Cyrus, King of the magical hidden island of Elpida, glares at the mirror in front of him, frowning. Earlier, he asked his adviser Allan Emerson to help him get dressed for his date with Sierra. He looks definitely boring.
“What’s wrong, Your Majesty? You look like a sweet pumpkin. All modern women love this look.” Allan looks at the King’s outfit with pride.
“This is impossible! I look more like a fluffy pumpkin.” He designates the soft orange sweater and the simple black jeans. “And that horrible hat!” he adds. The black beanie with a pompom on top and the grey scarf make him look mundane and young. Only the gold watch remains from his everyday attire. No one would ever take him for a King dressed in this manner.
“But, Your Majesty, this is what modern men from London dress like according to my research!” Allan explains.
“Fine, I shall look ridiculous! Time to go. Prepare the portal,” says Cyrus, glancing at his watch.
Cyrus arrives in London right on time, and right next to the coffee shop. Its name is displayed in big letters, Starbucks, and he wonders who chose this ugly name. He also wonders why Sierra invited him to an ugly place and not to visit a castle or a palace. No palace could ever be as great as his anyway.
The cool wind rustles the fallen leaves, scattering them in every direction. The trees still display colors from the brightest shade of yellow to the darkest shade of red.
Cyrus turns and sees Sierra arriving. Wearing black knee-high boots and a white sweater-dress that covers her thighs and her arms, her elegant beauty startles him. He smiles and starts to join her. When he is close enough, his smile falters. She keeps glancing behind her and she looks worried, as if she was watching her back carefully anticipating someone to bounce on her. When she sees him, she sighs.
“Cyrus! Glad to see you! How are you?” A tiny smile tugs on her lips.
“Good morning darling!” He reaches for her hand and kisses it softly and tenderly. “I am great, what about you? You look worried, is everything alright?” He is still holding her hand, almost tightly as if scared she might disappear if he lets go.
“Oh, I’m fine! I just thought someone was following me. It is silly,” she says unconvinced and glancing back to the sidewalk behind. Cyrus knows better than to ignore Sierra’s impression. However, he does not wish to worry her.
“It is not silly, dear. Let’s get inside, you must be cold.” He presents her his arm and she takes it, smiling shyly like a teenager.
He holds the coffee shop’s door for her, and the smell of both sweetness and bitterness assails them. Cyrus’s eyes widen.
“What’s that smell?” he asks in wonder, already liking the place better.
“What? Never smelled coffee before?” Sierra asks.
Cyrus is already staring at the menu, his dark blue eyes a shade lighter.
“You should try their autumn specialty. It’s pumpkin-flavored. Suits you,” she tells him. He turns to her, brows drawn together.
“I knew the sweet pumpkin look was not a good idea,” he says looking at his clothes with accusing eyes.
Sierra starts laughing, “What are you saying? You look cute dressed like that.”
Cyrus lifts his head to confirm that she is sincere and grins, his confidence coming back. Sierra orders her coffee and pays with paper. Cyrus steps in front of the boy in a strange brown and green costume.
“I’ll have… same as her?” he tells the boy, unassured with all those beverage choices.
“4.50 please,” he answers.
“I… um… saw you were taking paper as payment?” Cyrus asks, regretting not to have brought some.
“I take money or card.” The boy rolls his eyes and crosses his arms.
“Oh, right.” He is about to get his gold coins but Sierra gives another piece of paper to the boy who gladly accepts it and dismisses a confused Cyrus. “You did not have to pay for me but thank you, Sierra. Your kindness is much appreciated.”
She is about to answer when a man enters the coffee shop, a gun in his hand. Cyrus recognizes the man, one he exiled from Elpida. He has just enough time to manage to harness his talents and create an illusion. The man now sees Sierra as Cyrus, and Cyrus as Sierra. He points the gun towards the person he thinks is Sierra. Cyrus can sense Sierra’s nervousness and sees her right hand fly to her mouth from the corner of his left eye. The man does not lose a second and shoots a bullet before darting back through the door.
The bullet pierces Cyrus’s shoulder. He hears the shot’s sound before feeling the pain or seeing the blood. He knows the bullet was meant for his dear Sierra as a vengeance. He took a bullet for her but he knows he won’t tell her.
Before the other costumers can react, he puts up an illusion hiding himself and Sierra. When she sees his wound, she reaches for him and he leans on her.
“Can you keep a secret?” she asks, not panicked at all which surprises Cyrus.
“For you, anything” he answers softly, his voice low and shaking because of the intense pain.
She puts her hand on his shoulder and closes her eyes. White light emerges from her hand and he can feel the pain diminishing too rapidly for it to be real. By the time she is done, only a scar remains.
“Wait” she says. “How come no one tries to help us?” She turns to him, the question lingering between them for a few seconds.
“I shielded us from view and hearing, same kind of magic as yours,” he responds, amazed at her strong healing talents. Relief covers her features. “Thank you, Sierra.”
“Of course, Cyrus. Well, should we finish our coffee then?” They both turn toward the counter where two coffees are standing, freshly brewed. Everything happened so fast that they barely realize how dangerous it could have been.
Two hours later, they are sitting on a bench outside, talking. Cyrus is still amazed by the taste of coffee and is already thinking about bringing this beverage to Elpida. They shall have the best coffee ever tasted.
When he checks his watch, he realizes it’s already time for him to get back to his palace.
“Unfortunately, I have to go. But I hope to see you again, soon?” he says, more as a question.
“It was a lovely date, Cyrus. You are one of the most interesting people I know. Also very charming, of course.” Her cheeks are flushed, either from the cold or from shyness. She crosses her arms over her chest which Cyrus interprets as a sign that she’s cold. He acts before thinking, as a reflex, and hugs Sierra tightly.
She puts her arms around his neck as if the movement came naturally to her, and lets his warmth seep in her. She can’t see the tears threatening to slide down Cyrus’s cheeks when he kisses her forehead.
“You are the stars, illuminating the darkness of my sky.” He means to walk away when Sierra grabs his arm. He turns, not bothering to hide the water in his eyes anymore. Her eyes are just as watery as his, and she reaches on tip-toes to him. Their breaths tangle a few seconds, before he cups her face with his hands and kisses her like she is the most fragile and precious thing in the world.