*** “The Almont Residence”, Armenia-The West Province, Summer Year 2528 ***
“Ow! That hurts Liam!” Ellisia pulls away reflexively; her half braided Mahogany hair tugging as it is gripped by a pair of soft, but strong hands, causing her to cry out again. “Ow!”
“Elli, if you’d stop moving around so much it wouldn’t hurt as much! Just sit there and wait!” Liam proceeds to braid her long, curly hair, taking extra care for precision and less pain.
Elli slouches impatiently, desperately wanting to be free from the grip of her kind, but excessively dotting brother. “Why are you even doing this? I can do it myself now, I’m 16.”
Liam laughs. “Yes, 16 and yet you still sleep with huge stuffed animal beside you each night. You still pick your veggies out of the casserole and you still come running to my room when it’s storming outside. You may be 16 Elli, but you’re still just an innocent child, naïve to the world.”
“I’m not a child!” Elli whips around just as Liam releases the completed braid. Her amber eyes portray her fury; slightly glowing like an ember. “So what if I still do those things? It’s not like I’m still coloring outside the lines and asking for bedtime stories. I just like the softness of the bear, I hate vegetables and everyone knows you’re safer being around others during storms. However, I’ve done a lot of adult things too, even things that turn girls into woman!”
“Oh….” Liam raises his eyebrow. “Really now? Please tell me more. Who’s the lucky guy?” He’s smiling, but glancing down, Elli can see his hands, which he’d been resting on his legs, gripping his thighs with intensity that can speak louder than words. He’s so not happy.
Realizing she messed up, she attempts to smooth it over. “That’s not what I meant! Well…I mean it is but…oh, just forget I said that. I promise there are no other men in my life, ok?” She expects him to relax, but his demeanor doesn’t change a bit. “What, you don’t believe me?”
“No, I believe you, that’s not it. I should rephrase the question. Who’s the lucky person?”
Elli slowly starts to panic, not expecting that he’d be so unyielding on the topic. However, she also knows him better than anyone and she knows how much he cares for her and how protective he can be. She’s always loved that aspect of him, but it’s becoming inconvenient now that Amelia has become a big part of her life. “This is stupid Liam, it’s no big deal. I’m fine.”
“I’m not asking if you’re fine or not, I’m asking who it was that took your virtue.” He’s serious.
“Liam…no one took anything I didn’t give and what does it matter anyway? I’m 16, not 6.”
“Precisely, you’re 16, not 26. The only thing you need to be worrying about now is how to pass Sociology. I mean really, how you’re failing the easiest class in existence and acing all the others is just unbelievable. Maybe if you focused on making healthy, platonic relationships with your classmates rather than romance, you’d be able to understand societal norms and social cues.”
She’d been trying to keep her cool, but she can no longer tolerate his indirect shaming of her relationship with Amelia, without even knowing her or that she’s in a relationship with her. “What are you even saying? You know why I’m not friends with any of those people and you know why I don’t care to be. That has nothing to do with the person I’m dating. My relationship with Amelia isn’t the reason I’m failing Sociology; this shitty society we live in with its equally shitty people is! It’s not that I like being alone, this shitty society just keeps rejecting me!”
“Hey, watch your language young lady, that’s no way for a girl to talk, or a woman actually.”
“Fuck you Liam, I’ll talk how I want. You have no right to say I can’t, you’re not my dad!”
She can see the shock of her words in his expression, but only for a moment. However, a moment was all it took to make her instantly regret her words, though her pride refused to let her apologize. Those were his own words after all, he never wanted her to see him as her father.
“I know. I’m aware that I’m not your dad and that’s the way I wanted it to be, but now I’m wondering if that was a mistake.” His face shifts from somber to serious in an instant. “I may not be your dad, but I’m starting to realize that you need one. I’ve spoiled you all your life and never questioned what you were doing all those days you’d run off to the woods alone because I wanted to be your friend, your cool big brother, but now you’ve taken advantage of that and have been messing around with god knows who and setting yourself up to get in big trouble. It may not be a guy you’re messing around with, but even with a girl it’s just the same. You can’t get pregnant no, but you can get diseases and worst of all, you can still be heartbroken.”
“Are you serious right now Liam? I mean are we actually doing this? Are we having the “talk?””
“Yes, I guess you would call this that, but it seems like I’ve waited too long since the deed’s already been done hasn’t it? When did it happen? How many times? Who is this Amelia?”
“As if I’d tell you, it’s not any of your damn business! I’m not going to entertain those stupid questions either. Maybe you should’ve been my dad instead, but you didn’t and so it’s too late for that now. I know you’re not judging me anyway; I mean you’re the only slut around here.”
As soon as the words slipped from her mouth, she wanted to take them back, but then she feels the sting of Liam’s slap across her cheek. As she places her own hand against it to try and ease the pain, she looks at Liam in a state of shock and he looks back with an intense gaze. “Go to your room.” Elli looks at him in defiance, standing her ground. “I said go to your room now!”
He tries to grab her arm and lead her there, but she snatches it away. “No, I won’t! Screw you!”
Elli runs to the door and snatches it open, the cool breeze of a hot summer night blowing in. She’s ready to bolt, but stands in the doorway for a moment, as though to contemplate if she was sure about doing it. “Elli, don’t you do it.” She looks him in his calm, ash eyes and after several seconds of a stare off, Elli decides that for the first time in her life, she doesn’t want to be the good girl. She takes off running and Liam chases her, but only to the doorway. “Dammit Ellisia, you get back here! Ellisia!” He calls out, but she’s already long gone and all it does is attract the attention of his neighbors who are looking out from their own doorways and windows, watching and murmuring amongst themselves. He scowls as their gazes. “What are you looking at?! This isn’t a play, mind your own business and stay out of ours! Old hags. Shit!” He slams his door.
The murmurs continue, but one voice of interest sticks out above the rest. “So it would seem the fairy tale has come to an end. Now, what will you show me my darling girls?” A man in a trench coat and hat leans against the side wall of a nearby apartment. He looks like a mysterious observer in a detective novel, watching idly by as the story unfolds. A third party onlooker who cares not of the reason nor outcome, but simply the story. A writer of sorts, but more sinister. Yes, this man who’s simply known as “The Author” stands in the darkness of the alley scribbling away in his notepad. He’s always there, yet no one has heard of him, no one could tell you precisely who he is or what he looks like. However, you can always find him beside a good story as it unfolds over time. He never fails to catch the important bits and is always entertained. “I suppose that’s enough for one night. Though something tells me things are about to get very interesting.” He shuts his pad. “Quite interesting indeed.” He tucks it under his arm and walks down the alley into the darkness. “Well, I’ve always loved a good tragedy, but how will this one end I wonder?” He sighs. “Ah, it’s a perfect night to run away, but will you my do it my dears?”
*** “The Deep Woods”, Outside Armenia-The West Province, Summer Year 2528 ***
Elli runs through the woods at top speed, whizzing past the trees and skillfully circumventing any obstacles in her path. Her eyes are heavy and she can feel tears trying to form, but she won’t let them fall, not yet, because she promised her; it’s their special promise. She passes Evani’s hut and thinks about how before she started dating Amelia 3 months ago, Evani was the one she’d run to if she was feeling sad or scared. She almost feels a bit bad, wondering if she may have been neglecting her a bit. They’ve been seeing each other less and less and when they do meet, it’s only for their weekly combat training for a few hours. They haven’t really lounged around or spent quality time together since the day she ran from her and encountered Amelia and the Kree. Though with that, she’s also noticed that she has felt more energized than ever since she’s been around Amelia compared to when she was with Evani. It’s very strange.
She decides not to think about that anymore, wanting nothing other than to see Amelia. She spends as much time as she can at her “beach house” that overlooks the water, but most often they call it home; their home in which they live together when real life gets hard, like now. She can see it in the distance and she can see a dim light, which means she’s home. Elli’s heart jumps for joy and she can feel her eyes get heavier in anticipation. As she rounds the back of the hut, she can see Amelia sitting up top and staring off into the distance, watching the ocean waves and taking it all in. With nothing but a dim beam of light illuminating her, she’s occluded by darkness, but her beautiful emerald eyes can be seen, like beacons, calling Elli home.
She starts climbing up and as she does, Amelia finally notices her presence and looks in her direction. She’s surprised to see her, but with her heart as indication, she’s very happy to. “Ellisia you’re here, did we plan to meet? If I had known, I would’ve cleaned up a bit. Not that I’m not happy to see-.” She stops short, realizing that Elli hasn’t moved closer since she successfully ascended the ladder. She sits on her knees in front of her, with her head down. “Ellisia?”
Elli finally looks up and Amelia can finally see that her eyes are watering and her lip is quivering. She can see that she’s clearly about to cry, but why? Elli scoots closer so that her face is directly across from Amelia’s and once their eyes meet, all the restraint she’d built up comes crumbling down and her tears begin to pour. “Lia!” Elli buries her face into Amelia’s chest.
“Ellisia, what wrong? Did something happen?” She doesn’t respond, she simply cries. “Sia….”
After several minutes, Elli calms down and quietly lies against Ame’s chest. Ame continues to hold her in her arms as she has since she first lied on her chest and kisses her forehead here and there to comfort her more. After a few more minutes, Ame finally attempts to get her to talk. “Something happen with Liam? Did you two fight? He’s not hurt is he?!” She’s alarmed.
“No, it’s nothing like that. He just…well I kind of told him about us and what we’ve done.”
“Oh, so he didn’t take it very well did he? Well, even after all these years there are still people who are against relationships like ours. Maybe he just didn’t know how to accept it.”
“No, it’s not like that either. It’s not the fact that you’re a girl he has a problem with, it’s the fact that I’m with you at all and that we’ve had sex. He accused me of being a kid and I got mad and accidently admitted to it. He wasn’t happy to hear it at all and was pestering me about who it was. I said some mean things, he said some mean things and then I said something really mean and he slapped me for it. I know I deserved it, but it was still a shock because he’s never even punished me let alone slap me. But I’ve also never rebelled against him as I did tonight. He was trying to be like a real dad and I didn’t like it very much. He said I was spoiled.”
“I see, so that’s how it was. Well, you have to admit, he’s kind of right. You are spoiled.”
Elli punches her shoulder. “Are you seriously taking his side right now? Are you sure?”
“No, no, no, don’t misunderstand, please, I’m not taking his side, I’m just saying it is a fact you are spoiled, but so am I so I can’t say anything really. I can also see where he’s coming from, I mean any brother, dad, whatever would flip if they find out their sister, daughter is being sexually active with a person they don’t know. For all they know, you could be lying about who they are, age, etc. I’m sure he’d have been ok with it if he knew it was me. I mean, we sort of met that one time, though he didn’t officially meet me and we only exchanged like one sentence each. Maybe it’s time we go public with this now and meet each other’s families, you think?”
“Honestly, I still don’t think that’s his issue. Even if he knew you, I still think he’d be against me being with you and definitely against the sex. He thinks I’m too young to be doing it, it’s stupid. I mean he even said it himself, it’s not like I can get pregnant, so you’d think he’d be happy it was with a girl rather than a boy. He mentioned diseases and heartbreak too, but I don’t have to worry about either of those with you because I know you’d never hurt me in those ways.”
“Of course I wouldn’t, I told you way back then and I’ll keep saying it until the day I die, I love you Ellisia Clara Almont and I’m never leaving your side. So please don’t hurt me either.”
“Don’t be foolish Amelia Diane Mangier, I love you too, always. I want him to understand that and know that I’m never letting you go, no matter what he says, but I’m not sure he will.”
“So what do you want to do? Do you want to run away? We could escape from here easy and then travel to our own little part of the world outside the provinces as make a colony of our own. Though we’d need some assistance of the male persuasion for that to work, but I’m sure we could manage if we stock up on vials of their baby juice. I mean, that’s all we need.”
“Eww, you’re so gross! No thank you. I don’t want any type of man juice anywhere inside me.”
“Fine, I’ll do it then. I mean, as Valkyrie Princess I’m supposed to have an heir anyway.”
“Are you serious. You’d actually carry a baby for us? I never would’ve imagined that.”
“Well sure, I am a girl after all, or did you forget that already? I want to be a mom.”
“That’s really amazing that you know that so surely already. I’ve never really thought about it to be honest, until you just brought it up. Now that I am, well I honestly don’t think I want to carry a baby. I guess I’d want to be a mom someday too, but never having a mom myself, it’s hard for me to imagine myself as one. I wouldn’t have any idea on what to do. So I don’t know.”
“It’s ok Sia. Like I said, I’ll take care of all that stuff, you just keep us safe, sound good?”
Elli laughs. “So I guess we’re planning for the future already then. Ok, it’s a deal. But how?”
“How would you do that you mean?” Elli nods. “Well that’s simple, you’ve gotta be my Berserker of course. Berserkers are our shields and most loyal partners, so you’re perfect.”
“Berserkers…but aren’t those usually men? I’ve never heard of a female Berserker before.”
“Well there haven’t been any. You’d be the first of course, pretty cool honor right?”
“Now I think our fantasy is getting a bit unrealistic, as if I’d be allowed to be your Berserker. From what I understand, The Valkyrie Princes pick their daughters’ Berserkers from a pool of only the best warriors. Doesn’t the compound have a special program just for that?”
“Yes that’s true. At our academy, all boys are required to enter the Berserker qualification class.”
“So where does that leave the girls? What’s their purpose, to be wives of those not chosen?”
“What? Ha, what type of world do you think we live in? That’s so 20th century, not the 26th. I mean maybe some will end up marrying some of those guys, but they still have lives of their own. They enter society in any of the numerous fields the provinces offer, or if they’d like to stay involved in the military and security forces, they can become soldiers in The Valkyrie Army, where they go out and join the fight against the Kree with the Valkyries and secure out boarders. They have all the opportunities that men have, with the exception of the Berserkers of course.”
“I see, so that’s how it works. That’s interesting, but again, that just further confirms my point. I can’t be your Berserker because I’m not a guy. Besides, I’m probably not even skilled enough.”
“Well duh of course not, that’s what the class is for. You train over the four years in the high school and as your “final” before you graduate, you take part in the Berserker qualifiers and battle against all the other Berserker hopefuls until only one remains. The winner is usually who the Valkyrie Princes will pick for their daughters. Of course there have been exceptions, like in my father’s case. He totally bombed in the qualifiers back in his time, but my grandpa liked his spirit and so he ended up picking him and the rest was history. So basically what I’m trying to say is, there’s always the possibility of exceptions. You just have to prove you’re worthy. The only reason guys are the ones given the privilege exclusively is because they’ve got the tools needed to yield an heir. But like I said, all we need is the juice, in battle that won’t matter.”
“I get what you’re saying, but I still don’t know your parents would let that fly. I mean, we’re talking like ten generations of tradition here. The system has obviously worked thus far, so it’s probably not a good idea to go and change it now just because it’s convenient for us.”
“I understand what you’re saying too, but you still don’t understand me. I’m saying you can do it because it’s the only way I’m going to have it. I’ve said it to them before and I will not change my mind even now. I’m going to choose my own Berserker, no matter the outcome of the qualifiers in 2 years. However, I agree that they need to still go on because it allows me to see just how skilled each candidate is and hopefully will allow me to justify my choice if my choice is the winner or at least in the top 3. That’s why I’m saying, you can be an exception.”
“Oh.” Elli finally understands. “I get it. Right now the chance is slim, but if I work hard and defeat the others in the qualifiers and win, your parents will be less inclined to refuse.”
“Yes, that’s exactly it. My compromise for them would be that if my choice wins or makes it at least to the top 3, then they will let me choose them and for baby making purposes, the winner or one of the top 3 guys will be the juice donors for us. So we’d still get the strongest heir, but I won’t have to be forced into a marriage I don’t want and we can be together like we want.”
“That all sounds really nice, but totally unrealistic. It seems like it’ll be really hard to achieve.”
“Hell yea it is! These guys are no joke. They’ve been training for years, practically since birth just for this chance. They’ve got way more of an advantage than you, so you’ll have to put in a hell of a fight to beat them, but I know you can do it. I’ve seen you practicing your skills with Evani, I’ve seen what you can do. She’s been training you well actually. She seems to know a lot about Kree and their weaknesses. With the training she’s given you till now and the training you will get in the program, you have a shot. I believe in you, so believe in yourself too.”
“You’ve seen us? I never realized you knew about us meeting. You should have come over.”
“Nah, I didn’t want to intrude, she always looks really happy to be with you and you seem to like it too. But I’d be happy to meet her one day, if you want me to, Liam too, officially this time.”
“Of course I’d love for you to meet them and I’d like to meet your parents too. Maybe I could ask them about signing up for that class. Though maybe I shouldn’t, it might be rude.”
“Nah, don’t worry about that. I’ll take care of it, but does that mean you want to do it?”
“I don’t know, maybe. All I know right now is that I want to be with you, only you, forever.”
“Then I’ll brave the trenches and ask my mom, I can be pretty persuasive actually. Though against my ruthless mom, I’ll probably have to sell my soul. She can be a terrifying woman.”
“Ok, then let’ do it. Let’s set up a time to meet each other’s families. No more hiding us.”
“So you don’t want to run away then? Are you sure? I’m totally down if you want to.”
“No, we can’t run away, something tells me we’d regret it if we did.”
“Are you sure we won’t regret it if we don’t?” Ame looks strangely serious.
“I don’t know Lia; I don’t think that far ahead. Right now the only thing I’m sure of is you. So please, let’s go to bed.” Not needing any clarification, Ame does as her lover commands.
A while later, the two lie together, Elli snuggled deep into Ame’s arms and against her body. Ame holds her in her arms tightly, like she’s terrified to let her go. Elli notices this, but doesn’t say anything, quite enjoying her warmth. She can tell it’s gotten late and that she really should head home, but she doesn’t want to go back yet. She doesn’t want to leave Ame’s side. As though she read her mind, Ame leans over and looking into her eyes she softly says, “Sia?”
Elli turns around so that she can face her properly. “What is it, are you still unsatisfied?”
“No, it’s not that, definitely not that, it’s just….” She seems to be struggling with words that she wants to say, but can’t or won’t. Finally, she says, “Don’t you need to get home?”
“Do you want me to go home? Are you desperate to get rid of me that badly or something?”
“No! That’s not it, I swear that’s not it. I wish I could stay here with you like this forever, but I think Liam is going to throw a fit if you stay out all night. It’ll give him reason to justify why we shouldn’t be together too. He’ll think I’m a bad influence on you and things will get harder.”
Elli thinks about it and realizes she’s right. “Yea, I guess I wasn’t thinking rationally, I tend to do that when you’re around, maybe you are a bad influence on me.” She laughs, but Ame doesn’t. “Are you ok Lia? You’ve seemed on edge tonight. Is something on your mind? Speak to me.”
Ame goes quiet and stares up to the sky, gazing deeply at the stars through their makeshift skylight. “The stars are beautiful aren’t they? Don’t you just wish we could take off on one?”
Elli realizes she’s deflecting, but she bites. “Yea, they’re almost the most beautiful thing I’ve seen, but you’re much more beautiful.” Ame smiles at Elli, she returns one to her and they kiss. There is another period of silence until Elli decides it’s time to head back. “Well, I guess we should be going now. I’m sure your parents are worried too. We can meet again tomorrow.” She begins to get up, but Ame has latched on to her again, even tighter. She laughs thinking she’s messing around as usual. “Lia, I want to stay too but we can’t. You have to let go. Lia come-.” Looking at Ame’s face, Elli loses her smile as she watches tears stream down her face like she’s never seen before. “Lia, what’s wrong? Why are you crying like that? Tell me what’s wrong!”
“I don’t know! I just, for some reason I have this feeling. I feel like something bad is going to happen and we’re going to regret not leaving while we can. Are you sure we shouldn’t just do it? Yea, Sia, let’s just run away from here, from everything. Then we can be together how we want.”
“Lia, do you understand what you’re even saying right now? Look, I definitely felt like running away from here after my fight with Liam, but then I came here to you and you brought me back. I was mad, but not so much that I’d abandon Liam like that. He’s my only family, my precious big brother that I love. He raised me with the sacrifice of his youth, I can’t forget that. You have family that’s precious to you here as well don’t you? From what you’ve said, it seems like you love your parents very much, so why would you want to leave them behind? Besides, you kind of have an important job as Valkyrie Princess you know. If there were a Kree invasion….”
“I know! I know that ok?! That’s the aggravating part of it. I do have that responsibility, one I never really wanted or asked for. I knew it was my fate, just as my mom and the generations before her, but that doesn’t change the fact that I find it to be a burden. I wish all I had to worry about was passing a simple class. I wish I didn’t have to wonder everyday if my mom will die out here in battle and leave me here to take over the fight. Add in the fact that my father is always busy taking care of diplomacy matters when not fighting with my mom, so I don’t get to see him much. The icing on the cake is having an older brother that unlike yours, hates me with every fiber of his being and he doesn’t even try to hide it. He feels I monopolize my parents’ attention, as if I wanted to do that. I love my family, but I don’t love my life. To be honest, the only thing I feel is worth living for is you Ellisia. If I didn’t have you I think…I think I’d….”
Her sentence tapers off, leaving the rest heavy in the air, but Elli didn’t need to hear anymore to understand what she was saying. She leans forward and embraces Ame tightly, letting her rest against her chest; it’s the sure fire way to comfort her when she’s stressed or hurting. Ame savors the gesture, as she lightly sobs. In a gentle voice Elli says, “I didn’t realize you were dealing with so much Lia, I’m so sorry I never realized. I know it might feel like the world is on your shoulders and I can only imagine how painful it is and how much pressure your facing and I know I can’t take it away for you, I would if I could. However, I hope you know that I’m here for you and I’ll always be here for you. Whenever you feel like the world is going to come crashing down, just think of me, find me, talk to me, whatever you have to do as long as I can be of some use to you. Don’t ever feel like you have no other option, don’t ever give up, ok?”
Ame nods and nuzzles deep into Elli’s chest. “I love you Ellisia, more than I can ever say.”
“I know, I love you too Amelia, but I know you already know that. I should get going now, but I will see you soon ok?” Ame nods again and they share a goodbye kiss, then Elli heads home.
Nearby, the same man from earlier, “The Author” scribbles away from behind the cover of the trees. “Wonderful! Splendid! I knew you girls wouldn’t let me down. This story can’t end yet, oh no my dears, it’s just beginning!” He taps his pen against his chin as he contemplates in deep thought. “Hmm, this is coming along quite nicely even without my intervention, so I think I’ll continue to let them drive this story. However, I think we need to add a little bit of drama to stir things up, but how?” He continues to contemplate, but as he does, there is a tap on his shoulder.
He turns around to see a woman with Raven hair and orange speckled eyes. He grins from ear to ear. Evani frowns and with an aggressive tone asks, “Who are you and why are you here?”
“I’m terribly sorry madam, I’m just a solitary writer looking for a good story, nothing more.”
“What business do you have watching those girls? I’ll gut you if you do them harm.”
“Not to worry ma’am, I don’t deal in physical harm, just plot devices. I have no bad intentions with those girls, I just find them interesting. I’m a humble observer, though I do like to exploit good opportunities when they arise. Now you look like a woman who’s looking for an opportunity of her own, so what do you say you and I help each other out? All I need is time.”
Evani looks at the man suspiciously, unable to see his face clearly occluded in the darkness and his hat, but she can also sense there is more to him than meets the eye. “I’m listening.”
“Splendid! If you’d be willing, how about we take a stroll, I love seeing the night sky.” Evani nods and like a gentleman he takes her arm and they stroll through the trees and scheme.
*** “The Almont Residence”, Armenia-The West Province, Summer Year 2528 ***
When Elli walks inside the apartment, Liam is waiting for her in an armchair, just as she expected. She heads to her room and just before closing the door she says, “So how long then?”
He holds up a single pointer finger. “1 week.” She nods and starts to close the door, but before she does he says, “oh and Elli, if you ever do this or disrespect me like that again, I’ll make sure this will be your last night with her.” She can see he’s serious and so doesn’t dare talk back.
“I understand Liam and I’m very sorry about earlier. I promise I won’t do it again. Goodnight.” He nods and she shuts her door. She sits on the floor, slightly stunned by his stern expression and words. Both of them have come to see that fairy tales always end and that indeed, things change.
*** “The Deep Woods”, Outside Armenia-The West Province, Summer Year 2528 ***
“I see, so you two had your first real fight. Well, I suppose the fact that it took 16 years to do so should count for something. Most siblings fight all the time from childhood, believe me, I know. But you two will also reconcile I’m sure, where my brother and I…well I think we are beyond the point of reconciliation. I’ll never forgive him.” Evani’s expression becomes bitter and dark.
Elli lies in her arms as always, but finds herself rather curious about this new bit of information. “Evani, you have a brother? Is he not around anymore? I’ve never seen him or anyone actually.”
Evani is silent for a moment, leaving nothing but the sound of a gentle breeze flowing through the grass in the meadow they have been passing the morning within. Just when Elli thinks she’ll never respond, Evani says, “There are different kinds of brothers out there Elli, you should know that better than anyone. Some brothers share parents like Amelia’s older brother does with her, some are adoptive, as in your case, and some are connected through marriage, this is my case. My brother is my brother due to his father marrying my mother after my father died and his mother left them. In other words, he was my step-brother. You can grow up together for a time and even be very close, but then one day go in vastly different directions when your interests no longer align. He made a choice I couldn’t support; nor could his father and so he turned away from him as did my mother as she’d never taken a liking to him unlike his dad who liked me. So when our family had completely disowned him, he vowed that he’d make us regret it. Just a few years later, he did the unspeakable, but that’s not what made him unforgivable. No, his sin was far greater and it’s something I will never be able to overlook until the day I die and I take him with me. He took something from me I can never get back, even now that I’ve got it back.”
Elli becomes confused at her words, having heard something like a riddle, but it makes no sense. “I don’t understand Evani, how can you never get something back that you’ve already gotten back? If you have it now, then wouldn’t that mean you did get it back and can be happy again?”
Evani smiles tenderly at the sweet girl in front of her with her innocently naïve eyes. “How I’ve always cherished that childish ignorance to the world you possess so naturally. It almost makes me feel guilty.” Her smile fades as she places a hand on Elli’s shoulder. “However, you will soon see the world is not so beautiful and that it’s people are cruel and deceitful. I will open your eyes child and when that day comes; then you will understand everything, including yourself.”
*** “The Almont Residence”, Armenia-The West Province, Summer Year 2528 ***
As Elli walks up the familiar street leading to her apartment, she continues to reflect on what just happened. She feels as though Evani just said something very deep and important, but she isn’t sure exactly what she was trying to tell her. She’d never really felt that way, but now that it’s mentioned, she begins to wonder if she really is just a child after all. Perhaps Liam was right to say what he said and she was the only one who didn’t understand anything. She continues to mull this over as she walks inside the apartment. Liam is waiting for her when she does.
“Perhaps we need to review what it means to be grounded.” Liam looks at her in dissatisfaction.
“What do you mean? I’m not breaking the rules am I? Can I not go to the meadow to relax?”
“Well the whole point of being grounded is for you to be stuck in the house with limited social time and leisure activity. If you are doing something you normally find enjoyable, then that isn’t really a punishment. My definition of grounding is simple. You go to school, you come home, you do your homework and you can do some reading or practical activities, go to bed, repeat.”
Elli crosses her arms in aggravation as she lets out a huff. “Ok then, so apparently I don’t know anything. I guess I am just a child.” She frowns. “Ok, so what does this mean, am I grounded for another weak? What else are you going to do to punish me?” She looks at him in expectation.
Liam sighs and looks up in defeat. “Look Elli, I don’t want to fight. I hated everything about last night and who both of us had become. That wasn’t us, I’m not really sure who those people were and I never want to see them again. We were both wrong, we both said disrespectful things and it was just a completely wrong situation all around. I miss how we always are; I miss being your big brother. I jumped the gun trying to suddenly become what I’m not, and it’s clear that I’m not your father Elli. I was never meant to be, so I won’t try now. I feel it would be irresponsible to not punish you at all for your bad behavior, so I stand by grounding you for a week. However, I’m not going to add on more time just for making an honest mistake and going forward, I want us to talk things out rather than becoming those terrible people again. No more fighting, ok?”
Elli realizes that Liam really is a selfless person and loves her unconditionally as she thought. Even if what Evani says is true about the world, she’s certain that Liam isn’t a part of that. “Ok, no more fighting.” She walks over and they embrace each other. “I love you Liam, always.”
*** “J.S. Lawrence High School”, Armenia-The West Province, Summer Year 2528 ***
A bell rings in the distance and the previously empty path becomes infested with a swarm of bloodsuckers known as teenagers as they rush to their first period classes. The penalties for being late are harsh, the worst of it being the earful from Mrs. Tuffy, the school principle. As Elli walks up the path with minimal interest, she can see her; like a vulture stalking out its prey and her eyes finally come to rest on Elli. As if she’s taunting her, Mrs. Tuffy’s mouth seems to turn up ever so slightly in the corners, while she continues to give an intimidating gaze. Elli doesn’t fall for her schemes and steadily continues to walk up the sandstone path. She gets closer and closer to the large building, looking something like a mix of a space center with its steel structure and a pyramid with its sandstone bricks that match the path. It’s fairly large, big enough to accommodate the masses of teenagers in Armenia and the surrounding lesser districts. It’s four stories house the class rooms of grades 9-12, each floor representing a grade.
The total population of J.S. Lawrence High is 10,000 students, 2,500 per grade, split between 40 classrooms, around 60 students each. The middle school has 6000 students over grades 6-8, around 2000 per grade, split between 40 classrooms, around 50 students each and the single elementary schools in each of the 6 districts; split up the remaining 6000 students at 1000 per school over 40 classrooms, around 25 students each. They feel smaller classes foster better learning, a fact vital for young children, but from middle school and up, students are pretty much on their own; left to seek out guidance if they want it, it won’t come to them. Finally, the remaining 8000 of the total public academic population; comprised of school administrators and teachers are spread up across all three levels of education or at the Administrative Building of Education and Academics. The University level isn’t factored into this population as it fluctuates based on personal interest and location; many students deciding to study abroad in one of the other Provinces. At the top is of course Garmin’s Academy, but that’s open only to the royal family and the other nobles of the compound. That’s a sight most down below will never see.
Despite the sheer mass of land that remains of North and South America, only about 1 % of it still has human inhabitants. That 1 % is comprised of the capital Armenia, Sanford, Hillshire, Paxton, Tinley and Brayton, with Garmin at the top of all, home to the Valkyrie Compound. This is the West Province in its entirety, the total population equaling around 500,000. The other provinces have a similar system, but vary depending on the location.
It’s no surprise then, that Elli feels like just another face in the crowd that no one really cares about. She doesn’t know anyone outside her class, she doesn’t know anyone inside her class and she’s got no friends to speak of, not even one that talks to her in secret when no one is looking. She’s completely alone every single day; between the hours of 8 and 3 and then she goes home to an empty house since Liam has to work for them to live and so is once again alone. This is what ultimately drove her to venture outside the walls and how she got to meet Evani. She’s got no interest in any after school activities and generally no interest in anyone other than Liam. For her 16 years of life, he’s the only person in the entire province that she’s ever truly cared about and she’s simply given the finger to anyone else, Mrs. Tuffy most of all. She’s been a particular stain on her life from the very first day she walked up this path and she’s certain now that she intentionally hones in on her because she seems like an easy target. The biggest outcast usually is and it would seem Elli takes that honor. Knowing all of this; why would she rush? Why put any effort into arriving at a place that is literally her personal hell?
Mrs. Tuffy’s grin gets wider as the clock is just seconds away from the hour, she’s just itching to write Elli up for tardiness. The final bell chimes and with a deep breath she says, “Miss Almont, you are late! This will not stand! I’m afraid I’m going to have to write you up for-.”
“Mrs. Tuffy?” Her sentence is cut short and she turns around to see Elli looking back at her. “You’re going to be late for the morning address Mrs. Tuffy, you should really hurry.”
Mrs. Tuffy looks forward again to see a vacant path and then back at Elli. “What…how…?” She completely flabbergasted that somehow Elli managed to get over the line before the final bell. “How did you do that? There’s no way you should have been able to get here from back there!”
“What are you talking about Mrs. Tuffy? I saw you staring at the clock as I crossed over the line, so you couldn’t have seen me.” Mrs. Tuffy thinks a moment and then realizes she was right. She’d been looking so intently at the clock, she stopped looking at her. But even still, at the distance she was from the line, it shouldn’t have been possible. Mrs. Tuffy looks back at Elli to see her slyly grinning back at her. “Guess you have to catch me another time. Have a good day.”
“You….” Mrs. Tuffy watches as Elli walks away and is at a loss for words. She silently curses herself for getting overly excited and looking away. “Don’t think you’ve won. I will get you!”
Elli walks through the doors and just before they shut she whispers, “bring it on” and chuckles.
A few minutes later, Elli is sitting in her seat; in the back by the window of course, and already starting to fall asleep. She’s the fortunate type who can ace everything with minimal effort, everything except Sociology apparently, which is her first class of the day. That’s probably why she’s failing it. Not because she can’t understand the way people think, but because she’s always falling asleep first thing, that or maybe she just doesn’t care. Yea, that sounds about right.
“Long night Almont? Or were you too busy getting fingered by your girlfriend?” The class erupts in laughter at the joke of the class bitch, Makena Foster; who makes it her life’s mission to poke fun and fling insults at Elli any chance she has. “Or maybe you’ve got HIV, that’s it right?” The class laughs again and with each succession Elli becomes more and more annoyed. “Wow, it must be such a hard life being a lezbo, maybe you should just go back to guys like a normal person? I mean, even your Brother was disgusted when he found out. That’s what you two fought about the other night right? He found out you were a slutty dyke and yelled at you-.”
Having had enough, Elli finally lifts her head and looks at the pale skinned, Barbie with the stringy red hair, green eyes and more makeup than a drag queen smirking back at her. The true definition of a basic bitch. Elli stands, smoothes out her uniform’s skirt and looking directly into her eyes she says, “say that again, I’m not sure I heard you right.” Elli smiles with intense eyes.
Makena is unsettled by Elli’s gaze, her strange, Auburn eyes seeming to flare slightly, like a match. However, she knows if she backs down Elli wins and she can’t look weak in front of the class. She gets in her face and with a grin says, “I said you’re a disgusting, slutty dyke bitch!”
Just waiting for the moment, Elli pulls back her fist and streamlines it straight for Makena’s face, causing her to scream out, but just before impact her arm comes to a sudden halt. She thinks it must be the teacher, but when she looks at the interloper she locks gazes with burnt orange, scantly speckled eyes just like hers. Their owner has a lightly tanned face, with thin lips in a line and most notably a scar across their right eye. Scaling back a bit, Elli can see this person, a girl with reddish brown short hair looks serious and seems to be speaking with her eyes. As though to confirm she understood, the girl says, “You shouldn’t pick on the weak, someone will get hurt.”
They let go of Elli’s hand and motion their head to the side before taking a seat beside Elli. Elli looks in their indicated direction to see the teacher waiting for her to make a wrong move and so she yields, giving Makena the evil eye before returning to her seat and putting her head down.
Makena is shaken, but gracefully returns to her seat as well, but not before having the last word. “Hmph, not so tough after all are you?” Her friends chuckle and praise her and then she looks at this mysterious girl who saved her from certain pain. She looks at this girl behind her, with her spiked neckband, partially opened orange shirt and brown vest and for a moment her stomach flutters. She thinks that she looks like a typical bad boy even though she’s clearly a girl and Makena can’t help but find her kind of cool. In a totally not gay way of course, she’s not gross like Elli, she thinks to herself. She smiles at the girl, but the girl makes no motion to even acknowledge her presence and instead looks out the window. She frowns in dissatisfaction.
The teacher finally decides nothing is going to happen and so starts the class. “Ok, let’s start now. Open your books to page thirty and let’s continue our discussion on societal norms.”
Elli had already given up on the situation and was well on her way to a good sleep, but she could somehow feel eyes on her. She’s used to people in the class staring at her from time to time as she sleeps, but this time it’s different. She can feel a different intensity from these eyes and for the first time ever, she feels unsettled. She just knows it’s that girl with the eyes like hers. She’s too tired to question the girl at the moment, but she makes a mental note to do so after class.
The new girl appears to be looking out the window, but she’s actually looking at down at Elli. She can tell how unsettled she’s feeling and that she doesn’t have a restful sleep. She smirks. She can tell, this is going to be a lot of fun. She’s quite eager to discover just who Ellisia Almont is.
The class is over and as everyone starts shuffling and heading out for their between class break, the teacher suddenly remembers an important detail. “Oh yes, just a moment class I have an announcement.” The students groan and mumble. “It’ll only take a moment, stop your complaining.” They quiet down. “I just wanted to officially introduce our new student. They’ve just moved here to Armenia and will be joining our 11th grade class. Miss Dumont, would you introduce yourself please? Come up front here and tell us a bit about yourself and your past.”
The girl seems completely uninterested but does as she’s told. She faces everyone and says, “My name is Navi Dumont and I just moved here with my Aunt. I don’t have a past worth mentioning and I’m only here for one reason.” She points to the back of the room, right at Elli who finally sits up at the sudden increase in volume of the murmurs and sees her pointing. “I’m here to get to know Ellisia, but I’m happy to get along with all of you as well.” She smiles coolly and winks.
All the girls swoon, instantly enamored by her charm. The boys look at her with discomfort, not sure if they should be angry at her for stealing the attention of the girls or attracted to her. Either way she’s got the entire class’ attention, all except for one person, the person of interest herself.
Elli stands up yawning and as though she heard nothing and walks out of class. Navi smirks and starts to follow behind her, but then Makena approaches her before she can escape. “Hi there!”
Navi smiles at Makena, making her blush slightly, but she pulls herself together. With a smooth voice Navi says, “How can I help you?” With just her voice, Makena feels as though she’ll fall.
Getting a grip, she says, “Yea, I, I just wanted to…well you know…thank you I guess. I mean, I totally had it under control, but it was nice of you to stop her before I did. I mean I was just about to block her before you cut in, it was like that close…you know?” She tries to play it off.
Navi can see right through her, but doesn’t call her out on it. Instead she gives a noble response. “Well, I suppose I was just doing what any respectable girl would do in looking out for a fellow classmate. We’ve got to stick together right?” Makena and her posse all swoon together.
“You’re absolutely right! Lucky for you, you’ve picked just the right girls to stick with. If you want to survive being new around here, you’ve got to get with the right crowd, that would be us. Girls like Ellisia Almont are not, she’ll just drag you down and contaminate you with her filth.”
Just as she says this and they all laugh, Elli is walking back in. She heard what was said, but plays it off like she didn’t or just doesn’t care as she returns to her seat. Navi frowns, but not at Makena. Instead she frowns at Elli, disappointed. She turns back to Makena and with another charming smile says, “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind, thank you Makena.” She returns to her seat, leaving Makena feeling breathless and like her cheeks are hot. She might be in trouble.
Navi looks at Elli once again, watching as she actually takes her book out. Algebra, Navi’s least favorite subject, could it be her favorite? She watches Elli in fascination and Elli can feel it. Finally having had enough of her awkward gazes and staring, she turns to Navi and with an annoyed expression says, “Can I help you with something? Do you make it a habit of starting at your neighbor when you start a new school or is that just your sick way of trying to make friends or something? Oh and I don’t know what your deal is, but keep your nose out of my business. I don’t know why you’d be here for me, but be sure to understand this, I don’t do friends, got it?”
Elli returns to her book, effectively closing the conversation there and Navi can do nothing but smile. She can tell, this is going to be a very interesting experience and she’s never felt more excited. Makena looks back at them and finds herself jealous over their exchange. She’s not really sure what she’s feeling, but she does know that she’ll do everything she can to make sure Elli stays as far away from Navi as possible. She refuses to lose to her, she absolutely won’t.
The rest of the day goes on uneventfully and the closing bell finally rings, signaling the end of the school day. The classrooms and the halls across the school come alive as students relish in the freedom they have for the rest of the day. Many will head off to their clubs, some will hang around for a bit with their friends and the rest will either go home or hang out somewhere else. As for Elli, she tends to pack up and leave right away. Most of the time she’d head right home, but ever since she started dating Ame, she’ll often meet up with her at a nearby café, since she gets out of school around the same time and Garmin isn’t that far from Armenia, maybe twenty minutes by foot, five by bullet train. However, being that she’s grounded, she’ll be going straight home today. She sent a text to Ame this morning telling her so, to Ame’s dismay.
Elli closes up her backpack and just as she flings it over her shoulder, she runs into Navi. “Come on, pay attention to where you’re standing.” Elli says this with a look of agitation and then proceeds to walk around her and be on her way. Once again Navi attempts to follow her.
“Navi wait!” Navi stops and looks at Makena, who called out to her. “Come get some coffee with us Navi, we know the best place to go. We can get to know you better then.” Navi has a look of uncertainty and Makena can tell she’s about to decline, but refuses to let her. “I’ll even treat you to their Mocha Latte, a specialty. Come on, don’t say no. Please.” She practically begs.
Navi sighs and defeated smiles as she says, “Ok, I guess I wouldn’t mind checking it out.” Never has she been more inconvenienced by her weakness to pretty girls, though this one could use a bit less makeup, she thinks to herself. Makena looks back at her posse and for some sudden reason, they say they have to pass today, leaving just the two of them. Navi simply chuckles under her breath and realizes that she’s got this one figured out completely, even if she’s yet to admit it to herself. “Well then, shall I escort you?” She holds out her arm to Makena.
Makena’s eyes light up and she loops her arm around Navi’s. “How kind of you. Of course I’ll accept your gesture.” Navi accepts her arm and together they walk out of the school.
As Elli walks down the path, she hears the familiar chime of her phone. No one ever messages her on it except for Liam and now Ame. She quickly looks at the message and sees it’s from Ame as she thought. It informs her that Liam is apparently going to be busy with gardening duties at the compound until late and so she should come meet her at their usual café. “Does she want me to get grounded for even longer and not be able to see her?” She says this, but she still finds her legs taking her in that direction. She’s being driven by her intense desire to see Ame and so resolves to do so, no matter the cost. She’ll worry about it later, but for now Ame is all that matters. As she walks, she notices Makena latched on to Navi’s arm as they walk in that direction. She shakes her head, not sure what she should think. “Makena is a lion in any situation isn’t she?” She shrugs and decides not to care. If it’ll keep Navi’s unsettling gaze off of her and keep Makena off her back, then all she can do is wish them the best and a happy life.
Ten minutes later, Elli arrives at the café, but Ame isn’t there yet. She realizes she arrived first, as usual and so she goes inside and gets their usual table towards the back. Soon after, Navi and Makena arrive and take a table closer to the front, but still within view of Elli. Navi realizes this and looks towards her, a gesture Makena was not pleased with. “You know, it’s not very nice to stare at another girl when you’re invited out by a different girl.” She pouts and side eyes her.
Navi looks back at her with a surprised expression and says, “oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realize this was a date. Forgive me, I’d never do something that classless. Despite how it may seem, I’m very respectful to the girls I date and always take their feelings seriously.” She smiles.
Makena’s face becomes flushed and she stutters as she waves her hands around. “No, that’s not what I meant! I’m not…Eww, no way. I’m not like that. Don’t be disgusting!” She looks away.
Navi just shakes her head. “Ok, my mistake then.” There’s an awkward moment of silence.
Makena starts to get nervous, unsure of what to say next. This is so unusual for her, as normally she’d have the guy eating out the palm of her hand by now, but the difference is Navi isn’t a guy. Wait, why does it even matter? Why is she thinking about that right now? These are two completely unrelated things because after all, this is not a date…right? All of these thoughts run through her head and she starts to feel overwhelmed, but then she hears the ding of the door and seconds later, Navi’s face becomes visibly angry for the first time. Makena watches as Navi gives a death stare to a new customer. A boy with maple hair and emerald green eyes.
She watches as the boy sits at a table and upon further inspection she can see it’s the same table as Elli, who’s face lights up as soon as she sees the boy. She decides she’ll use insults to cover up her anxiety. “Well look at that, looks like Ellisia isn’t such a good girl at all. I mean she’s supposed to have a girlfriend, but here she is meeting with a guy. Think she’s two timing?”
Navi didn’t seem to hear her, as she continues to stare down the boy. Makena kicks her under the table and she finally snaps out of her gaze. “What? Oh, I’m sorry, you were saying?”
“What the hell? First you stare at Elli, now you stare at her boyfriend? Do you even like me?”
“Sorry, I just thought I saw someone I knew. Why do you care so much though? Does it matter if I like you? You said this isn’t a date right? Aren’t we just hanging out like friends?”
“I….” Makena is at a loss for words and has finally had more conflicted feelings than she can take. “You know what, I’m not feeling like coffee today, just take me home now ok?” She stands, not even waiting for her answer and stands by the exit, waiting with the assumption that Navi will obey. Because she never ends a date without seeing it through to the end, she sighs and follows Makena towards the exit. However, as she passes near their table, her eyes momentarily lock with Elli’s, who immediately frowns and looks away. Navi laughs to herself, but then the boy, who’s actually not a boy at all, looks back in curiosity of who made Elli react that way and Navi’s expression becomes one of disgust again. Her eyes connect with Ame’s and for the briefest of moments, violent intent passed between them. However, Makena calls out in annoyance, breaking their connection and making Navi turn away from Ame. She apologizes to Makena again and then taking her arm as before, escorts her out of the café.
“Such an annoying girl. I mean seriously, could she be any more full of herself...Lia, you ok?”
Ame snaps out of it and looks back to Elli. “What was that? Sorry, I got distracted.”
“Do you know her or something? You seemed to be looking at her really intensely.”
“No, I don’t. I guess she just looked like someone I knew. Do you know her from somewhere?”
“Yea, I actually wanted to tell you about that. Turns out she’s a new student at school and….” Ame listens well as Elli talks about the day, the two lightly holding hands. However, she can’t help but keep that girl in the back of her mind. She could feel her staring her down, but most unsettling of all were her eyes. Her eyes were full of malice and spite, looking just like the Kree.