“Do you want to play with us?” Rellin asked, his voice gentle and slow, as if he thought Shya might not be able to understand him. An eager wind pulled at the long white fringe dangling from his coat sleeves and pants, fanning it out behind him.
Though she would have loved to join the other children, she shook her head and looked away from the pity on his face. The branches below her were full and lush, and only a few patches of ground were visible through the gaps when the boughs danced with the weather.
“Leave her alone, Rellin,” Bexa chastised, her blonde curls bouncing in a playful breeze. She was Shya’s sister and protector, although all her siblings watched out for her. It was utterly humiliating that Shya’s staunchest defender was two full years younger. “You know she doesn’t fly well.”
Shya turned her back on them, in part so she wouldn’t hear the rest of the conversation, but also so she wouldn’t have to see them soar easily into the sky, where a group of children waited. Unlike the birds, sky folk didn’t need wings to fly.
She made slow but steady progress along the wide branch, toward the three-level tree house where she’d been born. It was a cool day, which meant she wouldn’t be able to save herself if she fell, but she’d lived all of her thirteen years with the same danger. She had fallen out of trees more than once, and still, she liked heights. If she could fly, she wouldn’t be afraid of going up higher than the birds did. If she could fly.
“Shya Skychild, what are you doing out there?” a woman demanded, her voice issuing through an open kitchen window. “Come in here this instant.”
Shya sighed as she felt gentle breezes nudging her toward the door. “I’m coming.” If her mother had her way, Shya would never leave the safety of the house. The door blew open before she could reach for the handle. She took her time hanging her coat on its peg, hoping she might be able to sneak through the kitchen without a reprimand. Her soft leather boots made no sound as she crossed the hardwood floor, and for a moment she thought she might make it.
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