Twist looked out through the window beside their table, at the churning blue waves below. The restaurant seemed to hang precariously over a tall cliff at the edge of the Pacific, only a few miles outside San Francisco. Pale sand and rough beach plants filled the weather worn expanse between the city and the coast, while wide swaths of man-made forests—cypress, redwood, and Australian eucalyptus—still bore all the richest greens, even under the thin, white, winter sky.
Enormous commercial airships and small private flying yachts drifted back and forth over the churning surf as they came to dock at the natural cliffs near the restaurant. Long, wide boardwalks of graying redwood hung out from the cliffs to greet the airships, giving a little more solid ground among the violent crags and shifting sand. Twist watched the air traffic glide silently by, while the pounding sound of the waves below bellowed up to whisper at the large glass windows.
Despite the distance from the city, the Cliff House restaurant was almost full to bursting. Air travelers from all over the world, and beach-going San Franciscans, huddled together at the countless tables that filled the large, open room. The tall, vaulted ceiling above gobbled up their conversations and left the room surprisingly quiet. Large, full-pane windows filled the three walls that looked out over the ocean, leaving no need to decorate the space.
Jonas, seated across the table from Twist, leaned his elbows on the white tablecloth to peer out at the western horizon with uncovered eyes. Twist tried not to stare at the slightly purple bruise that was just visible on Jonas’s fair skin, around the left side of his nose. Twist also couldn’t help but notice that the style of clothes that Jonas usually wore—simply cut soft browns and white cotton, with never a proper waistcoat or hat—fit in perfectly with the local patrons of the restaurant. Still, Twist had yet to meet anyone anywhere who wore their hair in a mess of short blond points the way that Jonas always did.
“Can you see those?” Jonas asked Twist, pointing out to sea.
“I don’t think so,” Twist said, unable to imagine what he meant.
“Those islands out there,” Jonas clarified.
“No, not at all,” Twist answered, sipping at his ice water. There was a slice of cucumber in it that confused him slightly. “Are they pretty?” He fished the cucumber out of his glass with his fingers and ate it.
“I suppose so, for lumps of rock in the sea,” Jonas said, still staring. “Sometimes I wonder how far I really can see. With my Sight, it’s not easy to tell.”
Twist pulled his small copper globe out of a pocket and opened it. A tiny mote of blue light sprang into existence on the western edge of America as he did. He moved the shifting layers of copper gently until the image of the Pacific Ocean filled the surface of the globe.
“Do you suppose it could be Hawaii?”
“No, it couldn’t be,” Jonas toned, not sounding totally sure.
Their waitress appeared with a silver tray and placed two steaming cups of coffee and one large slice of chocolate cake with lemon yellow frosting on the table between them. She then smiled at Twist—the ends of her short dark hair falling against her neck as she tilted her head to one side.
“Would you like anything else, sugar?” she asked with a clearly American accent. The sound of it still surprised him, no matter how often he heard it around him.
“No thank you,” Twist said. “I don’t like sugar.” Jonas seemed to get something caught suddenly in his throat. He recovered quickly and then pointed to the horizon.
“Are there islands out there?” he asked the waitress.
“Oh sure,” she responded, glancing off into the haze. “The Farallon Islands. On a clear day, you can see them. Looks too hazy today,” she said with a sigh, looking back at Twist. The waitress’s eyes seemed to wander in a way that made Twist feel suddenly quite self-conscious.
“Thanks,” Jonas said, pulling the plate of cake in front of himself.
“Call if you need anything,” she said pleasantly, directly to Twist.
Once she walked away, Twist gave his shoulders a small shake, feeling as though the waitress’s gaze still clung to him like dust. Jonas was watching him now, smiling.
“Are all American’s weird?” Twist asked him softly.
“Yes, of course,” Jonas answered certainly. “Everyone knows that. But that’s not your problem with that one,” he added, nodding after the waitress.
“What do you mean?”
Jonas gave Twist the sort of smile that always came before a truly devious remark. “She thinks you’re cute,” he said with way too many lilting notes.
Twist’s face blanked and his whole form went suddenly still. Jonas laughed.
“Well you have such pretty, dusty blue eyes,” Jonas said with far too much joy. “You’d better get used to it, sugar.” It was only now, hearing it again, and from Jonas, that Twist caught the pet name the waitress had used.
“But, but I … I mean … Now see here!” Twist pointed an angry finger at Jonas’s continued laughter.
“Is this a bad time?” a voice asked from beside the table.
Twist snapped his glare away from Jonas’s smiling face to see Myra and Tasha standing together, watching them carefully. Myra’s copper skin shone brightly against the gently ruffled, pure- white dress that clung tightly to her slender, clockwork form. A wide-brimmed hat sat on her maroon wire hair, framing her face in a heavenly white sweep. Standing beside her in an emerald sateen gown, black lace gloves, and a short black jacket, Tasha looked far better suited to a candle-lit evening than the bright light of day.
“Myra! Great timing!” Jonas said brightly. “Tell me, don’t you think Twist is cute?”
“Will you shut up?” Twist snapped at him angrily. Jonas fell into laughter again.
“Should we come back later?” Tasha asked softly. “If you two need to be alone…”
“What does that mean?” Twist asked her sharply. Jonas seemed to be having trouble catching a breath now, while Tasha was also smiling a little evilly.
“Have they both finally gone mad?” Niko asked as he stepped up beside Tasha. His practically luminous blue eyes didn’t look at all amused in his pale, young, angular face. Standing tall and thin beside Tasha, Niko’s fully black attire made him appear to be more of a shadow than a man.
“Possibly,” Tasha said, nodding.
“No, they’re just being silly again,” Myra said with a long-suffering sigh. She took the empty seat beside Twist and looked at him seriously. “Now, darling, what’s all of this got to do with you being cute?” Tasha and Niko took their seats as well.
“Isn’t he though?” Jonas said, gazing wistfully at Twist for a moment. The mask broke into a quiet laugh before Twist truly needed to hit him.
“Yes, of course,” Myra said, staring at Jonas curiously.
“Wait, what?” Twist asked her, his anger shattering into shards of sudden confusion. He felt his face warm up slightly when she looked to him.
“Oh! Well, I mean…” she trailed off quickly, looking away to hide her face from him.
“All right, now that really is cute,” Jonas said, pointing at Myra’s blush-proof copper face. Tasha nodded. Niko gave a silent sigh. He pulled a penny dreadful out of a pocket and opened it to the bookmark.
“Anyway, how was training?” Myra asked, her voice higher than it should have been.
“He hit me!” Jonas said happily, pointing to the faint bruise on his face. “A good solid blow too. Isn’t it glorious?”
“Oh, how lovely…” Tasha said uncertainly.
“Now that I think about it,” Jonas said to Twist. “Have you ever actually hit anyone before? I mean, not with a weapon or anything, but just a good punch or an elbow to the face.”
“Not that I remember,” Twist said, trying to think back. “I learned to stop touching people at all when I was pretty young. Actually hitting anyone, except for you of course, wouldn’t be worth the vision. My Sight would definitely pick something up.”
“Wow,” Jonas said, looking at him with pride. “First blood. You should be celebrating too,” he said, and gestured to the cake in front of him.
“You know I don’t like sweets.”
“Freak.” Jonas smiled fondly at him before he took another bite of his cake.
Twist gave a sigh, already getting accustomed to the new friendly insult that Jonas had begun to use in the oddest situations. For reasons well beyond Twist’s power of understanding, Jonas got quite angry if anyone else even got close to calling Twist a freak.
“I wish I’d been there to watch,” Myra said to Twist. “I’m sure you were quite dashing.”
“Well, I was dashing,” Jonas said around a bite of cake. “And Twist fell down a lot.”
“Did you have fun shopping?” Twist asked Myra, turning his full attention on her.
“Oh yes!” she said, smiling widely to him. “There are so many beautiful things in this city! I think I like America.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Twist said back, his face taking on a soft smile as he looked at her bright, happy, blue jewel eyes. “We’re going to New York next, so we’re going to be in America for a little while yet.”
“How nice!” Myra said brightly.
“Ah, I see your friends showed up,” the waitress said as she walked up to the table. “And what can I get you?” she asked Tasha and Niko, before her gaze fell on Myra. She didn’t seem nearly as surprised by her appearance as people usually were. Instead, she seemed merely thoughtful.
“Just some coffee for me, please,” Tasha said to the waitress.
“Is that any good?” Niko asked Jonas, glancing to the cake.
“Quite good,” Jonas said, nodding. “And it tastes rather like victory.”
“I’ll have a slice too, thanks,” Niko said, returning his eyes to his book.
“I’m fine, thank you,” Myra said, noticing that the waitress hadn’t taken her eyes off of her for a moment. The waitress gave her the flash of a polite smile and looked to Twist.
“Anything else for you?” she asked Twist, her voice a little softer. Twist looked away from her quickly, feeling highly conspicuous once again.
“We’re fine, thanks,” Jonas said through a grin.
“I didn’t ask you,” the waitress replied sharply.
Shocked by her tone, everyone at the table looked up at her. The waitress took a breath and seemed to pull herself into a taller posture. “I’ll have your order in a moment,” she said, walking away.
“That girl is weird even by American standards,” Jonas said softly.
“Hush!” Tasha said to him quickly. “I think she heard you.”
“What?” Jonas asked. “How could she?”
“She looked back the moment you said that,” Tasha whispered to him. “She looked hurt.”
“Jonas hurt someone’s feelings? No, I’ll never believe that,” Niko said with no emotion whatsoever in his voice. Jonas gave an unamused huff.
“She couldn’t have heard you before, could she?” Twist asked Jonas softly.
“She’d have to have super-human hearing to catch anything in this place,” Jonas said, looking up to the vaulted ceiling. “All the sound just gets trapped up there,” he said with a point. “None of it travels very far beyond each table. It’s ingenious, really.”
It was only a few moments later that the waitress reappeared with Tasha’s coffee and Niko’s cake. The table fell totally silent as she placed the items on the table. The waitress seemed to ignore them all and looked at Twist, as if trying to come to some sort of decision. Finally, after an awkward pause, she reached into the pocket of her apron and pulled out a plain white envelope. She held it out to Twist with a resigned expression. Twist reached out to take it.
“Just think about it, all right?” the waitress said softly. “You deserve better friends.”
The moment the envelope was in Twist’s hand, she turned and walked quickly away. The others looked to Twist expectantly. He opened the envelope and found only a white card inside. It was of a heavy stock and had a golden border, with black writing in a flowing hand on the front of it, reading “Eleven Thirty,” and a date. Only an instant after Twist touched the card itself, his Sight burned with a sudden vision.
His awareness flew out of the restaurant on the cliff, racing over the sand and back into the city. Streets and houses rushed by at a dizzy speed, until it all came sharply to a halt before a large, gated house. The vision paused for a moment while the house numbers glowed brightly in his mind. Then, just as suddenly, it vanished. The card fell from Twist’s fingers as he gasped against the sharp, burning pain behind his eyes. He held his head in his hands and tried in vain to make the world stop spinning. The pain was so shocking and so intense, that nothing else in the world could catch his attention. His thoughts ran screaming in all directions.
“Twist! Oh, my darling!” Myra shrieked, reaching for him.
“Wait!” Jonas said, already out of his seat and hurrying to Twist. Myra looked up at him in horror, her hands a hair’s breadth away from Twist. “Just wait a second,” Jonas said, kneeling beside Twist and reaching out slowly to his shaking, curled-up form.
Twist felt the buzz in his neck grow above the unconscious level it usually hid in these days, and he reached out for it in the chaos of his pain and whirling thoughts. Then, somewhere very far away, he sensed a warmth at his back, though he noticed no physical contact. Slowly, a cool brightness began to fill the horizon of his mind, like swiftly approaching rain. Twist managed to realize what was happening outside of his own chaos, and reached out for the light. He felt himself ease in anticipation.
Jonas placed his hand gently on Twist’s back in obvious response to the lessened tension he could likely feel in Twist’s Sight. Twist took in a sharp breath as the chilly white calm washed over his mind. In a moment, the pain receded to the farthest reaches of his attention and his thoughts fell still and steady. He opened his eyes and found Jonas watching him carefully. In the space of two breaths, Twist felt like himself again. Jonas’s deep-purple eyes lightened back to soft gray and he took his hand away.
“What the hell was that?” Jonas asked Twist.
“An … address,” Twist said, looking to the card that lay on the table. “It was so intense… But there was no emotion at all. I never get visions off things like this,” he said, gesturing to but not touching the card. “It’s not broken. It doesn’t feel anything. I shouldn’t have seen anything at all.”
Jonas looked to the card with a frown. An instant later his eyes snapped closed and he gave a hiss of pain. Twist felt the buzz in his own neck leap sharply into a burning heat. Twist reached out quickly and took hold of Jonas, with one hand on each side of his face.
“Open your eyes,” Twist ordered, holding his own eyes open and ready.
His Sight flowed through the touch and echoed the same pain and dizzy whirl of uncontrolled thoughts that he had felt inside himself a moment ago, now filling Jonas’s mind with fire. It took a moment for Jonas to comply. Twist waited patiently. When Jonas opened his eyes, the color in them flashed quickly between rich blues, purples, and deep blood reds in Twist’s Sight. As Jonas stared back at him, the colors lightened and slowed their shifting. Jonas took one deep breath, and then another, and Twist felt him relax back down to normal.
“Are you all right?” Twist asked, dropping his hands to Jonas’s shoulders but not looking away from his eyes.
“Yeah,” Jonas said, breaking the visual contact with a nod. “I think so. Was it a house?”
“Yeah,” Jonas said, reaching up to rub at his eyes. Twist realized then that he was kneeling close beside Jonas on the floor. He got back up in his chair. “What is that thing?” Jonas asked, getting back to his feet as well. He pulled his goggles up from where they hung around his neck and covered his eyes with them.
“It’s an invitation,” Tasha said. She was holding it now, running her gloved fingertip along the edge of it. Twist watched her, looking for signs of pain.
“Doesn’t that hurt?” he asked her.
“Not at all,” she said, looking up to him. “Are you two all right?”
“What is that?” Twist asked her, speaking deliberately.
“It’s a Sight circle invitation,” Tasha said, putting it down on the table. “Haven’t you ever seen one before?”
“Those simpering, lovey dovey posers?” Jonas spat. “Why would they make those stupid invitations painful all of a sudden?”
“It’s not painful to me,” Tasha said.
“What’s a Sight circle?” Twist asked.
“A load of simpering, lovey dovey, posers singing campfire songs and talking about how they feel,” Jonas answered quickly, his voice dripping with disdain. “People with minor Sights, or people who just want to feel special, all meeting in someone’s mother’s house.”
“They’re not all like that,” Tasha said with a frown. “There’s one in Prague that boasts to have professional artists, poets, and philosophers as members.”
“Everything’s more stylish in Prague,” Jonas said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“Wait, you mean people with Sights gather together?” Twist asked, struggling to keep the conversation on the right topic. “That’s today’s date. They are meeting here in San Francisco, tonight.”
“You want to go?” Jonas sounded offended by the very idea.
“Well… I don’t know,” he muttered, glancing to the card. “Meeting you was a good thing. Meeting Tasha was a good thing.”
“How about meeting my sister?” Jonas asked darkly.
“I got Myra because of meeting her,” Twist answered, looking to her.
He was startled to find a deeply worried expression on her face. Her hands were clasped tightly together in her lap. He gave her a curious and hopeful smile. She looked to his hands, then back to his eyes. Twist reached out to lay a hand on her arm, hoping to understand what she was feeling. He frowned as nothing but concern flooded into his Sight, and wondered what could possibly make her so upset. After a moment of contact, she took his hand in one of hers and leaned closer, reaching up to strokehis face with the other hand, and peered deeply into his eyes.
“Are you all right now?” she asked him softly.
“I’m fine,” he said, smiling as warmly as he could. He felt hope begin to grow out of her fear.
“He was only in pain for a moment, Myra,” Jonas said gently. She looked to his covered eyes, not taking her hands away from Twist. “He really is fine now,” Jonas added with a smile.
True relief broke over Twist, following the wave in Myra’s heart. She nodded and sat back in her chair, but she didn’t let go of Twist’s hand.
“You’ll believe him, but not me?” Twist asked Myra suddenly.
She looked at him sheepishly. “You always say you’re fine when you’re not.”
“True,” Jonas said with a nod. Tasha nodded silently as well.
Twist tried to swallow the bite of their implications, wondering if the burden of other people’s concern might lighten over time.