The sun rides high, but Juna’s hand sticks to mine as she speaks to the guard outside the wall. His eyes roam the cloth that covers her blindness and prickle over my shoulders and lank, long hair. We are dusty and footsore from the road, can count all our ribs. No food since yesterday morning, no water since nightfall. The guard only filled our waterskin because he couldn’t understand Juna’s raspy whispers.
“We’ve been on the road days,” Juna says, her accent smoothed and fitted with the man’s nuances. “My sister, Anelli, and I were separated from our caravan.” After a pause, she adds, “She cannot hear or speak.”
We’ve practiced the lie again and again. I can’t lose the city accent, so Juna talks for us both. If we told the truth, that I found her two years ago in the rubble of our city, they’d know our curse and run us out of town.
This man is wider than the two of us doubled, his meaty arms folded over a worn tunic. He frowns, but his blue eyes have not yet settled on distrust. I imagine him, briefly, as Juna has told me people appear to her Sight: a flaming column rippling with indecisive colors, orange and green. Her curse is sometimes beautiful.
“We’re stout,” Juna says, dropping my hand and giving her best attempt at standing with her feet apart, which only emphasizes her frailty, “and hard workers. Anelli is the best.”
She looks at me when she says this, and I nod, staring at the cracked clay between my feet and clasping my hands together. I know many people are watching us from the ramparts and the chinks in the wall. I’m only fourteen and can close my fingers round my biceps, but in crowds people give me a berth, and grown men have fled from my stare. Maybe they sense my curse like dogs sense danger.