We signed our names in the wet sand, every line made of deep, stuttering shadow in the light of the fire. You dug in deep, carved the letters into the ground with a wet piece of wood washed up from somewhere else. I drew my name with bare fingers, and the sand caught under my fingernails.
When we were finished, you brushed off your hands. I rubbed my palms down my jeans. You glanced over our work, as if you were looking for misspellings.
The tide was going out. For a few hours, our signatures would stay. I wondered whether they would blow away when the sand dried, or wash away when the tide came back in. Idly.
The sand didn’t matter much. The durability didn’t matter at all. We only needed to see our names written out, the promise made into every sort of memory.
I wanted to, but the motion didn’t seem large enough, and I folded my hands together to keep from bursting out of my skin.
“From now on,” You said, and looked at me, to seal the deal.
“We settle for absolutely nothing,” I murmured.
You nodded, and I took another sure breath.
Seryn spread her fingers and, after a moment’s hesitation, added blue fire to the pile of bramble and flame. The taste of the smoke changed, cooling on her tongue, icing the inside of her chest. Her muscles tightened with the cold flow of energy running down from her shoulders. Standing very still, she watched, blinking away the ash that landed on her cheeks.
She only felt the heat on her face and her fingers. The rest of her had narrowed to a cool line standing in a breeze that cut through her. The fire bit deeper into the wall, winging out to either side.
Her bones were too light. She forgot their edges until her stillness began to ache and she shifted her heels on the soft ground just to remember she had them.
And she snapped her fingers wider.
Jasen took a single step into his kitchen and stopped. He had not expected to find Jennika standing by his small square table, but seeing her there, he couldn’t muster any surprise to see her pocketing something off the sideboard. He wasn’t sure what it was, wasn’t even entirely sure that she had picked it up or flicked her fingers into the fold of her jacket. Still, he thought he saw her, so he knew she’d done something.
“If you take that, I will hunt you down,” he said.
She looked at him steadily, blinked once, and let her eyebrows drift upward.
“I will hunt you down,” Jasen repeated. He took another step into the room. “With horses, or hounds, or mountain lions, or crocodiles, or whatever it takes to track a little slithering weasel like you.”
She cocked her head to one side, very careful not to move otherwise. “Do crocodiles have a good sense of smell?”
“I don’t like that look,” Terius said quietly.
There was no urgency in his tone, so Jaera finished reading her sentence, braced lightly against the cabin wall behind her, and looked up, slow.
The wind was running calm on the water, waves whispering politely back, while the ship wove through on a long lean. It slid one way on the ocean, took a breath, rolled back the other way, and it was easy, just sitting there. She had one heel set lightly against the planks, and her other leg tucked beneath her. Her book rested on her knee. The breeze sifted down her back, cool and comfotable, and Terius sat just beside her, tucked into the corner with his booted foot idly resting against the sole of hers. Easy.
It was difficult to sneak into Toar’s yard. He’d long ago abandoned any thought of making it pretty, trimming it down to plain grass and a looping stone walkway left over from where someone had thought to wander in a garden. There was a center stone circle, and red stone walls higher than a man’s head, and between the two, voices and footsteps tended to carry a whispering echo. He had one tree in the back corner, a thick-headed, pliable thing that cast sweet shade, but wouldn’t harbor anyone trying to climb over the wall in its branches.
But occasionally, Jaera realized, its breezy rustle was enough to cover the squeak of the back gate.
She jumped, catching a sharp breath, when Zain appeared beside her on the back steps.
Dainna was packing, folding her clothes like it was just laundry day, just another chore to be done. Her bag sat on her bed, opened lazily. But the table beside her bed was clear, all her little precious things that usually went reverently untouched stowed away already. Her walls her bare. Her bed was made with all the blankets and pillows usually stowed in the back of her closet. Ren stopped in her doorway, pushed back by the uncomfortable feeling that she’s already abandoned the room.
“You don’t have to go,” he said.
She flicked her eyes toward him between stacking folded shirts into her bag. “Yes, I do,” she said, and she smiled as she said it, like he’d made a joke.
“No, you don’t,” he said.
“I made a promise,” Dainna said. “A long time ago. When he called for my help, I would go.” She shook her bag once, to settle what was already inside. Then she looked at Ren, apologetic. “He called…”
She was wearing a gray dress, tight to the waist, then flared to the knee, a flirty little thing that swayed as she walked into the diner on her high heels. It was not what he’d expected her to be wearing, but somehow he knew it was her. Her hair hung around her shoulders in loose curls, and her purse slouched under her arm, and everything about her seemed like a gentle curve, but he caught the sharp line of her. Every move she made – even the swaying of her skirt – felt deliberate.
She pulled open the glass door, stepped through, paused as if she was adjusting one foot inside her shoe and combed her fingers through her hair to undo whatever damage the breeze outside had done. All the while, she glanced around the diner, like it was unfamiliar to her, like she’d never been there before. It took Adam a moment to see that she was checking the tables, one at a time, and as soon as he saw it, he questioned it again. Maybe she was fixing her hair. Then her gaze stopped at his table, the box of cigarettes in front of him with the lighter stacked just so on top of it. She smiled like she knew him.
Adam looked away.