Author’s Note: One might remember the feeling of relief in the finality of one’s school years; for some it’s bittersweet with the stark reminder that friends will scatter all over the place, while others will stick around. For Diwa, knowing that Kaffi will always be there gives him a sense of comfort and stability. For Kaffi, knowing that Diwa will always be by his side gives him a sense of purpose and drive.
Diwa had been busy with so many different projects that he’d almost forgotten about his mother’s annual dinner and party at the community center, celebrating the end of the school year for all the students at the estate. He was more than happy to carve out some time to help like he always did, but this time his mother had flat out refused. Even Mari had butted in, telling him he had more important things and a certain tintrite to focus on than table settings and catering. He finally relented and let them fuss over their plans without him.
As it happened, this gave him loads of free time during the evenings on the last week of school. He was already halfway through his finals, feeling confident that he did not need to drive himself to exhaustion studying for them. He had two more tests to take and the commencement to attend, and that was it.
No more school. Just him, Kaffi, Annie and Cole, and their estate internships.
Mari and both of his parents headed over to the community center for the party preparations just after dinner. That first evening, he’d decided to relax on the balcony. He leaned against the concrete railing, watching the various tenants milling about on the green below. A surprisingly large number of his neighbors were also gathering at the center. His ina must have something big planned, which did not surprise him at all. She could never pass up the chance of going all out with any kind of celebrations! He listened to the chatter below, catching snippets of conversation. The mood was light and happy.
He peeked over at the concrete five floors down. Not for long, just for a few seconds at a time. He knew he was safe, and these reinforced railings were not going anywhere. He was already used to this height, even though he still felt a ghost of vertigo. He wouldn’t fall. Thanks to Anna-Nassi’s training, he’d realized the one person he had to trust even more than Kaffi was himself. He might feel nervous, but there was no way he could fall.
On the second night, however, he’d decided to relax on the center green instead, reclining on a small knoll near the playground. It was warm and quite peaceful tonight. He said hello or waved to the tenants as they went by, but didn’t get to engage in any long conversations, as they too were heading over to the community center.
A short time later, he heard the familiar flapping of tintrite wings.
He was much higher than his usual altitude this time out, soaring in a simple figure-eight pattern over the green. Diwa’s heart raced as he suddenly remembered: this was the first night he’d be performing his extended flying exercises with both saddle and deadweight! He watched him closely and in silence, completely enraptured. Kaffi’s usual carefree flight patterns were completely gone, replaced by a smoother, more streamlined movement as he circled above. He was no longer straining with the added weight of the saddle now that he’d prepped himself for it. But that love for the air was still there, stronger and more nuanced, coming through as a fancy curve or a playful swoop. Kaffi loved to learn new things about flight, and Diwa had noticed a significant rise in Kaffi’s confidence because of it. After a few circuits, he noticed a change in pattern as well…he flew a more detailed route, making two double-loops, then a circuit around the entire green, then cutting across it diagonally from one far corner to the other. He repeated it over and over, rarely changing.
It was quite peaceful, watching his friend fly like that. Such dedication…
Kaffi caught his eye during one of the diagonal crossings and gave him a brief wave and a chittering hello before continuing his exercises. Waving back, Diwa smiled and felt a warmth in his heart. Kaffi was amenable to letting Diwa watch him practice.
Kaffi made several more loops that evening before turning back to the roof of Building C. They waved at each other one more time as he soared over. Diwa pushed himself up, brushed himself off, and headed back towards home, absolutely thrilled that he’d witnessed Kaffi’s first flight wearing the saddle and practice deadweight. They’d meet up on the roof of Palm later in the evening, after dinner, which had become a nightly habit for them. He looked forward to asking him all kinds of questions about his flight, comparing notes and asking questions. He wanted to know everything.
Kaffi enjoyed having an audience of one, especially when that audience was Diwa. He rarely missed one of Kaffi’s practice sessions. He’d been at his balcony railing across the way, watching him do his stretching exercises. He’d been on the roof of Palm when he began the first of the basic flight exercises. He’d been back on the balcony when he’d started wearing the saddle. And he’d been there earlier tonight, stretched out on the grass, when he’d first flown with the added deadweight.
And here he was now, once more on the roof of Palm, watching him as he came in for a landing on the patio. He stood a short distance away from the edge of the roof, but much closer than he’d seen him go before. He’d waved earlier, even flashed him a smile, but he seemed much more reserved than normal. He got this way whenever things weighed heavy on his mind. He sidled up next to him and gave him a playful sideways nudge.
“You’re being rather introspective today, Dee.”
“Hmm,” he said, nudging him back. “Two more days left of school, Kaff,” he said. “Then it’s full time for us here at the estate.”
Kaffi snorted at him. “No, we still have your manae’s big party tomorrow night. Then we have commencement. Then we fill out the official paperwork with our paddir. Then it’s full time for us. You sound apprehensive about it.”
Diwa waved his concern away. “Just trying to keep track of all the time going by, is all.”
Kaffi fought the urge to nudge him with his snout, like he often did with Iliah. “It’s more than that.”
“Maybe I’m a little freaked out.” He turned and met his eyes. “You know? That we’re really doing this. Part of me can’t wait for us to get started, but part of me is still thinking, how did we get here so quickly? Is this really what we want? Is this the right thing for us to do? Are we even doing it right?”
Kaffi gave him a comforting tap on the shoulder with his talon. “It’s not a prison sentence, Dee.”
Diwa tapped him back on the arm. “True enough.”
“You know we can change it up if need be. Whatever works for both of us.”
Kaffi tilted his snout at him. “What brought this on?”
“Eh,” Diwa grunted. “Samuel. I just got to thinking, is all. Seeing our fathers all chummy and my Pop in a good mood again. Whatever issue they’d had earlier, it’s gone for now.”
“That’s a problem?”
“Heh, no…” he said, flashing an honest smile at him. “It’s actually a plus. It just felt like Pop was, I don’t know…listless? He’s been like that for a few years, like he lost his way. I guess I’m just worried about falling into that same trap myself.”
Kaffi butted up against him and gave him a good hard prod on the arm. “Hah! Like that will happen. I have no plans to make your life boring and miserable, Dee. Trust me on that.”
Diwa laughed and butted him back. “I’m holding you to that, you know.”
Diwa followed that up by walking closer to the edge of the patio. While the platform was not flush against the edge of the roof – there was a wide walkway between the patio railing and the roof edge itself – Diwa had rarely ventured this far before. Kaffi caught up beside him at the railing.
“Nice view,” Kaffi said with a smirk. “Mine’s better.”
“I’m sure it is,” Diwa said, and turned away, laughing quietly. “We must look like our old paddir right now, lording over our estate like this.”
“Sorry if I can’t quite pull off paddir’s scowl.”
“You ever figure we’d make it this far, Kaff?”
“One thing to dream it, another to get to that point.”
“Hmm. You sound like Tassh.” Diwa slid into another silence, lost in thought and passively watching and listening to the central green. It was early evening and not much was going on outside. They could hear a quiet murmur of things going on at the community center, but other than that, it was quiet and peaceful. Kaffi watched Diwa for a few moments, concerned but not worried. He’d known his friend would have fears and worries about what came next, especially so close to when it all became a reality. It was a very human trait, one that he’d seen countless times. He trusted Diwa would find his way out of it somehow.
“Hoy, Diwa,” he said, changing the subject. “I think we need to unplug ourselves from it all for a little while. Get our wings back on stable air. Get the stress of school and training out of our heads for a few hours. Want to go stargazing this weekend? After the commencement and everything?”
Diwa’s smile brightened. “That’s a great idea!” he said. “We haven’t done that in ages. Clear our heads, start fresh when we return. Same place, up at Griffin Park?”
“Sure,” he said, his wings fluttering with joy and maybe a little bit of embarrassment. “We’ll take a transport there as usual…I don’t want to rush our flying just yet. If that’s okay with you.”
“Fine by me,” he smiled. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Kaffi nodded slowly, tapping him on the arm with his talon once more. “So am I.”