In the north

The mist skirts over the hills, settling in the grass and seeping through their clothes. Sheeta shivers, as her tears quickly turn icy in the morning wind.

A few feet ahead, the mist drips down mossy rocks that bear names, poorly carved by a once young girl.

She releases Pazu's hand then, and the first notes of his mourning canon break through the mist like the sun at their back, beginning to rise.


In the west

They devise a game to entertain themselves while waiting for the border guard to inspect the glider, which seems to be an important event worth four hours of waiting in line.

In the first round Pazu plays a song and Sheeta guesses.

In the second round Sheeta hums a song and Pazu copies it.

In the third round they switch off on verses, trying to keep their giggling in tune as well, for an added challenge.

In the fourth round they take requests from the other pilots in line.

When the guard finally finishes the inspection and comes to present their visas, they too end up joining the spontaneous band.


In the south

"I've never seen the sea before," Sheeta states, eyes wide to take in the view. They've pitched blankets across the roof of the cave for shelter; pushing the glider in as far as it will fit so the ocean spray won't rust the frame.

"You've seen the sea lots of times!" Pazu argues. "In fact, just a week ago you nearly fell into it! After I told you again and again to make sure your belt was fastened properly."

"Well, last week I was too busy concentration on not falling; I didn't get a good look."

She laughs as Pazu rolls his eyes.

"Oh, fine. So now that you've seen the sea, what do you think?"

A wave chooses that moment to crash over them, filling the cave with the smell of rotting kelp.

"It's very…loud."

Pazu untangles his trumpet from their nest of blankets.

"I'd like to challenge the sea!"

Another waves breaks, and Pazu's trumpet sprays its water back at it in defiance. Sheeta covers her ears.

"Can't you just call it a draw?"


In the east

"My lad, you look exactly like your father!"

Pazu looked like his uncle, too, Sheeta thought. And his grandfather. The family was easily traced by matching jaws and noses.

Who in her own family she looked like she'd never know; any portraits had either crumbled away or floated out of her reach. This saddened her somewhat, but she didn't dwell on it. Instead she gazed at Pazu, who looked at the photograph like it was glittering treasure.

"That's your great-uncle there in the third row," the neighbor pointed out, carefully tapping the faded corner. "I remember he played the trumpet in an orchestra. When I was young I used to stay up late so I could hear him practice. The music would carry from the attic next-door!"

"Pazu plays the trumpet too!" Sheeta exclaims. The neighbor smiles.

"Well, go on, play for me! I'm sure you've inherited his talent!"

Pazu opens his mouth to object, but Sheeta only hands him the instrument.

His notes are shaky at first, but soon he regains his confidence and the bagatelle is quick and light. The neighbor is misty-eyed and Sheeta imagines a room full of relatives, all with the same noses and jaws, clapping along.


At home

They return, months later, to find the small house exactly as they left it. Everything in its place: now under a good foot of dust, dirt, and debris.

"Pirates aren't the best houseguests," Pazu sighs. Since the smoke of the stove would only make their coughing and sneezing worse, they take to the roof.

The mountains are dark and foreign, threatening to swallow the whole town in their gloom. The town itself looks unfamiliar, either too small or too large, or maybe the lamps are glowing a different yellow than they did before; it's hard to decide.

"Everything has changed," Sheeta says, although she knows she never knew this place even before she left it.

Pazu downs the last of his bread before sprinting down into the house, returning with his trumpet case bouncing off one leg.

"It'll look the same in the morning," he assures her with a smile. "The mountains will turn yellow, then pink, and then orange. You'll hear the drills start up, and the smokestacks might block the view for a while, but everything will clear during lunch. Then the streetlamps turn on at sundown, and you can spot the trains, because the lights will move. It'll get dark like it is now by dinner, and then in the morning it starts all over again. Just like always."

She stares in wonder, trying to capture it all in her head.

"But what if I wake up late? I'll miss everything!"

Pazu winks, tightening his mouthpiece. "Don't worry, I'll make sure you don't."

Just before he starts to play, she leans forward and plants a quick kiss on his cheek. He's thankful that playing will soon make his face red enough so that his flush will go unnoticed…hopefully.

Above their heads, the doves sleep nestled together in the chimney, just like always, even though the grate no longer locks them in.