Flash Fiction: Nearly Afternoon (475 words)

The breakfast trays were laid out with plates, forks, knives, spoons, and folded napkins within a few minutes. Little dishes of butter went into the corner, and cups of coffee with their saucers into the opposite. The plates were warmed briefly over the oven, then they went on the trays as well, right before the kitchen staff filled them in with toast straight from the oven, eggs straight off the stove, and a fresh sprinkling of green onions and tomatoes. Four trays, perfectly matched in the bright morning light.

Eda pushed a tray across the table toward Javey. “Take this up to Master Toar?”

Javey picked up the tray, but stopped as soon as he had. “You mean Master Alek?”

“Whatever you’d like to call the younger one,” Eda said. “But I don’t want to know what he’d say if you got his name wrong after all this time.”

Javey blinked at her. “It’s seven in the morning.”

Picking up one of the other trays, Eda nodded. “Hence, breakfast.” She lifted her eggs just a bit for him to see.

“Master Toar is never awake at seven in the morning,” Javey said.

Eda nodded again. “So, you’ll wake him.”

Javey opened his mouth, then shut it and almost laughed. “No,” he said quietly. “I would rather wake a bear after a bad winter. Or a hippopotamus. Or a lion who hasn’t eaten in eight days. Or the kraken. Or my sister’s dog.”

“He’s not that bad,” Eda said.

“He’s bad,” Javey returned, almost before the words were out of his mouth.

Pausing, she narrowed her eyes. “He’s fifteen.”

Javey raised his eyebrows, as if asking where her contradiction lay.

“Oh, for the sake of the stars,” Alina said, coming up behind Javey. She stepped in beside him, long enough to take the tray out of his motionless hands and fix both of them with a dull glare, then started for the door. “Haven’t the two of you figured it out yet? You knock until you hear him move, then leave for ten minutes. Come back, knock again. Leave for ten minutes. Come back, knock again, and leave for ten minutes. He falls back to sleep each time to leave, and the fourth time you knock, he comes leaping out of bed because he thinks we’ve been trying to wake him for hours, and he’s terrified what his mother will do to him for missing lessons.” She turned around to push open the kitchen door with her elbows, and glared at them again. “He doesn’t have the least inclination to grouch about mornings when he thinks its nearly afternoon.”

They both were quiet for a moment after she was gone.

“She scares him awake every morning?” Javey murmured.

Eda took a breath. “I believe… It’s either him or us.”

It took a long moment, but Javey nodded. “Sounds fair.”

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