Whispers eddied around her as expected as high tide or a new moon. There always struck a time of night, close on the heels of midnight, that real dark pulled a little closer, and anyone still waking and walking and talking hushed themselves to fit inside it. No one watched for it. No one waited for it. They simply looked up when they realized it had come, smiled in easy surprise, and exchanged a speaking look with whoever was next to them: oh, it’s here. Reliable as the moon, steady as the tides, expected and uncounted.
Standing on the corner of the street, listening and watching the street lamps dim, Earia smiled to herself. She hugged her arms closer to her chest, the hem of her sleeves knotted up in her fingers to keep the chill air from slipping up her arms. Her jacket, which had been perfectly comfortable in the early evening, was too thin for the skidding cold of the night. Her dark hair which usually soaked up so much of the sun’s heat and kept her out of hats was useless in the dark, and her ears and neck and nose were numbing in the breeze.
“We did it again,” Kerney said, voice low. He stood beside her, hands shoved deep into his pockets.
She raised her eyebrows curiously at him, chin still tucked to catch as much shelter as her collar would offer.
Kerney motioned across the street, more elbow than hand, where Earia’s street branched off at a pleasant downhill curve. It ran empty for a few yards, then darted between plots of houses, connecting their odd little circles of doors and walls and windows and gardens. “We stopped,” he said. “Right at your turning.”
Earia smiled. “I thought you were going to say that we stayed out ridiculously late again,” she said.
Kerney nodded quickly. “We did that, too. But I was more concerned with whether we were going to stay out.” He returned her smile, a little more hesitantly, though he was the one that looked like he was on the verge of a laugh. “Because this looks like what we did an hour ago. Right before we decided to go around market square one more time.”
Earia looked down and nodded. “Yeah,” she said.
“Yeah,” he repeated.
“I’m not really tired,” she murmured.
“Me neither,” he said.
She flicked a look up at him through her hair. He was watching her, so close. She considered what it would be like to lean in, tuck herself against his chest and gather a little heat off him, wrapped in his broad arms. Then she laughed. And backed away.
“But I’m freezing,” Earia said. “If I don’t go home now, I’m just going to be the corner snow-woman in the morning.”
“Me, too,” he said, just as quickly. They turned together. Arms crossed over their chests, they walked a few feet apart down the road, aiming for her door. But still in no great hurry.
I’m a thief! I stole the first line of this piece from my friend, Kate. Be sure to stop by her blog tomorrow to see what her folk are whispering about.