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If We Collide
“Oh you’re gonna get it now!” I shout over the rushing waves that fall above us. I bring a soft blow down on her head, knocking her into the water. Johanna comes back up, soaking wet, and brings an uppercut up to the soft skin of my neck. I hold up my hand to signal a break.
“Wow! You’re getting a lot better!” Johanna exclaims.
“You seem surprised! Soon I’ll be able beat you with my hands tied behind my back.”
“Whoa, slow down there, don’t get too confident.”
At this she brings a sliver of water curling around my leg. Before I can react I am pulled to the hard ground of the river. I taste the salt as it washes over my face. This is the one place we can practice and not draw any alarm at home. I stand up and take the towel gratefully. We’ve only been out here for a couple hours, but it seems that the temperature has dropped significantly.
I glance at my watch. “Oh!” I let out a groan “Caleb’s gonna kill me! Lessons started an hour ago!”
“Oh that means I’m gonna get it too! I don’t think I can take another one of his lectures! Even at dinner, ‘Johanna that’s the wrong fork to use for salads, Johanna it is not ladylike to use your powers to hurt a certain person or persons’ he’s driving me crazy!”
I let out a snort at her impression of Caleb. It is very accurate actually. We start up the long path back to the house, each doing our own impression of Caleb.
“How ‘bout we make this a little more interesting?” Johanna says, an evil grin spreading across her face “we race to the house, whoever wins gets to duck and cover while the other distracts Caleb. The winner escapes while the loser takes the rap. Deal?”
“Oh you’re on!” I say and we both start off running.
We run through the trees, wild animals sprinting away into the forest at the sight of us crashing through their otherwise peaceful home. She manages to stay just ahead of me. The trees blur around me. Then I have a genius moment. I fall with a cry of pain. Johanna turns around immediately and runs to my side. “What hurts?” she asks while she bends down to examine the damage.
“Oh” I feign pain” it’s my ankle. It really hurts! I think I tripped on a tree bran-“on the last syllable I jump to my feet and dart across the trees until a break out into the open. Johanna is only seconds behind me.
“You little cheater! You forfeit!”
“Uh uh! I won fair and square! Well, maybe not fair, and really not squa-“
“Oh shut up! We’ll tell him together, okay?”
“okay.” I reply, defeated
We walk up to the gates together. I wave my hand to the guards and they open them for me with a loud creak. One guard rushes up to me, clearly irritated.
“Princess! Where have you been! The whole palace has been running around frantic! Caleb was about to call in the regal guards to go look for you! He looks absolutely e-“
I hold up my hand to silence him “I am well aware of the circumstances Jason, and it is perfectly alright. As you can see I am fine. And you know I hate that title. Es will serve just fine.” He turns to walk back to his post, defeated.
“And that was only the beginning.” Says Johanna in a mystic voice “here comes Caleb, destroyer of dreams, crusher of hope, murdered of joy, killer of all things good in this evil wor-“
Caleb appears behind her “I think that’ll do, Johanna” he says coldly, his brown eyes glaring down on us. His brown hair was combed perfectly; just like always, not a hair out of place. He could actually be quite handsome, if he smiled every once in a while. It’s only when he comes closer that you see the dark bags under his eyes. Well, what do you expect? He is in charge of watching me.
“Are you aware of the time? Either of you? No? Well, presently it is 4:17, and I distinctly remember that lessons begin at 3 o’clock sharp, just as they have been for over 2 years. What would your mother say if I told her that you were late yet again? Because I would rather not open that chapter again. Now, if your trainer is too incompetent to look af-“
“Um, excuse me yeah, hi; I’m standing right here Caleb and all I have to say is ‘ouch’. That’s cold. You do realize that I could beat you up even if I was blind, deaf, and paralyzed, don’t you?
At that Caleb takes a step back “yes, I am well aware of your fighting skills Johanna, But this is unacceptable.”
“Hi. I’m standing right here too.” I say in a soothing voice” Caleb, I am sixteen years old, I can bend water with my hands, and I could kick your butt too. I think that I am old enough to be able to take care of myself at the very least.”
“Then why were you late?” he asks coldly
“Look I’m sorry, okay. I lost track of time. Johanna was showing me this new fighting technique.”
He still didn’t look pleased with my answer. But at last his mask of steel finally cracked
“I'm just glad you’re alright Esmeralda. But Johanna, I'm going to need to take an hour from here lesson tomorrow. We need to go over more in her history class.”
“That should be fine.” She spares a pitying glance at me
“Well, I’ll see you all at dinner then. We’re having guests from the Aiethamus tonight. Wear something nice.” He turns on his heal and stalks off.
“I envy you, getting to study all the history of Sylinthia. All I get to do I run around, have fun, and annoy Caleb.”
“Oh shut up Johanna.” I hit her on the arm. “You shouldn’t sell yourself short though.”
“You know you could beat Caleb without any limbs too.”
Our laughter is lost in the sunset as we walk up the stairs to the palace. The walls are colored in a pale blue, like a robin’s egg. Only when you look closer at the design covering the walls do you see the little intricate patterns, carved to look like waves in the ocean or raindrops. We push through the heavy oak doors and walk into the main hallway. Our palace has three stories. The first is for all the guards and travelers who wish to stay along with the kitchen, dining room, and ballroom. The second is for my teachers and trainers like Johanna and Caleb. And the third is for my mother, me and anyone else who holds a high enough standard. Johanna races in front of me, to the stairs. Her beautiful brown hair flows out behind her. She is not much older than me, 18.She really is very pretty. With high cheekbones and hazel eyes that shine when she fights. That is the fun part about watching her really fight. Nobody suspects what’s coming until they’re on the ground. I remember the first time I saw her and was told that she was going to be my new trainer. I didn’t expect much. All the others that came left in a matter of days saying something about my fighting being ‘to advanced’. It wasn’t really a surprise though; it was only a matter of time before I found something I was good at with being a princess. Johanna runs up the stairs, me hard at her heals. She stops at her floor with a quick ‘see you at dinner’. I race up to my room, nearly knocking over some poor man in the stairwell. I burst into my room as the adrenaline fades. My room is too extravagantly decorated. It shines silver patterns that twist confidently around the walls and the white carpet and furniture. On my four-poster bed is a truly breathtaking gown for tonight. But I long for my sweats that sit, neglected, in the closet. I reluctantly go to change, dress in hand. I work on my hair first. I point a dryer at my head until it turns back to its bright red color. I hesitantly slip the dress over my head, careful not to soil it. I put a quick coat of mascara on my eyelashes. I cautiously look in the mirror. The pale white of the dress really brings out my eyes. They blaze on my pale complexion. Only when I look closely do I notice the ornate bead work that curls around the dress. It really is quite beautiful. Not exactly suited for me. I quickly twist my hair into some elaborate braids, my fingers now how without a second thought. In the end I look mostly the same as always, just in a different dress. I decide to go help Johanna until it is time to go. I walk slowly down the stairs this time, not daring to run, trip, and ruin the dress. I finally make it to the second floor. I walk slowly down to her room, annoyed at my slow pace. I knock surely on the door. Her face peaks out for a minute.
“Give me just a second,” she says and disappears, shutting the door tightly behind her. I hum a little tune while I wait.
How do we compare,
The four of them together,
How can we share,
The secrets that are locked away forever
Away from prying eyes,
Away from wandering ears
Away from those who seek
Of those who long to hear
“I’m ready!” comes an excited squeal from inside the door
“Okay! Let’s see the new dress!” I respond with as much enthusiasm as I can muster. Johanna may be a great fighter, but she does love a good dress too. I don’t really see the excitement factor but, hey, who am I to deny this for her. She comes out looking completely marvelous. Her new dress is an olive green that only she could pull off. Her sleek hair cascades around her in waves, resting on her shoulders.
“Wow! You look great!” I exclaim.
“Ah thanks, so do you!”
We both laugh. Though Johanna ‘s never admitted it, it is pretty easy for me to tell that she has a crush on Caleb. He is a year older than her, and even though she tries to hide it with threats, she is head over heels in love. We walk down into the dining room together. We are not the first there though, at the head of the table my mother sits, talking to a man I have never seen before.
“Hey” I whisper to Johanna “who’s that?”
“I’m not sure, but he look kinda familiar.”
I shrug it off and go to sit by her just as the man exits the room. While we’re sitting side by side, you could never tell that we were related. While I have sleek red hair, she has a mass of curly blonde. She has a darker skin tone than me and her eyes shine a sea blue. She is always straight, erect, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile more than twice a day.
“Hey mom, who was that?” I ask
“Oh no one, just an old friend. Did you hear about the Aiethamus guests were having tonight? They have traveled a long way to stay here for a while. “
“Yep, I heard.”
“Please, it’s ‘yes’ speak like a princess”
And that’s how the evening went. Me saying nothing , just picking at my food. As soon as I could I bolted to my room, changed and was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I was awakened early by Caleb,
“ It’s time to get up Es, we’re going to have history first this morning. You have twenty minutes before lessons start. Please meet me in the ballroom then.”
I groan in protest but he’s already out the door. I stumble out of bed, brush my teeth, comb my hair, and throw on some jeans and an old t-shirt. I hurry into the dining room and grab an apple from the elegant buffet set out and rush into the ballroom. Caleb already has all the books lined out. I sit down across from him as he hands me the first book. My hands almost drop it at first. It is way heavier than the others we have been using I look tentatively at the title A Noble History.
“Are you trying to get my brain to explode or something?” I look at him incredulously
“No, your mother just suggested that we need to step up the studying a little more.” He replies matter-of-factly
“And this is a little?”
“Just start reading at page 1” he lets out a sigh
I open up the book and start reading out loud
“There was a time when the world was falling apart. People turned against each other; friends betrayed one another. The world was slowly breaking, piece by piece, until four people rose up; out of the ashes and proceeded to create a new civilization. They created four new sectors, each made to help each other. They were all made to create a new world, out of the ashes of a broken one. There was Aiethamus, or people of the sky, Earamon, or people of the earth , Syllabus, or people of the water, and Blarein, or people of the flames. These new leaders established rules to govern their new cities. They all coexisted peacefully together for a century or two, but then they started to turn on one another. The leaders of this time met to decide what was to be done. Little knew, however, that a select few in each sector had great control or power over the elements. While some could only levitate one element, others could fight with them. Blarein, thinking that they were the only ones that could use this power, attacked the other sectors. There were thousands of deaths. After three years of fighting, Blarein finally surrendered. All the sectors were divested. By then all the leaders had already died off. There needed to be control in the sectors again. That was when they elected one royal family to each sector. These royal families were entrusted with the power and control that many sought out. They continued to keep their powers alive by learning and growing with them. “
“Okay now your homework for tonight is to write a paper on that paragraph and to make a family tree, with all the royals on it. Due tomorrow. Know I think Johanna is waiting for you to continue with your training. Go, but this time, don’t be late!”
I barely heard his last sentence because I was already retreating out the door and into the misty morning air.
A New Face
“Okay let’s practice some new techniques today. Put this on.” She hands me a ratty old blindfold and I put in on without question. “We’re going to focus on your hearing today. The best fighters can fight with only their sense to guide them.” She makes sure the blindfold is securely fastened before she begins. A hard blow comes to my right side. I stumble backwards, and try an uppercut with the harsh water. I don’t hear the blow. I turn in a circle, trying to listen to my surroundings. I feel the water wrap around my foot, but just a second too late. I fall hard on my back and a blow comes down on my head. Not hard enough to knock me unconscious, but enough to make me faintly dizzy.
“Okay,” Johanna says disappointed “we’ll work on that more tomorrow. For now, show me what you can do.” She lunges at me. I veer off to the side. I grab her arm, and using her forward momentum against her, spin her around where she stumbles to the ground .she jumps back up and sends a torrent of water coming straight for my face. I duck and send it right back at her. She dodges it, but not fast enough. It hits her square in the chest and she falls flat.
“Wow, Es, you are getting good. But you forgot the fighting stances I taught you. If you stand facing me like that, it is easier to find a hole in your strategy. She demonstrates the position I should’ve been in instead. With her elbows in to her chest and her knees bent, you would have to wear her down and hope she gets careless. With the one I was in, there were many was to beat me. As we continued, the dull gray of the morning turned to the light sunshine of the afternoon. But, yet again, lessons came to a close and we started our march back up to the house. I still had a little time before my lesson with Caleb, so I went to the library on the second floor to get started early. The library was massive. I went to my usual table in the center of the room, and grabbed the history book again. I opened to the next page, took out my homework, and set to work reading the next section. I had only read to the second sentence when I heard someone come up behind me. I whipped my head around to see a complete stranger standing behind me. I jumped up from the chair and assumed battle position 1. I went to aim a kick at his knees. He jumped about a foot backwards in the air, holding his hands up in a defensive manner.
“I'm so sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you!” the stranger exclaimed. He looked to be about 30, maybe younger. He had shoulder length blonde hair, and light sky blue eyes. Slightly aghast at my reaction, he was eyeing me cautiously. He looked familiar somehow, though.
“Oh my goodness! I am so sorry!” I cried. Oh! Now I remember where I recognize him from! He was one of the guests form Aiethamus. He was the one I saw talking to my mother last night at dinner! Why didn’t I notice it before? Aiethamus people always had a slight disheveled, breezy look about them!
“You’re one of the guests from Aiethamus, aren’t you?” I probed. The stranger was wearing a cotton t-shirt and a pair of kaki baggy pants.
“Um, yes, I am. My name is Redmond. I traveled a long way to get here. All the way past the mountains. And I have something to tell you. Your mother doesn’t think that you should know, but this matter includes everyone he-“
He was interrupted by a loud bang at the door.
Redmond flinched back as if someone had struck him and let out a yelp. My head flung around, my eyes trying to communicate the importance of silence. After a minute, he nodded and I silently started towards the door. I crept past the rows upon rows of books and study desks. I glided across the room. My bare feet made only a light sound on the hard oak floor and I silently praised myself for taking of my shoes before I had come. I came closer to the wooden door and its carvings, closer to the cold metal doorknob. My hand encircled it, and it turned with a loud creak. There was another crash from outside the door, but it seemed more distant now. I gathered the courage to and threw the door open. I carefully snuck out of the room, careful to keep Redmond in view. I glanced around. The red patterned rug underneath my feet was out of place, it has slid from its usual spot. One of the paintings had fallen from the wall. The people stared up at me dully from their new abode on the floor. Farther down the hall, the lights were out. I squinted through the darkness. The hallway was quietly and empty. I let out a sigh of relief, and relaxed my muscles. I turned around and gave a thumbs-up to Redmond who let out a shaky breath. I scanned the hallway one last time, and, satisfied, started back into the library. I had reached the open door when I was blown over by what seemed like a train. I hit the floor hard and saw dots in my vision. I looked up and flinched as I saw a man kneeling in front of me. His eyes were an intense shade of blue, like the sky after a storm and where freckled with specks of gold. He was breathing heavily. His dark brown hair was disheveled; beads of sweat peeking out from under his hairline. His jaw was pointed and his eyes soft. His nose fit him perfectly. I could’ve stared at him forever. But then I remembered the yelling coming toward us, surely the guards. I closed my eyes and jumped back up, ready to fight. He was dazed, but jumped up quickly, mimicking my stance, arms pulled in, feet apart, knees bent. As we circled each other, I looked him over. He was tall, almost lanky in appearance. He was wearing a short sleeved black tee with dark jeans. The muscles on his arms just peeked out beneath his shirt. He was a couple inches taller than me, and looked my age, maybe older. He seemed to be observing me as well. Our eyes met. We both stared each other down, waiting for the other to make the first move. We continued in our little dance. And I ended it. I came at him with a high kick, aiming for his nose. He dodged and came up with a poorly aimed blow to my stomach. I grabbed his arm and swung him over, slamming him into the ground. More paintings fell to the floor. He jumped back up and landed a kick to my shoulder. I flinched at the throbbing and punched him in the stomach. He curled over in pain and I kicked him over, where he sprawled on the floor. I bent over him, as he clutched the face that I didn’t remember kicking. I leaned in closer to see what had happened. He grabbed my arm and pulled me down with him, using the leverage to jump back up as I flew to the ground. He leaped over me and ran down the hall and out of sight. The guards had finally come and I sent them after the intruder. I ran around the other way to cut him off. The paintings and decorations blurred together as I ran. My heart was about to burst. I almost ran into the guards as we met up where he was supposed to be. I was panting as I gave more orders of where he might be and what places to check.
“Okay,” I said “he might’ve run to the b-“I was cut short.
“Um, princess? I don’t think he’s in the house anymore.” a guard said, as he pointed behind me at the open window overlooking the dark grounds, where a blurred figure was just barely visible, disappearing into the forest.