There was a bloody sword under the bed, kicked there as if a person’s instinct to hide it had only briefly overwhelmed their apathy for getting caught. The mis-matched blankets on the bed fell far enough over the sides to hide it, but the breeze from the window threaded the smell of it out into the open.
Dovev had walked into the room, and felt the wrongness of it before she had settled the door shut again. Inside three shallow breaths, she had found it and pulled it out. Then she sat back on her knees and stared at it, trying to understand who had put it in her room.
It was not her sort of weapon. It was too long, too hard to hide, impossible to slip up a sleeve. She had a knife she always carried with her, long and thin in its own right, but it had always fit in a sheath beneath her knee, and now that she was taller, it lay well between her wrist and elbow. She picked up others as she found them, and threw them away as she needed, but they were rarely bloody, and she would never let them grow a stink like this.
The house was quiet when Jaera woke, opening her eyes to the dim yellow light that wriggled its way through the shutters. Outside, she could hear people passing by on the street, her neighbors calling back and forth to each other, and someone pounded with a hammer, already deep in the day’s work. She was the last to wake, but she just yawned and stretched slowly. She had time.
She swung her feet out of bed and sat for a moment, blinking sleepily at the strips of light across her floor. When her thoughts started to lose their fuzzy edges, she stood up, stripped out of her nightshirt and put on the day’s shirt, breeches, and jacket. Then she finger-combed her hair enough to fit it into a braid.
Opening the door, she moved down the hall, then blinked in the brighter light of the main room as she came down the stairs. The windows were all open wide, letting in the breeze and the sunlight, and letting out the summer heat that was slowly building. The front and back doors were open as well. Jaera glanced at them, and pulled her sleeves down over her hands. She was still losing the comfortable, heavy warmth of sleep, and the air felt a little cold.
“Mornin’,” Barrett said behind her.
Hiding was not always about being covered from head to toe. Sometimes it was remembering the length of her nose, and the tips of her toes, and the exact distance from ribcage to elbow. Sometimes it was measuring bone and finding the precise narrowness of her shoulders. Sometimes it was seeing a small corner and knowing that she could fold entirely inside it without an echo.
But sometimes, Jennika knew, it was just being where no one thought to look.
So, she stood on the roof, the sun tracing her outline, her shadow lying like bold black paint on the eaves, because her bones fit better there.
Cerestine heard the front door open, then shudder shut, and she turned the next page of her book without looking up. The stained glass window spilled shards of blue and white light onto the carpet around her feet, but she had turned her chair so that only white light covered the pages across her knee. The trees and tangled walls outside were only shadows on the other side of the glass, and her hall was pleasantly dim, warm in its seclusion.
There was a moment more of quiet. Then, a light set of footsteps rounded the corner, echoed by heavier boots behind them. Cerestine glanced up without moving her head, then turned and smiled when she saw her granddaughter.
“Hello, Kadie,” Cerestine said. Smiling, she closed her book as the girl approached. Kadelyn was gentle on her feet as she had always been, but there was an evenness to her step that hadn’t been there a few months ago. She had gotten taller, too, but that was expected in a twelve-year-old. She would be taller than her mother by the time she was grown, and she was quickly learning her father’s confidence in motion.
The beach was not a good place to hide. There was very little cover, though the few heavy rocks that scattered through the surf were pleasantly hulking and the wind was sharp enough to steal the sound of heavy running breaths and careful footsteps. It took too long to find that cover, and the soft sand took footprints jealously. Even the fierce wind that swooped in from the open water couldn’t swipe them away without a few hours persistence.
The sand near the water was harder packed, wet from old tides and beautifully dark. Soft steps could hide in the top layers, and the wind scoured them away quick enough. But it kicked up loose sand as well. Everywhere but the path of prints would be still and stoic, but wherever those careful prints had landed the sand would skitter and prance, the wind catching it by the hip and spinning it in a haphazard and happy country dance. The trail stayed obvious until the next tide came up to dampen the mood.
Tamir didn’t have a green thumb, but she could follow instructions. Leave the plants with the tall blue blooms and the plants with the wide silky leaves. Don’t touch the plants with the straight stalks, because they hurt. Tear out anything with little yellow flowers, any low tiny-leaved ramblers, or anything vining on the ground. Water the low plants every day, or they’ll die. Never water the tall wide-faced flowers, or they’ll die. It wasn’t rough work, it paid enough to fill her stomach and touch her pocket, and most of it made sense.
Except for the careful instructions about the vines along the south wall of the garden. All Tamir wanted to do was rip them out by the roots, but they had to be watered each morning, then checked to be sure no insect or animal had burrowed inside. They were woven so tightly they hid the stones behind them and choked out any interloping vegetation, so at least she didn’t need to pay them that attention, but she didn’t want to touch them at all. They were too rich a green, and they twisted together like they were teaching themselves to braid. The leaves were pretty, heart-shaped and thick. White flowers tumbled down in lines, like only a few vines bothered to decorate themselves, but it made them look like art. But the smell of them was like her least favorite spice.