I woke to the sound of silence. Finding it difficult to breath, I threw off the blanket I was buried beneath. It tangled between my legs and I fell to the carpeted floor.
It was just a dream, I told myself. It was just a dream.
I sounded like my psychologist, but that’s what she advised I do everytime I saw chaos and death in my sleep.
I breathed slowly, trying to calm down my heart beat. I wiped my wet forehead with the back of my sweaty hand. My red hair was plastered to my neck. I licked away the salt gathering around my lips and got to my feet, legs shaking. I felt the dinner I had a few hours ago come up to my throat.
I blinked my eyes and tried to recall my nightmare, but as usual all I could think of was the sound of gunfire, a woman screaming and hissing.
I wobbled into the bathroom and splashed my face with the cold water. I knew that I shouldn’t have but I was too thirsty so I cupped the water in my hands and drank. I could feel the water splash around in my stomach, it started to ache as if it had sensed germs in the tap water. I groaned as I realized I’d have to go downstairs to get a drink from the fridge. I was careful not to slip on my soaks, damp with sweat. I tip-toed past Granny’s bedroom. She moaned as if someone was pestering her. Maybe she found me annoying even in her sleep. I hoped that I wouldn’t leave any footprints otherwise I would get a mass interrogation from Granny as to why I was awake so late. She always thought I would be sneaking to the kitchen for a late night snack. She would act as if she was about to faint if she saw me even looking at anything that had carbs or actual taste in it. Granny wanted her one and only grandchild looking slim and smart which meant I couldn’t eat anything appetizing. . .at least not in front of her!
It was too dark for me to check the clock ticking on the wall, it’s ticking sent a chill down my spine. I slowly opened the fridge, grabbed a bottle and ran upstairs before taking a glance outside the kitchen window. Virgo twinkled at me as if it was calling me. Excitement sparked in me and I ran to the balcony adjoining my bedroom. I knew when my Constellation was calling me. I felt the Sign of Virgo tingle my wrist as I focused on bending Virgo’s Stars at my will. Granny would spank me if she saw me Stargazing at this hour. But I was hydrated and I felt well rested and I’ve been Stargazing long before I could even crawl. That’s what Dad says. He wasn’t very proud telling me that though.
The sky was turning pinkish with orange streaks, almost a peach color. I wouldn’t really call it dawn since the Constellations shine day and night in Stellaregno, alternative for the Sun. In school we were taught that the Stars make up for the Sun as much as they can and with people with Stardust in their blood-people like us, people who live in Stellaregno-don’t require sunlight as much as we do Starlight. We’ve only seen pictures and paintings of the Sun and honestly I don’t see why people would prefer one huge Star over millions of tiny ones.
The Stars regulate our time by releasing a bit of their Celestial Energy into the sky and making it change color. Pink and orange means early morning, dark pink and yellow indicates midday, blue and violet: evening and navy or amber is midnight.
If I squinted my eyes enough I could see The Tower in the centre of Hydrus, capital city of Stellaregno. The hundred story Tower had a disc which seemed like a clock built on the top floor. Instead of having twelve numbers engraved around it’s interior, it had the symbols of The Twelve Major Constellations around it. Starting with Aries and ending in Pisces. Of course the king had to have his Constellation’s icon embedded into the centre. The Sign of Hydra-largest Constellation in the sky-had been decorated with emeralds. I had to be careful about what I thought of the Hydra family. They were our rulers and my family’s closest friends.
I had to act like a lady in front of them. . .especially in front of them. Society had a lot of expectations from the heirs of the Twelve Major. We are given the title of Lord or Lady at birth and are expected to live up to our titles and fulfill our duty to the king. Not the Stars. . .the king. I understand that the heirs of Hydra have the largest Constellation but it’s not exactly modest to brag about it at every banquet or royal dinner.
I marched back inside when the permanent cold started to freeze my skin. I should be used to it by now since my whole life we haven’t had any season besides winter. Unfortunately, the Stars can’t regulate the weather. A dome was built-hidden somewhere-to make it rain once-in-a-while. Invented on Prince Alec’s request since he enjoys rain. I shut the glass door of the balcony and draped the white curtains, Starlight made way into my room.
I debated going back to sleep but I couldn’t stand the sight of blood and dead bodies anymore today. I snuck into the laundry room adjoining the kitchen, another trip downstairs. The sky was fully orange and tinted pink. Granny had pressed my black skinny jeans, white shirt with my black woolen sweater and my favourite red coat-matching my hair-had been dry-cleaned. I gathered my outfit and headed upstairs.
Usually I don’t like showering in the freezing morning but the sweat had made me desperate for a shower. I still had an hour and a half before school so I decided to rest before my alarm or screeching grandmother roused me.
Darkness. Hissing. Gunfire.
Stars shining until their light blinded me.
“Annabelle!” Granny’s voice made me startle awake. “You’ve wrinkled your clothes!” She sounds aghast. I rolled my eyes, and immediately regretted doing that.
Granny’s hands crossed over her chest, eyes widened in horror. “Don’t behave that way.”
“I’m not out in public,” I pointed out.
“Does not matter,” she insisted. I knew I was about to be lectured so I braced myself. “I am your grandmother, show some respect.” She draws the curtains and hands me a hairbrush. “And if you do it once. . .”
“You’ll develop a habit,” I finished with her. She glared at me as if I had cursed in Greek.
“Sorry,” I squeaked.
“Sorry isn’t going to fix your attitude, young lady.” She pulled the blanket, expecting me to get to my feet.
“Dry and brush that hair,” she ordered with disgust. “Put on your black leather boots and don’t forget to fix your face and if you’re not going to cover that. . . other Sign with makeup then use gloves.”
Other Sign. Cover it up, as if it was a bad omen, for her it probably is. Anything that reminds her of my mother is ominous for her. Ophiuchus and Virgo, got them from Mom and Dad respectively. Granny was disappointed when her grandchild turned out to be a girl and furious when she found out I was half Ophiuchus. As opposed to what she wanted: boy and full Virgo. She hated Mom and all the Ophiuchus, dead or alive but they were all dead. . .except me. How they had suddenly been extinct was a mystery to even me.
“Yes, grandmother.” I smiled without my teeth, lips almost pursued. The way I’m supposed to smile, the way I’ve been taught how to smile.
She tightened her robe and sighed as if giving me orders was frustrating for her. I groaned as she slammed the door shut behind her.
I did as I was told. Like I have a choice.
I didn’t feel like covering my face in makeup for school, much less adding it to my wrist where my two Signs were. I brought out my gloves and put on heeled boots. Granny wants me to look presentable even in school since ladies always look camera-ready. Most of the attention is taken by the Scorpios, Leos and Libras, sometimes even my fellow Gemini rules the halls of our school. They have the most fans in their own provinces since they’re the prettiest and wealthiest descendants of the Twelve Major. Granny is strict about the fact that I don’t have any fans and a small group of “mediocre” friends. It’s not my fault I’ve barely been and seen Virgus, my home province. Dad moved me and Granny to Hydrus and settled in Virgus after Mom died. I don’t remember her and nobody likes talking about her either. He insists I do what Granny tells me to and behave, I’m not allowed to ask about or explore Virgus when I go there. My trips there are rare since I can’t go there unless it’s absolutely necessary.
“We can’t let you get used to that place,” Granny always said to me. “You can’t be leader of Virgus.”
I can’t even though I am the only heir Dad has.
“Women cannot be leaders of their own provinces.You see now why I wanted a grandson?”
I got the message and didn’t argue much after that.
After a light breakfast, I packed my lunch and tried to dry my hair in time.
“Remember to brush it,” Granny called. I held back an eye roll.
On my way downstairs Granny gasped as if she had just seen a spirit of the dead.
I looked around and then turned to her. “What now?”
“Your face . . .” She stepped forward and pinched my cheeks too hard. I jumped back. “Your face is so pale and . . .lifeless. I told you to cover it up.”
I sighed. “Granny, it’s school not a royal dinner.” I had put on a little makeup.
“Yes, but you are a lady and you should look good at all times.”
I checked the wall clock and pretended as if I was really late for class and rushed out before she could give me another lecture about appearances.
I was the last one to get on the bus, I had to take the back seat. This is turning out to be a bad day. To top it all off I was sitting next to the most annoying girl ever, McKenna Scorpio. She was blowing bubbles with her chewing gum and music was blasting through her phone. Even though she was wearing headphones I was close enough to hear the song. Tristan and Amara were sitting side by side, Amara gave be a small smile and Tristan had an apologetic look on his face. I tried to smile but it was really hard to be happy when there’s a demon sitting next to you.
I stared out the window and stargazed. I had enough energy in me to move around Virgo but as soon as it lit up my head started spinning. I had to stop. The Signs on my wrist burned and something hot was piercing my neck. I pulled out my necklace, a crystal like stone hung from it. The stone was from one of the Stars in my Constellation. It was glowing and it was hot, I hope it didn’t burn my neck.
I closed my eyes and lay back. “We’re here” McKenna announced.
“Thank the Stars!” I said under my breath. I was in the last seats so I had to wait for everyone else to get off.
“I hate you guys” I said jokingly as I grabbed my books from my locker.
“Why?” Amara said.
“You could have saved me a seat and spared me a bus ride with McKenna” I said.
“Sorry” Amara scratched her head.
“It’s okay” I confirmed. I at Tristan over Amara’s shoulder. His eyes were fixed on his phone.
“What is he doing?” I asked Amara.
“I showed him this new video game a few minutes ago and he’s already addicted” Amara sighed. How many games can these two play?
“Don’t you have anything better to do?” I knitted my eyebrows.
Amara looked offended. “What?” I said.
Before she could answer Tristan finally came back to us. “What are you two talking about?” he asked.
“You” I answered.
“And video games” Amara added.
’My favorite topic” Tristan said. That made Amara giggle and I grinned.
“I am having the worst day ever” I announced.
Tristan gave me a confused look and then turned to Amara for answers. “Your friend here just had to ride the bus with her arch enemy” Amara recalled.
“Oh” Tristan realized. “I get it”
“And also my hair is a mess and I look like I haven’t gotten enough sleep” I told.
“Have you gotten enough sleep?” Amara asked.
“No” I replied. There was a mirror in my locker, I put it there because I was always running late and this was my only time to look presentable. I brushed my hair...again and used pins to pull it back. I added pink powder to my cheeks and covered up my dark circles. I smeared shiny gloss on my lips.
“I’ll make your day even worse by telling you that the first class of the day is Math” Amara said.
I groaned. I hate Math. And I hate mornings. And I hate Math class in the morning.
“Amara Aries,” Tristan started “Can’t you ever deliver good news?”
“Well Capricorn,” Amara said playfully “I’m not the one who decides our class schedule”
“Can’t we be rebels for a day and skip class?” I suggested. Amara was staring daggers at me and I admitted that I was joking.
“Thank Gemini that I’m not late!” said a familiar voice. I turned around, Lyra was standing right there.
“I was having a hair crisis” she told. That was very hard to believe. Lyra’s light brown hair washed into purple ringlets, the shampoo that she used was so strong that I could smell her hair from a mile away.
“It doesn’t look like you were having a hair crisis” Amara noted. I agreed.
Lyra looked like she was going to a party and not to first period. Like every other Gemini out their Lyra was very expressive, she expressed her personality through her clothes. She was wearing thigh high boots and a black leather jacket and blue jeans. Her neck was covered because she had a turtle neck on under her jacket. Unlike me Lyra had made time to do her makeup properly, her lips were a subtle shade of purple and the highlights on her cheekbones were blinding.
“Is everyone having a hair crisis today?” Tristan wondered.
“I’m not” Amara pointed out.
I almost gasped as I looked at Amara’s hair. Lyra’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor.
“Your hair!” Lyra exclaimed.
“Don’t be so dramatic” Amara said. Her hair used to be copper with a flaming orange tips, she had dyed it a few months ago but now the orange was gone and she was back to her old hair. Her copper waves fell in a curtain just above her shoulders.
“And now I don’t even have to bother tying my hair, it’s too short for that now” Amara’s blue eyes sparkled as she said that.
“It looks cute though” I smiled.
The bell rang indicating it was time for class. “Come on Belle” Tristan said and I walked slowly to class. I would take the blame for making us late to class because of my inability to walk fast.