Within the hour, I found myself at a clothing store in town with one very over excited Myra by my side.
The look of her complete unabridged joy when I’d shown up at her door to ask if she wanted to hang out, had been worth the bribe to skip out on Luna studies. I didn’t particularly need clothes, nor have any desire to impress anyone, but spending time with the one positive presence I could always count on was refreshing. Seeing her flutter around looking at the different outfits while gushing about how good they’d look on was so simplistic and easy. I was able to relax and shut my mind off to everything that had gone wrong the day before.
However, after we’d gone to several shops, I started to notice a trend with Myra. She seemed t o love so many of the clothes she would try on, which was a fair amount of them, but every time she would leave the store without buying anything. When we had reached the fifth shop, I watched her coming out of the changing room with a
gorgeous red dress on. It complimented her hair and figure perfectly.
“Wow, Myra, I really love that one,” I said encouragingly.
“Yes! It’s so pretty!” she did a spin in the mirror, checking it from all angles. When she was finally satisfied with how it looked, she went back into the changing room to return to her normal clothes.
“Ready to go to the next store?” she asked once she’d finished dressing. I watched and saw how, once again, she returned the dress back to the clothing rack without purchasing it. “Aren’t you going to buy it? It really did look amazing on you.” She smiled a little timidly. “No, that’s ok.”
I frowned, confused as to why she wouldn’t want to buy something when I was under the impression the whole point of the shopping trip was to… Well, shop.
“No seriously, I think you should get it! It will be great for semi-formal events!”
Her cheeks suddenly became red and she looked away a little awkwardly.
“Ah… the truth is,” she said hesitantly, “the stores around here are a little out of my price range.”
I stared down at the price tag on the dress but only got more confused. I’d chosen this strip of stores in town because they always looked to have a lower price range. And it wasn’t even an expensive dress by any means. I knew I had been born into a wealthy family, but I still had an understanding of what would constitute as expensive. And this dress definitely wasn’t that pricey. “Where do you normally shop then?”
“Oh, downtown. There are some really nice second-hand shops there that usually have some amazing finds.”
I stared at her, seeing her now in a completely new light. Of course, that perspective wasn’t due to the fact she had minimal spare funds, but rather because she had always acted so kind and cheery to people regardless of her home situation. She had never let on that things were any different from the other kids at school. “… You never told me,” I said finally. “Because it’s not a big deal!” she said with a smile. “I’m actually really fine with how things in my life are. My family owns the local orphanage and so we donate a lot of what we have to help support the children in our care.”
It was probably the most goodwill life story I’d ever heard. It only made me want to protect Myra even more and never let anything ever hurt her. She was too precious for this world. “That’s really incredible of you and your family to do that,” I said. “No, it’s fine! But, oh, actually…,” she said, touching a finger to her lip in thought, “if you’re interested, it would really mean a lot if you’d come to our big annual charity event that we’ll b e hosting soon. I’m sure the children would love to meet you in person. A few of them look up t o you already.”
Look up… to me? Like a role model? I’d never aspired to call myself that, or even ever considered that it could be possible. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to be like me If they ever truly found out who I was then they would probably all be terrified of me.
Myra saw my conflicted expression and immediately backtracked. “It’s fine if you don’t want t o come! It wasn’t meant to pressure you into doing something you didn’t want to do.” “No! No… it’s fine,” I replied with a smile. “I’d love to come. Let me know all the details and I’ll definitely be there.”
Her face lit up with excitement and immediately squealed, pulling me into a hug. I was taken completely off guard by her sudden embrace and it took a few seconds before I finally put an arm around her in return.
She must have felt my uneasiness because she pulled away almost immediately.
“Sorry, sorry!” she stammered. I shook my head, a small smile of my own to show her I was okay. “Don’t be.”
Truthfully, I didn’t mind. I wasn’t exactly the most affectionate of people by any means, given my past history, but I was pretty sure Myra was by far one of the most pure-hearted people I’d ever met.
I think a part of me had always known that though. Every day, subconsciously, I had been putting on the moonstone necklace she’d given me and I felt a slight glimmer of peace whenever I touched it. It reminded me that I was capable of doing good and that there were good people out there, even when I refused to acknowledge it. Maybe I had been relying on Myra this entire time too, just like I had been Cai.
My eyes wandered to the red dress again behind her, a small nagging in my head ensuing. And
so, I reached for the dress, folding it over my arm. “What are you doing?” she asked, surprised. “If you’re going to be hosting a big annual charity event then you need to look the part.” Her jaw dropped. She looked as if I’d just told her she was expelled from school. 1
“No, Aria, you can’t! It’s too much.” She tried to tug the dress out of my arms but I pulled it away from her.
“Myra, it’s fine! Seriously.” I laughed at her overreaction to something so small.
“Then I’ll try and pay you back! I promise!” I rolled my eyes. “I really didn’t want to have to point this out because I’m not trying to show off… but this dress’ price is literally pocket change for me, Myra.”
She paused and stopped protesting for a second to think.
“Seriously, if I can’t spoil my… friend, then what’s the point?” It was such a difficult thing to say. ‘Friend’. Just one word and yet I was terrified of it; terrified of the vulnerability it might open me up to. And whilst it was true that I still held my reservations about the whole thing, I had to admit that Myra was probably just a genuinely nice girl through and through.
I couldn’t see myself ever truly opening up to anyone, not even Myra, but I needed to realise that having her in my life had been nice. And at a basic level, that’s what friendship was; a mutual want to be around another person because they made you happy.
She had never given me any indication that I was anything less than someone she just enjoyed being around. In fact, her original invitation to hang out with me had been her decision. She hadn’t seen me have a meltdown in front of Aleric or cry in front of Cai. I knew she wasn’t hanging out with me being she felt bad for me. Her motive had been pure, as evident when she spoke to me first even before I’d saved her life. It took a few seconds for her to register exactly what I’d just said, but as soon as it clicked her whole face lit back up, realising I’d just called her my friend. “Aria, oh my gosh, thank you!” She threw her arms back around me but I was still carrying the dress, stopping me from being able to hug her back. Her excitement almost made me lose balance and fall to the ground. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
I laughed and pulled away from the overly enthusiastic Myra before she completely toppled m e over. “It’s fine, don’t even mention it.”
The reality was that I could have bought her every dress in the store and it wouldn’t have even made a dent in the funds I’d accumulated so far. The investments I’d made were already
ridiculously successful since I knew from my past life exactly which businesses would spike in profit quickly. A part of me wanted to offer to buy Myra whatever her heart desired, no matter the cost, but I didn’t want her to feel as if I was flaunting my wealth at her. I would need to just subtly spoil her from time to time without being too obvious.
I bought the dress, and we were leaving to go to the next store, when suddenly she pointed at something she saw outside.
“Hey, isn’t that Cai?”
And I swore my heart stopped. Every part of my body tensed up immediately at the sound of his name. I followed her finger to where she was looking and, sure enough, Cai was there. It looked as though he had been grabbing some supplies from the shop across the street. “We should go say hi,” Myra said, about to drag me over to where he was. “No!” I said a little too loudly. She looked at me strangely and I had to compose myself before continuing again. “No, he’s probably busy. Let’s not bother him.” “Why? He’s leaving tomorrow. This will be our last chance to see him.” I shot my head back to look at her, shocked. “…What do you mean? I thought he wasn’t leaving for another week?” “What? Didn’t he tell you?” she asked, surprised to hear Cai hadn’t spoken to me. She probably thought it was odd given how close we seemed. “He stopped by my house after school last night to say he had something come up and was having to head home sooner than expect.”
My chest tightened. Had I been that ‘something’ that had come up? I quickly shook the thought off though as I realised I was doing it again. I was assuming that I was more important to him than I really was. He probably had a home emergency come up and was needing to leave sooner than expected. “… Right, okay,” I said absent-mindedly, turning back to stare at him through the window. So, this really would be the last chance I’d have to see Cai before he left then. It seemed like such a strange concept given how much of my new life he’d taken up. Did I really want to leave things the way we had? I knew that at his age and being an Alpha heir, he would now become extremely busy undertaking new duties upon arriving home. Because of this, it was very likely we would never see each other again. It had already been a strange fate for us to have met the way we had in this life and so the chances of meeting again seemed very improbable.
And then another horrible thought hit me. If I never saw him again, what would happen to his future? Would his father still come to the Winter Mist and be killed by Aleric if nothing changed? Would Cai still end up bleeding out on that battlefield? I felt like I wanted to throw u p just thinking about it. Maybe I should have told him the truth, told him to keep his father as far away from here as possible. Was it selfish to have kept it from him in order to protect myself instead? Who was I to put his life in my hands once again? I was lost in my head, debating over what I should do, when suddenly his golden eyes looked u p towards the store. …And he caught me staring right at him.