Davide studied his fingers tapping the side of his glass. "I need your help, Zoe."
The unexpected admission took her by surprise. What on earth could Davide need her help with. She waited for him to continue.
Instead of blatantly telling her what he wanted, he said, "You know about the prophesy concerning me; about me being…" he bent toward her and said softly, "…the so-called Great Prince." Zoe nodded and waited for him to continue.
"When I was a child, I believed what I was told, and I did everything in my power to live up to that prophesy. I diligently practiced my focus exercises, listened to my father's teachings about shapelings, and prayed to the source that I would be worthy of my calling." He lifted his scotch to his lips and swigged a long swallow. "When I reached my teens, my lack of ability to shift began weighing heavily on me. Of course, you know all this because you've always been my confidant."
Zoe nodded again, and sipped her daiquiri, waiting for his revelation.
He glanced around the room, seemingly forestalling what he wanted to say. "I've often begged my father to draw a map to the Cave of Thirteen, but he has refused. The reason I want to go there is to confront the co-Princes. I want to personally tell them they cannot count on me to become their Great Prince. How can a shapeling of mixed blood who cannot shift, possibly be the Great Prince. And anyway, I've never been told what this Prince is supposed to do or accomplish." Again, he swigged on his scotch.
"About two weeks ago, my father and mother returned from the Cave of Thirteen and immediately wanted to see me. They told me they were willing to reveal the way to the Cave."
"Of course, I was elated until they told me their stipulation."
"What is it?" Zoe leaned in.
Davide sucked a breath. "I must first travel to Uluru in Australia and go on a walkabout."
"Davide, you can do that. You-"
"Wait, Zoe," he interrupted. "There's more." He glanced down and drummed his fingers on the table. Finally, lifting his head and reaching into the depths of her eyes with his own, he said, "You have to come with me, both to Uluru and the Cave of Thirteen."
"What!" she shouted. Several heads turned to look at them. Bending toward Davide, she repeated low, "What the hell are you saying, Davide?"
"You heard me, Zoe," he whispered fiercely back. The stipulation for me to be given directions to the place I've longed to visit, is that you must accompany me to Uluru and then to the Cave. It's as simple as that."
"No Davide, that's not simple. I can't just pack up and travel to Australia. I have a job."
"Tonight was your last night for several weeks."
"So you've already checked my schedule," she hissed.
"Yes, of course."
Although Zoe's heart longed for the adventure of being with Davide, she knew it would only make her heartbreak all the more wrenching. "I simply cannot go," she said quietly while staring at her daiquiri and circling the rim of the glass with her finger. She chanced a glance at Davide to see him watching the movement of her finger. Stilling her hand, she flushed. He finally looked at her."
"Zoe, I need you."
His simple words pricked tears and she blinked rapidly. Don't do this to me Davide. She didn't respond.
Finally, he sighed and relaxed. "You know what I'd thought about doing if you refused?"
She shook her head, unable to speak.
Zoe's jaw dropped.
"But of course, I won't do that." He slid out of the booth. "Honey, whatever I did to upset you so much that you've avoided me, I'm sorry." He tossed a tip on the table. "I had no right to expect this of you. I'm leaving tomorrow night. I've decided to go on the walkabout anyway. You have a great life, kiddo."
Before he walked away, he said, "Zoe, it was great seeing you again. Maybe you can find time for next year's birthday party."
Zoe stared after him, her tear pricks turning into real tears.