What do you call it when a guy you love tries to kill you? Is that normal? Of course I wouldn’t know. The first guy I ever liked was a saint to me but the first time I told him I loved him he tried to kill me. His name is Cody, my name is Katherine. We were 6 when we first met, and it was the best, and yet worst day of my life. My mom had just dropped me off for my first day of school. She was tired didn’t want to get out of the car to walk me to the door. I stepped out of the back seat and fell straight into a pile of mud. I scrambled up but the whole class had already seen me. They busted out in laughter and I ran straight to the bathroom to cry. It was a girls’ only bathroom, but that didn’t stop him. “Are you okay?” he asked as he knocked on my stall door. I didn’t answer at first but he never left. “You do know this is the girls’ bathroom.” I informed him. That was all I had to say in order to get him to laugh. He had the sweetest and cutest laugh that somehow managed to make me laugh and leave the stall. He had the best crocked smile on his face as he looked at my tear streaked face. He moved a stray hair back behind my ear and kissed me on the cheek right before he left. That was when I knew I would one day be his girlfriend. That was in the year 2007, 5 years later the government snapped because the global economic problems and started wars with other countries for money. South America was the first attacked, once we won that war the government moved to Africa, than Europe and Asia. That war ended when both North America and Europe called a cease-fire. Secretly America began making mutant soldiers. Once they figured out that the soldiers were killing off one another they locked them all up in a tightly sealed room and let them slowly suffocate. That was supposed to be the end of that, except the public learned about these soldiers were outraged. They turned against the government, creating a complete civil war. The government won of course. They forced all those who turned against them to be killed. All the children of these citizens were made to watch, teaching them to never become like their parents. I was one of them. Now the year is 2016 and the war has not yet picked up. North America is now a total mess. There are ruins everywhere, and craters from bombs, there are no states anymore, just one giant thing of land. The only things still standing are woods, towns that were remade, and a few lakes and rivers. The land is now known as Novus Terra; Latin for ‘New Land’. I live in what used to be the state of Illinois. It is 70% woods now and is near what was known as Lake Michigan, but is now known as Lake Schlender. It was named after Dr. Schlender who fought in the war and died in that lake by a bomb from South America. My family consists of my younger brother, Bobby, my mom Alison, and my Aunt Trista. My aunt is a doctor and my mom is sick with lung cancer. Bobby is only 6, so I have to provide for the family. My aunt moved in with us when we I was four, but then left with the rebels so that she could help with the medical problems. After the war most shops were destroyed, but our town has a butcher, a barber, a fruit stand, and a clothing store. All these places are too expensive for my family to go to, and since my dad is dead we have no one to bring in money except my aunt, but she is generous and doesn’t charge some people who are really sick or in the same position as us. She also went missing after the rebellion, but eventually came back, she had been lost in the woods. So I took the job as family leader. When my dad died I cried for months after that. My father’s death occurred when I was about 11 years old. He was executed by the government after Civil War II. When that happened I wasn’t able to focus on anything, but after the first few months I realized someone had to take control for the family. I started working at the butcher shop, I had to chop the meat and clean everything. It was hard for me to pay attention to anything but the fact that I needed to provide for my family. When that job didn’t help my family I was forced to get a second job at the barber shop; cleaning. That was when I was only 11, when I reached the age of 12 I began to grow an herb garden and go into the woods and look for fruits and vegetables. The one day I remember the most was the day that I was almost killed by a mountain lion. You see, when the war stopped a lot of animals were already migrating for safety. There are now wolves, mountain lion, bears, snakes, and a few other animals living in the woods in my part of the land. It is odd to have so many predators in one area, but I learned how to fight them off. I learned that after my in-counter with the lion. I had been picking some blue berries from a bush that was a bit farther than I usually went. It was pretty peaceful at first; until I heard the noise. It was a small rustling of leaves and the snap of a twig that sent me spinning around on the balls of my feet. I found myself face-to-face with the lion. It was a female and she was staring me down. I tried to stay calm but a wave of fear washed over me when she growled. It was a low growl that I would expect to hear only from a male. I was slowly backing up but my foot managed to get caught in an old tree root that was sticking out of the ground, as if it was ready to trap me at any moment. The lion was about to pounce, when out of nowhere a knife went flying from one of the trees above and stabbed the lion right in the head. She toppled over and I could tell she was dead. I continue to lay there on the ground until I heard his voice. “You ought to be more careful.” I looked up and saw Cody swoop down from a tree. He was much more handsome in the morning sun than he was in the school’s florescent lighting. His brown hair was streaked with blonde, but it looked more like a rich golden color. His eyes, which were like kaleidoscopes, shone a brilliant green, and his smile. . . I just couldn’t stop staring at his smile. He stretched his hand out to me and helped me up. Even though he was the same age as me he was a whole head taller and pretty muscular for a 12 year old, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. Cody has a lean body that makes him look normal, but when he is in the gym he can lift the most, run the fastest and throw the farthest. It was a bit odd when people saw us together. I was almost the complete physical opposite of him. I have caramel skin, light brown hair with a hint of red in it, and dark brown eyes in the winter and light brown eyes in the summer. “What are you doing out here, Kat?” he asked me with a stern look. Ever since the first day we met he had been protective of me. He beat up anyone who dared to be mean to me, he helped me with homework, and he sometimes gave my family some food. Everyone in the town knows that Cody is an amazing hunter. He usually gets the meat for the butcher. His father used to do that before he died the same time mine did. His father was also executed. “I was just picking some blue berries. I thought it would be nice to get some for your family, as a birthday present to your mom.” Tomorrow was Cody’s mom, Sue’s, birthday. She was a lovely woman who everyone liked. She worked as a tailor and sang at the festivals. I knew how much she used to love blue berry pancakes when her husband was around. It was also Cody’s favorite pancake too, but I would never let him know that the blue berries were really for him. “I didn’t mean to go this far from town, but the blue berries are only ripe over here.” “Okay, but you need to be careful. What would you have done if I wasn’t here? You could have died!” He was practically yelling. He sounded like my father did when I would do something wrong; like lie or cheat in school. “Thank you Cody, I don’t know how to make it up to you.” I smile at him and he smiled back. He knows my smiles don’t come easy, except when I’m with him or my brother. “How about we make a deal? I will try to stay a little closer to the town, but only if you teach me how to defend myself.” Cody had hesitated before finally agreeing that it would be the best thing. For the next month he had taught me to fight in combat with a person, how to throw a knife, how to climb a tree, how to listen for even the quietest things, and how to do archery. In return I also thought him how to decipher which plants were good to eat and which were poisonous. Now I am 15 and I am still waiting for my mother to get better, but I doubt she ever will. Every day she seems to be getting a lot worse. My aunt treats her with so much attention that I think it might actually be suffocating my mom. Bobby is always trying to help me in anyway. I let him help with dinner and cleaning, but I never allow him to go out into the woods with me. Instead I leave that to Cody and I. Cody goes hunting for meat while I gather fruits, vegetables, and plants for any kind of medical aid. He would allow me to hunt for meat sometimes. We have made this a daily routine ever since that one day when he rescued me. I have never let myself or him forget that day. I owe him my life, and I will make sure I pay off the debt. Chapter 1: The beginning “Hey, so I was thinking that maybe we could take your brother out today to the town square.” Cody says as we walk around in the woods. I am looking for some plants that my aunt needs in-order to heal my mom’s fever. I look over at Cody and smile at him. “That would be nice. We need to get a new shirt for him anyways.” I say as we continue to walk. Today is a good day; Cody manages to catch two rabbits, four birds, and six fish. I already have a basket filled up to the rim with fruits. I grab a strawberry out of the basket and take a bite out of it. I give Cody one and watch as he bites into it. “Do you think we could go in about an hour? I still need to go to the market and trade some of these.” “Okay, that sounds fine.” I soon find the plant I need, a small root that we call Tuckel root. I pick up a hand full of it and we begin to make our way back home. When I get to my house I go straight into the kitchen where I find my aunt. She is silent and staring out the window, so I simply hand her the roots in silence and go find Bobby. He is standing in the middle of his room with a piece of paper in his hand. I slowly walk over to him and see that he is crying. “What’s wrong?” I ask him as I grab the paper. He is silent as I read it out loud. Dear Bobby and Kat, I am truly sorry for what I have done. I simply could not take the pain anymore. The fever and the cancer make my life a living hell. I wish you two the best of luck and I swear this is the hardest thing for me to ever do. You are the best things that have ever happened to me, but without your father there is nothing keeping me alive. Kat, you are now fully in charge of the house. Please make sure Bobby is kept fed and healthy. Your aunt did not want to tell you, but she must leave and go to the north to help take care of her friend. Now it is the two of you left to face the rest of the world. Don’t give up on your dreams. ~ Mom I slowly close the letter and stare at the ground. I am completely frozen and I can tell that I am closing my hand so tight that the paper must be completely messed up. I leave Bobby’s room and go to my mom’s room. I find her the moment I open the door. She had hung herself and is now simply swinging about a foot of the ground in the center of the room. I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. When I open my eyes I step towards her and untie the knot. She collapses at my feet like a rag doll. I slowly step over her and call the police so they can take her body. I wait with my brother and aunt for the cops to finally come. “So this is the suicide note?” Officer Thomas asks. We are all in the living room and they had just taken my mom’s body out of the house and to the morgue. The Officer is sitting in my father’s old chair across from me, Bobby and my aunt. I stare at him with almost complete hatred as he speaks nonchalantly and sits comfortably in my father’s favorite chair. “Yes sir.” Is all I say, I am staring at the ground, trying to take everything in. “Please, can you just take it and leave.” I can hear the edge in my voice as I say this. He gives me a harsh look before he finally gets out of the chair and leaves. I am still silent as I slowly rise out of my seat. I turn to my aunt. “I need you to leave.” “I can’t just leave you and your brother after all that has happened.” She is staring at me with sad and confused eyes. “I am your aunt and I will stay here until you need me to leave.” “I need you to leave now.” I am trying my hardest to keep my voice calm. I send Bobby to his room before I continue my conversation with my aunt. “What does it matter to you anyways? You were going to leave us soon. Why make us suffer anymore!” “You will suffer if I leave. Who will get you money? Who will watch over you?” I can tell she is getting angry. My aunt used to be a drinker when she got stressed, so I was used to seeing her angry. Usually when she got angry she hit me. My mom wouldn’t do anything about it, she was either too weak to do anything or simply didn’t believe that her younger sister would hurt anyone. “I will! I have been getting the food for this family for the past three years. You have done nothing but give free medical service to people!” My voice raises an octave as I say this. “You are just going to make Bobby think that you will never leave us, and then in the middle of the night you will disappear; leaving me with Bobby, trying to keep him from breaking down.” Tears are threatening to spill over, but I manage to stay calm. I clench my hands into fist so tightly that I can feel my nails leaving small crescent marks in my palm. “You think you are so mature and tough! You are only 15 and you are still a child!” “I’m not the child in this situation! You’re just an immature b****!” I scream at her. I see her hand pull back and I know she is going to slap me. I quickly block it and slap her instead. Just then there is a knock on the door. I know it is Cody coming to take Bobby and me to the square. “Bobby, come on.” When he steps out of his room I take his hand and make my way to the door. I turn around one last time and stare at my aunt. “When I get back, you better be gone.” I can hear the acid in my voice and I slowly grab my basket of fruits and open the door. Cody is staring at me with a worried look, I know he has seen the cop cars and he knows something is wrong. He wraps his arm around my waist in a comforting way. I look up at him and try to smile at him as we begin to walk towards town. “What happened?” he asks with a frown. I look down at the ground, as if it had all the answers written on it. I wait until Bobby is out of ear shot before I tell him. “My mom hung herself and my aunt is leaving to take care of her friend in the north.” I notify him in a monotone. Cody tightens his arm around me and stares down at me. I look up at him and stare right into his eyes. “I don’t know what to do. My house is going to cost too much for us to stay in and I’m going to have to find a way to keep an eye on Bobby and go gathering with you.” My throat is beginning to close up and it is hard for me to choke out the words. There is a long pause and I look straight ahead and just watch as Bobby runs ahead of us. “You could stay at my house.” Cody says in a quiet voice. “No, we would just be a burden to you and your mom.” “No you won’t. My mom loves you and your brother. She is so lonely when I go out hunting and now she will have Bobby with her and Bobby will have her for company. Also we won’t have to just split everything, we can just share.” I smile at him and give him a hug. “I will take that as a yes, you will move in.” “Yes, thank you. You are a great friend.” I say as I smile at him. I look over at Bobby and take his hand. “Bobby, we are going to move in with Cody and his mom.” “Why can’t we stay with Auntie Trista?” he asks me with wide eyes. I glance back at him with sad ones. “We can’t because she is going north to take care of her friend. Plus, don’t you like Cody?” “Yes I do. He is like an older brother.” Bobby smiles at him before walking ahead into the square. I smile up at Cody as we made our way to the market. It is filled with almost every citizen in town. Then I remember that tomorrow was the Festival of Lights. The festival was a celebration of our first war won in the year 2012, against South America. At the beginning, before Civil War II, all of Novus Terra had a celebration consisting of fireworks, food, and music in the government capitol. The capitol is called Imperium and is lead by President, or as Cody knew him as; Dictator Cilark. Now that the government is pissed at us the celebration is no longer nationwide. My town has its own party though. Every citizen or family brings in food, which we set in the middle of the square. We play music and have a mini ‘talent show’ where people dance, or play an instrument, or even perform a skit or play. Now that my mom is dead and my aunt is gone I will have to prepare something. As we leave the market I am holding a bag with a new shirt for Bobby, a pound of ground beef, and a cartoon of apple juice in it. Cody is carrying two rabbits, a bag of flour, and a new knife. We begin to make our way back to his house so we can talk to his mom about the living arrangement.