well. Well, since I’ve skipped off work already, and we’re already on the right path; let’s just walk back together then.”
He smiled, wiping his brow once more, and tucked the cloth in his back pocket.
Sylvia, honey, can you light the lamps?” Her mother called, her hands in the water basin, cleaning a glass.
Sylvia stood from the table and went to the fire in the common area. Taking a lighting stick from the mantle, she stuck it in the fire for a second. There were several lamps in the kitchen, some mounted on the wall and others hanging from the wooden ceiling by wire. Sylvia lit them all, carefully bringing the lit stick to the coil inside each lamp. Many of the lamps were carefully decorated with designs in colored paint, done by her mother’s hand.
The villa now gleaming with globe light, Sylvia threw the stick into the fireplace to finish burning. Her father was sitting beside the hearth mending a leather sheath. Just then Sonia bounded into the room holding a chain of flowers in her outstretched hands.
“Happy Birthday, Sylvia!” the little girl shouted, holding the flower chain out for her to take.
Shocked, Sylvia accepted the white flowers onto her head. “But it’s not—”
“You were gone! You were gone when it was your birthday!”
Not about to argue with her, she scooped the little girl into a hug. She briefly remembered thinking about her birthday as she had waited in Lightcity.
“Of course, I forgot. Thank you for the flowers.”
Sonia wiggled out of the hug. Adeline called from over the counter separating the rooms, “Come, now that you’ve spoiled the surprise, let’s eat.” She winked at Sonia, who could not be giddier.
They all sat at the table, a delicious smell coming from the meal set before them. Sylvia now realized what Sonia and her mother had been plotting, and why Lark had to be home on time for dinner. Her mother filled her plate with roast chicken, potatoes and carrots, handed it to her and said, “Just wait ‘til you see what’s for dessert.”
Sonia perked up, “It’s—”
Adeline shot her hand out and covered Sonia’s mouth before she could give it away. The little girl rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “Enough secrets, little princess,” her mother said, and Sonia nodded, already reaching for the potatoes.
Secrets . Sylvia thought. She had never been one to have secrets to keep, and now she felt like she was full of them. She would soon be leaving the city in secret, to sneak into war-torn Riftcity. Her insides burned with guilt at the prospect of not telling her mother yet—or even worse, sneaking out without telling her at all. Sylvia didn’t know which would make her mother worry more—the truth, or nothing at all.
There had still been no word from Gero or anyone about the boy from Riftcity. Surely it would be any time now. She supposed he must have been exhausted, making the trip from Riftcity, scared, alone and battle worn. She was ready to depart at any minute, but she was glad to have spoken to her father this afternoon first. No matter what, her father believed in her and hadn’t even questioned her determination to travel to the now-dangerous city. His belief could always keep her going, as it had when she had first trained to be a Rider.
She would just have to tell her mother and Sonia when the time came.
As her family laughed and joked, and her father began to tell a story about something he and one of the fieldworkers did, Sylvia tried to relax. It was not often that she was able to witness this. Her travels nonetheless helped support the family, but to be able to experience home life from time to time was a great gift.
She had spent a lot of time with her father as he trained her to be a Rider only a few years ago. After months and months of begging to begin, then hours upon hours of training, he had finally agreed to take her out of the city