Copper, I think to myself as I brush a pale-blond dreadlock behind my ear again, it has to be copper. ‘Conduit, magic needs to flow, no barrier between skin and words and magic.’ I hear a voice call out into the workshop. It’s my own, but I don’t pay attention to it. It happens to me a lot, the boundary between thought and speech, outside and inside sometimes becomes hard to grasp.
My fingers twitch as I hover over the copper sheets, moving to their own melody, playing tunes of air that nobody can hear, not even me. I look to my right hand, the cool silver colour of it contrasting against the warm copper. But the silver is warm to the touch, alive with magic and moving like it’s made of flesh, even if it’s not.
The movement is almost the melody in my head. That melody which is always playing, always singing and humming through flesh and blood and metal, making sure I still have a hand I can move, even though it was not always warm silver. As always when I focus on the words of song in my head I’m reminded of that one time, three years ago, when I lost consciousness and woke up without the song. The metal hand that is mine dead and cold and not moving and heavy, so, so heavy as I tried to make it move again. It sends a shiver down my spine and tunes the melody up louder, so loud it almost drowns out the rest.
I breathe out my sorrow and worries and wait for the song to quiet again, I don’t need their words hovering in front of me now, they can go back to being the background noise I’ve been living with for the past five years. ‘Song that keeps you alive.’ I murmur to my hand as I pick up one of the copper sheets. This one has an imperfection, I feel as I caress it with my magic. ‘Needs to be pure to speak out the words.’ I say and put it down. The third one is right and I take it to the workbench to get out the oak leaf I see hiding within the metal.
His birthday is next week. Quinn Beckett, who has known me before I lost my hand and got a piece of living metal and a song in return. ‘I love him.’ I tell the copper leaf in my hands and smile as the metal soaks up the words, warming to the touch. His magic works with words, shouting spells and singing chants. Words are hard for me now, difficult to translate between brain and heart and mouth. His magic is words while mine is metal so for his birthday I am turning his words into metal.
He is strong and unbending, like an oak tree. Tall and toned with brown hair the colour of acorns. Like the oak, he’s a guardian, dependable and I know he would do anything to protect those he loves. The copper oak leaf reminds me of him. He misses the wisdom of the oak, being young and plagued by the past, but I’ve seen it in him. He will find it one day and it will grow from sprout to tree and make him wise.
I add seven stones to the leaf, one for each year that I’ve known him, that I’ve loved him. Seven stones in different shades of gold and copper and bronze, like the stars in the night sky. Burning with passion and so much light that it’s sometimes blinding to look at them, to look at him and not feel like you’re burning inside your skin. He loves the night, with its shadows and darkness and only tiny points of light. I remember a midwinter night where we laid next to the bonfire, listening to crickets and soft songs as we stared up to the stars. It’s one of my favourite memories of him, filled with warmth and laughter and so much light even if it was the darkest night of the year.
He’s good at hunting. Once I thought of him as a wolf, stalking and chasing through the shadows. But he’s not a wolf, his sister is. Changing shape and chasing the moon every time it is full. Quinn is an owl, I decide while picking out the silver sheet the owl is hiding in. Even though his weapons are words and sound he hunts silently, gliding through the night as if on silver wings. His prey won’t know he’s there until it is too late. Until his spells pierce through the night like a haunted cry and they fall dead to the ground. A barn owl, I see, with its eyes black as night and hints of gold and bronze on its feathers.
‘I love him.’ I tell the owl as the eyes sparkle with the words. He doesn’t love me, I know, still chasing and hunting the ones who took his love away. ‘Holly was her name.’ I tell myself, remembering her wavy brown hair and sparkling green eyes, so unlike me. ‘The demon took her for herself, away from him.’ My words sound hollow in the workspace. ‘Quinn can’t love me until he finds her.’ A tear trickles down my cheek, falling on the silver owl in my silver hand. ‘I see it in him,’ I tell it, careful to keep magic out of my words and touch now, not tainting the metal. ‘he needs to save her and he will. He’s changed and if the demon kept her alive she’s changed too. He doesn’t love her anymore but he thinks he does because of guilt and duty.’ The last bit comes out shivering in the air. ‘Duty for the hunt.’ I tell it and this time there is magic, sharpening the feathers until they are sharp as blades.
I put the pieces together, fitting the words turned into metal together until they are one piece. The last word to go in is ‘love’ and it gives the pendant, for that is what it became, a shine that wasn’t there before. I close my eyes and see it sparkle with gold and white and I smile.
He walks in when I’m putting the completed necklace on a black pillow. His smile lights up the room and my heart until I think it will burst. ‘Teira,’ he says and my name in his voice makes my stomach flutter. I smile at him, something brittle, I know, but it’s all I have. ‘Kim says you haven’t eaten all day. That you haven’t even noticed her when she came in.’
I blink and look at the clock. Seven hours and I hadn’t even noticed. ‘Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the outside when the inside is too loud.’ I tell him and he just smiles back. He understands the words which find their way out of my head through my mouth. He doesn’t think I’m crazy.
‘What were you doing?’ He asks and walks over to me. I show him the pendant and he picks it up, turning it over in his hand and looking at it like it is precious. ‘It’s beautiful.’ He says.
‘It’s you.’ I tell him and his eyes widen. ‘It’s your words, not the ones you say but the ones you are.’
‘You made this for me?’ He asks.
‘Next week is your birthday. The hunt is coming to an end and this will help. My magic giving power to yours.’
He lays his hand on my right one and squeezes and I can only stare at it. Flesh against metal but I can feel his touch, the pressure he gives. ‘Thank you.’ He murmurs and fastens the necklace so that the pendant falls over his heart. He takes in a shaky breath and looks at me again, his hazel eyes brighter now, shiny. ‘That’s quite a powerful magic you made it with, it’s very strong. What did you use?’
I know what he’s asking about, the metals and the stones, but what comes out before I can think about it is ‘Love, I used love.’ And I silently curse my broken head with its broken filter when his head snaps up, confused and his eyes bore into mine. He stares and I stare back, unable to look away even if I wanted to.
He smiles then, small, happy and sad at the same time as he walks over and pulls me into a hug. His hand threading through my deadlocks as he pushes my face into his chest. He is very tall and I’m short but we fit together anyway, like two pieces of the same puzzle. I drape my right arm around him and my left one fists into his shirt. I feel his lips touch my hair and it sends sparkles of light through me.
‘I love you too.’ He says but his love doesn’t feel like mine. His feels like friend and family and understanding, not passion and fire and heart.
That love is not what I meant, I think. And sounds come out of my mouth that could have been the same words but they are lost, weaving into the fabric of his shirt until the meanings disappear just like the sounds. I turn my head to the side so I can listen to his heart beating and sigh. It’s not what I meant, but it’s a start.