Twist sat on the thick ledge inside the open window, enjoying the slight chill of the San Francisco winter air against his back. He looked over his shoulder to gaze out at the rolling hills of dense city, glowing amber under the stars, and wondered idly why the houses on the steepest slopes didn’t just slide away over time. In the distance, the shining green bay had turned into a black mirror, but was still crowded with ships of every possible design. He turned back to look into the small apartment room above the theater.
The main room badly needed a new coat of emerald paint, the blond wooden molding hadn’t been varnished in decades, and the golden floorboards were so scratched that they needed replacing more than anything else. The furniture was in a similar state, but nothing was actually broken or unusable. Jonas had called the two-bedroom apartment with its attached kitchen off the main room “care worn,” rather than “run down.” Twist had to admit that whatever it lacked in sophistication, it made up for in a homely sort of comfort. Something about the scent of the old wood, steeped in years of salty moist air, eucalyptus, and evergreens, struck Twist as inexplicably pleasant.
Jonas sat to one side at the round wooden table, staring with palpable concentration into one of the large crystal balls that Tasha used occasionally in her act. Twist saw nothing but clear glass in the other man’s hand, but knew better than to ask what Jonas saw. A murmur of conversation wafted up to him from the street as the night’s guests began to empty out of the theater, drawing Twist’s mind back to Myra’s latest performance, less than an hour ago.
She had stood statue-still in the center of the stage after the curtains were drawn back, until the music began to play. Twist could still hear the collective gasp at her very first movement—raising one arm in a subtle and fluid arc before her eyes opened in the gilding gaslight and her body swayed into the song. No matter how many times she performed, no matter if she was seen in the city before or not, they always gasped the first time. Even if the posters said that the clockwork girl would dance, no one ever guessed that she would move so smoothly, or with such lovely and elegant grace.
After the first few moments, the audience would always begin to smile unconsciously as they watched her. All whispered conversation would fall silent. Myra’s face would match the emotions of the song as well as her dancing form, but Twist could always see the joy hidden in her glittering blue eyes. Whenever she danced alone, she seemed to glow with a natural light of her own, but when she danced for an enraptured crowd, she was in bliss. Every time Twist watched her dance, he craved to reach out and touch her, to taste that perfect joy. It was only after the applause, once she’d taken her bows and run backstage, that he could catch her. She always found him, and her bright, heady excitement always felt the same, no matter how many times she danced.
Twist listened to the excited and happy sounds that rose to his ears from the exiting audience, and felt a jolt of pride. None of them would see her again except by chance, but once Tasha’s act was over and Myra had changed out of her stage costume, she would come in through the apartment door and run to his waiting arms as she did after every show. She always stayed backstage to watch Tasha’s act, but she never waited a moment longer than Tasha’s first bow before she came back to him.
“I must be doing something wrong,” Jonas said suddenly, putting the crystal down on the table and rubbing at his eyes. “All I see in that thing are funny shapes. Aren’t you supposed to see spirits or the future or something by looking into crystal balls?”
“Maybe your future has a funny shape.”
“You might be right about that,” Jonas said, smiling up at Twist. “I do live on the road with a bunch of freaks, after all.”
“Myra’s not a freak,” Twist snapped, narrowing his eyes at Jonas.
“My mistake,” Jonas said, smiling a little more widely. “I live on the road with a freaky magician, a freaky Serbian inventor, a totally un-freaky clockwork girl, and you.”
“That’s right,” Twist said with a nod. “It’s Myra and her four freaks. Why does that sound like a bad pantomime?”
“Hey,” Jonas snapped, looking serious. “Nobody calls you a freak but me, remember? That includes you.”
Twist gave a sigh. “Talking to you makes me dizzy sometimes.”
“Are you implying that that’s my problem?” Jonas asked, appearing aloof.
“Well, I would say that it’s my own shortcoming, but you might get offended on my behalf.” Twist frowned into space. “Wait, is that right? Hold on, I need to draw myself a map of this conversation.”
Jonas laughed and seemed about to form a reply, but thankfully Twist was rescued as the apartment door opened and Myra stepped through it. She had changed back into her ruffled white dress, but her smile matched the one she had worn on stage as she’d taken her bows. Twist was on his feet instantly, while she bounded happily across the room and threw her arms around his neck. His Sight washed over with the bright and bubbling flavor of Myra after a show, and he held her close for a moment, savoring every sense of her. She pulled back just enough to smile at him, leaving her hands on his shoulders.
“They stood up and clapped for so long this time!” she said, surprise still ringing in her voice. “I think they really liked my dance.”
“I’m sure they did,” Twist said, her pleasure melding into his pride for her. “I swear your dancing gets lovelier every time.”
Myra giggled brightly and covered her mouth with one hand, sending a rush of glee over the top of her sparkling waves of happiness. Twist felt lightheaded for a moment and let his hands drop away from her, leaving only her other hand on his shoulder to connect them. The effects of her on his Sight lessened until he felt stable again. It was only then that he realized that Tasha and Niko had also returned and were talking with Jonas.
“It’s not going to start for an hour,” Tasha was saying to Jonas. “We have plenty of time.”
“But what’s the point?” Jonas asked her. “We’ve already been here for the week. We’re leaving tomorrow, aren’t we?”
“It might be fun,” Tasha said. “I’ve met many interesting people at things like this before, in other cities.”
“I told you, everything is better in Prague.”
“Not just in Prague,” Tasha said quickly.
“What are they talking about?” Twist asked Myra. Myra watched them now too, glancing curiously between them in turn, and gave Twist a shrug.
“The circle,” Tasha said to Twist. “It starts in an hour. Didn’t you want to go?”
“Oh yes!” Twist said, his mind returning to the world outside of Myra. “I did, actually. It sounds interesting.”
“It probably won’t be,” Jonas said, crossing his arms.
“Why are you so against attending?” Tasha asked him gently. Twist looked to him curiously. Jonas gave a sigh.
“I’ve been to three before, in England and in South Africa,” he said. “They were all a waste of time. Well, for me anyway. Ara had a great time,” he added bitterly. “She loves all that fairy-loving, ‘lets share our feelings and talk about how great it is to be magical’ stuff.”
“It’s not all about fairies,” Tasha said levelly.
“Fairies?” Twist asked, suddenly confused.
“Oh, you never heard about the fairies?” Jonas sounded impressed. “Believe me, ignorance is bliss.”
Tasha gave a sigh and shook her head before she looked to Twist. “Some people believe that we have Sights because we were born with the souls of reincarnated fae,” she said. “The legend says that if a high-level fae dies at the same moment that a baby takes its first breath, the fae’s soul can be reborn in the human child.”
“What, like changelings?” Twist asked.
“No, not exactly,” Tasha said, looking at Twist with surprise. “Changelings are said to be human children who are stolen and replaced by full-blood, low-level fairies. I am speaking about the souls of dead royal fae ending up in people. But how do you know about changelings?”
“I grew up surrounded by orphans,” Twist said with a shrug. “Some of them would rather believe they were taken from their families by changelings than simply abandoned.” The others looked to him silently, their eyes suddenly filled with sympathy. Twist looked away from all of them. “Anyway,” he said. “People in these circles believe in fairies?”
“Yeah,” Jonas said. “And you two want to go hang out with them all night.”
“I think Twist should go to a circle,” Tasha said, looking at him thoughtfully. “Everyone with a Sight should go at least once. I’m not going to drag you along if you really don’t want to come,” she said to Jonas, “but it would be more fun if we all went together.” She reached out to pet at his arm gently.
Jonas watched her hand and gave another sigh. “Fine, whatever,” he said looking at Twist as his eyes shifted into lilac. “I’ll go with you. I’m not doing anything else tonight.”
Twist felt the slightest change in the vibration at his neck. Though Jonas’s face showed no signs of it, Twist felt a hint of his apprehension. Something about going to the Sight circle was worrying him, although he didn’t seem inclined to say what.
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