"You're more poet than anything." I folded my arms and glared at Ian. He sat perched on the edge of the roof, dressed like an adventurer. I coveted every part of his outfit -- the breezy shirt made of course cloth, the sturdy breeches, the leather boots that laced up to his calves, the dagger on his hip. Tomorrow he would set sail to a life I craved more than anything. But did he appreciate his opportunities? No. And I hated him for it.
"Do you despise poets, Ingrid?" His voice was sad, but a grin twisted at the corners of his mouth as he finished his question. Those blue eyes of his cut in my direction with a teasing flash.
"They don't DO anything." My thoughts and emotions ran in torrents, but I could see his flowing smoothly and quietly. Even in his uneasiness about the morrow, his face was a peaceful as a child falling asleep in his own bed.
"You don't always have to 'do'. Sometimes it is just as important to be." He shifted his weight and patted the roof next to him as an invitation.
For a moment, I didn't move. He was going to try to slow my torrent down and I didn't want to be slowed. But then I felt ashamed of myself. Was I going to spend our last evening together by turning a cold shoulder to him?
The roof was warm under my hands as I lowered myself to his side. A slight breeze came and ruffled the edges of my skirt. The sun was low on the horizon, casting warm, soothing colors over everything. I swung my legs vigorously to keep from falling under the calming influence.
Ian chuckled. "You never slow down, do you?"
Sudden emotion flushed my face -- like tears that don't make it all the way to the surface. Ian was the one person that accepted me for who I was. I didn't want him to go.
I turned my head to look at him. He let me. He faced the sunset, as if he didn't see me watching him. His face was so serene, but I saw the way his fingers wrapped desperately around his knees. He didn't want to go.
I shook my head as if answering some unspoken question. He shouldn't have to go. He really was a poet -- he wasn't made for danger. What if something happened to him?
"We're both made to wear masks." His voice was soft and steady. "Mine is weather-beaten with sea-storms, gnarled into a fierce expression to strike fear into the heart of my foes, and hardened into a steel that makes me the envy of rough men." His hand reached out then and grasped the end of my wavy locks. "Yours is made of satins and pearls, shined with the polish of etiquette, softened with the life of luxury, and encased in the demands of society."
"We should trade places. Then neither of us would need a mask to fit in." I swung my legs hard enough to kick the wall below me.
He paused, holding my hair hostage, and smirked. "Your expressions would strike fear in the heart of your enemies any day."
I tossed my head, shaking my hair free of his grasp.
He released my hair and stared out over the roof-tops of the city. "I WANT to go."
I pursed my lips. "No, you don't. You want to stay here and apprentice to some dreamy artist. You don't have to say things just to make me feel better."
His shoulders tightened and released. "But there will be beauty where I am going. Maybe not all the time. But think of what I will get to see." His eyes grew soft and he stared into the sunset without seeing it. "Glassy seas. Painted clouds. Jungles, filled with flowers and exotic birds." He nodded in my direction; and I saw that, deep down, he was laughing at me, although I didn't know why. "Even storms are beautiful."
"And pirates. And hard labor. And a captain who whips you. Wild beasts who want to rip your heart out. Sailors who curse and fight. Quicksand. Labyrinths." I curled my lip. "You're not riding as a first class passenger."
He laughed. "And yet you wish you could go. I see it in every toss of your head and kick of your feet." His face suddenly grew sober. "I wish you could, too."
A lump grew in my throat, and I inwardly thrashed against it. I would not cry; I would do something. I would take action in some way.
"You should go back." Ian's voice was almost a whisper.
There was a grand ball waiting for me, a place where my filmy blue dress would fit in better than it did on this rooftop with a common boy. I half-believed my aunt had planned the festivities of the evening to purposefully keep me from saying goodbye to my best friend. But balls are easy things to slip away from, as long as you are not gone too long.
The lump grew bigger, choking me. It was going to kill me. Tears sprang to my eyes. Tears of death. A long, slow painful death brought about by a society full of nothing but polite and shallow enemies. A death caused by missing Ian.
I scrambled to my feet, trying to force as much strength into my voice as possible. "Bye." The word sounded almost angry.
Ian grabbed my elbow, stopping my escape. I looked down, hoping my short tone hadn't hurt him. But his eyes were full of compassion.
"I know," he said softly.
I yanked my arm away as tears spilled onto my cheeks, showering my face with weakness. "Bye," I said again. Then I turned and ran.