The fading light made the shadows look like long groping fingers as Crackle's mind-touch reached Newt and caused him to cast an eye towards the half open door flap of his den.
**Crackle? What did you send?** Newt rubbed his eye with a balled up fist. **Everything all right?** He rolled onto his belly, flopping his face into his pillow.
**Oh hey, sleepy head — didn't mean to disturb your rest, but it is almost nightfall.** Her sending was laced with a friendly jibe.
Newt sighed and buried his face deeper into the pillow. Crackle was well known for her insomnia and he could not help but wonder why it was his turn to suffer for it.
**Oh come on, I need your help with something.**
**You need my help? Really? That's a surprise.** Newt pushed himself up onto his elbows and then sat up. **What do you need, bothersome she-wolf?**
**Uh...could you bring a sharp flint over.**
Newt blinked as he felt apprehension in the brushing of her mind, but before his still groggy brain could focus, it was gone. He shook his head. **Sure. Give me a chance to wake up and I'll be right over.
The cooling night air made Newt breathe deeply as he begun his ascent to Crackle's new den. She had made her den higher than the birds it would seem. He shook his head and smiled. His agemate had a flair for the extreme.
Newt swept aside the entrance flap to Crackle's den. **All right — here I am. What's going on?** The girl sat cross-legged in the center of her habitation, basked in the light of lit candles. Newt squinted at her as he stepped in. **Got your flint. What do you need it for?**
Crackle raised her leaf-green eyes to meet his puzzled look. **Did you see the neat earrings Evervale made for me?**
**These ones,** she answered, pushing back a mass of deep red hair. **How could you miss them?** Her eye-brow raised, as a tendency of hers. Usually followed by a biting of her lower lip. Newt barely suppressed a giggle as Crackle bit her lip.
**Of course you can't see them. Not with this mess of hair!**
“Ah—” Newt knelt next to her. “So you want me to help you trim your hair? Why me? Can't your mother or Starskimmer give it a go?”
Crackle let out a puff of air. “I just thought maybe you could help me saw it off. If you don't want to, I can do it myself. Just give me the flint. Thanks.”
Newt reached for the flap of the pouch at his belt. “I'm not saying I won't help you out, but...” He paused to look at the cascading mass of hair. It was unrestrained and seemed to revel in its unusual freedom. “Wow, It's gotten really long. I hardly ever see it down.”
|Illustration by Laura Melis |
The candle light shimmered off her hair with a glossy slickness. There were several red-heads in their tribe, but Crackle's hair had such a deep hue to it that it was not far from black at times. Like hot coals in a night fire.
Newt reached out and touched one of the shifting tresses. It was smooth and slippery under his fingers. Not at all like his dry brittle hair. “I can help you, but let's not cut it just yet.”
“Why not?” She pouted, folding her arms, but not pulling away from his touch on her hair. “I trust you.”
Newt's brows shot up at her words. It was his turn to bite his lip. “I, um, I, well. It's beautiful.”
The young huntress sat bolt upright and shot him a look over her shoulder, through the mess of hair spoken of. “What are you talking about?”
“Heh-heh,” the laugh sounded hollow, even to Newt's ears. “I just meant, you're lucky to have such a mop of hair. I couldn't get mine to grow like that, and yes. I think it's beautiful. But if you want me to help you cut it, then fine.”
Crackle sat back on her haunches and nibbled on her thumb nail. “Hmm. I hadn't thought of it being beautiful.”
“Well, I meant nice.”
A wicked grin swept across Crackle's tanned features. “I'm pretty sure you said beautiful. And I don't think I've ever heard you say anything so nice about me before.”
“I didn't say it about you. I said it about your hair.” Newt responded, holding steady under her amused gaze.
“Oh yeah, that's way different.” Her smile softened, but her eyes still held his. “I guess you're off the hook. Maybe you could just braid it for me then? After all, being Greenweave's son should have benefited you some.” Crackle turned her back to him and pushed her lively hair over her shoulders.
“Uh, right. All right then.” Newt frowned. Something different had just passed between them. Newt was aware he had grown up in some ways faster than Crackle, even though being two years her junior. Fadestar as well, seemed to have blossomed more quickly than the red-haired friend he and Fadestar shared. Newt smiled to himself as his hands worked through Crackle's hair, smoothing out the tangles. He felt pleased that he just witnessed a moment of Crackle's dawning. His smile lingered, also content that she chose to keep her wild mane, because he did think her hair was beautiful.
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