Chapter 8 : Sighisoara
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“Are you sure it’s okay?” I insisted again. “I can always reschedule.”
Lisa shot me a look over her magazine. “It’s fine, Irene, we can handle Freckle on our own. Besides, you’re already dressed, and you promised Gavin you’ll meet him in thirty minutes. There’s not point in backing out now.”
“I’m not…” I bit my tongue, reminding myself that Lisa was Gavin’s sister, and they were quite close. She was entitled to feel a little sour about this whole dilemma between me and Gavin. “Okay then, but if you need any help, just owl me or something and I’ll be right back.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, sure, no problem,” she said dismissively before returning to her reading. I considered asking her what she was thinking, but decided against it. I turned back to the compact mirror I had enlarged to be a full-length one earlier and took a good look at my reflection. There were butterflies in my stomach as I tugged on my red sweater and smoothed out the crinkle in my black jeans, and once again I wondered where Gavin would take me. He sent a small note saying that I should get some Muggle money, but he wouldn’t tell me where we would be going to.
There was a brief knock in our door before it swung open to reveal Dawn and Allison. Both looked a little exhausted as they plopped down on the beds, Dawn on mine and Allison next to Lisa. “Getting ready for your date?” Allison inquired.
I nodded. “How’s Freckle?”
“He’s asleep. We just fed him. Nearly bit off my finger,” Dawn said, waving her right hand. There were red stains on her hand, but I knew it wasn’t her blood. Feeding dragons turned out to be a nasty business, especially when it included chicken blood.
I took another look at the mirror before putting on my coat and shouldering my bag and turning to the girls. “I have to go now. How do I look?”
“Lovely, and a bit nervous,” Dawn grinned. “Have fun!”
“You too,” I smiled. “See you later!” I gave a small wave to the girls and left the room, checking my watch with a quick glance. I still had twenty minutes, so I walked leisurely, smiling and greeting some of my classmates along the way. I knew most of the freshmen didn’t leave campus today to take care of their eggs. Yesterday, after I got up, we went to report to Professor DeMonte that our egg had hatched, and he explained that we could leave Freckle in the Infirmary if we wished to have a relaxing weekend and he wouldn’t hold it against us when he graded the project. However, he also said that it was better if he was around us as often as possible, especially since he was a newborn and was still learning to trust us. So the girls decided that they would stay behind and look after him while I go on my date. Feeling guilty, I had tried to offer to cancel my date, but they wouldn’t hear it, especially Lisa. They had said something about taking turns, and the thought of being alone with Freckle while they took their time out made me shudder.
Gavin was already waiting by the iron gates when I got there, leaning comfortably on the stone pillar with his arms folded across his chest. He spotted me and waved, immediately standing up straighter.
“Hi there,” he greeted, smiling warmly. “You look great today.”
“Thank you.” I returned his smile. “You don’t look bad either.” I did mean that. He was wearing a crisp white shirt and a pair of khakis, looking laid-back yet still very charming. Why couldn’t I like him instead of Charlie? “So where are we going today? Muggle places, I suppose?”
“Well, I was thinking either we go to Bran Castle or Sighisoara. Have you been to either one of those? Or would you like to go to somewhere?”
I nodded, brightening as I recalled the places he mentioned. “Oh, let’s go to Sighisoara. I haven’t seen it in a long time”
Gavin nodded. “Excellent. Would you mind if we do Side-Along Apparition? Just so we don’t arrive at different places.” He offered his hand, and I took it tentatively. He had a nice grip, firm but not painful. “Ready?” I nodded, and we both turned on the spot.
The familiar sensation of Apparating overtook me and I was pleased to find I could keep my balance when my feet finally hit solid ground again. Gavin and I were standing in a shadow of a tall building. Judging from the noises, we were not far from the main street, but we were completely hidden from passer-bys’ view. Gavin led me into the street, careful so no Muggle spotted us walking out of the shadow.
I hadn’t been in Sighisoara for many years, but the town was as familiar as ever. The medieval-style buildings that surrounded us made me feel like I had stepped back in time, back when I was a little girl, skipping down the street with Dad beside me. Many tourists were walking up and down the street, their chatters filling the air. I turned to Gavin and smiled. “Where shall we go first?” I was starting to feel a bit more at ease, but I removed my hand by pretending to adjust my bag.
“Well, where do you want to go?” he inquired. I chuckled.
“Come on, let’s go shopping,” I answered, barely containing the excitement in my voice. Without thinking, I took his hand again and pulled him down the road. He laughed, and we began to explore the town.
After a while, I forgot all about keeping my distance. Gavin, more used to the place and the language than I was, took me to the best places. We stopped by different shops, and he helped me talk to the shopkeepers. He even bought me a beautiful bracelet with golden stars dangling from it, despite my many protests. We visited the lots of different popular spots, including the Clock Tower, which stood sixty meters tall on top of the citadel hill. All in all, I was having a good time, and the day was not over yet.
“Ever heard a Romanian saying about food?” Gavin asked as we looked at the menu for lunch at a small café.
“No, what does it say?” I asked.
“Dragostea trece prin stomac,” he recited. I giggled at his accent. “It means love passes through the stomach,” Gavin said, smiling slightly. “Do you think that’s true?”
“Well,” I began, trying to not blush, “good food definitely helps. Who would want to take their date to a bad restaurant?”
A girl with a white apron tied around her waist approached us then, asking in fluent English if we were ready to order. We placed our orders and Gavin turned back to me. “Tell me about yourself,” he said.
“What’s there to tell?” I shrugged.
“Well, how does it feel to be Ignatius Connelly’s daughter?”
I laughed, and quickly regretted the bitter tone I had let slip. “It’s pretty normal. At least, until I get here. When I was in Hogwarts, his reputation didn’t really mean anything. Here, it’s kind of overwhelming.” I shrugged again, and tried to change the subject. “So what about you? Any famous relatives?”
Gavin laughed. “No, my family isn’t that exciting. My parents are Muggles, you see. Lisa and I are the only magical ones in the family. Speaking of which, I see you and Lisa are getting along. She’s hard to live with, isn’t she?”
“No, not at all. I admit she’s a bit of sloppy, but she’s a great roommate.” The conversation came to a halt as the waitress placed our food on the table, and we didn’t talk for a while as we began to eat. I had ordered a meatball soup called ciorba de perisoare, and as I ate, I considered asking Gavin about Charlie. The little knowledge I had of Charlie was probably outdated, and who would know him better than Gavin? But before I could figure out a subtle way to bring him up, Gavin had spoken up first.
“So I heard your egg hatched yesterday,” he said. His face took on a concerned look, and I suddenly realized that he must also have heard of me fainting. My cheeks felt hot, and I smiled sheepishly.
“Yeah, it did. Did Charlie tell you what happened?” I asked, wondering what Charlie had said about it, and my stomach turned as I thought of what he probably thought of me.
Gavin nodded somewhat hesitantly. “He told me you did something that startled Freckle, and he reacted by jumping on you, and you fainted.” He looked a little uncomfortable, but still somewhat concerned. “Are you okay?”
I chuckled. “Well, obviously. If I weren’t fine, I wouldn’t be here with you, would I?” I hesitated a while before adding, “Can you tell Charlie I said thanks? I haven’t had the chance to thank him myself yesterday.”
“Sure, I will tell him.” Silence fell again between us as we resumed our eating, but this time it felt somewhat awkward. I stole a glance at Gavin, and found him with a pensive expression on his face. The thought that he was somewhat jealous of Charlie or wondering about my friendship with Charlie crossed my mind, but I quickly pushed it aside. It was possible, but I hadn’t given him any reason to be jealous, and I was sure that, unfortunately, Charlie hadn’t either.
When at last we talked again, the conversation revolved around little tidbits of ourselves. Gavin told me that he majored in Science and Research, looking to work in the Reservation once he graduated. He asked me about what I wanted to take next year, and I told him I hadn’t decided yet. I talked to him about PE, and realized that Charlie hadn’t told him about his plan to tutor me. I wasn’t planning to tell him, so I changed the subject. We joked about my professors as we finished off desserts, and once again I marvelled at how easy he was to talk to. Sadly, it was also a sign that I was only interested in being friends with him, for I knew how difficult it was for me to start a conversation whenever I would be left alone with a guy I liked.
After we paid for our meals (I insisted that we split the bills, since he had already paid for my bracelet), we Apparated back to the campus. It was almost two in the afternoon, and the cool breeze that was starting to blow made me shiver in spite of my coat. Gavin helped me carry my shopping bags and walked me to my dorm, chatting merrily all the way. Meanwhile, I started panicking as we came closer to my room. The last time I went on a first date, my date simply hugged me, because we were both too embarrassed to do anything else. But Gavin definitely wasn’t shy, and there was no telling what he was thinking. What should I say? Would he try to kiss me? I flushed furiously and pushed the image out of my mind. I knew I had to talk to him, tell him I wasn’t interested in being a couple, but could I?
“Well, here we are,” I said when we finally got to my door. My heart was pounding wildly as I rummaged in my purse for my key. I smiled to him as I took the bags he was holding. “Thank you so much for today. I had a great time.”
“So did I?” Gavin smiled. “Maybe next time we can go to Dragostea.”
I took a deep breath and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear, trying to find the words, and the guts, to tell him that there wouldn’t be a next time. “Actually, I… I think we should stay friends. ”
I was afraid to look at him, but I gathered my courage and looked up. His expression was a mixture of different emotions that I couldn’t quite tell. I felt horrible, but before I opened my mouth to speak, he spoke up. “Of course, I completely understand. I’ll see you around, then?”
“Sure, I’ll see you around,” I nodded, but I was not quite relieved. His smile was somewhat strangled and I couldn’t shake off the guilt I was feeling. “Thank you for the bracelet,” I added.
He nodded without a word, and I hastily unlocked the door and slipped into the room, throwing another smile uncertainly before closing the door behind me. Once inside, I walked over to my bed and plopped down on it. I fingered the bracelet around my wrist and remembered the look on Gavin’s face. I never thought I would ever be in the position where I was the one breaking someone else’s heart, but I knew I had to do it. As cliché as it sounded, I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulder.
I looked around and realized that Lisa was not in the room, perhaps she was out for lunch. I sighed, knowing I had to be the one to tell her about this. I wondered what she would say when she heard of it.
Just as I thought of it, the door clicked open and Lisa walked in. She raised an eyebrow when she saw me. “I ran into Gavin,” she said, and I was a bit relieved to hear the lack of accusation in her voice. “What did you say?”
I sighed, and gestured to her bed. “Sit down, I’ll tell you everything.”
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