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'Neath the Stars



“Do you like toes?” Maggy watched appraisingly as Agostino boggled at her question.

“Toes, Bambina?” He glanced down at the girl’s bare feet, where she wiggled her toes in the sand, and he fought a smile.

“A lady was here who wouldn’t dig because she had ‘just had her toes done’…” she mimicked the woman’s apparent objection. “And she had a date. I thought maybe boys liked toes.”

At this, Agostino chuckled. “I suppose that men all have different tastes. And a woman’s toes are no less beautiful than the rest of her.” Maggie looked down at her toes thoughtfully and back up to him. “Besides,” he continued, “toes are important. To help get you where you are going, and to wiggle in the sand.”

Maggy blushed, and instantly her toes ceased wiggling.

Agostino laughed. The night wind tousled the young girl’s pale flaxen hair as she scrambled to change the subject.

“Why do you wander?” She tilted her head, waiting for his response, but he sensed another question just beneath the surface, ready for rapid fire.

Agostino looked up at the sphere of stars above them. “It is what I was meant for, Bella.”

“How do you know what you’re meant to do?” She watched him expectantly as his darkened gaze lowered to hers.

“Sometimes it is the only thing in the world that seems right. It feels unnatural to do anything else.”

Maggy looked up to the stars then, too. “It’s peaceful out here. A good place to think.”

Half smiling, he watched her gaze lift skyward. Nine years hence, he still looked for his Oriana in every face he saw. And he found her, again and again. In a glance, in the tilt of a head, or the peak of a brow. Or in the wide, wondering eyes of a child as they raked over night’s cloak above them. “What do you think about out here, Maggy?”

She answered softly, without looking away from the stars. “Everything. You can talk to the stars, but they don’t always answer.”

“Sometimes, Bambina, they send a gypsy with their answer.” Agostino rose and dusted off the sand as she lowered her gaze to watch him again.

“See you again sometime?” Her toes had begun wiggling again in the sand.

“Si, certain so. Be well, Maggy.” Agostino smiled warmly and lowered his head.

Several yards down the beach, he heard her soft voice call after him. “Agostino. I don’t think I want to paint my toes.”

Grinning to himself, he glanced back over his shoulder. “Excellente. They are perfect the way they are.”

She smiled too, and skipped off down the beach in the other direction with a piece of pottery she had unearthed in the sand.

A sweet child, he thought. Perhaps it is not yet unheard-of to find treasures in the sand.

Magdalena Chef

Stratics Veteran
Stratics Legend
Alone. Maggy sat down on the sand pulling her knees to her chest. It was late but she still needed to think. Everytime she approached the beach today, she'd been interrupted.

Her toes dug deeper into the sand, the warm loose top giving way to the more tightly packed layer underneath. With determination she scrunched them up and plowed into it.

So many things to consider, she thought, looking up. The moon's reflection on the water created a pale, silver road that disappeared in the distance and the water made a nice, hollow, thumping sound as it struck a boat moored nearby.

Her thoughts flipped back and forth. As if she didn't have enough to worry about, now there was this toe conundrum. They popped out of the sand pelting her face with tiny granules. I wonder if Peter would like it if ... the deep voice behind her broke the reverie. Startled she jumped up and spun around.

Maggy couldn't see the man half-shrouded in the shadow of the ship, but the voice now speaking apologies was no threat. Agostino. Agostino Demonte was his name.

"Do you like toes?" she blurted, immediately wishing she could take it back.

Her cheeks heated and colored. Lord Lindae had once mused if she had been dropped as a babe or if she just felt the need to say everything that leapt to mind. Maggy's embarrassment quickly turned to stunned silence when Agostino actually began to answer her. And it was a reply without any mocking tone, an answer of careful consideration, as if her question had real significance.

She sat in the sand again, swirling it absently with a finger. He sat facing her, his hands resting on his thighs. He put her at ease and his voice was both hypnotic and calming.

"Can I ask you something else?" she queried, looking up at him.

"Si, Bambina, " he replied. The sea breeze played with his hair, lifting it off his shoulders and sweeping it across his face. Agostino turned into the light wind closing his eyes and letting it push the dark strands back over his shoulders.

"Would you give up everything that made you, you - everything that you are - for something else?" They sat in silence a few moments.

"I have."

Maggy opened her mouth to ask why and quickly shut it again. The words seemed etched in sadness and she didn't want to press the issue. Instead she turned her gaze upwards, eyes scanning the stars.

"What do you think about out here Maggy?"

"Everything," and in a half-whisper, "you can talk to the stars but they don't always reply." Her brows furrowed and she scowled.

"And sometimes," Agostino said, "they send a gypsy with their answer." He rose, shaking the sand off himself and smiled warmly at her. She couldn't help but grin back.

It really was late now. She stood, gathering her things.

"See you again?" her voice was eager and full of hope.

"Si," he said, bowing his head slightly.

Her grin grew tenfold as she skipped down the beach and headed home. Maggy decided that she liked him very much. Agostino's calm was contagious and he didn't talk down to her like she was a child.

Maybe sometimes when you thought that the stars hadn't answered you they really had, just not in the way you would have expected.

There was a lot to think about but now she could do it with a lighter heart and a clearer head.

On the way to the moongate she ran past the same group of people that had been arguing hours before, barely hearing the taunts being thrown back and forth. Her soul soared and she knew what must be done, and having that toe thing solved - well that was just the icing on it all.