The Swan and Raven

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The Swan and Raven was a hole-in-the-wall pub favored by the students of Madame LeBleu's and Lord Scarlet's

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The Swan and Raven was a hole-in-the-wall pub favored by the students of Madame LeBleu's and Lord Scarlet's. When Zelda, Imogen, and Ava arrived, the crowd of students had already overflowed from the pub and onto the sidewalks beneath the shingle depicting the fable for which the pub was named. Zelda didn't know why the students had come to adopt this pub as their favorite; the city was full of nicer, newer pubs with all the same drinks. But walking into the old Tudor style building felt like coming home. Everywhere Zelda looked, she found a familiar face.

They headed towards the bar, snaking their way through the crowd, pausing to greet old friends and exchange pleasantries along the way. At the bar, Zelda ordered a seltzer and lime while Ava and Imogen both got colorful drinks that smelled sickly sweet. Zelda was still seventeen but she felt weird without something in her hand. They ventured up the steep and narrow staircase to the lounge on the second floor, where they found more available tables and plush velvet couches to occupy.

From their spot in the lounge, they could see out a window overlooking the street and watch who came and went from the pub. A steady stream of friends came by their table, stopping to discuss summer romances, faraway vacations, and last year expectations. It felt good to laugh and smile, and the happy conversations put all the pressures of the coming year out of Zelda's mind.

"I need a refill," she said, shaking the ice cubes in her glass. "Anyone need anything while I'm up?"

"Nah," the girls replied, turning back to their discussion on new ways to accessorize the school uniform.

Zelda headed down the staircase which led to the bar, her eyes carefully watching her feet. The light was dim and she didn't want to miss a step, but as she turned down the first landing she ran into something hard.

"Ooph." The something turned into more of a someone.

Zelda looked up from her feet. "Sorry—" she began to say before her stomach jumped into her throat.

The boy looking down at her had light brown hair swept artfully to the side, and a toothy smile which meant something about this encounter amused him. All those features Zelda had come to know well, yet she still found him the most handsome boy she'd ever met—even if he had broken her heart.

"Zelda," he said in a smooth voice, stepping to the side so other patrons could pass them on the stairs. He sounded pleased to see her which made Zelda's chest clench. Did that mean he was sorry for ending things with her?

"Dante," Zelda replied, his name rolling off her tongue in some long forgotten familiarity.

"Hi." Dante lowered his voice, his lips pulling up on one side. Zelda tried not to look at the dimple on his cheek. She had kissed that dimple not three months earlier.

"Hi," Zelda replied, feeling sick. Her blood pounded in her ears as her mind reeled to remember all she had to say. She had rehearsed this meeting many times over, but all she could manage was, "Hi." She could have kicked herself.

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