The next day began filled with promise, and seemed to deliver on the promises it made.
Al’bert and Fangline spent the day with the hawks and the hawker, and Camilla looked blithely on, scarcely acknowledged, and mostly just a lovely bit of scenery. There wasn’t much of interest back at the estate, and, in fact, this was the most entertaining thing Camilla had seen in weeks, so she wasn’t apt to complain about getting very little attention from the two most important men in her life.
The clouds rolled by and it seemed like this was how everything would always be; the quiet strength beneath a jovial nature that she loved about her brother beside the simmering, curious intellect of Fangline. That is the way it had always been, so she had no reason to think it would ever change. And lastly, there she was; the younger sister, the one who tagged along. Perhaps she’d always just tag along.
After a late lunch, the three reclined in a meadow. The grasses were long and waved lethargically in the light wind. Al’bert was dozing nearby as Fangline deigned to engage in small talk with Camilla.
She was required by her father and mother to spare no effort in securing the prince’s attachment to her, but even though they wanted this of her, she wanted it herself more than either of them could. She wanted it more genuinely, which made all the difference.
It was Fangline who fascinated her. He was the one man she had never been able to control. It made no difference that he was a prince, for she would have found herself as helplessly curious about him if he’d been a miller’s son. However, like a carrot just out of reach in front of a donkey, she was driven and enamored by his now and again lukewarm affection for her.
It was this tepidity that he was showing now.
He was explaining something about the hawks that he and Al’bert had been dealing with all morning, and she picked up the word “talons” on numerous occasions, but wasn’t really listening to the rest. She was very good at feigning comprehension, but mostly she just watched the colors and patterns of light that surrounded the prince in the early afternoon sunlight.
From time to time a cloud passed across the sun, and the colors faded slightly, growing duller and even cooler, but once the sun erupted again, the prince was a beautiful, deep river of gleaming greens and golds.
She considered that she might begin to like green, should this continue.
However, the description of hawks in excruciating detail didn’t seem to be abating, which made her wryly despair. To end her torture, she moved closer to him, and he noticed.
He lost his train of thought and slowly words left him.
Camilla paused there, allowing Fangline to exist in a state of conflict for some time. They were close, and the long grasses swirled around them, moving when they were not, creating the juxtaposition that made them both feel as if they were still and breathless in deep water.
She looked up into his face and said, “Do you think I’m beautiful, Fangline?”
She knew the answer to this, and he knew she knew the answer to this. They both knew it was all a game and she was teasing him, and she nearly entirely hid her smile, but instead fixed him with an intense gaze meant to disarm him as much as she could manage.
She’d played this game a hundred times, and they always told her she was beautiful, stunning, exquisite, and a large number of other ways to more poetically describe feminine beauty. She, however, wanted it from the mouth of Fangline.
He shifted his weight slightly, taking her challenge, and returned her gaze with equal intensity. He appeared to be considering her question very intently.
“I don’t know…” he began, tilting his head slightly, as if judging her aesthetics critically. “Do you think you’re beautiful?”
She gave him a dry look, and he grinned a little at her, so she had no other course but to lean in and kiss him.
Some time later, she broke away and sighed.
“Tell me,” she said.
“No,” he replied.
So she kissed him again, more passionately.
“Please,” she whispered.
“No,” he breathed, but this time he kissed her.
Eventually, upon catching her breath, she grew more desperate.
“Fangline, please,” she pleaded.
He didn’t reply, except to kiss her passionately and push her to the ground to lie among the swirling grasses and rushing, coaxing wind.
There was a very long time that Fangline spent kissing her mouth, face, and neck, and Camilla fell into a sort of warm trance at the pleasure of his affectionate embrace. Her arm fell gracefully around his shoulders and she gazed upward to the brilliant sky in absolute contentment, knowing there surely could be nothing at all wrong in the world, now.