Taliana shut the Book of Evegran, her mind wandering as she looked at the pond. The months since her birthday had been spent in planning for this. Havrik had agreed to her rather unusual wish, though it had taken some serious persuasion on her part. It felt strange to pull rank, so to speak, and use the fact that she was the “Keeper of the Threads” to her advantage, but it had seemed a reasonable thing to do.
“And not simply for selfish reasons either,” she had repeated over and over again. There was still part of her, though, that felt it was nothing more than her own curiosity that drove this search.
Havrik had granted her the ability to move between worlds with more ease — outside of the confines of her home, which had been the hub that facilitated such travel in the past. The title Keeper of the Threads was nearly as closely tied to occupying that house as it was to her genetic makeup. Havrik hadn’t even been sure it could be done (after all, even Wish Givers had boundaries), but after much work, consultation, and research, it had been arranged. There was a limit on how much time she had, and Taliana knew she had to make the most of it.
A few details remained, such as setting up her “anchor.” A person who could help to keep her grounded. It had to be someone not connected to the threads, someone from her own world that she could trust. Her mother had been the one to suggest James. Taliana just hoped that he’d be amenable.
James paced on the edge of the pond, kicking the occasional rock he found into the water. He glanced back to the path – no sign of her. He pulled the note from his pocket.
Meet me at the pond when you’re done with your chores.
He’d been done for an hour, though if he hadn’t been functioning at a record pace he’d be finishing about now. How could he know when to expect her?
And why did she want to talk to him? He hadn’t seen her since the Masquerade ball six months ago, on the night she revealed her secret.
He looked up and pocketed the note. Heat rushed to his face, and he ran his hand through his curly hair. “Oh. Hey, Taliana.”
She carried shoulder bag and carried a large, leather bound book. A few strands of her red hair escaped the bun set on the back of her head, and she brushed them from in front of her face before gesturing to the bench facing the water. “Let’s sit.” She ran her hand across the back of her skirt as she sat, allowing it to billow around her.
James wished his heart rate would slow. She’s William’s age, he reminded himself.
“Thank you for meeting me here,” she said.
“Thanks of asking.” The heat that had started to leave his face came rushing back.
She grinned. “I have a favor to ask. An important favor. I feel like it’s something I can trust you with.”
Trust me? “Okay.”
“Do you remember what I showed you back at the masquerade party?”
She asked like James could have forgotten. “Yeah, the threads going through your house.”
“Right. I need to tell you more about them.”
She hadn’t told him much about the threads, only they represented stories from other worlds. Something had pulled her along the orange thread before she could elaborate.
James ran his hand through his hair again, not sure he wanted to be part of whatever this was.
“James, my family has a gift. We keep an eye on the stories in other worlds, to make sure everything stays balanced.” She opened the book, pointing to the beginning of a story set on a train, whatever that was. “I used to be bound to the house, but there’s a new way of doing it. But I need an anchor, something in this world that will pull me back, if needed.”
“Pull you back?”
“You want me to do it.”
She smiled and nodded again. “You know about the threads, and I have reasons to think you won’t let me down.”
He looked at his feet, trying to hide his embarrassment. He hadn’t thought his attraction was obvious. Desperate to redirect her attention, he asked, “What’s in the bag?”
She pulled the bag onto her lap, opened it, and pulled out a large bunch of different colored threads, all knotted together. Like the threads at her house, these were likely invisible to everyone besides the two of them.
“These are the stories.” She threw the ball into the air, where the threads shot out in a hundred different directions. Blues went to the sky and water, greens to the earth, brown to the trees.
Taliana gathered the end of each thread, which had landed at her feet, and handed them to James. “All you have to do is watch where I go, and keep an eye on that thread. You’ll know what to do.”
Taliana looked at James, waiting for his a sign of confirmation. Her explanations had been fairly simplified, but she didn’t want to load him down with the more in-depth concepts just now. He nodded, though she could see his hesitancy. She felt a little bad. He was a sweet guy and clearly had a crush on her; she hoped that she wasn’t taking advantage. But her mother had insisted that James would be a good person to pick, and Taliana put great faith in her mother’s counsel.
“Thank you,” she smiled at him, taking a deep breath, “I’m going to start out now. Do you have any questions, before I go?”
James had a definite wide-eyes look about him, but shook his head, “I’ll just stay here, and watch.”
“You’ll know what to do,” Taliana reassured, the threads weaving around James in a way that helped her have such certainty. She gave him one last smile and then turned, narrowing her eyes at the threads and picking one to follow first. She had no idea where this would take her but she knew she had to take the first step. The thread wove into the air over the pond, and Taliana could see the small space to step into that would take her to the world of that thread. She took one last glance at James and then took the step.