Has It Been So Long

Feet kicked back and forth as Min sat on the graveyard fence gazing down at Shadow’s grave. The Aconitum house seal dangled down from a chain tangled in her fingers, forgotten for the moment.

Five years had passed since she’d arrived, sent here on errands by people that seemed worlds away now. Had it really been so long? She tried to add up the time in a new way that made it concrete, but it just kept slipping away into a jumble of memories. She’d always tracked time by people, but now those steady threads had all been pulled free.

Vanna had left. The last one who had known her before Stragosa.

It had been the right call. Vanna wasn’t a fighter. She was just another person who needed to be looked after. One less risk to track. Even so, no matter how Min tried to bend her thoughts, the flippant pragmatism she’d always fallen back on was nowhere to be found. She couldn’t swallow the lump in her throat or blink the burning from her eyes. This sting was new. Something she’d only started feeling here, and she wished it had never taken root just as much as she clung to it.

Jo had left years ago.

Back to her and Vanna’s family. The softer of the twins, she’d taken something Min couldn’t quite pin down with her. She’d taken it from Vanna too. A kind of laughter and gentleness she’d only seen in a few others. It had been a fascinating novelty and a notable absence.

And then there was Oliver.

If he hadn’t… If he’d just not for once in his life… Her thoughts pushed tentatively in that direction, but bounced back each time seeking safer spaces. Borso had found her adoption papers Sunday morning. Stupid, worthless, fucking papers with Karston’s fucking signature.
The Aconitum seal hit the grave mound and bounced with the force of the throw.
If she ever saw that bastard of a bishop again she’d make sure he knew exactly what he’d taken when he stole Oliver.
Revenge was easier than reverie. It resolved.

Now it was just Leonce. He hadn’t known her, but he also had. In the way all the street children knew one another by sight. In the unspoken rules and familiar wisdom. Don’t get attached. But they always did. The lie they all told themselves and one another right up until they had to choose whether or not to make it true. She’d picked. She couldn’t pretend she hadn’t. It was a lot to ask one person to make up for all the others, but they all did it when no one else was left.

Min exhaled in a long, drawn out sigh. Ruminating was a problem. Another bad habit she’d picked up here. Probably came of staying in one place for so long. Her eyes flicked towards the Casa in accusation and reproach, but as she did their faces began drifting through her thoughts. Each saying it didn’t always have to hinge on only one or two people. Perhaps it was alright if they came and went. Another annoying, new thought from here that she tolerated with a loud “Ugh” of frustration.

Hopping down, she strolled over to where the seal had fallen and picked it up. Wiping the dirt away, she rolled her eyes and stuffed it back into her bag. Pulling a knife from her belt Min stabbed it down into the freshly turned earth.

“Trade ya, Vaska.” She piped, running a thumb over the hilt of the new knife resting in the old one’s place.

And yet, a quiet part of her mind mused as she walked away…it is a nice thought.

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