4. THE LAST SUMMER

February 23, 2019


There was a time when Emery had refused to show her fire to anyone. Her family had abandoned her because of it. She never wanted anyone to look at her with fear in their eyes, ever again.

But then she had met Ayess. The winds were particularly harsh that winter, and the little girl had been sitting alone in the woods, hiding from the snow storm. She was paler than any living human Emery had ever seen. Her breaths were uneven and if it weren’t for Emery’s fire, Ayess would have frozen to death.

Emery had cared for Ayess since that blizzard day, and Ayess told her every whisper and gossip of the streets below, since Emery spent most of her life on the rooftops above. And Ayess never stopped asking Emery to show her the fire coursing through her veins.

The air turned tepid under the light of the sun. Emery shut her eyes and focused on her breathing. Coldness spread in her veins, coursing all the way into her heart, where it set up in flames and ashes withered away.

Emery rarely saw Ayess since last summer. It had been a warmer than usual and the sun was up all night through. Summer never fully arrived to the mountains. It had come and gone so fast, and the little amount of sunlight there was had passed in a day.

Emery and Ayess had been chasing snowflakes, but when they grew tired they stood in the meadow, watching darkening clouds hover in the misty sky. Snowflakes melted on Emery’s freckled cheeks, and like small water drops they gleamed in her copper hair.

Snow swirled in the air, dancing to an unheard beat. To the sound of her heart, maybe. Or the whispers of the wind. She watched the snowflakes, her shallow breaths misting the cool air and heating her lips.

Ayess spun around in circles in the snowfall, catching snowflakes with her tongue. Emery chuckled and blinked at the sky. A cold, gentle wind steered the snow into the opposite direction. The clouds moved faster in the looming sky.

Dry grass crumpled beneath their leaping feet. The meadow was silent, but in the city, the winds howled and goats bleated. Ayess carefully scanned the buildings. Her black hair was braided like always and reached down to her lower back, the wind only tugging at one loose strand behind her ear.

“Emery,” Ayess said.

Emery turned around. She licked a snowflake from her lip, imagining it tasted sweet as honey. Ayess pointed a finger at the tree line. A raven sat on the highest branch on the highest tree.

“I like ravens,” Ayess said quietly, calmly. She tucked her hair behind her ears, but it was no use. The wind pulled the strands loose and they covered her eyes again.

Emery watched the raven. It croaked and turned its head. “Why?” she asked.

Ayess shrugged. She started walking away, eyes still lingering on the black bird. “They are homely.”

A gust of wind blew leaves down from the trees. They swirled around in the wind and Emery spun around, the last sun beams warming her skin and chilly air tugging at her skirt and hair.

Ayess hugged herself and looked down at her feet as she walked. 

Emery stopped spinning and walked beside her. “Are you cold?”

“No,” Ayess said quickly.

Gravel crunched beneath their feet as they turned toward the path. Where the dry grass ended, sharp cliffs began. More snow fell and coated the forest in the valley below.

“Are you sure?”

“Emery.” Ayess stopped. “Can you show me?” She pointed a meaningful gaze down at Emery’s hands.

Her blistered palms were lighter than the rest of her skin, a warm caramel tone compared to Ayess’ cold, milk-colored skin. She’d managed to keep it contained for so long, yet the scars would always be there. She looked at Ayess. “I can’t.”

“But you do still have the fire?” Ayess asked.

Emery furrowed her brows. “Yes… I do. It doesn’t go away.” She walked in silence for a while, but then looked at Ayess again with her eyes slightly narrower. “Why? What do you mean? Do you think it could go away?”

Ayess half shrugged. “I don’t know. Or… Well, I’ve heard some things.”

“What have you heard?” Emery stopped walking. “Have you heard of someone else like me?”

“If your fire stops burning…” Ayess frowned, as if regretting her words. “Hmm. Well. If you stop having the fire, tell me.” She kept walking, shaking her head to herself. Emery caught up with her.

“Ayess?” Emery said. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know.” Ayess shrugged. “Let’s race to the stone bridge!”

And so they did.






Ayess."Can you show me your fire?"
A Raveling Night by E.M Redshaw



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