27 Feb Awkward: A Free Short Story
My stomach squeezed as I stared at the mossy ground in front of me. Transportation, I thought. I can do this.
But could I?
Merrick shot me a suspicious look from the corner of his eye. “Transportation isn’t to be taken lightly,” he said.
“I get where I mean to go.”
“But you might not if you don’t focus. Your effort is weak, at best. The last thing you want to do is lose concentration and never be found again. It’s happened.”
I growled at him, but couldn’t disagree. He certainly wasn’t wrong, which was frustrating enough. For whatever reason, transportation was a magical ability that I could do, but not with any degree of reliability or accuracy. Most of the time I ended up falling flat on my back. Merrick landed like a cat. He was almost undetectable, whereas I resembled a panicked bull chased by bees.
“So?” I asked. “Are you going to teach me or what?”
“Yes.” He pulled something from his pocket. A silver pentacle coin. An engraving of Mildred’s face flashed briefly from one side before he flipped into the air with his thumb. It landed on the dirt. “We’re going to teach you how to transport with accuracy. With such accuracy, in fact, that you could land on that pentacle.”
Sounded a little too good to be true. Since it was something that Merrick had been planning, would be sure to be miserable.
“Seriously?” I groaned, hugging my arms across my chest. “Merrick, it’s freezing out here. Couldn’t we practice it inside?”
“So you could land on the stone floor and get a head injury?” He scowled. His sandy hair framed his face in strands that had fallen out of his queue. “Your father doesn’t need any more work on his shoulders.”
“Speaking of work.” I eyed him skeptically. “Don’t you have duties or something today?”
He looked quickly away.
How had I managed to strike such a strong nerve.
“I have a few hours off,” he said next, a bit hastily. “This is fine.”
He scowled, but it only served to make his expression more intense, and unfortunately more handsome. “I have to report back before dinner. Can we get a move on this? I don’t have all day.”
Oh, my interrogation was far from over.
“If all of that is true,” I drawled, “which I seriously doubt, then why are you spending your break teaching me transportation?”
He glowered at me. It only worsened when I smiled widely at him.
“Because you need all the help you can get,” he snapped. His tone turned from annoyed to surly. It made me feel like the younger kid sister that tugged at her brother’s sleeves, wanting to be included. Except I hadn’t asked him to teach me, so I couldn’t understand the rapid change in his mood.
“Do you want to strengthen your transportation or not? You’re about as subtle as a dragon.”
I grimaced again. He was right, and that only made it worse. “Fine.” I shivered. “What do you want me to do?”
He threw the pentacle into the snow not far away. It landed on top of the hard crust and rested there, a few paces from me. He motioned towards the coin with a jerk of his head.
“Transport on top of the coin.”
My eyes jerked back to his. “What? Are you mad? I can barely land on my feet. How am I supposed to transport onto such a small spot?”
He tapped the side of my head with an annoying flick of his finger. I swatted it away with a scowl.
“Fine,” I muttered, knowing what he meant without having to hear him say it. “I’ll focus. And I’ll transport as quietly as you.”
I closed my eyes, concentrated on the image of the coin in the snow, and whispered the incantation under my breath.
The darkness and pressure of transporting such a small distance lasted for less than a second, little more than a breath of wind, before I landed on my back in the snow. When I looked to my right, the silver twinkle of the coin mocked me with a little glimmer. I glared and pushed up.
Merrick fought off a sigh.
“Well,” he said, clearing his throat. The edges of his lips twitched, as if he wanted to smile. “Not as far off as I expected.”
Incredibly offensive, considering it was two paces away.
“I’m not incompetent,” I shot back as I scrambled back to my feet. “I can transport.”
“You just can’t land on your feet.”
“I’m not a cat.” I brushing the snow from my cloak. “I’m just . . . trying to figure it out still is all. Mama didn’t like transporting. Neither did grandmother. It made them nervous. They still did it, but . . .they didn’t prefer it.”
He shrugged. “It’s uncomfortable magic.” Then he jerked his head back toward him. “Come back and try again.”
We repeated the same scenario, with the same ending, at least a dozen times. I started to get a headache from the quick change of pressure on my face. Despite the eternal nature of the practice, the sun continued to creep lower in the sky, pulling all the light with it and leaving darkness in her wake.
“C-can we g-go in now?” I asked, trembling. My repeated falling in the snowbank had soaked my sapphire blue cloak. It clung to my shoulders with a heavy weight, like someone trying to pull me down. With the sun sinking below the trees, glacial air spread over the dim forest. Branches shuffled deeper in Letum Wood, but they didn’t frighten me.
“Fine,” he said. His head tilted. “At least you transported on top of the coin that time.”
“Why can’t I land on my feet?” I asked as we started back towards the castle.
Although I wouldn’t admit it, the afternoon off with him had been very needed. He left during the day while I worked with Marten all the time now. Of course, I’d never admit it outlaid, but I worried about him when he left.
Merrick was the only friend I had that enjoyed sword fighting with me. Camille thought it wasn’t ladylike, and Leda thought it was violent and pointless because girls couldn’t be Guardians or Protectors. Merrick seemed to understand that sword work was more about the difficult labor, the rushing blood, than the actual crash of metal.
In the end, however, I just liked knowing I could protect myself.
“I don’t know why you can’t land on your feet,” Merrick said with a heavy sigh, as if it were a burden that often plagued him. “I don’t think your concentration is all that good. Maybe it changes mid spell?”
“It’s not that bad. The transportations I just did were less than a second long.”
“Maybe we should try longer ones.”
It’s the same result, I thought.
He threw a wry glance my way, as if he could read my mind. We trekked into the castle in silence. I thought over the possibility that I dropped my concentration too soon until we arrived at the servants entrance. It swung open to admit us a moment before we arrived on the step, and I welcomed a gentle rush of warmth.
The damp cloak fell off my shoulders in the middle of the hallway, so I folded it over my arms as I headed towards the Witchery. Merrick would normally follow me that far, but tonight he didn’t move.
I stopped and turned around, my thick braid banging against my shoulders.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“I have to go.”
He motioned the opposite direction, near doors that would take him to the outer Wall, and then to the Ranks where he stayed. Presumably, anyway. I’d never been inside the Ranks, but knowing how many males slept there, had no interest in going. It probably stank. Papa often smelled terrible once he got back, and imagining that on a much bigger scale turned away any interest.
“Jaron wanted me to report before dinner, remember?”
“Oh.” My shoulders fell. “That’s right. Well, thanks for the help, I think.” I pressed a hand to my lower back, which ached now.
He grinned, but it was a bit tighter and less jaunty than usual. He started to step backward.
“Don’t miss me too much.”
“Right,” I muttered. “You’ll be back. You always come back.”
But the truth was I didn’t want him to leave. Wanted him to stay. Sometimes he’d banter about how terribly I’d done. While aggravating, I sort of liked it. Which was also aggravating. And it only seemed to get that way more.
My expression must have shown my internal turmoil, because his face fell a bit, becoming all to serious again.
“Merry part, Bianca. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. ”
He spun around on his heel and headed the opposite direction, walking with the same arrogant swagger that all the Protectors had. I could pick most of them out in a crowd, even if they did change their facial features so they could blend in better.
I let out a long sigh.
Things with Merrick were getting awkward.
And I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.
I hope you enjoyed this free short story featuring Bianca and Merrick.
Want more Merrick and Bianca deleted scenes? Be sure to check out Opportunity or Grieving right here. Or grab our omnibus collection with hundreds of pages of more short stories—most of them from other characters points of view.
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