Chapter 3

Alek closed the door tightly behind him and leaned against it, sighing. He had, once again, been forced to go out to the market, and as before, he had been mobbed. But still…was it awful that Alek had almost begun to enjoy the attention?

The attention of Classandra in particular. She was beautiful, with cream skin, long light brown curly hair, and large doe-brown eyes. She seemed rather popular within her group of friends, and somehow managed to weasel the promise of a future date out of Alek. There was something about those eyes…

A polite knock at the door made Alek jump, his hand immediately flying to the pistol under his jacket. He cursed the old door for its lack of a peephole before hesitantly pushing it open. Classandra stood there, tiny, delicate fist raised to knock on the door again. "Oh, hello, Aleksander."

Alek twisted his head around to see if any of his men saw the girl then stepped out, closing the door firmly behind him. "Classandra! What are you doing here?"

At those words, her eyes teared up. "I'm sorry. I suppose I'll be going…"

"No! Stay here. I'm not angry, just a little surprised." Alek took in a breath, trying not to seem flustered by the girl's presence. "Now, what was it that you're here for?"

She looked at him through her long, dark eyelashes. "I was just wondering if you would be so kind as to escort me into town, perhaps for some tea."

Alek knew that he should say no. He should forget about this common girl. But those eyes… "I would love to."

Alek's arm was beginning to grow very sore. Classandra had practically dragged him everywhere, introducing him to every person they saw. "Aleksander?"

Alek jumped and snapped back to reality. "Hmm?"

"Would you like—"

"Blisters, is that you, Alek?"

Alek was about to greet Deryn, but Classandra beat him to it. "Miss Sharp, what are you doing here?"

Despite the girl's nasty tone, Deryn smiled. "Nice to see you too. And what are you doing here?"

Classandra's grip tightened on his arm, her fingernails digging painfully into his arm. "I believe that I asked you a question first."

Deryn snorted. "Aye, and I didn't answer."

Classandra gasped, apparently scandalized. "How rude!"

Alek was very confused. Clearly, Classandra was the more unpleasant one!

"Anyway," Deryn sighed. "Hello."

"It's nice to see you," Alek said politely, smiling softly.

A slight blush rose onto the girl's cheeks and she avoided his gaze shyly. "Ah—"

Classandra cut her off, flashing a sharp-toothed grin. "Yes. Very…nice. Now, Aleksander dear—"

"Wait!" Deryn called. "Don't go yet. I wanted to talk."

"Well," she spat. "We didn't. So, why don't you just hurry on back to that disgusting thing you call a 'house' and leave us alone?"

Deryn's jaw clenched, but she kept her anger hidden away. "You know, just because I'm not as rich as you, it doesn't mean I don't live in a barking house."

"Oh, really? I just thought that ever since your father left you…"

Classandra just trailed off, but she seemed to have left her mark. For a moment, Deryn's blue eyes widened in hurt, but she quickly hid it away. Without another word, she turned on her heel and slipped away, appearing wounded somehow.

Alek blinked in surprise. "What was that all about?"

Classandra simply waved it off. "Oh, it's nothing. Her father abandoned her when she was just a little thing. It is most unfortunate, but Deryn does get rather melodramatic about it."

Alek only nodded slowly.

Deryn watched the water below her feet, sniffing back the tears that burned behind her eyes. She hated herself for storming off like that. It only gave Classandra what she wanted. But, it would have been even more humiliating if she'd started crying, especially with Alek watching like a hawk. A rather handsome and confused hawk, but still, a hawk.

She should have known that Alek was never really hers. No boy had ever glanced twice at her, so why should Alek have been any different? Deryn dropped her face down into her hands, feeling tears seep through her eyelids. It had torn her heart open, just seeing Classandra with Alek clinging onto her, but bringing up her Da was like having her heart ripped out.

She heard footsteps behind her and immediately silenced her sobs. "W—who's there?" She winced at the undisguised tears thickening her voice.


Oh, how barking perfect. It was Alek. Deryn felt a few more tears drip down her cheeks, which were now hot with embarrassment.

"Are you all right?"

Deryn had always hated that question. Did she look barking "all right?" She resumed silence, hoping that he would take the hint and leave her to drown in a puddle of self-pity and tears. Unfortunately, the daft, sweet boy that he was, she heard him sit down. She dared a peek through her fingers and nearly gasped out loud. His legs were barely a hand's width away, much closer than before. She cringed away.

After a few long, teary minutes had dragged by, he spoke. "The sun set's pretty."

Deryn choked on a fresh onslaught of tears. Of all the barking bloody things he could have said…any comment she might have made died in her throat as his arm ghosted around her shoulders. Despite the sudden frantic drumbeat of her heart, Deryn found herself leaning closer into that warm embrace. Hesitantly, Alek gently patted her shoulder. "Are you…are you feeling okay?"

Deryn wrapped her arms firmly about him. If she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine an eternity of sitting there, hiding away from her troubles. "N…not really." Her voice sounded small and lost.

"Classandra told me what happened."

Classandra. The name to ruin any perfect moment. Her heart growing colder, she pulled her arms away, shrugged him off and slid away bit. "What do you mean?"

"She told me about how your father left you."

Deryn chuckled bitterly. "Left me? Aye, I suppose you could call it that."

"I'm sorry? I don't—"

"Don't listen to everything that slimy little bumrag says, Alek. My Da…he didn't just up and leave. He died in a ballooning accident. Aye, I suppose you might call that leaving." Deryn laughed humorlessly more, but it quickly turned into a hiccupping sob. Deryn once again hid her face away in her hands.

"I…I'm sorr—"

"Would you stop barking apologizing!?" Deryn dragged in a deep, ragged breath, and said in a more gentle tone, "Just…I wanna be alone, aye?"

Alek barely touched her shoulder, then sighed softly and stood. "Goodbye."

For a few minutes, Deryn was alone, wallowing in her own miserable self pity. Then, she felt someone crouch down beside her. "Hey, Der."

Finn knew better than to ask if she was alright. His hand rested firmly on her shoulder. "What's going on now?"

Deryn roughly rubbed the tears out of her eyes. "Nothing."

"Hmm." Finn sat himself down next to her, feet swinging over the creek. "Is that the same 'nothing' that's got Alek all confused and Classandra all smug?"

"Dunno," Deryn mumbled. "Maybe."

Suddenly, Finn chuckled. "Well, I must say, this is the first time I've seen you go all batty over a lad."

"Shut up," Deryn whimpered.

Finn leaned over to peer into her eyes, and suddenly, she couldn't stop the tears. "It'll be alright, aye?"

Deryn promptly wrapped him in a tight hug. Finn looped his arms around her. "Oi, no tears. You'll be fine."

Deryn's grip tightened. "That's what you think!" Deryn wailed. "You don't know how it feels!"

Finn sighed and pressed a kiss onto the top of her head. "Trust me, Der. I know what a broken heart feels like."

SO sorry for the wait. Between the general business of school, having a role in my school play, reading waaaaaay too much Les Misérables fanfiction and…life, it's been hard to prepare any chapters of anything. Anywho, the reviews were beautiful and make my heart explode. I sincerely hope you haven't forgotten about this story and are willing to click that pretty little 'review' button and make my day. THANKYOUSES!