Myra danced in the middle of the busy bazaar, surrounded by sprightly small children, in the clustered back streets of Bombay. The copper plates of her skin glinted in the sunlight and thickly scented air. The bright purple and gold sari that Twist had bought her twirled around her dancing form like sweet smoke. As Twist watched her, the sight of her blissful copper smile stole all his other cares away, and her bright childlike laughs tingled on his skin. He took another sip of his warm, creamy chai and savored the multitude of delights before him.
“Twist?” Jonas asked with an insistent tone, as if he had been repeating himself.
“Yes?” Twist asked, looking to him. Jonas stood beside him at the side of the bazaar with his own small cup of chai. Against the dark amber and chocolate tones of the crowded human landscape around them, Jonas’s pale skin, short golden hair, and sharp sea green eyes stood out nearly as much as Myra’s clockwork form. The cut of his sturdy but worn, European attire—brown trousers and jacket, white cotton shirt, and leather boots—didn’t help.
“You didn’t hear a word I just said, did you?” Jonas asked with an accusing glare. His eyes shifted from green to a chilly gray as Twist watched.
“No, no, I was listening,” Twist lied.
“What did I say, then?”
“I think you’re absolutely right,” Twist said, nodding earnestly. “Whatever you said.”
“Uh huh.” Jonas glanced at Myra. Two children were holding her copper hands now, spinning around her in time to their own song. “So, I can get you to agree to anything while you’re gazing blissfully at your clockwork girlfriend. Good to know.”
“She’s hardly my girlfriend,” Twist snapped.
“Now see here,” Twist said, pointing a finger at Jonas’s smug certainty.
“Can you focus for a moment?” Jonas asked, finally in possession of Twist’s full attention. “Howell said he’s taking the Vimana off to Perth from here. But I just know we should head to America with Myra. California still has lots of gold just lying around, and a population that’s in love with novelty. There’s no money in Australia these days. It’s too new.”
“So, what do you want to do?” Twist asked reluctantly. He glanced back at Myra, wishing he could neglect the rest of his life—the simple fact that he was half way around the world from his home, without even the slightest idea where he might find himself tomorrow—just for a few moments more. She tilted her shining body into an elegant arc and swung through the children’s melody as carelessly graceful as a willow in a summer breeze.
“Like I said,” Jonas went on, “we can probably catch a trading ship as far as Japan. From there, I know people in Osaka who could get us to California.”
“Fine.” Twist took another sip of his tea. In the back of his mind he tried to remember if California was still full of ruffians and bandits, or if the place had been civilized yet.
“But,” Jonas continued, “if Arabel or Howell find out that we’re leaving the ship, they’ll try to stop us and that will be difficult and annoying. So, we need to pretend that we’re staying on board, gather our things, and disappear quietly. Night would be best.”
“You want to run away?”
“Of course. I hate my family. You know that.”
“Well yes, but…” Twist faltered. He’d always heard that families stayed together, no matter how much they hated each other. They always did in novels, anyway.
“Life is too short to suffer fools,” Jonas said, shaking his head.
Twist gave a shrug. “Your family, your choice, I suppose.”
Looking to Myra again, Twist gave a subtle sigh. She loved the idea of traveling around the world with Jonas and Twist, dancing for audiences while collecting a steady income from ticket sales. Twist couldn’t bear to disappoint her. Of course, he knew that he would be entirely out of his depth without Jonas’s help. Though the idea of relying on anyone but himself was foreign and uncomfortable to Twist, he found that he now had no choice but to accept that he was at the mercy of Jonas’s whim. He could only hope that he’d be able to see London again, someday.
“Then we should head back now,” Jonas said before he finished the last of his chai. “We can catch dinner and then turn in early, say we’re tired or something. Then we can sneak out just after midnight.”
“All right,” Twist said with another sigh.
He finished his chai as well and then walked closer to Myra in the pool of colorful, whirling, children. Looking now, he saw that a large number of shoppers had gathered to watch her as well, standing to the side of the open center of the bazaar. Their faces showed shifting shades of curiosity, wonder and enchantment as they watched Myra’s magical movements. Twist couldn’t help but feel a tiny jolt of pride as he called out to her.
“Myra, we should go,” he said as loudly as his small voice would allow over the children’s song and laughter. He caught her eye and beckoned with a hand.
Myra paused in mid-turn to look at him, her purple sari and long, maroon, wire hair finishing the swirl exquisitely, while her blue jewel eyes glinted brightly in her copper smile. Twist’s breath caught in the face of such a beautiful and careless display. When she rushed to him and took both of his hands in hers, he was too stunned to realize that she was pulling him into her dance. At her touch, his Sight flashed to life, filling his mind to the brim with all of her innocent and heady joy.
“Dance with me,” she said, her voice ringing as bright as a bell.
She held tightly to his hands and swung him around in the midst of the children. His feet complied, as if on their own, while his mind whirled even faster with the sudden and startlingly powerful high of her emotions. Shivers ran down his spine as she pulled closer, wrapping her slender arms around his neck as the twirl came to a stop. Twist’s arms curled around her back, while he stood helpless in her joy, watching her smile from so very near. There was sound, scent, and color everywhere around them, but for a moment Twist saw only her.
Then, she turned and spoke to the children around them. At first, Twist thought that there was something wrong with his hearing because he couldn’t make sense of a single word. Then, he realized that she wasn’t speaking English. Some of the children made unhappy, pouting faces, but others only waved and turned away. Myra waved back to them, and then threaded her arm around Twist’s and led him out of the crowd.
“I like India,” she said, as if the words tasted sweet on her silver tongue. “Where are we going next, my dear?” she asked, smiling excitedly. It took a moment for Twist to form an answer.
“Japan,” he said finally. “Jonas wants to go to Japan.”
“Oh!” Myra gasped, looking to Jonas. Twist was somewhat surprised to find him suddenly standing before them, and that Twist and Myra seemed to have arrived at the edge of the bazaar. “I’d like to see Japan,” she said. “I’ve heard very nice stories about it. They say the Sun lives there.”
“It’s a fun place,” Jonas said with a nod. He looked to Twist with a knowing smile. “Are you all right?”
Twist frowned at him, confused. He couldn’t find a single reason for anything in the world to be wrong. Myra glanced to him, then back to Jonas with apparently the same thought.
“Myra, could you just let go of him for a second?” Jonas asked her pleasantly.
“Oh…” Myra muttered, removing her hands from Twist.
Twist watched curiously as she did this, at a total loss of why she ever would. The instant the contact was broken, however, the sun-bright joy and heady content vanished from his mind as a wave of fear, confusion, and cold unease washed over him. The last few moments re-played in his mind, in a wholly new light: Myra had swept him into the middle of a crowd. He’d been a breath away from touching the children; and suffering stabbing, burning visions of pain and fear from each one of them.
A shuddering gasp escaped him as his body trembled for an instant in an effort to process the violent change in his emotions. All of the new fright poured through his blood as his heartbeat jumped into very high speed.
“Yeah…” Jonas muttered apologetically.
“Twist?” Myra asked, her expression suddenly concerned. “Darling, are you all right?” She reached out a hand to his shoulder.
“Yes, yes, I just…” Twist said, slipping ever so slightly away from her touch. He took a breath to calm himself as he tried to finish his sentence coherently.
“He’s fine,” Jonas said gently to Myra. “Just give him a moment.”
As he spoke, Jonas placed a hand lightly on Twist’s arm. The contact numbed Twist’s fears instantly in a thick cloud of chilly, impossibly white fog. It ebbed away quickly to hang on the horizon of his thoughts, but it washed his fright away with it. Twist let out a long breath as his heart began to calm down again. Jonas’s hand fell away, and the white chill fell away with it, but this time Twist’s own emotions returned to him more gradually.
“Myra, do you remember that he can’t bear to touch anyone but you or me?” Jonas asked her. She nodded, though it was obvious she wasn’t following him. “Children count as people,” Jonas offered.
Myra’s face snapped into understanding and she turned to Twist. “I’m sorry!” she said in sudden fear. “I keep forgetting to be careful with you…”
“It’s fine,” Twist said instantly, offering the best smile he could while his pride struggled to absorb the implications of her statement. He reached out to take her clockwork hand. The moment he did, a wave of worry washed over him through his Sight. But as he smiled reassuringly at her, it ebbed away into calm. “Shall we go?”