Below is the next bit of my novella, Dropping Slow, which I am posting serially during the month of June, as part of the Every Single Day Challenge to raise money for Sharon the Light. If you’re enjoying the story, please feel free to donate via my Crowdrise page ($10 minimum donation) or directly, at this link (no minimum donation). Everyone who donates will receive an ebook copy of Dropping Slow, once it’s all posted (if you donate directly, please leave a comment to let me know!).
She can’t decipher the look on their father’s face as she gathers herself up into Corps posture and salutes him with a hand shaking from fatigue. Pride, maybe. Their mother looks caught between pity and the proud smile she knows she’s supposed to wear.
They slip in behind her, between the security guards, and each put a hand on her back as the family walks into Holtzdorrne through the immense front doors. She can feel her mother’s hand shaking through her jacket.
Once inside, doors shut behind them, there is a frenzy of activity from servants and security; people confer, servants take the duffel, and the housekeeper speaks quietly to one of the security detail and then to Trini before turning and gesturing for two of the staff to follow her farther into the house.
Their mother sits down in a large chair situated to one side of the foyer and takes a few shallow breaths, one hand on her waist and the other clenched on the armrest. Trini pulls Tace closer to her as their father puts a hand on Tace’s shoulder, heavy and familiar, and Tace can’t remember of he’ s the sort of father who would hug her? But his touch grounds her in a way, makes her feel steadier on her feet. Like her muscles know that he wants her to be strong, and so steel themselves to do it.
Their mother pushes herself out of her chair and crosses to them to take Tace in her arms. Her father’s hand falls away, but Trini’s hand stays on her back. The Venae Cisara has grown very thin, and her arms are very gentle. Tace isn’t sure whose benefit that’s for, so she hugs back as gently as her dress uniform will allow. Her mother puts her to arms’ length and sighs, smiles, then pushes Tace’s hair from her forehead. “We’re glad you’re home, darling.”
Tace smiles back, takes a breath. “Thank–thank you, Mum,” she says.
She knows her voice is harsher than it used to be, knows the halting nature of her words is new. She sees the mask of Venae Cisara as it slips between her mother’s reaction and Tace’s gaze. Tace takes a step closer to Trini.
“Come on,” Trini says. “I bet a hot bath and an actual bed are what you really want right now. I’ll take you up.” Their father sends Trini a look that drops Tace’s stomach, but Trini waves a hand at him and says, “Don’t glare, Dad, I cleared my schedule. My little sister’s home from the War, nobody expects anything from me today.”
“I suppose you’re right,” he replies. The warmth of his tone eases one part of Tace’s panic while setting another part of her lurching awake with suspicion. She has so many reactions she doesn’t understand, so many sides, suddenly, to keep track of. She follows Trini around the stairs to the–
“I. Forgot we have an … a, um. A lift. Thank god.”
Trini’s laugh echoing through the entryway eases all sides of her into calm.
Her bedroom is blue and yellow. Has it always been blue and yellow? She tries to remember what her bedroom used to look like and can only recall posters on the walls and clothes strewn across the floor. A thousand books on her handheld. Watching vids on the bed. Wait. The bedspread is new. It used to be a green and purple plaid.
How much did they put into storage? If she wanted to put her Rainmakers poster back on the wall, could she find it?
She remembers packing her duffel, filling it with clothes that, if they’re anywhere, are in the house in Camwenne. All the important things are in the house in Camwenne.
copyright 2017 by Laura E. Price. Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.