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We'll Fly Away
Tue Dec 12, 2006 15:55 (XFF:

Regression: it was what it was called when the world crashed on your head and you retreated to the first safe place you could think of. In Mietatte’s case, it was underneath her bed. She guessed she was odd to have so many boltholes, but what did it matter? Some people thought they could be safe behind just a locked door, but Mia hadn’t even closed hers – she knew the truth. When someone wanted to hurt you, no door ever constructed could stop them, and if you let them in to hurt you, well, they were bound to make you wish you’d never been born. Her eyes wide and dry, she stared up at the dusty slats that held the mattress of her bed off the floor, watching idly the webspinning prowess of a spider.

Here in the dusty dim safety of her bastion, she turned the afternoon over like a strange coin, one side tarnished and the other bright. Yes, she was mistaken, she was wrong, she’d made a giant faux pas. He’d forgiven her before, but she’d never pawed at him like that either. Her brow furrowed, she sighed: even being dumped unceremoniously on her behind hadn’t changed the way she felt about him except to make her doubt whether she’d thought anything through properly. She knew she hadn’t: it had been a sudden bright flash and an impetuous dive. If she’d been smarter, bided her time and left a subtler hint, maybe it would have been different. Now, it was academic – it had never been and would never be. She could dissect and analyze it for errors, but she couldn’t excise the hard, painful band in her chest, making it hard to breathe.

Light above, but she’d gone and speared herself this time. The dust made her nose itch, and her eyes were watering despite herself, so she inched out of her hiding place. Really, she had no idea what had possessed her to send her under there: if she was ever caught under the bed, she’d die of embarrassment. Checking the empty hallway self-consciously, she sat down on the end of her bed. Other than the bottom of her bed, her room was neat: all that was missing was the discarded Library book she’d left behind in the Garden. Its empty space on her shelf mocked her, whispered of fines and shouted of responsibility at her. There was nothing to do but go and see if she couldn’t find it, she knew – she’d been lucky to be allowed to borrow such technical works at all. The most valuable books, the ones closely guarded for the sisters and copied painstakingly by novices, weren’t meant for Accepted hands, but Mia had pleaded and begged and promised.

Methodically, she shook out her skirts, folded back the sleeves of her gown, caught stray, escaping curls. The reflected girl in the mirror looked a bit pinched and as though she had a wicked allergy – reddened eyes and a moist nose – but that was nothing to excite commentary. Teeth grimly clenched, she closed her door behind her and took to the halls. Despite the day’s beauty and the lingering summer warmth, the halls were distressingly full and took some time to maneuver. She hated to be in the center of a crowd, and so she picked her path around the busiest halls, risking reprimand from the Reds who thought any child not located in the common herd was “up to something”. She guessed she was, but any Brown would slap a Red who kept an Accepted from rescuing a book. A quick grin lit her face at the thought of that fight, but slid off again – what was she doing, smiling? Soradrelle wouldn’t listen to that joke later.

Her smile died and she turned the handle to the Garden’s door with a businesslike flourish. So she was alone again: what was it, really? She’d survived before, but she had begun to depend on Soradrelle, his ready smile, his quick wit, his flashing fingers. She’d become accustomed to having him near, night and day and day and night: was she mistaking that convenience for love? How would she know love, anyway, she mused, eyeing the sweep of garden. She’d never been shown the emotion in her memory, short as it was. There was the hazy fuzz of her earliest recollections, the ones that she only touched during Irian’s thorough counseling, and then there were memories of the Tower. Some of those were fuzzy, too: she had lived in a state of panic for some time. Soradrelle was there, though, growing older as the memories grew clearer. Yesterday, today, but not tomorrow – was that the price for becoming aware of the voids in her life?

They always read at the same tree. In the first flushes of sunset, she searched diligently: in the seat, under the bench, in the clipped grass, in the unruly flowers. It didn’t show up. What she did find, half-hidden in the depths of the thorny hedge, made her own troubles seem tiny and far away, like gnats drawn to blood. Weakly, it pecked, trying to defend itself from her clumsy clutches. She stared down at the bird with the twisted wing and felt a deep sorrow. How could she be worried about something as silly as a friend who didn’t kiss her? Next to this, that trouble seemed piffling, indeed. Thinking quickly but with her heart and not her head, Mia wrapped the struggling animal in her skirt. It was a small bird, a summer songbird, but it struggled with more effort than it seemed it should possess. She understood perfectly, though: when you fought for your life, you used everything you had and anything you could borrow.

The bird struggled, but then it was still. Mia feared for its life but knew better than to peek: she too had been a hunted thing, and knew that desperation. Still, by the time she had gained her room, and slipped her small patient into a box, her hands were shaking. The panicked bird’s eyes rolled as she bent her dark head over his wing, but he had no energy to escape. She left him as she changed her dress and searched her drawers and books. When, more composed, she returned, the bird was laboriously attempting escape. She stared down at it, feeling filthy: it would hurt so much more before it was better. Should she simply let it go? If she opened her window, it would try to free itself and fall. Would that be kinder? She shook her head and twisted a berry from its stem. She’d taken it for the headaches that debilitated her, but it should work on an animal, and if it did not, well, at least it was one that would have died anyway.

The bird’s eyes dimmed, grew glassy: it stopped struggling and was still.

Mia worked quickly, engrossed in her task. First she had to clean the wound, remove the broken feathers, examine the break. She had no Healing ability, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t learn to use herbs and poultices same as any village herbwife. The fact that she could read now was a boon, and as she twiddled in the mess with Air, she consulted the herbals that she had borrowed and cadged from Yellow sisters and the Library’s copious stacks. Anyone could make a splint of wood and wire, and that was her intent: a cage for the broken wing of a songbird destined for an entirely different cage. No one could heal a wing so that it would take the air again, she knew: it was simply a task too intricate. Or was it only that no one had ever cared to?

She shrugged, helplessly, and pushed on. She cared.

Some hours later, with darkness clinging at last to the glass panes of her window, Mia sat back, watching the bird’s tiny chest rise and fall. The single berry had led it into comatose sleep, and she wasn’t sure it could recover. If it could, it would wake to a wire and wicker cage, both around it and on it: what then? She felt numb, except for the burning ends of her fingers, where wire twists had stabbed her in the depths of her work. She was raw, too, but inside, where a bandage couldn’t help her. Working her fingers against the smooth wood of the desk, she began to clean up her space: there was blood from the bird, blood from her own stabbed fingers, twists of wire and slices of wood. Mia’s desk always had such oddities in it: she saved strange bits she found here and there compulsively, stuffing them into her desk. She didn’t know why she cached such things, except that they were useful, but she did know she wasn’t the only Accepted who kept such bits and baubles. It was one less thing to be so self-conscious about, at least.

She was so used to seeing him in her room that she had to look twice. The hours of work had worn her misery to a duller ache, and she had decided she’d apologize in the morning, when he’d had time to discard whatever idea had so disgusted him – if she could find him. She certainly wouldn’t write him a note! Allael might talk to him for her, but now Mietatte wouldn’t have to ask – Sora had come himself. Although she felt a bit guilty, she’d been expecting a lecture, and she’d intended to sit through every word, just because, she couldn’t keep the smile off her face. He’d come back, she could apologize, this would all be over – and she didn’t have to stay up all night, worrying about it! “About earlier,” she blurted, putting a hand on her desk to help herself up, “I didn’t mean –“

Mia had been hoping to say something eloquent, like, “I didn’t mean to upset you,” but she never finished her apology. She couldn’t stop staring at the floor. His hand was on her shoulder, then, he was kissing her. How had he gotten across the room so quickly? It took her a moment to process this startling new development, but her body knew what to do before her mind had wrapped itself around the concept. One traitorous arm curled around his shoulders, and she had a second to wonder how this even worked – he was so much taller than she was. Pleasure chased her thoughts away, at least for a few minutes. She had to admit it worked better when you weren’t thinking about how it worked. Kissing was, in fact, one of the few things that worked best when you weren’t thinking at all.

It was over too fast, but she didn’t think she could have taken another second anyway. She felt a little drunk, a lot relieved, and a touch sad. It’d been everything she was hoping, and now it was over: it was like her first Sunday, with races and games. She’d planned what she wanted to do for weeks, and then the day had come and it had rained. She’d enjoyed herself anyway, but it had been bittersweet. This was only sad because he’d only do it once. Mia had forgotten her apology, but that was fine. She leaned against him, breathing in that odd herbal Infirmary smell. What came next, she wasn’t certain: she cast a glance at the cage and its stirring victim. Maybe there was hope. Hope for all three of them.

  • Taking FlightAccepted Soradrelle, Sat Dec 9 15:02
    Soradrelle fled from Mietatte’s bush as if the Dark One himself were after him. Perhaps he was - Soradrelle had resisted the temptation presented to him in the form of his friend and student,... more
    • We'll Fly Away — Accepted Mietatte, Tue Dec 12 15:55
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