Holden’s eyes flew open with a start, his face only inches from the molten iron he was supposed to be working. He felt a hand grasp the back of his overalls, hauling him back out of the vat and into the slightly cooler air of the factory.

It took him a moment to process what had happened. He must have drifted off. He knew Famke was berating him, but he couldn’t really listen. That was too close. If she hadn’t been there…

“..what would you have done, eh?” she continued. She must have been saying much the same thing he was thinking. Or was he thinking it because she was saying it? He couldn’t tell sometimes. “You have got to stop coming in exhausted. It’s going to get you killed.”

He turned to look at his friend, his eyes still stinging from the heat. It took a moment to bring her into focus, but she was unmistakable regardless. Famke had a way of making her presence known when she wanted, which was often. It was the eyes.She had an intensity to her that came unleashed through her bright blue eyes. They stared out from under the short curly hair she had perpetually tied at the back of her head, blazed in contrast to her dark skin, and made you forget that she was a full head shorter than anyone at the factory. If someone saw her from a distance, they might easily make the mistake of dismissing her, but once she caught them with her eyes, they would know better. And if they didn’t, she was brawny enough to bring the point home. She wasn’t the kind of girl to let a little thing like height make her feel small.

Right now, she was focusing all of that intensity on him. It wasn’t the first time and probably wouldn’t be the last, but he really wanted nothing of it at the moment. He was still too rattled. She stood there with her hands on her hips, the leather of her work gloves curled tightly into fists pressing into the thick leather apron like it was the only thing holding them back from giving him a good pummeling. She was trying hard to let her words do the punching, at least for now, so he figured he should actually give her a response before the tirade devolved into a tussle.

“Famke,” he said, waving his hands to placate her and halting her barrage. “Famke, I’m fine, really. Look, I’ve even still got some of my eyebrows. I’ll be ok.”

“Yeah, this time,” she said, crossing her arms. “This time you’re fine, and you’re welcome. But what about next time, Holden? Hm? What then?”

“Next time you’ll be here to catch me again,” he said, smiling slowly at her, evoking a glare. “But there won’t be a next time. Honest. Oracle’s truth.”

Famke let out a small harumph and turned away. He thought he caught just a tiny glint of a tear in her eye, but he thought it must still be the heat getting to him.

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