Hearts in Ruin
Despite the warm evening wind, Tala drew her knees close and shivered. Under the starlight, below the community’s terraced crops, mastodons filled the valley, their footfalls echoing in the dirt. But above, the Fire Star grew.
Not a good sign.
“I have something for you,” said Bin. He crouched near her on the grassy hill. “Close your eyes.”
She inclined her head. “What is it?”
“Hold out your hands,” he prodded.
She complied. A cold weight pressed down upon her palms. “Can I look now?”
Her breath caught in her throat. His gift was a beautiful bowl, bright and colorful with intricate, flowery designs. Around its interior were three words.
Bin loves Tala.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
She didn’t know how to respond. It was very sweet. But now? The Fire Star loomed. They faced imminent change—a shift that would unbalance everything.
Still, this simple display pierced those concerns.
“I want you and no one else,” he said.
He frowned. “You feel that way, too…don’t you?”
Tears welled. She glanced at the Fire Star.
He followed her gaze. “That’s a good sign,” he assured her. “It means we will be happy.”
He extended a hand. She drew a deep, slow breath, accepted his hand, and stood. The bowl slipped from her lap and cracked against a stone.
His eyes widened. His Adam’s apple bobbed. An intense remorse swept through her, momentarily eclipsing her fear of the Fire Star. She had to make this right.
She placed her hand on his chest and held his gaze. “I do love you, Bin.”
She kneeled and lifted the bowl and a fragment that had fallen from it. “This is a good sign. The words are intact.” She then handed the piece to him and arranged his hand. She held the bowl and placed it with the shard in his hand, matching. “This is yours.” She motioned. “And this is mine. It means we belong together.”
She watched his expression shift from despair to joy. He smiled and wrapped his arms around her. His eyes sliced to the Fire Star and back. He flashed a cocky smirk. “Everything will be fine,” he crooned. “You’ll see.”
She pressed her face against his chest. No, she thought. It won’t.
Bin lowered his mouth toward her ear. “We have everything we need. Nothing can change all this.”
Things would not be fine.
They would not last.
At least they had each other—even if only for now.