Finn and I join a group of kids around our age for a picnic lunch on the beach. I have a great time, laughing with friends and filling up on delicious food. Soon, the day gets away from us, and I scramble out of the water as I glance at the setting sun. I gather my things and call for Finn to follow me. I run on the path up the cliffside and hurry to Heather’s run-down home.
I am greeted by Heather sticking her head out the kitchen window and shouting, “Marina! Where have you been?! And where is Finn?”
I laugh quietly as I let myself in through the front door and dump my backpack by the couch.
“Hello, Heather,” I say. I grab a cookie from a plate on the rickety old table and take a bite. “Mmm! Good batch!”
“Thanks,” Heather says, obviously flattered. “But where were you? And where is Finn? And how is your knee feeling?”
“My knee is a lot better, thanks. We were down at the beach. Some kids brought a picnic lunch and we were celebrating the beginning of the Spring Festival. Finn is probably still down there. I told him to come up with me, but he must’ve stayed.” I say between bites. “Not that I blame him, the water is starting to warm up and there were a lot of sea stars.”
“Hm.” Heather says. She turns to the sink and starts to scrub the cookie sheets. The oven warms the chilly room, and I sit in an old chair, munching on another cookie. Heather obviously made these with love. The chocolate chips melt in my mouth and it warms my whole body.
“Y’know, Heather, there are a lot crops and pack-horses from Appledale out there. And a few animals from Oxdale. We should get a goat or something! It would give milk, and we can make cheese and sell it, or eat it. It’d be great!” I say enthusiastically.
“But honey, you, Finn and Annette already make enough money.” Heather says.
“Ya, I guess.” I munch the cookie thoughtfully and sip the milk that Heather places before me. “Thanks.”
“No problem, dear.” Heather bustles around the room, wiping down the counter and dusting the shelves. “Did you hear the news about the Queen?”
“Ya.” I say with my mouth full.
My adopted mother gives me a stern look, then says, “Aren’t you so excited? Honey, you might become Queen!”
“Ya right!” I say sarcastically. “Like she would choose me out of all the citizens in the Kingdom by the Sea!”
“You never know,” Heather says as she dusts the mantel above the brick fireplace. “You did win the fishing contest last year.”
“So?” I say, draining the last of my milk.
“What I’m trying to say is that you should be excited. The Queen announces the citizens that she chose tomorrow!”
In spite of myself, I gasp. “Tomorrow?!” I ask in shock.
“That’s what the callers were saying.”
“Hm.” I think about what it would be like to be a queen. Then I stand up and place my glass in the sink. “Well, I’m gonna finish some history homework, but I’ll be out for supper.”
“Kay, have fun!” Heather says cheerfully and she sweeps the floor.
“I’ll try.” I mumble under my breath and take my backpack into my room. I am greeted by Claire, who is playing with the dolls that our father gave her when she turned one.
“Hi Marina!” She jumps up when she sees me and leaps into my outstretched hands.
“How are you?” I say as I plop on the bottom part of our bunk bed. The bed is gray, like everything else in the house. But it has survived being infected by the plague, and we are grateful for it.
“Good.” Claire happily goes back to making her dolls dance and I focus on my homework.