Little British Girl...

- Decide where you belong -

In a world split into two zones, north and south live separately. The sole-superpower, America in the north, and every other country lives in the south. Trespassing is punishable by death.
When Elia, a British citizen, wakes up in the northern zone she is forced to trust local cop Daniel to keep her safe. With no memory of how Elia came to the north, and no recollection of why, she and Daniel decide to try and figure it all out. But along the way secrets are uncovered, allies are made, and Elia begins to play dangerous games, with tragic costs.

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22. Chapter 22

The streets of the south are nothing like the streets of the north. Up in the north it’s all in-your-face american, with sensory overloads and bold and bright buildings. Here in the south there is a variety of culture, french patisseries, irish pubs, curry houses and so so much more. You want a drink? First you chose which type. You can go out for a cornish cider, an irish beer, italian wine, gin and tonic...but the bars won’t serve them all. You chose the drink, and go to the appropriate place to get it.

“Why can’t I go to the same school as Rebecca?” I nagged my mum as she dragged me towards the main entrance.

“Rebecca is going to the Spanish school, you’re going to the English one.” She continued to relentlessly pull me along, tired of my whining. There were three main schooling systems in the south, English, Spanish, and Mandarin, the choice of which each child went to depended on the parent, and, being the patriotic snob that my mum often was, she’d chosen the English one in a heartbeat. The one you went to decided not only which language you learnt in, but also the teaching style you were taught in, and the qualifications you obtained. All of them had to teach the three languages, or else nobody would last a day in the south, but aside from that, they were very different places to go.

“I want to go to the Spanish one too!” I groaned as we reached the entrance, folding my arms across my chest defiantly.

“You are British Elia!” My mum snapped, “Like me, like your grandmother, and your ancestors way back. Here in the south individuality of the cultures is dying, we need to keep ours alive.” I looked into my mother's eyes, and realised just how much she cared. Thinking not of myself, but of her, I sighed and made my way inside the school.

That’s how the south works you see, you choose your culture, and go where that culture states you should go. Rebecca went to Spanish school, but her English is so good you can’t tell. She wanted to go down the English route, but our parents decide for us, so she didn’t really have a choice. That’s the downside, but overall, it works really well. The merge of cultures is actually quite exciting, despite everyone doing their best to keep them apart.

“Can I borrow 3 pecigids?” Rebecca asked me, we were at the corner shop buying sweets. We were only young, around six years old, but our parents trusted us to do it without supervision.

“How much is that in pounds?” I checked, unsure. Pecigids were not an actual currency, but more a common standard for stating a certain quantity of money. 1 pecigid was the same as one dollar, that was the common one everyone knew. It was how we traded with the north, and also how we traded with each other.

“Let’s see...one pecigid is 50p...so three is £1.50!” Rebecca worked it out for me, using a small notepad she carried in her pocket. I handed her the money and we went up and paid.

“Just these please.” I handed over my handful, standing on my tiptoes to reach the countertop.

“5 pecigids.” The lady working there told me, holding out her hand. I looked down at my feet, trying to think about how much that was in british currency. I handed her a £2 coin. “I said 5 pecigids, not 4.” She snarled, I shrunk back, intimidated by her glare. I was only little, and my maths was rubbish compared to Rebecca’s.

“It’s another 50p” Rebecca whispered in my ear. I gave the lady the extra money and rushed back out of the shop, stuffing my face to distract myself from the embarrassment. “Hey, save some for later.” Rebecca chuckled, leaning in close to me, “Don’t worry about that idiot, she’s just stiff and bitter, like that sweet your sucking.” I laughed at this, so much that I nearly choked.

Rebecca and I walked back to her house, and on the way she helped me with my arithmetic, and I never failed to correctly convert penigrids to pounds again.

I choose the irish pub, needing a little rowdiness at a time like this. I take a seat at the bar and order a pint, handing over six penigrids to the man behind the bar, fully aware that I both look and sound completely done with life and alone, but unable to care. How can I forget about the last month or so when everyone wants to talk to me about it? I know mum can tell that something is wrong, and she knows all to well where I’ve actually been the past month or so, she even has some weird fantasy in her head that I met my father. Can other people tell too? What if they find out? Will Xander go after Daniel if they do? It takes me less than five minutes to finish my drink, when I usually take ten at the very least, and determined to drown my sorrows, I order another straight after. Exhausted, but no longer self-consciously distraught, I make my way towards the exit, the pub is filling up, and I’m getting a headache from all the jeering.

“Elia Watson-Smith.” The man calls my name, I stand up, heading into his office. I wiped my hands against my trousers as I do so, so that when he shook my hand it is dry and strong. It was my first job interview, I wanted it to go well. “Please, take a seat.” I did as he said, keeping my posture tall and correct. “How are you today?”

“Good, and you?” I rolled with the conversation, maintaining a polite demeanour.

“I’m fine.” he smiled, chuckling a little.

“Is something amusing you?” I inquired, suddenly feeling a little uneasy.

“No, it’s just that Rebecca warned me that you were a little overly-British, but it still took me by surprise. It’s not often you see such a present culture in someone.” He explained himself, and I relaxed.

“You can blame my mother for that,” I tried to add some humour of my own, “She raised me to be British through and through.”

“Well then you’re lucky to have such a wise mother. I mean, people nowadays don’t even have a particular accent anymore, ” He nodded, “Anyway, about the job…”

I’d got the job, and the promotion that followed a year and a half after, and the pay rise eight months after that. I’d like to think it was for my skill, but I knew it was really for the statistics. Companies rich in powerful cultures boom in the south, and I was the perfect way to boost the newspaper’s image. He even had me doing a vlog news channel for a while, but I was too busy to keep it going. An accent can take you a long way sadly, I’m lucky, mine takes me far, but some people’s accents can force them to the ground with chains of unjust prejudice.

That’s the south for you. 3 main cultures, full to the brim with struggling ones underneath them, united only by a currency, separated only by pride.

On my way out of the pub I stop, catching a glint of someone in the corner of my eye. Cautious, I slowly turn around, trying to figure out where I knew the owner of the back I was staring at from. I recognize the lazy posture, the jet black hair, and when he turns around, I recognise his stubbly chin too. Zacharia Jacobs. There’s no doubt about it, it’s him. The head of the southern resistance is standing less than a metre away from me in this pub. What do I do now? A large part of me knows I should walk away and act like this never happened, that would be the smart thing to do after all. However there is this overwhelming sense of urgency filling me, I might never get a chance like this again. If I walk away now, I am walking away from the resistance once and for all. And what for? For my father? Xander doesn’t deserve my compliance. For my northern friends? They would be safer if I stayed away… For myself? No. No I have nothing personal to gain from walking away. The more I stare at him the more I long to go over and talk to him, to ask him how they all are, and after a minute or so I can no longer bare it. Whether the action is mine or the alcohols, I walk over.

“Zacharia?” I tap him gently on the back. He turns around, and his lax smile relaxes into a frown when he sees me.

“You…” He trails off, taking my arm and pulling me away from his group of friends, “What are you doing here?”

“Uh, I live here.” I point out, “I just came out for a pint when I saw you.”

“And you thought it would be nice to have a little chat? After everything you’ve done, carrying out the banned mission, screaming your name out, you’ve got some nerve-”

“And you don’t?” I cut him off, “You have no idea what I’ve been through Zacharia, all I want is to know that they’re okay.” My voice breaks slightly towards the end as my emotions get the better of me, which intrigues Zacharia. He looks into my eyes, judging the person behind my words, as if there is something in particular he’s looking for.

“They put you in the stone cell, didn’t they?” He realised, taking me by surprise.

“How do you know about the stone cell?” I take a small step forward, curiosity building up inside me.

“You’re friends are fine,” Zacharia avoids the question, “In fact, I might be able to arrange a little video call for you.” He begins to walk away, and I follow eagerly after him, taking the bait. I stop briefly before we leave, my sanity returning to me after the whirlwind of hope overcame me, “Wait. Why are you doing this?” I suddenly think, after all, a minute or so ago he was questioning my nerve. Zacharias pauses his steps, and turns around once more.

“Because you’ve been through a lot.” He sighs, sympathy leaking into his voice as he places his hand on my shoulder, “Consider it a favour, from one stone cell survivor to another.”

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