Parting Gifts

Title: Parting Gifts
Time Period: May 1, 122 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Luna Owens gets what she asks for on her birthday, only to discard it in exchange for her friends' acceptance.

The first of May is almost always a rainy one in the history of Dornie, at least for as long as Luna has been alive. Today the sun peeks out from the clouds overhead and warms the land, whose patches of snow have long melted away. The buds of local flora are already peeking to give color to the land, dotting the rocky hillside with color like a painter’s palette.

A low boughed evergreen conceals a small hollow in the bank, one with a table rock perfect for sitting. As the water rushes by on its way to the sea, it’s a nice place to hide from the world and concentrate on thoughts. Unless there’s an interruption, then it must either be dismissed or suffered through and unfortunately for Beisdean, Luna knows of this place just as she knows most things in Dornie. The warning he receives of her presence is nothing more mundane than his name being called just a moment before she ducks under the branch to join him.

“Baizey Skye~” she sings, smiling sweetly at the young teen as she flutters her eyelashes. “I need to beg a boon.” Her fingers lace together and she holds them to her throat, as though praying to him for an affirmative answer.

Long legs unfold from their perch as Beisdean rises; he’s shot up half a foot in the past year alone, his mother swears, and his face has leaned out to show chiseled cheekbones and a strong jaw instead of a little boy’s face. That face, these days, is usually a solemn one and rarely seen in town — except by those who live in or frequent the Dovetail.

His hair, like his expression, has grown darker with age, and falls into his eyes until he flicks it back with a jerk of his head. His brows raise at her words, and he gives a bow, one hand flourishing the gesture like one might for royalty.

“Miss Luna,” he murmurs, no affirmation nor denial of the request — he simply waits for more information.

Looking up at his face as he stands, Luna’s smile only grows brighter as he acknowledges her. Her hands are placed behind her back and she twists from side to side, angling her chin in a coy manner before she begins speaking again. “Today’s my birthday, I’m thirteen, almost a real woman now.” It’s a lead in, obvious when she takes a small breath and glances to the cover that the bough provides.

“My party is a few hours hence,” she pauses, switching trains of thought as her expression turns deadly serious and stares into his eyes. “You are coming, aye?” Waving her hand a little as though answering her own question for him (of course he will), she glances up at him again, this time with the telltale hook of her eyebrow. The one she gets when she’s about to tell a secret.

“There’s a boy I wish to introduce to my father, one I like very much… So I need your help.. You will help me, won’t you Baizey?”

Beisdean turns away, picking up one of the flat stones sitting on the larger sitting stone, collected for the purpose of skipping across the water. It’s a calming habit, a way for him to find focus when he’s being pulled in different directions by the ghosts whispering his name.

The stone manages seven hops before finally plunging into the water, and only then does he turn to look down at the younger girl. “Là breith sona dhuit,” he murmurs, then glances over his shoulder toward the trail that will lead back to town.

“I’m not really the life of the party these days, Loon. Probably best if I don’t show up. You never know who I’m bringing with me.” There’s a smile, genuine enough if a little sad, at the joke made at his own expense. “I’m sure you’ll do just fine introducing your lad to your da.”

“It’ll be best if you do come,” Luna argues, her tone taking on a more unpleasant note. She backs to the trunk of the old pine and traces a finger along a scar in the bark. One made by her own hand quite a few years ago, before she could spell. “But I still need your help, you see this boy isn’t very— well to do— so I don’t think he’ll be buying me a present.”

Of course material goods are her focus.

“So I was hoping to get a kiss, my first kiss, my first full grown kiss.” Her eyes widen just a little to two large blue orbs against her moon pale skin. Rocking back on her heels, she rolls forward again as she juts her chin up and leans in toward him. “Can you help me practice? You’re the only one I know that I can ask… I’m pretty enough as compensation, you wouldn’t have to be ashamed.”

He shakes his head at the words insisting he comes, cheeks coloring a little. It’s been hard for him, to go from the sunny little golden child to the ostracized black sheep; he cares what the other children think of him, and an afternoon of them ignoring him would be far more lonely than spending it here by himself on this rock.

But when Luna steps closer, his eyes flicker back up, and a slow light of understanding dawns on his face. He doesn’t step backwards but reaches up to touch a strand of her blond hair. A shy smile curves his lips and he shakes his head. “My mum works at the Dovetail, and you think I’d be ashamed to kiss you?” She once called herself a princess, and she is almost royalty, or among the closest Dornie has to offer.

His head bows down, his longish hair falling forward to graze her cheeks as he cups her chin. “So this lad of yours — is he handsome? Is he taller than me? Will he fight me if he finds out I kissed you first?” he teases, playing along as he brings his lips to hers, a soft brushing touch at first.

“He’s the handsomest boy in all of Dornie,” Luna quips in reply, her voice just a little hushed by his proximity. Her breath smells sweet, like she’d just finished chewing rose hips and mint leaves to freshen it, which is exactly what she did. Being who she is, it wouldn’t be a huge stretch of the imagination to guess that she’d been planning something of this sort for months. “I figure we’d make a right smart pair, he and I. He’s as tall as you, at least, an’ I hope that he would get jealous if he saw me kissing another boy. Would you be? If it were you?” By the end, her words are nothing louder than a whisper and her lips graze his with every syllable.

Uncertain of what to do with her hands, she mimics his by placing her fingertips along his jawline as soft as a feather’s touch. Beisdean being so much taller than she is, Luna raises herself to her toes to try to ease the weight on his posture by just a few inches. Her eyes slowly close as each touch of her lips to his grows a little in length of time.

Her question to him goes unanswered; the teasing has fallen way to an earnest kiss — a little more sweetness than heat, but a “real” kiss all the same. Finally he lets go of her chin and steps back, putting his hands in his pockets. He nods to the sky.

“It’s noon. You should go get ready,” Beisdean says, and he looks down at his own clothing — he doesn’t own much but this is hardly his best attire. “If I’m going to come to your party, I need to change, too.”

Reaching up to tuck a few locks of blonde hair behind her ear, Luna looks flustered for what could be the first time in her life. When she gazes up at him a pink flush covers her cheeks and nose in shyness, rather than embarrassment, to match his from earlier. “Wear your dancing shoes,” she breathes, leaning in to give him one last peck on the cheek before she places a hand on the low bough.

Looking over her shoulder at him, a winning smile spreads across her face and she waves, a flirtatious finger waggle more than a goodbye. “One day I’m going to marry you Baizey Skye, you’ll see.” Then she pushes the limb out of the way and disappears into the undergrowth.

A nervous laugh escapes from Beisdean, and he shakes his head at the younger girl’s refrain. She’s said it in the past, and he always laughed it off, but this time it seems less funny and more sincere — a daunting thought.

He follows at a distance, the forecast for the day ahead suddenly a much different one than just moments ago.

It seems as though Maddock didn’t spare any expense when it came to the party, such is par for the course when things concern Luna. The back garden of the inn has been transformed from a simple place to grow herbs and vegetables into something much more suited to the young girl’s taste. Small lanterns strung through the trees and large bouquets of greenery laced with baby’s breath and carefully arranged day lilies are set in vases at every table. Her parents are inside, supervising from a window, it wouldn’t do to embarrass their only daughter with their presence too early on. Especially since the sun is still high and she’s insisted on playing the part of hostess on her own, things will probably change when the sky grows dim.

Dressed in a lacy frock much too old for her years, she darts a nervous glance toward the gift table as each guest arrives. She pulls her shawl up to cover her bare shoulders, suddenly feeling silly in the gown that she’s wearing instead of something a little more sedate like her mother had suggested. Walking slowly between her guests, she takes one boy by the arm and allows him to escort her to the next small group. Her sparkling laugh, something she’s practiced in the mirror for days, interrupting their conversation as though the boy had just told the funniest joke she’s heard in her short life.

When Beisdean arrives, it is a quiet entrance; in the past four years, he has become, when in public, almost like the ghosts that haunt him. His height and infamy, unfortunately, mean he is noticed even when he chooses not to be. He’s found a shaded corner to stand in, his hands nervously worrying at an envelope in his hands.

The green sweater he wears makes his eyes look a brighter blue as he gazes across the garden at the guest of honor — he waits for her to come to him instead of joining her in the center of attention, a place he once used to thrive and now one he avoids.

Luna’s blue eyes slide to one corner as she watches Beisdean edge along the border of the party. Giving her companion a lovely smile, she pats his shoulder and whispers something into his ear. Then she’s off.

It’s a slow walk down the pebble pathway, it leads to her favorite corner of the garden, the one with the weeping willow. She says nothing as she passes the teen and his marten by, simply grazes his hand with her fingertips. It’s a subtle gesture she’s witnessed young women do to fellows they fancy, in the market or at the inn when they’re taking dinner. Just before they disappear into the darkness.

Once she’s reached the curtain of long branches, she pushes it to the side and steps under the canopy. It falls back again after she’s passed through, covering her way.

Beisdean’s eyes sweep the rest of the garden, looking perhaps for the girl’s father before following down the path and reaching to push the down-stretching branches of the willow out of the way.

“It’s a nice party,” he says politely, and one could almost forget the young man is an outcast. He doesn’t look the part of the mysterious mage who communes with the spiritworld. His cheeks are slightly flushed from embarrassment or excitement; his finest clothes, he’s begun to outgrow, and they are a touch too short in the wrists and ankles, lending more to the air of the lanky and uncertain teenage boy than the conjurer of the spirits of the dead.

“It is a wonderful party. I did most of the real work myself,” Luna says quietly as she turns to face him, what she probably means is that she supervised. There’s a grin spread across her lips and a rosy glow to her cheeks and nose. Canting her head to the side, she leans forward a little eying the envelope in Beisdean’s hand. “Is that for me? Did you decide against what I wanted then?”

She eyes the curtain of leaves before risking a step closer but she does, take a few steps, until she’s less than a foot away from him. “It’s a shame that I had to practice all for naught, if that’s the case. Is it, Baizey Skye?” The grin widens until her white teeth are able to catch her bottom lip, then it fades slowly, as though she’s expecting some sort of argument from him.

“It’s from my mum, more than me,” he corrects, though he doesn’t pass it to her. He watches her through eyes narrowed with an amused guardedness, the corner of his mouth curving up into a slow smile. “So it’s not Fergus you were wanting to kiss?” he teases, a nod of his head toward the garden, indicating the boy Luna had just been talking to.

“I’m sure he’ll appreciate the practice, if it’s him. Practice makes perfect, they say, aye?” he says, reaching to brush a leaf from her shoulder.

“You’re a cruel boy, Baizey, perhaps I should wish to kiss Fergus more than you.” When he reaches to her shoulder, Luna follows his hand with a turn of her head until only her profile faces him. “So the envelope is from your ma’ and you aren’t going to grace me with a kiss, what did you get for my birthday? You can’t come to a party without a present… Unless you’re just here to see Bridget Ross, she’s looking quite fetching in that sack she’s wearing.” It’s a little snide and both the teens know that Luna only invited the other girl because of her last name. It’s more likely because Maddock insisted on it.

Pivoting one heel, Luna wheels slowly around to face the curtain of leaves and takes a step toward them. “Wait here, I’ll fetch her.” There’s a hint of acid in the young girl’s tone, to go along with the narrowing of her eyes and the angry purse to her lips.

“Bridget’s not bad,” he says with a shrug, his smile widening a little at the tantrum. “But I only came ‘cause you asked me.” He reaches for her, long fingers catching the blue sash on her dress to stop her from exiting. “You want your present, Loon, come take it.”

He doesn’t mean the envelope from his mother.

Of course she stops, her eyelids slide down until her blue irises are nothing but slivers before she turns to look over her shoulder. “I wouldn’t like it very much if you were to kiss Bridget,” she concedes with a murmur. Those two, Beisdean and Bridget, seem to be on the same low rung of the social scale among their peers. Bridget because she’s strange and boyish, Beisdean only because he’s strange, but Luna only holds the latter in high regard. Never openly, of course.

Before her eyes close all the way, she’s facing him again with her chin lifted at a high angle and her lips parted only slightly. Her cool fingertips reach up to graze his jawline as they did earlier in the day but she doesn’t lean forward to take the gift. She merely meets him halfway.

“And Loon always gets what she wants, aye?” the boy says — though in this case it seems to be so, for he lowers his head to brush his lips against hers for the second time that day.

He reaches for her hand, though not to hold — instead he places the envelope in it. “There. You have two presents now,” he says quietly, lifting his head and flipping his hair out of his eyes with a toss of his head.

From not too far a distance off, there’s a sudden burst of girlish laughter. Not just one girl, but several of those in the higher social positions of the youths’ ladder seem to have been watching this little display. At the head of them, though, is a young brunette, finger pointed firmly in their direction and the other cups her mouth as she calls over, “See? I told you she had a taste for the weird ones.” It a mock that takes in both of them, but somehow seems more pointed toward the boy. “Luna! Are you done foolin’ about yet? We’re getting hungry!”.

Too busy staring at Beisdean to notice at first, Luna’s pale face turns a bright shade of red as soon as the tittering begins. Her eyes widen a little in surprise as she glances to the side and then tightens her lips into a thin line. Turning to the brunette she takes in a deep shaky breath as she balls her hands into little fists at her sides.

“Mariah Larke, you stop this instant!! It wasn’t foolin’, it wasn’t anything!!” Her arms fold over her chest angrily as she storms toward the curtain of leaves… only to shove one of the other little girls back. “Stop laughing! You can’t laugh at me!! I’m Luna Owens! I’m too good for all of you!!!”

Beisdean’s blue eyes narrow at Mariah’s words, but he instantly steps back from Luna. There is no argument from him on whether it was “anything” or not; there is only a flush that creeps into his cheeks as he is discarded like the ribbons and paper on the presents will be later.

His head does not bow in shame, though; he flips his hair back out of his eyes with that toss of his head, gives a whistle for Darklight and then stretches his long legs into a slow but purposeful stride in Luna’s wake — not to follow her and stop her, but to leave the party altogether, it seems, as he heads toward the garden’s exit.

Mariah seems only more amused when Luna starts shoving the other girls. Her hand claps Luna’s shoulder, though, and she points after the departing Beisdean. “So you say, but it looks like you’re not even good enough to keep that one around, Lu.” She shakes her head before looking back to the birthday girl, and she lifts and eyebrow and puts a hand on her hip. “What were you playing at there, girl?”

At least the other girls’ laughter starts to die out. No one likes it when Luna gets physical. At least, not like that.

“Baizey wait!” Luna shouts after the boy as he brushes by her quickly. She chases after him only two steps before turning on Mariah again and screwing her face into an angered grimace. “I wasn’t playing at anything! I was— “ but her voice drops off. The sight of her parents in the window has her lifting her hand in a feeble wave and putting a meek smile on her face.

Not having strength enough to keep a good posture, she leans down to give the little girl she shoved to the ground a hand. “Come on, you can have your cake and tea…” The envelope in her other hand is wrinkled but she smooths it against her dress before tucking it into her sash. Wrapping both of her arms around one of Mariah’s, she leans against the younger girl and leads her toward the table. “I wasn’t playing at anything. It was just a present.”

The boy doesn’t look back, though a chittering from his marten makes him pause so the creature can run up his pantleg and then his sweater to perch on his shoulder. Beisdean murmurs something to the familiar before he reaches into his pocket to bring up a dried apple as they pass out of the gate.

The younger girl looks a little wary of taking that hand, but for the sake of the onlookers, accepts the help and skitters away. But it’s alright, because Mariah grins at Luna and starts leading her off toward a section of the party with far more acceptable boys in it. “I hope you’re not taking that sort of present from everybody here. But if you are, I’m taking your gifts,” she notes before dragging the girl off.