In Red (Chapter 2, page 2 of 3)

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The young man breathed out sonorously, as if trying to accept the exasperating slowness in which he seemed doomed to remain.

He turned to look at Roxanne, mainly to avoid answering Adelle right away in a manner he would later regret. The dark red dress, quite elegant and becoming on her pale skin, caught his eye. She had long chestnut hair in braid waves, reaching her waist, and her bare feet were wrapped in bandages.

"I can't. For one thing, I don't have permission to be here and I shouldn't be wasting time, much less risk moving around in a flamboyant group."

"Please, Alan. They'd get lost and it would be dangerous for them to go alone."

He glanced again at Roxanne.

"She can't even walk," he said, pointing at her feet.

"Oh, it's nothing. I'll give them some of my old shoes and they'll be fine. You needn't worry about that."

The girl looked at Adelle with gratitude.

He, too, gazed at Adelle in a special way.

"Tonight," he finally gave in, "after the inn closes. And they better not keep me waiting."

Back in their room, the two girls observed the dresses Adelle had just laid on their beds for them. On the floor, there were two pairs of worn canvas shoes.

The kind lady had also prepared some food, which they placed in their respective bags, together with a spare dress (same color as the one they were wearing) and some underwear - the only luggage they'd brought from the castle.

They'd spent the afternoon and the evening resting, and it was now time to get ready to start their journey again.

Celeste gave her sister a meaningful look, surrendering the initiative to her, and Roxanne returned her gaze, waiting to see how far Celeste's unprecedented vigor went. In the end, they both had to admit with a sad smile that they couldn't do it. They neatly folded Adelle's dresses and put them inside their sacks with the rest of their things.

Downstairs, they were met with Adelle's disapproving expression.

"It's not safe for you to be dressed like that."

"The blue one can pass muster, but you…," said Alan, addressing Roxanne for the first time. "With you we could be spotted from the Moon."

"Which one?" Celeste couldn't help qualifying, in a low voice, recalling the question she always used to ask her mother, every time she read a book, and was never satisfactorily answered. On this particular occasion, she just wanted to play down the situation with an affectionate nod to her sister.

"All of them," retorted Alan, not in the mood for jokes.

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