“Faerie, look at me.”
Feira didn’t respond as she scrubbed the already clean counter-top.
Torrin sighed heavily and rubbed at his eyes. “Feira… Feira, please. It’s well past midnight. What in Emeleth’s name is going on?”
She shook her head and took up a towel to dry the lacquered wood.
“… Did someone stop by?”
Frowning, Torrin stepped forward in a swift motion, meaning to stop her furious working but froze as she shrunk away from his hand like a frightened animal. “What’s wrong?”
Turning her tear-stained face towards him, she brushed a hand at her flushed cheeks, and her brother could make out the beginnings of shadows under her eyes. “A man stopped by,” she said quietly. “He said that they would come collecting in two months.” Feira looked up at him. “Tell me the truth, Torrin.”
The young man’s chest deflated. “Shit.”
Feira’s small hands balled into fists. “T-That’s and un-understatement,” she muttered, voice breaking up from fear and anger. “What did you do?”
Torrin groaned in frustration. “Our lovely aunt has apparently borrowed money in my name.”
Feira blinked, staring at him with wide eyes.
“I’ve already tried to talk to the lender. They don’t care that it wasn’t really me. It’s in my name, and they want the money repaid. I didn’t –”
“You weren’t going to tell me, were you?” she asked accusingly, interrupting him.
Torrin shook his head.
“How much is owed?”
Her brother hesitated. A minute passed before he drew out a notice from his pocket and handed it over.
Feira’s eyes grew wide as she read the figure, and her hands gripped the paper. “So much?”
Torrin’s face turned pale as he fixed his gaze on his socked feet.
“… Do you know who it was that came by?”
His eyebrows drew together in a dark frown. “He didn’t… Did you recognize him?”
“Some faces are hard to forget.”
“Gods, Faerie… You poor thing. I’m so — I didn’t think. I didn’t think.” Looking pained, he reached for her again, slowly this time. “What one was it?”
She pulled away, this time out of fear of her own reaction than from being touched. But he kept his arm outstretched, and she relented, finally allowing him to pull her into a protective embrace. “The one with the broken nose,” she muttered timorously.
Torrin’s arms around her tightened, and she wondered if it was to hold her tighter, or from anger. “If you see him… any of them again you tell me. They so much as threaten you I’ll –”
“You won’t do either of us any good if you’re thrown in jail or killed,” she muttered, sniffing as moisture welled in her eyes. “We are safe here. We won’t have to worry if they try to cause trouble on the Lord’s property.”
Several minutes passed before Torrin again spoke. “I don’t want you out at night.”
“NO. You will be on the estate before sunset,” he ordered sternly, gripping her arms and forcing her to look at him. “You tell me if you’re being followed, or even if you think you’re being watched.”He hugged her again. “I’ll… I’ll make this go away, Faerie. I promise. I just need to pay them back and they’ll forget about us.”
Feira wiped her tears on the front of his shirt, breathing in his smell of soap, hay, horses, and mulled cider in attempt to banish the scent of burnt syrup that clung to the inside of her nostrils. “I think… I think he thought I was mother for a minute.”
Torrin sighed, and finally released her. “Promise me you won’t try to help.”
She swallowed, a knot forming in her throat, and nodded. “I promise.”