“Wha — Torrin!” Feira jumped from where she sat by her bedroom window, and nearly fell from her seat. “Can’t you knock?”
“I did,” her brother replied with a smirk as he leaned in the doorway. “You got a little…”
Feira’s eyes grew wide. “A little what?”
“A little mark from the sill on your face.”
“Ha ha.” She made a face at him as she scrubbed at the indent on her cheek. “Is supper ready?”
“It will be as soon as you stop pining and moping, and change out of that ridiculousness.” He motioned to the blue silk skirt from her ball gown that she wore over her work dress, topped off by a baggy knit sweater.
“I-I’m not pining,” she muttered as pink rushed to her cheeks.
“Uh-huh… And I’m not judging. He gone again?”
Feira tossed her sweater aside, and focused on the skirt.
“Been for a while.”
Torrin scowled. “Wanna know what I think?”
“No.” Feira wiggled around as she pulled the cloth of the gown’s skirt up over her head.
“You should find yourself another boy.”
“I don’t want another boy,” came her muffled response from beneath layers of cloth.
“You all right in there?”
Her struggling stopped for a moment. “I’m fine.”
“Really, Fei. The city is full of young lads who drool when you walk by.”
“No they don’t. Nobody drools at maids.”
“Yeah-huh, they do. Problem is your nose is always stuck in a book, or your head’s up in some cloud thinkin’ of that blasted sailor.”
She started struggling again within the confines of the skirt. “You’d like him if you met him.”
“No I wouldn’t,” he retorted. Sighing, Torrin walked into the plain room and move to assist the struggling girl. “Nothing good can come from a sailor. Besides, I haven’t met him. I don’t like some sea fairing highwayman calling on my baby sister and taking her who knows where.”
“Heavens, Tor. He’s on a naval ship.”
“And that makes it better?”
Giving a despairing sigh, Feira let him help her as she finally found the hidden button that had snagged on her apron. “I’m not a baby, Torrin.”
He grunted in disapproval. “I know. You’re a young woman now. And that is suppose to make me feel better?”
“I don’t — I don’t need you to protect me.” She didn’t sound as convincing as she’d hoped to.
“You keep tellin’ yourself that… Heeeere we go,” he said as he pulled the skirt up and away. “Smart or no, you’re too pretty to be walking about without an escort.”
Feira chuffed out a soft chuckle, and tossed the skirt and her apron onto her bed. “Only ladies have escorts. You’re my brother. You’re biased.”
“Damn straight. I call it as I see it.” He crossed his arms over his chest and gave her his sternest look. “And then I catch you attacking bales of hay and trees with pointy sticks? I’d rather you learn to run faster than anyone else instead of learning how to fight –”
Before he could get the last word out Feira had flung her arms around his torso, and destroyed any chance he had of seeming dour.
“Woah, Faerie, what’s this for?”
Feira’s hug tightened. “F-For caring.”
Torrin’s wavering frown instantly melted into a warm smile, and he hugged her back. “I’ll keep bugging you about the sailor. Find a honest, wealthy, hard working young man who treats you like the world. Then I’ll be content.”
Releasing him, Feira poked him in the stomach. “Whatever, Dad.”
Torrin snorted, and tugged playfully at her ponytail. “Your face is leaking.”
“Oh, shut it,” she retorted, pushing him away and heading out to the room to go downstairs as she wiped at her eyes.
“Shut it? Shut it?! Ooph! I’ve been shot!” he cried, grasping at his chest.
Feira snickered and padded down the narrow stairs. “I smell burning!”
“What? No you don’t. I took all the food off the hearth.”
“Oooh… Is that smoke?”
“Don’t say that!” Torrin shouted, darting after her. “I haven’t burned anything all week!”
“You made it all the way to Tuesday!” she shouted back, squealing as he chased her into the kitchen.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Inaris gazed out her front window into the dark as the light from Drewett’s lantern disappeared down the road. “Good for you, Jade. Now you’ve gone and done it.”
Brushing her knuckles over a smooth cheek his scratchy beard had kissed she sighed, then promptly abandoned the window to began tugging furiously at the strings of her cossetted vest. “Bloody hell,” she grumbled.
It had been a year since he‘d left, revealing everything to be lies. A year since she wasn’t rich enough, or not well bred, or good enough. And it had been a year since she turned her back on him and left the Mark to end up in this backwater little town. She was going to be free. She was going to traipse around the realm and do whatever she damned pleased. She’d be with who she wanted and never tie herself down….
Think y’might be properly th’most amazin’ woman I ever met.
All of the tiredness that crept up on her earlier in the night had vanished, and she cast every ounce of clothing aside except for her long, thin blouse that she now unbuttoned well below her breasts. Tossing her swooping bangs out of her eyes in a futile, irritated gesture, she lit a fire in the hearth and tromped back into her little bedroom. Being cold fueled her frustration at herself, and the shivering that set upon her she gladly accepted as punishment… before promptly wrapping herself up in an over-sized blanket and returned to the front room to plop down before the hearth.
He said he loved her. Did he really? She’d been told that before, more times than she cared to remember, and not all of it from the one man she’d thought had spoken the truth. What was love, but a bunch of lies bound in copper, and silver, and hungry smiles?
But this one was different. How, by all the gods, he had slipped in past her walls and made her suddenly consider being (of all things) an honest woman was well beyond her. He wasn’t like the last one… aside from the broad shoulders which she didn’t mind one bit. No, he didn’t have a long, golden mane, or eyes like the blue sky over the inland sea. Most would find him unremarkable… And for some reason she didn’t want to sell him anything. She wanted to give. The glint in his green eyes, the curve of his bearded smile, and the feel of his hand brushing against hers made her feel that terrible awful warmth inside, beyond the desire to make him smile more, that she had only known once.
Damned Farmer, singing sad songs to his goats, conning ale, not believing in dragons, and looking at her like she wasn’t just a conquest. Sometime we’ll build a castle or sommat, that’ll show ’em.
He said he loved her. How could he? A part of her told her that suddenly worrying was ridiculous, and a part of her said he’d say about the same. As guiltless as she’d always been concerning her past, she felt that she could be ill at the prospect of telling him. He would ask, eventually, about her brand, and tattoo, and where she was really from. He would want to know why she kept her hair short, and hated her father, and if she’d ever taken a life.
Inaris bundled the blanket up tighter around her, and flopped over to lay on the rug on the floor in a puddle of self-pity. She had told him her name. The gods be damned. She had said she loved him too. Did she really? Did she love the way he cursed, and didn’t believe in ghosts, and couldn’t read to save his life? Yes, somewhere deep down, she knew did.