“I’m sure you’ll have a great time!” exclaimed Salene and smiled.
“Salene, Lex arranged me a date with Sasha. I would have more fun with a corpse! He will go on and on about nature - it will be like biology class all over!” Amber rolled her eyes.
“That Lex is really something,” nodded Zandra. “He treats Sasha like he is a royalty or something when all he’s got are some acquaintances outside the city.”
“By this stage of war or whatever he calls it, he’s up to anything,” said Amber.
“I overheard Patsy saying earlier how much fun she had with Sasha in the morning,” said Salene, “so maybe he has a good day. Maybe he will surprise you, Amber.”
“Seriously, Salene? The guy is too scared of me to ‘surprise’ me.”
“Maybe he’s just a gentleman,” shrugged Zandra.
“You too, Zan? I’m afraid he’ll stay a gentleman even after the wedding.”
Salene sighed and looked at Zandra. She only raised her eyebrows.
Amber noticed the glance her servants exchanged.
“Hey, you two are cooking up something! What? Tell me!”
“Well, Amber, Sasha does seem to be a reasonable man, doesn’t he?” carefully said Salene. “Why don’t you just tell him that you don’t want to marry him?”
“Have you been paying attention, Salene?! I can’t do that! We don’t have anything to do with this wedding; it is all part of Lex’s plan! I can’t back out, I’m his sister! I have to help my brother, don’t I?”
“Yeah - but Sasha is not his brother,” pointed out Zandra. “And you’d have to be blind to miss that he does not love you any more than you love him! So why don’t we focus on him? He’s not obliged to anything; he can dump you!”
“But I can’t tell him that I don’t want to marry him, can I?” repeated Amber, as if she was talking to a child. “Lex would find out!”
“You don’t have to tell him! Just, make him dump you!”
“What do you mean?” Amber frowned.
“Well - Sasha is not a very … sensual man, right? And I doubt he’d want to live, sleep with someone who, ilkes to, you know. And if he thinks you want to?”
“Wait a minute - are you telling me to be a tramp, Salene?!” shouted Amber, offended.
“No! Just, imply that you are interested in, you know!”
Amber thought about her words for a moment. Salene did have a point. If she didn’t want to spend her entire life married with that nature buff, she would have to do something, soon.
“Well, that’s not such a bad idea, actually,” she said, deep in thoughts. She looked herself in the mirror; she was wearing a very elegant long dress. It hid her legs and it was by no means a low cut dress.
“But I will need something more… open.”
Sasha walked in the cafe where his scheduled date with Amber would take place. Lex was sitting at one of the table and raised eyebrows when he saw his future brother-in-law.
With sweaty hands Sasha sat down. Lex continued staring at him in disbelief.
“Dude!” he finally said after what seem like an eternity, “Lose the hat already!”
Sasha didn’t seem to understand so Lex repeated his statement.
“Sasha, don’t get me wrong but - you really don’t know much about women, do you?”
It seemed like the question caught Sasha by surprise. He blushed again.
“Women? Well, women are…?”
“Turned off by these kinds of fashion choices!” exclaimed Lex, leant over the table and took off Sasha’s hat. “Trust me, I know! I have a way with ladies which is something I doubt you can say!”
“Well, you do have a charm,” laughed Sasha and nodded, “with ladies, I mean. Just with ladies.”
Lex wasn’t sure what to make out of Sasha’s words so he decided to dismiss them.
“Women like compliments. They like to talk, a lot. About boring stuff, mostly. They hate to listen to anything that isn’t about them. They want undivided attention.”
“What do you mean?”
“Drop the nature talk. Leave the horse in the barn! And hell, don’t talk about women who can cure cramps!”
“All you ever talk about! That’s why I’m helping you! Look at Shakespeare; you read him school, didn’t you? He had a way of talking to his lady ? Compliment her. With nature, if you can’t think of anything better. Understand?”
“Women, especially my sister, want romance. And it said that a man, who can flatter solely with words, excels at other things too. And as long as they believe that, you have them on a leash.”
The more Lex talked, the more confusing it got for Sasha. He thought of running away, skip the dinner, go home, back to nature. These city people were creeping him out!
“You certainly seem to know a lot?”
“I do! Just have confidence, you’ll be fine! They want a guy who knows how to take charge!”
Sasha felt like his head was on fire when Lex got up and patted him on the shoulder. Indeed to an unaffected observer it would look like Lex was the one about to get hitched.
As Lex said he would go get her, Sasha was on a verge of panic attack.
In Amber’s quarters, girls encountered a problem.
Zandra found a perfect cocktail dress but Salene struggled to zip it.
“Oh, Salene, just pull up a zipper!” exclaimed Amber with clutched teeth.
“Are you telling me I gained weight?!”
“What? No!” stepped in Zandra. “I just brought the wrong number. Just suck your belly in, ok, on three.”
“This is a bad sign, I’m telling you!” whined Amber.
“Lex is gonna kill me!”
“Don’t worry, we’ll make it!”
“Three! There, it’s perfect!” smiled Zandra. “Sasha will fall off his chair when he sees you!”
“Well, that’s not exactly what we want, is it?” smirked Amber. “Should I wear my hair up or down?”
Zandra opened her mouth to answer when the sound of nearing steps diverted her attention.
“I think somebody is coming!”
“It must be Lex,” Amber rolled her eyes. “I guess he wants to check on me if I haven’t run away yet.”
“I got it,” quickly said Zandra and sneaked out of the room, closing door behind her. Indeed it was Lex, only meters away when Zandra leant on the closed doors and smiled at him.
“Hello, Lex!” she exclaimed.
Lex frowned. She jumped out of the room far too quickly for his liking. He was sure something was happening; something he would not have approved.
“Zandra,” the girl helped him. She saw the suspicion in his eyes.
“I knew that. I came to my sister. She’s late for dinner.”
“She’s still getting ready,” smiled Zandra. From the look on his face she could see he was about to push her away and barge into the room. He was so terribly impatient and presumptuous.
“She’s late!” he whined, “Sasha has been waiting for her for over an hour!”
“Well,” Zandra smiled at him with her eyes and stepped nearer, “it is a special night. She wants to look perfect!”
Lex loved women, all of them. They were his drug. He could not resist when he was close to one. If she was attractive, it was even better. He wondered how he had managed to never notice before how alluring this girl was.
He cleared his throat to stay focused.
“She knew that in the morning, didn’t she?”
Zandra was aware of her good looks and the effect it had on men. Making a boy crazy about her was like a walk in the park for her. And she could already see Lex drooling.
“Is that a new shirt?!” she quickly exclaimed and started staring at his chest.
“What?” it caught him by surprise.
“It’s really nice, it fits you perfectly!”
And Lex was won over. In a moment he managed to forget what he had come there for. All he could see was Zandra’s gigantic grin.
“It is, actually. Thank you.”
“It brings out your skin tone so perfectly! You’ve got some tan lately, haven’t you?”
“It looks perfect! It so - makes your upper arms look bigger, very large.”
“You think so?”
Lex thought back to the words he said to Sasha about women. Now he regretted not bragging more.
“You look like you spend your days in the gym.”
“I do work out from time to time,” smiled Lex, trying to sound modest.
“And it pays off,” Zandra looked at him seductively, with her eyes wide open. Lex was losing himself in the ocean of lust, and he would certainly throw Sasha out of the cafe, taking this girl on a date he had so carefully prepared for his sister, had the door not opened.
As Amber opened the door, Lex blinked. The unstoppable desire was gone and he was back in dull reality.
“Alright!” exclaimed Amber with best faked enthusiasm imaginable, “I am ready! And please, Lex, don’t ever come barging into my room again?”
Lex was at loss for words. Zandra only smiled before following Salene into the room by the cafe, in case something would go wrong and Amber would need help.
As Amber entered the cafe, Sasha was already sitting by the long table with golden tablecloth on it. The table was all set; plates were in their place and something that looked like Dark Roman Wine had already been poured in elegant glasses.
Sasha smiled timidly as he looked Amber. She was beautiful, yet again. He tried to dismiss his sweaty hands but at the same time believed they were the most obvious thing in the room.
“Hello, Sasha,” she greeted him in a low, seductive voice.
He had to grab the edge of the table to prevent falling from a chair. Women in short, exposing dresses were not something his heart was used to.
“You look very nice tonight,” she said and sat down by the other side of the table.
“So do you.”
“This old thing? Oh, it’s nothing, really,” she laughed, trying to look flattered.
Sasha remembered Lex’s words. Compliments, he heard his voice in his head.
“Well … It looks good on you,” he smiled. It was a stiff grin and Amber knew he was on the right track.
One of the waitresses brought a large pot to the table and the smell of soup spread across the room. She was about to put it on the table.
“Thank you, Danni, but I don’t think we’ll be having any,” said Amber. “It’s a bit too hot for a soup, don’t you think Sasha?”
For a moment Sasha thought she was talking to him. He blushed and in fear of stuttering only nodded.
“Let’s just skip to the dessert,” suggested Amber. She put her elbows on the table and leant her chin on her hands. She looked at Sasha, smiling, with a dreamy look in her eyes. Sasha felt how his legs were urging him to run away.
COMPLIMENTS! Lex once again shouted in his head.
Sasha cleared his throat.
“The thing you’ve got around your eyes, it makes them look like a sun. They shine like sun,” he started and with every additional word spoken he felt more relaxed, more confident. Maybe he was actually nervous for nothing, “or stars if there are no clouds on the sky at night which, here, in our climate, unfortunately does not happen often. Usually you don’t get to see too many stars. Which is sad because you don’t see many shooting stars either. And they are so lovely! Did you know?”
With every word he spoke, Amber’s smile was fading. She had no idea what the hell he was talking about. Moreover, she didn’t even want to.
“Oh, shooting stars? That’s when you can make a wish?” she quickly interrupted.
“Yes. But did you know?”
“It is such a terrible shame you didn’t see many of them,” sighed Amber and got up. She walked to Sasha and with every step she took he realized he was no longer protected with the length of the table. The closer she got, the more he struggled to breathe.
When she reached him, she sat on the edge of the table and crossed her legs. It might have been the wax she had used but his eyes were glued on them.
“Maybe we could pretend that we saw a shooting star tonight, that I am your shooting star? Tell me what your heart desires, what do you want me to do?”
She freed her hair and let curls fell onto her shoulders.
Sasha’s face was covered with sweat as she slowly touched his leg with hers. He struggled to collect himself.
“Your lips are the color of coral,” he said in a high pitched voice as she leant forward and he found himself staring like never before,“and your … Em…”
“My what?” she breathed in anticipation.
He decided to skin that line.
“Your sk-skin is white, like snow, like daisies.”
“I don’t want to be a daisy - that’s for little girls I want to be ? yours ?” she leant even closer and poor Sasha felt her breath in his skin as she whispered into his ear, “only yours ?”
“You smell like…” he had trouble focusing and words came out as disorganized, chaotic mess. He felt like he was on fire. “Your words are like music … like birds’ singing in the morning, blackbirds’ - they are especially nice. I had a chance to listen to them…”
She moved closer to his lips and Sasha had to remind himself to breathe. There was a waterfall on his face and a loud rock concert in his chest.
“Birds? No offense but … I don’t want to hear about bird now, I want - you?” she sighed and just as she was about to kiss her frog, Sasha’s self-preserving instincts kicked in. He let out a cry and leant back, trying to escape. His movement was so sudden that both he and the chair he was sitting on, flew to the floor.
She looked at him, scared he might have hurt himself but Sasha jumped back to his feet.
“I’m fine, don’t worry,” he hoarsed and indeed he felt no pain in his state. The distance between them was once again bearable. He finally started breathing again and felt human again. “A goddess? A goddess, you walk like a goddess.”
Relieved he was alright, Amber continued her little show. She knelt down, next to her undesired fiance. Sasha’s eyes dilated in horror as her fingers slid down his cheek.
“I will be your goddess indeed, tonight.”
He moved back, out of her touch.
“Actually, on the second thought - I am not feeling too well, it must have been soup.”
Amber laughed it off.
“But we had no soup, silly.”
“Then the one at lunch,” he muttered and climbed back on his feet.
“I will be the best burse you can imagi…”
But before Amber could finished, Sasha staggered out of the cafe, almost falling over the fallen chair in the process.
Amber let out a deep sigh of joy. It worked!