Oh, here it comes again! The Wednesday Brief brings another flash update to my new story. This week I chose another photo prompt out the many offered by the wonderful Julie Hayes. Please enjoy!
Birch froze. The water bottle fell from his nerveless fingers. He’d long ago come to the conclusion that his treasures could have only come from one person, though he had no idea how.
“Sayer?” he whispered.
His advertised as ‘efficient’, which meant ‘tiny’, apartment couldn’t hide anyone. If Sayer had been there Birch would have smelled him. He’d always known when his best friend was close; his scent, like sharp ozone filled the air like a crisp breeze rushing through the room after a storm. It smelled … cool, somehow. Biting.
The air was thick and smelled like disturbed dust and cardboard, plus a bit of sweat. There wasn’t the faintest hint of Sayer. Yet the package was still there, almost glowing against his white sheets. Birch skirted the bed and rushed into the bathroom.
A shower. He needed a shower. Shucking off his shorts, Birch started the water then shut the shower door. The burst of heat against his face made him gasp. He hurriedly turned the hot water down. When he stood up he banged his elbow against the inside of the shower door. It went numb for an instant and then ached fiercely.
“Damn it.” The tiny space was almost impossible for him and he was still on the small, slim side. Birch didn’t envy the next guy to get this housing assignment. He fantasized about his dream bathroom; the large soaking tub inside a glass enclosure, the taupe and bronze tiles with old-fashioned light fixtures. He turned to rinse his hair and grunted when his already sore elbow grazed the door again.
He’d probably have a permanent bruise on the bone after living in the miniscule apartment for his senior year. Still it’d been better than the dorms.
The shower wasn’t nearly long enough to prepare him for facing that box. Padding into his bedroom naked he tried to avoid looking at it while getting a pair of shorts to wear. Freshly showered and dressed, sweat beaded on his forehead as Birch gingerly sat down on the bed and reached for the box with one shaking hand.
Sayer waited motionless though it was hard when Birch said his name. The shower was an excruciating wait until Birch came out naked. That took what breath he might have had away.
Finally, Birch untied the ribbon on the box. Inside lay a gift that would finally begin the end of their courtship. The slim man’s nimble fingers slowly slid aside the black silk padding. Birch gasped when he pulled the feather from the box. Tiny, the down was exquisitely soft, a smoky gray, and the flat oval at the top had colors were more brilliant than any found in the mortal realm.
Sayer’s back still stung at the base where his wings joined between his shoulders. That feather was his first; grown during his first year of life, it proclaimed his status among the Fae as a sylph. Born of an Air sylph and an Earth gnome—the Earth gnome, leader of all Fae—his wings had been a source of great pride to his mother just as his solid build and analytical mind had been to his father.
“Wow,” Birch said on a soft breath. He plucked the feather out of the box and twirled it in the afternoon light. It threw a rainbow swirl of color against the wall as if it were made of stained glass. Gingerly Birch brought it up to his face, lightly stroking it down his cheek. His eyes fell shut. “Oh.”
Unable to wait any longer, Sayer swayed forward. The curtains along the window belled outward and he flowed across the room from the window to where Birch sat on the bed. The massive amounts of modern architecture prevented him from taking human shape but he stroked his face along Birch’s slightly raspy cheek.
“I’ll be waiting for you when you come home.”
Sayer slumped into the blood red throne carved from a giant ruby. Magic warded their home dug high into the side of the highest peak in the area. Transformed with all the Fae races in mind, it layered through the hill from the airy top to the deep center where a pool of magma welled up from the center of the earth surrounded by an underwater lake that was so still it reflected the glittering stalactites so well one could hardly tell it was truly water and not a solid surface.
“What happened?” Croll asked.
“Finally tired of waiting, are you?” He smirked and leaned against an opal pillar. “You know, any other Prince would have just let his parents trade out a changeling for their beloved and never let them out of their sight.”
“The old ways are not the right ways. Our magic is powerful but the human world is growing wise. Many of them have discovered us. It will only be so long before we are revealed. That is why I spent so many years growing alongside my Birch as a mortal.”
“And why you let him go off to college without you?” Croll raised a sculpted eyebrow.
“I would have gone with him had we not lost my parents. I had a plan.”
Croll’s grimace was out of place on the smooth, unlined skin of his face. “I apologize, my liege, for reminding you of their loss.” He bowed with a flourish.
Sayer rolled his eyes. “Damn it! Don’t call me that and stand up.”
“It is what you are.” Croll rose smoothly to face him again. “Besides, it annoys you.”
His best friend tutted. “Such language! The human realm has clearly had an uncouth effect on your manners.”
“Oh ancestors preserve us.” Sayer laughed. “You’re going to keep needling me as long as I sit here, aren’t you?”
“Perhaps.” Croll studied his manicured nails painted purple to match his iridescent hair. “You know you shouldn’t stew. He’ll be here soon.”
“Okay, fine. Let’s go for a flight.”
Okay, so quite a few answers there ... but still more to come! In the meantime, check out the other great updates by the other Wednesday Briefers.