“Vulpas.” Marcus rested back against the padded pink headboard of Cee’s narrow bed, his legs so long his feet nearly touched the white iron vines at the end. “Cee, you’re not listening. Vulpas.”
There wasn’t room for them both on the bed, so Cee sat on the moss green shag that covered her floor. “Can’t be trusted,” she sighed.
“You’ll never get a full essay out of that,” Marcus told her. “And anyway, I hardly think it’s fair to boil a whole Clan down to one generalization.”
“Stereotypes exist for a reason,” said Cee. “They’re born from a kernel of truth.”
“And then spread like . . . What’s that plant?”
Cee cocked her head and gave Marcus her best don’t-be-stupid look. “There are a lot of plants in the world, Marcus.”
“The one that takes over everything. Like, a vine . . .” He had that cute little frown he always made when he wasn’t sure about something, or was trying to remember; it made lines like parentheses around his mouth. Just for a moment Cee could picture Marcus, much older, sitting behind a desk and frowning down at . . . Something. That little frown would never change. At least, she hoped it wouldn’t.
“Ivy?” Cee suggested.
“No . . . I’ll think of it later. What about Ophidan?”
“I’m thinking about changing my room,” Cee said.
Marcus’s green eyes darted to the right then the left, taking in the white paneling and frilly pink accents. “I’m not sure what that has to do with Ophidans, but okay. Why?”
Cee jumped to her feet. “I’m almost sixteen. It’s time for a change.”
“You’re not going to sing, are you?” Marcus asked.
Cee rounded on him. “What?”
“I don’t know. The way you jumped up had me worried you might burst into song or something.”
Cee reached down for one of the pillows Marcus had tossed off the bed to make room for his lanky self and went in for a hit that he batted aside easily. “I suppose we’re not going to get any more studying done then,” Marcus said, swinging his legs off the bed.
“At the very least I need a bigger bed,” said Cee.
Marcus barked a laugh. “Your dad would never.”
“Because so long as only one person fits in it . . .” He lifted his eyebrows.
Cee snatched at the pillow again, but Marcus had already skipped away to the door, grabbing his backpack along the way. “Tomorrow,” he said and was gone.
Collapsing onto her bed, Cee let out a long breath and stared up at the ceiling. It was a cozy enough room, and sweet, tucked under an eave like something from a fairy tale, so that the ceiling sloped down to meet the one window. Cee remembered her parents taking her to pick out the bed and other furniture, and the carpet . . . Cee had chosen the long, green shag because it had reminded her of grass and she’d liked the idea of having a meadow in her room.
But she was over that now. She had outgrown pink, felt ready for something deeper and darker. “I’ll keep the green, though,” she said. “His eyes are green.”
Cee gasped and sat up. Marcus was leaning around the doorjamb.
“What?” Cee demanded.
“The plant I was thinking of. It was kudzu. Which is also green.”
Marcus was long gone before the pillow hit where he’d stood.