Just a little girl

She bounced up and down on her toes. The ribbon in her hair flounced as well. It slid, just a little bit. Down the brown strands she had attached them to, all by herself. They told her little boys shouldn’t wear bows. She didn’t see how that was relevant. As a little girl, it should make sense for her to wear a bow. She waited for someone to compliment her on it. A little red bow, right above her right temple. Where she had always wanted one to be.

A little girl with her bow.

As the world falls apart

There came the day when the vicious beasts no longer had names that anyone knew. At least, not anyone nearby. Without a name, without anyone who knew anything about them, these monsters became much more difficult to kill when they got in the way.

“If we come across another slaughtered town…”

Toiréasa didn’t have to finish her sentence, Saoirse knew how it would end. It felt like they had been away from home for so long, tracking down the origins of these changes, this destruction. This swampland used to be a grassy field, according to the maps, according to the last people they had talked to. Some still believed it was grass. The change hadn’t happened slowly.

“-did you see that?”

Saoirse first looked at Toiréasa before following her line of sight. First it looked like a body. Then it tried to move.

Someone was, despite all odds, alive.

Without a reason

“She’s the Baroness of Castlehaven.”

When the children realized this, most actually comprehended what that meant. The fact she kept coming here didn’t make sense, because she was the Baroness. Glad found it suspicious. What could she want with them? She kept coming here, she kept bothering them all, she had to want something, she had to be expecting something from them.

“Why do you think she bothers with us?” asked Winter. Maybe it was to herself and he had just managed to overhear it. She wasn’t talking to him. He didn’t have to respond.

Winter’s sister wasn’t listening, she was playing with a ball. It bounced up against the wall and back towards herself. If she missed it, Winter caught it to toss it back to her.

“Does it matter?” That was the girl he didn’t know the name of. She tended to hug herself and stay in corners. She never bothered him. For a little girl, she was okay.

Winter stared at her sister. “She’s too nice.”

He hadn’t expected that from her. He glanced over, accidentally catching her gaze.

“What do you think, Golden?”

He wanted to retract, to move away, to pull his eyes out and throw them away. But there it was, a name that wasn’t Gladiolus. Something to distance himself from who he used to be.

He wished he had thought of it before. His golden eyes kept on her icy blue ones. “Never trust someone who seems altruistic.”

However, perhaps he should have kept his vocabulary closer to the level of children younger than ten years old.

Looking for Shachaf

“I’m looking for my brother.”

The man on the bench stared at Zamir as though he were speaking another language. If Zamir hadn’t seen him speaking and listening in this language just the day before, he would have thought he’d gotten the wrong man. For man it was, despite the feathers which grew from his skull in place of hair.

“Shachaf. I know you worked with him. I’ve seen you talk before.”

The standstill held a moment longer, before the avian man broke out in a wide grin. His teeth were impossibly crooked. “Looking for the person who does the looking?”

Zamir sighed. Why had Shachaf dealt with such people all the time?

Only so many excuses one can take

“Did you hear me? You heard me.”

He lay on the couch. “I think we’ve done this before.”

“And we’ll continue to have this until the trash goes out.”

“Can I boycott summer?”

She rolled her eyes. “Look, if you don’t want to do the trash, I’ll do the trash. But if this is going to work, you’ll have to take up the slack somewhere and you can’t use the heat every summer as an excuse.”

“What can I use as an excuse?”

That was the wrong answer, he found, as he had to call a friend to stay the night at when she had kicked him out into the heat.

More than growing taller

If there was someone she had looked up to since she was a child, it was her father. That wasn’t to say literally, the moment she realized she was going to be taller than him. He shrugged it off.

“Well, not everyone can pull off the short look like me, kid.”

She should have enjoyed it, growing up. There was something that told her that some of the other people she knew who hadn’t gotten as tall would have enjoyed her height. But all she could do was look down on her father and remember the days he could pick her up. Those memories were becoming more and more vague in her mind.

She didn’t like realizing the things she hadn’t noticed as a child. She didn’t like hearing some of the things her father said to her now, that she knew he never would have told her before.

“I’ve taught you some bad habits. Ah, well. I guess we’ll both have to work on those.”

If there was someone she admired, that time tried to take from her, it was her father.

While the memories of implicit belief became more and more nostalgic, the admiration stayed the same.

Then the admiration grew.

When the mountain fell

When the mountain fell out under them, the only one of the three who didn’t fall was the Gévaudan hound. She bounded up to the next stable place. Saoirse saw that the beast would have taken Toiréasa with her, if Toiréasa’s cloak could have withstood the canine’s teeth.

Maybe it meant she was in a better position than Saoirse though, who fell straight down. The rocks and dirt scraped against her and she knew if she grabbed with a finger she would break any of them. She slowed herself down with her boots on one side and her shoulder on the other.

Finally she slowed. It wasn’t that bad, once Saoirse had the ability to look over her situation. She could climb right back up, once she caught her breath.

Toiréasa called down to her and Saoirse toyed with the idea of pretending this was it. The corner of her mouth twitched.

She opened her mouth.