Calliope rolled the coin between her fingers, tracing the strange square edges. No one had been able to read the lettering on it, not even William. And he was the smartest of all the drakes. Named after William Shakespeare. He was always trying to get her to read his stories.
“I’m a wyvern, for the hundreth time, Callie,” the silvery-blue reptile sighed from above her head.
“I didn’t say anything!”
“I can tell when you’re thinking it.” William linked his long tail around the bedpost and slithered down to the blankets. “If you’re up, you should get ready for school.” Callie groaned and pulled the blanket over her head, falling back down onto the bed. “I don’t want to go to school,” she complained, her voice muffled by the blanket. “If I don’t have parents I don’t have to go to school. It’s the law.”
“Oh?” A light pointed, scaly nose lifted the edge of the blanket. “And who knows more about law than the wyvern that spent half his life living in a bookstore or an obnoxious, stubborn little girl who refuses to-”
“Willy! Willy!” Sharp excited cries interupted the wyvern and Callie shoved him out from under the blanket. William let out a sharp undrake-like squack of surprise.
“Willy! Look what we found!” Callie poked her head out from under the blanket to see the twins Pix and Nix rush the elder wyvern, bowling him over in a whirlwind of wings and tails.
“It’s William!” the wyvern insisted. “Stop calling me Willy!” The two drakes rolled to a stop – Pix stuck her tongue out at him while Nix brandished a tarnished dime at him. “We found it outside! It’s really old I bet, look how dirty it is!”
“That doesn’t mean it’s old,” Max argued from above her head. He inhaled and breathed a sort of fire at the candle on the little shelf next to Callie’s bed, and she took it down and used the little flame to light the rest: two more fat, stubby candles on the floor and a tall white taper in a holder made of an old, broken vase. “You two are almost constantly covered in dirt and even Callie is older than you.”
“Is it? Callie, what is the date?” Nix held up the coin for her to read. William rolled his wings, which Callie had come to understand was the draconic version of rolling his eyes. She took the dime from Nix’s tiny claws and squinted in the dim light. “I think it says 2002,” she answered. Nix and Pix both deflated. “Oh.”
Told you,” Max crowed triumphantly.
“Enough,” William flicked his tail at the other wyvern. “There’s no call to be rude.”
“But it’s more than we got yesterday, ” Callie said, patting Nix on the head. The drake rubbed his horns against her hand, comforted, and Pix pushed herself in, too. “What should we get for breakfast with it?”
“Apples!” Nix exclaimed immediately. “With caramel and sugar!”
“That’s not breakfast, it’s desert,” Max curled himself around the skinny candle and the fire glimmered on his coppery skin. “We haven’t had cinnamon rolls in a long time.”
“If you’re trying to avoid desert, that’s not much of an improvement,” William said dryly. “You should have some real fruit, something healthy that will give you ener-
“Poptarts!” Pix jumped up onto the shelf and from here onto Callie’s shoulder. Her tiny claws tickled Callie’s arm as the drake settled comfortably around her neck. “Those have fruit in them.” Callie held out her arm, and Nix joined his sister. “And strawberry jam and blueberries with icing!”
William sighed. “I rest my case.”
Poptarts was the consensus, as William defined it, since no one (except for him) had any objections. Callie let Pix rest around her neck while she retrieved the small pail of rainwater from outside the little cottage shed that was her home. She used a washcloth to wash her face and hands and teeth and Max was curled up on top of the shirt he’d picked out for her today when she came back inside.
Dressed and ready a short while later, William flapped elegantly up to her shoulder while the twin pennydrakes played at her feet. Callie looked around at her little home, and was filled with a happy contentment. It was a tiny place, but just the perfect size for her and her friends. The pile of blankets and pillow was her bed in the corner, a box of clothes in the other corner and the shelves that held all her belongings: the candles, a piece of smooth glass, a cracked mirror, old brush with several hairties around the handle and a worn black and white notebook. Callie grabbed the notebook, William handed her a pencil and she closed the door, although she made sure Pix and Nix were outside first. Then they went to get breakfast.
Doing her best to ignore Max hanging off her ankle, William from her shoulder and the twins clinging to her shirttails, Callie reached up and emptied her little purse on the counter. In addition to the dingy dime Pix had discovered earlier, Callie slowly counted out enough nickels, dimes and the few rare quarters over to the cashier’s side.
“And could you give me a nickel for these?” She added, pushing over five copper pennies.
“..of course, ” the woman seemed flabbergasted at the request, but dutifully swept the handfuls of change off the counter and counted them into the drawer under her breath. She felt Nix shiver with excitement and skitter down her leg as the coins plinked and clanked into the drawer, vanishing into invisibility, followed shortly by her brother. Max snorted. The bagger handed her a plastic bag with her purchase, and Callie smiled brightly at them, doing her best to walk normally towards the door as Max shifted around her shoe.
“I don’t like you being so blase about lying like that,” William said, rather sternly as she padded through the parking lot. “Blase?” Callie shoved the bag into her jeans pocket and ripped into the top of the poptart box.
“Casual. At ease.” William opened his wings and swept down around her feet in a wide spiral. “There’s never a good reason to lie.”
“They wouldn’t have let me buy it if I told the truth.” Silver paper crinkled as she pulled out the strawberry frosted pastry. “You don’t know how annoying it is when grown ups try to baby you. I’m not going back to the home again, and that’s where they always send you.” She tore off a corner and dropped it – but Nix re-appeared out of nowhere and snatched it from midair.
“That was mine!” Pix whined and snapped at his sister, who flapped labouriously into the air out of his reach.
“There’s avoiding truth because it’s the smart thing to do, and then there’s lying because it’s easy.” William accepted the piece of poptart she handed him. “Don’t get in the habit of lying to avoid questions, that’s a lazy way out.”
“Yes, mother,” Max snickered. “But aren’t you supposed to wait until class starts before giving lessons?” Callie appropriated the second pastry for herself and munched happily, surrounded by the cheerful chatter of the pennydrakes and William’s indignant scolding as she left the parking lot behind on the way to school.