such insinuations, but because his jokes were wasting time. “Clothes!”

“Okay, okay, as you wish. But first,” he reached back into his suitcase and grabbed some boxer-briefs, “I need this, too.”

I grinned even as I shook my head and watched him walk back into the bathroom. He closed the door and I went back to checking my messages. After a couple minutes, he opened it and stepped out with the clothes on. He took the armchair near the air conditioner and got to work on unraveling and combing his hair.

“Do you need to blow-dry it, too?” I asked him.

“I think I can skip that for today,” Stefan replied. “Why, do you need to do anything in the bathroom? I hope I wasn’t taking too long.”

“No, I’m okay,” I said. I sat up and started pulling my boots on. “Should I call down to the boys?”

“Might as well,” he said, laughing to himself a little. “Who knows if they’ll answer the first time.”

They did, though. Larsa was starving and eager to get to a restaurant. They ended up coming up to meet us, and Larsa wasted no time in doing everything he could to get Stefan ready faster: bringing him his socks, then his boots, then his jewelry, then– I think then he resorted to teasing him, half of it in Swedish.

He was as excited as a kid on their first hotel stay when we finally had our things together and were out in the hall. Larsa rushed ahead to call the elevator up to the eighteenth floor, and was practically bouncing as we descended down to the main level.

“Do you not let him out much?” I asked Killian.

Larsa laughed out loud. “I get out all the time,” he told me. I ride my bike to classes, and to the store, and– oh, we still need to find the indoor community pool!”

“We will, lad,” Killian assured him. Then to me, “This is his first time in Seattle.”

My face brightened, We got to the main level and headed out across the lobby. “You’re taking him to the Space Needle, right?”

Larsa’s eyes shot over to Killian, his expression hopeful and eager, and maybe even a little bit worried.

“Ye’re makin’ this hard on me, lass.”

“Please, Killian?” Larsa begged.

Killian gave me a look, like he was disappointed and I should have known better.

“What’s that all about?” I asked him, ready to defend myself.

Killian grinned and shook his head. “All right, outside, the lot o’ ye.”

Once we were outside, Killian started explaining what was going on. “I was goin’ tae wait till tomorrow tae tell ye, lad,” he said as he took Larsa’s hands, “but I extended our stay here so I can show ye aroun’ the town.”

“So we get to visit the Space Needle?” Larsa asked.

Killian nodded. “Tomorrow, we’ll go all the way tae the top.”

“Yes!” Larsa shouted. Well, screamed is more like it. No wonder Killian had us step outside.

“And I’m takin’ ye tae the restaurant at the top,” Killian added.

“What?!” Larsa shouted. Then Killian was in his arms, locked in a bear hug– a bouncy bear hug. “Oh Killian, you’re really the very, super-awesome best!”

“Wow,” Stefan said as our friends lost themselves in kisses as though nobody was waiting for them. “Killian really has a flair for the romantic, doesn’t he?”

I nodded slowly, almost too surprised by how happy Larsa was to really say much.

“I’m really glad they met,” Stefan added. “Larsa doesn’t mess around with relationship drama–”

“And Killian puts his all into the person he’s in a relationship with.”

“Right you are, Leila,” Stefan agreed. “Right you are.”

I’m not sure, but I thought I heard something in his tone… something akin to longing. He was genuinely happy For Killian and Larsa, but… Never mind, I’m probably overthinking it. What I heard was probably the wonder of seeing two people so right for one another. People who were going to be hard to separate so that we could get some food.

Today’s video has a lovely bit of dancing, plus music with flute, harpsichord, and more.

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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