Isa walked into the dining hall. Sunshine streamed through wide windows, illuminating the entire space. The room was relatively full with third- and fourth-year trainees, and their laughter and voices bounced up against the tall ceilings and swirled around her.
She had just returned from a Level 7 Aerobatics Course. She could feel a bruise blooming across her hip and her shirt clung to her back, covered in sweat. Loxley and Jana, the other members of her squadron, had left the course and rushed for the steam rooms and showers.
Isa couldn’t even think of relaxing somewhere alone.
She felt flush with energy. She imagined the air around her vibrating in time with her thrumming heart. They’d passed! Finally, after weeks of rising before the sun, weeks of listening to Corporal Perrie recite the Five Acts of Flight, weeks of bruises and falls and planning and studying and trying, trying, trying and now they’d succeeded!
She didn’t know if she’d ever relax again.
Jana and Loxley had told Isa they loved her, they would definitely be celebrating, but they deserved a little time to “restore their souls after that damn course tried to snuff them out.” Isa let them go, then, as her stomach growled loud enough to be heard over the excitement popping like champagne bubbles in her veins, she made a beeline for the hall.
She’d never made a move, but with success singing in her ears, she practically flew to his table.
Once her tray’s weight pulled uncomfortably at her sore arms, she looked around for a place to sit. She knew everyone in the room. Any one of the other trainees would read her success in the light of her eyes and help her begin celebrating admirably, but there was only one table she wanted to sit at.
Cap Landers sat alone. Isa had no idea where the rest of his squadron was, but the empty seats around him glinted in the sunlight like open invitations engraved with her name. Isa’s crush on Cap had burned brightly ever since he’d been paired with her during a second year simulation.
She knew he was handsome, and that definitely helped her daydreams stay alive, but it was his unending courage, his dry humor, and his unfailing support for any of the squadrons that secured his place in her heart.
Outside of Jana and Loxley, no one knew of her crush. Cap was likely the object of several trainees’ affections, but Isa knew he was single. She’d never made a move, but with success singing in her ears, she practically flew to his table.
“Hey, Cap,” she said, sliding into the chair next to him and tucking her feet behind the legs.
“Isa!” He smiled with his entire face, shifting his tray over so she’d have more room. “Congratulations!”
“How did you know?” Isa felt the euphoria floating throughout her body start to spin a little faster.
“We were in Command when Perrie came in. He was pretty impressed,” Cap whistled and then grinned as Isa stared at him. “Cross my heart, Isa, your squadron breached his stone heart. I wanted to congratulate you but you’d already left the practice grounds.”
Isa’s heart joined the butterflies dancing around her stomach in a jubilant two-step.
“Cap,” she interrupted, before he could say anything else wonderful and derail her thoughts. “Would you want to go to the Last Dragon with me on Friday?”
Cap blinked and Isa’s fingers gripped the table. Her heart and the butterflies were joined by a brass band. She’d been friends with Cap for two years but it was finally time for something more. What would he say?
“Isalee Rider, are you inviting me dancing?”
The brass band, the butterflies, her heart, and all the stars in the sky swirled through Isa at his words.
“On a date,” Isa nodded.
Cap smiled again, slow and sweet, something special Isa had never seen before. “I’d be honored.”
The brass band, the butterflies, her heart, and all the stars in the sky swirled through Isa at his words. “Great,” she smiled her brightest. “That’s great. Pick me up at eight.”
Meeting at eight gave Isa several hours to calm down, so that she could be sure she wouldn’t spend the entire date just smiling like a loon. Cap nudged her foot and returned her smile with one of his own.
Maybe she should’ve made it nine.
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