Perhaps Royce had been seeing her for a while, and she was the reason for his sudden coldness. Or maybe it was a new development, with him being determined to show he had no interest in alien women.
In either case, seeing him with her made Peyton feel like she was stabbed in the gut.
“Come on sis, drink up,” Pauline said encouragingly. “Who cares about that llama head, right?”
“You’re right,” Peyton sighed. “I don’t know why I’m so hung up on this plum…”
“Oh hi Peyton, Pauline,” Royce waved at them, looking smug.
“Hi Royce,” Pauline attempted to stay civil.
“Hope you girls aren’t jealous,” Royce walked over to them.
“Plummit Royce, what’s wrong with you?” Pauline couldn’t stop herself anymore. “I don’t know what point you’re trying to prove, but we’d all be better off if you just stayed out of our way!”
“Woah, woah…” Royce stepped back.
“No need to get all saucy, Pauline,” he said finally. “I get it, you feel left out because you never got enough attention from me. Well you’re a fine looking woman for a greenskin, so maybe I could make an exception…”
“Ok, I’ve had enough!” Pauline’s blood was boiling. “After everything that’s happened, you really think that trying to flirt with me is the way to go? I’m so done with you plum!”
She picked up her drink, made a few steps towards Royce and then threw the contents of her glass into his face with full force.
“You need a further explanation?” Pauline asked. “You’re not welcome in my family’s bar! Or in our town really. I can’t make you leave Newcrest, but I sure as plum can kick you out of here!”
“Take that, Royce!” Pauline shouted angrily at the screen while tapping at the buttons aggressively.
“I do hear that video games are good for releasing tension, but you look like you’ll break the machine,” Danrof turned to her. “Didn’t you only just have these fitted?”
The arcade in the basement was the newest addition to the Captain Duckhorse Library. From what aunt Yenn said about her father, Peter would have approved of the upgrade to his community lot.
“You’re right, why would I take my anger out on a machine when Royce is right over there?” Pauline pointed towards the other side of the room.
“Gotcha!” she yelled out as soon as Danrof turned around.
Danrof gave her a puzzled look: “Is this a part of the courtship ritual customary for dates?”
“Sorry, I’m just being silly.” Pauline apologised. “No, it isn’t. Though I wouldn’t know. I’ve only been on one other date and I managed to ruin that one.”
“I let my feelings get the best of me, and transferred my anger into all the wrong places. Kind of like now,” Pauline realised.
“Did you try to rectify the situation?”
“Not really, I guess.”
Pauline wasn’t sure what to make of all of the realisations that were coming to her.
“Doesn’t this subject make you uncomfortable?” she asked Danrof. “Previous dates…”
“I’m a foreigner on this planet,” Danrof smiled. “Everything could make me uncomfortable. Or I could just approach it all scientifically and never feel uncomfortable, because it’s all a part of the process. I chose the latter.”
“That’s very smart.”
“Besides, I hear that it’s important to learn from past mistakes,” Danrof continued.
“Once again, you’ve got the best approach to everything,” Pauline shook her head.
“So, will you not be revisiting dating possibilities with the other individual?” Danrof asked.
“Danrof, I…” Pauline blushed. “I’m sorry, I should have told you I went out with Leo that one time.”
“Leo? Didn’t he say he genuinely likes you?”
Pauline looked down, observing the tips of her feet as if they were the most interesting thing she’s seen in a long time.
“Oh, now I made you feel uncomfortable,” Danrof said. “I apologise. I am still learning the local ways. Let’s stop talking about this. Come here, let’s take a photo instead, to commemorate the non-date.”
Pauline smiled for the camera.
“Wait, did you say non-date?” it dawned on Pauline.
“Do you think there is romantic potential for the two of us?” he replied with a question.
Pauline sighed: “You’re a great friend, Danrof. I love you, I do, but… if I had the alien emotional glow when I’m with you, it would be green, not pink. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t see why you should be sorry,” Danrof hugged her. “Green is a good colour.”
Pauline lingered at the library; she didn’t feel like going home just yet, so she decided to send aunt Yenn a quick email. She wondered if her aunt’s love life was working out better than her own…
“Pauline,” a familiar voice greeted her. “What a surprise! I thought you had a computer in your house!”
Across the desk, Leo was smiling brightly at her.
“Leo! Just the person I wanted to talk to,” Pauline grinned.
“Really?” Leo seemed taken aback.
“Yeah… would you mind talking outside? Unless you’re busy…” Pauline’s eye lingered toward Leo’s monitor.
He laughed: “I think Incredible Sports can wait for a little while.”
“So, what can I help you with?” Leo asked.
“I realised that after an initial inspection of our romantic potential, we failed to re-evaluate our attachment,” Pauline grinned.
Pauline decided to explain in a more instructive manner.
“You…” Leo tried to catch his breath. “You’re quite the woman, you know that?”
Pauline laughed: “I’ve got to keep you on your toes, don’t I…”
Leo chuckled, but then his face grew serious again.
“Hang on, you said something our romantic attachment before?”
“I suppose I did,” Pauline nodded.
“Well, you should know that I’d be happy to… how did you put it? Re-evaluate it,” Leo told her.
“Does that mean you want to be my boyfriend?”
“If you’ll have me.”
A surge of happiness went through Pauline’s body.
For a moment, the two just stood there and looked at each other giddily.
And Pauline truly understood what feeling pink felt like.
“So, Leo,” she looked at him in what she hoped to be a seductive fashion. “Since we’re official now, would you like to maybe… come over to my place? My room is quite spacious, actually, so you could easily… sleep over?”
She gave him a significant look. She felt ready.
“I’d lie if I say I wasn’t tempted,” he said, wrapping his arm around her. “But I wasn’t raised that way.”
And with that, he kissed her on the cheek.
“Good night, bella. I’ll see you tomorrow, I hope?”
Pauline had a cold shower as soon as she got home. The fire she felt earlier somewhat toned down, but the joy remained. He was so dreamy. And such a gentleman too!
For the first time ever, she felt so happy she could explode.