The murderer has still not been found.
Therefore, I am forbidden from going outside, from seeing anyone, and from doing just about anything. Mum tells me it’s because she doesn’t want me to be found. But for my entire life I have run the risk of being found, just by living. A part of me wonders if I’m forbidden from leaving the house because Mum and Dad think that I did it, that I killed four innocent civilians, that I am a murderer.
Let’s be clear - I am not.
But to prove that, I must do as they say. I must stay in my room, locked in this prison that I’ve been confined in since birth. What fun.
“Kaya, thirty-seven and a half divided by nine,” Dad calls from the kitchen. If he thinks I know the answer, he is wrong. But he is my teacher, so I usually just shout out answers anyway.
“Five.” It’s not correct, but it’s close enough. Dad frowns for a second, doing the maths in his head, then shrugs and smiles at me. He is neither qualified nor good at his role as my tutor. But when the fact that you’re alive has to be kept secret from the world, it’s kind of hard to go to school. So we make do.
“Daniel!” Mum calls. She hurries into the room, grabbing Dad’s arm and dragging him back out. I go to follow them, but Mum glares at me. Of course, I already know what they’re talking about anyway. It’s always the same. It’s always me.
Because I am different. I am special. But not in a good way. In a way that has to be kept secret from the world, because if anyone finds me out, I am quite literally dead.
I run my fingers over my upper cheek, just below my eye, where my marking should be. Where only skin and freckles are instead. If only I was born with a spot, like everybody else. A Circle, a Square, a Pentagon, a Triangle, a Diamond. Of course, I should’ve been a Circle, like Mum and Dad both. The lowest of the lowest, the social class born to be slaves of the Diamonds and Triangles. Instead, I came out with nothing. And since then, no one has ever heard of me, of the child that Daniel and Marissa were planning to have, the child that never arrived to the knowledge of the world. Me. It’s tiring, being non-existent. I live my life knowing that any day could be my last, that any knock on the door could be my death. Never to go outside in daylight, never to leave my room without a face covering. And now, with the murders, never to leave the house at all.
We do not know what they will do if they find me. No one has ever been like me before. I am the first, the child without a marking.
I am blank.
Dad comes back into the room, sighing heavily. He eyes me out of the corner of his eye as he prepares his breakfast, but I pretend not to notice.
“Can you come here, sweety?”
I look up to see Dad staring at me, waiting expectantly at the bench. I don’t know why I have to go to him when I can hear him perfectly from here, but I do it anyway.
“Kaya, you know we’ve already forbidden you from going outside, what with the-- murderer about.” Dad doesn’t look at me when he fumbles over the word ‘murderer’. “But it’s important, now more than ever. Not only is there danger of you being hurt, but your mum just told me that the King and Queen are visiting the city. They might be out at night, and if you sneak out--”
“Dad, stop.” I slap one palm down on the table, which makes him jump. “I’m not going out, okay? You don’t need to worry about me. I want the same things as you.” I lean in, just to emphasize my point. “I want no one to get hurt.”
I hope that he knows I not only mean me, but he and Mum, the murder victims as well. I know that my own parents cannot truly believe me to do such a thing, but I don’t really blame them for wondering. When you’ve been stuck in your house for seventeen years, hiding away from the world as though you do not exist, you can be known to do some... spontaneous deeds.
Dad grimaces, and I can tell he understands what I mean. He reaches over to grab my hand, squeezing softly. “I’m glad, Kaya.” He gives me a gentle smile, turning back to his breakfast. I take the opportunity to slip away, back to my room.
My room is small, just like the rest of our house is. But compared to the houses some of the other Circle’s live in, it is practically a mansion. It would help us if I was able to work as well, and if not for my missing marking, I would be able to. Mum and Dad have friends whose children started to work as servants as early as the age of seven, rushing around houses with brooms in their hands, smiling politely and speaking only when spoken to. In a way, I am glad that life doesn’t have to be mine. I am glad that I will never have to serve tea to a master who only takes it at a precise temperature, glad that I will never wear the creepily serene smile that all servants are beaten into.
But maybe that life would’ve been better. After all, what happens when Mum and Dad are gone? How am I supposed to look after myself when I can’t even leave the house? I guess they haven’t thought that far along. I guess they just assumed that I would be found before then, killed.
And who knows, maybe I will be.