Corpe and Bloor

On the rural islands of Corpe and Bloor the annual Fight Week is about to begin in which champions are chosen and lives changed forever. The Fight is between a champion from Corpe and a champion from Bloor. Girls are chosen as prizes for the man who is crowned the winner of the Fight. Faith Rathbone is the unwilling prize of Corpe and the life she had always known is tipped upside down in the form of Alec McFadden, the champion of Bloor. She must decide if she can begin to hope for a life on Bloor but leave her family behind. But her fate is not her own.

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16. Fourteen - Faith

          It is believed that the way I am to first meet Alec McFadden is to be seen as an act of humiliation for what I did to Roland Katesby. I am to be tied with my hand around the back of the wooden pole, facing the town, helpless to any stares and the more I struggle, the more painful it will be for me. I simply keep my face impassive as a boy with a hood covering his face binds my wrists. I try not to look at him, but straight down the High Street, the dress billowing on the summer’s wind. Even in the summer here, it can be the wettest and the coldest of days, but on that rare occasion, the dazzling sun decides to poke its bright head out. And there, approaching the shoreline with even strokes is the boat.
          I bring myself to my full height and keep my head up high, not showing that I am sorry for what I did to Katesby or even the slightest hint that the rope was too tight and coarse on my wrists. I have no regrets in my actions and will live with the consequences.
          “Faith!”
          I close my eyes tight and hope that it was just my imagination that made me hear Emmanuel’s voice, but I’m in no such luck, for his head bobs up from the bottom of the platform. I suppose it could’ve been worse, like if Daniel or Papa had turned up. Emmanuel is only a year older than me, but it’s like he’s still six in his heart. He’s a big lad and even though he is the youngest, he is the tallest, so my older brothers don’t tease him too much about his age. Emmanuel’s hair bounces when he heaves himself up onto the platform, causing any nosy people to avert their gazes. Like I have said before, no one wants to mess with a Rathbone.
          Emmanuel folds his arms across his chest and looks at me with a raised eyebrow. I do my best to shrug, but find it more difficult than I had originally thought. Emmanuel shakes his head and walks towards me, staring at the dress.
          “You know,” He began, “if it wasn’t you who was throwing punches, I wouldn’t believe that it’s my little sister in front of me.”
          I smile, shake my own head and sigh. “Am I really that different?”
          Emmanuel crinkles his nose up a little. “Let’s just say that no one will forget what you look like today in a hurry.”
          This displeases me, for I want the whole bloody thing over and done with as quickly as possible, so I can go back and try and create my life into something that resembles normality. This island and the other will always continue with their traditions and their Fights, but I never actually thought that I’d be remembered for anything. Xavier’s sake, I’m only a prize! There have been hundreds before me and I’m almost certain that there’ll be hundreds after me. I don’t really see myself to be of any significance.
          I can tell that Emmanuel’s about to taunt me even more with his insulting flattery, but Charlotte exits Benny & Sons on the arm of Bradley Kiniey, who is looking down admiringly at her. She truly is a beauty and every man that so much as crosses her path falls in love with her. I’m about to comment on the way Bradley’s looking at Charlotte, but something stops the words short in my throat. My brother is looking at Charlotte in almost the same way.
          I clear my throat, suddenly unsure of what to do. My brother, my brother captivated by my best friend. Of course, they have always had that playful flirting whenever in each other’s company, but I hadn’t even thought that it could mean something more! Oh my, what a strange world this is.
          “Em,” I say and my voice has gone very small all of a sudden, “Do you love her?”
          He begins to say a wisecrack, but then stops with his mouth still open and looks at me with embarrassed eyes. “A little.”
          I don’t believe that for all the fish in the sea, for I can see it in his eyes that he does not just love her a little, but it is like she is his whole reason for being, or like the way he cannot help but smile if she looks at him, or if she walks by and she smiles at him. I stare at him in wonder and he stares back at me.
          “Faith, listen,” Emmanuel says, and he takes a step closer to me. “I understand that you have a strong head and you know what is right and what is wrong, but please don’t forget who you are. Bloody hell, even if it means throwing a million punches and being tied to several other poles, do not forget who you are and that you are Faith Rathbone and your family loves you.” He takes another step so that his is towering over me and bends down to kiss my cheeks. I lean my forehead against his broad chest and sigh heavily. His words are mine; his blood is mine. I shall never forget what he has told me today, never even if I live a thousand years.
          But there are more important things to think about, like the troop heading from the shore.

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