How many times can one fail at this? The rain bit into my clothes, but I barely felt it past the pain. A man sat hunched over me, but I tried to ignore him.
“Hey! Why did you jump in front of my truck? Can you hear me?”
His hands were warm on the sides of my face. I hope he didn’t mind my tears. I looked to the left where his truck had slid off the road. I guessed he was going to care more about that in a second.
Someone came to a stop. I had to go. I had to disappear before anyone came.
I tried to roll over, but he pinned my shoulders to the ground.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he said.
“Get your damn hands off me.” My heart rate accelerated. Well it was good to know I still had one.
“Oh my God, I know you, you’re the–”
“Shut up. Did you call the cops?”
“I’ll pay you a grand if you get me outta here.”
“You need to go to the hospital.”
“Take me to another town, and I will double the amount.”
He looked me over. I could tell from his attire and his truck he needed the money.
“Do you feel any pain in your neck or back,” he asked.
“No, just my left arm—“
“Hey do you guys need help, Should I call the police,” asked a woman who from the car. She had yelled from the lowered window of a shiny Bentley.
“No, we already did,” he said.
“Oh okay, have a good night,” said the woman. What an idiot. Well in my favor thank God she was an Idiot.
“I’m going to pick you up.”
I gritted my teeth and nodded my head.
“Don’t think you can just buy me off,” he said as he gently raised me, “After the hospital you’re going to explain everything.”
We’ll see about that…
“Did I advise you that this is a bad idea,” I said.
“Did I advise you that we haven’t eaten in two days,” she replied.
“But did I advise you that people seldom make it out of situations like this?”
The wooden porch creaked under our boots, but the crashing waves from the shore below along with the pounding rain quieted our noise to my liking. The castle had the greatest percentage of keeping extra food lying about in this time of shortage. I could likely withstand nine more hours without nourishment, but Rose needed it presently.
The bright moon was high and allowed us to see more proficiently out on the cliff then under the canopy of the coastal forest. The milky light showed a long deck that wrapped around the entirety of the castle. Why you would need a second floor wraparound porch seemed pointless to me, but nevertheless there was a replica porch on both the second and third floor. The floors didn’t end there either. Above the two pointless decks, there were three more housing levels.
“Should we try the door or a window,” Rose asked.
The front doors were solid oak with intricate carvings. I looked at the magnitude of windows. There were too many to count whilst your stomach makes regrettable noises even though the number would be simple to find, for If you took each window on the first floor and multiplied it by the number of replica floors above and then added that number to the multiplied amount of the different floors above the replica floors, you would get the number of windows for the front of the castle and since the front of the castle had a high chance of matching the back of the castle you would take your total of the front and multiply it by two, but then you would also need to do the same arithmetic procedure for the side of the castle and multiply that number by two and finally you would add both totals together getting the exact number of the dusty dirty windows on the structure, but I was lacking far too much nutrition to waste time on such frivolous calculations.
“Okay, from the annoying silence I’m going to assume you thought way too much about that question,” she said.
Rose kneeled below the door and rolled out the shiny toolset, one of our only possessions of value. I could pick the lock faster, but I appreciate the secret smile she has every time the lock tumbles in the chamber. Right then the wind howled, whipping her blond curls into the air. I also appreciated her curls.
What if this time the home owner was an excellent shot? If only the climate hadn’t turned for the worse, maybe we would have had better hunting along our journey.
“There might be someone home,” I said.
“Michael, didn’t you notice the chimney smoke?”
“Didn’t you notice the 2,682 windows?”
She stopped and turned slowly towards me. I don’t particularly like it when she stares at me blankly with those large green eyes.
She cleared her throat and said, “Is there more or is this one of those statem—“
“Of course there is more. If we happen to become trapped within this monstrosity, window fifteen on the first floor is a great escape route due to the fact that a hedge lies beneath the window.”
She did one of those one eyebrow raises with squinty eyes. I asked her what that meant once before and she told me it meant she believed I was making up things which I told her that I do not in fact make things up, ever.
“I believe you’re in a foul mood due to undernourishment,” I said.
She huffed, gathered the tools, pushed past me and stomped off the deck. I thought she was going to keep walking back into the shadowed forest. Maybe she would want to go hunting instead, but then she turned right back around, up the stairs, and into my face.
“Don’t you want to eat,” she asked.
“Yes.” I let out a breath. My brain sometimes blanks when rose gets close to me. I’m not even sure if it was me talking. “Please except my apology. I was in fear for your life, but now I know no one should anger you when you’re in a foul mood due to hunger.”
She knelt back down to her station and said, “If you say one more thing about my malnutrition or hunger I’m going to punch your pretty face.”
The door clicked and inched open, but she was looking at me instead of her progress. I frowned.
“What now,” she asked.
“You didn’t smile.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Are you hungry or not,” I said and strode past her inquisitive look and into the waiting darkness. We would find something to eat and not talk about smiles or hidden feelings.
How could he take his off? We all have to wear them. We are kept under surveillance around the clock, for “our safety of course”. The law for woman and men to wear the electronic bracelets went into effect many years ago before I was even born. It’s just a part of life for me, but for my grandma it is so much more. Every time we see her in the institution, she talks about the cruelty of the bracelet.
The bracelet always fits just right due to its resizing technology, so technically there’s no reason it should ever need to come off. Well, unless the bracelet happens to malfunction which I’ve never heard of happening.
That was until this morning when I saw Darian running into the forest. I thought he was up to another prank. It was a little soon, since we were both still on shavings clean-up for the rest of the week. It was a harsh punishment, but I guess that’s what you get for sneaking into the generators to disable all power. I’m not even sure why I went along with such a prank. Usually he has a hilarious reason behind our escapades, but this last time he wouldn’t tell me any of the details. Well to be fair, he told me he was testing a theory and then he slid one of those wicked smiles on me. I know… I’m pretty dumb sometimes when it comes to Darian, but those smiles could probably make me run a mile and I hate running.
I stalked him for a while through the forest, but then he disappeared out of sight. I was trying to pick up his track when BAM something or someone really heavy charged me from the bushes. I ended up on my back, eyes squinted shut, hoping it wasn’t a hungry animal sitting on me. Until, I head a familiar voice.
“What are ya doing,” asked Darian.
My eyes snapped open and there he was looking down on me with a familiar grin.
“W-w-well I could ask you the same thing!”
“I’m running away.”
My heart stopped. Nobody leaves, ever. Nobody leaves because there’s nowhere to go and… My eyes slid to his right wrist. For all my life, sixteen and half years, there has been a blue bracelet with gold flecks on his right wrist.
“Yep,” he said. “They can’t stop me know.”
“Do you have to push so hard?” The branches were digging into my scalp. My sister had been working on my hair all morning and I wanted to scream out of frustration. The braiding and weaving was for the coronation that would take place today on my twentieth birthday.
“Don’t whine Lilium,” said my sister.
“Don’t call me that!”
“It’s your name, and you better get used to it,” She said.
My father was the only person who ever used my full name. I’m not embarrassed of my name. Most elves are named after things of nature. He told us my mother enjoyed flowers more than anything else in the forest and shortly after our births; she named me Lilium for my blond hair and for my younger sister’s red hair, my mother named her Dahlia. One of the few stories I have of her and us since she died when I was five and Dahlia had only been three. An incurable fever of the forest had taken her life.
It really wasn’t about my mother, because I don’t even remember her. It was because of last leaf fall. Colored leaves had just begun to fall when father had taken Dahlia and I out for a hunting trip. Along with forty of the finest royal guard, but that hadn’t stopped his death. Ambushes are swift and deadly. If he hadn’t given the order for our escape, we would have also died that day. I had wanted to stay, isn’t that what all those years of training had been for or were they so that we could run away, as our King, my father, fell to the muddy earth. I could still hear the way he shouted my name, as I argued. “GO LILIUUUM!”
“Lily, are you listening?” I had been staring out the window. Turning to the mirror in front of me I could see tears had fallen from my deceitful eyes. It had been a long time since I allowed myself to think about that horrid day.
“I’m sorry Lily,” she said.
“It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean anything.”
“What are you thinking about?”
Father’s death and the fact that we don’t know our mother, how am I going to rule our people, why couldn’t you have been born first?
“Nothing, It’s nothing. I’m only nervous.”
“Don’t lie to me, Lily,” She said. “You never cry, well in front of people anyways.” She looked down at her hands. I hadn’t even noticed, but my hair was complete. I was now ready. We would make our journey to the cresting hill where thousands of our alliances had gathered. When the sun begins to set, the ceremony will start and at last sun light I will take my vow to protect our people even at the cost of my own life.
“How do you know I can do this,” I asked.
Her eyes were shining emeralds in the mirror. “Because father always believed in you just as I do.”
Only three more books, and then I would be done with all the last names starting with the letter S. That was my given schedule for however long it took me. Every night, I managed 15 books and they were old and weathered, but cherished all the same. It took a lot of effort to pull the heavy books off the shelves, for I was a smallish library sprite. Most sprites stand at one and half feet tall, but I’m a shy millimeter from being a foot tall.
I was pushing in the last book when I saw Hunter through the shelf cracks. He should have been done long ago since he was a tall sprite. The books seemed effortless in his hands and I was usually the last one to go back into my assigned book. He turned around and caught me looking. I quickly ducked down, but saw his smirk. Dang, he has often caught me looking. I try not to, but It’s his bright green eyes with the dark lashes that catch my gaze and that smirky face.
“Lilly, I know you’re there.”
“No, I’m not,” I said and mentally slapped myself on the forehead.
“Are you spying on me?”
“No, I’m just wrapping up and going home.”
He came around the isle with a book in his hand.
“What are you doing with that.”
“I’m going somewhere different,” He said and started to flip the book open.
“That’s illegal, big no no, you know what they do to sprites who jump stories!”
He looked at me, raised his eyebrows, and said, “Yes, they give us more books to clean.”
He traced his hand across the page and looked up at me.
“What book are you stuck in?”
I actually would give anything to have a different story. Mine is filled with sadness and anger, and an ending I haven’t made it to yet. One day I will know my whole story, but you only get to the end when you’re very old. I try to always aim for the best parts, but sometimes I have to relive the evil ones.
“Yep, you’re in a sad book too,” he said. “Lets go to the ocean for one day.”
My heart flickered with lightness. I would love to go to the ocean. I had heard Emma, my spunky friend, talking about it before. She had said her book had a giant white whale in it, whatever that was, which lived in an ocean.
He placed the book on the shelf.
“Hunter you are dangerous. First you’re talking about jumping stories and now you’re shelving books in wrong spots.”
“Pish Posh, I see Frank do it all the time.”
“That’s great, so if Frank rips a page out of a book will you too?”
He looked hurt. “I would never rip a page out of a book,” he said.
And then he smiled at me and jumped into the book. I just stared at the empty space he left behind. I walked back and forth twice and then he jumped out of the book causing me to fall over backwards with a small yelp.
He started to laugh and so did I, until I heard the familiar sound of a tapping cane. Oh no, it was the library guard sprite. He was always in a bad way.
Hunter stopped laughing and held out his hand. I looked at his hand and then up to his still laughing eyes. He smirked and we jumped into the waiting book.
We were standing in the garden of wild fruits. This has been my favorite place to go for some time. A place full of promise to feed thousands.
Tears have dried on my cheeks while I’ve been waiting for a reply from Mama Josie. She wasn’t my real mama, but more of a shared mother to countless orphans.
I fear she is so angry with my proclamation, she’ll never speak to me again. I’ve decided to sell myself for money. I’m not worth much else and at least this way I could provide for my siblings.
She reached down and plucked a red fruit. Splitting it I saw the round plump nutritious seeds.
“Child, these seeds are like the gifts of your soul.”
I looked at her in confusion
“We all have gifts. Yours is compassion and an unconditional love for your siblings. If you do this horrible thing, you will replace your seeds with black ones. Your soul will be full of hate and despair.”
She had tears in her eyes and I looked away.
“You will no longer be you. Do you still wish to do this?”
Shaking my head no, she placed the fruit in my hand.
“Use your gifts and find another way.”
When will the winds change? It’s been so long since I’ve received a letter back. I began to light my candle lanterns and send them across one at a time. I’m afraid to sleep and miss the south winds. What if I’ve missed the letters you’ve sent?
The other day my hair stopped flying in my face and began to whip backwards. I had dropped everything and scared ma half to death racing out of the garden. She was yelling for me to come back, for there was still planting to be done, but I was flying towards the river. It had been too long. 37 days to be exact. I had stood there till the sun set and later that night cried silent tears.
Nobody swims. To swim is forbidden unless you had a death wish. I don’t know how long the people have been separated by this undrinkable water that burns the skin and I worry about what would happen without the rain. I once heard it was the people who lived here long ago that ruined the water. I’ve often thought about taking a boat, but with all the wars you couldn’t just sail to another’s land. What if something has happened to him? What if he’s finally moved on? I hate my blasted skin color. If I was his people’s color then I might have been able to blend in.
I was sitting there hugging my knees to my chest when the wind changed. A small flickering light began to grow and a sob escaped my mouth. I quickly covered my mouth and almost died waiting for it to reach me. If the wind changed I would throw myself in the water. It reached me and I held a candle to the words.
My dearest love,
I’ve waited 37 days. I told you in my last letter we couldn’t do this anymore and that you needed to move on with your life. I threw myself into work. I cried shamefully when I wrote that letter because I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to selfishly keep you to myself, but this isn’t away to live. I’ve decided to make it my goal to end this war. If not for the fact that we as a people would grow into something better working side by side, but for true love. I’m sorry my love for putting you through this.
I never received the letter he was talking about and I’m glad I didn’t. The pact was eventually made. We were old and didn’t have many years left, but it didn’t matter.