Zander was getting nervous.
Normally, he keeps his anxiety in check. Being a performer tends to steels one nerves over time. So as he tapped his fingers on the tavern table, he went over the situation. This, too, was a performance, was it not? He had even rehearsed, with pointers from his sister.
It was just another performance.
So why was his heart pounding so hard?
He scanned the tavern, taking in how many people were present. It was a bit early in the day, so the number was unsurprisingly low. But as his eyes fell upon his target, he noticed it was the most crowded table of them all.
Ulric gulped down cup after cup of beer, but didn’t seem to be even the slightest bit drunk. He laughed heartily and simply ordered another round for the gaggle of girls that were drooling over him. With a shining grin and a flip of his chestnut hair, he was every bit the princely type he played himself up to be.
That radiant aura Ulric seemed to give off only made Zander more nervous. Despite his growing anxiety, he took a deep breath and began his stride to Ulric’s table.
Ulric took notice of the magician first. Then the girls’ gazes followed. All of them continued to smile genuinely. Zander knew he wasn’t unattractive himself, but he almost wished he wasn’t at this moment. Maybe then he’d have less eyes on him.
But these girls, too, were simply part of his audience.
Be aggressive, Lucie had told him. Just go in and get what you want.
“Easy for you to say,” Zander thought to himself. He envied that carefree attitude of hers.
“Um… Sir Ulric, I’m--”
“Zander, right?” Ulric already knew Zander’s name. The magician was a celebrity in his own right. Even so, it took Zander off guard. It hadn’t occurred to him that Ulric might have noticed him before this very moment.
Zander straightened his back and took a deep bow, “That is correct.” he responded clearly. He had fully entered “entertainer” mode. His hat rolled off his head and into his open hand, bottom side up. From out of the hat, a bouquet of roses popped out. The girls all clapped and watched with wonder as Zander stood straight once more. Ulric’s expression did not change, however. The same, gentle smile stared back at Zander.
“There’s something I’d like to show you.” Zander continued. Ulric raised an eyebrow, intrigued. Zander stuffed the roses back into the hat, then showed his audience the inside. It was now empty. One of the girls even reached into to confirm such.
Zander then placed his hat on the floor. With a wave of his wand, the hat began levitating into the air, spinning rapidly. Zander smirked and gesticulated wildly. It wasn’t necessary to the trick, but simply part of his role as a performer. He had to put on a show. Make it flashy, as Lucie had told him.
The hat stopped at about Zander’s chest in height. Suddenly, a flock of doves came pouring out from underneath it. They fluttered about the tavern, drawing the attention of the owner as well as the other patrons.
One by one, the doves began disappearing in small puffs of smoke. Soon, only one remained, standing on Ulric’s table. When it finally disappeared, a slip of paper was left in its place.
Curious, Ulric picked the slip up, unfolding it carefully.
Zander put on a smug expression. His heart was beating harder than ever, but he remained outwardly composed. The slip of paper had a request on it…
Ulric wordlessly stood from the table and approached the magician. Zander didn’t break his stance. He placed his hat firmly on his head and kept his confident expression fixed on Ulric. The large man positively glowed, and towered over even Zander’s considerable height.
“And your answer?” Zander asked, his voice not wavering despite himself.
Ulric smiled, his eyes growing softer. He was toe to toe with Zander now, but still carried on wordlessly. Zander was almost at a breaking point when…
“Oh my!” several of the girls gasped in shock. Ulric had leaned over, and kissed Zander. It was a deep and long kiss. Zander’s hat fell to the floor and rolled away, and his knees felt like they were going to buckle. His face grew hot, and only hotter as Ulric pulled away.
“A request for dinner tonight? I’d be glad to. I’ll meet you here, then?”
Zander wordlessly moved his mouth. His composure had completely left him. All the anxiety he had been shoving down exploded all at once. He covered his mouth, his face almost glowing it was so red. The girls at the table simply giggled at the whole scene, which only made him blush harder. In the end all he could manage was a nod.
“Splendid! See you then.” Ulric, in contrast, was still calm as ever. He left a sack of gold on the table for his bill, bid the ladies farewell, and made his way out of the tavern.
Once Ulric was gone, the girls swarmed Zander, congratulating him and asking if he’d update them on how the date went. Zander didn’t answer any of them, still reeling from the entire situation.
It was his most nerve-wracking performance to date.
“Sounds like it went off without a hitch!” Lucie later laughed at him.
She said it with sarcasm in her voice. She thought her brother’s embarrassment was absolutely hilarious. But Zander didn’t care.
It was a truly successful show.