Maggie’s life was being ruined by the fro-yo business. Well, maybe not her life, but definitely her car. How was she supposed to earn enough money to fix the brakes when she got paid next to nothing? She should never have taken the job she had. It was boring, it was demeaning, and nobody even ate ice cream anymore. Cow Bella’s was a year away from going out of business, tops.
And yet here Maggie was, standing around in the stupid, cow-print regalia, trying to earn an extra buck. She had to keep the ice cream cold, not sneak a scoop for herself, and pretend someone would actually choose to eat there instead of the frozen-yogurt place across the street. At least her apron was was big. It covered up most of the uniform.
It was Tuesday, which meant she’d made it past Monday but still had Wednesday to live through. It was too cold in the parlor, and completely silent except for the hum of the fridge. She was in a horrible mood. She leaned against the counter, and stared at her phone, hoping someone would text her. Or call her. Or freakin’ email her. God. Her friends had promised to keep her company during this job, and they had- the first week and a half. Now they were probably also at the frozen-yogurt place, having yummy, yogurty treats together and forgetting all about her and her plight.
The bell at the door dinged, and she heard the sound of running footsteps. Probably a toddler, excited to eat. Poor toddler. Too young, too innocent, to know of ice cream’s decline in the dessert social order.
“Welcome to Cow Bella’s.” Maggie didn’t look up from her phone as she moved to the back of the fridge. She grabbed the scooper and turned to face the customer, “How can I help…” Then she swore. Loudly.
Her customer was not an excitable, if clueless kindergartner. It was a boy. A really, really, cute one. He was tall, with thick chestnut -yes, actually chestnut- hair. His eyes were hazel, borderlining green. Practically nobody had green eyes in real life. That color was reserved for heartthrobs in romance novels and jerks who wore colored contacts. And cats. Maggie liked cats.
Beautiful people, however, pissed her off.
The boy was panting, like he’d just been running. He looked anxious. Probably, he was late in meeting his friends. Probably, he was lost. Probably, he wanted frozen-yogurt.
Actually she should ask him that. Doubtlessly, he had whole group of friends waiting for him across the street. Gorgeous girls and boys who would laugh when he told them why he was late. “And she just stood there, with the ice cream scoop in her hand, and cussed her head off.”
Hahaha. She really was in horrible mood.
She sighed. “The fro-yo’s across the street. You’ve got the wrong place.”
The boy looked confused. “What?”
“This here.” She gestured at the tubs of ice-cream. “Made with pure milk. Or cream. Or whatever. It’s not yogurt.”
“Okay…” Now he looked really confused. “But I don’t want yogurt.”
Maggie could not believe her ears. “Excuse me?”
“Actually,” they shifted around, looking at the door behind him “I kind of need to just hide- I mean, hang out here for a bit.”
Maggie’s stomach did several things. It contracted, flipped, and then dropped away. She willed it to stop, and it normalized slightly. Then pirouetted again as the boy turned back to look at her. Mentally, she started swearing again. “Look, stay here all you want. But you need to buy something. Shop policy. You’re getting in the way business otherwise.”
Once again the boy looked around. He raised his eyebrows at her. “Business?”
Maggie’s stomach unknotted itself in one sharp twist. She glared at the boy. “Shut up. Are you gonna get something?”
He glanced at the fridge. “Uh… mint-chocolate, I guess. Just a bowl, please.”
Great. She’d just put in a new tub of mint-chocolate.Which meant it was mostly frozen, and very, very solid. She already had a hard enough time scooping out the ice-cream as it was. Apparently, she had very flimsy writs. The boy watched her idly as she struggled to shovel the mint-chocolate into the paper bowl. Then his eyes snapped down at the turn of her arm. Maggie looked too. Terrified that she’d just dripped ice cream all over her elbow. Her arm looked relatively normal, if a little goosebumped from the cold. Then she realized he was looking at her birthmark.
It was just underneath her wrist, and very pale. She actually really liked it. It wasn’t splotchy, like other birthmarks, but cleanly shaped. From the right angle, she thought, it almost looked like a crescent moon.
The boy had not stopped watching it. He looked almost shocked. She frowned at him. “Hey, it’s rude to stare.” She snapped.
He glanced up. “Wait. you’re not-” He pointed at her. “Are you-?” He turned around. A full circle. Then stared at her again. “What?”
Maggie didn’t know what he was talking about. She finished scooping the ice cream, stuck a purple spoon in it and made her way to the cash register. “You have money right?”
Silently, the boy handed over a five. She gave him the change, and he dropped it in the tip jar. She handed him the bowl of mint-chocolate. “Here’s your ice cream. Hope it’s-” She grimaced slightly, “Cow-Bell-icious.” Honestly, she hated this job.
The boy didn’t move. He just stood there, ice-cream clutched to his chest. He squinted at her, confusedly. “Are you in disguise?”
“Oh my god, are you serious? It’s a uniform!” Maggie tugged at her apron, trying to conceal more of the cow-printed t-shirt and skirt.
“What? No, that’s not what I meant. I mean,” He leaned forward slightly, “are you undercover? For the Venari?”
Maggie blinked. “The what?”
“The Venari. It’s all right. I know about them. It’s me. Ethan Herald.” He put down his ice-cream on the counter. “Son of Miranda.”
“That’s nice.” Maggie drew out the vowels of her words. So the snob was famous too. Whoever Miranda was, Maggie clearly should’ve known. Was she some sort of movie star? “Sorry, honey. Having a biggie for a parent is not going to get you a discount.”
“What?” The boy shook his head. “No, Miranda Herald. Leader of the Venari, Instigator of the Treaty of Five, the One who Sent away the Dares? I’m Ethan, her son. Well- I mean, she was my mom. I kind of only just found out myself- but you’re Venari, you should know this!” He narrowed her eyes at her. He was frowning now, too.
Maggie by now had lost all sense in the conversation. “I’m not...what?” Apparently, that was the word of the day around here.
“I am Ethan Herald. Son of Miranda. The Prophesied Healer of the Torn Worlds.” He said it slowly. “Look. I’m-I’m sort of the Chosen One.”