Flash Fiction: Insurance (504 words)

It was dark. Bretnie blinked up at the ceiling, certain that there was something else she was supposed to be doing besides staring at simple shadows. She should have been sleeping, or she should have been moving, but she had no idea which.

It had been dark for hours, though she couldn’t begin to calculate how many. She thought she had dozed through some of them, shut her eyes and let some of them slide by uncounted. She wasn’t sure. She couldn’t remember falling asleep, and she couldn’t remember waking. The longer she thought about it, the easier it was to believe she might have been in the middle of a dream, watching time twist.

Then she shifted. The sheets hissed. The bed creaked. Her ribs moved properly in a sigh, and the whole world cracked back into firm reality. She just couldn’t count the hours.

This, she decided, was a funny thing about setting meetings for dawn. There was no way to sleep comfortably the night before.

Another moment, and she gave up. Folding back the blankets, she reached for her breeches, shirt and jacket, slipped them on and shoved her feet into her boots before she could even touch the cold floor. As soon as she was standing, she was sure it was too early to leave for the meeting spot, and just as sure that it would be better to curl up and catnap there then keep pretending she was resting here.

On the other side of the room, Den shifted. Bretnie stilled, waiting until she could hear him breathe in and breathe out, steady as the tides before she moved toward the door. It swung cleanly on its hinges, opening into the dark hallway.

“Everything all right?” Den asked.

Bretnie spun back toward him, held her breath before she gasped. She had been sure he was asleep. But then, she had been sure she had been asleep herself a moment before.

“Fine,” she whispered. “Everything’s fine. Go back to sleep.”

He was just a shadow in the dark, but after a moment, she heard the springs of his bed give, and he seemed to press himself back into the mattress.

It was time to go, but she hesitated another moment, her hand on the door.

“Hey, Den?” she said.

“Hnn?”

“Just in case you’ve ever wondered…” Bretnie ran her tongue along the ridge of her teeth, sorting her thought into words. “You’ve always been the best twin I could have asked for.”

He didn’t say anything.

Looking down, she nodded to herself. He had fallen back to sleep.

She turned for the door.

Then Den started swearing, loudly. Clapping her hand to her mouth, Bretnie whirled around, nearly hit her head on the door, and stared at him.

“Dremmit, Bret,” Den said. “Now I have to actually get up and follow you, because if you get yourself killed that will be poignant instead of stupid.”

She blinked.

He was shuffling out of bed. “Don’t move. I’m looking for my boots.”

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