Class: White Mage
Title: The Lucky Ones
Summary: After another hard day at Akademy, Alma comforts Tietra.
Word count: 713
Rating/warnings: G, but contains reference to bullying and class issues.
After dinner, Tietra retreats into the library, and Alma watches the sweep of her skirts as she flees. Zalbaag turns to Alma and asks, “School again?”
Alma nods, hands fisted in her skirt. “Yes. Our classmates are terribly unkind.”
Already standing, Zalbaag nods at her. “Do what you can,” he says, “There is naught else you can do beyond that. Do not overextend yourself.” And then he is gone.
She sits for a moment longer before she rises. The library is silent as it tends to be since father’s illness. In the far corner, Tietra sits in the worn armchair that she has claimed for herself in all but name. Her dark hair falls over her face like a curtain, hiding her from view, even as she clutches the book. “Tietra?” Alma asks.
Tietra does not look up. Her shoulders hunch, and she bends further over the book while a soft noise leaves her mouth. “Tietra,” says Alma again, keeping her voice soft as she approaches. “I am sorry.”
“You have no reason to be so,” but Tietra’s voice is choked.
Alma continues forward till she stands right before her friend. “Tietra, I do not take pleasure in your pain. Our classmates are both cruel and short-sighted. Your worth is not less for lack of noble blood, nor is mine more for the half-noble blood in my veins. Blood is but blood.”
“Sweet words, but short-sighted ones. Do not be naive, Alma. You are not so blind,” she snaps, and she looks up at Alma, eyes rimmed red and tears clinging to her dark lashes.
“Nay. You are right,” Alma presses her palms to Tietra’s shoulders. “My common blood means I cannot be blind to the importance others place on blood. I do not think less of you, that I am of nobility and you are not. You are kinder and of higher intellect than those who wear the trappings of nobility while scorning others.”
Tietra closes her eyes, shoulders heaving. “I am sorry. I did not mean—Perhaps I am not the best of companions, currently.” She lowers her head again, but does not pull away from Alma’s touch.
“You are my friend, Tietra. I will not abandon you to your sorrow.”
The book tumbles out of Tietra’s lap as she clutches at Alma’s skirts, taking deep hiccoughing breaths. Alma combs her fingers through Tietra’s thick hair, and Tietra rests her head against Alma’s stomach. When her breath steadies, Tietra murmurs, “I am truly lucky to have you, Alma. I fear what would become of me, otherwise.”
“I would say that we are both lucky,” Alma cannot keep the smile from her voice.
Tietra peeks up at Alma through her hair. Her mouth curves into a matching smile, eyes puffy still from her tears. “Without me, you would be alone in a home of men,” Tietra points out.
“Indeed. As would you,” but Alma laughs.
“No.” Tietra buries her face into Alma’s stomach again. “I would be alone, with Delita gone so often.”
Alma wraps her arms around Tietra, hugging her tight. They breathe together, evenly, and Alma rocks her to the rhythm of their breathing. “Alma?” Tietra pulls back, smiles up at her. “I think you would enjoy the book I am reading. ’Tis a compilation of Romandan fairy tales.”
Tietra gently pushes Alma back to pick up the fallen book. She thumbs through it to find her place, then says, “This one is about a sparrow and a bush.”
“Read to me?”
With a nod, Tietra scoots over so that they may share the armchair. Alma presses herself against Tietra’s side as Tietra begins to read, voice sure and melodic, and Alma rests her head against Tietra’s shoulder. Anyone looking in would think Alma was merely examining the pictures. They would think little of Tietra’s smile, or the way Alma curls into her warmth.
Alma reaches and takes one of Tietra’s hands, lacing her fingers with Tietra’s. Tietra’s reading slows, as she is forced to turn pages one-handed, but her smile falters not at all. Alma squeezes her hand, before she presses a kiss to the fair curve of Tietra’s cheek.
Tietra laughs, breaking the flow of her tale. But all Alma can think is that they are, indeed, lucky.