Legal Theft Flash Fiction: The Next Breath (636 words)

The house slouched between its neighbors, too old to lean out on its walls or keep its eaves straight. The siding had been replaced recently, the windows cleaned up and cared for. The flowers in the front box bloomed brightly and threw thick leaves over the sides. Still, the house looked empty, like it had exhaled whatever air it had a long time ago and never found the strength to take the next breath. There was no hard edge to the place, no severe straight lines, but the curves all bowed inward, gaunt.

Tarra sat across the street, bag slung over her shoulder and watched the front of the house. She fingered the strap of her bag, absently tucked the collar of her jacket tighter around her neck. There was no sound inside. The curtains hung limply in the upper windows. It was empty now, she supposed.

It was almost half an hour before she spotted Deidei making her way down the street toward her. The older woman walked slowly, carrying a large carpet bag in front of her in both hands. Her gray hair was combed back from her face and braided, neat, like always. She approached Tarra with a smile.

“You could have waited inside,” Deidei said. “Unless you’re that eager to leave us and get to your new ship.”

Tarra glared at her in a friendly way, knowing it was an attempt at a good ribbing. “I could have,” she agreed. “But Momma always used to say that it was hard for a house to change owners. It’s easier if one person leaves before the next one tries to call it hers, otherwise the house gets confused and no one really owns it.”

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