Day 23: Capsized
When she finally came to bother James in the storehouse, Lizzy had aged by about thirty years since she’d talked to him. Quite literally. James was not, by this, point, surprised.
Her mouth was thinner, and her new angles were unforgiving. Her hair had a defeated straightness–instead of obnoxious, it looked blonde. It was better than the goth cheerleader or pigtail anklebiter she’d been before, at least. The only estimate of her age anyone had ever given James before was old.
This, though—long black mourner’s skirt and jutting hipbones—was not the right kind of old. The threads fraying off her shoes or the mistletoe leaves wilting on her twine necklace were old.
Lizzy swept to his table and twirled like she was playing Carnegie Hall, not dust mites and an empty storehouse. The Fallavollitas had given James two sheets of paper and a pen to entertain himself while they weighed his case.
One of them was an origami boat, and the other was a drawing of a bird that was only halfway blue. When he realized Lizzy was waiting for a reaction from him, James returned to his efforts to scratch more blue ink out of the pen.
“You know, most people have a favorite,” she said anyway. Her new voice was hard as rock chips and serious sin; it snapped syllables in two. Nothing to do with Lizzy’s preening. “Sometimes the clients I meet are extraordinarily uncomfortable when I appear as a child. For some, it’s the easiest of my faces to talk to.”
“Which I’m guessing is the point,” James grumbled, avoiding her eyes. Lizzy levitated the origami boat away from him on a pretend sea.
“Very good, James. You’ll be pleased to know that you, on the other hand, are equally uncomfortable with every face I’ve showed you. Absolutely no give from you.”
She capsized the tiny boat to the ground and twirled away. Dried grass and burnt mint hit the back of James’ throat. Witches always smelled like whatever they’d been rolling in last–Lizzy had obviously been at the potions. She’d taken the polish off her nails, so James could see the dark moons of earth and dye under them.
Now Lizzy and her long skirt were somewhere behind his chair, waltzing by the boarded windows. He tracked her by the muffled sound of her shoes, and her dissonant voice as she rambled on.
“I don’t understand it, James. You must have a preference—a perception of what’s most real. Every reasoning being does. Dragon blood doesn’t make you an exception. You aren’t special. You’re legally adult by draca standards, legally consenting in most courtrooms, and complacent in your microcosm. The only thing remarkable about you is Halcyon, and he didn’t train you to be a Truth-Seer. So what is it that makes you different?”
The only thing remarkable about you. James felt a twinge in the tattoo under his arm. His pen skewed outside the lines. He tapped the nib once, twice, weighing. Save the drawing? Not worth it. Answer Lizzy? Might be worse not to.
“Dragon blood is an exception,” he said gruffly. He poured his attention into folding another boat. The rickety Witch—woman or girl or ancient thing—crept over his shoulder to observe like a spider. “So don’t try that most real bullshit—I have different selves, too. Besides, Witch, you said it yourself. Halcyon is what’s different about me. He taught me not to think if it didn’t help me. He taught me the last person I should trust is myself.”
“Shame,” she said.
James just about tore the paper. “You sound just like him.”
This scene’s draft is a bit sparse, I admit, mostly because I’m not set on its placement in the timeline yet. It know where I want it to be, but on the other hand, I need this scene and might need to prune the section I had in mind if I add any more. Why must narrative flow always play so hard to get.