There was an old bookstore on the corner. Dev saw it, noted the stacks of colored spines in the window, blinked and laughed to himself. He had found Kaylee. Whether he could see her or not, he knew she was tucked away somewhere inside.
He crossed the street with his hands in his pockets, careful of the crowd that wandered one way and the other. Then he slid through the door, beneath the bell that announced him to the shaded, quiet shop.
The air smelled like yellow paper, and wood, and shut windows. His shoes scuffed against the floor. Bending his head, he glanced down the first row of shelves. There were two people, heads bent over some precious word, but not Kaylee.
He moved on.
In the sixth row, she stood, shoulder leaned into the shelf. She held three books, one open, two comfortably bundled in her hands beneath it. She held them close to her chest, close to her eyes, not really reading, but idly turning pages to scan down the lines. She paused, and breathed, then looked up to see Dev smiling at her.
She smiled back, caught.
“Sweeter than roses,” she said, with a shrug that was only half an apology, and she flicked through the next few pages.
For the last eight months, Dev had looked at the room from a height of two feet and three inches. He knew, because he had measured it repeatedly by the length of his arm, letting his hand drop over the side of the bed until his palm was flat against the floor. He liked the motion. For half a second, he could trick himself into believing he had caught himself, that he was carrying his own weight on his arm, not that he had laid there so long there was a permanent ditch in the middle of the mattress.
His arm was exactly two feet three inches from wrist to shoulder. Lyda had helped him measure, so she could be sure he could reach every gift of water and broth she left him while he was sleeping. He’d liked that, too: the ridiculousness of her stepping so purposefully into the room with her measure string, and the smile she was trying so hard to hide as she moved him, touched him, made him laugh. Then, for a few more afternoons he measured things that did not need measuring, and laughed then too.
Dana was aiming for the kitchen when she heard Sadie turning the key in the lock at the front door. She slowed down, resettling the empty mug and bowl in her hands while the door swung open. Sadie held up a hand before Dana could say anything. She closed the door with her foot and reached down with her other hand to pull her shoes off her feet.
“I had to leave for work this morning with fifteen pages left in my book,” she said.
Dana blinked at her. “And?”
“Does this conversation have to happen before I find out if Jaise dies for love or for honor?” she asked.
“So…” Sara put her hands in her pockets and turned idly toward Chelsea. “What do you think?”
Chelsea blinked once, and glanced down the street in either direction from the corner. The sun was doing a pleasant job of warming the fall air, though it was stark in the bare sky, and both of them squinted every time they came out of the shadows. The hotels and shops towered above them on either side of the street, as fanciful and exuberant as described in the brochures, but cheesy and exaggerated under the warm light of day. There was an old soda cup crushed in the gutter, with the lid hanging on by the straw, the same as they might find at home. What people there were, strode down the street, heads canted down in their own thoughts, no differently than if they were on their way to work or the grocery store or the laundromat.
In all fairness, that was probably where they were headed.
Zain elbowed Terius. It was remarkably gentle for him, a subtle motion that could easy have been missed by anyone watching, but gave a quick, firm nudge against Terius’ ribs. Terius lifted his head immediately, eyebrows almost going into his hair, and looked at him.
Zain almost laughed at the surprise on his cousin’s face, but looked away and just smiled. He took another big bite out of the apple in his hand. Then he nodded across the deck of the ship.
The Clanless girl was out again. Terius wasn’t sure where she had just come from, but her sleeves were rolled up to the elbow and the hair that had come loose from her braid was stuck to her neck and forehead. She’d been working hard on something. She wandered to the far rail, stuck her elbows on top and lifted herself onto her toes. Face first in the breeze, she tilted her head back to cool her skin.
Terius watched her for a moment, then he looked back down at the book in his lap.
Zain had a book he was supposed to be reading, but he shut it and pushed it behind him while he leaned back on his hands. He tilted his head, watching the girl. Terius supposed he’d thought schooling would end when they started sailing, and now Zain kicked harder than ever against sticking his nose between the dry pages.
“They found her, right?” Zain asked.
Terius glanced at him uncertainly.
Zain looked at him. “I mean, somebody did?”
Terius nodded slowly. “That why my father said she was Clanless.”
She was losing days. Folding into spaces small enough to fit between two hands, she was passing through hours, never quite knowing how she would climb back out. She forgot herself, forgot how ankles and knees and hips were supposed to fit between bones, and how she was supposed to move any of them. If she moved, it was just her eyes, just her hands, just her idling fingers.
One page turn, and then another, and she was losing her days in the space pressed between thin paper, her body forgotten in the corner of the window. And finding some other lifetimes.
My favorite author, Patrick Rothfuss recently came out with a new book on October 28th.
When he announced it, I ran around for a few hours feeling like my heart was pumping helium around my body. That is to say that I was lighter than air, walked too fast and barely felt as if I was walking on my feet, and my voice was three octaves too high as I told every one I knew. I did not feel any of the strange, adverse, and horrible effects of my veins being filled with a gas instead of a liquid.
I read his first two books (The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, the beginning and middle chapters of The Kingkiller Chronicles) just after I graduated from college. After months of sweating through an Honors Thesis and reading the sort of thick things that get assigned to senior English majors, I took a sweet run inside his world. I also happened to be vacationing in southern California at the time, but I might as well have been in Antarctica for all that I noticed the beautiful weather.
“I’m bored,” Teiden said. He dropped his books onto the table and watched them fall, as if he thought that might be the most entertaining thing in the room but didn’t hold onto any high hopes. They landed with a firm thunk and jolted the table top.
Jace looked up. Bass paused with his finger marking the line in his book and flicked his eyes back and forth to make sure the shaking was done. Samir slid his book off the table, suspecting an earthquake, then turned to Teiden, wide-eyed. Teiden looked back at them, idly waiting for them to do something entertaining, then let our a breath, pulled out his chair and sat down.
“How can you be bored?” Bass asked. “You have six books.”
“Yes,” Teiden said brightly. “The masters were feeling very generous toward me this morning. If I’m very good, they might make me read ten tomorrow.”
Mr. Jordan met Dana on the sidewalk, arms crossed idly over his chest as she rolled into her parking space and pulled the key out of the ignition. He had a round, balding head with blonde hair in a tufting line around the back of his head that always made Dana feel like she was looking at an older, better adjusted version of Charlie Brown. He smiled at her patiently, wearing a blue polo shirt and gray slacks, his socked feet sticking out of his sandals. Obviously, something had stopped him from changing out of his work clothes, but hadn’t been urgent enough to demand he stay in his pinching work shoes.
Dana smiled at him curiously through the windshield. Gathering her purse and scarf off the passenger seat, she stepped out of the car.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hello,” Mr. Jordan said.
“Can I do something for you?” Dana asked.
“She’s doing it again,” Mr. Jordan told her.
Teiden approached the table like he was sneaking up on a small animal, each step careful and slow, and he slid a slim book across the table to Jace. Jace looked at it without turning his head from the thick tome in front of him, then watched Teiden slide slowly into the chair across from him.
Teiden watched him, with a smile that was not safe.
“What?” Jace asked.
Teiden nodded toward the book. “Go ahead.”
Jace looked at him, purposely keeping the blank questioning look on his face. Otherwise, he would have had to strangle Teiden.