Title: But One Hour Mine Author: Divapilot Era: Saga Prequel Characters: OCs Genre: Drama, romance Summary: A young woman finds love with an unlikely partner as the tyranny of the Empire arises around them. Connected works: 1. “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” 2. “Code Breaker: The Journal of Kash Ferros” Spoiler Even so my sun one early morn did shine, With all triumphant splendour on my brow; But out, alack, he was but one hour mine, The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now. **** Mirany was in the process of using a multitool to open a shipping crate when she looked up, was distracted by him, and in her distraction, plunged the tool into the palm of her hand. She winced and instinctively dropped the tool, bringing her hand to her mouth and sucking on the stinging wound. Years later, she would note ironically that when love had finally come back into her life, it had brought its familiar companion pain along for the journey. She worked at her family’s business, a small boutique that catered to the wealthy vacationers to her ancient seacoast town. It was an adequate job; she liked her hours and was friendly with her co-workers although the work could be a bit mind-numbing at times. But she enjoyed people watching. The wealthy tourists would wander in, perhaps purchase one of the expensive luxury toiletries or designer garments, leaving their money behind like the flotsam on the nearby beach. New customers, wives or lady-friends of the officers at the new Imperial outpost, came in, eager to prove their place in this society by purchasing something needless and expensive. Sometimes a local resident came in to buy a gift for a loved one who would be more impressed by the boutique name etched on the box than by the item itself. Rarely did a man like Kash walk by. It wasn’t that he was stunningly handsome, although he was attractive in his own way. But he had something – something indefinable – that she connected to immediately. Maybe it was the wide smile he gave her. Or his almost-trimmed dark beard, scruffy enough to be endearing. Or his striking hair, dark, thick with curls that looped over each other like waves. Or the way he walked with such confidence, unlike his friends who seemed to simply meander through the marketplace like lost pookas. All of that aside, what struck her the most was the way she felt when their gazes met. It was as if when he looked at her in that moment, right before the tool sliced her palm, his dark eyes saw all of her. Every part, in one glance. She knew better than to believe in love at first sight. That foolishness was best left to giddy schoolgirls. Mirany was not unfamiliar with the excitement of love, of having a suitor shyly hold a gift in his hand for her, or of the way an awkward embrace could evolve over time to a passion that left her warm and breathless. Let her sister Saphra experience it. It was her turn now; Mirany’s time had come and gone. It was no matter. Mirany’s days had assumed a comfortable rhythm with her job, her books, her home with her parents and sister, even her walks along the seawall with her pet mooka barking ineffectively at the ocean the whole while. That she would find a man intriguing based solely on a shared glance baffled her. For the rest of the day she muddled through work, smiling her sincerest artificial smile at the tourists, massaging their soft hands with lotion from her bandaged one, answering their prying awkward questions about her traditional Mehrine attire and her starched cap, all the while wondering who that strange man was. She had almost forgotten him – or convinced herself that perhaps she had only imagined the encounter – when he showed up again a few days later. She was sitting by herself at a small table in the square, sipping a caf and reading a novel on her datapad while on her break, when a shadow fell on her. She looked up, shielding her eyes from the sun, and saw him standing nearby. “I think you dropped this, Miss,” he said, handing her the small purse she kept with her. She frowned. She always took great care of it, and she was certain that it was carefully placed behind her, on the back of the chair. It was unlikely that it had fallen, and yet it must have since he held it in his hand. Nevertheless, she had been taught to be polite. “Thank you,” she said. She should have looked away, allowing him to leave. That would have been the proper thing to do. But there was that strange feeling again. She couldn’t explain it. He kept looking at her, in her, through her, as if he could read her thoughts, and most peculiarly, she was allowing it. “Are you new to town?” she asked after a moment had passed. He shrugged. “I live over in Oestershore. I moved here a few weeks ago.” He paused. “I work at the shipyard,” he added, as if that additional information clarified things. She hid a smile. “I saw you the other day with your friends in the marketplace, didn’t I?” “My friends thought it would be fun to see what the city of Mehr had to offer, having heard so much about it.” Mirany paused. Then she smiled slightly and gestured at the empty seat across from her. “And were you pleased to see what Mehr had to offer?” she asked, raising her eyebrow. He sat down and a wide smile spread across his face. “Very much so,” he replied. He held out his hand. “I’m Kash. Kash Ferros.” She took his hand and he squeezed it, firmly but not hard enough to irritate her cut palm. “I’m Mirany Lansdotter.” They talked for a while, friendly conversation about the history of the ancient city and popular tourist sites that surrounded it, until she excused herself to go back to work. He stood up, thanked her for her time, and said he hoped he would see her again. In the past, most men who were interested in her would find some thin pretext to stop by the boutique, claiming to shop for presents for their mothers or sisters (although they never actually bought anything). They would inquire if she were attending the local academy or ask for her comm information (no, and no). But Kash didn’t do that. After a few days, when he didn’t appear again, she found herself glancing out of the doorway, looking for the man with the head of dark curls. She caught herself daydreaming of him when she was running the day’s sales on the computer. When a week had passed, she realized that she missed him. She had about given up on seeing him again when she discovered him sitting outside the store one morning, waiting for her to open it for the day. Mirany’s heart beat faster when she saw him. “Did you take the day off?” she asked him. He laughed and shook his head. “No, I worked double shifts this week and now I have some free time. I’m actually headed home, except-” he tilted his head toward the south – “home is that way.” He paused, then smiled. “I thought you might be interested in continuing our conversation from the other day.” “Well, I wish I could spend some time with you,” she said, “but unlike you, I’m just starting my work day.” He stood up and stretched. “When is your work day over, then?” Mirany frowned slightly. It wouldn’t be proper for her to be alone with a young man who hadn’t declared himself to her parents, regardless of her advanced age. “As a rule, I don’t go out alone with men I’ve just met,” she said. Kash acquiesced with a shrug. He looked disappointed. “I understand. Well, maybe I will see you around.” Mirany spoke quickly. “But we could go someplace where there are other people.” He seemed to consider this. “All right, that’s fair. How’s this. I would like it if you could show me your city,” he said. “Could we take a walk tonight, if that’s acceptable?” Mirany shook her head. “No. Not at night. I don’t go out at night.” He frowned. “Why not?” Mirany paused. It was best he didn’t know. She decided to redirect the conversation. “As a friend, I would be happy to show you my city. I have to take my mooka for her walk anyway. I can meet you by the western gate.” Kash smiled and her heart skipped again. He had such a lovely smile. She immediately scoffed at her foolishness. “I’ll see you then,” he said. He bowed slightly and turned away, heading down the ancient main road. She had the distinct feeling that he knew she was watching him, although he didn’t turn around to see.