At the age of ten, my father knew exactly what he would be. Like his mother and his grandmother, he woke one night to an over-warm room, the walls glowing in cascading white-blue-black from the liquid flames pooled around his hands. Like his mother and his grandmother – all keimon born from keimon – he had known it was coming, and did what any ten-year-old should have done in the quiet confidence of midnight: he raised his hands and let the light chase the shadows for hours.
By the time he woke up, he had figured out how to shape the fire, so rather than tell his mother the precious good news, he walked a delightfully clumsy starburst of an animal across her path. He said it was a fox. She said it was a little monster with three legs and a second head where its tail should have been. They both grinned at each other.
It was a beautiful gift, all smooth corners of blue paper that gleamed like moonrise on the water, and leaping white ribbon. It felt nice in Chaela’s hands as she picked it up off the table, the paper more cousin to cloth than tree. She would have been content to leave it just as it was for a long while if Leonathan hadn’t been standing in the doorway, quietly watching and waiting. She turned it around in her hands once, letting the white light of the lamps catch and dance one more time across the top of the box. She could hear something shift inside, something muffled and nestled, and perfectly content to be held inside.
Chaela wobbled on her new heels as she turned back toward the door, the shoes still stiff around her feet. She let herself slide into it, let her feet slide out and stood on the carpet in her bare toes. Her wide skirt hid the shoes still, but she sank back to her usual height. Looking up at Leonathan – back to the way she was accustomed to looking up at him – she smiled, more to herself than to him. She felt silly for kicking out of her shoes. And she felt better. They only met each other’s eye for a moment while she smiled. He smiled back, but she could feel the weight in it. She looked back to the gift in her hands quickly, and pulled in a breath, pull the next moment along more quickly as well.
Gently, she slid the ribbons out of their knots. Chaela let them fall around her fingers. The seams of the paper were laid in carefully, but with the ties gone, it was easy to slip her fingers between the layers. She peeled the paper back too, careful not to turn the thin-walled wooden box inside upside down. The lid sighed as she lifted it.