Aria opened the door to the roof after changing into clothes that were not quite revealing, and far more comfortable to sit in. There was no sign of Philip yet, though it was still considered early in the night for him. He would probably still be working the dance hall, helping the courtesans with the lifts and whatever else they needed. Aria never met him on the roof under prepared. Leaning against the wall facing the prettiest part of the city, Aria wrapped a thick blanket around herself drawing her knees close to her chest.
The stars twinkled and shined down on her as each minute passed in silent remembrance of the play. Every small detail seemed so vivid even these few hours later. Oh, how she hoped that would never leave! It would be so difficult to choose a starting place once Philip arrived. After all, there was so much to tell him. Yes, the play was wonderful, but so was the playhouse itself. And the carriage rides were wonderful. Meeting so many of Pierre’s associates was exciting for they had greeted her as one of their own: a member of high society. Even if she never held aspirations of being involved in the upper echelons of society it was still wonderful to feel accepted.
Above her, the night sky she’d observed from the carriage hours earlier stayed much the same, even as Aria felt so very different now. Her eyes were getting heavy; too heavy. But she willed them to stay open just a little longer because Philip must be arriving soon.
Aria’s head sunk forward like a rock, jolting her awake. Philip wasn’t here; he wouldn’t be. Wrapping the blanket around her once more, Aria reached for the door. It swung open, knocking her back and to the ground.
“Oh, God! I’m so sorry!” Philip panted. “Are you all right?” He stooped next to her checking for any signs of injury.
A smile tugged at the corners of her lips. “I’m fine. Might bruise later, but we’ll see.”
Philip took hold of Aria’s arm helping her stand as he finally seemed to catch his breath. “I ran up here as quick as I could. Gerald—one of the other stagehands—got hurt, so I was asked to stay and help more.”
“Will he be all right?”
“Yeah, just a knock to the head. Should be fine in a couple days.”
Aria and Philip sat where they always liked to sit together. They could see so much of the city from their rooftop it felt as if they were rulers over it all. The rose-colored glasses of their childhood days lost their color a little more every day as cold reality set it. This wasn’t their kingdom. Someday, only one would see the city here. Neither wanted to know who would be left behind.
“How was the play?” Philip asked.
“It was wonderful. The sets, the actors, the costumes…it was all just so perfect. Some day, I want you to see a grand play with me. I think you would enjoy it.”
“Which play was it?”
“Romeo and Juliet.”
“Ah.” Philip tipped his head back, staring at the stars above them. Aria’s eyes joined his in the sky, letting herself be filled by the simple happiness of watching twinkling stars. The play had been wonderful and was an experience to cherish. There would be more to come, she suspected.
“I think you would enjoy—maybe not that play, but plays in general. The atmosphere is something else…It’s like from a dream.”
“A dream full of snooty people,” Philip said stealing a glance at his friend. “Not sure how I’d feel about that.”
“It was actually fun, you know. Everyone I met there was really kind and wonderful and not once did I ever feel judged. That’s not something I can say about going to a bakery or a florist.”
Aria pulled her knees closer to her chest wrapping her arms around them, pouting. The night was supposed to be full of laughter and excited remembrance, not cynicism.
“That’s not what I meant, Aria.” Philip bumped her with his shoulder as playful as he had as a child. “They’re clearly not like the men or women around the bakery or the florist because they have a lot more rules and a lot more at stake. They could lose business or connections or they’re standing in whatever social circles they’re around if they’re less than pleasant.”
“How do you know that?” Aria turned to face Philip more. They hadn’t exactly talked social politics in relation to their own selves before. That was new.
“Grandmother Gigi told me.”
They sat in silence until Aria shivered. “I should probably go. Monsieur Andreu will be over for tea; I don’t want to be tired.”
Aria didn’t move. Philip didn’t rise first to help her up either. They just sat together a little longer until Aria, against her better judgment, wrapped her blanket around them both so Philip could also be warm and rested her head on his shoulder. This is fine, she thought. And it was. Two friends star-gazing on the roof of their home was far from gossip-worthy. In fact, for anyone living at the Moulin Rouge, companionship like this was most welcome. Anything to get through the nights usually were.
Just don’t fall in love.
“Philip?” Aria said.
“When was the last time we were up here like this?”
Philip mustered a chuckle. “Before you even told me about becoming a courtesan.”
“I missed this.”
“Me, too.” Philip paused. “We should probably go. You’re having tea tomorrow; I don’t want you to be tired.”
“You care that much?” Aria looked up.
Philip blushed. “Well, that. And…if we stay I might do something stupid.”
Philip looked at Aria.
They hadn’t been this close in so long, not since they were children. As they grew up together, it became clearer with each passing year what she’d grow up to become. It was inevitable. And she tried not to notice the boyish grin on his lips, or the lingering glances. But she had plenty of grins and glances for Philip, too. She just didn’t want to admit it. Not even when a joy she’d never fully felt before blossomed in her chest and rose to her cheeks as Philip’s eyes moved from her hairline to her eyes, her nose, her lips. Pierre never looked at her with such adoration as this, nor did Pierre make her heart race from the sweet anticipation of her first true kiss, not a stolen one.
Philip drew close until his parted lips were a hairsbreadth away from Aria’s own. Part of her wanted to know how his lips felt against her own, but the other part didn’t. She closed her eyes.
The warmth of Philip’s lips pressed against her forehead.
“I don’t want you to be tired,” Philip whispered.
Aria nodded, relishing the feeling of his kiss. “Thank you,” she whispered back.
Philip stood helping Aria to her feet. As he did since they were children, he made sure she was plenty warm with the blanket draped about her.
“I might not have much time to visit for a little while with Gerald injured, but…I’ll try.” Philip raked his fingers through his hair.
“Good night, Philip…” Aria stood on the tips of her toes kissing Philip’s forehead before leaving him alone.
They both had a lot to think about.