“You have to tell her how you feel.” Allyn said with a sly smile. He poked a stick into the fire. Malisyn was glad the low-light hid her blushing cheeks. Her baby brother, giving her relationship advice? The world was coming to an end.
“What? I don't—I don't feel anything.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Besides, you're just a little boy. What do you know about—about feelings?” She arched an eyebrow at him, leaned over, and took his stick away. Allyn surrendered the stick without resistance. His soft brown eyes reflected the fire light. Some where, further down the beach, on this exact night: Nox and Starr were sharing stories, too. And probably a bottle of Isaru wine. Malisyn thought as she snapped the stick and tossed it into the fire. The sound of drums, shrill laughter and a someone singing drunkenly echoed down the beach. Malisyn let the sound of the ocean waves drown them all out.
“I know a little,” Allyn said and finally looked up at her. Something in his eyes made her believe that he did. How is that even possible? She wondered.
“I mean, I don't know exactly what you feel, but I know what you do when she's around. You always start to walk funny--”
“I mean, like, it's almost like you're jumping. Like a kitten. You get suddenly real excited. That's all I can explain. You certainly don't to do that when Matron Hawk shows up.”
Malisyn started to argue—then stopped. She did make her breath quicken just a little, and feel like she could do anything. And she certainly couldn't deny wanting to move closer to her whenever she was near. Tiny things, little excuses, whatever reasons she could come up with. She didn't really think anyone would notice, least of all, her little brother.
He's not that little anymore... She reminded herself. He was closer to ten summers now, though she often thought of him closer to six or seven. He would always be her little brother. No matter that he would be taller than her in just a few more years.
“Wait. If you noticed—do, do you think she noticed?” Her mouth went dry. Malisyn suddenly felt like she was the ten-year-old little sister instead of seventeen. How could she have been so stupid, of course she had noticed, if her little brother had noticed--
She was interrupted by laughter. Allyn was laughing, pointing across the fire at her.
“And your face gets all scrunched up like that, your eyebrows go all crazy.” He tried to frown but couldn't manage it and started giggling again. “No, Mal, I don't think she's noticed. I just happen to spend a lot of time with you. I see everything.” Malisyn felt her heart start to calm in her chest. She'd have to remember to watch herself more carefully. She swallowed, suddenly remembering why she had avoided this conversation with her brother for so long.
“So you're not—you're not mad at me?” Malisyn combed her fingers through the sandy beach as she spoke, searching for another stick to distract her. She scraped across a sea shell and picked it up, running her thumb across the pale-purple and white-speckled surface.
“Mad at you? Let me see that.” Allyn held out his hand eagerly. He loved the sea shells on the beach. Malisyn sighed and handed it across to him. She noticed her hand was shaking. Allyn polished the purple surface with his shirt sleeve, oblivious that he was already filthy and the shell was probably cleaner than he was.
“Why would I be mad at you?”
Malisyn searched for another shell.
“I thought you liked her, too. And—I know Matron Hawk says I'm not supposed to like her. I mean, she's a girl.”
“So what? You like her, you like her. Matron Hawk doesn't know how to like anyone. How does she know who you and can't like?” He held the seashell in between his cupped hands, watching the shadows from the firelight. “And yeah, I like Taelor, sure. But I've tried, I've given her flowers, sweet rolls, I tried to write a letter once--” Allyn shrugged. “I'm pretty sure she doesn't like me.”
“Well, that was easier than I thought.” Malisyn said with raised eyebrows. She let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. “I really didn't think, I mean, I've always heard the stories from Matron Hawk. How girls... can't feel like that, how it's wrong. It doesn't feel wrong. It just feels like—I don't know, but it doesn't feel wrong.” Malisyn found a sea shell of her own and moved a little closer to her brother. “I was so worried that you'd be mad at me. That either, because it was a girl or that maybe because you liked her, you wouldn't be happy. I didn't want to make you upset.”
Allyn leaned his head on her shoulder. He handed her his sea shell.
“I'd only be mad if you didn't tell her, sister-mine. I know that it hurts. It's not fair to you to hurt inside all the time. You deserve to be happy, too.” Allyn smiled over at her. Malisyn felt like she was going to throw up. She couldn't stop shaking, she had managed to stumble through the conversation on wit and love alone.
“I can't tell her how I feel,” Malisyn breathed, closing her hand around the sea shells. “She'd freak out, I mean, she practically is Matron Hawk's daughter. Taelor would never allow it. She's never even noticed me before. Right? It just doesn't work that way, I'm a fool for even--” She closed her eyes. She sucked in a deep, cold breath of air from the night.
“Come on,” Allyn said as he stood up, taking her hand. He grabbed her shoulders and rotated her toward the ocean beach. “Let's go clear your head.”