Danneel looked down at the knife in her hands and the long, thin blade made her stomach twist. She could feel Caled watching her from behind his desk, watching her hands shake as she tried to measure the thing in her hands. Her fingers slid on the blade. It was sharp enough to cut her without effort. She didn’t think she would even feel the metal, just warm blood. Her stomach tightened again.
“I can’t,” she said. It wasn’t even a whisper. She wasn’t sure he would hear her, but he shifted in his seat so quickly, she knew he had.
“Are you scared?” he asked.
She clenched her jaw, wanting more than anything to clean the quakes out of her skin. “Yes,” she said. The word hissed in the air. “What if he wakes up?”
Caled leaned back. Looking up, Danneel expected him to say something. His silence stung, and he just shook his head.
“Heydi!” he called.
The room echoed for a moment after his voice. Then there was a scramble in the hall. The footsteps were too heavy, too loud to be Heydi’s, and Danneel figured it was some of the others, running to find her. Caled sat, calmly waiting. Danneel shifted on her feet, trying to breathe slow, trying to cool her cheeks. It didn’t take long for them to find Heydi, but the seconds caught in Danneel’s skin as they slid past.
Then Heydi slipped through the door. Her dark head came first, peeking around the corner just above the doorknob. As usual, her eyes darted around the room, a little too fast to make her look anything other than alert and excited. She caught Danneel’s eye and put her smile in check, looked at Caled, stepped the rest of the way inside, and shut the door tight. Lightly, she stepped up to the desk beside Danneel.
“Give it to her,” Caled told Danneel.
Danneel turned, the knife still held in front of her, but couldn’t push it toward the smaller girl.
Looking from the blade to Danneel, Heydi took it. She only held it in one hand, her fist wrapped around the handle with the blade pointing down. Curiously, she looked at the light glinting off it, then she looked at Caled.
“Is it heavy?” he asked her. Standing, he came around the front of the desk and sat against the corner. He leaned toward Heydi, hands folded in his lap, ready to catch her answer.
Heydi considered carefully, nose scrunching. “Yes,” she finally admitted.
“In the right way,” Caled said. “It’s a good knife. It’ll slide in easy.”
Heydi nodded. It made Danneel’s insides turn again, seeing how firm it was. Little as she was, Heydi had known that, even before he said it.
“I want you to take it with you,” Caled told Heydi. He leaned a little farther forward, holding her eyes gently. “And tonight, I need you to go to the city barracks. You know where that is? I thought you would. Sneak in, the way you do. Make sure no one sees you. On the first floor, all the way at the back, there will be two men, sleeping. I need them never to wake up. Do you understand?”
Heydi blinked once. “Yes, sir,” she said.
Caled pulled back, smiling broadly. Nodding, he rubbed his knees. “Good, girl.” He nodded toward the door. “Now, get. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Heydi cocked her wrist so that she was holding the knife up along her forearm and spun for the door.
Feet heavy, Danneel watched Caled stroll to the back of his desk. Then she wished she had run with Heydi as he shot her a sharp look. She fled.
Heydi was only a few feet ahead of her in the hall. Danneel caught up to the smaller girl, grabbed her by the shoulder and turned her back to face her. Heydi looked surprised, but Danneel didn’t loosen her grip.
“I’m coming with you,” Danneel hissed.
Heydi blinked again. “No,” she said.
“I’m bigger than you. Try to stop me,” Danneel told her.
Heydi looked at Danneel’s hand like it was hurting her, but didn’t try to get away. “I’m not going,” Heydi told her.
Danneel pulled back in surprise.
Heydi faced her solidly. “I can’t,” she told Danneel. “Can’t do that. I think I’m gonna run away.” And each word tripped off her tongue, easy as water running its own bed, while she held the knife in a steady hand.
My friend, Kathryn is a thief! She stole the first line of this piece for a story over at her blog, Nine Pages. Be sure to check it out.