My fall was as graceful as hers, which is to say there was no grace to speak of.

- Astral, By Painters' Grace, Act I, Scene I

The sky is a velvety blanket, speckled with bright, pulsing stars. Here and there, a building juts up high enough to snip away part of the sky, and the distant lights of central Inapithe lend an unhealthy yellow cast to the horizon. Even now, after the sun has long since gone done, the cries of gulls still echo through the empty city.

The metal of the turret roof is icy against Wendy's back, but she doesn't mind. She likes it up here. It's peaceful, and free of any of the distractions brought by others.

Today, Wendy reflects, staring up at the sky, had been a bad day.

She hadn't meant to shut her door on the new girl like that. She had panicked when she was spotted staring, and reacted instinctually.

Instinct. In the end, instinct is the root of all her problems. Instinct had told her to beat Tove, had encouraged her to blow up when the new girl was brought in for the interview, had screamed in her ear that the new girl is dangerous, is not to be trusted, and will hurt her.

An unpleasant prickling of guilt sweeps across Wendy's skin when she thinks about Tove, and she shivers. She had almost forgotten how good fighting felt. It would turn her stomach thinking about how good it sounded when her foot had collided with Tove's jaw, if the thought didn't make her strangely hungry instead. Her face burns with shame. The new girl shouldn't have had to see that.

The creak of a hatch in the roof opening nearly sends Wendy to her feet, until she catches the heavy, uneven breathing of the person pulling themselves up the ladder. Drew. Wendy relaxes slightly. Sylva will pry, and ask uncomfortable questions, and consistently call Wendy out, but Drew isn't like that, at least usually.

Drew eases himself down a respectful distance away from her, and joins her in staring up at the stars. For a time, they simply sit in silence, until Drew finally breaks it. “Astrid just moved in. Want to come say hi?”

Astrid. So that was her name. Wendy shakes her head.

“She seems really nice, Wendy.”

“That's what you always say.”

“That's what Sylva always says,” Drew corrects, taking out a pencil and twirling it between his fingers. “I'm not as trusting. I like Astrid though. I think she'll fit in well.” He props himself up on an elbow and looks at Wendy. “Why don't you trust her?”

If it was anyone else, Wendy would lash out, but because it's Drew, she know the question comes from a place of innocence. She bites back her initial response, that Astrid has seen something about her that Drew and Sylva have not, that if she should reveal that information, Wendy's life will be over in an instant. Instead, she settles on a different truth. “I don't like new people,” she mutters into her elbow, not looking at Drew. “You know that.”

“Yeah, I do.” Drew sighs. He reaches out, as if to offer his hand, but then pulls back, remembering her feelings about being touched. “Look, we're going to be running parts in tomorrow. Sylva and I can split off and give you two some alone time. Would that make things easier?”

Wendy chews on her lip. “Maybe,” she admits.

“Great,” Drew says. It's subtle, but from the way the corners of his mouth twitch, Wendy would hazard a guess that Drew has ulterior motives for wanting to be alone with Sylva. She lets a small smile pass over her face and stares back up at the stars.

“Nice night,” Drew observes.

“Yeah. It is.”


About the author


Bio: I like cats.

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