All right, here’s the first installment of the revised version. Have fun, feel free to comment (not to not comment, though). Please note that this part has been revised as of March 2009.
Laiva was sitting on her bed, her head rested on her knees and her arms wrapped tightly around her legs. She had tried to get some sleep, but after tossing and turning for an hour she had given up and settled on staring at her feet and waiting. In her mind she could still hear them laughing. She had thought of them as friends, but no friends could be that cruel; their laughter had cut deeper than any knife and it was still hurting.
The cruellest of them had been mummy. She, too, had been laughing and that was much worse than all the others. Could she even imagine how much that hurt? Did she even care?
Only because she was a woman, or almost at any rate; she was nearly nine after all. So what? Her mummy was a woman, too, and she was the best of all. No, she wasn’t; she was the worst of all, but it didn’t matter. She was better than any of the boys and they got to go. It was only fair that she would be allowed to go too. And she would.
Three days of crying had been enough to drain her of every single tear she had had in her, but it hadn’t taken her resolve with it, only laid it bare. If they didn’t allow her to go with the boys she would go alone. She wasn’t going to ask permission and she wasn’t going to give them a chance at holding her back either. She had figured everything out.
The last of the patrons had left the inn three hours ago, give or take, and by now even her parents had gone to bed. That ought to give her a head start of several hours before anybody even knew she was gone.
She raised her head and for a moment the moonlight rested upon her face, her big brown eyes glistening in it. It wasn’t the glister of tears, however, even though they still were somewhat red from all the crying. It was the glister of polished stone, radiating with the unyielding defiance of inner strength. Then she swivelled her body away from the window and the face was veiled by shadow once more.
Carefully, she lowered her toes onto the floor. The wood gave way under her weight as she pushed herself off the bed, but the worn planks gave only the faintest of sounds. Laiva held her breath and listened, but there was no other sound safe the odd animal cry outside and the faint snoring of her parents. She breathed out. If her parents caught her, they’d probably lock her in until it was too late, or keep such a tight eye on her that it wouldn’t make any difference. That mustn’t happen, that just mustn’t happen.
As quietly as possible she shed her night gown and slipped on her day clothes: trousers and shirt of soft, brown linen as well as a light leather vest against the chilly night air. She didn’t put her boots on, though, out of fear that even the soft soles would make too much noise; she couldn’t risk it. Instead she tied the laces together and strung them around the neck, then pulled the backpack out from under her bed and slung it over her shoulders.
She had already packed it during the day, when the noise from the taproom below drowned any she made. Most of it were clothes, but there also were a couple of things more likely to clatter when not packed carefully. Especially the cardboard box with her collection of odds and ends needed some serious padding.
She sneaked to the door, turned around and meant to give her room a final glance before leaving when her look came to rest on her ruffled bad. Normally she wouldn’t have cared, what was the point of making your bed when you were going to mess it up again in a few hours of time, but now that she was leaving for good, it just felt wrong to leave it that way. She put her backpack and shoes down. It was something she just had to do.
Laiva wasn’t as unobserved as she would have it, though. Outside, in a narrow cleft between two buildings, a pair of eyes was fixed on her window, watching any ever so small movement visible behind the glass. It was a carefully selected spot, overlooking a good portion of the inn, yet so thick with shadows that even the full moon shied from it. A spot to observe without being observed.