Seven

A Dance in the Rain




“Ezzie?”




The name stuns her and she stands up immediately, her heart pounding as adrenaline ran through her. If she abandoned her things she could get a head start and run-
She stared at the unfamiliar man but his voice was familiar, she narrowed her eyes until they landed on a familiar-looking amulet on his chest. “...Quinn?” It seemed impossible. He was in Bridgeport. This was not Bridgeport.




“In the flesh!” He held his arms off to the side, a cheeky grin on his face. Certainly Quinn, then. “Well, not my flesh, but if I announced that earlier then that would sound much more disturbing.”
Perhaps Esmerelda should’ve been more suspicious, yet she couldn’t bring herself to be. Something about his humor eased her, which was yet another thing that should have made her weary.
She was so tired of being weary. She felt her lips twitch upward into a slight smile. “You about gave me a heart-attack, Quinnie.” Her voice teased him.




Quinn’s eyes narrowed in on her with slight annoyance in them, yet he smiled. “I can tell - you looked like you were about to take off running. Causing trouble are we? If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were stalking me.” He snickered, shaking his head as he approached her.
Esmerelda put her hand on her hip and tried to stare at him seriously but she laughed. “Me? Stalking you? I’d argue it’s the other way around, slick.” She was too broke to stalk anyone.
“Uh-huh… sure.” He teased her back before grinning. “What brings you to the land of the stuck up and wealthy?”


She had completely relaxed by this point and she shrugged. “Floated into town earlier today and I don’t intend to stay for long.” As soon as she could afford it she’d be out of this stingy, uncomfortable town.
“I don’t blame you, there’s absolutely nothing to do here - well, there wasn’t.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
She had to resist smiling, sensing what was coming yet she played dumb. “Wasn’t? What changed?”

He just continued wiggling his eyebrows as he grinned. “Oh, you know, there’s apparently a sale at one of the antique shops. You know how the wealthy love living dangerously with their marked-down-overpriced-pieces-of-shit.” He had shoved his hands into his pockets.
“Well shit, I don’t think I can afford to miss that.” Esmerelda snorted as she laughed. “Or rather, I don’t think I can afford to even get in the door.” She couldn’t afford much in this town, period.
“I’ve already been thrown out. Apparently they don’t like that I complained about the smell.” He smirked. “You staying nearby?”
Esmerelda shrugged and stretched. “Sure am.” She patted the bench and slumped down to sit in it. “It’s very comfortable and spacious.”



Quinn stared at her with his eyes narrowed, his mouth came open and he put up his hand as he slowly contemplated things. Finally he sat down on the bench next to her. “You know… the ceiling doesn’t look very stable.”
It wasn’t what she expected, yet she grinned and shrugged. “Yeah well, it’ll do.”
He sucked his lips in and resisted laughing. He nodded very slowly, his eyes on the sky above them. “You seem to have roof trouble.” He smirked as he looked back down at her. “You know… a lack of one.”


She nodded. “You’re quite perceptive. I probably never would’ve noticed.”
Quinn’s eyes met hers and they both broke out laughing. She hadn’t expected his reaction at all. Usually people got strange when they figured out she was homeless - or perhaps he wasn’t taking her seriously. That wasn’t the feeling he gave her though. They both calmed for a second and he finally decided to cross that bridge.
“Are you truly staying out here? Were all those ridiculous Bed and Breakfasts too much arrogance for you?” His smile was teasing yet his eyes were serious.


Esmerelda smiled back, but it was weaker and she shook her head. “Too much price, more like. I just don’t have that kind of cash to spare safely… and people here… well, street performers are a step above the dirt on their shoes!” She couldn’t find it in her to care, truly. It was just a nuisance and another reason why she wouldn’t be staying for long. “They look at me like I’m sick and they’re going to catch poverty if they get too close.”
Quinn laughed at that before straightening and holding his arms up, “woah now, lady. Don’t give it to me!” He couldn’t hold the ruse and instead started laughing again as he shook his head. “Has someone given you trouble? Do we need to go egg someone’s house?”


Esmerelda slumped and crossed her arms, sticking her tongue. “I’ll have you know I can’t even afford the goddamn eggs here otherwise I would’ve.” They both laughed. It was so easy to laugh with this ridiculous man. It felt good to laugh.
“What? It’s only your firstborn child. It’s going to a good cause.” He quipped right back at her.
She snorted. “Oh, phew, well that’s better than my last kidney.”
They fell into a soft lull for a moment, Quinn’s fingers drummed on the bench below him before he lowered his head and pulled himself standing. “I believe we’re at an impasse.”


Esmerelda sat up and raised an eyebrow. “I’m not following.” She resisted laughing. An impasse? Over what? They hadn’t disagreed on anything.
He held up his finger. “You’re not going to accept my money when I go to offer it, and I’m not going to accept you sleeping on a bench, so I’m going to skip the whole negotiation and offer a third proposal.”
She laughed. “Third? You mean second?”


“No, because my second proposal would’ve been you perform for me and then I give you the money, and you wouldn’t have agreed to that either because it would’ve been too much and not earned properly, right?” Quinn quirked an eyebrow as he looked at her.
Esmerelda was stunned, not entirely sure what to make of the conversation they were having. “Ok then, smart-ass, what’s the third proposal?”


Quinn narrowed his eyes with a devious smile at her. “How good is your acting?”

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“What do you mean that Mrs. McNeel is not in the system?! She was scheduled to be booked for the weekend! Are you incompetent or do you need to be scorned by the most wealthy name in this town!”


Esmerelda almost couldn’t believe it was working. She fanned herself carefully and looked away, doing her best to mimic all those women she had seen walking past her earlier and their air of arrogance.
Internally she was cringing at the poor front desk worker Quinn was tearing into. Yet Esmerelda didn’t let herself feel too bad, the woman had walked past her earlier and sneered. A small smile of satisfaction pulled on her lips.


It was rare for her to change this much of her appearance, but there was a thrill in mimicking the wealthiest of the wealthy. The getup she had on was worth more than a downpayment on a house and they had borrowed it right out of the McNeel mansion.
She never played it this risky. It was dangerous. It was stupid.
It was thrilling and magnificent.
“Will Mrs. McNeel’s husband be joining us or…?”


Esmerelda felt her gut sink. She needed to play this off. She shot the front desk woman an icy glare she hoped would force her to back down, yet it was Quinn who, once again, saved the day. “Are you daring to ask the business of Mrs. McNeel?!” He held up his hands with an icy scowl. “You know what? Clearly we had the wrong idea about this establishment. Perhaps we should-”


“No! Wait, please! I’m so sorry! It wasn’t meant to offend, ma’am. I simply wanted to know if we should be give Mr. McNeel a key if he should stop by or if we should…” She cleared her throat slightly, “be more discreet.”


Esmerelda had to admire the handywork of Quinn. He was a little too good at manipulating people. She wondered if he was doing that to her too? It wouldn’t be surprising if he was, yet her mind didn’t believe it. He was too relaxed with her - his eyes teased and joked in a way that felt intimate and warm. There was no warm humor in his eyes when he manipulated all the people around him - just cold cynicism and sarcasm.


Quinn leaned against the front desk, his eyes met Esmerelda’s and he winked quickly, his gaze seeming warmer than when dealing with the poor, defenseless, front desk woman. “I suppose she could be inclined to stay. Poor Mrs. McNeel is ailed by a terrible sickness…” His voice dropped as he looked at the front desk woman gravely. “A husband’s-wandering-eye sickness. So should anyone inquire of her whereabouts…” Esmerelda let herself smile behind her fan and looked over to the wall next to her, eyeing the decorations carefully.


There was no way in hell she could ever afford to stay here on her own. A night here could rent her an apartment for several months in the slums of Bridgeport.
Two months and she could’ve paid a guy to kill the roaches in it too.
“Then Mrs. McNeel is always welcome here, but we haven’t seen her.” The woman finished Quinn’s sentence, understanding in her voice.


Esmerelda nodded her head back towards the front desk and fanned herself. She could look the part of a scorned wife. She’d seen enough of those in her day to mimic them perfectly.
“I suppose that’ll do. Mrs. McNeel’s things will be brought in the side door later for her discretion. Also, she would like to use the door freely so that there will be no chance of someone seeing her during this ailing time.” He kept his eyes pinned to Esmerelda as he spoke.


“Absolutely.” Keys were slid across the desk; Quinn made this look far too easy as he took them carefully. “The top floor is… off limits due to summer cleaning.” She spoke coyly. “And as such the side door will be used only for the cleaners to get in and out without disturbing the other guests.”
“Can’t ever be too clean.” Quinn joked dryly back to her and motioned for Esmerelda with his arm. Esmerelda reached over and took it carefully, turning her gaze away from the front desk as they walked.


They made it just out of sight before Esmerelda let out a light giggle.
Quinn gave her a wide grin as they climbed the stairs. “Excellent performance, Mrs. McNeel.”
“Why thank you, footboy.” She bit her lip to resist laughing harder. “Remind me to hang out with you more often, slick.”

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Quinn walked easily with Esmerelda in step beside him, both of their disguises dropped at the behest of the other. It was the type of evening that he usually hated: cold and humid with rain clouds looming overhead.


Yet today it wasn’t so bad. He left a very careful magical trail behind him as he walked, his chaos string blending into the ground. The world of magic was made of fibers, and if this particular one was tripped Quinn would know immediately. It also left enough of a magical aura that any follower of Ambar should be smart enough to know what would happen if it was crossed.
That didn’t mean he wasn’t hoping for them to do it anyways.


“So you have to walk… for your job?” Esmerelda was staring at him skeptically. “Yet you also deal entirely with the wealthy… what exactly is it that you do?”
He smirked. “Well, I have two jobs, but my main one… well let’s just say my boss is… insane.”
She snorted a laugh and he grinned at the noise. “So he has you do some random stuff like walking?”
He wanted to laugh outright at the phrasing. Random stuff didn’t even cover the half of it. “Something like that.”


Esmerelda looked over her shoulder back from where they had come from. She was paranoid about something and Quinn couldn’t put his finger on what. “Worried we’re being followed?”
She straightened quickly, shaking her head but he didn’t buy it. “City girl. Habit.” She shrugged as if those words would explain it all away.
It didn’t.
He slowed in his pace and she had stepped a few paces ahead of him as he slowly connected the dots. “You were caught up in the first War of the Sirens, weren’t you?”


She stopped, frozen before turning back to look at him with feigned confusion. “Those words suppose to mean something to me?”
The war was too new, so perhaps she didn’t know what it was called… yet she was a Siren. There was no way she didn’t know it. Her livelihood was thrust into the chaos of those wars - and likely this coming one.
Something was very off here, and Quinn was determined to figure out what. “Are you always this bad of a liar, or is it just when you’re caught off-guard?”


“Excuse me?” Her face shifted and he knew he had hit a nerve.
She was clearly sensitive about it and he could push to get more information. He normally did push to get more information. She was different though. He didn’t like pushing her.
He normally didn’t need to. He held up his hands. “Look, I’m not trying to offend but you can’t expect me to buy this story that you’re a twenty-six year old Siren and that you lost your mother twenty years ago on a completely separate and coincidental set of circumstances… Thus having no idea that there was a war going on that resulted in mass hysteria and the destruction of Siren’s Cove. I’m a little bit too well-informed on the gods’ circles to just swallow that.” And it had bothered him immensely since he put the pieces together. Which side of the war was she on? There were so many little pieces he felt he was missing, and he hated not having the entire picture.


She shifted, taking in his words and her face hardened. “I wasn’t in any fucking war, ok?” Her voice was firm and filled with venom before her gaze dropped to the ground. “That… that wasn’t a fucking war.”
Quinn gritted his own teeth. “Yeah, well, history says otherwise Ezzie.” He tried to keep his own voice calm. What the hell was her problem?
“That wasn’t a goddamn war.” She fiercely repeated.


“Then what was it, great historian?! A game of tag in the park?!” Quinn shot back, stepping towards her.
Her gaze faltered and fell to the ground, the anger in her was being evaporated and replaced by something else and Quinn was starting to regret his own retaliation. “It wasn’t… a war.” She paused and he opened his mouth to challenge her when she spoke again, her voice softer. “It was a massacre.”
That shut him up.


She swallowed and looked off into the mountains. “Wars… acts of wars, don’t look like how that did. There are no children screaming in your so-called ‘wars.’ There are no innocent families floating dead in the water… There is no suffocating smoke and bombs falling on civilian houses while children are being flung into the water and told to swim for their livesthat shouldn’t be called war! That’s…” She took in a careful breath and steadied herself before looking back at him. “That’s monstrosity. That’s a bloody massacre. I… I was six. So no, I wasn’t in a goddamn War of whatever… nouns and interchangeable words that don’t have any meaning. I was in the massacre of Siren’s Cove because that’s the only word I can think to describe it as.”


Quinn absorbed her words. It was unusual to him how much it surprised him. War was never a pretty picture - he knew that - yet something about the recount felt almost painful to hear.
Perhaps because it touched too close to home for him.
Wasn’t there a time when he also watched a massacre? Wasn’t there at time he fought back? A time that would later be deemed a minor rebellion that got swept under the rug in almost all historical books covering it? “The world has a way of brushing away pain, doesn’t it?” His voice was low and quiet.
When had he gotten to the point that he did it too?


She looked at him then, the pain still fresh in her eyes before she pulled her gaze away again. “I keep my nose the fuck away from the gods as much as I possibly can. It’s how I survive - and I do so barely. It doesn’t matter where I go I’m just a step above dirt to everyone else. Just another wicked Siren. Just another poor and pathetic drifter - a homeless street performer. So long as the bigwigs don’t experience any turbulence everything is just fine for everyone else as far as the world is concerned. Essence help them if a wealthy, powerful snub stubs his toe, though.”
Quinn smirked slightly. “On his own golden coffee table, no less.” He saw her resist smiling and his smirk became a grin. “I saw that! You were going to smile.”


Esmerelda’s face flattened yet she still resisted smiling. “Oh shut up, Quinnie.” She grinned then over the horrendous nickname.
He had one more bone to pick with her, just one more.
But the day was almost over and it wasn’t the right time.
He had soured enough of their conversation and it was time to let it pass. “Must you call me that?” He teased.


“Does it bother you?” She was looking at him with her smile reflecting in her eyes and it was a relief for him.
A relief?
Perhaps because he was tired of aggressive conversations? He usually enjoyed it.
He shrugged all of the relief onto that thought and pushed it to the side so he could think of a witty response. “It’s so…” Putrid? Childish? Obnoxious? Were there enough words for how much he hated that nickname? Yet he couldn’t find a single one to use when speaking to her. Did the nickname really bother him that much?
Not when she used it, no.
It was the principle of it, though. No one could save him if Mania figured out he was tolerating it. He would never live it down.


“Alright!” She giggled at his silence. “Consider it noted, but you really should learn to love it. It’s a cute nickname!”
Quinn rolled his eyes. “Cute.” He scoffed. “You’re one devious woman, I’ll give you that. Now let’s get going before it starts to rain.”
“So are you going to tell me why we’re walking around the edges of town for your ‘job?’” Esmerelda finally asked after a silence had fallen on them.
“Nope.” Quinn grinned back at her. “You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you.”


It wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have with her anyways.
She looked prepared to challenge him - and challenge him she always seemed to do. He could count on one hand the times he had met her and yet she forced him outside of himself in ways he couldn’t describe each time.
Thunder rolled in overhead and it interrupted Esmerelda’s train of thought as well as his own. As if to cause further problems, the slow start of the rain began to fall and Quinn stared at Esmerelda with a huge grin that she mirrored with her own beautiful laughter.


Looks like their walk was turning into a run.

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They were soaked by the time they reached the pavilion in the nearest park; breathing hard and laughing like the fools they were.


How was it Quinn always ended up doing the stupidest shit whenever she was near? Drinking games. Bowling. Now getting stuck in the rain and he was happy about it? Life just kept on surprising him. It had been ages - if ever - since he had been in such good company before meeting her. He was growing attached to the feeling, despite his better judgment.


Esmerelda was grinning at him as she wiped her face and took in deep breaths. “So now what, slick?”
He looked out at the pouring rain and shrugged. “I suppose we should get the lovely Mrs. McNeel back to her abode for the weekend!” His voice shifted to something stuffier as he spoke, mimicking the tone he had taken earlier.
She laughed and leaned on him for a moment as she caught her breath. “You do that for little ol’ me?” She grinned. “How positively proper of you to do so.”


“I would offer an umbrella… or to at least hold something over your head but at this point everything is thoroughly soaked, so it wouldn’t be much help.” He shrugged lightly
“Isn’t it the thought that counts or some shit like that?” Esmerelda smirked as she looked at him.
He returned the smirk and shrugged. “Yeah, some shit like that.” He mimicked.
Esmerelda opened her mouth and then shut it before holding up her hand. “Do you… do you hear that?”


Quinn’s brow furrowed before he slowly picked up the tune - an old Elvis song - that the rain nearly drowned out. The park had some hidden speakers that were meant to go off in the evening. “The music?”
“You hear it too? I’m not crazy?” She looked around, squinting.
He grinned and rolled his eyes with exaggeration. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you feeling alright? Maybe this rain is making you-”


She swatted him as her face pulled into an adorable scowl. “Quinn!”
He laughed. “I’m only teasing! There’s music, they play it here in the evening. It’s a wealthy thing, from what I understand.”
“It reminds me a bit of Bridgeport.” She eyed him carefully. “You a dancer, Quinn?”
Quinn narrowed his eyes before he gave in to the grin. He could take a hint. He held his hand out and wiggled his eyebrows. “Do you want to find out?”


Esmerelda’s blue eyes flickered from his own gaze back to his hand before she took it carefully.
It was easy being with her: natural. It was also foreign and strange to him. There was something just familiar about her he couldn’t put his finger on.


He had just passed it off as her being someone similar - a like mind; a kindred spirit. Yet he couldn’t deny he felt drawn to her. Was it those stupid divination cards Mania used that had supposedly foreshadowed his meeting Esmerelda? He couldn’t say.


He honestly didn’t care enough to worry about it.


Esmerelda was beautiful, challenging, and different.


Quinn wasn’t going to pay attention to whether or not she was the Nightingale painted across his future or if he should read into the signs of it all. He was here. She was here. He enjoyed her company and she enjoyed his.


That was more than enough for him.




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Playlist
"Be Together" - Major Lazer
"Chasing Cars" - Snow Patrol

2 comments:

  1. That's more than enough for me too Quinn. Ooh lala, they're making good use of that hotel room ;)

    Hehe, I adore their banter, and though it was painful I enjoyed that part where they were both laid bare on the consequences of war. People never really realize the consequences of wars, or as Ezzie would put it, massacres. Like Quinn said, it gets brushed under the rug way too much!

    Ah, if it wasn't official before it is now. I'm so deep in this couple that I'll happily enjoy this with my denial goggles on.

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    Replies
    1. I know, right? Such a way with words on him! Hahaha I swear those two just couldn't keep it in any longer, ah well, I'm not complaining. Creatively placed lamps are in, I hear.

      Their banter gives me life. I exaggerate, but I really enjoy how easily they talk to each other about really deep or sometimes scary shit. Most of my other characters would go ham over this shit and meanwhile Quinn's just like "looks like you've got some ROOF troubles." My heart can't take much more of that, I swear! I also love that Ezzie sort of grounds Quinn, who is very arrogant by nature; she kind of yanks him out of his cloud of arrogance and reminds him what it is to be a real person. Just basically EVERYTHING you said here.

      *checks own denial goggles* you and me both! Let's stay deep in this couple and happiness forever.
      *characters begin tapping me rapidly, looking frustrated*
      What do you mean I'm the writer? Gawk, fine! I'm keeping the goggles on though... Thank you so much for always getting me pumped with these comments. I've said it before, but it truly does mean a lot!

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