Light traffic flowed along both sides of the stalls within the market. It was a straight street in the middle of town with all sorts of vendors. Despite her hunger growling at her, Drina took her time to peruse the selection. She was not one for impulsive buying and wanted to make sure she was getting the best deal. However, the more she saw, the harder the choice to settle on meals had become. The smell and selections displayed were mouth-watering, several of the stalls displaying juicy meats and steaming vegetables with rice. She had almost made it to the end of the street where she would have to loop back through once more when she spotted Hestar.
Her heart dropped causing her to turn to the closest stall, attempting to blend alongside a couple while she cast a glance past them. Hestar was sharing a laugh with one of the vendors, picking up fruit as she inspected it. Drina was out of range to hear the conversation they had yet she didn’t need to. Every action Hestar made was clear that she was an extraordinary conversationalist. The way she held herself, the sly smile she offered while making a witty remark. It was all mesmerizing for Drina to watch. A voice broke through her thoughts, drawing her attention back to the stall.
“Ma’am, are you going to buy it?”
It had taken Drina several moments to realize she had been holding an item from the table while oogling Hestar. Blushing, she looked back at the table of jewelry, placing the brooch within her hand back onto the table. It was a gaudy flower bejeweled with several glinting gems, one that Drina would never wear in a lifetime. Taking a second look, she spotted a small necklace with a crescent moon. Her thoughts briefly brushed over Ocan’s face as she reached for her coin purse. Taking the necklace, she placed the money on the table in front of the vendor. Overpaying them, she didn’t wait for the change while in pursuit of Hestar who was now moving along to the next table.
Curiosity ate at her as she watched through the crowd while Hestar moved between each vendor with ease, joking and buying things here and there. It was amazing to see her skills in person even with the random passer byers. How she easily spoke to anyone and everyone with grace inspired Drina. Hiding behind her fortune-telling skills, Drina was at a loss when starting a conversation with a stranger. Why was Hestar interested in her when she could have anyone around her? It hurt just thinking about it, yet Drina had only just met her and shared one kiss. Why would a complete stranger like her think twice about her existence? Drina stopped in the middle of the street at the thought. Was it only because of the fortune that she even considered staying to help save her? Ocan was right, she had been selfish. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for her whim.
An ache in her chest made her swallow hard. Right now, all Drina needed to do was focus and complete her contract with the festival. Finding the killer was important so Hestar could live and then they could move on. About to give up on her attraction to Hestar, Drina had completely forgotten to take cover when she turned around to make her way back towards the hostel. Their eyes made contact and Hestar’s face brightened, her smile bigger than any other she had during all the previous exchanges. Drina panicked, turning to her side towards another vendor. This one was a bookstall, holding several racks of leather-bound assorted books. Grabbing the first one she saw, she turned it open to a random page, burying her burning face from Hestar’s eyes. It was already too late since she took her time to approach her.
Standing beside her, Hestar leaned in close to her ear with a whisper.
Running her hand along Drina’s arm, she pressed her body in close against hers while reaching for the book within Drina’s hand. Having the warmth of her body so close, Drina held her breath while shivers ran along her body. There was no resistance as Hestar turned the book to read the cover, causing the blush on Drina’s face to deepen.
“Didn’t take you as a fan of boat structures and history.”
Drina was at her limit of how much more embarrassment she could take. Not having a retort, she closed the book and placed it back on the shelf. Between the connection and her behavior the previous night, she didn’t know what to say. If she could dig her head in the ground, she would take that option. Turning, she broke through Hestars tender touch and made her way through the crowd. It was a mistake to follow her, Drina thought. It was no surprise that Hestar was hot on her heel, catching up to her to wrap her arm around hers. The natural way she did it was almost as if they had done it many times before, or at least she had.
“Why are you trying to run away? Here you are, stumbling across me at the market where we can spend the day together. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought this was fate.”
It caught her off guard. How would this be considered fate? Pausing their walk Drina turned to face Hestar. It was hard to hold any ounce of confidence with how direct she was. “Meeting you in the market when your job is to drive in business hardly seems like fate. Finding you where there are people seems natural.”
Hestar slid her arm down to hold her hand as they continued a slow pace through the market. The sound of the crowd was as loud while ghostly spirits began to float around. Drina’s heart was pounding fiercely making it difficult to maintain her composure. Glancing about she worried that people would stare at them, judging them in secret. This had no effect on Hestar, who spoke confidently, unhindered by appearance.
“And you don’t seem like the kind of person to walk through a crowd like this. Was there another reason you were looking for me then?”
Scoffing, Drina stopped them turning towards her. “I wasn’t looking for you. I was… taking a walk and happened to spot you.”
Hestar smirked devilishly, her teasing taking root causing Drina to sigh in mild frustration. This woman, Drina thought as she pinched the bridge of her nose. Calming herself down, Drina pulled them to stand off to the side of the oncoming traffic. Searching for the words, she needed to properly apologize to Hestar for her attitude the previous night. The fact that Hestar still wanted to spend time with her, be alongside her, and even holding her hand made Drina feel even more guilty for her rudeness.
“Hestar… about last night.”
With a shake of her head and a finger to Drina’s lips, Hestar interrupted her. “No need to apologize. I can be a little pushy sometimes and you have your reasons to be closed off.”
She leaned in towards Drina with honest eyes. “Truth be told, I can’t stop being infatuated with you. When I see something I want, I will do whatever it takes to get it. Lulu told me I needed to give you space, so if I haven’t given you enough distance please let me know.”
Drina dropped her jaw with shock. Had she left to go to the market so early because of her? Although her gut begged to keep her at arm’s length, her heart spoke differently. Drina would be lying to herself and everyone else if she denied her desire to seek out Hestar’s affection. Touching the side of Hestar’s cheek, Drina offered a grin.
“I guess there is no point in battling it.”
As if on cue, Drina’s stomach rumbled loudly, reminding her of the skipped meal that morning. The surprise on Hestar’s face confirmed that she was able to hear it as well as she broke out into a giggle. Drina joined in, rubbing the back of her head from her awkwardness.
“Since you know your way around here. How about maybe joining me for a meal?”
Biting her lip, Hestar nodded. “I would love to. Come, I know this amazing little kiosk off the beaten path that is to die for!”
Being led through the crowd, Drina smiled while looking at their interlocked fingers. It brought her a small amount of joy knowing that since they started holding eachothers hands, they had not let go. After grabbing a small meal at the hidden kiosk just behind a few stands, they both took their time walking around to peer at shops. Although Drina had been full from the food, Hestar had taken her to several other vendors with treats and delights, buying her small samples for her to taste. She found it hard to say no, especially since Hestar’s excitement had won the day. Finishing their round, Drina looked to the sun knowing that soon it would be time to head to the tent. Without having to say a word, Hestar seemed to have picked it up as well. They began to walk the path leading both towards the Hostel and the festival grounds.
Walking in silence, they resumed holding hands while the streets began to pick up in pace. Despite having talked the entire time together, Drina felt at a loss for words. She didn’t want to leave her side just to have to go and sit in a small dim-lit tent. With a heavy sigh, Hestar gave her a sideways glance. With a sudden tug, she dragged Drina into the entrance of a nearby alley. It had happened so quickly that Drina had no time to react and as soon as her back touched the wall, her mouth was invaded. A small sweet tongue had slipped in as they kissed passionately. It was intense while voices exploded around them. Drina quickly wrapped her arms tightly around Hestar, wishing their exchange didn’t have to end. Sadly she knew she needed to let her go, pulling away from their last lingering kiss.
In the darkness of the alley and the piercing volume of the spirits, Drina barely caught the inaudible whisper for her. Watching her lips move, Drina barely caught her words.
“I’ll see you at the festival.”
Drina pushed off the wall to watch as Hestar skipped out of the alleyway. Looking about, she touched her fingers to her lips. It made Drina gitty, licking at her own, the flavor of the kiss still savored in her memory. Taking her time stepping out of the alley, her gaze followed Hestar until she turned the corner out of her view. The spirits surrounded Drina while she dreamily stood in a daze. Some out of the orb-like state they tried to draw her attention towards them. She had hardly been paying attention, batted one out of the way like a hindering fly. There was no way they were going to trample on her parade, yet one managed to yell directly from behind her. The sudden break of the boundary and urgency in their warning pierced the air. Whipping her head back towards the alley, the voice stopped entirely while she scanned around and the empty space. She could have sworn that she felt the presence of someone physical, not including the ghosts. With a small chill up her spine, Drina took off towards her little tent.