Weekly Short Story Contest–Pattern

Meet Cute

Zaiver tiredly ran a hand through his long, silver hair, tucking it reflexively behind his pointed ear. Another day in the life. He had been tasked with picking up Lord Draconis’s special jaf from town. This was not his least favorite task. He enjoyed the fresh air and being able to walk the streets of Lartnek. But it did remind him that he was not free, despite his apparent freedom. Guards lined the town and each knew his face and forms intimately. He knew most of the guards too, but he was the one kept and watched. Zaiver had never attempted to run away since the first time he had tried and subsequently spent a month in the stocks with the only sustenance shoved in his face and down his throat not to mention the weekly floggings. Still, the boundaries were there via the guards and in his own mind.

Zaiver sped along the street, weaving through the townsfolk, avoiding bakers and grocers and tailors and more. He felt like he was swimming upstream against the current of the townspeople. Stepping sideways, he narrowly dodged a woman carrying a large basket and crashed straight into another woman.

“Oh!” she said as she landed on the street with a bump.

“I’m so sorry!” Zaiver reached down to help her up.

The woman was of medium stature with light brown hair and hazel eyes. She scowled at his proffered hand and stood up on her own.

“Do you regularly walk down the street with your eyes closed?” she said, now on her feet.

“I–” Zaiver started, resisting the urge to fight back in defense, “I… I’m sorry. I should have been more careful.”

She studied him, pursing her lips, and he felt uncomfortable under her scrutiny, “My name’s Serenity.” she stuck out her hand.

“Zaiver Silver White. Pleasure to meet you,” he grasped her hand firmly.

“Wow. Three names in one. Quite a mouthful,” she folded her arms and leaned back slightly as if to survey his whole being.

His cheeks flushed, “Uh, yeah… Zaiver’s my dad’s name…”

“So, Silver, then?” Serenity nodded swiftly, “Nice to meet you, Silver.”

With that, she turned on her heel and disappeared into the stream of people before Zaiver could as much as protest. Best get that jaf… he thought.

***

The following week, Zaiver eagerly rushed to town on another errand. Perhaps he would run into Serenity again, though hopefully not literally this time. He made his way to the baker, looking at every woman he passed, hoping to see those hazel eyes and brown hair.

“Excuse me, sir!”

He paused, frustrated, “Yes?”

A short, thin elf stood there with a stack of papers in her arms, “I wondered if you would help me deliver these to the printer. They are incredibly heavy.”

He frowned, “I’m actually busy…”

“Printer’s just a few block away.”

“Oh, alright.” He took the stack from her and followed her to the printer, listening to her talk about some sort of event she was advertising for some tavern she worked at. He wasn’t particularly interested as he was still searching for Serenity.

They arrived and after setting the paper down on the printer’s workbench, Zaiver turned to say goodbye and paused. The elf stood with her arms crossed, leaning back slightly, surveying him.

“Well… bye,” he looked down and away from her gaze.

“Thanks for your help. Don’t close your eyes on the way back!”

“Uh, okay.”

***

Zaiver spent the next month looking for any chance to go into town so he could look for Serenity. Every trip he did meet a woman of some race or another. One trip was a werecat, another a tall elf, a draconian, a Light Wolf (that was strange) and a variety of human women. All of them had him do some menial task and every single one ended their interaction by crossing their arms and inspecting him. That he also found extremely odd. Was there some secret female errand society that had singled him out from the other men in town?

“One last time. I’ll look once more. If I can’t find her, she must have just been passing through…” Zaiver sighed to himself as he walked Lartnek’s main street, headed this time to the tavern to pick up a crate of seasonal brandy for Nis’s kitchens.

As he came near the tavern, he felt a tug on his tunic.

“Excuse me, I–”

“Have an errand for me?” Zaiver didn’t need to look to know a woman was standing at his elbow, he knew the pattern well enough by now, “I don’t mind helping… but I’m looking for someone…”

“It helps if you keep your eyes open,” she said.

He turned and looked at the woman, standing with her arms crossed, leaning back slightly, surveying him. This time she was short with black hair, pointed ears, and hazel eyes. Hazel?

“Wait…” Zaiver frowned, trying to put the pieces together, “Do you happen to know the woman I’m looking for? Her name is Serenity. She has hazel eyes, like yours, brown hair and is about height, maybe a little taller, and without pointed ears.

“So… like this?” slowly she changed, her hair grew lighter, she became taller and her ears rounded and shrank, “Serenity, you said?”

“W-what? Are YOU… you… Serenity?” Zaiver sputtered.

She laughed and the sound shone in his ears, “In the flesh!”

“So.. you… all this time… right here…?”

“Really, Silver, I expected more from you!”

“Polivorn? Shapeshifter?” he still couldn’t form sentences.

“Yep. Why don’t you buy me a beer and I’ll tell you all about it.” she smiled and linked arms with him, heading inside the tavern.

Zaiver allowed himself to be led and marveled at her smile. He wanted nothing more than to see that smile as often as possible for as long as he could. He would do anything to make her smile.

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