Nesta picked listlessly at the food on her plate. Every now and then she took a bite. But it was only to indulge the occasional looks from her sisters.
Laughter echoed through the dining room as Mor and Cassian took turns telling a story about Rhys from their childhood.
Nesta had tried to look interested at the beginning. But the first time Cassian took over from Mor, he’d looked to everyone for a reaction to his joke. Everyone but her. He’d ignored her completely. As he’d been doing since they’d survived Hybern.
She’d stopped listening then, thinking only of why she’d bothered to come here at all.
The Inner Circle ate many meals together but they’d designated one night a week for a family dinner. She and Elain, having moved into a small townhouse of their own, had been included and were expected to attend. Nesta agreed only because of Elain. Unlike herself, Elain needed to be around people. Despite the horrors of the past months, her sister was beginning to thrive in Velaris. And Nesta would not jeopardize that.
But tonight. She couldn’t bare it any longer. This room. The laughing. The joy.
As the noise crescendoed, she stood from her chair, setting her napkin next to her plate. Feyre glanced at her and Nesta forced a weak smile, nodding to the corridor that led to the guest washroom. Her sister smiled back, quickly returning to the story. No one else noticed her departure.
Nesta passed the washroom, continuing to the large foyer and the door that opened to the winding stairs leading down to the city. The commotion in the dining room receded and finally, she was outside, breathing a sigh of relief.
It was a lovely late summer night and as she descended, she forced herself to stop every now and then and take in the views. The Rainbow was lit up, people jostling through the narrow streets as music lilted through the air. The harbor was full of ships, their bobbing just visible in the moonlight.
And the sky… She’d never seen so many stars. Like brilliant diamonds tossed across the indigo black of night. They were beautiful. And they made her feel so small. So insignificant. Her throat bobbed and she started back down the steps. Nesta did not look skyward again. No need to reinforce the bleak thoughts that always threatened to pull her under.
When she reached the turn to her street, Nesta saw someone waiting on the front steps. Her heart fluttered, until the figure rose. No wings.
Feyre held Nesta’s shawl in her hands, a strained smile on her face. “You left this.”
She reached for it and walked past Feyre to her door. A part of her wanted to say something. To explain how she couldn’t stomach being around so many people. So much happiness and… family.
But the pity in Feyre’s eyes sent ice coursing through her veins.
Nesta could imagine the thoughts running through her sister’s mind. The questions she probably wanted to ask about Cassian. As if there is anything to ask about. She almost laughed at the thought. But when she spoke, all she could muster was a thank you.
“Next time, please let me know if you’re leaving,” Feyre said softly. “I could have winnowed you here. And we wouldn’t have been worried about you.”
A retort flitted through her mind but she bit it back. She didn’t have the energy or the desire to start something. So she just said, “I will.”
Nesta turned and went inside, not bothering to tell her sister there would be no next time.