Long-fingered grips and narrow, jag-joint wrists. Heg coiled around her brother. Coiled in close until he breathed the flavor of her thoughts.
Unlovely. Unbelonging. Out! Out! Out!
He stroked her smooth. Not yet. Not ’til he’s older. Time…
She bristled bitter somewhere underneath. Too long already.
Still, he soothed her. Just a little longer. Soon.
She broke away, not wanting him to share the way she felt. How, as the pass of moments drew across her skin, each moment that they kept Smew here stung like a splinter in her spine.
They pressed together, sampling scents and tastes of one another. Delight in sharing. Joy in mind-in-hand.
Smew watched them as they gathered. Clumbered all around the precious bliss of sharing, both unwelcome and unwelcoming—though neither by the choosing of his mind. He’d tried to join them once. His stub-tipped fingers stiff and aching where he clung against his brothers. Slipping loose before he had begun to know. ‘Wrong-bodied’ they’d called him when they burst apart. Closed off by throw-back genes from some now long-forgotten ferity. Now, Smew was forced to wait. To hope that this time they would find a way to put in words the glories of their sampling.
Allow me just a minute more. Heg pushed in closer even as he forced her back. Strange bitters hung around his body.
Time has come.
No. It is time.
They pushed him out, not with their wrists but by their acrid tastings. Out into the browsewood valley, carrying their shamefast with him.
Not of ours! Unsamelike. Yes, he’d known that always. Carried it all gathered up inside him in the hollow where they did not—could not—reach. Unbravely, in the morning light, he left them. Ahungered as he left for lost belonging which had always been a lie.
Mud sucked his fingers.
Stand still, Smew, it begged, and let me swallow you, as if he could belong their underneath the soil. He walked on until, crouched below a dark, empurpled sky, he found himself asleep and dreamed his lonely dreams.
Regret. It slicked his skin until Heg found she could not grip him. She scrabbled at him. Dug down deep against his skin.
Remorse. Revulsion at her smoothness. At his own long-fingered limbs. The ache of losing one of his. No longer, she could sense, would she find joining in her brother. With his sonlessness has come his time of silence—and her time of loss. She left him there to seek another skin to savor deep.
He woke to his belonging. Here, unroofed except by skies, he was no longer heavy. Long since had he been mis-termed. Tomorrow, he would search himself. The next day, all around him. Are there others like me out there, Smew the Realizer asked. The unknowing—and the coming of the know—delicious now in equal measure. His ache dispersed into the soil, the flavor of his leaving with it.
Today, the Skray is beautiful, he told himself—and they will never know it. Here and now, the knowing of the Skray is mine alone to taste.
Undrawn, except by future longings, Smew drank in the skies.
© 2014 by Rebecca Brown
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