She tried to remind herself to walk slowly, but she kept slipping into a happy skip. It was too late at night for anyone else to be up to see her. Too late at night to risk tripping and falling on her nose, but too late to really believe in reasonable strides either. It was too late to be awake, but she was. She might have forgotten how to sleep, forgotten the need for sleep, forgotten how to shut her eyes.
The moon had been too full. The white light falling off it had turned the air cool and crisp and clean. The silence had so much blank space, a promise that every word she spoke into the dark would be caught and held and heard. Everyone else shut up into their houses had made then world so wide. She could have run for miles.
Shai hadn’t of course – or she didn’t think she had. She only ever went into the woods in the dark, and shadows were hard to measure. Still, it never took long to work her way into the clearing and wait for all the others to tumble in after her.
They didn’t bother to light fires when the moon was round. They snuffed their lamps at the treeline and took their familiar seats on the rocks. Kendie brought the day’s leftovers from the bakery, whatever would have been thrown out the next morning. It was usually the wilder things that his father wanted to try, and tonight it was spiced and fruity and strange, but a feast at midnight. Lela brought skins of water from her well. It was the sweetest water on the island, and sweeter still when she squeezed her family’s oranges into it.
They had talked, joked, played cards that should have had colors but only looked white and gray and red under the moon. Nev brought her guitar and played very few songs, but her fingers were always tripping across the strings, fidgeting and testing the quiet. Braeden had smuggled three ferret kits out of his family’s kennels. They played in the sleeves of his jacket when he took it off and skittered around Shai’s feet.
Coming back, skipping for no good reason, she couldn’t have repeated a word that was said. It had all been nonsense and nothing. It had all been forgettable and thin. And prized and precious.
And Shai couldn’t stop herself from repeating every smile flashed between them.