Vanish, p.8
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       Vanish, p.8

         Part #2 of Firelight series by Sophie Jordan
 
Page 8

  Author: Sophie Jordan

  The only person I can blame is me.

  School in the pride is nothing like in the human world. We attend year-round, but never for a full day, and maybe only a few days a week depending on the course of study.

  Everyone has duties and tasks to attend to in order for the pride to function. We grow various crops, leave lines in the mountain streams for fish, occasionally hunt for meat. We also repair and maintain our current structures, fence lines, and, of course, the outer wall is always cultivated to look indigenous to the wild terrain.

  Even though we buy supplies from sporadic outings into the human world, the pride must be self-sufficient. Which is why, before my afternoon class, I head over to the library to do my part and resume my assigned duty.

  The library detail is one of the most coveted assignments. It beats plowing a field or maintaining the pride’s sewers.

  The library sits beside the school. The two buildings are attached by a breezeway. The door gives a single, muted chime as I enter, eager to see the librarian, Taya, one of the oldest earth draki in the pride. She doesn’t talk much, preferring the pages of a book to actual company, but we shared a sort of camaraderie from the years I’d been assigned as her assistant.

  I’ve always found her a fount of information. She’s not simply the pride’s librarian. She serves as historian, too—responsible for recording all significant events in the pride’s Great Book.

  She looks up from this book as I enter, pen poised in one hand over the mammoth leather-toiled tome. A page flips without touch, landing as gently as the brush of a moth’s wing.

  She never has to actually touch the pages to turn them. As an earth draki, she has influence over any material originating from the earth. Since the pages of a book derive from trees, she pretty much doesn’t have to handle anything directly in the library at all.

  She squints as I approach, the only draki I know in need of spectacles. As draki have excellent vision, I’m certain it’s a consequence of the centuries she’s spent poring over texts by dim lighting.

  “Jacinda,” she says hollowly, in a tone I’ve never heard from her before. Her features don’t move, don’t give the slightest flicker. She doesn’t even rise to move around her desk. She is completely unmoved at the sight of me. And I know she knows . . . probably heard the whispers fluttering through the misted streets of the pride since yesterday.

  I spent most of the day hiding, hoping against hope that Cassian was able to rein in his sister. Mom went out, though, and when she came back, I took one look at her grim face and knew that Miram’s work was done.

  “Hello, Taya. ” I pause to deeply inhale the musty scent of books greeting me. “I’ve missed this place. ” An awkward silence hangs on the air. “So. ” I attempt a smile. “What do you have for me to do today?”

  Taya blinks. “Didn’t anyone tell you?”

  “Tell me what?”

  Her lips purse unhappily—not because of whatever news she has to impart but because she’s the one who has to impart it. “Your position has been filled. ”

  “Filled?” I echo.

  “That’s right. ” She nods briskly.

  Then I hear it. My heart sinks as a soft hum ripples through the quiet library. It’s a bland, unremarkable tune, and I instantly know who it belongs to and who’s about to round the corner.

  Miram appears, carrying a stack of books. She stops when she sees me, her face revealing nothing. Naturally. “What are you doing here?” Her lips, very nearly the same color as her strangely neutral skin, barely move.

  “I work here. At least I thought I did. ”

  “You thought wrong. Lots of things have changed since you left. ”

  I’m beginning to see just how many.

  Taya looks back and forth between Miram and me. This is probably more conversation than she gets in a week. With a faint smile and shrug of apology that lacks any real regret, she returns to her work.

  Miram waves her fingers at me. “Good-bye. ”

  Without a word, I turn and head out the door, walk past the school, ignoring the stares, the indiscreet whispers, and pointing fingers.

  I’m almost to the meeting hall when something hits me in the head. I stagger, clutch my face, more stunned than hurt. It’s a ball.

  There’s a burst of laughter, and a shouted taunt followed by children’s feet scampering away. Heat flares through me, spreading from the inside out. It hadn’t been an accident.

  Tears burn and prick at my eyes, which makes me furious. I loathe this weakness—that I would crumble over a child’s prank. I lean against the short stone wall edging the meeting hall, taking a moment to reclaim my composure. I will not cry.

  It’s hard sought. As the throbbing in my cheek really penetrates, really begins to smart, the steam builds in me.

  Closing my eyes, I sip air, cooling my lungs. It’s a dangerous feeling, this anger, this building fire inside me that wants to unleash itself. And not just because some kids hit me with a ball. It’s everything. Az ignoring me. Getting rebuffed by Taya . . . I always thought she liked me. I sniff and rub at my burning nose.

  I should expect no less. It’s no less than I deserve. These children playing in the streets—I put them in danger. I can’t ever forget that.

  Still, Will’s face rises in my mind. His changeable eyes so clear, so tender as he gazes at me. I see him so well just then that my chest clenches, the ache terrible and fierce. Longing overwhelms me. For the deep sound of his voice rolling through me. For the way he made me feel. Not like I am now. A useless creature, deserving of contempt and ridicule.

  Chapter 7

  “Well, let’s see what we have available right now, shall we?” Jabel clicks at her keyboard and peers at her monitor, and I decide it’s not in my imagination that she treats me with decidedly less warmth than before. Expected, I suppose, but still ironic considering that a little more than a month ago she invited me to every family gathering she hosted, plying me with food and drink and sitting me between Corbin and Cassian. Her son and her nephew. One way or another, she would have the fire-breather in her family. I’ve always known this was her goal.

  I stand in front of her desk and try not to fidget. She’s not looking at me right now, and for that I’m glad. I always avoid her gaze. Even though hypnos draki are unable to use their talent on fellow draki, I feel like she can get inside my head anyway, whispering her words, trying to influence my actions.

  A deep rumble of voices flows from the office behind her. Severin, I’m sure. In there with the elders. At least I don’t have to see him. Or worse—I don’t have to endure some remark about losing my duty being the least of what I deserve.

  “Ah, here we have something. ”

  I nod, eager to leave.

  Grabbing a slip of paper, she starts scrawling, saying, “There’s always room on the gutting crew. I’m putting you down for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Those are big hunting and fishing days. They can use an extra hand then. ”

  My stomach lurches. The gutting crew? I must have made a sound because Jabel gives me a sharp look. “Too good to skin and gut the food that keeps us fed?”

  I shake my head, but I’m sure the motion is slow, unconvincing. “No, but . . . is there nothing else available?”

  She snaps her gaze back to the paper and signs her name with a flourish. Ripping it from the pad, she hands it to me. “Take this with you when you report in. ”

  I take the slip and exit the office, wondering whether I should have said anything at all about needing a new duty. Would anyone even notice if I went without one for a while?

  Other than children who throw balls at my head, everyone else has been doing a good job ignoring me, treating me like I’m invisible. Even my own best friend avoids me.

  As though the mere thought conjures her, I spot Az as I descend the steps. I call her name and hurry to catch up wi
th her. She shoots a quick glance over her shoulder before whipping around again.

  I’m panting by the time I reach her. “Az, please, wait. ”

  “Why?” She keeps a brisk pace, staring straight ahead.

  “C’mon, Az. I can handle lots of things, but not you being mad at me. ”

  “Really?” Her blue-black eyes flick to me. “I wouldn’t think that would matter. ”

  “Of course you matter to me. ”

  “Really?” She makes an ugly sound. “I do? I didn’t think anyone in this pride ranked over your human!” She stops now, fury sparking from her almond-shaped eyes. “When you showed yourself to him did you think of me at all? About any of us?”

  I search her face, pleading. “Az, it wasn’t like that. Will is—”

  “Will,” she spits his name out, her hands knotted into fists at her sides. “I never thought you would sell us out for some guy. The whole time you were gone I worried about you. Even when Severin imposed his stupid rules and curfews and everyone started grumbling it was because of you, I told them they were wrong. You never would have left deliberately. I was sure your mom made you. Kidnapped you or something. How stupid was I?” She shakes her head, her hair rippling like water around her. “And the whole time you were probably off making out with some human . . . a hunter!”

  “Az, please—”

  “Were you ever going to tell me?”

  “Eventually. Yes!”

  She holds two hands up in the air like she wants to shove me from her. “Sorry, Jacinda. I just can’t talk to you right now. ” She looks me up and down. “I don’t know you anymore. ”

  She spins, her blue-streaked hair a splash of color on the chalky air. I watch, helpless, spotting Miram in the road ahead. She waves Az over. I hold my breath, thinking surely Az has not taken to hanging out with her. But Az joins her and together they walk away.

  I stand there for a moment, my throat impossibly thick. Then, conscious of how alone I am standing in the middle of the road, how pathetic I must look staring after my ex–best friend, I begin to move. One foot in front of the other. Left, right, left, right.

  I should report in to my new duty. That would be the responsible thing to do. But I don’t care. I’ve already failed everybody. I can’t disappoint them any more than I have.

  I toy with my dinner, moving food around my plate to make it look like I’m eating. Mom made verdaberry bread, but even that isn’t enough to restore my appetite.

  I glance out the kitchen window at the settling dusk, imagining Tamra and the others gathered in the field for group flight tonight. She stopped by earlier to see if I wanted to go. Selfish or not, I couldn’t do it. I’m not ready to take to the sky with my sister and everyone else. In my dreams, when I had imagined things as they should be, it was always the two of us.

  “How was your day?” Mom asks.

  Something I would like to forget. Or at least make it until tomorrow so I can say it’s officially behind me.

  My gaze drifts to Tamra’s vacant seat and I quickly look away . . . only to find myself staring at the space where Dad used to sit.

  There’s nowhere safe to look. I’m surrounded by emptiness. Dad’s chair to my right. Tamra’s across from me. It’s only Mom to my left. And me.

  “Fine. ” I crumble a piece of bread between my fingers, squishing a verdaberry. Green juice stains my fingertips.

  “Use your fork,” Mom says.

  I pick up the utensil and stab at the dark bread. I’m not about to unload on her when she looks so fragile right now. If it hasn’t been easy for me here, then I know it’s been rough on her. Especially since the pride blames her for taking us away. “And you?” I ask. “What’d you do?”

  She shrugs, twisting her thin shoulder as if to say nothing worth mentioning. I think of getting hit in the head with the ball and wonder if that happened to Mom, too. The thought makes me clench my fork so tightly my knuckles ache. “It was good to see Tamra,” she volunteers.

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Comments 6

Sanamjmd 25 August 2018 17:06
0
Why isn't it the whole book
admin 25 August 2018 17:13
0
Quote: Sanamjmd
Why isn't it the whole book

the book is entirely here, to the very last word
Sanam
Sanam 25 August 2018 20:03
0
So you are telling me that the whole book consists of 31 pages? That is complete and utter rubbish it took me less than a day to finish that honestly why puthe it online if you won't put the whole thing and another thing I really don't believe that it ends like that so please stop lying to me
admin 25 August 2018 20:15
0
Quote: Sanam
So you are telling me that the whole book consists of 31 pages? That is complete and utter rubbish it took me less than a day to finish that honestly why puthe it online if you won't put the whole thing and another thing I really don't believe that it ends like that so please stop lying to me

send txt original file to you
this book is part of series - here it is - https://bookfrom.net/series.html?s=3026
Sanamjmd 26 August 2018 13:18
0
Quote: admin
Quote: Sanam
So you are telling me that the whole book consists of 31 pages? That is complete and utter rubbish it took me less than a day to finish that honestly why puthe it online if you won't put the whole thing and another thing I really don't believe that it ends like that so please stop lying to me

send txt original file to you
this book is part of series - here it is - https://bookfrom.net/series.html?s=3026

The book is supposed to have 294 pages
lilianna
lilianna 7 May 2019 04:03
0
people can't you just accept that the people shortened.... but I have read firelight and I loved it, but where is the romance in this book... *sigh* I will read this and wait for the romance...
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