Friday, February 15, 2008

Chapter 33

XXXIII

Sangwine stood with purpose. It was an entirely wasted gesture, seeing as how he was the only person in his room, but at least it made him feel a bit more assured.

The healer had come and gone. He decided to conveniently forget the fact that he had been inexplicably attracted to her for reasons he couldn’t explain, for he logically should never have found a human attractive in the first place. Even so, she had done her work well. He was clean and whole; the debacle with the pixie was as if it had never happened, and the day was his to possess.

Because he had been cared for by his brother, he also knew there was still hope in the world. This hope he decided to cling to with a tremulous hand and ride it into new waters.

After all, no one knew what tomorrow could bring. The future wasn’t clad in stone, and if it was, at this particular moment he was determined to chip away at it until something new presented itself.

He strapped on his sword; his father’s sword. He felt a surge of affection and loyalty for his dead father and a certain pride and deep love for his roots at the feel of this blade at his side. It girded him up as if done by an ancestor, one who he didn’t know, but knew him, knew he held momentous keys to the future, and held him upright with unseen hands.

Upon the street, he felt the urge to whistle strike him. It was a road he’d walked down numerous times; a horrible, muddy road, but as it was a road he might never see again it suddenly was adorned with more vivid colors, and the mud wasn’t quite so unpleasantly deep. Although he wouldn’t call the city air fragrant, it certainly wasn’t so odious as it seemed to be when last he walked this way, and he thought he might have heard a bird chirping somewhere in the distance.

This was certainly an excellent day, Sangwine’s thoughts told him. It was a day ripe for welcomed change.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Standing on her front porch, Bactine held firmly to the post as she leaned upon it. The wind blew in a different direction, today. Her skirts flew blithely with it, beating lightly against the backs of her legs, and she fixed her eyes on the wall of the city.

She’d returned with Xylic three days ago. It had been wonderful to see her mother again, but Bactine had never been able to shake the intense feeling of dismay at being back here and not out there, in the world.

Her mother had perceived the difference almost immediately. She’d been kind enough to wait until Xylic left to bring it up, and even then she was fairly vague about it.

So, Bactine, she’d said to her, while peeling potatoes again. How was your trip, really?

It was fine, mum, said Bactine, barely trying to hide her restlessness as she picked wanly at a stray straw coming from the foot of the broom she was repairing.

Her mother hummed and gouged an eye from a potato.

Bactine sighed harshly and threw the broom down, then proceeded to glower at it.

Casting a sidelong glance in Bactine’s direction, Mrs. Gallagher picked it up and put it aside.

Throwing brooms around isn’t going to change anything, she said, moving onto the chopping phase of potato manipulation.

Then what is? asked Bactine helplessly.

I would think that would be you, she replied, fairly enigmatically. Enigmatic wasn’t really like her mother, so Bactine was somewhat confused by the development. Regardless, she let it drop.

I’m going to see Xylic, said Bactine, exiting with true teenaged angst mixed with apathy.

Xylic hadn’t been much consolation, however, for he’d been much the same as he always was. Boring, really, now that she thought about it. He never changed. Why did he never change? She wanted to throw things at walls.

Finally, this third day, she’d had enough. Something was going to be different today, and she didn’t care what it was, as long as it meant change. She would always hold her mother and father in the most affectionate of regard, but Bactine had decided it was time for her to find something for her own in the world. What would be hers, she didn’t know, but she wanted it because it would belong to her.

Snowball meowed.

Bactine turned to see her cat sitting upright on the old chair Xylic always sat in, raising his head in a beckon to be petted. She obliged him, in an already sentimental way, and Snowball was quite pleased with the attention.

The breeze brought with it the scent of lavender and she wanted to go.

Snowball, take care of the chair, will you?

Snowball sniffed Bactine’s hand. Bactine grinned, then allowed her smile to fade as she secured her cloak around herself.

She stepped down one wooden porch step; a second; then, with one last look at the door of her house she turned her back to it.

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