This is it, Vella thinks, absently stroking the branches stretching overhead. Under this tree she had napped on the iconic day of her Maiden’s Feast; from under this tree she would set out in search of a new adventure. Three years have passed since then, three years during which she has matured and grown, and become hungry for new sights and quests. Seventeen-year-old Vella stands beside a Whoops-a-Birdy, staring into the sunrise with an easy grin spread across her face.
She hops into her Whoops-a-Birdy’s basket. “Ready to go, Mogs?” The bird’s nickname was Rocky’s choice, a welcome reminder of Vella’s past successes. Vella settles herself nice and snug among her supplies, one hand on her steed’s neck and one dangling off the edge.
Mogs’ wings begin to beat.
“Up, up and a- way?” Vella’s impromptu battle cry is cut short by a pale hand gripping her dark one. She glares down at the new person, but her stare softens when she notices who it is. The Whoops-a-Birdy settles back onto the ground.
“What’s up, Shay?”
Shay’s heart leaps into his throat at the way her dark eyes twinkle and shine in the dawn light. The way her voice dances through his ears, smooth as the mirror glaze dripping down her goodbye cake last night. He can’t let her slip away like this. Not now, not ever.
“I’m coming with you,” he states matter-of-factly. Vella blinks in surprise, but a slight smile graces her face. She leans out of the basket toward him.
“Are you sure? You seem to have everything figured out here with your cozy little life with your family. Last I checked, leaving is the last thing you’d want to do?” The last sentence is a question, clear through the tilt of her head and quizzical tone. She can’t understand why Shay would leave his parents again; she’s seen him at his most content learning to knit with Hope and building science-y things beyond her comprehension with Ray. Now his rebellious pining for danger has passed, this is the life he always wanted, right?
Their faces are uncomfortably close now, but neither teenager moves away. Shay flushes scarlet, his eyes shifting away from hers. His voice stutters against his will, “I-if you’re leaving, I’m leaving too.”
Vella’s heart squeezes at his flustered expression. She quickly leans back into the basket and nods. “Well, I won’t argue, but we might need more…” She looks around at the stuffed basket, at the supplies that are clearly enough for at least two people, and trails off. I guess I didn’t really want to go alone. Huh. “…never mind. Have you said goodbye?”
Shay nods rapidly, glad for the space between them. He shifts his weight from side to side. “Of course. Mom was worried as usual, but she’s loosened up since we moved here. In fact… she seemed oddly happy to let me go. Something about growing up and… following my heart? I wasn’t really listening.” Vella doubts the last part, but she lets him have his privacy. She leans forward again, grinning mischievously, and pulls him into the basket with deceptively slender arms. Shay lands with an oof in a tangle of limbs beside her, stomach fluttering at the closeness. Vella smells like buttercream and vanilla and her skin is warm and soft. She lets out a lilting, musical laugh.
“Guess we should set off then, huh, space boy?” They straighten up and Vella rests her hand briefly under his chin. Shay’s eyes widen at her touch, and if Vella notices his reaction, she pretends not to. Instead, she turns to reaffirm to Mogs that it’s time to leave.
Three strong wingbeats and they’re airborne once again, this time with an extra passenger. The bird heads for the sunrise. Shay’s hand creeps over Vella’s-
“Oh, fine,” she states bluntly, before turning to pull Shay into a kiss. Her hands cup his flushing cheeks, and it takes him a moment to catch up and return her action. As they pull apart, Shay offers a shy smile. Their foreheads rest on each other. He pulls her back, stronger and surer of himself this time.
They rest in the middle of the basket, huddled together against the cold mist of the clouds surrounding them. Shay presses his face into her neck to hide his heated face. Vella wraps her arms around him, swallowing the lump in her throat. Velouria Beastender Tartine, emotional over a boy. Who would’ve thought?
“Love you, space boy.” The light in her eyes rivals the rising sun.
“Love you too,” comes the muffled reply.