Flash Fiction: Cold Weight (771 words)

The knife was a long thing, thin, but heavy enough to do half the hand’s work in driving it deep. The hilt was wrapped in leather, the strips molded together by years of oil and use. The blade barely caught a gleam. The cross-guard was so narrow it could only suggest that a hand stay behind it while the sharp edge did the real convincing.

Beitris wouldn’t usually have taken it out to play with it. She had carried it long enough for the weight to have balanced itself into her stride, but she didn’t have any affection for it. It didn’t feel right in her hand, and it didn’t feel wrong. There was some safety in holding it, but no warmth. She might have said she forgot about it most of the time, except for how quickly she could put it into her hand when she needed it.

She had carried it for seven years, but it had spent most of that time strapped to her right leg. Now, she had gotten tall enough it actually fit between her elbow and her wrist, and she liked it better there, closer to her hand.

An hour ago she had settled it there. She spent a few minutes teaching herself to run a rooftop without expecting the extra weight on one foot. She spent a few more minutes ignoring the new weight on her arm, to prove to herself she could live with it there. Then she started practicing the subtle bend of her wrist that would drop the hilt into her palm. Flipping the blade point out, she spun it through her fingers, and settled it back into its sheath.

Bend. Catch. Flip. Spin. Slide.

Bend, catch, flip, spin, and slide.

It wasn’t thoughtless yet, and she badly wanted it to be, but it was quick enough.

“Does that have a name?” the boy next to her asked.

Beitris glanced over, letting the knife stay in her palm for the moment.

Shifting his feet, he resettled himself on the box that currently served him for a chair. His hair was falling into his eyes, too long, while his shirt sleeves didn’t quite reach his wrists. He looked as if he wanted to lean forward against his knees, but wasn’t quite sure that he should be that close to her.

She was definitely quick enough.

Beitris might allow herself a smile over it in a few days. She had chosen to hide here, inside these four walls leaning together in a joint illusion of construction, where kids like her were expected. For now, at least, it was safer to be a needle in a seamer’s shop rather than to stick out elsewhere, too short, too sharp, and too unusual. But smiles weren’t a good idea here until the others understood where she belonged on the line between Born Last Night and Born on the Interesting Side of the Hell Gates.

It was too bad. She liked to smile.

“Why would it have a name?” she asked. She let her tone run a little light, and held his eye without blinking.

The boy shuffled his feet again. Then he shrugged. “It looks old,” he said. “Like you’ve had it for a while.”

“D’you have a knife with a name?” she asked.

He hesitated. Then he pulled something from behind his back. The blade was thick and heavy. He moved it slowly to his knee, maybe as a courtesy and maybe because that was how he was used to moving with the weight against his palm. The tip had a gentle curve in it. “This is Sweet Brother.”

Beitris raised her eyebrows, appreciating the subtly. There was very little sweet about that knife, and if it were the sweeter of the two of them…

Beitris turned back to the knife in her hand. There was something quietly appealing about the idea of naming it. She had carried it for a long time, carried it far from where where they had both started. It wasn’t a part of her, just balanced against her, but a name might warm it a little.

“This is Bob,” she said. She expected to have to fight hard to keep a grin off her face as she said it. There was no fight at all and she blinked.

The boy stared at her as he should have, like she was either something too dull or too sharp. He found a quick excuse to stand up and shuffle away. She noticed, but it didn’t make her battle a smile either.

She would never call it that again.

She would probably never call it anything.

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