The Cafe on Crystal Street
You can't help but see a sunset in her hair. There are silken ribbons of amber and clementine spun together, and where the fine circlets of red curl against her neck, there is the slightest tinge of horizon-light. She is seated at a table, occupied with the mandalas of crumbs on its surface. Turquoise light twines around her fingers like thin cats, and she drinks from a pale cup as though it holds the elixir of life. Steam rises from the peach surface of her lips. She is a sleepy dragon, you think, smoking quietly- dangerous, but her scales rise and fall in calm ripples.
She watches the passerby, slit-pupiled eyes drifting over the overcast streets with an assassin's affection for bared throats. You smile quietly, drinking from your own cup, watching her morning bloodlust begin to roil lazily. She is beautiful in her latent ferocity, and you want her. You wonder at her pale skin and ponder its vulnerability beneath your charged fingertips, but her sharp teeth and dagger-eyes say that she is not to be taken lightly. But you are patient and sip again from the rose scented liquid in your cup, inhaling the pink tinged steam. You watch her.
Her dress is grey like thunderclouds, split to the waist and embroidered with sea-foam green. She wears leggings studded with hidden blades, good quality, no doubt. Their edges barely leave external imprints. Her boots are sturdy but soft: the leather worn into supple tenderness with thin soles. You know that she is nearly silent when she runs, and that her posture is good but imperfect. Her feet press slightly on the outward edge, turning the leather light. She wears a pouch, compact enough to sprint with, large enough to hold food and water. Granted, in cities like this, that pouch might hold an entire fully-equipped camp site. You never knew with this corner of the Universe; it kept you guessing.
Sunset-girl drains the last of her drink. You guess it is something of crushed herbs and flowers, reminding yourself to check later. She pauses for a moment, holding her still-warm cup like pooled water. She rises, taking a last perfunctory glance at the street outside, then scanning the inside of the cafe with the awareness of someone who must watch their back. You absorb yourself in draining your own cup, cloaking yourself from her with deftness. Her eyes glance over you, suspecting nothing. She straightens her dress, the fabric pulling itself tight for a moment to her silver-smooth curves. You bite your lip. She places three blue coins on the tabletop and strides to the door, looping two long fingers around the handle and pulling it sharply back. You count slowly to ten, tapping your cup with each number, a silent reverbation in your mind. You place your own money on the table, a single red coin, and walk through the door.
Outside smells like wet asphalt and flowering trees with a burnt undertone of charcoal; you begin to run. Silver hair flows behind you, whipping around corners and streaming in tendrils behind. You see a single imprint of her foot in a gravel-covered place in the road. It is deeper on the outer edge, turned away from the street. She would have gone down the alleyway. Your silent footsteps follow her, barely glancing the pavement. You can smell her faintly now: the tea that she drank, the fabric of her clothing, sweat beginning to form. She knows that she is followed now, but it doesn't matter. You are faster.
Her smell is stronger now: tiger lilies, dry leaves, leather. A stone drops nearby. You pause, effortlessly transitioning from running to standing perfectly still. You wait, letting the echoes bounce against the walls of the nearby buildings. Your body is a taught bow-string, and suddenly, you know where she is. Your knees bend, and you launch halfway up a building, finding crevices for your fingers as you scrabble up the wall. You lift yourself over the edge and are on the rooftop, running, then leaping to the next building. Her thin figure is there, running as well, and you fly towards her, both catapulting off the edge of the next building. Your arms close around her in midair, you are aware of the opaline lightness of the sky and her orange hair on your face, your lips against her curls. For a moment, you are suspended on a spiderweb of time far above the city, balancing with this ferocious tiger of a woman in your arms. The rooftop rushes up towards your entwined bodies, and you fall, hitting carefully with your feet, then rolling, holding her limbs tucked towards you, and you both land uninjured. The blaze of her daggers gleam, and you roll away from her as she stabs downward, leaping to your feet as you break free from the deadly circle of her arms. You draw your own weapon, the staff whirling around you, curved blade pealing in the morning air. She parries, shoving the staff away to dance towards your exposed torso. Spinning, you slide behind her, pressed longingly against the lithe outline of her back. Something within your abdomen sparks feeling her body against yours. Your blade has found its place before her throat, and a slicked-off lock of her hair floats to the ground like an autumn leaf. Caught you, you murmur against her ear. Slit-pupiled eyes flash gold then shift into emerald, growing deeper like shadowed woods that go on for eternity. The flaming curls of her hair unravel, growing red then purple then black, cascading down from her shoulders towards her graceful waist. So you have. She smiles, leaning back to kiss you. Her lips are soft but hungry, running with electric current beneath their curves. Her daggers return to their sheathes, and she fills her hands with your hair. Your lips meet again, tasting, exploring. It was ebonflower tea, wasn't it? She nods.
Dawn breaks over your pale bodies on the rooftop. Your eyes run over her again and again, never quite believing that this is truly her, that you are home safely and here she is: curled within your arms and forest-eyes blazing with love. You whisper, I'll always find you, and drift off to sleep, the waking city falling away into obscurity.