“Aye,” said the man, turning his gaze to Jake. “Declan’s going to propose. She is going to say yes. But you only have the beginning and the end. We’re here so you can see the middle.”
The words of The Management’s note flared into Jake’s mind: “He will ask, and she will answer. Then will come the question, and she will say yes.”
Below, a woman marched up. Seeing her from a height did nothing to diminish Declan’s description of her. Arrows didn’t fly as directly as she walked. The air about her seemed to shimmer with fire and comfort, the steel of the soul’s truest hardest backbone. Yet underneath all her smoldering flames, soft questions never let themselves be answered.
“He didn’t tell you this,” said the man with the gloved left hand. “Her eyes are blue and gold, as if the sun could rise over the Mediterranean in noonday light.”
“When have you seen her?” said Jake.
“You bartenders aren’t the only ones who do a lot o’ seeing and listening and knowing in this world,” said the man. “But we aren’t here to talk about her eyes. We’re here to settle up.” The man stood next to Jake, his hands curled over the pagoda railing, and he nodded toward the dragon wall. “Now watch,” he said. “Here it comes.”
Declan and the woman stood between tree and dragon. Declan took her hand. Jake couldn’t hear the words, but all the same he knew what was being said. Nor could he see the expression on her face, but in the air, a hesitation hung.
Then the world stopped.
A bird had been flying by the top of the pagoda, level with Jake’s head and only a few meters away. Now it hung in mid-air, wings up above its body. “What’s going on?” Jake asked.
“Declan proposed,” the man replied. “She’s going to say yes. But here’s the part you didn’t know.”
Below, three hooded figures appeared in a triangle around the pair. One wore cloaks and robes of blue and green. Another wore black and brown. Beneath the dragon, the third shimmered silver and gold. Jake’s sharp breath was the only sound.
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