Rite to Life

-THIS IS A DYSTOPIAN-
In a future, yet illusive world, society is divided into three factions. No one ever speaks of Faction One since the feud between people and the king. Nara is from Faction Two. She has survived sixteen years under the care of volunteers. Sixteen years of living in Faction Two is like living in eighteenth century London, although that place doesn’t exist any more. Nara has dreamed of life in Faction Three, a safe, prosperous haven, a sanctuary, where her birth parents wait for her. Only the Rite separates them. Every citizen at aged sixteen must undergo the Rite to gain access into Faction Three, the land of the perfect beings. The Rite corrects all imperfections and flaws, gives people the Third Eye. A higher level of consciousness. When she finally gets to Faction Three, cracks begin to show. Secrets are soon revealed to Nara and she must do everything in her power to expose them to the population. Faction Three is not what it seems. It is a dark, cryptic place

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9. Chapter Eight - Nara

“Welcome home,” my mother said as my father drove the car onto the driveway made of red bricks. The house was large and contemporary, with windows that covered the expanse of the walls. A bright golden light shone down from the heavens and across the luscious lawn next to the driveway. I had never seen something so spectacular. The lawn was edged with a brilliant pink and yellow flowerbed. Similar flowers hung in baskets next to the front glass door. Through the large windows, I could see the dark purple wallpaper with silver shining swirls with cream paint walls and a plush grey carpet.

Elijah and Amelia smiled, grasped hands, and waited for me to enter. Nervously, I pulled on the door handle and stepped over the threshold. High ceilings with a slightly curved staircase greeted me as I entered the house. I could smell the wood. Such a lovely smell.  I closed my eyes and sucked in a deep breath, the aroma of a forest filled my nose.

I could get used to this.

“Your belongings are in your room. We never had any use for the attic so we had it converted for you. You have your own bathroom, of course, and I hope you find it welcoming here. Feel free to ask for anything,” Amelia said, following behind me, with Elijah.

“We have left a few colour charts on your shelf for you to have a look at. We were not sure what colour you would prefer,” Elijah interjected.

“Don’t worry,” I assured them. “It will be perfect.”

Could I honestly expect anything more? And how could they even afford such a spectacular house? It had large windows, and it smelled of a forest! I had not expected it to be so grand. It looked so utterly and completely different from the house I lived in, in Faction Two.

Biting my lip, I slipped off my holy trainers, and climbed the twirling staircase. On the second floor, I found a large spacious room with a window that overlooked a river. Huge, Swede curtains hung from the rail above the window. A large, king sized bed had several blood red cushions dotted on it, with black bedding, and a matching red throw – very gothic. The walls were all painted grey, and a black chandelier hung from the bulb, the light casting crystal shaped shadows across the ceiling.

Across the landing, I found the study, filled with trophy cabinets that I would study later. A desk covered with photo frames, was situated opposite me. Glancing at the photos, I was surprised to find baby scans of me, and a picture of me in the hospital after Amelia gave birth to me. My heart warmed at the sight of it.

When I couldn’t contain the excitement any longer, I scrambled up the next staircase, which took me to the converted attic. My jaw dropped and my eyes bulged out of their sockets when I entered the open room, with windows in the slanted roof. The thought that I would be able to watch the stars at night, thrilled me. Life suddenly seemed so much better here. But that much had been obvious. I had expected that.

A double bed, with a pale pink duvet, covered my bed, I grinned when I saw the patchwork quilt draping neatly over the edge of the bed. My boxes of stuff sat at the foot, waiting to be unpacked. The walls of my room were bare of course, and the bed was my only piece of furniture. I quickly became excited again; I could not wait to decorate this room. Across the room, a white, glossed door was located and curiosity overpowered me...my very own bathroom.

Launching myself across the room, I flung open the bathroom door and gasped. Sleek black and white tiles covered the lower half of the walls and floor spotlights were dotted across the slabs of white tiles. Candles sat in little holders by the large round bath in the corner of the room. I grinned when I saw the jets. I had a Jacuzzi bathtub! This was completely unreal!

I grabbed hold of the towels that hung from the rail, and felt the warm fluffy texture I loved so much. A soap dispenser sat on the basin, and little turtle stickers were stuck to some of the tiles above it. Under my feet, the fur of the white rug caressed my toes. This room alone had overwhelmed me. I wondered what the kitchen was like. I could not wait to see the family room! I had only been here ten minutes and I had fallen in love, quite literally. Blaze was missing out big time.

Oh, Blaze, if only you could be here. To share this with me...I couldn’t help but think it. I could not avoid the truth. It hurt me greatly that I would never speak to him again. I would never even lay eyes on him again. I did not let this spoil my great mood, however, and as I ran back into my bedroom, I dove on my bed and felt the softness of the sheet beneath me. Heaven. Now I knew what heaven would be like.

“Nara, darling?” Amelia said as she popped her head around the bedroom door. She grinned when she saw me sprawled out across the bed. “Late lunch will be ready shortly. Feel free to join us, if you would like. And I am glad you like your new bed.”

“Oh it is delightful!” I squealed. “What a lovely mattress! May I ask what is for lunch?”

I had no clue where my sudden posh tone had come from, but I could not help it.

“A special soup,” she replied. “Sound good to you?”

“Sounds lovely.”

Amelia smiled and left the room after pulling the door to.

I spent the next several minutes trying to process everything that had happened today. Time had passed by incredibly slowly and it felt that this morning was an entire week ago. So much had happened, and it overwhelmed me greatly. I had no idea how to react to it all.

So much had happened.

That is when I remembered my carers, and the pocket watch they had bought for me as a goodbye gift. Reaching into my pocket, I grabbed it and pulled it out. Holding it closely to me, I ran my fingers over the little tarnishes and marks that ran across the surface. Now that I lived in Faction Three, I could replace the original battery with one that actually worked properly. Rising from the bed, I treaded across the room and placed the pocket watch on the bare shelf.

I cleared my head, and marched downstairs. I would sit with them and eat like a civilised human being. If they wanted to know my stories, then I would tell them. The only way I could build some sort of relationship with them, was to let them into my life, share with them my history, show them my world. I would introduce them to the hell I had been living in for the past sixteen years. They would be proud of my survival, because I knew I was, and nothing would alter that.

“Mind if I join you?” I asked nervously, although I already knew the answer to my question.

“Of course you can, honey.” Amelia quickly rose from her seat at the kitchen dining table, and rushed to get a bowl out of the oak cupboards and poured some creamy soup into it. It smelled incredible. She placed the bowl on the placemat between her and Elijah and handed me a soup spoon.

“Enjoy.”

“It looks lovely,” I said truthfully as I dunked my spoon into the soup and lift some to my mouth. It smelled sweet and fresh, and it looked like something you would expect to see from a professional. Maybe Amelia cooked for a living? It sounded like such a cool occupation to have.

The soup poured into my mouth, slightly hot against my tongue, but ignited my tastes buds instantly. The flavours erupted in my mouth and the sweet mixture of potato and leek were cooked perfectly, not too soft and not too hard.

“Wow,” I said, astonished. “That is incredible!”

“I am glad you like it,” Elijah replied, a smile spreading across his rosy face. “Amelia and I spent this morning doing it.”

“Do you cook often?” I asked. It had been a good time to get to know them.

“Oh, sure,” Amelia interjected as she padded her mouth dry with her white napkin. “That is what I do for a living. I taught your father, too.”

Although we had only just met, I kind of hoped she would teach me to cook something better and more extravagant than pasta. Nearly every evening in Faction Two, I would eat pasta. It had always been a lot cheaper than rice, and although it did not taste particularly good, it filled me up substantially. Although I tried not to scoff down the meal, and eat with some sort of table manners, I couldn’t help but shovel it into my mouth, spoonful after spoonful. I had considered asking for more, but that would have been rude, right? It would make me look like I have not had a decent meal in my entire lifetime. Although it was partially true, I did not want them to worry. Now that I was where I belonged, I wanted to forget about the lack of food and jobs and resources. I had a bright and happy future to look forward to, right?

I could not help but wish Blaze could be here. It seemed odd knowing that he wasn’t just a quick walk away, that I could not see him within ten minutes, I could not talk to him in any way possible. I could not hug him, hold him, or kiss him. I needed to kiss him again, clarify if there was anything between us. But we were miles apart, and he chose to walk out of my life forever. He had chosen to stay. He did not want to follow.

“Nara?” Elijah asked, with a puzzled expression. “Is something wrong?”

I snapped out of my daydream and finished off my soup.

“Sorry, I zoned out for a bit there,” I explained. “So, Elijah, what do you do as a job around here?”

Amelia and Elijah looked at me oddly. What had I done to offend them? Had they expected me to call them mum and dad? God, I hated the thought that I might have upset them already. But I could not do that just yet. Maybe in time, I will.

“I am a doctor of course,” he said finally, noticing the sudden anxiety in my eyes. “There are many great universities here, Nara, and school where you can study subjects that you find of interest to you.”

“Oh, that’s cool, but I think I might take some time off first, get back on my feet, get to know the place and have a look around first, if that is okay, of course.”

“Oh yes, that’s fine,” Amelia agreed. “It is such a lovely place, Faction Three; there are great buildings and statues, and beautiful scenery. I might take you down to the shore some time; it is such a lovely place to go and gives you the perfect opportunity to settle down and read a book, comforted by the soft sounds of the waves, the sand between your toes, and the warm sun beaming down on you.”

She obviously visited the place often as she looked into space longingly as if wishing to be there this very second.

“When you are ready,” Elijah interrupted. “We will not rush you, dear.”

There was something very calm about my parents, and whenever I happened to be in their presence, I felt it too.

“Thank you,” I replied, sincerely. Because I truly was thankful for everything they had done for me today. “I just need time to get used to being here, that’s all.”

“We understand, dear,” Amelia said, reassuringly. “Would you like desert?”

“Desert?” I questioned, slightly surprised. “Really?”

Elijah and Amelia chuckled lightly in unison, laughing lines showing around their lips and under their eyes. I watched as their eyes glistened under the glowing lights above us.

“Of course,” Amelia laughed. “Have you ever had cheesecake?”

“Cheesecake?” I asked, puzzled. “I do not think I have come across such a thing. What is it?”

“Oh honey,” Elijah chuckled as he rose from his chair and collected our empty dishes. He opened a machine that had two racks inside, already half full of plates and cups. What was that thing? “You have not lived. It is by far my favourite desert and I hope you share the passion for cheesecake with me.”

“It sounds delightful,” I said. “What is that?”

“That is a dishwasher, sweetie,” Amelia interrupted. “Haven’t you seen one before?”

“Afraid not.”

Amelia looked at Elijah oddly.

“Well that shocks me. Faction Two has worsened since we were there. They used to have washing machines and dishwashers and tumble-dryers. I guess the King has stopped importing such machinery,” she replied, disappointment in her eyes. “You deserve better.”

“I am fine,” I said instantly. “Don’t worry. I am here now, aren’t I? And I am dying to try this desert!”

Elijah grinned and placed a small dish in front of me. A slice of pink goo stuck to a slab of biscuit sat in front of me.

“Strawberry cheesecake,” he informed me. “Bon appetite.”

I stuck my fork that he had handed to me, into the cheesecake and shoved it into my mouth. And what a splendid taste it was. I squished the strawberry goo against the roof of my mouth, squeezing all of the flavour out of it. I would definitely ask Elijah or Amelia to teach me how to make this one day. I would love to bake every desert thinkable and I would eat them all and everything else that melted my taste buds.

“Oh my,” I gasped, as I swallowed the mouthful of mush. “This is incredible!”

“I thought you might like it,” Elijah smiled as he elegantly spooned some desert into his mouth.

Amelia tucked in her chair and leaned back to grab her purse off of the kitchen counter. Unzipping the purse, she reached in and plucked out a twenty pound note.

“Here, take this,” she said and smiled as she handed it to me. “It is not a bribe, I would just like you to go out and explore for a bit, see if you like it here.”

“Um...” I said unsure, I had never been offered money before. I didn’t really have a clue of what I should spend it on either. “Okay then. Is there anything you would like from the shop?”

“No thank you, dear, treat yourself.”

I finished my desert, placed the bowl in the dishwasher, fascinated by the little buttons and lights on the front, and grabbed my old trainers, shoving them onto my feet.

“Be sure to buy yourself a new pair of shoes, darling,” Elijah advised as he walked majestically down the hallway towards me.

“Will I have enough?” I asked, unsure how expensive items would be here. Surely, prices would be a hell of a lot different here in Faction Three.  But then again, things would also be of a better quality and in more variety.

He frowned slightly as he thought about it for a few seconds.

“Probably not,” he finally said and reached into his pocket and pulled out another twenty pound note. “That should cover it.”

I thanked him for the extra cash and grabbed the door handle; I had never had such a large amount of money in my possession before. Outside, the spring sunlight beamed down across the land, casting shadows far and wide. Trails of white clouds danced across the sky, and the trees swayed in the gentle breeze. Spring: such a beautiful time of year. The flowerbeds on the front lawn were bright and full of life, and several other houses in my street had similar kinds of flowers in their gardens. I had no idea where I was headed, but I followed the path which led out of the street and onto a main road that connected to other streets.

After about half an hour or so of mindless walking, Beth emerged from Tulip Lane, waved theatrically, and jogged across the road to join me.

“Hey, Nara!” she sang as she stepped along the path in time with me. “Did your parents kick you out too?”

“Hah, I guess so,” I laughed. “But in the nicest way possible. They prepared the best meal I have had in my entire life, and then gave me forty pounds to spend! I really do need a new pair of shoes...”

We both stared at my ripped shoes with multiple holes in, and laughed.

            “You sure do,” she giggled and flipped her hair over her shoulder. She looked different. Her eyes seemed darker, her hair bouncier and shinier. Everything about her seemed heightened: her waist curvier, legs slimmer and longer.

“What are you staring at?” she asked innocently as she blinked. Her long, luscious eyelashes swayed ever so slightly, adding to her radiance and beauty.

“You look so...different.”

A sweet laugh escaped her lips as she inspected her cuticles. Her behaviour had changed entirely since I had last seen her in Faction Two. She had become more confident and the Rite had injected some femininity into her personality. I noticed her nails had already been painted a bright red, and so were her toes that peeped out the ends of her sandals.

“I could say the same to you,” she chuckled and handed me a pocket mirror out of her mini shoulder bag.

I flipped open the mirror as wave of curiosity washed over me. I stared at the reflection that stared back at me. She was not me, surely. The girl that looked back at me, I did not recognise. Her hair was dark and luscious and bouncy; eyes perfect sea blue with flecks of green, and skin a flawless and porcelain white. My hands began to shake as I clutched the small mirror. I had truly changed. I had become perfect. That was everything I had ever wanted. I had craved acceptance into a world of perfection and beauty, and now I finally had it.

I handed the mirror back to Beth.

“I’m perfect. I finally have what I’ve been craving for sixteen years. I just hate it that I can’t share this perfection with Blaze. He was my best friend. We had something special and now it’s gone. Dead.”

Beth instantly shoved the mirror into her bag and stayed silent.

“I apologise in advance if I go on about him a lot,” I said honestly. “It’s just difficult to forget about someone who meant so much me. It’s difficult to pretend that I am okay, when, in a way, I’m mourning the loss of my best friend. So easily, he had disappeared from my life.”

“It’s okay,” she smiled and as we walked around for a bit, she told me some of her stories and memories from Faction Two and what life had been like for her there. She told me about her carers, they seemed very similar to mine, in all honesty, and she told me that she pretended to be Cinderella, doing all the cleaning and hoping that one day, her Prince Charming would come along and sweep her off her feet. She might be naive, but I was in no position to criticise her, I needed her to help me get used to not having Blaze by my side. And I would be there for her in return. She was the only friend I had.

“There must be a map around here somewhere, or should we ask someone for directions?” Beth asked as we arrived in a street filled with shops. Pretty clothing items hung on manikins in the windows, I had never seen so many beautiful clothes. Oh, how I have always wanted to own a dress like the ones in the windows. When I had enough money, I would take a trip here again, and try on every dress I could find until I found the perfect one.

“That sounds like a good idea,” I muttered and shoved Beth towards an old woman, probably in her early sixties. “You have suddenly had a burst of confidence, may as well use it!”

I laughed as she stumbled into the old woman and knocked her bags out of her hands, the vegetables, dairy products and a few books fell to the ground.

“Oh my god!” Beth gasped, quickly squatting to pick up the items and the bag. “I am ever so sorry, ma’am!”

“Dear, you might want to consider paying attention to wear you fall,” the woman laughed a sweet, little laugh. She stretched down, with her hand on her back, and picked up a few books. Beth handed her the bag filled with everything else. “Thank you.”

I strode across the road to speak to the old woman.

“I really am sorry, ma’am,” I apologised. “I had not intended for her to fall into you.”

“Oh don’t you worry, sweet pea,” she laughed, her eyes glimmering as she said it. “I can remember when I was your age, I would forever be mucking about with my friends. Those were the days, hmm.”

The woman stared into the distance as if remembering her adolescence. She looked melancholic, her eyes full of longing. What did she long for, exactly? To return to the past? To live her life again? Had she regretted something, or wished she had done something she had not?

“Can you tell us where the nearest shoe shop is?” Beth asked, attempting to bring her down from the clouds.

The old women’s head snapped back and looked at us once more. She smiled slightly, flashing a set of crooked, yet glistening white teeth.

“Follow the road, dearies, it will lead you anywhere,” she muttered and walked away without a goodbye.

We stood, staring at her as she disappeared. What the hell did she mean by that? Why had she even said it?

We shrugged our shoulders and followed the road. Before long, we found a petite stone shop on the left-hand side, and through the large window, shelves upon shelves were full of different shoes all in a variety of colours. In the centre of the room, three purple triangle segments were situated. Together, they formed a full circle. A woman sat on it as she pulled on a pair of sandal heels.

As Beth and I entered the shop, a little, gold bell rang above the door.

The room was well lit; the golden light illuminated the shoes, attracting me to each and every pair. I slowly traipsed around the room, staring at the shoes, analysing every detail. I had made it my mission to find the perfect pair. Beth also seemed lost in the world of shoes. She too, studied the shoes, running her fingers over the stitches and the patterns that ran along the length of the shoes. I noticed she focused most of her time on the silver strapless heels and she kept coming back to the same pair. The woman at the till served the woman who had been sat on the purple seats, and watched her leave with a black bag with a shoebox sandwiched inside.

“Can I help you, girls?” she asked politely, leaning over the counter. A slow, peaceful piano tune played through the speakers in the four corners of the room. Behind here, situated a staircase that leaded upstairs, probably to a store room.

“What a magnificent pair of shoes!” Beth squealed, lifting up the same pair of shoes. I watched as she theatrically danced around the room with the strapless sandals clutched to her chest. I giggled at the sight of it. She had clearly fallen in love with them.

“Excuse me, Miss,” the shop assistant said, slightly agitated. “If you do not wish to purchase them, please place them back on the shelf.”

Beth stopped immediately and stared at the shoes with such adoration and longing in her eyes.

“How much?” she asked.

I stayed quiet and observed the shoes.

“Fifty-six pounds,” the shop assistant informed her.

I noticed Beth slump slightly, her heart sinking. It was clear she had not brought enough money. Slowly, reluctantly, she placed the shoes back on the shelf. She kissed her fingers and touched them to the shoes.

She grabbed my arm and steered me to the door, unable to take the pain any longer. But that’s when my eyes set on the perfect pair of high-tops. They were black and turquoise, and begged me to come and touch them, to feel the softness of its fabric beneath my fingertips.

“Wait!” I protested, yanking my arm free. Beth frowned and crossed her arms as she watched me grab the high-tops off the shelf.

Sat on a purple segment, I slid out of my tatty, ripped trainers and plunged my feet into the soft depths of the shoes.  I wiggled my toes and sighed.

“These are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn!” I proclaimed. “How much?”

The sales assistant marched to my side and smiled a fake little smile that she probably gave to all of her customers.

“Thirty-nine, ninety-five,” she answered, sounding rather bored now.

“I can afford that!” I squealed, taking the shoes off my feet, running across the room bare foot, and slamming them onto the counter. I grabbed my twenty pound notes and placed them next to the shoes. “With five pence to spare!”

She shoved the shoes into a cardboard box and placed the notes into the till, slamming the drawer shut afterwards. Mindlessly, she tossed me the bag and my five pence change.

“Thank you for purchasing at Miss Sassy’s Shoes.”

Once outside the shop, I flung off my trainers, launched them into the nearest bin, along with the bag and cardboard box, and slipped my feet into my new high-tops. And as I marched down the street, proudly wearing my shoes, I noticed the envy burning in Beth’s eyes. But I knew we would be back to purchase her shoes soon. She wouldn’t let them be purchased by someone else. Not in a million years.

As we walked down the street, with the wind on our faces, dancing with the hairs on our heads, I began to like this place.

 

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