Marnie found me in a corner where I’d begun to collect attention. Her boots were road-scuffed, the shoulders of her coat were rain stained, and her shirt and breeches were an average assemblage of homespuns and old clothes. In all her muted tones of beige and brown, she slipped across the room, tapping shoulders and elbows so they could make room for her to pass between the scattered tables and chairs, and no one even glanced up at her. When she was six steps from my table, they started to stare. She slipped into the seat across from me, unaware that any of them existed.
I tried not to hunch my shoulders farther around my ears.
“Your turtle impression is coming along nicely,” Marnie told me. She smiled crossed her arms idly on the table in front of her.
I purposefully forced my shoulders down, but leaned across the table at the same time, so I wasn’t sure if she would notice. “You picked the place,” I said. I wished it didn’t sound quite so pleading, but wasn’t sure how else I could have said it. I caught the eye of a man over her shoulder, then dropped my gaze to the table top, fast.
She cast a lazy glance behind her, and held onto her smile with ease. The corners of it were too sharp to not be purposeful. It made her look daring, and a little dangerous. “I like this place,” she said.
“You would,” I murmured.
Marnie blinked at me. Then, slowly, she leaned forward as well, mirroring me until her hair fell forward to shield her expression and I couldn’t help but notice the soft blue tones of her eyes. I forgot how blue they were. From across the room, or across the table, it was easier to see the rough, dark colors of her hair, her coat, her collar. I think I leaned in even closer.
“You would too,” she whispered. “If you remembered who you were.”
Something in the center of my chest got heavier, sank uncomfortably into my stomach. It was strangely easier to breathe. “I know what I am,” I promised her.
“Well…” she said slowly. “That’s just not the same thing at all.”
It took me a moment to smell the smoke, and another to look down and see it curling off the table around her fingers. When the two women at the table to our right had opened their mouths in shock, and the men behind her had started to whisper, she pried her hand up from the wood. There was a perfect handprint in the wood, still smoking. The air smelled like sweet sap, and cold, clean lightning. Marnie winked at me.
“We can talk outside,” she said. “If you can sit up taller under an open sky.”
And the crowd stared at her as she stood, pushed the chair back in against the table, and strode straight for the door.