Children were given their lunch in the galley rather than the mess on class days, but afterward took their food to whatever part of the ship they could find, given that they did not get in anyone’s way. Tom grabbed a sandwich, just meat between fish skins. He usually sat on deck, staring out to sea. It never changed, but neither did the interior of the ship he lived on, so it was more entertaining to at least be outside. It was a gray day today, and windy. The fishermen weren’t having much luck, and Tom watched them trail their nets, the water lapping against the side of the ship.
“What are you looking at?” Tom turned to see a tall youth with platinum blond hair named Nathan. Nathan often skipped class. Maybe he was scared Tom would turn him in.
“Nothing,” Tom said. Nathan rarely hung out with him anymore; he had grown distant ever since the older boy had hit a growth spurt. “What are you doing?”
“Hm. Fishing, of course. It beats sitting in that damn classroom. Why do you go there, anyway? Only the teacher actually cares.” He sat down next to Tom and draped an arm over his knee, lounging.
“I dunno. Maybe we’ll learn something cool, like magic.”
Nathan snorted. “You and your damn magic. If you ever get tested, which you won’t, you’ll probably be too scared to do anything.”
“That’s not true!” Tom retorted. “How would you know, anyway!? You’re no mage!”
Nathan raised an eyebrow. “How do you know I’m not?”
“Because…because you’re stupid and never go to class!” Tom spluttered.
Nathan threw his head back and laughed. Quicker than Tom could see, he darted his hand and grabbed Tom’s sandwich, standing up and holding it just out of the younger boy’s reach. “See? Magic!”
“Give that back! You know I can’t get more!” Tom jumped up to try to snatch the sandwich back, but in vain. Nathan grinned, taunting him, before throwing it several yards away-off the ship.
“Oops…sorry. Guess it slipped.” Nathan grinned.
“You jerk! I was hungry!” Tom yelled. He tried to push Nathan, but the older boy barely moved, just laughing harder.
“Then fish with me, obviously,” Nathan said. “You can eat what you catch.”
“You have to cook it first!” Tom shouted. “You’re such a jerk lately!”
“You’re just a stupid child,” Nathan said. “Relying on handouts.”
“I’m only two years younger than you!”
The bell signaling the end of lunch break sounded then, making Tom jump. Tom was still hungry, but dared not let Nathan know that, and began to walk back to the hold where afternoon classes were held. Suddenly, though, Nathan grabbed his arm.
“You’re not actually going back to class?” Tom looked at him warily. What did he care?
“You’re hungry, right? C’mon, fish with me. I didn’t meant to actually throw it off the side. Maybe we’ll catch your sandwich.”
Tom was unsure if this was a lead to another prank, or if Nathan was being sincere in his invitation. He also wondered briefly if it was possible to catch a sandwich. “Look, you don’t want to go back and get yelled at by the teacher, right?”
He had a point.
“Fine, I’ll fish. But if we catch anything good, I get it first!”
“Fair enough.” Tom wondered at Nathan’s sudden change, but decided to let it drop. Arguments never seemed to last long between them, no matter how annoying Nathan was. It came from both of them being orphans, probably. There weren’t many of them, and they had to stick together.
Tom followed Nathan to the bins that contained the fishing gear. Nathan grabbed a fishing pole and tossed it to Tom, who promptly dropped it after catching it. Nathan gave him a humorous look, and Tom defensively picked up the pole, trying to ignore the strain it put on his arms. He was annoyed when Nathan picked up another effortlessly, and did his best not to drop his or hit something with it when he followed Nathan to the prow of the ship where other fishermen were casting nets.
“You know what to do, right?” Nathan asked.
Tom snorted. “Of course!” He knew how to put bait on a fishing rod.
“Fine, fine. Just don’t lose the bait.” With that, Nathan deftly cast his line, the string unraveling and the bait dropping into the water. He fastened his end to the edge of the ship, and the motion dragged it along.
Tom suddenly felt unsure, but wasn’t about to let it show. He tried to cast the same way Nathan had, but his line ended up in a huge tangle in the water. He glared at Nathan, daring him to say something, but the older boy only focused on his own line.
After several tries, Tom succeeded in casting, and the two boys relaxed while their lines trailed. When Nathan wasn’t being a jerk, he was still okay to hang out with, Tom decided.
They sat in silence for a while, Tom hoping that he would catch more fish than the older boy, when Nathan spoke up.
“Storm coming.” His voice was almost a monotone, and Tom looked at him oddly. The day was perfectly clear, with not a cloud in sight.
“What? How do you know?” Nathan looked over at him over his shoulder.
“Magic.” His eyes twinkled with laughter, and Tom sighed. He hated it when Nathan made fun of him.
“You wish!” Tom shouted. Nathan just laughed at him.