Today’s prompt is another in first person but I decided to mix it up and make it a piece of dialogue instead, working on creating a part of a story that fits with some plot bunnies of mine. I hope you enjoy it.
Elena gazed upwards, as though through the snowy boughs she could still see the birds in flight. She could hear them still. The soft and silent winter air disturbed by the rhythmic thrum of strong black wings. She squeezed her eyes shut, blinking to get out the pain. It had been so long.
Movement on her left had her straighten her shoulders and turn to Max. The heavy frown was back on his brows and those eyes that had laughed so much this morning were cold.
“Had you planned on telling me?”
She shook her head slightly. She’d wanted to avoid this pain. “No.”
His scowl deepened. She knew he deserved more than that stunted whisper, but the visit with the birds had drained her. Her eyes dropped from his after a moment, and she gently moved past him, hardly noticing the gentle tug on the hem of her dress from the brambles on the forest floor. It was hardly a forest dress, but then she hadn’t been expecting to be here. Now. With Max of all people.
He let her go but then footsteps thudded behind her and he caught up, walking silently beside her. She only came up to his shoulder so it was awkward trying to steal a glance at his face. All she could see was his clenched jaw beneath the dark stubble.
She tried to summon her voice. It felt lost somewhere, as if it too had taken flight with the flock.
“It was a long time ago.” She stumbled and his hand went to her elbow before he snatched it back. She swallowed past the hurt in her throat.
“This is why I didn’t tell you. Because it shouldn’t make a difference but it has, hasn’t it?”
He looked down at her. The tightness around his eyes might be hurt, or it might just be anger. Or both. She sighed and looked down at her feet, the white tulle of her dress now grey with snow and dirt. He sighed also and then nudged her shoulder with his side.
“Yes it has. But I’ll try to not let it. As long as you tell me the truth.”
She pulled her cloak tighter around her, trying not to remember the softness of feathers.
“When you’re part of the flock you have to follow the rules. I didn’t.”
He snorted and she risked a quick glance up at his face, softer now. “Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
A smile tugged at her mouth. “Because you know me.” His eyes shadowed and she stopped, holding fast to his arm. “You do know me, Max”. The force of her insistence had spread to her fingers and she loosened her suddenly tight grip. “I’m still Elena. I was then and I am now.”
He ran his free hand through his hair. It never failed to make her heart skip when he did that.
“Look, Elena, there’s a bit of a difference between the woman I knew and whatever you were when you flew with the flock.”
Her chin lifted and her jaw tightened. “No, Max. I am the same. That’s why they threw me out. They cast me into the storm with my wings tied. I fell through the trees. All I had left of my wings after that night was a single, solitary feather, and a lot of painful memories. If Karina and her children hadn’t found me I would have died where I was, with only blood as my shroud.”
His hand gripped her arm for just a second before he stepped back, arms crossed against his chest. She held in another sigh and looked away from his grim face. He still wore the necklace. Her hand crept out to touch it and she felt rather than saw his muscles clench.
“The Elena who gave this to you is the same person who’s standing here now.” She dropped her hand and met his eyes. “Yes. I was part of the flock. But now I belong to the Westlands. And I swear to you, no harm will come to you or yours through me.”
His hand crept up to the necklace, and the thought that he might rip it off sent her stomach down to her boots.
“I believe you mean us no harm. But after today, I’m not sure the flock will do the same.”
He was right. Biting her lip she gave a tight nod. There was nothing else to say. He’d either accept her again or he wouldn’t. It wasn’t the first time she’d had to overcome the wariness of others. They started walking back to the road in silence.
It really wasn’t the right dress to wear in a forest. The damp had crept up through her petticoats, dragging them down, and when she tried to step up onto the track she stumbled again.
“Here”. His arm went round her waist and he swung her up over the rock edge and onto the track, blessedly free of the deep snow below. Jumping up lightly beside he handed her the bag she’d dropped, holding her hand lightly as she took it.
“You’ve a hard road ahead, little bird. And I can’t promise to always understand. But I won’t give up on you. You have my word.”
Her smile was small but the feeling inside her was overwhelmingly large. For a second she felt the pressure of air through wings at her back. Then it faded.
They were silent still until they reached the wagon, but it was a companionable silence. Max broke it after he helped her up onto the padded seat.
“Where is it? The feather? Or can’t you tell me?”
Her eyes went to his necklace again and his eyes widened. “You would trust me with it?”
Leaning back on the seat, ostensibly to pool her skirts around her but really to avoid looking at his intense gaze, she said “Yes.”
This time the single, whispered word made him smile.