Chapter 26 - Flames of Anxiety
Flames fluffed up in the air, bellowing out the uneasiness held inside by everyone. A warm, comfortable feeling embraced them as their eyes lit up. They all simultaneously drew their hands forward close to the fire.
It wasn’t as if it was cold outside though, even if the weather dropped plentiful from the afternoon heat. This was a tradition that had already been built into even Grant’s mind in the two weeks he had lived here. They all looked at each other and a weak smile emerged from their faces.
“See? Already doing this feels much better, yeah? And no one seems to be watching us anymore. We were probably worrying about nothing,” Rhett said as he picked up a plank of wood from a pile beside him and carved into it with a knife.
Rhett didn’t usually carve by the fire. He had said he liked carving when he wanted to calm down and focus on one thing. Grant’s insights provided him with a different assumption, however. Did Rhett still feel uneasy enough that he just wanted to have a weapon on him at all times?
“What’re you making this time?” Saraiya pulled her hair out from her ponytail and let it flow down. “Another turtle?” She tried brushing the leaves and knots out of her hair.
“Not a turtle! A tortoise!” Rhett shook his head. “And of all people to not remember the difference, miss nature writer.”
Grant smiled and looked up at the sky. A feeling he always dreamed of. Not so much of the exact circumstances surrounding this night, but to be around people who he felt wanted him around.
“What’re you looking at?” Saraiya changed her focus to Grant.
“Oh, nothing. Just thinking.”
“Hmm, what of? Tired of us yet?” Rhett asked as he chipped away at the block of wood.
“Not quite.” Grant weakly laughed.
“Good,” they both said in unison.
Even though Saraiya had her backpack on the ground next to her, she had yet to take out her notebook. This was the first fire Grant had participated in where she hadn’t written anything. There definitely was something going on.
“Hey guys! Mind if I join in for the fire?” An unexpected cheerful voice shot across the empty street. Grant, Rhett, and Saraiya all looked at each other before slowly turning their gaze towards the voice. “Sorry, you guys don’t mind right? I’m sure you don’t, I’m always here during the fires after all,” Ambri said.
The group remained silent. Her attitude had completely flipped, she was no longer in any type of serious mood.
Rhett was the first one to speak up. “Yeah… It’s fine, we don’t mind.”
“Great!” Ambri smiled as if the previous hours never happened. “So, I have some good news for you guys.” She stood next to Grant, shadowing over the fire.
This is too much, Grant thought. She was trying too hard, why didn’t she just apologize for the tense environment earlier and call it at that? It’s not like anyone was mad at her, just confused.
“What’s that?” Grant said as he watched her from his peripheral vision.
“I was told that I could bring you guys into the Axis of Cygnus concert at the bar next week.” She smirked. “Free of charge because of yours truly.”
Rhett, who was previously on edge from her disturbing happiness, jumped forward. “No way! For real?! Why didn’t you even tell me sooner that they were coming?!”
Saraiya scratched her head with a faint smile, while still giving off a troubled expression.
“It’s just a small show they are willing to do on their way to Montria. Think of it as an intimate practice session, at least that’s what they said to us. Still, it should liven up the place for an evening.”
“Axis of Cygnus? Who is that?” Grant interrupted.
“Grant! I showed you them that first night we had the fire, the band Kale introduced me to.”
“Oh, yeah.” Grant nodded his head slowly, unimpressed. “They were, uh, interesting.”
“You gotta go man!” Rhett looked over at Saraiya. “You as well!”
“Yeah, I’ll think about it…” Saraiya answered.
“I guess I can try to go,” Grant said, knowing Rhett wouldn’t take no for an answer. There would be nothing else for him to do anyway, and he knew he didn’t want to spend a night without the usual crew in Lyros. Especially after tonight.
Rhett jumped up and down, dancing around the fire as if taming it.
He really was always able to change moods quickly. His happiness was one thing Grant could count on. If he was in a bad mood, he knew Rhett would do whatever it took to bring his and even other’s happiness levels up. He reminded him of how he used to act towards Elijah, someone to help keep him on the right track, keep his spirits high.
“When is the concert?” Rhett continued dancing around the fire.
“Exactly a week from today. Maybe I can even let you meet the bandmates.” The contrast between herself hours before and now, still struck Grant with disbelief. Was this really the same person?
Within an instant of Grant thinking that, the mood changed.
“Hey, Saraiya.” Ambri’s eyes shot into her.
The fire crackled in the quiet night with sparks of embers falling around their feet.
Saraiya scooted back in her chair and avoided making direct eye contact. “Yeah? What?”
“You didn’t happen to do anything exciting without us, did you?” Her mouth formed a crooked smile.
“N-no, of course not. I just went into the fields to read and write. There wasn’t even anything worth writing about…”
“Hmmm.” Ambri stepped closer towards her, still glaring into her eyes. “What a shame… Well, hopefully you can find something you want to write about soon.”
The atmosphere grew tense. Ambri’s expression no longer forced a cheery smile, but a disturbing leer. Rhett slowed his dancing and dropped himself back into his seat, eyes dashing between Ambri and Saraiya.
Grant tried to distance himself from the conversation, staring into the bright flames.
“Well, anyway, just thought I would stop by and give you guys the news. Our regular bonfire night is still going on for tomorrow right?” Ambri asked.
“Yeah, we’ll be right here,” Rhett answered.
“Good, I’ll make sure to tell Kale.” She walked in the opposite direction, waving her hand.