First: Purchased: Negotiation
Normal life did not, Leander was pretty sure, include a girlfriend quite like Sylviane. It probably did not involve magic lessons three times a week with that girlfriend and her father, who happened to be his owner. It probably also did not involve not being able to leave your girlfriend’s side, although in the last few months, that had gotten to feel pretty normal. Sometimes, he and Sylviane would move to opposite sides of that 40-foot tether, often in separate rooms in the house, reading or watching tv or just (as Sylvie liked to say), getting some space. Other times they couldn’t get enough of each other.
This week, they were attempting to study for finals, although this was being interrupted by Melody, who seemed intent on getting all of Leander’s measurements again, as well as measuring Sylviane twice. “There’s a charity event coming up in a week. Mr. MacDiarmed expects you both to be there, to be properly attired, and to make a good showing.”
“He also expects – ow! that’s a pin! – me to make a ‘good showing’ on my finals, which I can’t do when you’re putting me full of pins. Other girls go shopping for their dresses.”
“Other girls did not show up to a charity Christmas ball in a dress lit up like a tree,” Melody retorted.
Leander snickered. “You did that?”
“It was actually a pretty nice dress. LEDs, green dress, when I spun the lights changed. I think the problem was the star on my hat. Besides,” she added, primly, or what Leander thought was supposed to be prim, but was ruined by the mischievous smile that kept coming back, “I was fourteen. Melody, I have some ideas for both my dress and Leander’s tux, if you can wait until we finish with this study session.”
“Ideas.” The woman’s voice dripped disdain.
“Ideas. None of them light up or anything like that, but I – well, last year’s dress-“
“That was a designer gown.”
“It made me look eighty.”
“It made you look dignified.”
“I’m a college kid! I’m not really supposed to look all that dignified. Certainly not enough to have fought in the Battle of the Bulge, you know? I didn’t storm Normandy. Half an hour, no pins, not measuring tapes, and then I will show you my ideas, and if you think my father will say no to all of them, honestly think that, then I’ll handle looking like Dame Judy Dench for one more Christmas.”
The woman sniffed, but she didn’t say no. “Half an hour.”
“Thank you, Melody, you’re the best.” She smiled brightly at Melody while the woman strode out.
“Did-” Leander was cut off by Sylviane’s finger on his lips. She mouthed she eavesdrops. “-you think that Dr. Dosea was a little bit out of it in the last class?” he finished, ad-libbing quickly. “I mean, sure, the doughnuts were a nice touch but then the question-and-answer was… weird.”
“From what I’ve heard, she’s like that most years.” Sylviane smirked. “She knows nobody’s going to really learn anything that close to finals, so if people have questions about the material, that’s one thing, but if they don’t, well, then they get – we get – an hour to relax.”
She held out a hand. “How do you feel about studying out in the park? It might be a little easier.”
He took her hand; with his free hand, he stacked up their books and notebooks. “Sounds good.” Sounds like maybe they could talk without getting interrupted.
They headed for the nearby park, quiet on the way as if not entirely certain they weren’t being followed. Leander waited until they’d found a shaded picnic table to set up his anti-eavesdropping wards, waited for Sylviane to get settled, and sat so he had a good view of the best approaches to their position.
“We’ll only have twenty minutes here before we have to head back,” he reminded her, and that’s pushing it. “Can she really – will she really – did she really?”
“Yes, yes, and, sigh, yes. It wasn’t ugly. It was very… tasteful. But it was tasteful for a 14-year-old or an 80-year-old, and I’m – I’m not.” She sighed. “I mean, I honestly think the dress with the Christmas lights was really nice. It was tasteful. She just didn’t like it, because someone made a comment about the presents under the tree.”
Leander growled. “I wouldn’t like that either.”
Sylviane giggled at him. “Really? Aw, that’s adorable.” She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “So yeah. She’ll really tell us what to wear. But that’s why I’m prepared. I have options for both of us. So let’s study for ten minutes and then I can show you what I’ve got, okay?”
“I’m gonna be fine with whatever as long as I don’t stand out and as long as I can move.” He pulled the books out. “And you’re going to be gorgeous in whatever. I mean, even if you wore one of those fake plastic trees.”
“Now that would be hard to pull off and I would probably get in trouble. But it might be fun. Okay. So, East Asian History, let’s see.” She flipped open her notebook and started quizzing him.
They alternated questioning each other – he could remember the answers a lot better when she was asking then when it was written down, but all he had to do was not have to retake the class, and he’d done pretty decently so far – a lot better than he’d expected to do, for sure. – until, in the middle of a question, Sylviane checked her phone. “Shit, we’ve got to head back if we’re not going to face the rage of Melody. And I didn’t get to show you the things I picked out.”
“It’s okay, I promise.” He patted her shoulder. “You can put me in whatever you want, as long as I can move and as long as I’m clothed.” He cleared his throat. “I mean, technically, you can put me in whatever you want, period, but I won’t sulk as long as I can move and as long as I’m clothed. I don’t, uh, okay. I’m gonna stop before I put my foot in my mouth far enough to taste my knee.”
“Your knees taste really good.” She winked at him. “And no, I can’t. At least, I won’t. I mean, let’s go with I can’t, okay? You won’t have to wear anything you don’t like, as long as you’re willing to look tidy.”
Leander glanced sidelong at her. “Are you absolutely sure you’re for real?”
“Well, no, that’s a philosophical question. But as far as practically… I’m pretty sure I am, yeah. But wait until you see what I’ve got picked out before you put me on a pedestal.”