Flash Fiction: Just to the Right (821 words)

“There’s no need for us to stay,” Haldard said. He looked over at Kadelyn.

Sitting beside him on the bench, she leaned forward on her hands, and didn’t bother to meet his eye.

Her brother, Brance stood in the middle of the room with Donnemey. He had his hands in front of him, hidden between them, but the shadows had started to play wrong on the floor around them. The early morning light colored everything in gray or laid down lines of shine, but he broke the lines and shadows, smeared them under his feet as he shifted. Kadelyn tilted her head, ear almost on her shoulder, and wondered what exactly he had made with his hands. Blinking slowly, she continued to watch.

“How long do you think this will take?” she asked.

Haldard looked up, measuring something on the other side of the colonnade. “An hour. Maybe two. Other people will come in to use the court after that.” He turned back to her. “But we don’t need to stay. Donnemey is perfectly capable of acting like his watcher for an hour.”

She looked up at him, barely holding in her smile. “Donnemey?” she asked.

“Donnemey,” Haldard said. “He may not be as strong a keimon as I am, but he can do it.”

“He won’t,” Kadelyn said.

Haldard paused, stopped in the middle of a thought, and blinked at her. “No?” he asked.

She shook her head. “He won’t follow Brance around. His head is so big its a miracle he can walk around all day without holding it up with both hands.”

Haldard’s eyes narrowed just a little. “Who told you that?”

Kadelyn shut her mouth. Half of it was something she had thought up herself at least.

“And quite technically, he wouldn’t follow Brance around,” Haldard told her. “Brance is now his apprentice. Brance will walk behind him, exactly two steps behind and a half step to the right.”

Kadelyn’s eyebrows rose slowly. She looked back at Brance, sure he had no idea that he was required to do that.

Haldard laughed quietly. “Don’t worry. We wouldn’t wait too long before we rescued him. If you wanted to go. It’s a long hour to just sit here.”

Kadelyn leaned forward on her hands again. She shook her head. “I’ll stay,” she said.

The shadows were shifting around Brance again, sliding away from him as if they had learned how to run, how to be afraid. They stayed only behind him, in dark, concentrated streaks, as if it had learned how to hide, how to play.

She smiled a little.

“What does it feel like?” she asked Haldard.

He hesitated before he answered. “Cold,” he said.

Kadelyn looked at him sideways.

“And hot,” he allowed. “Like wrapping a heavy blanket around your shoulders to help hold a sheet of ice on top of your skin.”

“But you like it?” Kadelyn asked.

He nodded. “It feels good,” he told her. “Like you’re finally correctly balanced against gravity.” He realized as soon as he spoke, that that might not make much sense to her, so he stopped, and thought for another moment. “Like there’s nothing heavy in you. You only stay on the ground because you want to.”

She looked back at Brance. “And that’s what he feels.”

“Yes, my lady,” Haldard said. “Though he’ll probably find different words for it.”

“And…” Kadelyn hesitated. She steadied herself with a breath, leaning harder on her hands. “That’s what you feel when your brother Works?”

Haldard paused.

She looked at him over one curved shoulder. “You said you could feel it. His energy. Like it was yours.”

“Yes,” Haldard said. He looked down, trying to decide on his next explanation. “But I don’t feel the cold, then. It’s mostly just heat. And that balance. But…” He paused again. “Also, a little like I’m standing just to the right of where I should be. Or the left. And if I move to the right or the left, I still won’t be where I’m supposed to be.”

“But that’s a good feeling too?” Kadelyn asked.

“It’s… the right feeling,” Haldard said. “It tells me where he is, which direction I’m supposed to lean to keep us together.”

Kadelyn nodded carefully to herself. That had to feel good, to be able to shut your eyes and still be able to point to your brother in the middle of smoke and haze and heat. She watched Brance’s back carefully, still leaning on her hands. She waited, trying to decide if she could feel her full weight on her wrists.

“My lady,” Haldard said slowly. “My brother and I are both keimon…”

Kadelyn looked at him quickly. “And my brother and I are twins.”

Haldard met her eye in silence.

“I’d like to stay,” she said. It took him a long moment to nod, and she held his gaze until he turned to watch Brance and Donnemey as well.

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