Buildings Burning

Map has spent her entire life watching the river. She has seen it run, smooth and effortless, caressing the soft dirt. The river gives to the people of Ardoon, but it also takes away. One day it is gone forever, and Map finds herself on a race across time and space, searching for the key that will bring life back to her village.

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1. Gabe's Proposal

I sat on the bank of the river watching the stars twinkle overhead. It was spring, but the winter had been free of snow, and the water was only a trickle. I had my socks lying on the brown grass, my feet in the water, a rare treat for this time of year. The air was hot, sticky, and humid.

A rustling came from the bushes. "Map!" A voice hissed.

"What is it?" I grumbled, not wanting to move from my comfy perch.

My little sister Pia came up from behind and stood above me, her face twitching. The airy ddress she wore clung to her sweaty skin. "Gabe wants to see you," She informed me.

I groaned inwardly. Gabe was apprentice to the village watersmith, supposedly the most promising boy in my class, and it was well known he was sweet on me. I had hated him ever since preschool, when he barfed all over my crayon masterpiece. "Why?" I asked sourly, stalling.

"Geez, Map, are you really that fogheaded?" Pia leaned closer to my head, her twitch turning into a full blown grin. "You're gonna have to face him sometime or other. Maybe even tonight!"

"Whatever."

"So I take it you want me to tell him no?"

"Whatever."

"I'll tell him yes!” Pia taunted.

“Just leave me alone!” I cried, my voice barely an inch away from shouting.

“Alright, alright!” Pia threw up her hands in mock fear, winked at me, and left.

I stared at the stars, thinking. In our village, whenever a guy wanted to marry a girl, about when the two were thirteen or so, the girl said yes. Always. Saying no just wasn’t done, and it was rumored it constituted a spell in the Terror Jail.

I decided I was disgusted with the night sky, and headed home.

The door to my house was shut, but light emanated through the cracks. As I pushed open the door, merry voices came from the livingroom, and my heart skipped a beat. Was this a good sign?

“Map!” My mother cried. “Is that you?”

“Yeah!” I called back.

“Come in here! Such good news!”

I passed through the archway. As I saw the couch and who tonight’s guest was, I felt a lead upon my heart, and my head felt woozy.

His black hair was all but hidden under the white top hat. In his hand, shaking already from too much drink, he held a glass of red wine. And on the table next to him, shimmering like a poisonous crystal in the lamplight, was a blue engagement ring.

 

 

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