Gifts and Children
Carey lay in the middle of the paddock, enjoying the feeling of the sun's first rays on her skin. She watched the goats in the field around her, grazing on the soft grass. One of them approached, nuzzling the bucket next to her. He looked up expectantly.
"There's no more hay in there," Carey said, reaching out and stroking the goat's back. "If you want some go and find where I scattered it."
The animal stared at her blankly, edging closer. Carey laughed, her hand moving to pat his nose.
She sighed. I should have known he'd find me.
"What is it, Wes?" she mumbled, lying down and closing her eyes.
"Get up," her twin said as he shook her shoulder slightly until she opened one eye, squinting at the light.
"I'm feeding the goats," she said, gesturing around her.
Wesley smirked. "I can see that. Your hair must be delicious."
Carey sat up quickly, pulling a lock of her tangled brown hair from the goat's mouth.
"I'm not food," she said irritably, but the goat paid her no attention. He simply turned around and wandered back to the rest of the herd, munching on the hay Carey had scattered for them thirty minutes previously.
"Anyway, Mum wants you to help her," he said, grinning as she scowled at him. "I think the goats are fine without you."
She sighed again. "Okay, I'm coming."
"Great!" he said as she pulled herself to her feet. Before Carey could say another word, Wesley had laid back on the grass, smiling as the sunlight bathed his body.
"Ah, that's nice," he murmured, mouth twitching.
She kicked him lightly in the side. "Hey!"
Wesley smirked, rolling over and sighing loudly. "Is that any way to treat your beloved brother?"
Carey nudged him in the side once more, frowning. "Get up!"
He laughed when he saw her light blue eyes, so similar to his, fixing him with an icy glare. "Come on, Carey. Tomorrow's Assessment day, Mum and Dad are already worried enough. You don't want to make it worse, do you?"
"They shouldn't be, anyway. Lindsay will be fine, Gifts are rare. They're worrying for nothing. And don't change the subject!"
He sat up slightly, leaning on his elbows. "How can you say that? It's more common than you think. Just because the other seven of us haven't been Gifted so far, doesn't mean Lindsay won't be."
She considered this.
"Fine, I'll go," she grumbled.
"Yeah right," she muttered to herself as she trudged back to their small cottage. Why doesn't she just get him to do it? Why does it have to be me?
"There you are," her mother smiled as her eldest daughter entered their home. She had thick, curly blonde hair like Wesley, except hers ended halfway down her back.
"Do you mind taking him outside for me?" she said, nodding toward Carey's youngest brother, Lindsay, who was bundled in her arms. "The other children are trying to sleep, and I don't want him to wake them up."
"Sure," Carey said through gritted teeth. She was not Lindsay's favourite person.
Her mother gave her a relieved smile. "Thank you."
She handed the baby over. As Carey had expected, Lindsay began to sniffle the minute he was in her arms. She hurried outside.
"Shh," she said as his snivels turned into wails. Carey rocked him gently, but it was no use.
"You're not holding him right."
Wesley grinned as he approached, wiping his boots on the grass. "You need to support his head properly."
"Well, you take him then, if you're such an expert."
She placed Lindsay in his arms. As soon as he was away from her, his crying stopped. The child smiled, giggling when he saw his older brother above him.
"He doesn't like me much, does he?" Carey muttered, clenching her fists. What did Wesley have that she didn't?
"Sure he does," Wesley said as he cradled him, stroking his forehead. "But you're always so tense when you hold him, that's why he gets upset. If you relax a little he'll be more comfortable."
Carey gave him a small smile. "Thanks, Wesley. I'll try that. Although, it might not matter after tomorrow. This could be his last day with us."
Her brother smirked. "I thought you said you were certain Lindsay won't have a Gift, and therefore won't be taken away."
She scowled at him. "I know. I don't think it's likely. But still…"
Wesley nodded. "I understand. I can't help but worry too."
Assessment day… The day the Gifted search the villages to find the children born in the past year that have powers like them. If Lindsay is found to be Gifted, then they'll take him away to train him to be one of them…
She stared at the baby in Wesley's arms. Like her, he had their father's dark, thin brown hair and tanned skin, instead of thick blonde curls and a pale complexion like their mother and Wesley.
"What if they do take him away?" she heard herself say. "What do we do then?"
Her twin shrugged. "I – I don't know… I guess there isn't much we can do."
He paused, glancing towards her. "I mean, we're powerless, aren't we? If we tried to go after the Assessor they'd just kill us too."
Lindsay sniffled suddenly, drawing their attention. He shuffled in Wesley's arms, waving his hands at him. Wesley smiled, speaking softly to him. Carey stared at her youngest brother, thinking.
If Lindsay does turn out to be Gifted, he'll be taken away and raised as one of them… One day he might be the one stealing our produce, or even taking our children away. And we won't even know that in a different world we were siblings.
She shivered, telling herself not to be silly. After all, the chances of him being Gifted were slim. She knew that Lindsay would probably be nonGifted, like her and the rest of their family. That's right, it's so unlikely… There's no point worrying about it.
Janelle rose early that morning. Although she had been sleeping here for almost two years now, it still felt strange to wake up in this room that was not hers.
Samantha was very kind to let her stay here. Since their training had begun it had been almost impossible for her to continue to support herself on her own. However, sometimes she couldn't help but wish she'd stayed at home.
Her home was a small cottage, much smaller than this one. It had always been so bright, so full of warmth. Her parents had made sure this was the case. It was not really anything they did, it was just their presence. Back then, I had a family. A mother, a father, a grandmother… And a sister. I had a sister too.
Before she knew it she was climbing out of bed, pulling on her warmest clothes. She opened the door and stepped as quietly as she could down the narrow stairs.
She had been here a few times throughout her childhood. Her parents and Samantha's mother had been very good friends, for reasons she had never understood. After all, there had not been many similarities between them. But then she supposed the same could be said about her and Samantha. In fact, Janelle was not even sure if they were friends. We're partners, definitely… We both have the same goal, but are we friends? It's so hard to know with Samantha.
Janelle soon found herself opening the front door and trudging through the snow. It snowed for most of the year in their village, aside from a few months in summer. Janelle had never left, and had never known anything else. She had heard that in the South there were villages where it only snowed for a few months during winter. Soon, there will be snow all over the island, no matter where you are. Tomorrow is Assessment Day, after all… The first day of the new year, the first day of winter. And four years since they took her from me.
She continued through the village, savouring the solitude. Most of the villagers were still warm in their beds, enjoying their last few hours of sleep before the sun rose and the day began.
"St - State your business."
Janelle turned around, cursing. She had forgotten that the Gifted patrolled the village at night. A man around her age was leaning against the wall nearby. His cheeks were pink and his lips blue from cold, but he stared at her with narrowed blue eyes.
"State your business," he said again. He pulled his grey cloak closer around him, shivering.
"I'm just passing through," she said quickly. Yeah, that was convincing Janelle.
"I h - highly doubt it. Tell me why you're here, or I'll t – take you away. F – for questioning."
"I'm going home," she said shortly.
The man raised an eyebrow, snowflakes clinging to his eyelashes. "Let me escort you. I d – d – do not want you to wander off."
Janelle rolled her eyes. "Fine."
She continued on her way, the Gifted man following close behind. Janelle wished he would leave her alone, but she supposed it did not really matter. She really was going home, after all.
"It's here," she said when her small cottage stood in front of her. The man nodded, watching her as she went inside. Janelle took out her rusty old key, which she kept on her even though it had been a long time since she had lived there. She opened the door and entered, sighing with relief when she was alone at last.
Janelle smiled sadly as she looked around her old home. It had been almost a year since she had last visited. The once colourful rugs her mother had draped across the floor had a greyish tinge to them, and the counter where she and her father had laughed and messed around making sandwiches for lunch was covered in a thick layer of dust. Janelle walked over to a small cot in the corner. It was very old, a small rag doll lying on the mattress. She picked it up, staring into the toy's blonde locks and trying to ignore the tears welling in her eyes.
Mum, Dad… I'll get her back, I promise. Your sacrifice won't go to waste.
"You miss it here, don't you?"
Janelle smiled, wiping her eyes quickly. "Samantha. What are you doing here?"
Samantha shrugged, closing the door behind her. "I heard you leaving."
They stood still for a moment. Samantha was a beautiful woman, but in a different way from most – her thick, straight black hair that fell just past her shoulders and stark grey eyes set her apart from most of the mountain villagers. They lived in an isolated community, and most of the residents were fair haired, most often red like Janelle herself, with light eyes and pale skin.
Samantha strode towards her, leaning over Janelle's shoulder and staring into the cot. "Is that where your sister slept?"
Janelle felt her eyes fill with tears again when Samantha mentioned her. "Y – Yes."
"We'll find her. We'll have our revenge."
She sounds so certain, so confident… But how? We're just two girls, two unknown girls from a tiny village in the mountains. How are we supposed to overthrow the Gifted?