With a tremendous clunk, the metal lock of the mansion’s backdoor broke apart and thudded to the ground, rolling past Leta’s feet in the darkness. Leta lifted her eyebrows, deeply impressed, as Corra smirked in satisfaction and hastily stuffed the lockpick into her bra.
They were supposed to be stealthy and silent, but Leta simply couldn’t help herself. “Where’d you learn to do that?” she whispered, amazed.
“Practicing on every door in the complex after hours when I was a kid,” Corra replied simply, smiling back at her. “They stopped bothering to lock them eventually.”
“You have to teach me that. Okay, let’s go … “
A sense of giddiness passed between them as Corra grinned, then eased open the door for their entry. It led into a darkened kitchen, and rather than feel weary or fearful to break into this man’s house (as she knew she should have been), Leta felt only intrigue.
Simply put, she wasn’t sorry at all she agreed to help Corra. This was a most welcome distraction from the grieving crew and the sadness that hung over the ship like a storm cloud. For the first time since Aiden’s funeral, Leta felt a sliver of her normal self, and it was such a relief to see Corra, after so many nights of tears, smile again.
Even besides that, the job was simple and practically foolproof. They were here to retrieve one of Corra’s oldest childhood friends, a man named Will, who worked as an ally in this mansion. Will had no idea they were even coming, but soon enough, Corra was going to give him his freedom.
Best of all, Corra always got a little pink in the cheeks at the sound of his name. She never reacted that way around Cyrus, Leta couldn’t help but notice.
“I did some snooping,” said Corra, as she led them down a hallway, “and found out Mr. Lawson and most of his staff’s out of town this week. But Lawson told me, or my alias anyway, that Will’s still around. His patrol’s the front part of the house. So hopefully we can find him and ideally, nobody else.”
“So,” whispered Leta pointedly, following Corra through the hallway, “You and Will … “
Corra sent her an innocent glance. “What about me and Will?”
“What happened with you two? You were friends as kids, right?”
“We were pretty close,” she admitted. Sure enough, a warm pink flushed generously through Corra’s cheeks and she hastily looked away. But Corra was never one to shy away from a chance to gossip, even if it was about herself.
“He was brought into my complex when I was fourteen or fifteen or something. Male allies and female allies weren’t really supposed to spend much time together, but it was around Concordia and it was so busy then with all the guests and the festivals and the feasting that the rules were kind of set aside. Too much work to do to care who was doing it, y’know?”
She paused to examine a glass cabinet against a wall. Inside, lavish, ornate jewelry glittered even in the semi-darkness.
“This’ll do,” Corra remarked after a moment and opened the cabinet, plucked up the most expensive-looking necklace and passed it over to Leta without hesitation. Leta stared at her, snorted and then agreeably slipped the necklace into her shoulderbag.
Corra continued down the hallway and went on, “So after the Concordia holidays were over, it was a little harder for Will and I to hang out, but by then I was a master of navigating the place so it wasn’t that hard. We spent a lot of time together.” She smiled at the memory. “A lot of time. He taught me how to shoot a gun.” She laughed softly. “Goddora liked him so he got put in the patrol training. Destined to be a gunhand, it seemed. And he taught me everything he knew. With sticks. Not quite the same,” she said, sighing fondly, “But we made do.”
As she crept past another table of valuables, she absently swiped a shiny golden vase and handed it back for Leta to store.
“In return, I taught him how to read. We used to sit in the library after hours with a flashlight and read together.” A proud grin shone on her face. “All kinds of things. Epic adventures and mysteries, fantasies and oh! History. We both loved the books about the Origin the most.” Carelessly, she plucked a sparkling tray from the wall and held it close to her chest. “Ah the hours we spent just speculating what it was like there…”
Finally, she glanced back at Leta and grinned impishly. “Oh and he was the first boy I ever kissed.” Innocently, she swung her hands, tray and all, around to her back and remarked simply, “Probably shoulda told you that first, huh?”
“I sort of figured that,” said Leta, smirking. Inwardly, her chest tightened: it was times like these when she missed Ren the most.
But she talked through it. “So what happened with him? Did he leave?”
“He was just — sold one day,” breathed Corra sadly. “Spur of the moment thing too. During one of Goddora’s big conferences. I suppose this Lawson guy just saw him and thought he’d be useful so one day he was there, and the next — ” She sliced her hand through the air. “Gone. We barely had a chance to say goodbye.”
It sounded so horribly familiar that Leta nearly laughed. Nearly. She was supposed to meet Ren for breakfast that one day, and he simply never showed up.
“I know how that feels,” Leta murmured, exhaling a sigh. “So a few years later … Fiearius bought you?”
“Yep.” Annoyance passed over her face. “For whatever reason. Always been a mystery to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well Fiear had been around Goddora’s before, y’know?” Corra explained thoughtfully. “I was working in the main office a lot so I’d seen him a couple times over. He’d come knocking at Goddora’s door more than once looking for work, but he never seemed to have any interest in the ally trade, as much as the bastard tried to sell the idea to him. Always just said nope, let’s talk about the guns. And then one day he comes in again, asking for the same as always. A job, a gig, anything. And then all of a sudden, he asks to buy me.”
Corra glanced back at her incredulously. “Just out of nowhere. And I’d already been bought. Or…promised to someone, I don’t know. So Goddora said no, but the cap’n didn’t like that. He insisted. He offered some amount and Goddora just laughed. My other buyer had offered double that. But Fiearius was relentless. He said he’d pay the remainder, plus some extra, in his services.”
Disgraced, Corra shook her head. “I dunno what kind of ‘services’ those were, but he was paying off that debt for the next six months. And for what? He ripped up my deed the day after I came aboard and he never asked a damn thing of me.” She sighed and handed the tray to Leta. “Ain’t never figured out if he’s benevolent, stupid or just plain crazy.”
The story stirred something in Leta. Something Leta couldn’t exactly place.
“And he just never told you why he bought you?”
Corra frowned dully. “Everytime I ask, he just comes up with some stupid sarcastic answer,” she grumbled. “‘Because I love surrounding myself with people who don’t listen to me’ or ‘because my armory needed another hole in it, or, his favorite, ‘because I just can’t get enough of stupid questions.’”
Leta snorted, somewhere between disdain and affection. “Yeah, that sounds like him.”
“Well whatever, if he wants to be dumb and mysterious, then I say–” began Corra, but she froze mid-sentence, her eyes going as wide as dinner plates as she hastily threw her arm up to catch Leta from moving forward.