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Twins in the Tower
Once upon a time, there was a handsome king and a beautiful queen. They ruled with wisdom and kindness, and their kingdom prospered, but of all the things that the king and queen lacked that they could have, they wanted nothing. Nothing except an heir to the kingdom.
The king and queen tried to have children for many, many years, but with no success. Eventually it came to the point where many believed that the queen could not have children, even the queen herself, but finally Her Majesty became pregnant.
Late in the pregnancy, though, the queen became very weak. Her illness proved not to be life threatening, though; in fact, when it came time for the child to be born, two beautiful twin girls were born without complication, and the king and queen had two heirs instead of none. However shortly after the twins, named Charlotte and Rapunzel, were born, they proved to be very sickly, and their health just became worse and worse.
Healers were called from all across the kingdom, and many different herbs and remedies were tried, all to no avail. Finally, a sorceress stepped forward and offered her services. The king and queen were reluctant to trust the cunning sorceress, but they were also desperate to save the daughters who they already loved very much. They accepted the sorceress’s help, offering her the same fee that they had offered the healers before her, but she declined, saying that she would name her price only after the twins were healed.
The sorceress gathered many common herbs into two identical stews, and then used her sorcery to enchant one stew with the power of the moon, and the other with the power of the sun. Over the course of a week, the older of the two twins was fed the stew with the power of the moon, and the younger twin was fed the stew with the power of the sun.
All throughout the week, the twins grew stronger and healthier, but that was not the only change. By the time the stews were finished, Charlotte’s beautiful black hair had changed to a stunning silver as pale as the moon, and her green eyes changed to a deep, dark blue with flecks of silver just like the night sky. Rapunzel’s hair changed from black to a gold as bright as the sun, her green eyes growing flecks of yellow and pale tan so that her bright green eyes shone like polished gold when she smiled.
Overjoyed, the king and queen asked the sorceress what her fee was, declaring that they would pay any price. The sorceress merely smiled, stating that they would find out what her price was soon enough. True to her word, that very night the sorceress stole into the princesses’ bedchamber, grabbed the twins, and was gone, and the king and queen learned just how exorbitant her fee was.
The sorceress brought the princesses to the power-hungry ruler of a neighboring kingdom and offered them to him for a very high price. She told him of how each child had strong power, and due to the strength of the sun and moon, the twins could be used as all-powerful weapons. She told him that if she were just given eighteen years to train them, then she would sell them to him as a set of weapons that no army could set themselves against.
The king accepted her offer, having a tower built deep within the forest, not far from the kingdom where the twins had been born. In fact, from the tower to the border was only a five-minute walk. The sorceress moved the children into the tower, living with them until they turned ten, at which point the sorceress began to live in town again, visiting Charlotte and Rapunzel daily. She would bring them food and supplies and then spend a few hours training them before going back to town.
And as for the king and queen, they never lost hope that their daughters would return, but sixteen long years passed, and there was no sign of the twins.
Well, I suppose I ought to tell you. My name’s Charlotte. I’m sure you know of at least one other person with that name; it’s not an uncommon one. I’m sure that when you hear the name Charlotte I’m not the first thing that pops into your head. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t cross your mind at all.
Now, the reason this bugs me isn’t because I want lots of attention, or because I want to be famous. The only reason this bugs me is because I’m positive that if I were to mention my sister’s name, she would be the first and only person you could think of with that name. Because who doesn’t love perfect little Rapunzel? But I guess I’ll admit (reluctantly) that that includes me, too. She just gets on my nerves a lot.
This is our story, the real story.
I dropped through the hole in the roof and landed with an almost inaudible thud. My adept stealth was due to the fact that I had been practicing for a little over a year. I looked around the dark room. No one else was there yet, but that suited me just fine. I walked to the corner of the room and pulled up a loose plank soundlessly. I reached in and brought out a small black string and a thin black band of fabric with two small slits for my eyes.
I used the string to tie my waist-length hair back as I walked over to the only window in the small attic. I placed my mask on the table right next to the window and looked out. The full moon bathed the city in silver light and the view was breathtaking. The building I was in was one of the taller ones around, so the view stretched out for quite a distance.
Suddenly I heard a muted thud slightly louder than the one I had made indicating that Vincent had entered the room behind me. I noticed the minor increase in light that suggested he had lit a candle.
“You’re looking lovely as always, Charlotte,” he commented amiably. I picked my mask up off of the table and turned my head to look at him.
“You don’t look so bad, yourself,” I replied before turning back to the window and beginning to put on my mask.
“Do you need some help with that?” he asked, beginning to tie my mask for me without waiting for my answer. My hands dropped to my sides and I gazed out over the town again.
“So how did you get into this business, again?” I asked playfully; it was a private joke between us. Just under a year ago I had asked him the same question, and he had told me a far-fetched story that I could tell wasn’t true. I asked him again the next night and he told me another story that was just as hard to believe. It soon became something I asked often, just to see what new story he had for me.
Vincent sighed as he finished fastening my mask and my expectant smile faded. I heard him take a step back and I turned my head and shoulders so that I could look at him. Solemnly, he ran a hand through his hair.
“Do you really want to know?” he asked seriously. I turned around completely, so that my whole body was facing him, and nodded sincerely.
“Yeah, I do.”
He smiled somberly and gazed out the window behind me with a faraway look.
“Six years ago,” he started after a pause, “When I was still just twelve, a band of thieves robbed my household. They were led by Russell Black.”
My eyes widened in surprise; Russell Black was an infamous bandit from the country my tower was in who I had heard a lot about since I’d joined Vincent and his men.
“He left us with hardly anything but the clothes on our backs. My mother grew ill from the shock of it, and we spent all of the small amount of money we had left on trying to make her well again, but still she was sick. Finally I decided to take action; I went out the next day saying that I was going to find a job.
“I spent the whole day gathering friends, boys about my age from all around town, and we began to plan our first heist. I’d come home that night saying that I’d found a job on the very first day of looking. I left early the next day and worked out the last few details of the job, and that very night we pulled it off, and we were thieving ever since.
“At first we just did small jobs, stealing lightly guarded things that weren’t incredibly valuable, but we quickly moved on to the harder to steal, really valuable stuff. About a couple years later I came across some valuable information; I learned where Russell Black stored his loot. Over the course of several heists, I’d gained back most of the things he’d stolen from us and I’d taken a few extra things for profit. One day he finally caught me, but instead of punishing me he admired my talent. He invited me and my boys to join him, and we did. Eventually, he finally got tired of thieving; he sold his whole collection of loot and retired, placing me in charge of the men. Unfortunately, it seems I’m not as good at replacing my men because he always had at least five associates working with him, usually more, and I’ve let the number dwindle shamefully.
“Now with all the money I’d been earning, or something like that, I’d been able to take care of my mother, but still, she died just a couple of years ago. She died happy, at least; surrounded my all the possessions I’d regained, and she had medicine to make her comfortable while she went. Her last words were, ‘Vincent, I’m proud of you.’”
A sad smirk worked its way across his face.
“It was ironic, really, because less than a month later my father found out that my ‘job’ was stealing, and he cast me out of the house. He told me how disappointed he was, and that our family didn’t need me shaming its name. And from there I came here.”
We were silent for a minute before I commented, “Wow. Rough life, huh?”
I had said it kind of jokingly, trying to lighten the mood, but I’m sure that he caught that I was sincerely sorry for him. He smiled a little and laughed a small, somber laugh.
“Yeah, rough life,” he agreed softly. We stood in silence again, not looking at each other, until Andrew and Tobias, the only others in our band of thieves that hadn’t been arrested yet, came tumbling in.
Their entrance hadn’t been stealthy at all, but it didn’t really matter because the building we occupied the attic of was a pub with a set of ratty apartments upstairs, and all three of the floors below the attic were always filled with rowdy people making lots of noise. After Vincent greeted them, they all retreated to the corner of the room where they each pulled up their own loose floorboard and pulled out their masks. Once they all had their masks on, we climbed out of the attic and set off for a travelers’ inn. We stole into the stables, where there were nine horses belonging to travelers staying at the inn, and took the four fittest horses and rode off at full speed; the location of that night’s heist was three towns over, at the castle.
When the castle was finally within sight, we rode into a thickly wooded forest not far from the castle. We tethered our horses to a few of the trees and pulled our gear off of the horses. It didn’t take long to reach the castle from there, but we waited for the nearest guard patrol to round the corner before approaching.
Andrew and Tobias swung their grappling hooks expertly and released them like old pros, which, well, they kind of are. The trouble with grappling hooks, though, is that even an expert can miss, and missing would create more noise than we could afford. Fortunately, luck was on our side that time, and both hooks caught on to the castle roof with minimal sound.
Grinning, Andrew and Tobias scaled the castle wall skillfully within less than two minutes. Shortly after they reached the top, I heard two muffled thuds that suggested Andrew and Tobias had knocked out the only two guards that patrolled the castle roof. Sure enough, Tobias appeared at the edge of the roof and signaled that it was all clear for us to come up.
Sporting grins on our faces matching the ones Andrew and Tobias had worn, Vincent and I scaled the wall in much the same way they had. When we reached the top, we began pulling up the ropes we had used to climb up. Just as we pulled the tips of the ropes up over the edge of the roof, the next guard patrol rounded the corner. Resisting the urge to celebrate prematurely, I simply smiled as we entered the highest level of the castle through a trapdoor on the roof.
We rushed through the castle, taking care to avoid guards as we descended flight after flight of stairs until we reached the bottom floor. We headed straight for the throne room that doubled as a banquet hall, where the most ornate pair of thrones in all the kingdoms of the region rested.
The thrones, two beautifully molded seats made of the finest gold, sat in the back of the throne room. The king and queen would never have asked for anything so valuable that might take money away from their people, but a blacksmith in the kingdom made the beautiful chairs and presented them to the king and queen, who, touched, accepted them appreciatively. And just as the beloved rulers had accepted the thrones, we had accepted the opportunity to profit off of them.
Set into the crest of the king’s throne was a ruby of great size and even greater value. In the same place on the queen’s throne was an amethyst of similar size and value. With greed in our eyes, we approached the thrones. Vincent stopped in front of the king’s throne, pulling out his dagger, and I mirrored him, halting in front of the queen’s throne. We used our daggers to pry the precious gems from the thrones, and then we placed the gems into small sacks made of rough cloth.
As we turned to leave, Vincent plopped into the king’s throne. I turned to face him with my hands on my hips impatiently.
“What do you think?” he asked speculatively, “Do you think I could be in charge? Could that maybe be a good move for me?”
I rolled my eyes and smiled a little.
“Vincent, maybe we should focus on getting out of here. How about you try not getting us caught, okay? Is that too complicated for you?”
He smiled and stood up, leading the way out of the room. We retraced our steps, heading back for the roof, but we grew careless, and on the top floor we walked right around a corner into a hallway with a guard at the other end, facing us. We backpedaled furiously around the corner, but it was too late; the guard had seen us.
“Hey, you!” he called, “Come back here!”
“Fat chance,” I heard Andrew mutter as we started running full speed down the previous hallway. Since our original route was blocked, we were going to have to find another way up. As we flew around the castle without much clue as to where we were going, Vincent and I were in the lead with Tobias and Andrew not far behind us. When I looked back, I saw that more and more guards were joining the chase. Suddenly the guards put on a burst of speed and overtook Andrew and Tobias.
Vincent stopped, whirling around desperately. I slowed to a stop, turning to tell him that we didn’t have time, but before I could say anything, he turned around and began to run again. I followed his lead, and we were forced to run for the nearest stairway; Tobias and Andrew had held the grappling hooks wrapped around their chests, so we would have to get down another way. After we descended the stairs and set off for the next flight, the king and queen exited a room in front of us, which must have been their bedchamber.
“What’s going on? What’s all this noise?” the king asked as we flew past them. When I looked over my shoulder, I saw that some of the guards had stopped to try to usher them back into their room. The queen resisted, though, her eyes set on me.
“Charlotte?” she called. I skidded to a halt, turning to face her.
“How do you know my name?” I asked in confusion. An expression of elation crossed her face, as though something she had scarcely dared to believe had proved to be true. Suddenly I felt Vincent’s hand wrap around my arm. I looked at him.
“Come on, Charlotte, we have to go.”
With a glance at the approaching guards, I nodded, and we ran off down the hallway.
“Charlotte, come back!” I heard the queen’s distressed cry, but I didn’t look back; the guards had already gained too much ground. We tore through the hallways, descending flight after flight of stairs at a speed that probably wasn’t very safe. When we finally reached the first floor of the castle, Vincent and I barely had the energy to continue going, but the sound of the pursuing guards not far behind us kept us running. We headed straight for the nearest room along the outside wall, which happened to be a room in the servants’ quarters.
When we threw open the door and ran in, the servant inside jumped out of her bed with a cry of alarm. Without even a glance in her direction, Vincent and I tore through the room to the nearest window. We threw it open and launched ourselves out just as the guards came slamming into the room behind us.
Vincent and I ran as fast as we could through our exhausted state straight for the nearby forest. We went crashing into the woods without any regard to how loud we were being, and we probably scared a bunch of adorable little woodland critters half to death. I had my dagger out before we entered the clearing where our horses were tethered, and the moment I was close enough I slashed through the ropes holding our horses near the trees. I quickly hopped onto my horse and Vincent climbed onto his and then we urged the horses to run full speed towards the town we had our hideout in.
We rode in silence, keeping the horses at the fastest speed they could run, and I was beginning to worry about how hard we were working the horses before the town finally came into sight. We hopped off of the horses right in front of the travelers’ inn we had stolen them from, hoping that maybe their owners might be able to find them in the morning if they didn’t wander too far. Vincent and I rushed to our attic hideout and pulled up the four loose floorboards. The space underneath them was where we stored the loot we hadn’t sold yet, and we also kept large bags with the loot in case we had to escape with the loot on short notice. We packed up all the loot and left the hideout, just in case Tobias and Andrew ratted us out.
As soon as Vincent and I were a safe distance from our hideout, we stopped and Vincent ran a hand through his hair. We were silent for a bit, lost in thought.
“They’d been around the longest,” he said somberly all of a sudden
“Andrew and Tobias?” I asked. He nodded.
“Andrew has been around since I formed my first group, and Tobias was part of Russell’s group when I joined them,” he paused for a minute, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we have to break them out.”
I stared at him for a second, and then I nodded. He glanced at the bags full of loot and commented, “That was our last hiding place. It’ll take a while to find another one just as secure.”
He looked at me, and his I’ve-got-an-idea look flickered across his face, signaling that he was about to suggest something I wasn’t going to like.
“Could you keep them for a bit?” he asked, and my worries were confirmed. I sighed.
“It won’t be easy, but I think I can hide them,” I said reluctantly. He smiled, and I wondered what I’d just gotten myself into; if Mother found them, I would have a hard time explaining where I’d gotten them from. My thoughts strayed back to the queen calling after me back at the castle.
“She knew my name,” I blurted. Vincent looked at me.
“The queen. She called me by name. I don’t—How did she know that?” I asked confusedly.
“I don’t know,” Vincent replied. I sighed.
“I should probably be getting home,” I decided, and he nodded. I took the bags from him and set off for my tower. Dawn would be coming soon, so I would have to hurry home to make it back before Rapunzel woke up. If she woke up before I got home, it would mean trouble.
I stared up at the tower in frustration; It was one thing to climb up the rope I had hanging from the back of the tower, which I already have to go through a stream to get to, but it was another thing to cross the stream, climb the rope, and get myself to the front of the tower while weighed down with four bags full of loot. With an exasperated sigh, I started crossing the stream while toting the four heavy bags. When I made it to the small dry area at the back of the tower where the stream curved around the tower instead of touching it, I dropped all but one of the bags.
Determined, I gritted my teeth and began to climb the rope with the heavy bag in my hand. It took much longer than normal to reach the roof of the tower because the hand that held the bag kept slipping, and I nearly fell at least five times. When I finally did reach the top, I pulled myself up onto the roof exhaustedly. Normally I would hold onto the supports of the roof and edge myself around to the window at the front of the tower, because then I was actually less likely to slip, but I didn’t have the patience that time. I stood up, walking carefully along the steeply sloped roof, and then lightly dropped the bag through the window, hoping that it didn’t make too big of a sound.
After painstakingly repeating the process three more times, I walked back across the roof and plopped down with my legs on either side of the roof support that I tied my rope to. I leaned down and began to pull the rope up, wrapping it around the support as I did. Exhaustedly, I went back to the window and swung myself in expertly, landing on my feet.
I crept into the room belonging to Rapunzel and me, grabbing a small key off of my bedside table. I went straight back out to the main room, where there was a dresser with two large drawers, each with a different lock. The top drawer was Rapunzel’s, and the bottom drawer was all mine. Of course, not all mine; my nosy mother had a key to both drawers. I placed the key into the lock and turned it, and then I pulled the drawer open. I cleared out anything I might need that day and then I went over and grabbed the four bags, dropping them into the drawer carelessly.
After looking around the room for a moment, I found a random screw on the floor. Satisfied, I picked it up and stuffed it into the lock; it would be a pain in the butt to get out, but at least it would keep Mother out of the drawer. I tucked the key into my pocket, just as the sun began to shine through the window. Sure enough, it wasn’t even a whole second before Rapunzel came out of our room.
“Charlotte? What are you doing up?” she asked, completely awake and aware. Freaking morning person.
“I couldn’t sleep,” I lied easily. She stared at me for a bit, and I became uneasy, worrying that she knew… something. Finally she narrowed her eyes at me and opened her mouth.
“You should sleep more.”
“Charlotte, wake up!” Rapunzel called. I groaned. What had it been? Two hours since I’d flopped into bed just after sunrise? That was not going to mean a good day for me.
“Charlotte, Mother’s here! Are you going to make me pull her up by myself?”
I groaned again and rolled out of bed, grumbling quietly so that she couldn’t hear me, “Oh, no, heaven forbid Rapunzel might actually have to do work.”
Because, honestly, me “helping” her pull Mother up meant sure, she held onto her hair in case I lost my grip, but I was the one pulling Mother up. I started to walk out of my room, but then my foot got caught in her hair; she hadn’t brushed it yet because I hadn’t been awake to help her. I sighed, managed to untangle my foot, and picked up the hair, walking through the hallway into the main room.
“You know, she can’t climb up if you don’t even have all your hair to let down to her,” I pointed out as I walked in.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m just not done finding it all yet.”
I raised my eyebrows; the average person’s hair grows a centimeter a month, meaning that at sixteen, their hair would be just under eight feet long, and I get it, Rapunzel’s is just under twenty-eight, but really? She had managed to lose her hair? The hair that was attached to her head? I sighed.
“Only you, Rapunzel,” I muttered. She was too distracted trying to find her hair to notice.
“Girls, what on earth is taking you so long? Do you plan to make me wait out here until nightfall?” Mother called up to us.
“Sorry, Mother, but it seems Rapunzel managed to lose her hair,” I called down to her, leaning out the window. Rapunzel shot me a look, finally pulling the end of her hair into the room.
“Found it!” she called down to Mother brightly, as she threw her hair out. We backed away from the window so that Mother would have some room to climb in once we pulled her up. I began pulling Rapunzel’s hair up, which is not easy, because Mother may be very thin, but she still weighs at least ten pounds more than me, and I have to be careful, because if I put Rapunzel’s hair under too much strain, it bursts into flames. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? The hair itself doesn’t burn up, but it’s not nice when the house catches on fire around the flaming hair. Or my hands; that would be bad, too.
When Mother finally climbed onto the large windowsill, the first thing she said was, “Oh, Rapunzel, dear, your hair’s all tangled up! That won’t do at all. I’ll make breakfast while you have Charlotte help you brush it out.”
I rolled my eyes; of course she would have me do that. Once again, heaven forbid Rapunzel would have to do any work at all, including brush her own hair by herself. I sighed.
“Mother, that’s going to take forever. You’re a sorceress, so can’t you just fix it all with sorcery?” Rapunzel asked sweetly, responding to my obviously upset sigh. I stared at her, shocked that she had seriously come to my rescue.
Mother seemed to contemplate the idea before finally saying, “Of course I can, sweetheart.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes again (she never would have agreed if I’d asked) before mouthing a silent thank you to Rapunzel. I turned to Mother and said, “I’ll make breakfast, then.”
“No, dear, that’s fine, I’ll just fix up Rapunzel’s hair and then I’ll cook breakfast,” she said appreciatively, sending a smile in my direction.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes, dear, I am your mother. I can take care of you,” she replied, her hands beginning to glow as she wrapped them around Rapunzel’s hair. I shrugged and turned around, heading for my room.
I threw a punch at Rapunzel, which she barely managed to deflect, and immediately followed it up with a hard shove. She stumbled backwards, and before she had the chance to regain her footing, I landed a kick to her chest, sending her sprawling onto her back. Seeing my little sister on the ground like that and knowing I was the one who’d done it wasn’t easy, and, against my better judgment, I leaned down and offered her a hand.
“You okay?” I asked, preparing to help her up. She propped herself up on her elbows and eyed my outstretched hand. Suddenly a devilish smirk crossed her face. I instinctively straightened up and tried to jump back, but it was too late. She kicked out at my legs, knocking them right out from under me, and was on her feet before I hit the ground. I was back up within seconds, my guard raised again.
“Now, Charlotte, dear, what have I told you about showing weakness?” Mother called out to me from across the room. I ignored her, cheerfully focused only on Rapunzel. Strange as it may seem, I love my sister most when she’s kicking my butt. It’s probably got to do with the fact that it’s so unexpected and out of character coming from her. Of course, with the way Mother’s been training us our whole lives, it’s not really surprising that she can fight well. But violence was never her thing, and it wasn’t long before I had her down again, this time on her chest. When she started to push herself back up, I placed a foot on her back, panting lightly from the exercise of the fight, and pushed her back down as gently as possible. I looked at Mother expectantly, my hair falling in my face. She nodded approvingly.
“Charlotte wins this one. That’s enough for today.”
I removed my foot from its perch on Rapunzel’s back and helped her up. Rapunzel looked disappointed; she’d obviously thought she was going to win after she had me on my back. With a disappointed frown, she began rubbing a spot on her shoulder where I had hit her.
“Oh, Rapunzel, dear, don’t worry,” Mother said, wrapping an arm around Rapunzel’s shoulders, “You’re getting better and better each and every day. I’m sure you’ll beat her some day. Even if you don’t, my dear, you will always be one of the most skilled warriors of all time.”
Rapunzel smiled a little, but she wasn’t really comforted. I guess it was hard for her to be the second best for once. I opened my mouth to assure her that she could beat up half of the people in town, but then I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to know that, and I stopped myself. Instead I just gave her a reassuring smile.
Mother made us lunch and then left again. While she walked away from the tower, Rapunzel pulled up her hair, which had been braided since had Mother fixed it up that morning. Rapunzel stared after her and remarked, “I don’t know how she does it. She’s so brave to go out among all those horrible people.”
I rolled my eyes, resisting the urge to scoff, and sat down in the cushioned chair near the window.
“All those thieves and bandits, and everyone’s so violent,” she continued.
I shook my head; I knew well enough that there were thieves and bandits out there (I was one of them) but no one was nearly as violent as Mother had always depicted them. My best guess was that she was just paranoid.
“She’s fine,” I replied disinterestedly. I glanced at my drawer, which, thankfully, my mother hadn’t decided to invade that day, and tried to figure out how I was going to get the screw out of the lock.
“How can you say that?” she asked, turning to face me, “You’ve never been out there!”
She faced the window again and continued, “I’m worried sick about her.”
I was resisting the urge to laugh at how overdramatic she was being, but I managed to keep a straight face. When she turned to face me again, obviously expecting a response, I just shrugged. She sighed, exasperated.
“Don’t you care about Mother at all?”
I raised my eyebrows at her.
“Of course I care about her, she’s my mother, but she hasn’t died yet, leading me to believe she won’t die any time soon! When she talks about how dangerous the world is, it’s when she talks about people trying to kill us as babies because they thought that our gold and silver hair marked us as the children of demons,” I tilted my head to the side, “So be honest, now: does Mother look like a demon?”
She hesitated for a moment. Finally she shook her head.
“And does she look like a demon’s child?”
Rapunzel shook her head. I smiled.
“See, Rapunzel, Mother’s fine,” I said. Rapunzel seemed to think it over.
“But she’s a sorceress,” she pointed out, and it was my turn to be exasperated, “She said that people are suspicious of them, too!”
I gave a frustrated sigh and shot her a withering look.
“And you think she just flaunts her sorcery all over the place?” I practically shouted, trying to keep calm. It wasn’t working. Then my expression softened and my voice took on a kinder tone as I added, “I just don’t like you worrying so much, that’s all.”
“Thanks,” she replied, smiling a little. Then her smile faded.
“I hope you know this random display of kindness won’t change anything; I’m so gonna kick your butt tomorrow, no matter what.”
“Oh, well, good luck with that, then,” I said, still laughing. I really found it hard to believe that she could beat me; once again, she’s a great fighter, but violence just isn’t her thing.
“Oh, you can laugh now, but you won’t be laughing when I have your face smushed against the floor!”
“I didn’t smush your face against the floor!” I defended indignantly, still laughing, “I was just stopping you from getting up! I wasn’t pushing you down that hard.”
She smiled as she began to walk towards our room, teasing over her shoulder, “Awfully defensive, aren’t we? Guilty conscience, Charlotte?”
I chuckled and shook my head as she exited the room. My mood became more serious, though, as my mind strayed back to the way my mother was constantly trying to make us scared of the outside world. She was constantly telling us that people had tried to kill us as babies, under the impression that we were the children of a demon, and that we needed to be exterminated because of that. The thing about that, though, was that I’d been going out there for over a year, and no one had come after me with torches and pitchforks.
On top of that, Mother sometimes reminded us that they still told the legend of the demon children who had been sent to destroy them, and that they had chased them away, but that couldn’t be true, because I’d once asked Vincent if he’d ever heard of the legend of the demon twins, and he said he hadn’t. When he asked why I was asking, I told him the truth; that it was a story my mother sometimes told us.
So that couldn’t be true, but my mother wouldn’t lie to us about that; what reason could she possibly have? But she also told us that the people beyond the tower were violent and cruel, and I had seen nothing exceptionally violent or cruel, and I hang out with criminals. Okay, so maybe you could define stealing as cruel, but still.
I sighed and leaned back in the chair, locked in a staring contest with the lock on my drawer, as if staring could make the screw come flying out of the lock of its own accord.
I sighed, standing at the outskirts of town, the four bags sitting at my feet. Getting the screw out of the lock had been nearly impossible, but getting the bags down from the tower had been much easier than getting them up, so it almost made up for it. Almost.
I sighed again, leaning back against the tree not far behind me. I leaned my head, back, crossed my arms, and shut my eyes almost completely, so that I could still see through them a little. I was starting to get tired enough to close them completely when Vincent finally showed up.
“You’d better have a place figured out for these,” I said, gesturing to the bags without opening my eyes any further, “Because I’m not lugging them back up to my…”
I trailed off, standing up and opening my eyes. Finally, I simply said, “They’re not coming home with me again.”
He nodded, staring at me thoughtfully.
“And where is that?” he asked, “Home?”
“None of your b—” I started to snap, before I stopped myself, remembering all that he had told me the day before. I sighed before finally shaking my head apologetically. He looked almost… hurt.
“Charlotte, I gave you my whole life story yesterday! Do you know how hard that was for me? Is it that hard for you to trust me?”
“Vincent, I do trust you, and I’m sorry! But I… I can’t tell you,” I apologized sincerely.
“That sounds a lot like you don’t trust me,” he replied, and I wished he would drop the subject. This wasn’t really like him, starting fights, but he had opened up to me the day before and I had given him nothing in return.
“It’s not that I don’t trust you, Vincent; it’s that there are others who trust me. I can’t tell, you, because those people are counting on me. They trust me not to…” I trailed off looking away. Finally, I said quietly, “I can’t tell you, Vincent. I’m sorry, but I just can’t.”
After a long silence, he bent down and picked up two of the bags and said, “I’ve got another place for these. Grab the other two.”
“Okay,” I replied quietly, nodding and reaching down for the other two bags. He started walking and I followed him. After a bit he said, “Why can’t you tell me?”
I stiffened and stopped. He turned around to face me.
“Why are people relying on you not to tell anyone where you stay? Are you in some kind of trouble?”
A playful smirk spread its way across my face and I replied, “Heck, yes, I’m in trouble! My best friend is a wanted thief, and thanks to that jerk now I’m wanted, too!”
He smiled in response to my teasing before putting on an obviously faked serious face and saying solemnly, “Wanted? Huh, I don’t think I should hang around with someone who’s wanted; you could be a bad influence.”
“Yes, Vincent, exactly. I’m the bad influence,” I replied, my voice dripping with sarcasm. He nodded very “sincerely,” and I was glad to see that Vincent was back to normal.
“Definitely,” he replied, and I shoved him, laughing. We kept going into town like that, teasing each other and pushing each other around playfully. The banter helped me calm down and let go of a little stress, and I was glad he had dropped the subject.