Posted in Stories, writing

Short Story: Prior Engagements

Romance, Everett decided as he stomped down the altar’s runner, was entirely useless.

He’d spent more than two and half years courting Miss Lavender, and now today of all days, she announced she wouldn’t be marrying him.

Not even to his face.

She’d sent a letter.

The last six months of wedding preparations had to be undone. At least half of what he’d spent was permanently lost. That much he’d expected for some places, especially for the church. They used the fees and money to help keep the church in running order.

The fact he’d had the priests offering their condolences as if someone had died was what bothered him the most.

He yanked the church doors open, striding outside without looking at what lay behind. A yelp and he fell backwards, having collided with someone on their way in.

“I’m so sorry.”

Her voice was gentle and Everett looked up. Her basket had spilled, dried flowers and a few carefully letter papers littering the steps. All the same, she held a hand down to him.

“It’s not your fault,” Everett said. “I shouldn’t be letting my temper get me into a mood to stomp around.”

She smiled as he took her hand. He hardly needed the help up, but accepted. Everett straightened his vest and bent again, scooping up the things he’d spilled when they’d collided.

“Thank you,” she said. “Although, may I ask what has you in such a mood?”

Such a light, gentle tone, like kisses from the air. He had to chuckle, a little darker. “My bride-to-be had decided she won’t be marrying me. I’ve spent most of the day running around and trying to undo all of the wedding preparations. I…” He glanced back at the altar.

It looked like any other day of the week with how it was set now. Three bowls. One each for the land, the sea and the sky. On his wedding day they would have been surrounded by sprays of flowers and ribbons. Their rings would have been blessed in each bowl before they were allowed to place them on their fingers.

Thoughts for another time, Everett decided and turned with a shake of his head. “I am sorry,” he said as she counted her papers. “Like I said, I shouldn’t be letting my mood make me stomp around.”

“For something that heartbreaking, it’s understandable. Just, perhaps, be a little more observant before you run into someone else, please?”

The soft smile on her face melted some of his anger away. “Of course,” he said. “I—I’m so sorry, I don’t even have your name.”

“Blair,” she answered and inclined her head. “And you’re Everett Atoll.”

“Uh—yes. I don’t recognize you.”

“I’d be surprised if you did. My father’s one of your newest business partners. Ashton Carrier.”

Blair Carrier. He’d not only run into a young, gentle woman, but Blair Carrier herself. Masterful writer and champion of charities across the region.

“I’m so sorry Miss Carrier,” he said. “Please, let me make it up to you.”


That wasn’t her father’s voice but she turned towards it all the same. The man who came up had to be at least ten years older than her. He caught her hand with affection on his face. “Are you alright?”

“Fine, Jacob. A little mishap, nothing more. I just need to see these are handled properly and then we can get back home.”

Everett knew Jacob. He’d been introduced as a family retainer during one business meeting. Doubtless sent to help Blair with her errands today.

Jacob sighed and offered a mocking bow. “As the lady demands.”

Blair laughed and turned, lifting one side of her skirt as she bowed to Everett. “I have some things to see to. If you need help with anything, I’m happy to assist.”

He couldn’t hep but smile. “Thank you, but unless you happen to know someone in need of a white lace dress, I’m afraid everything else is out of my hands.”

“White lace? I might know someone,” Blair said.

“Really?’” It surprised him and Blair laughed.

“I do like having a few nicer dresses.”

“It’s—uh, perhaps I can help you here and show you the dress? It’s at Missus Cleary’s now.”

“I’d love to. Oh, Jacob. I’m sorry.”

Jacob however, held up a hand, a smile on his face. “It matters little and gives me time perhaps to ensure lunch isn’t forgotten before someone else finds a need of your aid for some reason.”

Blair laughed and shook her head before she turned another smile on Everett. “Give me the hour and then shall I meet you at Missus Cleary’s?”

“Absolutely,” Everett said. “Thank you.”

“The pleasure is mine,” she said and offered a little wave. He returned it as his mood lightened.

She vanished into the church and Everett gave himself a little shake while Jacob beamed after her. “She is a marvel,” Jacob said and inclined her head. “I’ll see to it that the cost of the dress is covered for Miss Blair.”

“It’s already paid for,” Everett said and turned. “I’m happier that I don’t have another reminder of my prior engagement hanging about. Perhaps I should have mentioned it was a wedding dress.”

Jacob chuckled as he followed Blair inside. Everett watched over his shoulder a moment longer before he shook it off. He’d get rid of the wedding dress—perhaps offer to have some alterations added so it wasn’t as clear what its intended purpose had been.

Besides, he decided, it was only Blair Carrier being the kind young woman she was known to be. It wasn’t as if Everett would be foolish enough to romance another woman.

Not at least, so soon after his prior engagement.

by A.J. Helms

If you enjoyed this, you can find more of my works by visiting my books page or picking up a copy of my newest release, Crimson and Gold for Kindle.

Posted in Stories, writing

Short Story: Cat Scratch

There was a very strict policy regarding the thief’s guilds in Bundia. Prevalent and sometimes impossible to get rid of, they were allowed to work specific sections of the city. Each of them jockeyed for control of the wealthier streets, challenging each other over and over.

There was only supposed to be one guild that had access to the palace, and even that was only for security reasons. They were paid a decent sum for protection from the other guilds.

As far as Mercury knew, the only way to take over from the current guild was to get into the palace and steal the collar from Princess Anise’s cat.

Which was the problem. The collar was missing, and no one had a clue who or how.

The entire palace had been searched, top to bottom. Was it possible that the cat, whom Anise had named Prince, had merely slipped out of it?

No, and further the usual cover for Prince’s pillow had been discovered hidden in a small venting room meant to help control the temperature of Her Highness’s room. There were a series of large channels between that venting room and Her Highness’s room which someone could reasonably slip through, if they were small enough.

Grates were being installed.

Mercury could figure out how, roughly. Prince always slept in Anise’s room. The displaced cover made little sense, but had the cat been wrapped up in it to help prevent scratches, that made sense. Pulling the cat back through the channels would prevent waking up Anise and alerting her.

Figuring out the how was easy. What he couldn’t figure out, was who.

Staring at the reports from all the guards that night, he couldn’t figure it out. Someone had not only gotten into the palace around some of the best trained guards in Bundia, but also around an entire other thief’s guild.

If it was only another guild trying to take over the palace grounds and get that pay, why hadn’t they come forward with the collar yet? It had been missing for two days already. It was almost as if they were taunting him.

A knock on the door made him look up. “It’s open,” he called. It would be one of his men, though they were all on edge.

It eased open and a soft laugh made him jolt. Could it be?

No, he realized as he looked up. Same red hair, same narrow chin, but this was Waller. The triangular scar on her jawline proved it.

“Alright, Waller. Spit it out,” Mercury said and leaned back. “What do you want? Tormenting your sister again?”

“No.”  She flicked her wrist and something landed on his desk with a rattle.

The collar.

Prince’s nameplate caught the light of the enchanted lamp, glittering and undamaged. Mercury took a moment to inhale.

“You stole the collar,” he said and sat up.

“Again, no.”

“Then one of your thieves did.”

“Yes,” she said and came to lean on his desk. He could see her appraising eye as it roved. “And that’s where you and I run into a problem. It took me two days to figure out what happened, and the only reason I figured to even check for that collar was because every one of the Lockets is up in arms about who could have possibly stolen it.”

That sounded a lot like trouble. “Then your thief—”

Waller caught the front of his shirt and yanked it forward. A killer she wasn’t, but she knew how to make life difficult for anyone she didn’t like.

“I have an eleven-year-old suffering from an unknown ailment and it started on the same night that damn cat scratched her. You tell me how to fix it, or you’re going to spending an awful lot of time explaining how two thieves managed to get in. I won’t just be taking a collar this time.”

He knew it too. Waller was good at what she did. Be that stealing a painting in broad daylight or stealing a person out of their bed.

“I will need to see her before I can fix it. If she got scratched, there’s a couple of possibilities.”

Waller studied him a moment before she let go of his shirt, allowing him to sink back as she straightened. He realized the collar was gone, no longer on his desk.

“Follow me then,” she said, and slunk out.

He only took the time to grab a dark jacket from the hook on the wall before he followed.

She stayed far enough ahead of him that she could have vanished at any time, little more than a beacon of where he needed to go and turn. He half-expected her to take him to a warehouse, but instead, they came to a seedy inn near the river.

There were a couple of others who gave him the same appraising glance he’d come to learn was tell-tale of a well-trained thief. A faint motion from Waller however, and they turned away. The contents of his pocket were safe, but only for now.

Room three was on the floor, and when Waller opened it, Mercury saw how her expression softened a little before she moved in all the way. Mercury took care, following her into the candle-lit dimness.

“Audrey? Audrey, I need you to wake up for a little,” Waller murmured.

The girl on the bed looked sick, and feverish. More importantly however, he could see the problem immediately.

Prince had to have scratched her, he realized as he knelt. Her hair had started to shift, a pair of cat’s ears rising at the top of her head. Both hands sported claw-like nails and he could see a tooth that had fallen out, the normal human canine replaced with a more conical, feline fang.

When she flicked her eyes open though, his heart stopped as he came to kneel next to the bed. They were wide and electric green, slit like a cat’s.

He still had his flask on his belt and pulled that off, opening it and gently tipping it to her lips. “Little sips, kitten,” he murmured.

She took a few and let out a whimper as she pulled away again.

“What is it?” Waller demanded and Mercury took a moment to recap the flask.

“My first question is if you knew she had magic,” Mercury said.

There was some hesitation on Waller’s face before she inhaled. “There’s been a few little things that made me suspect it,” she said. “But she hasn’t done anything to actively confirm it.”

“Well, here’s your confirmation,” Mercury said. “Prince is a Bundian Royal Cat. If you don’t have magic, getting scratched by one usually just leaves you with a sort of aura. You might be unable to lie, or you could always be able to tell the weather. Little things.”

“And if you have magic you get turned into another Royal cat,” Waller said and snorted.

“Only if you have enough,” Mercury said. “She’s been like this two days, you said?”

“Roughly, yeah.”

“Then this is probably about as far as it’ll go. She’ll probably get another fang, and she might get whiskers, but it’s always complete by day three.” Without thinking about it he reached back and smoothed Audrey’s hair down. She seemed to lean up to his touch and his lips lifted in a smile.

“Is there any way to stop it?”

“If there is, no one’s found it yet, but most people try to avoid getting scratched by them,” Mercury said.  “And the cats do have some control over whether or not their scratches trigger anything.”

“There’s got to at least be a way to make her more comfortable,” Waller protested and Mercury had to laugh.

“A few. You’re very concerned for her.”

“She’s one of my kids, of course I’m concerned for her. Bad enough she’s grown up in a thieves guild.”

There was something else Waller wasn’t saying. Mercury could take a guess at it. Audrey had the same narrow face, and her hair wasn’t that far off from Waller’s own.

This wasn’t just one of the kids in Waller’s guild. Audrey would be much closer.

Who her father was, Mercury could only guess. He said nothing, continuing to pet her hair.

“Either way,” he said as he looked up. “Your Feathers are now the guild in charge of the palace. You’ll have to make the formal claim of having the collar and it will need to be verified as the real thing.”

“How long is that going to take?”

“Checking the collar? Maybe an hour,” Mercury said.

“And what about Audrey?”

He considered it and stood. “You’ve got two options,” he said. “She is the thief, so rightfully you could have her stationed around the palace, which would mean she’s also able to get some training for that magic. Or, she continues as she has been in your guild, albeit with some cat-like reflexes now.”

“People will notice her appearance,” Waller said.

He considered it. “I know a charmer. They can make something to help with that, but they’ll need to start as soon as possible. It would have been better to start on the first night, but barring that, tonight or tomorrow morning.”

Waller hesitated. “Where is this charmer?”

“In the palace,” Mercury said. “I can take her there if you want.”

The only answer was a nod and Mercury stood, sliding out of his jacket and carefully using it to wrap Audrey before he lifted her, bridal-style.

Waller opened the door and Mercury hesitated. “Her being there will also make the claim a little easier to confirm,” he said.

“I’ll bring the collar back tomorrow,” Waller said. “Provided nothing’s happened to her.”

“Of course,” he answered.

As he started down the streets, the feverish Audrey in his arms, he had to smile. Who would have thought the so-called Princess of Thieves would have a daughter capable of stealing Mercury’s heart?

Posted in Stories, writing

Small Heroes

Adam wasn’t sure he liked preschool. He was one of the smallest kids in the class, even compared to the rest of the children.

And, on top of that, there was Lowry.

Lowry was several months older, and he knew he was big for his age. On top of that, he came from a house of big, loud older siblings who pushed and demanded. Those habits had been passed down to Lowry.

Now that he was one of the bigger kids in preschool, the big, pushy demeanor carried over to bullying. If he saw something he wanted, he was going to get it.

Adam, smallest kid in the class, had been his favorite target for the better part of a month and a half. Hard as he tried to stay away from Lowry, Lowry made it a point to hunt him down.

Today’s tactic was to sit inside instead of going outside at recess and color. He’d gotten most of the way through his coloring page when a shadow shifted. Fully expecting Lowry, Adam looked up, hoping he looked meek and pathetic enough that maybe Lowry would go away in a few minutes.

Instead, her brunette hair in pigtails and a bright pink jacket on over her bunny-rabbit shirt, was a girl he didn’t think belonged in his class. She certainly hadn’t been in it this morning. Or yesterday.

“Hi! I’m Sadie. Can I sit here?”

“Sure,” he said and Sadie grinned as she sat down.

“What’s your name?”


“That’s a nice name. What are you coloring?”

Meekly, he showed her, expecting her to mock it, or take his crayons. Instead, Sadie grinned. “That’s really neat. I have hard time staying in the lines.”

“Oh that’s easy, see, I just start my drawing on the lines and go inside.” He showed her and Sadie watched.

“I should try that!”

Delighted as she selected her own coloring page and contemplating the available crayons, Adam returned to his picture. She might be noisy like Lowry, but that was about it.

“Are you new?”

“Yep! Daddy and I just moved here from Arizona.”

“Where’s Arizona?”

“It’s a long way away. We drove for hours with Uncle Marshall to get here. I fell asleep though. Driving for that long is too boring.”

“Sometimes when we have to be in the car for a while my Mom plays the license plate game with me,” Adam said.

“What’s that?”

“Hey. Adam’s got friend.”

Quizzical, Sadie turned around and Adam shrank back as Lowry approached. He was missing one of his lower right teeth, having fallen out two days ago.  Adam remembered because Lowry had shoved the tiny treasure box with its bloody contents in his face when it had happened.

“Oh! I’m Sadie.” She waved at Lowry. “Who are you?”

Lowry only laughed. “I’m the kid you’re going to share your snack with.”

That bright smile faded, replaced instead by a wrinkled nose and a frown. “But I don’t want to share it with you.”

“But I want you too. Since Adam didn’t have a good snack yesterday. Just plain crackers.”

His favorite crackers, actually, but Lowry hadn’t cared.

Sadie however, stood up. “Do you not get snack from home?”

“Of course I get snack,” Lowry said. “But I want yours.”

“I can trade you.”

“No. I want your snack.”

Sadie contemplated it. “You’re not very nice,” she said. “And I’m not giving you my snack. Daddy got me green grapes especially because those are my favorite.”

“Then Daddy can pack you extra tomorrow,” Lowry said and pushed Sadie.

It wasn’t a hard push, but it startled her enough into falling over. Adam shrank back, certain Lowry would turn his attention to his favorite target now.

Instead, an ear-piercing scream and the sound of crying drew the attention of the teacher and one of the aides.

“What happened?”

Through the massive tears falling down Sadie’s face she pointed at Lowry. “He pushed me! I don’t want to share my snack with him.”

“I did not,” Lowry denied.

“Adam?” The teacher knelt while Sadie used her sleeves to scrub at her face. “What happened?”

His heart nearly stopped and he glanced at Lowry. “He…He told Sadie to give him his snack and when she said she didn’t want to he pushed her down.”

“He’s a liar! Miss Bridgette, they’re both liars!”

“I think we’re going to have to check the camera. Come on, Sadie. Thank you, Adam.”

Adam watched in mute horror while Sadie stood up, still sniffing a little. Miss Bridgette, their teacher, handed her a tissue and Sadie used that to wipe her nose while Lowry glowered. Adam kept watching as they went to the teacher’s desk. He knew when the tape had been pulled up because Lowry started shouting he was going to tell his dad.

Two slips were drawn up—Pink, for Lowry for a misbehavior and blue for Sadie, for an incident. Both slips were put up and Lowry was sent to the timeout chair while Sadie was allowed to come back over.

“You’re not hurt, are you?” Adam asked when she plopped down. Sadie shook her head.

“No, but I don’t like him.” She considered it and grinned as she looked at Adam. “Do you like grapes?”

“Yeah. I love grapes. I have crackers again today though.”

“I’ll trade you some of my grapes for some of your crackers!”


Loud, Adam decided, wasn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it meant a bully coming to steal his crackers.

And other times, it meant he had a pig-tailed hero to come help him.

by A.J. Helms

Posted in Stories

A Trial For the Ocean

“Given her history, throwing her in a bottomless hole should come as a blessing. All of her offenses are not only jailable, they’re grounds for execution.”

Stuck as she was in the chair where she’d been placed for the ‘trial’, Coral had to consider her options. Behind her, the harbor called to her. She knew her ship wasn’t there, but she wanted to turn, to look for the familiar sight of the smoothed bow and the patchy sails.

Patchy, mostly because she had a bad habit of ‘borrowing’ sails from the ships she sank.

The judge leaned over his chair. “Will you say nothing in your defense, Miss Coralie?”

She hated when they called her that. Why couldn’t humans get it right? It was Coral—and technically, it was Captain Coral.

Technical, mostly because she only really had any command when they were engaging with slavers or mermaids.

“No,” she answered. Her tone remained impassive.

“Then you will make no attempts to deny the charges of frequent piracy, maiming sailors and evading justice?”

She contemplated it for only a moment. She had done most of those things. “I’d like to offer an amendment to the charges,” she replied.

“Oh?” That came from the prosecutor. “What would that be?”

“Maiming sailors. I don’t maim sailors. I do however, maim slavers and all of the ships I sank are ones that engage in enslaving and capturing mermaids.”

It brought an uproar from the men around her and Coral smiled only a little more while the judge banged his gavel against his stand to beat down the level of sound in the courtroom. Just once she looked out the window towards the harbor while the judge tried to restore order.

“Enough!” The judge thundered.  “We are holding trial today in a court of justice. Miss Coralie. How will you plead to the charges?”

“What will my sentence be for pleading guilty?”

“You’ll be executed,” he answered.

“Then may I request my execution to be drowning in the ocean?”

Another murmur from the crowd, but hushed. She heard it all the same—this was a trick. There had to be something up her sleeve.

“I will…allow it,” he said. “How will you plead?”

“Guilty on all counts.”

More rumbling, but the judge only inclined his head and brought his gavel down. “Then we are agreed,” he said. “At dusk you will be tied to a rock and thrown into the ocean.”


“Until then, you will be placed in a holding cell,” he said. “Bailiff?”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

The bailiff came around to loop an arm under her legs and lift her out of the chair. Coral smiled a little as he carried her out, humming softly to herself as he continued to move her through the courthouse and to the holding cell.

“I can set you facing the window,” he said.

“Please. I want to watch the sunset.”

“What would you like for your last meal?” he asked as he set her down. “I can have something nice brought in. Perhaps some cake?”

Coral laughed and used her arms to push herself upright. “Actually, I hear about ham and pork all the time. Could I bother you for some? I’ve never had any.”

He nodded, somewhat sadly, but stood there for a moment. “You don’t seem upset at all.”

“I’m returning to the ocean, of course I’m not.”

“But you’re to be executed. You’ll die.”

“All things die. That’s an inevitable part of life. That execution won’t be what kills me.”

He studied her and nodded. “I’ll bring in some nice, sliced ham for you a little later, Miss Coralie.”

“Thank you.”

He left, shutting the door behind him. Coral inhaled and settled back. The sun would be setting soon, and she would be going back to the ocean.

Idly, she slid her sleeve up to scratch at the scales there. The rock might slow her down, but she wasn’t concerned. Once in the water, her scales and her fins would reappear. She’d just swim back to her ship.

Back to her ship, and to whatever other mermaids needed her help.

by A.J. Helms

Posted in Stories, writing

Earthen Child

Aeressal laughed as Inav came down the stairs, holding the banister with chubby little hands and a face full of concentration. 

“You’re doing very well with the stairs,” she praised and the four-year-old looked up, beaming.

“I don’t like shoes.” 

“I know you don’t, but they are a necessity. We’re going to the garden this morning. You don’t want prickers in your feet, do you?” 

Inav considered it before she scurried over to hug Aeressal’s legs. “I can walk,” she said but pursed her lips together in a way meant she wanted a kiss. Aeressal chuckled again and bent down to accept the kiss before she took one little hand in hers.

“Why we going to garden?” 

“We need to see how it looks after last night’s storm,” Aeressal said. “And I know you like the garden.” 

That earned her an emphatic head nod. Last week Inav had discovered she could agree or disagree with things by shaking her head, though at this point she had a tendency to over do it and sometimes knocked herself over. 

One of the gardeners opened the door for them. “Good morning, my lady. Good morning Inav.” 

“Morning! Good sunrise?” 

“It was a very good,” he answered and Aeressal smiled.

“Thank you,” she said quietly and let Inav hop down the wide steps into the garden.

Most of it looked alright, with debris and leaves strewn everywhere. Aeressal took care to pick up a longer stick torn off a tree and set it to the side of the path. Inav roamed a few feet ahead, face confused as she brushed leaves off her favorite flowers and squatted to peer into a bush or two. 

There was however, one small sapling that had been uprooted and Aeressal sighed a little as Inav stopped in front of it, confusion on her face.

“Why’s the tree napping?” 

“It’s not napping. It looks like the wind pulled it out of the ground. I’m afraid we’ll have to get a new one.” 

“But…we have one,” Inav said and Aeressal smiled a little as she crouched to be more on her daughter’s level.

“Yes,” she agreed. “But you see how it’s roots are exposed here?” 

Inav nodded, looking at the roots. “Those are tree feet.” 

The comparison made her smile. “Yes, roots work a little like our feet do. But for a tree, the main job of a root is to keep them in the ground so they can get water from the soil. With the roots pulled out of the ground, the tree won’t be able to live and grow.” 

“So…it’s hurt?” 

It was close enough for now and Aeressal smiled. “Yes,” she said. “The tree is hurt.” 

“Then we fix it,” Inav decided and moved to try and lift the trunk, straining against it. Aeressal laughed. 

“Oh, my little heart, you are so sweet. I’m afraid we won’t be able to fix it.  Damage like this is usually what kills trees.” 

“Not killing my tree,” Inav said firmly and hauled on the trunk again, toddler arms struggling to lift it.

Thinking to pick the girl up before she could injure herself trying, Aeressal took a step forward, yet as she made to scoop up Inav, she stopped.

The leaves of the tree rustled, rattled and to her shock, the roots themselves shifted, reaching out to grab the ground. The thin trunk creaked a little as the branches pushed off, helping to lift it upwards. 

Inav’s lips puckered and she shoved on the tree, trying to get it back up. Another shake as the roots found purchase in the ground and the branches straightened themselves out. One branch remained dangling, partially snapped off from the impact with the ground. 

With a final grunt from her four-year-old, the tree righted itself and Inav beamed at it. 

“Fixed!” she said and Aeressal stood up, looking at the fully upright tree. 

“It…You’re right. It is fixed,” she said and picked Inav up. “How did you do that?” 

Inav shrugged. “I told it,” she said and held her hand out to display a little mark in the center of her palm. She must have gotten dirt on it, or else a splinter from the bark. “See?” 

“I do see. Let’s get your hands washed. I want to make sure you don’t have a splinter.”

Aeressal hadn’t been the only one to see that one tiny miracle, and the two gardeners and cook who’d seen it swallowed as they opened the doors again. 

It was an impossibility.  Though she’d heard of magic, those instances were few and far between and almost always after a lot of work. 

Not a seemingly effortless decision from a toddler to help a ‘hurt’ tree.  

Yet, as she wiped at Inav’s hands with a damp cloth, the mark she’d thought perhaps dirt, didn’t budge and Aeressal frowned, looking closer at it. 

At the center of the palm was a miniscule green leaf, resting there as if inked into the skin. 

“Inav, my heart. Did you draw on yourself?” 

Inav shook her head, eyes wide. “I’m in trouble?”

“No,” Aeressal said and smiled as she smoothed Inav’s hair back. “You just have this little mark here. I was wondering if you’d been playing in your father’s quills and ink again.” 

Frowning, Inav looked at her palm and grinned. “A baby tree!” She held her palm up to show her mother and Aeressal smiled, not sure she liked the implications.

“Indeed. It’s just about time to play in the nursery, don’t you think?” 

She picked Inav up and as they passed a window, she looked out at the garden, and the righted sapling. 

A tree. The leaf on her daughter’s palm.

It made no sense to Aeressal. Perhaps, she decided, the best thing to do would be to wait and see if there were any other unusual occurrences around Inav.   

by A.J. Helms