She picked up an old childhood book tenderly. She had read it at least ten times, and each reading still had something new for her. She was loathe to put it back down. She couldn’t bring every single precious thing or memory.
She’d have to leave some of them behind.
His voice echoed in her mind: “You can’t bring everything. Remember, you have to carry this alone later.”
As if that thought summoned him, he came into her room to check on her. No customary knock. Probably too distracted to do it.
Blucini took a deep breath and removed another outfit hanging up away from the metal bar in her closet.
Temnochi looked saddened as she continued packing and rolling her clothes. She tried to maximise the space in her bags. And ignore the guilt on his face.
“What if I forget something important here?”
His ears pointed backwards. “You’ll have to replace it locally.”
A long pause. He spoke up again.
“I guess you’ve made up your mind.”
A statement, with a bit of an unspoken question lingering behind his words, inviting her to assuage his nervousness or change her mind.
She would do neither.
“I just need to find out what my dreams are my own way; and it’s not staying here. Not with the way things are now.”
Her big brother took a step toward her and reached for a pair of pants to help her smooth and roll them. His eyes never left hers.
“I totally get that and I understand why. I’ll help you any way I can, but I’ll still miss you.”
She half-turned her body to face his. “You could come with me.”
Temnochi looked pained suddenly, like he was really torn between possibilities. He turned his gaze toward the wall.
“And leave dad here all alone in this big empty house? I can’t do that. I want to take care of you too, but I can’t do that and take care of him.”
“Then that’s all there is to it. My mind is made up.”
He tucked the rolled pants into her open bag, and put the empty hanger back up. His hands trembled a little and he couldn’t seem to meet her eyes any longer.
“You better write lots of letters to us.”
His voice was choked, and he left quickly, as if in shame. Once she was alone in the room, her breath hitched, her stomach hurt, and regret sank in prematurely.
She hadn’t even left the house yet.
Blucini told herself this was the right thing to do. With what had happened, she couldn’t hide in this mansion forever and avoid all contact with the outside world until the hysteria and suspicion passed. She needed a normal life and normal interaction. She couldn’t live the life of a caged pretty bird feranoth, its wings forever clipped.
She wiped away the tears and finished filling her bag. She had it done after a quarter of a turn, but she spent another half-turn just collecting her thoughts. Composing herself mentally. She had to keep strong, and not give up.
This might be the most important thing she ever did in her life.
Her sleep was restless and troubled throughout the night. She dreamed she was being chased by huge dark beasts and could not find a place to hide.
Morning came too soon.
“I can come with you as far as the docks,” Temnochi said over breakfast.
He had made her pancakes with their grandmother’s old recipe and covered them with roll-dill and sour cream. He had told her before that it reminded him of his childhood. Before she was born and grandma died.
Darkly, she wondered if their bloodline would end with her. If her ship would sink on the way and doom her to an early watery grave.
“Is dad coming?”
“You already know he’s not.”
“Stubborn old goat,” she swore. “I shouldn’t hold my breath, but I was really hoping he would change his mind.”
“If he can’t personally fix it, he takes it personally. So he blames himself for failing you.”
Just like you, she thought with a tinge of bitterness. Neither would change.
“He would never admit that or lose his pride long enough to say goodbye to you.”
Blucini shoved a piece of pancake in her mouth and chewed it roughly.
She swallowed angrily.
“He’s a good-for-nothing. He left it all up to you.”
“He loved mom a lot,” Temnochi replied, like that absolved her father of everything wrong.
The rest of the meal was just discussing the particulars of travel and time.
She pressed the issue again.
“What if you did come?”
“I spent my whole paycheck to cover your fare and down payment to first month’s rent. The money just isn’t there, not after dad’s mistakes. I will have to save up to visit.”
Blucini’s whiskers twitched.
“How long is that going to take?”
“I just don’t know.”
Her nose crinkled. Not the answer she wanted.
Maybe I can save up enough to pay for his visit early, she thought.
“Maybe you should take up kidnapping for ransom.”
“I would start with you then.”
She snorted. She picked up her plate and put it on the counter. Temnochi scrubbed his own plate.
“Need help carrying them to the carriage?”
He asked without context, and she had to figure out he meant the bags and cases and not the dishes they were washing together.
“Stray should be coming soon to help. Any time, really.”
Temnochi instantly looked angry. The plate rattled in the sink with more force than necessary. “It’s the least he can do for you.”
An old, familiar disagreement.
“It’s not his fault. He’s not to blame, he really is just a kid.”
“So are you! How is that fair? He’s a coward.”
“I am not arguing this with you again,” she grumped and stalked away, tail low. Halfway up the stairs, the tears roll down hot and heavy on her cheeks.
Her eyes burned. This wasn’t how she wanted the last day at home, with her brother, to go.
Why did everything have to feel so final?
The knock came at the door later. She hustled down with some of the bags on her arms. Temnochi got there first and was already talking to Stray. Not a good sign.
She hurried up, fearing a fight, but he was nothing but polite to her estranged friend.
“- here early. I want everything to go as smoothly as possible.”
“You can count on me!” Stray saluted, like he was a soldier and her brother the commander. Blucini internally cringed.
The carriage rumbled up later.
Right on time.