She tugged on a bit of grass, and the strands parted from the mat, pulling free. Tr’lia held the smaller bit in her beak and hopped two bounces to the right. The fiber had cost her the rest of her festival money, and it wasn’t very good quality at that, but it would do for a start. She used her clawed toes to twist the strands and then poked with her beak so that the tight end joined the weaving she’d already begun on the cave floor.
She’d never made a nest before.
It looked awful, just a clump of half-twisted, dry old grass half as big as it should be for the time it had taken. Tr’lia sighed and pulled at a corner. The bottom needed to be the stoutest, even though she planned to add a good deal more fibers to its construction to hide the rugged beginnings. Her nest would need a firm foundation if she meant it to last. She tucked and tweaked and fiddled with the last bit before bouncing back to the fiber bundle. More layers might do it. More depth, and then it needed to be a lot bigger—big enough for two someday.
She stabbed the pillow again and clicked around, feeling for a stouter blade, a reed that might reinforce her nest’s bottom. A squeak from the cave mouth stalled her probing and brought her up sputtering. Lili. It was only a matter of time.
“Hello,” Tr’lia ignored the puffed up blue ball of indignation in her doorway. She turned back to her next selection and waited.
She felt a thicker stalk and snapped it up. Eureka, the blade had a woody, rounded stem, and pulled out a good two spans longer than the rest. Strong floor material.
“Oh.” Tr’lia nearly dropped the blade for chuckling. “That. Right.” She hopped to the nest and tucked the thick end into one side. Long enough to criss-cross the bit she’d already woven at least. She wouldn’t have to undo it and start over, though she might need to trade for something extra pretty to hide it.
“And?” Lili recovered and hopped into the cave interior. The space barely held both of them. Starter caves were meant to be cozy. “Does your mother know why?”
“Shush, Lili.” She stood up too fast and pulled out the last two loops of grass. “You promised to keep that quiet.”
“Weren’t you even going to tell me?” Lili’s feathers smoothed, halving her bulk, and she shuffled her feet against the stone floor.
“Of course. I just wanted to have something to show you first.”
“Is that it?”
“It’s harder than it looks.” Tr’lia sighed and worked the tail of the grass into the weave. “And I’ll hide most of this with feathers. It just has to be strong.”
“I can’t believe your mother let you start.” Lili pressed forward and examined the nest's beginnings, head turned sharply to one side and beak grinding together softly.
“It’s only a little bit early. They’ve had the cave since my hatching day.”
“Mine too. It’s nice, Tr’lia.”
“It’s really small.”
“Mine’s smaller.” Lili clattered her beak and bobbed her head forward and back. “I’d better find a tiny little man.”
The cave warbled with laughter. Tr’lia tried to eye her work critically, but it blurred a bit around the edges. She’d always thought Lili would nest first. It just seemed like a Lili sort of thing, nesting. She sighed and shifted her weight to the other foot. It was only a little bit early.
“You know,” Lili said. “I have some ribbons saved. There’s too much to use in one place. You could have a little bit for the sides or around the top.”
“Maybe I’ll start one soon too.”
“Hopefully yours will weave a little better. Look at that bubble.”
“It’s nice, Tr’lia.”
It wasn’t. Still, she’d only just started. Building the nest would keep her busy, keep her mind from thinking of killer plants and long-distance romance. She fluffed and shook the tension off. He’d said he was coming back. He’d said he’d find a way to see her. She looked at Lili through a rain of dislodged down and tried not to panic.
And if P’rao did return, at least she could have something here for him to come back to. She snagged a bit of fluff from mid-air and waved it at Lili.
“Help me grab this. We can use it to cover up the bottom.”