Spring Romance I
Penelope Belmonte smoothed out her skirts, trying not to look as nervous as she felt. She wanted to twist a lock of hair around a finger, a habit she’d had since she was a kid, and stilled her hands. What was it her mother always said? A lady’s hands proclaimed her habits.
Penny’s hands were smooth and soft, with long, delicate fingers, and perfectly shaped nails. She wore a crested ring on her right hand that bore the sigil of her house.
The Belmonte family hadn’t always been wealthy and powerful, but it had been for as long as she was alive, and long before that, even. She’d heard tales about how they came to be; unsavory gossip that followed the nobility around like the plague. To think that her great-great-grandmother had been a single, pregnant woman who had fled from a neighboring kingdom was difficult to believe. Still, it gave her some solace to think it. If that woman could make a family name and fortune that put their family up there with royalty, she could certainly do anything she imagined.
Penny was the first of her family to break out of the traditional roles that were expected of the upper-class. Her brother, Robert, two years her senior, was the model child. He studied business, he cultivated connections, and he was always a proper gentleman. Penny, on the other hand, had refused to fall into the docile role of a maiden waiting to be wed. No, she’d joined the Chapel to become a Priest.
Her father hated it, but there were times when she hated him, so she thought it just might be fair. Her mother didn’t care so much about the Priesthood; she’d warned Penny it would be difficult work, and she’d tried to convince her that marriage and children were much more fulfilling for a lady, but in the end, she’d supported her decision.
Training to be a Priest was like nothing Penny had ever done before. She’d grown up with a private tutor, sequestered away from the rest of the city. She’d learned her numbers and letters by herself, or sometimes with her brother, but she’d never had real friends or playmates. When she joined the Chapel, she’d been immediately overwhelmed by the cliques and clubs that formed. For a while, she thought she’d have no friends at all, that she’d spend her time by herself or lost in a book like Janice Akins.
That hadn’t been the case, thank the Gods. She’d made friends — good friends — and she’d never regretted her decision to join the Chapel.
When Matilyn Malevus walked by, Penny grabbed her by the arm. “Come here a moment.”
Matilyn ducked into the room where Penny was standing. They were of nearly equal height, but where Matilyn was dark of hair and eye, Penny had long red curls, and eyes the color of the sea.
“What is it?” Matilyn asked. “Do you need help studying?”
“No,” Penny said, “I have a problem. I was hoping you might help me come up with a solution.”
Matilyn waited for her to continue. That was something Penny had learned about Matilyn; she didn’t say things when she didn’t need to. She let silence speak for her.
“I don’t like Eldrin,” Penny said.
Matilyn blinked, “What?”
Penny gave a rueful smile, “I don’t like Eldrin,” she repeated.
“He’s my best friend,” Matilyn said, “And he’s a good guy. When he’s not being an ass—”
“Oh, not like that,” Penny said, “I like him well enough. I just don’t like him, if you know what I mean.”
For a moment, Matilyn said nothing. Then she threw her head back and laughed. “His ego will heal,” she finally said.
Penny couldn’t help but laugh too.
“How can I help you with that?” Matilyn said, “If you think I’m going to be the one to tell him that his crush isn’t returned, no way. We’re hardly children anymore, and I don’t play messenger.”
“That’s not what I need your help with,” Penny said, “I need your help in another matter, related, of course. Because there is someone that I like.”
Matilyn arched a brow.
Penny had practiced what she was going to say for days, but in the end, she said nothing. She stepped up to Matilyn and pressed her lips firmly against hers.
For a split second, she thought Matilyn was going to pull away, and she could almost feel her heart breaking. Then Matilyn slid an arm around her waist, and drew her other hand towards her hair, stroking it softly. It could have been seconds that they kissed, or it could have been hours. Days, even. Finally, they broke apart.
“Oh,” Matilyn said.
“So you see my problem,” Penny said. “I like you, and Eldrin likes me. Where do you stand?”
“Eldrin will get over it,” Matilyn said, and then kissed her again.