Careful so the guard wouldn’t notice, he tossed his handkerchief over the side of the cart. Someone would find it.
Jasen had not been told who. Not when Kynbessne and Jennika explained the plan to him, all three of them gathered around the expertly drawn, delightedly stolen house map. Not a few minutes later when he had asked. Explicitly. Someone would watch the manse while they were inside, and someone would have a way to signal Jennika if the mistress of the house returned while they were still scouting inside.
Kynbessne had looked resolute and patient when he questioned her, perhaps protecting an associate who she’d rather he didn’t arrest. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Jennika, however, had cocked her head slyly, her constant smile tilting her mouth. Like she might just be enjoying the spectacle of leaving him in the dark.
Under starlight, everything turned to ice. Hills and stones and flower petals, none of them sharp enough to hold a shine, gleamed like water on the edge of melting. The air cooled and calmed, only numbing fingers and cheeks after they had stood in it for a while. Small sounds carried, clinks and clatters, all of them too hard in the silence, and ringing smoothly back into the nothingness.
It was too early in the year for the cold to bite deep. Still, Loena could feel the heat of Ami’s hand in hers as if there were an old coal between their palms. The air sliding into her lungs felt like weak peppermint, unable to hold onto the chill all the way down her throat. She sucked it in, grateful for the feeling, for the proof that she was not turning to ice herself.
At the corner, they waited, and finally, Ami squeezed her fingers.
There was a good moon that night, bright like white fire, happily fat, and floating high. It painted the night in brighter tones than usually, turned it friendly in a way that spread rumors about the coming sunrise. The night seemed destined to be shorter than usual, and more sweet for all the white and gray that laid calmly between the still, black shadows.
And Olissa glared at the moon, arms crossed over her knees, leaning back on the rooftop.
There were some nights built for trouble, and there were others built for trouble. She liked both, but only the former was good for working, for sneaking, for stealing and escaping and earning.
His hair sort of glowed in the dark. It was just that blond. Zain thought it, and instantly said it out loud, as usually happened when struck so perfectly with consciousness.
Terius barely moved, except to pull his eyebrows together in the firmest confusion he ever wore.
Jaera’s eyes widened, just a little, in question. “Yes,” she said lowly. “Terius’ hair glows a little bit.”
And Zain supposed that she would be the one to know, having walked so many times with him, too late at night, after stealing too many hours together.
It shouldn’t have been any surprise. Zain and Terius had known each other since the first days that they were learning how to walk, and Zain had always been accused of seeing too much, never nothing at all. They were cousins, the two of them, and Zain had blond hair too. Zain’s father had blond hair. Zain’s brothers – all seven of them – had hair that was either blond by birth, or quickly corrected itself to blond after a few days under the open sun. Terius’ father was blond, too, in that ruddy way that nearly hid the gray fading into his hairline.
Thea left Anie at home the next morning. The walls creaked in the quiet, and she did her chores as quickly as she could. She brought in water, and sand-scrubbed the floor by the back door to get rid of last night’s mud. She hung the blankets in the window to air them out, and took the refuse down to the bins at the end of the quarter, then stopped to pay up the cob for next week’s water barrel. Running back to the house, she ran straight up the stairs, grabbed a book off her table, and kept running until she jumped up onto Momma’s bed.
Momma rolled over when she felt Anie on the mattress. She tucked her arm around her daughter and put her head back on the pillow. “Read aloud?” she asked quietly.
Anie pulled her book open at the bookmark, and started where they’d left off a few days before, running her finger under each sentence as she went.
Warren eased the door open and poked his head between the jambs. The room was dark and silent, shifting in deep shades of gray. He could smell fresh air drifting in from the windows at the far side of the room. The low sigh of the wind and the cheering crickets covered over any other sighing sound in the room. Warren paused, blinking to ease his eyes into the darkness, listening hard for another breath or footstep. There were so many people itching to sneak in here. The only time he’d come close to getting caught was when he nearly tripped over another boy in the dark, and he never wanted to repeat that lung-squeezing scramble back to safe halls.
Warren listened until his eyes sorted out the blurred lines of the straight-backed chairs and square tables and lines of cabinets that turned the long room into a maze. He could make out the shelves around the outside of the room, but only at the corners of his eyes. Looking at them directly, they stayed heavily in shadow. It was an old trick of the eyes which he didn’t understand, but he’d grown used to. He looked straight ahead and waited for someone to move.