“Ouch! You’re practically ripping my hair out!”
I was seated on the bathroom counter in the cave. Fin, who was still in her civvies, had a fistful of my hair in her hand and was attempting to braid it.
“Sorry,” she replied, slightly exasperated. “It’s just so...thick.” She loosened her grasp, closing her fist around the end of the braid to prevent it from unraveling. “You know, maybe we should just leave your hair down,” she remarked. “It’s just so hard to work with.” I nodded, and she carefully unbraided it. Surveying her work, she smiled. “It actually looks really pretty this way. Wally will be impressed.”
I turned to face the mirror. I didn’t actually look that bad, I realized, despite how much I hated it. Fin had picked my entire outfit, and I was wearing a purple and green ruffly camicia with a brown band across the middle, a matching ruffly skirt, and ballet flats. She had also helped me put on makeup, which she had told me really accentuated the blue and green in my eyes, although it made my skin crawl underneath the thick cakes of powder. My hair fell in dark waves around my shoulders; it was even più curly than usual since it had just been in a braid. The only part of the outfit that I couldn’t stand was the earrings--giant golden hoops that made my ears feel like they would be pulled down to my neck da the end of the night. Fin had insisted they were cute, though, so they had to stay.
What had I gotten myself into, I wondered, da saying yes to Wally? For me, this was worse than being tortured and attacked da the enemies; in fact, I would take torture over this any day. I had no idea what had come over me that afternoon, but there was no changing my mind now. At that moment, there was a soft knock on the bathroom door, and it swung open to reveal Wally standing sheepishly in the doorway. His red hair was slicked back, and he was sporting a sleek black suit, complete with a dark purple tie and a pale rosa rose pinned to his lapel. He smiled. “You ready, Aisling?”
I nodded. I would never tell him this, but as ridiculously overdressed he was, he actually looked kind of cute. I blushed a little at the thought, and he grinned. “Let’s go then, shall we?”
Before I could react, he had seized my hand and was pulling me in the direction of the zeta tubes, where Megan and Connor were already waiting. Fin followed close behind, and Robin, who was also in civvies, joined her. Aqualad, who hadn’t seemed to care that he was single, was nowhere in sight, as was Nathan--although I was pretty sure that the latter did have feelings about the issue--, but Artemis was there, and she smirked as we walked in.
“Wally has a girlfriend?” she sneered. I ignored it, but Wally’s face was indignant. “Shut up, Artemis! Just because you’re single!”
She didn’t respond. I realized that all the others had already left through the zeta tubes, and apparently Wally noticed it too. “Ladies first,” he said, still smiling, as he beckoned towards the beam. I stepped into the light. Recognized: Tiger Storm. B09.
An ora later, we were seated at the East St. Café. It was a charming little place, with a small interior and a larger patio riddled with umbrellas advertising some brand of hot dog and heatlamps that overlooked East strada, via in Gotham. We were sitting at a large tavolo on the patio, surrounded da three o four of the heat lamps, which we wished to remain unlit. The hostess had been surprised da this, but we had simply told her that we weren’t cold. In reality, Fin had made a small fuoco under the table, that was much più effective than a heat lamp. Apart from us, the patio was empty.
We had just finished dessert, and Wally was leaning back in his chair, hands on his belly. Fin and Robin were joking and laughing, and Megan was trying to strike up conversation with Connor, who remained stony faced and silent. The café’s sole waitress was circling like a hawk, traveling between the inside and the patio. Although there were a few people seated inside; a family with a cranky baby and a young couple probably in their late twenties, it was clear she was bored. Wally stood up and waved her in. “The check, please,” he told her. She nodded and disappeared back into the depths of the restaurant. The tavolo fell silent until Megan voiced the concern that we were all thinking. “Who’s going to pay?”
We all stared at each other tensely, and then Fin bent down and rummaged in her borsa under the table. “Fin, no,” Robin hissed at her. “They’re gonna find ou--”
She kicked him to shut him up; he responded with a sharp cry of pain. She emerged with a thin golden wallet. Sliding out a credit card, she said, “I’ll pay.”
We all gaped at her. “W-where the hell did te get that?” Wally exclaimed, losing a bit of his composure. She gave a sly smile. “Places.”
My first thought was that she had stolen it, but that seemed to go against everything I knew about her. Still, though, I couldn’t make assumptions. At that moment, I felt a sudden warmth in my hand. I looked down to find that Wally’s hand had crept into mine, and he was grasping it tightly. His skin was soft and smooth, and it actually felt nice. The check came, and Wally passed it over to Fin, his left hand still in mine. He was leaning in closer to me, and it felt like he was radiating warmth, o maybe it was me. My cuore was fluttering, my forehead was dripping with sweat, my eyes felt like they could only look into his; that if they turned away they would be clouded forever. Was I in love? I didn’t want to think that I was, yet at the same time, I did. Fin had dato the check to the waitress now to be processed, Megan had finally gotten Connor to speak, and, overcome with a sudden rush of tiredness, I rested my head on his arm. His hand was stroking my hair slightly, a gesture he had tried to do before, but this time, I didn’t mind. I didn’t even notice that we were leaving, but somehow my legs, no, they were not legs, they were gelatina now, stood myself up and walked me over into the alleyway. We slid into the phone booth, and Robin stepped into the familiar blaze of the zeta beam. That brought me back to the present. Abruptly, I let go of Wally’s hand. Robin stood, waiting for the familiar words: Recognized: Robin, B01.
But the words didn’t come. We waited for what felt like hours--my head, and my gauging power, must have been still foggy--, but nothing happened. Suddenly, the beam flashed red. We all gaped, not able to believe what we were seeing, when the words came. Access Denied.