Flash Fiction: Robbed Twice (416 words)

“Here,” Terius said and dropped a book into Jaera’s lap.

Jaera looked at him out of the corner of her eye as he leaned against the rail beside her. She was curled up on a crate, back to the rail, out of the way while she watched the crew change tack. The ocean spray was kicking up hard behind her as the ship angled into its turn and she had to put a hand on the crate  to keep her balance against the swells. Glancing down at the book, then back to him, she eyed both warily.

“Begging your pardon?” she said haltingly.

He watched her for a minute, mouth curved into a dry smile she couldn’t quite read, arms crossed over his chest. “I will never understand how you can be so honestly polite in daylight, and still steal books out of my room in the middle of the night.”

Jaera didn’t know what to say. She sat still.

“I’ve seen you be honestly rude too,” Terius told her. “So there’s no need to keep quiet.”

She didn’t look at him. “I didn’t know you knew I was taking books.”

He almost laughed. “Well, I’d leave a book on my table in the afternoon, it would be gone when I turned in for the night and then it would suddenly be on my shelves when I woke up. It was either you, or Zain scraping the bottom of the barrel for pranks, or my books have taken up climbing as a hobby.”

“That’s…” Jaera hesitated. “Possible.”

“You have a hard time lying,” Terius said.

“Sure.” She looked at him uncertainly.

“Just saying your good points out loud,” he told her. “It makes it easier to not call you the little thief in my head.” He nodded toward the book. “Read it. Unless you already have. I can’t keep track of which ones you’ve already taken.”

Jaera laid her hand on the cover – fresh, firm leather, each letter of the title still pressed perfectly into its face. “I’ll stop. If you want me to.” She said it, and she knew she meant it, but it was going to hurt the night that she couldn’t lift words off a page.

Terius shook his head. “I don’t really want you to. I’m just tired being robbed twice. I shouldn’t have to keep watching interesting books go missing and still have no one to talk to about them.” He looked at her pointedly. “Let me know when you finish it.”

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