How are you doing this week?
I’m enjoying some calmer days to catch my breath. That doesn’t mean I am going to skip Wednesday Excerpt Day, though!
I’m pretty sure the title of this episode is going to be ‘Little dragon’…
UPDATED: I added some extra excerpt!
UPDATED 24/02: And added a bit more excerpt…
“This is my favorite view so far,” Raven said, shaking her head in disbelief.
“I saved the best for last,” Nathalie replied, standing close to her.
Raven grabbed the metal railing of the bridge for support. It felt warm to the touch. She smiled as she studied the three towers, lined up next to each other—a gothic church, then the Belfry and, finally, the cathedral.
The sky was now dark blue with a hint of orange because of the setting sun. It gave the view an almost magical feel. Raven was honestly having a hard time believing her own eyes. There was just so much beauty to take in.
“I think I’ve shown you the highlights now,” Nathalie said, tucking her hands in the back pockets of her jeans.
Raven’s eyes flicked to Nathalie’s. “Your city is amazing. It blows my mind.”
Nathalie straightened her back. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m still in awe of it too.”
“I can see why,” Raven said, focusing on the towers again. She took in a deep, slow breath before saying, “You know, I didn’t come here for a vacation, but l sure haven’t felt this relaxed in ages.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Nathalie replied. “I hope we can keep it that way.”
Raven nodded even though she doubted this was possible. Today had been wonderful, more than she liked to admit, but it would soon come to an end. The spell of this medieval city would soon break.
“You haven’t told me what you do that is so stressful,” Nathalie said, a little shyly.
“I haven’t?” Raven asked, tilting her head.
“No,” Nathalie said. “We’ve talked about my city a lot. But not much about you.”
Raven arched an eyebrow. “What is it you would like to know?”
“Maybe just what you do? What brought you here?” Nathalie shrugged.
“Right, okay, sure,” Raven chuckled, placing her coat over her other arm. “I’m a sales manager for a company that sells resource planning software.”
Nathalie’s eyes widened. “That does sound like a stressful job.”
Raven pursed her lips. “It’s a good job. Good benefits. I’m lucky to have it.”
“Buuut?” Nathalie asked slowly, her eyes twinkling.
Raven averted her gaze back to the towers. She squinted, spotting something she hadn’t noticed before. “What is that on top of the Belfry? Is that gold?”
Nathalie raised her hand above her eyes. “Oh, yes, that’s our little dragon.”
“Your little dragon?” Raven asked, amused.
“I’ll show you a picture of it. It looks more like Dumbo than a dragon, I think,” Nathalie said and grabbed her phone. She tapped the screen for a few seconds and then held the phone up for Raven.
“Okay, yeah, that looks more like a cartoon,” Raven grinned, “It’s almost cute.”
Nathalie lowered her phone but didn’t put it back in her pocket. “Don’t be too comfortable around it. It used to spit fire.”
Raven snorted, “No way.”
“I swear! I’m not sure how they did it, but yeah, the dragon would spit fire up there,” Nathalie replied. Her eyes narrowed above her mask. “We’re talking about Ghent again.”
“Fair enough,” Raven chuckled. “Ehm, what was your question again?”
“If you’re a sales manager … does that mean you’re an investor in your spare time?” Nathalie asked.
“I guess you could say that,” Raven replied, adjusting her mask because her skin was itchy again. “I saved up my bonuses over the years and now I want to do something good with that money, you know?”
Nathalie’s eyes softened. “That’s amazing. So, why did you come all the way to Belgium?”
Raven huffed softly. It was a fair question, but it was also a personal one. Raven hadn’t even shared her whole story with Bart. Not that he had ever asked. He was just happy someone believed in his design.
She wasn’t sure it was safe to tell Nathalie everything. Would she roll her eyes like her sister had? Raven didn’t think so, but then again, they didn’t know each other that well, even if it felt like they did.
“My mom is a nurse,” she finally said, deciding she didn’t have to share everything straight away. “I want nurses like her to have access to this technology.”
Nathalie flipped the phone in her hand. “You chose us because our designs are open source?”
Raven smiled. Nathalie sure was a smart cookie. “Yeah, exactly,” she said. “I don’t want this to be only accessible to the rich.”
Nathalie scratched the back of her neck. “That’s wonderful. I love that part of our work too.”
Raven studied Nathalie’s face, catching a hint of sadness in her voice all of a sudden. She couldn’t read Nathalie with that damned mask on, though. Before she could ask Nathalie anything, Nathalie spoke up again.
“Hey,” she said, raising her phone, “How about another picture of you? Gotta have one with the three towers!”
Raven frowned, taken by surprise. Was Nathalie the one changing the subject right now?
“Come on,” Nathalie said and waved Raven along. “Your family is going to love it.”
“Okay,” Raven replied hesitantly. She did want a picture of herself here. She walked to the spot Nathalie was pointing at and turned around. “Here?”
“Perfect,” Nathalie said, already focusing the phone. “Now, big smile!”
“You can’t see my smile with the mask,” Raven said, rolling her eyes a little.
“Yes, I can,” Nathalie replied, peeking over her phone. “Your eyes smile too.”
Raven chuckled softly. It was easy to smile as long as she focused on Nathalie. Her shoulders relaxed as she posed for the photo. Perhaps it wasn’t the city that had her under a spell, she thought. It was Nathalie who made every moment here seem magical.
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