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Author's note: I had some inspiration from Hunger Games, as well as my own love. This is the longest story I have ever written, and I do hope that people will enjoy it as much as I did writing it.
It was a day like any other. The sky was a sickly orange. The air was thick and hot. I woke up to the sound of the bells. I thought it had just been another drill. I got up to file out like usual, calm and orderly, like they tell us to. But my mother rushed in with nothing of calmness or orderliness. She threw suitcases at my floor and told me to pack as she rushed to my sister’s room. I knew right away that this wasn’t a drill. With two suitcases and a hiking back pack filled with my most important belongings, I followed the traffic of my town in our stuffed van towards the highway. Highway 506, or better known as the Freedom Highway. Our freedom towards the space ship that rested on all of the land of abandoned Canada. Our freedom from our planet Earth, and out to the stars we hoped would give us a new home.
But no, that’s not what happened…
I was left behind. They forgot me. Our empty driveway had skid marks of my father’s rushed driving as he pulled my family away; without me. I ran outside, screaming for someone to take me. The town around me was silent. It was getting hotter. I was sweating and struggling to breathe. The air was too thick for a panic attack. It got hotter. I stumbled towards my house, my home. My empty home. My empty house. It was no home without my family. Why did they leave me? It got hotter. There was a deep red dragon on the roof. I could see it from where I was on the ground. It was too hot. The sky was getting brighter. The dragon flew off into the yellow brightness, and I fell into a deep blackness, screaming with the rest of what little life I had left as the voice of my sister calling my name filled my ears.
“Harmony…Harmony…Harmony! Harmony, wake up!”
I sat up straight as my sister, Melody, shook me. I blinked around, un-fallen tears falling with the movement. My night gown was stuck to my sweaty body. I hugged my sister tight. I cried on her shoulder as the nightmare faded away. It was never really gone, it was always there at the back of my mind, but I was able to at least shut it back there when I was awake.
“Shh…it’s okay,” my sister whispered as she rocked me back and forth. Her dark brown waves tickled my cheek. I hid my face in her hair, I hid into her vanilla smell, and I hid away from the reality of what happened on Earth.
Then I sat up. No, it couldn’t be. I looked at my projection, to see what would be outside if I had a window, and there it was. Earth. Black and smoking and dead. Except it wasn’t right outside. This feed was coming from a droid light years away, showing each and every person on the ship what our world looks like this year.
I turned off the projector.
“Today is Tribute Day isn’t it?” I asked without emotion. She nodded and ran a hand over my hair. She smiled sadly and didn’t say another word as she kissed my forehead and then walked out quietly. Today was hard for her too. Today was hard for everyone.
I pulled on a nice dress, well, my favorite dress, a vintage baby blue evening gown, a family heirloom that was passed down for who knows how long. It was one of the few I could grab from my closet. It was one of the few pieces of original Earth clothing I had left.
I was twelve when the Sun’s explosion burned the Earth to a crisp. I am seventeen now and I am still having scream inducing nightmares about dying in that fiery heat.
In less than an hour my family and I shuffled out of our quarters into the hallway and then out into the enclosed “streets”. The streets are like those in Italy, some can barely fit a person, and others fit a few hundred, but they all have the same height buildings towering overhead. Our streets have ceilings of the floor above us, but they have projections covering the metal beams. Tonight the stars and nebulas shine above us. This was one upside of the ship. The night projections are amazingly beautiful. We followed behind the crowd.
We filed into the assembly hall. The ship is separated into regions. Each region is named after the most populated city in each original 50 states of America. The capitols of each region are the capitols of the states. The capitols house the region’s government. The ship has six decks, the top most, and smaller deck is for the President and the crew, the four below that are for the citizens of S.S. America, and the bottom most is for all of the animals we could fit. Each of the four large middle decks have 12-13 regions. S.S. America is carrying over 400,000,000 Americans, as well as those who were left behind in other countries, those who were taking the last ship out. This is why it was built and departed off of Canada. The S.S. Canada had a 30 year head start, and America used the land to build. My family and I are living in Jacksonville. Florida was our home state, so we chose Jacksonville.
Jacksonville has 200 assembly halls, so that each district has one. They are as big as a football stadium, built like an amphitheater. They hold about 100,000 people. We all waited for everyone to enter, the blank hologram screen showing the empty stage. The feed was from Tallahassee, the capitol, so each of the halls could see the same thing. The familiar tune of our anthem started and we all stood up to sing. We all sang out The Star-Spangled Banner, and then sang the last lines out strongly as the music died. Then we chanted out the New America paean.
…And may the stars’ arms welcome us,
May they always be our home.
I refused to say the last line. Earth was my home.
A noise of the thousands of people sitting down echoed through the hall. People adjusted to get comfortable as they all whispered to their neighbors. I stayed quiet, my face blank as I stared down at the stage. The region’s four parliament leaders stepped onto the stage and silence rand loud. No one coughed, no one breathed. The silence was too contagious, no one wanted to make a noise, let alone move. Everyone waited tensely as three of them sat down on throne-like chairs and the fourth, the head leader, stepped to the front of the stage. He spoke as if he was talking to us from two feet away, but his voice was loud, erupting softly out of silver speakers that lined the perimeter of the hall.
“Citizens of Jacksonville! I welcome you to our fifth annual Tribute Day on our new and temporary home of the S.S. America!”
I rolled my eyes at this. I folded my arms over my chest and got comfortable, knowing this was going to take a while. My mother shot me a glare and nudged me, as if to push me into being polite. But I could see in her eyes that she felt sorry for me. That she knew what I was going through and she understood. I sat up just for my mother and stared back down at the hologram. He was speaking again, after the applause was finished.
“There is no new news that you all do not know, so, I give the stage to my fellow leader, Miss Kardin,” he said, sweeping his arm to show us all Miss Kardin as she stood up and floated to the front of the stage, her light white robe flittering behind her. I like her; she’s the kindest leader out of them all. The head leader, known as Fink, is annoying. He says things with such volume, and such deep excitement that you begin to know that he says the same things each year, even though they might be phrased differently. He’s someone you would think they put there to keep people calm and make sure no one knew about any bad things. Miss Kardin seemed to smile at all of us as she stood there before spreading her arms out gracefully.
“Welcome my fellow Jacksons!” she said with her winning smile. “As is tradition for the past five years, I announce the fifth annual Embracements!”
I chuckle at the leaders’ love for the word annual, as Kardin did the same welcoming arm sweep as Fink had done, and the hologram had shut off for the moment. On our real stage, children and teens filed out onto the stage and arranged themselves in age order. The Embracements is a way for the government to give orphans a family. Our orphans either were orphans before, or they became orphans when the Tragedy struck, as the leaders put it. They don’t want to say that the sun died, resulting in burning Earth to a fiery crisp. No, they’d rather show every citizen what it looks like each year and call the “event” the “Tragedy”. They’d rather show people to make them realize what a savior the government is. That works on most, but not me.
The orphans stood on the stage, maybe 80 kids, looking at the crowd shyly. The younger fidgeted more, while the ones in back just stood there with a mixture of anxious excitement, and blank numbness. Most of them are happy to get a home, but others are wary, and don’t want to go to a bad home. All of them want to get picked. Our district’s leader stepped onto the stage with the orphanage’s caretaker. The caretaker cleared her throat and read off of a list, as each child stepped to the front of the stage. The list goes in age order, the youngest being five. Child abandonment disappeared when parents realized how much worth their child had. Plus, crime went down dramatically when everyone was provided for with food, money, and essentials.
We all sat there, waiting and listening to people call out for each child. Some children didn’t get chosen, but the leader and caretaker promised them that someone will welcome them into a new family soon. People’s faces twisted in regret and sorrow as these children walked off with their heads down, tears running down their cheeks. But they can’t sob anymore, they understand the feeling of rejection too well.
The teens begin to step forward. Then one boy stepped up to the stage. His hands were stuffed into his pockets; his face looked down at the stage floor. I could see his short dark hair, but his face was hidden with the angle he had it facing.
“Ellis Denton,” repeated the caretaker, as if to tell him to look at the audience. Ellis looked up, his bright blue eyes shining out at all of us. He forced a practiced soft smile and right away a familiar voice called out.
“Welcome, Ellis!” she called the words that meant she would take the child. I looked over at the woman, her blonde curls bouncing from her movements. I smiled softly to myself. Our neighbor, Verika Kinas had spoken about the Embracements for a while with my mother. She had adopted a little three year old two years ago in the Embracements, but she wanted her little girl to have a big brother. Verika had a big brother, but they had lost contact when she had married, and she had no idea what region he was in now. Ellis had the same dark hair as his adoptive sister’s, but his bright blue eyes were nothing like his sister’s near black ones. Little Serah had a heart as big as the ship, and I’m sure he would fall in love with her too. I knew her little smile would keep her safe from the attitude he seemed to give off. Ellis walked through the isle up to his new family, and Verika patted the empty seat next to her that she had saved. Verika smiled despite the blank look he gave them, but when Serah took his big neck into her tiny arms and climbed into his lap with a happy laugh, his face softened and he took her in his arms. He was now forcing an apathetic look, but even from the twenty seats or so I was away from him, I could tell he had already fallen for her little smile.
“Congratulations, Ellis Denton Kinas,” said the region’s leader and the Embracements moved on. The rest of the event went on in a blur of leader robes and blue eyes, and before I knew it I was walking back down the street to our quarters. Apparently Ellis’ eyes had caught many a woman’s eye as well, for there was plenty of gossip on the way.
“Did you see that attitude that boy held?”
“Oh, who cares, his eyes took my breath away, and I could have cared less about his attitude…”
“I heard that his parents died when he was little and he has been an orphan for ten years…”
“I heard that he killed his foster parents when he was on Earth…”
“No, I heard that he was a rich foreigner who came to America because he murdered a man for the money that was in the man’s pockets…”
“No! How could such a beautiful boy do such a crime?”
After a while, the rumors and gossip got more and more insane, and I began to just tune it out. I just thought of home, of Earth, like I do every day. I thought of the animals who were living below us, and I wondered how they were doing down there. I wondered what it’s like down there. Before I know it, we’re done with dinner and I’m in bed, my eyes heavy with sleep. I let them fall with one final thought of what used to be my home.
I woke up screaming again, but this time my sister didn’t come. I brushed my hair out of my face and opened my blinds and looked at the projection. It was a bright colorful nebula, and it made my day to see all of the beautiful swirling colors. The purple stood out, but at a closer look I saw blues…bright blues...bright blue eyes flashed in my mind. I shut the blinds again and pushed away Ellis from my mind. But the image of his eyes looking up at the crowd would not go away. Every time I closed my eyes while I was getting dressed, I saw them, looking right at me. Soon, though, my thoughts became preoccupied and the blues of his eyes left. I trudged sleepily through my family’s quarters, the sleeplessness of my night finally falling down on me as I rubbed my eyes.
“Good morning, sweetie,” my mother said happily as she prepared breakfast. I smelled eggs immediately.
“The chickens are laying their eggs?” I asked eagerly, waking up as I hopped up onto a stool by the counter. In each family’s home, there is a type of hatch that shoots up food by vocal command. Eggs hadn’t been on the menu since we launched, because the chickens hadn’t gotten used to the spaceship enough to lay eggs for food. The workers down on level six had, supposedly, only gotten the poor chickens to lie enough to keep the species alive. I suppose the ones who have been raised on the ship are more than willing to lie eggs, even enough to eat.
My mother didn’t have to answer my question with anything other than passing my plate of eggs and artificial ham in front of me. I started by pushing down the flavorless piece of ham so I could enjoy the real, animal grown eggs last. I bit down on the small ball of yolk and my mouth exploded with a sweet flavor that ran down my throat with ease and enjoyment. The ship had gone vegetarian so as to keep the animals alive, and as a compromise they created artificial meats, which would never taste the same. I quickly ate the delicious eggs and licked my lips in satisfaction as I pushed my plate away. This was probably the best meal I had eaten in five years.
“Thanks mom,” I said, as I hopped off of the stool. I ran over and gave her a kiss on the cheek and then gave my quiet father a kiss on the cheek while he watched the news. I then ran over to my sister’s room. I found her in her bathroom, putting on silver eyeliner. She smiled at me through her reflection.
“Eggs are back,” I said happily, as I hopped up next to her on the counter, picking up a tube of purple lip gloss. I opened it and then closed it, just to have my hands busy.
“I know,” she replied brightly, as she went back to applying her make-up. “They were delicious.”
I ruffled her hair a bit, knowing the waves could never be messed up, and then gave her a quick hug.
“I’m going out for a while; do you need me to do anything for you?” I asked while I headed for the door. I knew she was probably going out to her boyfriend’s, with all the care she had taken to get ready. A shake of her head and a nope later, I had left her room and then I was out our front door. I quickly turned around to go down the street, only to run right into a vintage black t-shirt and sturdy arms that caught me before I fell.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, righting myself as strong hands held onto my elbows. I looked up, only to get swept up into my hot cheeks and blue eyes. He smiled crookedly at me, his warm hands still at my elbows.
“Don’t worry about it,” came a British voice like velvet out of full soft lips. My eyes floated down to them, watching the light pink of them move as he spoke. It took everything I had not to fall into his arms. I stood up straighter, pulling myself out of his grasp. I adjusted my shirt, letting my brain come back to reality. I made sure not to look him in the eye.
“You must be Ellis,” I said, as casually as I could. Surprisingly it came out sweet and casual, contrary to the thrumming flustered beat that was coming from my heart.
“I’m Harmony, your neighbor,” I said. As if he couldn’t guess, Harmony, you just ran into him coming out of the quarters that is next to his, I told myself. I stared at his cheeks, which were just as perfect as his lips, but it helped calm down my heart; his eyes I knew would do the opposite.
Ellis smiled and held out his hand, an old tradition I had long forgotten. His clothes, I noticed, were old and faded, but in good shape. They were vintage, just like my favorite dress. They smelled like Earth, not this cleanliness I had to smell in the new clothes and air.
“Nice to meet you,” he said with that crooked smile and thick accent. His eyes were looking at mine but I refused to look back as I shook his hand.
“So,” I began awkwardly as I chewed on the inside of my cheek. I shook my hair a bit, scratching my head as I thought. “I’ll see you later?”
He nodded with a smile that finally reached his eyes. The bad, sour attitude I had seen the day before had disappeared completely. I couldn’t help but look at his eyes, getting lost again as my heart quickened and my cheeks regained their red heat. He was looking down at me, being taller, so his black hair fell into his eyes, making them that much brighter. The smile wasn’t dulling the blue either.
“Definitely,” he said with a nod. I pushed my eyes to look down at the ground as I let a smile pull at my lips. I was nodding as I walked around him and down the street. I hadn’t known where I was going, but my legs were moving so I followed. My mind was flooded with his bright blue eyes. I walked around, a ridiculous smile on my lips, as I stumbled and giggled my way through the streets.
An hour of walking went from a giddy teenage girl stumbling through the streets to an angry teen stomping her way home. Why had I been so ridiculous? He’s just a boy, Harmony. What’s so special about him anyway? You hardly know him, Harmony.
And then I thought of his eyes and my face softened. But then I was again nagging myself. I slammed my way into my room, flustered and confused and tired. I flopped down on my bed and tried to figure out exactly what had happened. The more I thought about it, the more his eyes seemed to look at me like I was something special. But I was just imagining that…right?
I groaned as I rolled over and pulled my pillow over my head. This is why you keep your head down and don’t get involved with boys, Harmony. What if he is dangerous? What if the rumors have some truth about them? But he seems so nice and his eyes… A knock at my door sent me sitting up. Is it him? I rolled my eyes at myself. You’re ridiculous, Harmony, I said to myself as I peeked past the hallway corner to see if anyone has gotten it. My mother stood at the door.
“Oh, hello there,” she said brightly.
“Hello, Mrs. Kyler,” came the velvety British voice that made my knees go weak and my cheeks red. Blue flooded my mind again and I groaned internally.
Apparently Ellis invited our family over for dinner. Well, Verika invited us. It’s tradition for the mother who has embraced a child to invite her neighbors for dinner to meet the child. Since Verika lives at the end of the block, we were going to be the only other family there.
I tried on my whole wardrobe twice before I found something that passed but didn’t look great. It was the one that looked the best, though, so I just had to deal with it. It was a casually fancy dress that fit my curves and was decently exposing. At least that’s what the commercial had said about it. They were right, but it didn’t nearly look as good on me as it had on the model. I wore a simple necklace and my hair was up in a messy but fancy bun. Only when we had left the house and were standing at the Kinas’ door, did I notice that my dress was the same blue as his eyes.
The whole time we stood on their doorstep I was muttering things under my breath about how easily I had swooned over him. He’s just a boy…with amazing blue eyes. This thought made my face twist into more unattractive anger. I felt my sister staring at me and I looked up, frowning. Seeing her confused look made me break out in a laugh, though, as little Serah opened the door, her hair in two ponytails, dangling and bouncing around her head, tied in two little neat pink bows. She grinned up at us and clapped her hands, calling behind her.
“Mommy!” she cried, pushing the door open so we could step in. “They’re here!”
Any confusing teenage girl thoughts about blue eyes and boys left my mind as I smiled down at Serah. She stood up straight as she closed the door behind us and politely asked for our coats. After a lot of insisting from her, we set our thin coats down on her little arms. My father knelt down and patted her shoulder as she held up the coats proudly.
“Are you sure you’re strong enough to carry those?” he said to her with a smile twinkling in his eyes. With this, she nodded a fervent yes, and marched down the hall to hang up our coats in a closet. And she did a mighty fine job, with the help of a step stool and her tiptoes.
We filed into the kitchen to find Verika at the stove and Ellis setting the adjacent dining table. Verika’s husband, Temus was fiddling with the menu, probably finding an ingredient they had forgotten at the last minute. Verika grinned as we stepped in, wiping her hands on her absorbent apron. I hate those things. It’s new technology that cleans your hands when you wipe your hands on the fabric. They don’t feel right to me, but my mother swears that it works wonders. Verika quickly pulls the apron off and sets it on a counter top for the moment as she walks over and hugs my mother.
“So glad to see you here,” Verika says as she rubs my mother’s back. Verika and my mom have become close friends, and this is not the first time I have been over for dinner. Just the first time we’ve had a dinner with an extra chair at the table.
“Sit, sit,” Verika urged after hugging us all. We smiled and sat down, while I kept my eyes away from looking at Ellis who was now setting glasses onto the table, filled with a thick, creamy violet liquid. Must be another one of Temus’ concoctions, I had thought.
“I’m so sorry that I’m not finished with dinner yet, but it will be on the table and in our bellies soon!” Verika said as she put the apron back on and went back to stirring.
I smiled to myself. Verika is a perfect mother.
Serah ran in and began to fill up our bowls with a clear broth-noodle soup, telling us that her mother wants us to have an appetizer while we wait. Temus handed Verika a bottle of something that he had just taken out of the shoot, before he sat down with us, kissing Serah and swinging her up into his lap, sending giggles into the room.
“So, Serah, is your big brother being nice to you?” my mother asked Serah. They all glanced at Ellis who was now setting the thin, absorbent napkins by the plates. From the corner of my eye, I saw him smile and continue working as if he had heard nothing.
“Yes, yes!” Serah said with dramatic nods and a serious face. “Ellie’s a very nice big brother! He even plays tea with me and my star whale!”
I couldn’t help giggling at her nickname for him as I stole quick glance at him. He was laughing and shaking his head a bit, still working as if he was hearing nothing. I took a spoonful of soup, moaning under my breath as the salty broth filled my mouth. Serah wiggled out of her father’s lap to finish filling up the bowls.
“Soup’s terrible, Verika,” I said with a grin as I filled my mouth with the noodles and broth, finishing my bowl before Serah could finish her little chore. My sister chuckled, also sitting behind an empty, clean bowl.
“Yeah, Verika,” Melody said with a smile. I winked at my sister. “You should just give us the left overs, you shouldn’t have to eat this horrible soup.”
All of us erupt in laughter as Verika plates the rest of the food and the Kinas family puts the food onto the table. Bowls of gravy, green beans and mushrooms, corn and artificial bacon, and a basket of breads sat in front of us. Verika sped over, carrying a big roast of what looked like an actual turkey. Well, I only knew this from pictures I had seen in some of the history books. It spoke about a holiday Americans had celebrated a long, long time ago, called Thanksgiving. I knew this browned bird was artificial, but this must have been the best grade, for the skin on the bird glistened in the light and the smell filled the room like no square chunk of artificial turkey meat ever could. My mouth watered at the smell in the room, but we had to say thanks first.
We all held out our hands, grasping onto the outstretched ones to our left and right. Our heads bent and our eyes closed, as the room fell silent.
“Thank you, gods, for what you have done for us. Thank you for the food we have here on our table today, and thank you for the people here that you have saved from the Tragedy. We thank you for the hope of our new home, and we thank you for the stars that will hold that home. Amen,” Temus’ deep voice echoed through the small quarters. We all sat for a moment in silence, sending out our own personal prayers.
Please, gods, let me find my home… I prayed, closing my eyes extra tight to show how much it meant to me to find my home. Either the loss of my old home or the pressure on my eyes made dampness fill between my eyelids. I opened my eyes as I felt my right hand being let go of, blinking to rid the beginnings of the tears. I looked over to my left, only to find Ellis’ hand holding mine, his head still down, his eyes closed just as tight as mine had. Dishes were clattering around us, Verika talking to my family members, Serah giggling at her father, but all I saw was Ellis, sitting there, praying his heart out.
While his eyes opened and he had begun to lift his head up, I squeezed his hand, giving him a sad, understanding smile. He nodded and returned the smile, his blue eyes meeting mine. I got lost in them, our smiles filling every corner of our faces as we stared into each other’s eyes .
“Harmony?” my mother repeated, as Melody kicked my foot from my right. We were snapped out of our daze. We dropped each other’s hands as we looked up to six people staring at us, some holding bowls of food in mid air, and some, like Verika and my mother, whispering and chuckling as they glanced at us. I felt my cheeks gain temperature as I bit the inside of my cheek.
“Yes?” I asked, looking at my mother, and staying away from his eyes.
“You don’t have any food on your plate,” my mother began. I looked down at my empty plate.
“You’re hurting my feelings,” Verika finished with a mock-pout. I smiled and held out my hand for the basket of bread my sister was handing me. I filled up my plate easily, my stomach grumbling as I looked down at the colorful food. I didn’t know what to start with. Any daze he had put me in had vanished, my cheeks cooled as hunger soon took over.
Eight filled bellies and an empty platter of the turkey later, we all sat around the table, leaning back into our chairs, talking quietly amongst ourselves.
“I love my new family,” Ellis said. My mother had asked him how he was doing. If he liked his new home. He was looking down at his hands, which were fiddling with his napkin. A smile was pulling at his lips. “Serah’s the best, I think,” he was glancing up at her, now whispering. “She’s my favorite, but don’t tell mom and dad.”
We all laughed at this, looking over at Serah as she jumped off of her chair and climbed into Ellis’ lap. She snuggled up into him as he pulled her into a hug.
We left a while after that, saying good-bye to Verika and Temus as Ellis carried a sleeping Serah to her bedroom. I yawned as we walked down the hall. I was pretty tired myself. We all waved goodbye as we walked the short distance to our quarters, Verika and Temus only shutting their door once we were inside. I stood by the door, looking into the kitchen and then to the living room that sat behind it. Our quarters were so much different than theirs. I decided, in the five or ten minutes that I stood there by myself, that I liked theirs better. It was more Earth. More home.
I smiled to myself as I pulled my hair down and changed into a comfy pair of night clothes. I fell asleep thinking about the way Ellis had been while he prayed, face worried like a younger child, any forced emotions gone. The way he probably was when he was alone.
As I lay on the hot ground of Earth, I looked up at the yellow dragon. But I didn’t die, and he didn’t fly away. Instead, he looked down at me, his yellow scales turning black as his blue eyes smiled down at me. Before the sky lit up and the heat took me away, I felt the gentle grasp of Ellis’s hand holding mine as the dragon lifted me up and into the stars.
I didn’t wake up screaming. I did, though, wake up to three faces staring at me worriedly.
After I had stretched, smiling as the warm dream faded, I was startled to find the faces staring me down. I started, not expecting that at all, covering myself instinctively with my covers.
“What are you guys doing here, scaring my nice sleep away from me?” I practically yelled at them. They all glanced at each other, and then my mother spoke.
“You didn’t scream at all last night, sweetie,” she said softly, looking at my now messy bed. “Your sheets were even neat, as if you hadn’t moved around at all.”
“Well, yeah,” I said, matter-of-factly, even though my brain was just as confused as they were as the realization of my nice sleep occurred to me. “I had a nice dream.”
I stood up to get ready as my sister and father left the room, talking about eggs for breakfast again. I looked up at my mother, and instantly broke into tears, falling into her arms. Of course, I get a good dream, and then I break down with the same feelings my nightmare always gives me. She just holds me as I let it all out, whispering soothing words and she rubs my back. After I have sufficiently soaked her shirt, I stood up straight with a sniffle and a nod of thanks.
“I’m glad you’re having better dreams, sweetie,” she said with a smile as she fixed my hair, like mothers do. She began to say something else, but thought otherwise as she gave me one more hug and then ran out to make breakfast for the jokingly angry crowd of hungry people outside.
I smiled as I dressed, thinking about the dream. I finished my delicious breakfast before heading out to the town again. I made sure not to run into anyone this time, looking both ways before I opened my door all the way. I stepped out onto my doorstep, looking up at the projection of yellow and orange nebulas of the morning. I quickly looked down, as the image of the sun became too much for me. I looked down the street, deciding which way to go. I closed my eyes and took a step down, turning left at random choice, only to fall into the familiar grasp holding me steady at my elbows. Not again.
“Well, look where we are again,” the velvety voice filled with England and honey and Earth and warmth and…I almost fell into his arms, once again, before I stood up straight and fixed my shirt. I looked up at his soft smile, keeping my body vertical and straight.
“I think you need to watch where you’re going,” I said jokingly, smirking a bit. We both knew it was me who was the clumsier of the two; he was just too polite to say so. I was surprised to find those warm hands taking my forearms as he leaned in and whispered.
“Maybe I just like catching you,” he said softly, sending a shiver down my spine. Oh my gods, we were flirting. An unconscious smile pulled at my lips as I tilted my head and whispered back into his ear.
“Maybe I just like falling into you,” I said, and right away, shock filled my brain. I couldn’t believe I had just said that. I mean, he started it, but oh my gods, Harmony, you totally just said that! I kept my outer look calm and collected, but my heart was pounding and my brain was scrambling for an answer to what exactly was happening. We stood there for a moment, I was processing everything, but I had no idea what he was doing still so close.
Cold air swept in front of me as he leaned back, taking away the warmth he gave off. I kept myself with a flirty smile instead of the pout that I wanted to give him. I hadn’t wanted him to move away yet.
“Well, Miss Harmony,” he said, thickening his accent, while bowing politely and kissing my hand. “I am off to the shop, and hope to see you again!”
He bowed again, smiling widely, as he walked away and down the street. Only when he turned the corner did I fall onto the step in front of my door. My fingers traced the spot where he had kissed my hand, the feeling still tingling on my skin. My eyes were out of focus, staring off into his eyes. My lips were in a goofy grin. My brain was dizzy from all the sudden things to think about.
One thing was for sure.
Ellis Denton Kinas sure knew how to steal a girl’s heart.
I didn’t go to town that day. I ended up inside, flipping through movies, deciding what to watch. While the hologram of Jems and Cera fell into each other’s arms, a distressed knocking interrupted my day dreams and the sound of the movie couple talking about love nonsense. I rose up to answer the door, finding a worried Verika looking anxiously around the street and then peering over my shoulder.
“Is Serah here with you?” she said before I could greet her properly. I only managed a shake of my head before Verika let out a sob. “I haven’t seen her all morning.”
I quickly pulled Verika into a hug, to comfort her, but also to figure out something.
“I’ll help you look for her, Verika,” I said softly, patting her shoulder as I smiled sadly to her. Ellis came up the short way to my door, seeing us standing there.
“What’s going-“ he began, but I was already closing the door and pulling him along with me as we walked down the street.
“We’ll find her, I promise,” I called to Verika as we headed to the other doors. We knocked on fifteen blocks of doors, not finding her behind any of them. We were sitting on a bench by one of the main streets, watching people pass by on hovercycles. We sat there for a while, silent as we thought of what to do next. I looked up to see the projection illuminating with a red and orange nebula. I had seen pictures similar to this. Supposedly, when the sun dropped below the horizon and the moon rose up to shine at night, the reds and oranges of the sun at the horizon was called a sunset. The pictures are amazing. We never saw sunsets for at least as long as I had been alive. The sun was so bright for as long as I could remember, and the sky was always an orange or yellow, we probably wouldn’t notice a sunset anyway. The moon did come, if it could peek behind the thick atmosphere, but it was never as clear as it looks out in space from our night projections. After a while of sitting there and thinking about sunsets, Ellis jerked his head up.
“I can’t believe I had been so stupid!” he said, slapping his forehead. I looked over at him, surprised with the sudden outburst. He stood up abruptly, walking away, probably expecting me to follow. I stood up quickly, chasing after him to keep up.
“What do you mean?” I asked, jogging to keep up with his fast pace. I had no idea where we were going. We were turning into streets I had never seen before. The streets were different, and the doors of the houses were a different color than I was used to. But I kept following Ellis, trusting he knew where he was leading us.
“Serah always talks about the animals,” he said, speaking as if he was trying to say everything he was thinking at the moment at once. “About how she wants to see the elephants and the zebras and the lions and the dogs. She read about animals in a book from the library and has been obsessed ever since. But I don’t even know if they still exist. That book was talking about the first couple centuries B.C.E. Anyway, I bet she went downstairs.”
We stopped at a doorway, a thick, metal door that seemed to hold all of the world’s evils inside. But it just looked that way, behind it’s shiny smile. One quick press of a scan pad, and we were inside the elevator. I had only been in the elevators once. I had needed a doctor, but all the ones in Jacksonville were busy, yes, every single one, so we had to go to the level up to New York City. Everyone had gotten sick, that first year on the ship. Everything was so cool and clean and new. Our bodies hadn’t been used to that.
I stood there nervously next to Ellis, staring at the screen that showed us moving down in a little diagram of the ship. Our little elevator, probably the size of my bed room, moved down to the bottom level like a piece of dust moving through a bright ray of light. I had never really thought about how big this ship was. Looking at the size of the bottom level both reassured me and made my face tighten in worry. It was the smallest, but it was still big. How were we going to find Serah?
The metallic doors opened to a humid green little piece of Earth. Plants splayed up towards the projection ceiling, reaching for the false sunlight to feed their hunger. A noise of thousands of animals rang through the floor. I glanced at Ellis, and seeing the look on his face, I knew we shared the same question. How were we going to find Serah?
It turned out that we didn’t have to look very hard. After about half an hour of searching carefully through the rain forest around us, we heard a sweet little giggle erupt and echo through the green leaves. We ran in the direction we thought we heard it coming from, only to find Serah, her stuffed star whale, and a white uniformed crew member playing with a very large, blond animal. Serah took one look at us, and began pulling our hands towards the animal. It’s blond fur had faded stripes along the long, muscular body.
“Look, Ellie!” she squealed eagerly. “It’s a Liger!”
The big Liger rolled onto its back, folding its big paws above its chest, its pink tongue flopping out of its large, sharp toothed filled mouth. I didn’t want to trust this big thing, but the adorable way it was wagging its tail and making a nice sound from its throat, I did trust it. Ellis immediately bent down to rub the white stomach.
“You’re such a pretty girl,” he said with a voice as if talking to a baby. I smiled at this. The boy I had seen in the Embracements had disappeared these few days, and it was probably all because of Serah’s charm. Speaking of Serah, she had pushed my hand down on the soft fur of the Liger’s stomach. I ran my fingers gently through the white fur, feeling all the glory of what might be the softest thing I had ever touched.
“Ellie likes you!” Serah said, making my brain freak out and my heart flutter, which it really didn’t have to. The Liger’s name was Ellie, officially by Serah. The crewmember stood watching us, smiling.
“Ellie spent a lot of time with the dogs,” he said, folding his arms casually over his white uniformed chest. “She’s the only big cat that loves belly rubs and wagging her tail.”
I smiled down at Ellie, rubbing her stomach the way Ellis had, mimicking the voice he had used.
“You are such a pretty girl, Ellie,” I said, making a kissy face as I did so. “And a good girl too.”
With that Ellie had her big paws on my shoulders, licking my face with her big, wet, warm tongue. I laughed, pushing the strong cat down. Ellie was back on her back, tilting her head innocently as if asking what she had done wrong to get pushed down. We all laughed at this, making the blond tail wag back and forth in the moist dirt.
We spent the rest of the day seeing a lot of other animals, not the ones of the early centuries, but ones of the same families. Ellie flounced behind us the whole time. Usually it is prohibited to let citizens visit the animals, but Serah gave Mikae, the crewmember, the most unresistable pouting face. He of course promised that she could come visit the animals and Ellie any time she wanted. The three of us did so for a few weeks, some flirty words passing between me and Ellis, but never getting farther than that; just words.
Then, one day…
Mikae and Serah were playing with the Pegasus’s, and Ellis pulled me away. We walked among the foliage for a while before either of us spoke. When we did, we spoke at the same time.
“Sorry, you first,” he said, resuming his downward look.
“No, you,” I insisted, not really sure what I was going to say anymore.
Ellis took some time thinking of what exactly to say, and I let him take his time. I walked with him, casual, but my heart was beating fast again. It had been weeks since I first bumped into him, but his eyes still sent my head in a daze and my heart on overload. So today I was looking at the green ferns and flowers. He took my wrist to stop my walking, making me look right into his blue eyes.
“I really like you, Harmony,” he said softly, his eyes locked on mine, searching in them. My heart fluttered, my face still with shock. This was really happening.
“I really like you, too, Ellis,” I replied, my voice not much louder than a whisper.
His eyes flickered between mine, searching for the right words to say. His hand slid down my wrist and laced my fingers into his. He leaned in a bit closer, the words fading from his eyes. He didn’t need to say anything. The moment my lips met his, every word in the world couldn’t do what this kiss could. It couldn’t describe the feelings that mixed through us the way it did in that moment. We pulled away, even though we both wanted to do that again. We just stood there for what seemed like five minutes, but the false sun was fading into the night lights, and we knew we should head back to take Serah home. We didn’t speak as we went back up to Jacksonville. We didn’t need to. We just held hands and smiled. In front of my house, the spot where I had bumped into him twice, he kissed me again, this one just as beautiful as the first, if not more, and then before I knew it I was in bed. I fell asleep, thinking of the day’s events, and the warmth I felt when I looked into his eyes…
I knew I had a good dream that morning when I woke up, I just couldn’t remember it. I was too busy remembering the way we had spoken without words, the way we had finally brought our feelings to the light. The way he had kissed me.
I found myself skipping to breakfast, getting even more worried looks from my parents.
“Good morning, my lovely family,” I said brightly, smiling to all of them. I was surprised to find my sister laughing loudly next to me.
“Oh my gods, mom,” she said, laughing as she looked at me. “Harmony totally kissed Ellis last night.”
A hot blush filled my cheeks as soon as she spoke. I avoided all eye contact, wishing I was looking into his eyes instead. My father fell silent, my mother gasped like a teenage girl getting filled in on the latest drama, and Melody just continued to laugh.
“Um, yeah,” I said, standing up, looking at the floor. “We kissed…so, I’m going to go talk to him now and tell him how much my family embarrasses me…”
I turned, walking slowly out the door. Ellis was just walking up the step as I stepped out, his hand raised to knock on the door. I quickly stepped out, shutting the door behind me. I fell into his arms, wrapping him into a hug, nuzzling my head in the crook of his neck. He chuckled and moved his head down into my hair.
After a few minutes, he pulled me back at about arms length so he could look me in the eye.
“Can we talk?” he said, staring into my eyes like he had the night before, searching for something in them. But this time the blues held anxious worry.
“Of course,” I said, my face falling serious.
He took my hand in his and lead me through the streets and then down stairs to the sixth level. I suppose this was more private. I waited patiently, as we sat down in a little meadow of ferns. I played with a leaf, waiting for him to start.
“I want you to know more about me,” he said, eyes on his hands, which were also fiddling with a leaf. I watched him, and then nodded, as if to say continue.
“As you could probably tell, I came from England . . .”
He spent the rest of the afternoon telling me of his childhood on Earth. He and his family were on a boat to America to catch the ship. They had missed the one departing from England and the S.S. America was their last chance. But when they disembarked from the boat, the crowd separated him from his parents and he is not sure if they are on the ship or not.
He did love his new family, but there was always this emptiness that the separation had made. That’s why he was so bitter the day he went up on the stage to the Embracements. He wanted to have his parents find him, but he didn’t want to go to a new family. Five years of waiting had sent plenty of “What if…”s through his mind.
Then he looked up at me, a smile pulling at his lips.
“And then I met you,” he said. My face broke out in a smile as I took his hand. “I met you and everything seemed like it was going to be okay. I know my parents are on the ship, I just have to find them. I have a loving adoptive family. I have Serah,” he said with a chuckle. “And I have you.”
He cupped my cheek in his hand, and I gladly leaned into the caress. We sat there, and again just stared into each other’s eyes.
“I love you, Harmony,” he whispered, smiling at me.
“I love you too, Ellis,” I replied, smiling as we kissed again.
Back up on Jacksonville, we parted ways for the night. I fell asleep thinking about what he had told me. I could imagine a little Ellis, rushed in a crowd, scared without his parents. I could see his little blue eyes big with fear as he was pushed around, calling for his mother.
I had a restless sleep. I dreamt of little Ellis. I dreamt of the dragon. And I dreamt of losing him. I woke up with this last dream just as I had with my sun explosion nightmares. The feeling of losing him was far greater than that of losing my Earth home.
I realized that morning that the gods had answered my prayers. I had found my home. A home in Ellis’ eyes.
A home with Ellis.
To Be Continued…