- Play My Heart -
I slipped out of the house through my bedroom window so that I wouldn't have to go downstairs and face my parents. Jumping, I landed on my feet like a bobcat. Then I ran. I went crashing through the trees to get to a well worn path. I had gone this way many times before. Zedd had a small cottage just over the river. He had gotten it about a year after we had started dating.
I ran down the path until it came out onto the street. Holding a hand up to my face to shield my eyes from the sun, I looked back and forth down the hard packed, dirt road. Not a single living soul was out except for myself. Everyone was in their houses with the blinds drawn and the windows blocked, sleeping. That's just how things worked in Parfait.
Parfait was one of the four kingdoms in Emensia, the land of magic. It was home to the Pixies. Contrary to popular belief, we aren't under a foot tall and pixie dust isn't a real thing. The Fairies got their powers from sunlight and we got ours from darkness. We were often called Nightwalkers since we worked and went to school at night and slept during the day. The other three kingdoms were home too the Elves, the Faeries, and the Fairies. Everyone calls Faeries "The Fae," and Fairies "The Fair." It seemed like bad planning to me to have both races be called the same thing, especially since they were nothing alike.
You didn't want to cross one of The Fae if you didn't have too. Unlike in the stories, they can't turn invisible, don't hang out in the Human World tormenting Humans, and don't have wings. They value order and logic and rationality. The Fae were the Pixies biggest allies, despite the fact that we had almost nothing in common with them other than military power. For example, the adult age in Parfait is 15, but in Crystal Palace, the Faerie kingdom, it's 21. Pixies throw awesome parties where the food is way over the top, the clothes are way over the top, everyone gets way too drunk, and there’s way too much dancing. Most of The Fae thought parties were a waste of time, whereas most Pixies are usually trying to find an excuse to have one.
The Fair were another story altogether. They were usually more of the creative type and got their powers from sunlight. Like Pixies, Fairies had wings, but they couldn't fly. Their wings were more like solar panels; they sucked up sunlight and stored it to do magic later. The more magic you had in your wings, the more opaque they were. Pixies were the same, except they stored darkness instead. The Fair had butterflyish wings, whereas Pixies looked more like dragonflies. Personally, I'd rather be the dragonfly. Naturally, The Fair and the Pixies were usually feuding. That had changed in the past few years since the Queen's cousin married the heir to the Fairy throne and became King. We got along pretty well now.
The Elves were definitely something else. I'm not sure what they did other than hang out in their forest while the rest of us kept Emensia going. They didn't seem to have any laws, living in anarchy, yet still having a functioning monarchy. No one was allies with them. There lack of any order whatsoever kept them feuding with The Fae or just ignoring them. I've read the Human book Lord of the Rings and believe me, real Elves are nothing like that. They could never be that organized. And, as far as I know, hobbits aren't a thing either.
I crossed the bridge that spanned the Blue River. The town was named after it since it practically flowed straight through the middle, cutting us in half. I continued down the street on the other side and a buzz ran through me. Zedd lived just one street over. I started to run again, turning onto Poplar Lane. Breathless, I arrived at his door and knocked loudly. There was a shuffling from inside and then Zedd opened the door a crack. A flirtatious giggle rose up from inside the cottage. When Zedd saw me, a look of shock then panic crossed over his face.
"Trace. Um, now isn't such a good time..." Zedd started to say.
"Zeddie, who is it?" a girl's voice trilled, cutting him off.
I glared at Zedd. "Actually, I think now's a great time. Unless you're trying to tell me that wasn't a girl I just heard."
"Would you believe me if I said it was just the TV?"
I was about ready to slap him. "Zedd Houston, you know there isn't a single Pixie in all of Parfait who owns a TV. Try again."
"It was my sister?"
"YOU DON'T HAVE A SISTER!" I practically screamed in his face.
Before Zedd could make up another lame excuse, I shoved past him into the cottage. A girl was sprawled across the couch, half naked. As soon as she saw me, she donned a sour looked.
"Zeddie, who is she?" the girl shrieked, shooting me a dirty look.
"His girlfriend. Oh wait, I bet 'Zeddie' told you he was single. He's probably a liar along with being a two-faced cheat," I snapped at her.
She narrowed her eyes at me. "You're the girlfriend?" she asked in disbelief. "It's no wonder he invited me over. You look like you've been living in a dumpster."
"You're no princess either, in case you didn't notice. Maybe you should try actually putting some clothes on!" I shot back.
"But Zeddie likes me better this way. Maybe if you had given him what he wanted, he wouldn't have called me over," she sneered, flipping her hair like she was all that and a tub of cream cheese.
"Bitch, please, I ride a unicorn."
Hey, it was something that not many Pixies could claim. Since they liked the colder climate in Parfait, we had the most unicorn herds. But unicorns run wild and hate being disturbed. They refuse to serve people unless they've been done a service. My great grandfather saved a unicorn named Lapis from a landslide. He's been loyal to the family ever since as long as we don't call on him too often or treat him like livestock.
"Trace, calm down. It's not what it looks like," Zedd said, trying to weasel his way out of getting into trouble with me. When I got mad, I got scary.
"I don't really care, Zedd. We're over," I snapped at him and turned to storm out.
"Trace, please don't go! It was a mistake! Honest!" he called after me.
"Aveceni," I said when I reached the doorway, snapping my fingers for extra effect.
And just like that, the roof of the cottage fell in on them. I heard the girl shriek and surprise and Zedd grunting.
"That," I yelled, "Is what a mistake looks like! I meant to bring the whole house down! Be glad I didn't!"
Then I turned and ran back into the street. I was too angry to be sad or heartbroken. Running, I turned at every corner, not paying attention to where I was going. I couldn't go home and suffer through the humiliation of my dad knowing he was right, but I couldn't stay at Zedd's either. I had to get away, find someplace I could stay until it all blew over. If I went to any relatives, the first thing they would do is tell my parents were I was. Besides, none of them lived in Blue River. No, I had to go someplace no one would think of. Somewhere I wouldn't be found.
The answer almost hit me in the face. Literally. I had nearly run into a sign for the Blue River Tavern & Inn. A sign next to it read: ROOMS AVAILABLE. Perfect.
I opened the door and walked inside. Other than a female bartender cleaning glasses behind the counter, the tavern was empty. It was getting pretty late in the day. Everyone was probably asleep.
"You over age?" the bartender asked, narrowing her eyes at me.
"Had my birthday last night," I answered, sitting down at the bar counter across from her.
Her face softened. "What can I get you?"
I ordered an Ixiep Aradisep No Iref which I think is Emensian for "Pixie Paradise On Fire." It was my favorite drink. I only knew because underaged drinking was pretty much expected in Parfait even though the legal age was 15. It was just one of those things that makes home unique.
I sipped my drink and told the sympathetic bartender about all my problems. She prepped a room for me while I finished off a third drink. When she came back, she took my empty glass and said, "You know, you should enter the games. Why no at least put your name in? You are young enough."
"I don't really know. I mean, I had other plans, but..." I trailed off.
"Sweetheart, you should enter. If it's people you're trying to get away from, the games could be your ticket out of here. Besides, who could turn down eternal glory?"
"I'm not sure I care about that."
The bartender laughed. "Everybody secretly wants it even if they don't know it. No sane person would turn it down."
I thought about what she had said. The games could get me out of Blue River, away from my parents and away from Zedd. That's what I wanted, wasn't it? Freedom, a fresh start, a new life.
My plans had changed. There was no way in hell I wasn't going to enter the Parfait Games.