Author’s Note: So here comes Thursday, the day with the theme of “Thursday Travels,” and here where I am, it’s a day where sane people are only out if they don’t have any other option. That is to say, it’s snowing and yesterday it was below freezing, so… Yeah, not the most fitting day for scenes about travel.
Still, I decided to share one anyway, the first I wrote for the collaboration, and I’ve edited it a few times since then, but it is special to me because it is the first scene of the collaboration. Well, until we move things around again, lol.
“You planning on speaking at all during this drive?”
Not looking up from his book, Enadar gave a slight shake of his head. Talking wasn’t on the list of things that had to be done today, and he was sticking to the list. Organization kept him sane, even if his lists annoyed everyone else he knew.
“You know you’ll have to talk sometime today. You can’t avoid it all day.”
That got a glance toward the mirror, meeting his older brother’s eyes as they waited for his response, but he shook his head, returning to the book. He could avoid it for the day, could avoid it for a lot longer if he wanted, and that might be what he chose to do for the duration of this trip. Alik couldn’t make him talk, not if he didn’t want to, and he was more determined not to just to spite his brother.
“You are not going to spend the entire week not talking to any of us.”
He lifted the book, tempted to let it do the talking for him. Aimed properly, it would even stop the car, keeping them from reaching the destination he had no desire to see again.
“You’re not a child. Don’t act like one.”
He closed his eyes. Silence was still the preferable response. He could keep himself from reacting for a while longer, but if he was pushed, if he was provoked—he started down the list of things that calmed him, fulfilling each as he did.
One, deep breath. Two, count to ten. Three, repeat the deep breath. Four, remember that you love your sister. And your brother. Mostly. Five, repeat the first nine leaders of the territory in reverse order—no, he’d used that one already today, and he was sick of those names. He would skip that one and go to six. Recall a memory that always makes you smile.
Enadar frowned. That was a bit difficult—that was the point of it, getting him distracted and refocused—but he wasn’t sure he could find something that made him smile right now.
“Leave him alone,” Malina said, interceding like she always did, always would. Enadar didn’t know if it was because of who she was or her birth order or if any of that mattered. He shouldn’t be thinking about that, though. He had to keep to the list. “We don’t need to lose the car—and I would like to get there alive.”
“It’s not that bad.”
Anger flared up at Alik’s words. Enadar lost his place in the list, and then he lost his book. He studied his empty hands for a moment before kicking the front seat. “I hate both of you. You know that, don’t you?”
Malina sounded almost amused when she spoke. “Little brother is mad.”
“Yes, but little brother is talking again.”
Enadar didn’t know why it mattered so much that he talked. Alik had a thing about silence, about either of them withdrawing too much into themselves, and yet he was the worst of them at doing it—who knew what went on in that head of his most of the time?—so he had no reason to force them into interaction. Maybe it was that overinflated sense he’d gotten when he ended up head of the family—he didn’t just figure he was somehow the leader, he figured it made him responsible for them in all ways—mental and physical and emotional.
Alik didn’t know what to do with emotions, though, so that was a dumb choice to make.
“You didn’t have to push,” Malinda’s voice drew him back into the conversation between his older siblings. He’d missed something between the two of them. As usual. “Not everyone needs to talk.”
“And letting him glower is better?”
“I was not glowering. I was reading. Now I don’t have a book, and now I’m glowering,” Enadar said, using both of his feet to kick Alik’s chair. His brother grunted, but his grip on the wheel didn’t so much as falter.
With a frown, Enadar sat back. He watched Malina’s hands for a moment, trying to determine if the way she twisted them together meant she knew what Alik had been doing or if she was just thinking about where they were going and all that came with that.
Had Alik truly been focusing Enadar’s anger on him or was that just paranoia talking? Was his brother that crazy? Or was he?