I was going to write for an hour, but I got bored after half an hour, so maybe I’ll have to work my way up to it. ^^;
The world had been reduced to elements of spectacle and flash. Echo sat on the beach, fisting her small hands into the fine white sand. Fireworks had never impressed her. Less so, now.
“Just lights and noise,” she murmured. She couldn’t bring herself to hate the freckled sky overhead, but she couldn’t dive into it like her neighbours, either. They needed the celebration, Grandfather had said. It was a salve for the days just behind.
A troublesome breeze wormed into a loose bit of her mouse-brown braid. She barely had time to feel it flapping before a lock had worked entirely free.
She reached for it, crying out without quite meaning it. Sand dribbled from her clammy hand.
The skies may have been ablaze with light, but that light was far thinner on the ground. The only lightsources close enough to aid vision were the scattered torches that pierced the beach. It wasn’t quite enough to offer her a satisfactory view of the speaker.
However, he didn’t seem to need visibility. He stood with a hand on his hip, possibly glaring down at her, and spoke again. “What do you think you’re doing? Throwing sand like that.”
Echo began to protest. Then she flexed her hand, and put together a few small clues. She laughed instead. “I’m sorry,” she said, raising her own voice to be heard over the increasing pops of fireworks. “It was an accident.”
Somewhat mollified, the half-obscure figure let his hand drop to a more relaxed position at his side. “I guess no one can help an accident.”
“Not me, anyway.” She patted the sand beside her, then wiped her hand on her leg. “Sit with me,” she said, “maybe proximity will protect you from further unintentional attacks.”
It was too dark to see the expression on the boy’s face. In less than an hour, it would be too dark to tell that he was a boy at all. After a moment’s hesitation, he took the proffered seat, and Echo was able to get a decent look at him.
He wasn’t impressive in the slightest. His shoulders were narrow, like a little girl’s, and his hair, nearly white in its fairness, looked like it would have been better suited to a doll. Much of him did.
“I’m on vacation,” he said, before she could comment on his delicate features.
Echo nodded. Even among the youngest boys in the village, there was no place for such bird-like delicacy. She watched him for a second, wondering if he would dart about or sprout wings.
“What are you staring at?”
“I don’t know yet. You’re very pretty.”
“I–” He frowned, which only served to pronounce the fullness of his lips. Echo nearly laughed again.
“Are you making fun of me?”
“I might do, later.” She grabbed hold of his arm before he could get up and storm away. “Don’t lose your temper,” she said. “It’s only that I’ve never seen a boy like you.”
He huffed, shrugging out of her grip. “Then maybe you’re the one who needs a vacation.”
“It’d be nice.” It was impossible to repress a wistful sigh. Celebrations were depressing, she decided, given that they only made the next day’s work even harder to face. “But I’ve an early morning ahead.”
A fawing couple walked past them, so entangled that ‘arm in arm’ would have been an inaccurate term for their mobile embrace. Echo flicked sand at them, careful to avoid spraying her vacationing companion.
He flinched anyway, and she wondered if it was the sand or the couple that had upset him. “What are you called?” she asked.
Another slight hesitation. “Remeny.”
Echo pulled a face at him. “You made that up.”
Overhead, the sky belched with smoke after a particularly adamant bout of fireworks. A few disparate crowds cheered. Remeny hugged his knees to his chest and rested his chin on them. “So what if I did? You wouldn’t know me if I told you my real name.”
While this was technically true, it still seemed an odd lie in an odd place. “My name is Echo,” she said, as if telling the truth granted her a personal victory. “And it’s my real name.”
“Bully for you.”
“Is yours awful or something? Or maybe you’re the duke in disguise?”
They both laughed at the second suggestion. The duke had never shied away from public appearances, and was easily three times this boy’s age besides. Remeny rubbed his chin and tried to look regal. He was half successful, Echo thought. “You’ve no idea how refreshing it is to go about beardless,” he said, pulled his mouth down to change the sound of his voice.
“Oh no, I could never leave mine at home.” Echo held both hands on her cheeks and curled her thumbs under her own chin, touching her pinky fingers together to form a rudimentary moustache. “It just isn’t done, you know.”
Remeny’s appreciative laughter was drowned out as all of the gathered crowds joined in to create a swell of sound. The fireworks had reached some kind of crescendo.
A hand on Echo’s arm startled her. It was warm, and a bit damp. She stared at Remeny with wide eyes. She hadn’t been interested in the fireworks show, but he was a tourist. “What?” she mouthed.
“Come with me,” he mouthed back.
She allowed him to pull her to her feet, and then followed him as he wove a trail through the tightening crowd. Towards the edge of the beach.