A beginning.

Maybe it began with a chuckle.

If Lemnastia hadn't heard it, she would have finished folding her robe, turned around, and opened the curtain. Instead, she hesitated.

“Did you hear her today?” The girl's pitch raised and her voice turned throaty. “May I help clear the room, Guide?” Each sentenced ended in a theatrical sigh. “May I fetch your tray, Guide? May I seek inspiration sitting in your shadow, Guide?”

Several girls laughed. Lemnastia couldn't tell them all apart, but she was fairly sure who they were. She blushed. It was too late to come through. They would think she was eavesdropping.

“May I wipe the dust off your sandals, Guide?” another one added, in a syrupy, breathless tone. “Will's sake, she makes me want to puke,” she said, no longer mocking her. “Such a Guide's pet.”

Lemnastia clenched her fists, took a deep breath, relaxed them, and willed her tension out with the air. It didn't always work, but her heart slowed down. Only then she noticed it was racing. Were they talking about her? Did she really behave like that?

She took another breath and sought awareness of her body. Her cheeks burned, her mouth was dry, her fingers and toes tingled, her knees shook, and she felt her quick, strong pulse all over, intrusive and constant.

She heard a tut. “I don't think it's that.”

“What, really?”

“Not only that. Lemna's not like that with other guides, is she?” A giggle. “I think... I think she is... entranced.”

“Entranced? You mean—”

“Yes, I think she...” A pause, then a whisper. “I think she has a crush.”

Gasps and cackles went through the curtain like a knife through butter.

Another deep breath. This time it did nothing. Why couldn't she keep calm?

“Well, that would at least make sense. Fate, she's pathetic.”

Her guts writhed. She opened the curtain, burst out, trying not to look at them, and ran off with tears rolling down her cheeks.

Donistea, the householder's daughter, and her two closest, stood still and let her pass, eyes wide and mouths open.

She could only think of escaping while she imagined Eltheria's smirk, and Klermena's annoying titter.

She was so upset, she didn't notice their actual reaction; so upset, she didn't ask herself the important questions.

Why did they say it?

Why did it hurt?

Not to mention, the most important one.

Is it true?

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