Summary: Tris goes down to the sea to escape Sandry’s holiday cheer.
Twelve-year-old Trisana Chandler inched further across the rocky outcropping. It was the sort of thing most described as having jagged edges, but Tris knew better. If it had jagged edges it was all edges! No, the outcropping itself was jagged. And didn’t that just suit her mood.
Another step, and a wave broke only a few feet away, sending spray to pattern the hem of her skirt. Most girls would have stepped back, but not Tris. The redhead took another step closer. Stretched out with her magic, she could feel the churning waves trapped in this little cove.
She kept her balance with her hands, glad the shelf she stood on was so abrupt. The ground was wet and broken, and offered little secure purchase. Tris took each step with great care. Barnacles and snails threatened snags and tears; kelps, flat and grassy, promised a quick slip, meaning bruises or worse if she landed on the rock and a sandy soak if she did not. Then there were the tide pools, and the last thing Tris needed at the moment was soaking wet stockings and crushed anemone on her heels.
Finally feeling close enough, Tris leaned over the water. She had thought she might be able to see the bottom from here. She could not. Where it was not topped with white foam, Tris did not know if the grey she saw was the sea mimicking the sky or her own eyes reflected on the lenses of her spectacles. This, along with the opacity of the sand waves carried in such shallow depths, effectively ended any hope she had of seeing the floor.
She turned towards the call. She frowned. Not now! She had known her siblings would be able to find her. When she left Discipline, she had asked Lark not to tell the others where she was going. “Unless it’s an emergency, of course,” she had added. She loved her cobbled family—and they did seem very much ‘cobbled’ to her, pieced together like so many similar stones. They were not of similar size, as the stones were, not with Briar growing so tall and Sandry staying so short and Tris so plump and Daja so solid. Still, with their shared age and amount of power, they were similar enough.
As much as she loved them, sometimes they could be a little too much to bear. Having spent her childhood bouncing from one household to another, Tris felt completely out of place with too much togetherness and rowdy cheer. And Sandry practically oozed the stuff this time of year.
Her frown deepened into a scowl. She oughtn’t to have thought that about Sandry, even if it was true. Sandry had once mentioned understanding what moving around a lot was like. Tris knew she should not have spoken so sharply with her friend, her sister, but how could she not disagree? There was a difference between exploring the world with one’s parents and being shuffled around Ninver because no one wanted to keep you, and if Sandry did not understand that, well, then Tris wasn’t sorry for what she had called her!
She shook her head. That argument was in the past. Why did thinking about it still upset her?
Trying to focus on something else, Tris wondered who had come to find her. Surely they had not all trooped out of Discipline? It was... it was completely unpragmatic! Like a whole crew of shepherd boys going after one stray lamb. Besides, Tris did not want everyone. She had stepped out for some air. While she could not honestly say she wanted not to be found, she was too cross to put up with a big group just now.
Cautiously, Tris probed with her magic. She recognized the feel of the nearby magic in the same second she would have known, anyway, from a call of—
“Is he trying to wake the dead?” she grumbled, then made the sign against evil on her chest. She sent a seed of heat through their magic, a tap to give Briar some idea of her nearness. He must have known, anyway, though, because a moment later he appeared and started across the rock to join her. Tris watched his sure-footed approach with a bitter taste of envy. When was the last time someone pushed Briar off his feet? When was the last time he fell on his own?
“Here you are. What are you doing out here?”
Tris gave him a look of waning temper. “I’m dancing. What does it look like I’m doing?”
Briar shrugged. “Being a girl,” he retorted.
Tris stuck out her tongue.
“You have to come in sooner or later.”
“Later,” she chose.
Briar sighed. The way he cocked his head and crossed his arms over his chest, Tris knew he was beginning to feel aware of himself and aware of girls’ awareness of him—not her, obviously, they were family! But other girls, well, if she had noticed their attention to Briar he had probably noticed too. It was silly, in Tris’s opinion. They were practically still children. “D’you think I like it either?” he asked.
Tris looked at the embroidery on his shirt. Between its skill and festive colouring, she knew it could only be Sandry’s work. It made Briar look that much more like a preening peacock, she thought, not unkindly.
“Yes.” For all the fuss he put up, Tris knew that Briar liked all the fuss and festivity in Discipline. She could tell. Sandry was jolly as natural as breathing, and Daja joined in willingly. Briar complained a bit, but only Tris felt truly outside and uncomfortable. “I don’t care about Longnight,” she said, now as she had before.
Briar shrugged again. “All right,” he said, “so what?”
“Sandry celebrates Longnight just like a... like a noble!”
Briar blinked. Tris knew that expression, that ‘girls are crazy and I am not getting in the middle of this’ expression. “So?” he asked. “It’s decorations and songs. Compared with Dedicates staying up praying all night, dunno that I have a problem with it.”
“Well...” Tris began, trying to make her voice sound cross enough to hide that she did not really know what bothered her about the Longnight business.
“Me an’ you, we’re alike, we got no manners.” Briar had better diction than that now, but more importantly, Tris did so have manners! Before she could give an indignant reply, he continued, “Take coming out here. You only told Lark where you were going because it’s the rule.”
“Well, I needed some air!”
Briar rolled his eyes. “Least you could do is not lie to me, an’ I don’t mean that as manners.”
Tris put her fists on her hips. She quickly thought better of it and moved her hand back to the wall. No-nonsense stances were for solid ground, not slippery rocks. Briar had the tact not to laugh at this. The words ‘go away’ were on the tip of her tongue, but she did not know if they were habitual or honestly meant response.
“We’ll make a deal, then,” Briar decided. Tris wanted to object that she had yet to agree with him about anything, let alone to agree to a deal, but it was like standing on the rocks. Briar had his footing, his words, while Tris needed to steady her balance and think over what to say. “When you want some air, go up to the Walls or the roof or wherever you like. When you want me to come get you, come here.”
Without thinking, Tris reached out to shove Briar. How could he... how could he... and how could he know what she was feeling and thinking when she had not been sure herself? Before she could land a blow, though, he took a step back. Tris overbalanced. She tried to grab onto the rock, but couldn’t reach it. Seeing the inevitable result, Briar grabbed her wrist to steady her.
After that, Tris did not much feel like talking as they walked away from the beach and followed the path back to Winding Circle. She tried to keep her cheeks from flaming. Briar didn’t press for conversation until they were inside the Temple. “That’s twice now I rescued you,” he observed.
Tris responded with a sour look. “You didn’t rescue me!”
“You didn’t agree to my deal!”
She glowered. He met her eyes. Tris knew Briar was right. He had rescued her once by keeping her from falling into the sea, and once by knowing she wanted to be found. She appreciated it, deep down, under the indignity of needing him.
“Fine,” she snapped, “I promise.”
Only Briar could grin as he did then and not encounter the rougher side of Tris’s temper.