Knock, knock, knock. I hear from down stairs waking me up. Then I hear footsteps coming up to my room. More knocking, this time on my door, then Uncle Percy opens my door, "Sara there is a young man at the door for you, get rid of him," he says.
I sit up and stare at Uncle Percy then just nod.
I run down the stairs. Of course it was him and his stupid smile. Why is he so happy? I smile back. Why am I?
"Hi Jacob," I say stepping outside and closing the door behind me.
"Hey Sara," he holds his hands behind his back carefully hiding something.
I try to look behind him to see what it is, "What?" I ask.
Jacob smiles stupidly, then holds a purple rose out to me, "you said purple was your favorite color," I look at the rose horrified already knowing what he's going to say next, "will you go on a date with me Sara Knight?"
I look back at the house quickly to see whose heard, whose listening, I can't see anyone but just to be safe I grab Jacobs wrist and lead him down to the sidewalk, "Jacob!" I scold as quietly as I can.
Jacob smiles and holds the rose out to me again, "Come on Sara I know we just met but, just give me a chance I really like you, just one date?" he begs, "and then if you decide you hate me you can kick me to the curb, I'm just asking for a chance."
I groan loudly, he looks so hopeful and so sad at the same time, but there's no way I could be with him, even though, I want to.
"Is that a yes, or no, or," he asks confused.
"I'm not really supposed to date," I say, hopefully he'll just accept that, because I can't say no to him.
"Oh," Jacob smiles, "so it's not no to me it's no to dating."
"Yes," I really don't want to hurt him.
"So it's a yes," his smile grows.
"No," I say. I sigh frustrated, "it's very nice of you Jacob but I can't go on a date with you," I finish.
"I understand, no date," he says and hands me the flower then walks back to his house.
"I'm sorry," I whisper.
I walk back inside, and just as I expected Uncle Percy is standing by the door waiting for me.
"Who was that?" he asks.
"Just a boy from school," I say.
Uncle Percy laughs, "Zachery is gone 4 months and you've already forgotten about him?" he accuses.
"Of course I haven't forgotten about him," I defend.
"You better not. The Knighthood needs this deal with the Hunters to go through and if you mess this up by whoring around I'll hang you myself."
"Understood," I say through gritted teeth.
"Then you have nothing to worry about," Uncle Percy sighs, "your exam has been set."
"You should probably start getting ready," he says.
"Yes sir," I practically growl.
Uncle Percy nods then leaves.
I run down stairs and put my boxing gloves on and start punching the punching bag to release my anger. But anger wasn't really the thing on my mind, it was him, I could stop thinking about Jacob.
He was beautiful, he had the delicate features of a sheltered life, uncontrollable light brown hair that hugged his soft face, beautiful blue eyes that I wanted to drown in, caged in by his long eye lashes, he looked like a fairy tale prince. Ours wouldn't be a typical story, he wouldn't rescue me, no, I'd have to save him from the tower guarded by the evil fire breathing dragon. Then when we kissed. This is ridiculous I need to stop thinking about it, I'm a Knight getting to close to an outsider could cause problems for the Knighthood, and put him in danger, not to mention, Zac.
I spin around and see my Uncle Jordan smelling my rose.
I breathe, "It's nothing," I say.
"Clearly," he says.
"Could you put it down?" I ask.
"I could," he says continuing to sniff the flower.
"Now!" I yell after he doesn't put the flower down.
Jordan looks at me surprised and puts the flower down smiling, "round of spar?" he asks.
I shake my head and take off my gloves, "I'm done in here," I say.
"Come on Sara?" he calls.
I take the rose and head back up to my room and slip on a sweater before running outside, I can't fall in love. I think to myself before placing the rose down on Jacobs doorstep.
I close the front door behind me pressing my back against it after I ran all the way back home.
My Uncle Percy runs up to me worry in his eyes, huffing loudly for breath, odd behavior for a leader of the Knighthood.
"What's wrong?" I ask.
Uncle Percy struggles for breath, "Zachery," he gasps, then he swallows his fears and grabs my shoulders, "there's been an attack," he says.
I understand why he was struggling to breathe, because right now I have no breathe. It's not a good feeling, not being able to breathe, the loss of control, only for a second but, its torture.
"Does Abraham know?" I ask.
My uncle nods, "of course it was an attack on the Knighthood," he says sounding slightly offended.
"Zac," I whisper, catching my breath.
"You should go get ready, we need to go to the Hunters home and show our support," Uncle Percy says straightening up and going back to his normal unfeeling self.
I nod feeling numb and go up to my room moving like a robot. I stare into the mirror putting a light layer of makeup on.
I pull a dress out of my closet and stare at it discussed, I feel so uncomfortable in a dress, but Luke thinks woman should wear dresses. It's okay I can wear a dress for him. What does it matter what I'm wearing, Zac could be dead and I have to go comfort an old man? To show our support, to keep peace, to keep the deal, for power.
The camera flashes again blinding me, I blink vigorously trying to get my sight back.
"Beautiful Sara," Luke Hunter, leader of the Hunters, says to me, "now Zachery get in there, I want couples photo too," he says.
Zac groans loudly in protest but comes over anyways. I smile at him awkwardly. I've known Zac forever but he used to be such a happy kid who would always go out of his way to play with me, now Zac is tall and strong enough to fight an army, and he never smiles any more.
"Come on Zachery you could at least pretend you're happy to see her," Luke says.
So it's not just me, everyone can tell he seems especially upset today.
"Oh I'm happy to see her," Zac turns to me, "I'm always happy to see you Sara," he turns back and I blush, I can't help it he makes me feel, special, "I'm not happy about all this," he says gesturing to the camera.
Luke sighs and walks over to us and positions us, he puts one of my hands on Zac's shoulder and the other arm around his chest as I face him. Luke moves Zac's arm around my back and his other hand holding the one I have on his chest. Luke tilts my head up and Zac's down so we're looking at each other. Then Luke goes back to his place behind the camera, as it flashes again.
"I know you find this all a bit extraneous, but the troops have fought hard for us now we must show them that we are not just fighting with them, but for them, to bring the Hunter clan, and the Knighthood," Luke ads looking at me, "the power they deserve, they won't continue to fight for stagnancy," he lectures Zac.
Zac and I don't move as there's more camera flashes.
"Now kiss," Luke says.
Zac pulls away from me, "dad," he complains.
"What?" Luke says, "Oh come now Zachery, I was only joking."
I take Zac's hand and he turns to me, I take his other hand and he looks at me confused.
"Sara?" he says just as I reach up and kiss him.
The Camera flashes again.
Oh Zac. I spin my ring around my finger like I always do when I'm scared.
A Knight shouldn't be scared, but I am, right now I am scared, scared that Zac is dead. I knew he shouldn't have gone Chicago for that mission, I knew it was taking too long, he should have come back, he promised he would always come back.
I run up to him wrapping my arms tightly around him, I don't want to let him go.
Zac sighs then laughs, "quiet the show Sara."
"This isn't for them," I feel the tears run down my checks, "Promise me you'll be back," I beg.
Zac sighs and takes me in his large arms holding me tight, "I promise, I'll never leave you, not forever, I'll be back," he says.
"When?" I ask.
"Soon," he says then pulls away and wipes the tears from under my eyes, "you don't want to let them see you cry," he says then kisses my forehead and turns to get on the plane.
"Zac," I call out.
He turns around and I grab the back of his head and crash my lips on his.
"Stay safe," I whisper pulling away from him.
He nods then we turn away from each other.
He boards his plane and I walk back to my Uncle Percy with dry eyes.
I slip on the dress and run downstairs. "Ready?" Uncle Percy asks wearing his finest suit. I nod and he leads me to the car.
I try to stare out of the window as we drive into the gated community I've never been to before.
"Where are we going Uncle?" I ask trying to reach my short legs to kick the back of his seat as he drives.
"We're going to a friends," he says smiling in the review mirror at me.
I can tell he's not telling me something but that's normal for him. He doesn't tell me a lot of things. Says I'm "to young to understand" I guess I am, I'm only 8 but still I think I would understand if he would tell me.
"Who?" I ask.
"His name is Zachery Hunter."
"Zac?" I ask.
My Uncle nods, "you're too young to understand but, I really need you to be friends with Zac okay, can you try your hardest to be his friend," he asks.
I nod, "Zac," I whisper staring out the window again.
Uncle Percy knocks on the door and smiles at me reassuringly. The door swings open to reveal Luke wearing silk pajamas and no shoes, his hair is overgrown and out of order. He wraps Uncle Percy in an embrace then does the same for me, whispering in my ear, "it'll be okay Sara well find him" only a Hunter would behave this way, Knights have more respect, but he is a clan leader so I have to treat him with respect, even though that's always been so hard for me, I don't think I'll ever be able to respect the Hunters.
"Come in, come in," he ushers us in.
The front room is utter chaos people are running back and forth from rooms trying to communicate to one another.
Tony Hunter, Luke's cousin, comes running up to Luke, "Sir the backup troops have just left the airport and are on their way to Chicago right now, but we've yet to make contact with anyone in the city, no Hunters, no Knights, not even the guardians are responding," he rushes, "what do you need sir? A hot cup of tea?" he asks.
"I need my son back!" Luke yells, then breaths, "tea would be nice, Sara," he says turning to me.
"Oh no I'm good, I'm going to go see what I can do to help," I say.
"Very good," Luke says, "Jane," he whistles.
A woman comes running up to us and curtsies, "Sir?"
"Take Sara with you and see if you can get in contact with Zachery," he says then turns to my Uncle Percy.
Percy looks at him overly sympathetically, "Luke, I can't imagine what you must be going through whatever you need we are here for you," Uncle Percy says soothingly.
Luke pulls Percy into a tight embrace, "Thank you Percyus you are a true friend, I appreciate your support," he says clearly crying, and my Uncle Percy smiles mischievously, "go find Alan you can help ease contact between the Knights from here."
Percy nods and walks past us brushing off his vest harshly, "disgraceful," he growls barley audibly.
Jane takes my hand and leads me down a hall into a dimly lit bedroom with a ham radio on the table. I walk up to the desk and sit down.
"Do you know how this works?" she asks.
I nod, and start flipping channels, "Zac, Zac, Zac," I call into each channel and wait for a response.
Nothing. I spin the ring around my finger.
"You look absolutely beautiful today Sara," Zac says as he takes my hand, "shall we go?" he asks.
I smile and nod. Today is the day, we both know that today is the day, I know what's going to happen yet my nerves build up inside of me as if there were some way it could not happen today.
"Do I make you happy Sara?" Zac asks me after a while of walking down the beautiful garden.
Zac turns to me, "I don't want this to just be an arrangement, I want to make you happy if I can, I don't want your heart I would never try to take that, you're a Knight so I know what that means, your heart belongs to them, but, if I am to ask for your hand I have to know, if I make you happy, because if I can't make you happy, well then, there are other ways this alliance can be made," he says.
I reach my hand up and caress his cheek, "you make me very happy Zac," I say knowing what he says is a lie, there is no other way.
Zac smiles and gets down on his knees and pulls out the ring, "then, will you marry me Sara?"
I smile kindly and nod, "yes."
Zac smiles and slides the ring on my finger as Luke and Percy cheer behind us and the camera man takes pictures. Zac gets up and wraps his arms around me and we hug and kiss in joy. Purple. That's such a lovely color for a ring.
I spin my ring around my finger waiting for something to come through.
"Zac!" I call on this new station then wait silently for a response. Each time we do this the tension grows to a suffocating point. We've been at this all night, it's almost 3 am, this is getting hopeless, I know he's dead but I can't stop.
"Sara?" a faint voice comes through on the radio.
My heart stops.
"Sara" the voice calls again.
I sit up, "Zac?" I call into the radio.
"Yeah Sara, it's me," he says.
I shove Jane awake, "write this down," I yell to her, then turn back to the radio "Where are you?" I ask.
"41.935356, -87.664067, athenaeum theatre, Lakeview pantry west, rooftop, north Southport avenue, 60657, Chicago, Illinois" he says giving me as much detail as he can, "I've set up a triangulation if you send air support they should see it pretty easy."
"Are there people with you?" I ask.
"I had 2 Knights, but 1 of them is dead," He says.
"Are you okay?" I ask.
There's a long pause.
"I've been better," he jokes.
"What are you waiting for?" I yell at Jane, "Go take that to Luke!"
"Sara, it used to hurt but now I just don't feel nothing" he says.
"You're probably going into shock," I say into the radio, "You'll be fine, they're going to get you and you're going to be just fine, you just need to relax," I tell him.
"Right, relax," he says.
"Sara?" he calls through the radio.
"Yeah?" I respond.
Laughing comes through the radio, "I forgot to ask, how did your training with the guardians go?" he asks.
I laugh, "it was okay, too many politics for my taste but I learned a lot," I say.
"Adams is skilled though, a great teacher."
"Yeah every time I train with Jordan it's so fast, but Adams stopped and let me examine before my next move then sped it up so I got better it really helped me when he slowed down the fight to show me every angle, and I'd never had that before."
"Maybe when I get back we should go there for a week to train with him together," he says.
He doesn't feel anything, that could mean, he'll be fine.
"Sara?" Zac calls from the other end of the radio.
I laugh into the radio, "yeah I don't know about that I just got back I want to take a bit of a break," I say.
Zac laughs into the radio, "yeah that sounds like a good idea, maybe we should take a vacation?" he says.
"And where would we go on this vacation?" I ask.
"I don't know, but I'm sick of the city," he says.
"And I'm sick of this small town," I say.
"Disneyland!" Zac cheers through the radio.
I laugh so hard I can't stop laughing. Then I hear the door open and I sit up. Luke and Jane and Percy and a team of others come crashing into the room. I stand up a Luke sits down and starts talking to Zac.
I head out of the room and walk to Zac's bedroom, it's completely untouched since the day he left, some of the drawers are still open from him packing. I open one of the drawers and find the extra cloths I leave here for whenever I'm over. I change into a pair of pajamas and scrub the makeup off my face.
I lie on Zac's bed, thinking.
"I love you Sara," Zac whispers into my hair as we lie on his bed together. He thinks I'm asleep, even if I was I already knew he loved me, I wish he wouldn't, I can't love him back, but I guess I have to. He kisses the top of my head for the last time before he falls asleep.