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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 4 (v.1) - Chapter Four

Submitted: September 11, 2019

Reads: 28

Comments: 1

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Submitted: September 11, 2019



“So, was she a soldier or not?”

After Alina escorted Naomi out, Nell spent the rest of the dinner shooting concerned glances her way. Alina ignored them, and Nell didn’t press her. But now, as they bent to pick up dishes and food scraps, Nell turned to her and frowned.

“With her armor and her uniform, I would’ve sworn she was a solider,” she continued. “But your grandmother said she wasn’t with the Catian army. Who was she?”

It was the last thing Alina felt like discussing, but she knew Nell wouldn’t let up if she didn’t answer. “A soldier with the rebel army.”

“The rebel army?” Nell almost dropped a plate. “Since when is there a rebel army?”

“It’s been building for the past thirteen years, apparently.” Alina stacked several bowls on top of each other and sighed. “They have some grand plan to overthrow the government and change the world.”

“Rebels generally do.” Nell hesitated. “And, let me guess. This Naomi person wanted you to help lead the uprising?”

“How did you—”

“It’s not hard to work out, Alina.” Nell let out a soft laugh, though there was a sad look in her eyes. “You’re a hero to a lot of people. Any revolution would want you on its side.”

She paused, turning a cup over in her hands.

“So, what did you tell her?”

Alina felt her wife’s heartbeat quicken at the question, and she realized Nell was genuinely worried for her answer.

“No, obviously.” Nell’s face relaxed, and Alina shook her head. “I’m surprised you even have to ask.”

Gathering her pile of dishes, Nell rose and walked to the basin. “I didn’t know,” she said quietly. “Being asked to lead a revolution that could change everything— that would be hard to refuse—”

“They’re not going to change everything. I’ll be shocked if they even manage to overthrow Gilbreth’s regime. And whatever they’re going to do, I wouldn’t be any help to them.” Alina looked across the room, where the rest of her family was congregated. Ash and Isa were making animal noises at Autumn, who howled with laughter, and Alina felt a smile tug at her lips. “My place is here, not with any army.”

Nell’s response was cut off by another knock on the door. Alina groaned inwardly. Naomi must have come back for a second round of badgering.

But as she rose and looked out the window, her mood quickly lifted.

“Ahmed!” she cried, throwing open the door. “What on earth are you doing in Cod Creek?”

The twins were at her side in an instant, calling Ahmed’s name eagerly. He grinned and ruffled their curls as he stepped inside.

“Hey, Ash, Isa. Long time, no see.” Chuckling, he reached into his pockets. “Brought you guys something.”

He deposited several small chocolates in each of their hands. Ash immediately unwrapped his and stuffed them in his mouth, mumbling a “thanks” through the mouthful of candy. Isa rolled her eyes at him.

“You know, you don’t have to bring us chocolates every time you visit,” she said, turning back to Ahmed. “We’re not babies anymore.”

“Well, if you don’t want it, I can always take it back—”

“I didn’t say that!” She took a bite of the chocolate. “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.” Ahmed waved to the rest of the family before looking at Alina. “Hey. You got a second to talk?”

Another talk, so soon after Naomi’s? Alina had a sinking feeling that this wasn’t a coincidence. Still, she nodded.

“Alright. Come on.” She led him to the office and closed the door. “Why didn’t you write that you were coming? I haven’t heard from you in months! Your last letter didn’t make any sense— it said you were running off to southern Catia to become a goatherd—”

“Yeah, that was a lie. Sorry about that.” He leaned against the wall, chewing his lip, then let out a long, slow exhale. “Alright, I’ve got to come clean up front. I’ve joined the Sparrowhawk army. I’m travelling with Naomi’s group, and I know she was here earlier—”

“I see.” Alina crossed her arms, her happiness at seeing Ahmed dissipating. “And let me guess, she sent you over here to change my mind about joining your revolution.”

“She did, yes.” Ahmed grinned and perched himself on top of her desk. “I was planning on ignoring those orders and taking a few minutes to talk to my best friend. Though if you’d prefer to hear the persuasive, guilt-tripping speech she gave me, I’d be happy to recite it—”

“I think I’ll pass, thanks.” Alina tried to smile, then let out a sigh. “I don’t know, Ahmed. Am I a terrible person for not wanting to get involved with this? Naomi certainly thinks so.”

“She does not.”

“Yes, she does. Everyone does. Even Nell was surprised I didn’t even consider joining—”

“Well, for what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re a terrible person,” Ahmed interrupted. “And obviously, mine is the only opinion that matters—”

Alina swatted him on the arm, and he laughed.

“Really, though.” His tone grew more serious. “You never asked to be a hero or start a revolution. You don’t owe this army anything. And you certainly don’t owe it to them to abandon your family and risk your life for a dubious cause that has almost no chance of actually succeeding—”

“The same ‘dubious cause’ that you just joined?”

“Sure, I joined it. Doesn’t mean I’m blind.” He leaned back in his seat and ran his hand through his dark, wavy hair. “Look, Alina, whatever Naomi says, we don’t need you that badly— or at all, to be honest. Gilbreth’s regime has been horrible enough that people don’t need much motivation to band against him. They’re already inspired.”

“If Naomi really wants to inspire her soldiers, she should work on the army’s name,” Alina muttered. “Aren’t sparrowhawks tiny?”

“Small but mighty. At least, that’s what they’re telling us.” He grinned. “It is a pretty awful name. Have you seen the emblem on the armor? It’s even worse. It’s supposed to be a sparrowhawk diving for prey, but it looks more like a pigeon falling out of the sky. Forget you, what they really need to recruit is an artist.”

Alina shook her head. She knew Ahmed well enough to tell that he was babbling on to ease her conscience, and she gave him a grateful smile.

“Thank you.”

“No need to thank me, it’s the truth.” He glanced out the window. The night was completely black now, and a thick haze of gray clouds obscured the stars. “I should probably get back before Naomi becomes suspicious that I’m just hobnobbing with you. Although… there was one other thing I wanted to ask you about.”

Alina raised an eyebrow. “Should I be worried?”

“Nah, nothing serious.” He chuckled. “Does Bell’s Tavern still house guests for the night?”

“Sure. You planning on staying there?”

“Tempting as that is, I should stick with my unit and camp out.” He shrugged. “But I’ve been with the Sparrowhawk army eight months now. In three more, I’ll have two weeks’ leave. I was thinking of coming up here and staying a few days.” His eyes shone as he leaned against the windowpane. “This place is so peaceful. It’s not like anywhere else in Catia.”

“I know.” Alina opened the door to the office, then paused and grinned teasingly. “So, are you going to actually write and warn me you’re coming, or do you plan on just showing up out of the blue again? Or should I look for another letter saying you’ve become a goatherd, or a fisherman, or—”

“I had to tell you something to explain why I couldn’t write to you regularly anymore!” Ahmed sounded exasperated. “I couldn’t say I was with the Sparrowhawks, in case the letter got intercepted— it’s treason to be with them, obviously, and I don’t want to endanger my parents. The goatherd story was the only thing I could come up with.” Alina rolled her eyes, and he waved his hand. “Anyways, we’re on the move a lot, so I can’t write very often. I’ll try to send word when I’m on leave, but if you don’t hear from me, I’ll probably be here the first week of spring.”

Alina smiled. “I’ll see you in spring.”

Isa and her family left a few minutes after Ahmed did. They walked home in silence, the only sound coming from the breeze that rustled through the trees. As they mounted the steps of the house, a few flakes of snow floated down from the sky, sparkling like stars in the darkness.

“You’ve got school tomorrow,” Nathaniel said, opening the door. “Better to get to bed.”

Ash grumbled about it being too early, but Isa didn’t protest. She had caught the strange look in Nathaniel’s eye on the walk home. Not sad, exactly— tired was more like it. Empty. The soldier’s visit— and her questions about Quinn— must have reopened painful memories.

Nathaniel remained on the porch as she and Ash headed off to their rooms to get ready for bed. He was still there fifteen minutes later when Isa had changed into her nightgown and stoked the fire in her room. She hesitated, then pulled her boots back on and stepped out onto the patio beside him.

“Hey, Dad.”

“Isa?” He started, then shook his head. “You should be asleep.”

“I’m going. I just wanted to say good night.”

“Oh.” He reached out and ruffled her curls. “Well, good night, Isa. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” But she didn’t return to the house, and he didn’t tell her to. They stood there in the stillness for over a minute, staring out into the night.


“Yes, Isa?”

She took a deep breath before asking the question that had gnawed at her mind since Naomi’s arrival, though she already knew what his response would be. “Dad, what happened to Quinn? How did he—”

“Not tonight, Isa.” Nathaniel’s tone was weary. “Some other time, I promise. But not tonight.”

It was the answer he always gave when she asked about things that were secret— and their family had so many secrets. The scar on Alina’s shoulder was one of them. Her father’s fear of leaving Cod Creek was another. But the biggest secret of all, and the one that had loomed over Isa for as long as she could remember, was where her older brother had gone when he drifted away on that night so many years ago, and why he had never come back.

Some other time, some other time.

Some other time never seemed to come, and by now, Isa knew it never would.

“It doesn’t snow much in Dalt,” Nathaniel said suddenly, after a long, painful pause. “At least, not in the west, where I’m from. When I first came here, I remember how fascinated I was by it. Every time it snowed, I wanted to be out in it, dancing in the storm. Your mother thought I was crazy.”

His voice softened, and his eyes grew misty.

“She never liked the snow,” he said softly. “Neither did Quinn. They worked on a farm, and for them snow always made everything more cold and wet and messy. But I— I still love it. I love the way it floats on the wind, builds up into piles, stands out against the night sky. I swear, I could stand here for hours, just watching it fall.”

Isa hesitated, then reached for his hand.

“Can I stand out here and watch it fall with you?”

He looked down at her, and a small smile crossed his face for the first time since they’d returned home.

“I’d like that.”

Wrapping his arm around her shoulder, he kissed her forehead. Then they stood there in silence for a long time, watching the snow dance through the night.



© Copyright 2019 KathrynAcacia. All rights reserved.


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