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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14. Twelve - Faith

          Oh this really isn’t my day.
          Jackats’ idea of presenting the prize to the champion was one that attracted a lot of attention, much to my dismay. Not only will I be freezing standing on that platform, but I won’t be able to do anything about people staring at me.
          Because of my little episode with Katesby in the inn, Jackats has decided to make me stand on the platform, which has a large wooden pole going high into the sky. I must admit, I did wonder why they had a pole for no reason, but then it all became clear to me when Jackats led me into Benny & Sons, the only tailor on Corpe. Without a single word, Mr Benjamin the Third had swept out a garment that I thought couldn’t possibly be for me. True it is beautiful, but it is a dress, no one on Corpe ever has the luxury of wearing dresses! They aren’t practical and knowing my luck, I will probably end up ripping the hem.
          It has a black . . . oh what did Mr Benjamin call it . . . a black bodice, which clings to my skin like a limpet does a rock. The skirt is white and falls in ruffles down to the floor. When I try it on in the tailors, I feel so . . . exposed and it certainly isn’t something that I would wear, well, any time of the year. I feel ridiculous and useless. And then to top everything off, I hear the bell ringing from the front of the shop and Charlotte’s trilling laugh filtering through.
          I don’t want Charlotte to see me looking like this. Bloody hell, I feel like I’m pretending to play dress up in everyone else’s fantasy. I hate it, the way that I can’t appreciate even the smallest of change, but it’s who I am. It is one of my many faults.
          I have a mental debate whether or not there will be time to shuffle out the dress before Charlotte sees me. But I’ve already left it too late, for I can hear her coming now. I sigh and hope that she hasn’t brought along her current suitor, Bradley Kiniey, who goes everywhere that she goes. I breathe in, holding my stomach in and place a hand on it, for I suddenly feel a little sick. I don’t know why this is so difficult for me to show my best friend that I have a touch of feminine in me.
          “Faith, where are you?”
          “Here.” I call and clear my throat. I have known Charlotte for my entire life and she has always been the one to catch boys’ attention and enjoy it, while I shadowed her, smiling at her shallowness. Now it seems like I shouldn’t be doing this, wearing a dress that screams and craves for looks and all I want to do is go home and hide behind the sofa like I have done so often.
          She eventually finds me, standing in front of a full length mirror, another mannequin wearing an exquisite dress. Mr Benjamin suggested that I should sweep my hair over a shoulder or wear it all up. Since the only pins I can find are dress pins, I don’t have any choice but to sweep it over my shoulder. The girl in the mirror doesn’t look like me – she’s far too innocent to be me. Charlotte whirls round a stuffed cloth head wearing the largest of hats.
          I drag my eyes from the mirror and look at her. Her pretty blue eyes are as wide as teacups and her mouth forms a small and dainty o. I try and put on a smile.
          “That bad?”
          She blinks several times and raises an eyebrow. “Wow, Faith, is that even you?”
          I laugh a little at her, but in truth her reaction is a little bit unnerving. “Oh come on, of course it’s still me!” I keep waiting for her face to relax into its natural and unconditional beauty, but it stays agape as she appraises me once more, circling with some interest. I find it rather strange to be stared at as such, even if it is only by Charlotte. She instructs me to twirl and I am so astounded that all I can do it blink. Once she is certain that it is definitely me under the dress, her face brakes into the most wonderful smile I have ever seen. I’m sure that if Bradley was in here, he would either faint (which I cannot imagine him ever doing) or sweep her up like the love-struck dope he is and hold onto her forever. I cannot help but feel plain next to her, even with myself in a rather unfortunate dress.
          Charlotte has the most smooth and tanned skin that you shall find on Corpe. Her grandmother was from Bloor, and so she gets her remarkably good looks from her. She is the spitting image of her mother – who is also seen as a beauty here on Corpe. Mrs Evenly has never thought much of the double chins or beer bellies here on Corpe, so she married a man who was also from Bloor decent. Mr Evenly, Charlotte’s father, was a man who is known for his stillness. He is a very quiet man, and people say that he is ‘Even by name; even by nature.’ I do believe that he is very reserved and finds it difficult to converse with new people, but my father likes him well enough and my mother’s confidante when she was brought to Corpe was Mrs Evenly. Charlotte gets her high cheek bones and her mouth from her father, and I do believe that she has his rare smile, also. Her sandy blonde hair falls in ringlets down her back and bounces when she walks. Her eyes are the sweet colour of sapphires that I once saw my mother wear and are framed by sandy eyelashes. Her thin eyebrows are the same colour as her hair and she always has the most softest of expressions. She is kind and caring, and has learnt to tolerate the fiery tempest brewing inside of me.
          She touches my cheek lightly with her tanned finger and smiles. For some reason, I feel tears creep into my eyes. I smile back, unknowing what to do and without another word, Charlotte turns me back to the mirror, her standing behind me and wrapping her arms around my stomach. I lean back into her familiar warmth and look at our reflections.
          “You are truly beautiful, Faith.”
          She rests her chin on my shoulder and we stay like that, smiling and staring at our own grown up reflections. She is my one and only friend, and I am nothing without her. If I’d had the chance to find Charlotte on the night that I punched Katesby, she would’ve been able to stop me from doing anything that I would’ve regretted. As it turns out, now, I wish for more than anything that I could do it again, but I try and be reasonable. Roland Katesby is not even worth all this thought and loss of sleep over until I can actually do something about my own fate. At the moment, I am trying to stay out of the way of anything that could cause a scene, but I know, now, that whatever I may think or wish, I am not going to get away unnoticed. Hence the dress and the platform right at the top of town, so that I shall be visible from the shore.
          I sniff, for tears have begun to pour down my face in their own way. There is only sadness in me now – sadness that I may lose my home; my family; my life. Charlotte whispers hush in my ear and begins to hum a tune as old as the island its self. After a moment, she begins to sing:
          See how they laugh, see how they run,
          Our children shall sing ‘til day is done,
          How we sigh and wish that it would not be through,
          How long we have hoped that they’ll love them too.

          She’ll be there, all waiting in blue,
          Singing and calling for her love to come too,
          How she longs and she waits for his triumphant wave.
          How a young man must meet an early grave.

          See how they laugh, see how they run,
          Our children shall sing ‘til day is done,
          How we sigh and wish that it would not be through,
          How long we have hoped that they’ll love them too.

          As she finishes the last chorus, I know that I must face everything with a pleasant smile and the less difficult I am, the more freedom I will get. Jackats explained when I first entered Benny’s & Sons that I am to be tied to the pole with my hands behind my back. The more that I will move, the more painful it shall be for me and so he suggested that I do my best not to struggle. And here now, with Charlotte soothing me with her sweet voice, I know that I am not alone. Even from the day that I knew I was to be a prize, I was never alone.
          Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

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