A few scribbles. Another glance back up. A few more scribbles. These numbers didn’t work. But they were the same as they always were. It wasn’t the numbers that were wrong. It couldn’t be.
She squinted again at the small dot in the sky. She pulled the shaped lenses to one eye again to get a better view. There was no denying it. It was there. And it certainly was not a star. It didn’t make any sense. The only objects in the sky were the sun and Eranos, her planet’s sister. The planet that currently blocked the sun from view, as it always did in the hour just before noon. A time of false night, often referred to as ‘The Shadow’ in her culture. If that dot was neither the sun nor Eranos, it had to be a star. It was the only explanation. And yet it was so big. A star that large would have to be intensely brilliant, wouldn’t it?
A hand swooped down, making her jump in surprise as her father swiped her notes from the small table and crumpled it up. “What have I told you about stargazing, Esmina?”
The girl shrunk as she shied from his imposing frame. Reflexively pulling her clever invention behind her back. “I-I just thought–“
“That was your first mistake,” he snarled, thrusting the paper to the floor. “How many times must I tell you that you are not allowed to do anything without my explicit permission? And during the Shadow, no less!”
She bit down a remark that the Shadow was the best time to view the sky. She knew it would only make things worse. “Yes, father.” With her free hand, she smoothed out her dress as well as her posture to redeem any ladylike qualities she still may have retained.
Her father loomed before her, easily three times her size. “What’s that you’re holding behind you?”
There was no use hiding it now. She proffered the device to him. “I call it a spyglass. It makes far away things look bigger. Look into it!”
He glared at that, and she silently reprimanded herself at the words he didn’t speak with that look. She was in no position to order her own father around.
Despite that, he did look into it. With it, he inspected nearby trees and the more distant city of Tal’Doraken.
“If I may suggest, father, I designed it with Eranos in mind. You can make out it’s wide oceans far more clearly with it. Sometimes I even think I see lights on its surface, though I’m not quite sure what to make of them.”
He scowled, taking his gaze from the city to the telescope without looking taking her suggestion. “Clever,” he stated.
A flicker of hope ignited in her chest.
And was snuffed immediately when he slammed it into to the ground. The small device crashed against the polished stone, delicate lenses shattering as the metal around them twisted with the force. Esmina winced as a few harmless pieces whizzed by in every direction, breath caught in her throat as several dozen hours of work were thrown away in an instant.
“It isn’t your place to be clever,” he hissed. “I don’t have time for a stargazing daughter that wastes her days inventing better ways to throw away her life. Besides, you know you’re not old enough to be outside in the Shadow. Do you care nothing of our culture?”
She bit back a reply about how the Shadow was already almost over, and a good father would at least have noticed her absence sooner. Not to mention how little he cared for religious customs, meaningless or not.
“You can keep pursuing this nonsense all you want, but you’ll never amount to anything until you start obeying me and your tutors. I can’t sell you to any suitors based on any stupid hobby of yours. You have to be good at something. Anything! Are you too daft to see that?”
“You didn’t have any suitors come for my sisters until they were fourteen,” she mumbled, too angry to care what her father did at this point.
“That’s because they were dutiful and could fetch a good price.” He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her through the gardens back towards the manor. She didn’t resist. There was no point. “You on the other hand have to find new ways to avoid your responsibilities. You’re a disgrace. I’m not going to waste more money buying lessons you won’t go to. I’ll be lucky if I can buy a horse with the money any suitor would give you.”
As she was dragged back into the house, Eranos’ shadow receded. The world lit up once more as the sun resumed its assault on the gardens. But she couldn’t help but stare at that dot in the sky. Not a planet, but not a star, either.