Flash Fiction: Sipping on a Memory (357 words)

Aydel felt warm. Warm like summer afternoons, sitting on red earth streets, like she used to do when she was small, and the dirt stains on her knees and bothered no one but her mother. Warm like, running in the old days, when it didn’t matter how hard she fell, or if she tore her clothes, skinned her hands, bruised her knees, because she could always rest tomorrow in trade.

Aydel hadn’t had tomorrows to trade for a long time. She needed each and every one of them.

She laughed easier. There was no real reason for it, but she was suddenly remembering that there didn’t need to be a reason to smile. She didn’t need to have a trick ready to play. She didn’t need to have a thought to hide behind the flashy mask. On red earth streets, she had laughed simply because someone said something silly. Or even because she had fallen trying to do something stupid and happy.

Pausing, Aydel blinked at the girl sitting across the table from her in the taproom. She didn’t really know her, she realized, even if they had run into each other, helped each other in quiet ways, every day in the last two weeks. Two weeks was not long enough to know much more than her name, and the way she liked to clear her hair out of her eyes right before she lied.  It was not long enough to know anything that mattered.

She glanced at her drink. She suddenly felt the stomach-light ghost of falling. Like she had slipped a moment ago, far too quickly to move before she arrived in open air. Like she might hit bottom in a moment. And she might laugh in warm nescience when her lungs recovered from their shocked stillness.

“What’s wrong?” Caria asked.

“Nothing,” Aydel said. But she shoved her drink away, suddenly realizing she wasn’t sure how far away her feet were, and hating the feeling. She couldn’t spare a tomorrow to look for them.

It had been years since she and the world had trusted each other enough for her to sip on a memory like this.

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