There was no easy dawn that morning, no cool, lingering dark. The sun rose, dug hot, steady fingers into the earth and yanked it around to face it. Danneel woke into too-bright daylight, her blanket already pushed to the side, her mouth sticky after her short hours of sleep.
She had slept like something dead, she realized. There was no other way to account for the way she had lost time, the way daylight had invaded. And that woke her up fast.
Evander was already moving. He knelt on the ground, rolling his small sack of things inside his blanket. They had all gotten used to packing their small pile of things into even smaller packets for easy carrying, but he still gave it all of his attention. He tucked the end of the blanket in itself as if someone might be along to inspect the tightness of the fold, and he tied the rope to either end with careful knots, as if there were no hurry, and nothing else in the world. It bothered Danneel a little – the rest of them had learned to do it so much quicker – but he was also the only one who never made any noise as he walked, or had to stop to repackage his things midday to stop them from clinking.
Heydi sat on her things, legs criss-crossed, elbows on her knees, watching Evander. She had taught herself a new trick, a tumble that could take her from the ground to her feet and smoothly slide her pack onto her back. She made it dramatic with an extra flip and a little jump when she landed on her feet. Evander was the only one who smiled at the trick anymore, and Danneel knew she was waiting until she had his attention so that she give that to him.
Jerdan was nowhere in sight.
Danneel glanced around once, wondering if she should be panicking. But Evander was calm, and Heydi would have woken her earlier if there was something wrong. Jerdan was probably just over the ridge, bathing or getting water from the thin river they had been following. She took a deep breath, stood and stretched, though the heat had already loosened what the night would have knotted.
It was less than five minutes before Jerdan came down from the ridge above her. His hair was dark with water, but already dry enough to stand in a tangle of curls. It dripped down the neck of his shirt. He looked cooler than she felt, and she wondered if she shouldn’t go jump into the water herself.
“Good morning,” Jerdan said as he passed her. He turned to give her a second look, and gave her a twisted smile. “You know, when Evander and me say we’ll keep watch, we figure that means you’ll actually sleep for once.”
Danneel nodded. “I know,” she said. “I meant to.”
He held her eye for a moment longer, then shrugged and said nothing. Chastising her in the morning didn’t do any more good than her yelling at herself in the middle of the night for still being awake. They had talked about it before. He did a better job remembering.
“You gonna be ready to move soon?” he asked, stooping to start collecting his own things off the ground.
Looking at the back of his head, she considered being honest and saying no. She would have liked to stop moving, just for a day.
But she was getting used to this. Taking a breath, Danneel reminded herself how deeply she had slept, how easy it had been to wake, how normal it had been to watch Heydi and Evander, how easy it had been not to startle when Jerdan had not been there.
Jerdan looked back at her and she nodded quickly.
“Soon,” she promised.