“You should have come, it was a lot of fun.” Vahn regretted the words almost as soon as they were out of his mouth.
His friend’s expression didn’t change, though. He just stayed with his back against the floor, twisting and turning the bottle he held overhead, watching the tiny seashells mixed with the glittering sand tumble against the inside of the glass. “It’s all right. I can’t swim, anyway.”
Vahn tried not to look at him, instead focusing on the way the glass and sand inside sparkled in the sunlight. Ran’s room was bright, the curtains on all the high windows drawn back. The room overlooked a garden in full bloom, but every time Vahn glanced out the windows, he found himself squinting and wondering if the gleam in the distance was the sea, or just some trick of the light.
It had been an enjoyable trip with the rest of the boys, all of them the children of guardsmen, but every expedition came with a twinge of guilt. Vahn was free to travel and explore.
Ran rarely left his room. When he did, it was only for guarded excursions to the temple, then right back again.
Sighing, Vahn picked at the laces on his boots. “Do you think they’ll ever let you out of their sight?”
“Soon.” Ran shrugged, sitting up, running a hand through his hair. “Father said that after my birthday, he’ll let me have some time to myself at the temple. He figures that’ll be safer than the city.”
“Don’t you want to see the city?” Vahn asked.
Ran snorted. “Of course I do.” He put the bottle on the floor beside him. “I just don’t know how I’d be able to see it without someone recognizing me. I’d get in trouble.”
“Because that’s ever stopped us before.” Grinning, Vahn leaned closer. “I bet nobody would recognize you if you weren’t wearing silk. And maybe if your hair was darker.”
Frowning, Ran turned toward the windows. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why not? There’s that old story about the lordling and the common boy trading places-”
“Your clothes wouldn’t fit me,” Ran interrupted. “I’m taller than you.”
“That will just make it more convincing! Poor kids don’t get new clothes every time they grow a little bit. Give me your shirt!” Vahn all but lunged after his friend, grabbing for the hem of his silk tunic.
“Hey!” Ran slapped his hands away, glaring. “I don’t need any help!”
“Well then take it off!” Unfastening buttons, Vahn shrugged out of his plain spun shirt, passing it over as Ran peeled his finer garment off overhead and offered it in trade. The silk tunic was much too long for him, and he laughed when he stood up and it reached halfway to his knees.
Ran pulled Vahn’s shirt on, pausing after he finished doing the buttons. The sleeves were a few inches short, leaving him looking at his arms with a frown.
“No problem,” Vahn said, jumping up and trotting to the wardrobe. “If we wrap your arms in something, people might think you’re sick or injured and will give you more space. The farther away they are, the less likely it is they’ll recognize you.” He threw a linen undershirt to his friend before crossing to the desk, digging through bottles of ink.
Ran tore strips from the shirt, binding his hands and standing up. His pants were too fine to go with Vahn’s too-small shirt; he turned to the wardrobe, digging through the clothing inside until he found something more worn. Vahn nodded his approval at the choice, pouring ink into his hands.
“Are you sure this is going to work?” Ran asked.
Before Vahn could reply, but not before he jammed his ink-covered hands into his best friend’s hair, the door opened.
The boys froze.
Ran’s nursemaid stopped in the doorway, her eyebrows rising.
Ink dripped down Ran’s forehead, falling onto a pile of fine clothing heaped around their ankles.
Coughing, Vahn stepped back. “Um… it seemed like a good idea.”
This week’s prompt was “Getting dressed.”
The lovely Megan Cutler addressed this prompt back in October.
Next week’s will be the last prompt I’ll be doing for a while, since I’ll be working on some bigger projects instead!