The trunk is large enough that Kat almost disappears reaching for the bottom, hinged over the side by her waist, legs kicking in the air. Annie dodges worn cloth slip-ons, the right one with a hole in the heel, and catches the armful of cloth that comes flying her way when Kat rocks back to her feet.
“Look at all this stuff!”
Kat pulls out another load from the trunk, dropping most of it to the ground at the base of one of the armless, headless, legless dress forms stuffing the small room at the top of the tower, almost everywhere they aren’t littered with piles of sweaters and leggings and complicated looking dresses and suits. She plucks the top hat from Annie’s arms and plops it onto her head, twirls an imaginary mustache. “I don’t know how it all fits in there!”
“Some of these items are very old,” Annie says, holding up a ruffled dress, layered swaths of peacock blue and green. She fingers the boning, the bows and buttons, the lace hem. “I wonder how it all got here. It’s in very good condition.”
“Can you imagine if we’d found it years ago?” Kat tugs a tricorn down on Annie’s head.
“Yes-- it would not be in such good condition, now.”
“Ha! True! Here, help?”
Kat turns, one arm jammed through the structured sleeve of an old military jacket, the gold epaulet sticking her in the face, caught in her mouth. The other is tangled behind her, her arm pinned to her back. She hops and spins, spitting out the epaulet fringe and flapping the hanging sleeve.
“You’re trapped, little girl!” Annie crows as evilly as possible, raising her arms and swooping in. It’s not very evil, but Kat hops away willingly, wailing dramatically, rolling her head when Annie catches her two hops later, her hollaring eclipsed by snorty laughter.
Annie’s hands are clever and slender and strong and slide beneath Kat’s trapped arm and pull the sleeve down, exposing her wrist, tucking in the hem. “Don’t you look dashing, Captain.”
Kat swoops a bow, doffing her hat. “My thanks, kind pirate.”
“Avast!” says Annie, remembering her hat, and slaps a hand to it. “Arr! Pirate with a heart of gold!”
“X marks the spot,” Kat says cheerfully, and makes one over Annie’s chest. “Hey look!”
She jumps over a pile of boots and scarves, flinging a few sweaters across the room and throwing shadows when she stands back up in front of the one skinny window built into the tower wall, gold afternoon light slanting in sideways. “Are these scales?” The vest she holds out rattles, overlapping gold and white plates jangling against each other. She taps one with a fingernail and it jingles; when she drapes it over a dress form it sounds like a landslide of rocks and bells. ”Hey, feathers!”
The long feathered cloak in the pile next to her feet makes no noise, silent even when she flaps it, hoisting it up. “Whoa, I don’t even know half of the birds these are from!” The body is mostly owl, shades of brown and gold and white and black, dappled with rosettes, but the trim is unknown, made of up beautiful, overlapping flight feathers, serrated remiges, brilliantly pigmented gold and red. “These look like owl almost, but they’re shaped all wrong, and there are no owls with colouring like this.”
“A mystery,” Annie says from behind her, reaching around to brush the trim. “It’s very beautiful. Very soft.”
“Yeah,” Kat says, and spins, flapping the cloak in a wide arc and bringing it down on Annie’s shoulders. She hooks the clasp and darts back, grinning. “There! Haha, you almost look like Muut now. Except you’re wearing a shirt.”
Annie gives her her best Muut-glower, but the effect is ruined somewhat by her lack of beak and the eventual breakdown into laughter. She slips her arms under the folds of the cloak and flaps, rearing up on her toes. “Caw caw! ...Whoo? Hoot?” She stops, peers down at the cloak. “This really is silent.”
“Hoot,” Kat says. “Definitely hoot. But you’re missing something.” She presses a finger to her mouth, visibly thinking. When she smacks her forehead she hits the brim of her top hat instead, sending it flying. “Aha!”
She bounds across the room, jumping into the open trunk and scrambling out a moment later, flinging a neon pink boa around Annie’s neck. “Perfect!”
“Such plumage,” Annie says dryly, running her fingers through the fluffy feathers. A few drift down to the floor. “I’m sure I will be impossible to spot, nested in among the trees.”
Kat tugs on the boa, still holding to the ends, until Annie gives in and lets herself be pulled over. She rushes it a little at the end, coming up flush against Kat, laughing when they both tumble into the wall. “You’re trapped, little girl!” Kat says, puffing up a breath at the pink feather on her nose.
“You just want me because I’m a bird,” Annie says, and blows the feather away.
“That doesn’t hurt,” Kat agrees, cheeks pink and eyes sparkling. She yells when Annie ducks out from under the boa and back up, flicking the ends out of Kat’s hands and the loop around her neck in one smooth, continuous movement, tugging Kat forward into her.
“You’re trapped, little girl,” she says, and Kat shivers when she pulls the boa down her neck, across the shoulders bared by Kat’s sleeveless shirt. Annie tucks the cloak around them both, red and gold feathers tickling their noses, making them blink, and her mouth on Kat’s feels exactly the same.