Flash Fiction: Gold and Silver and Rust (524 words)

Ania set all three coins on the bar top, then wiped the sweat from her palm on the front of her breeches. She had held them so tightly on her way down the street, she could still smell the metal on her hand.

Dyan watched the coins as if they might roll away, hands resting on the edge of the bar, ready to catch them. “You’ve had a good day,” he murmured.

Ania laughed, had to swallow it back to breathe and laughed again. “Yeah,” she told him. She was grinning. She stretched her fingers, wiped her hand on her breeches again, looked around the room, couldn’t keep still. Dyan laughed at her.

“You should put these somewhere safe,” he told her.

“I thought I might spend it.”

“Or you could do that.” Dyan laughed again. Ania rocked forward at the sound, letting it ground her. She crossed her arms behind the coins and leaned against the bar.

“And with that you could buy…” Dyan pulled back, examining the rows of bottles under the bar. “… everything I’ve got. What d’you want?”

“You know what I meant,” she said.

“Yeah,” he said.

“This is enough,” she whispered. “To get us out of town and a hundred miles down the road. This is a thousand steps away from here and full stomachs the whole way and–”

“And not much farther,” he told her. Ducking his head to catch her gaze, he leaned in closer. “A hundred miles up the road and you’ll be in a stretch of nowhere. You’ll be walking hungry real soon.” He tapped a knuckle against one of the coins. “Put them somewhere safe. Sit on them for a while, see what they turn into.” He turned away, back to the barrel he’d been setting a tap into when she walked in.

Ania stilled. She watched the light gleam off the edges of the coins for a moment. Picking one up, she slid it between her fingers to catch the weight of it again.

“Do you know what happens when you sit on money?” she asked.

Dyan looked at her over his shoulder. “What?” he asked, quiet and too-calm, so that she knew he’d heard the shift in her tone.

“It rusts,” she said. “Gold and silver, they’re not supposed to, but they do. And you start chipping into it. You a buy a drink one day and a meal another. Then you do it again. You buy a new pair of boots cause yours have got holes in the toes. Then something awful comes along, and you chip a little deeper to keep life running smooth, because money’s one of the few things that can do that. And then you buy another drink. And another meal. You always say you’re going to pay yourself back.” Ania tucked the coin against her palm. She squeezed it tight, until her fist was numb and she couldn’t feel the coin. “You just end up waiting for another good day.”

Dyan settled against the bar across from her, reaching for her hand again.

Ania pulled back. Straightening, she met his eye. “Let’s leave today.”

He waited a moment, watching the coins still on the bar.

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