I decided to help Amara and Lyra get ready for college. I spent my days at the bookstore with Amara and shopping for a new wardrobe with Lyra. I couldn’t even look at Tristan without having a break down, but I think he’ll be fine with Lewis helping him.
One evening Lyra convinced me to go and talk to Tristan. She and Amara were at my house and they were ready to drag me to Tristan.
“What am I supposed to say?” I said harshly.
“Calm down” Amara told.
“Yeah,” Lyra agreed. “Your inner Virgo is showing” she observed.
“What?” I asked, confused.
“What do you mean by ‘inner Virgo’?” Amara took the words tight out of my mouth.
“I am a Virgo, what do you mean by ‘inner Virgo’?” I repeated.
“Well....” she hesitated “We’re all two constellations so.....don’t you feel tied between both of them. Like their fighting over each other?”
I reflected Amara’s expression, she looked confused and amazed. It was hard to tell.
“No” Amara replied slowly.
“Same here” I said.
“Really?” Lyra asked. Amara and I nodded ‘yes’. “But Belle, your half Virgo and half Ophiuchus. Aren’t you harsh and judgmental one time and the next....well what’s an Ophiuchus like?” Lyra breathed.
“I have no idea” I said. Lyra seemed disappointed.
“Are you okay?” Amara asked Lyra. She crossed her arms across her chest.
“Anyway,” I started “back to Tristan”
I cursed myself for bringing that up. I cannot talk to him or look at him, he is leaving for.....who knows how long?
“You have to say goodbye to him” Lyra demanded.
“Stop talking so loudly” Granny yelled from downstairs.
“He isn’t leaving tomorrow. I have time” I insisted.
“I hate this” Amara said.
“Everyone hates this but.....” Lyra began, her voice was shaking “we have to do this. We have to continue our lives”
“I guess” Amara shrugged.
“Thanks for your help, Belle” Lyra smiled.
“Thank you” Amara grinned.
“No problem” I hear myself say. Then the most random thought hits me. “Lyra, can I ask you something?”
“You just did” Amara pointed out.
“Go ahead” Lyra gestured for me to talk.
“Did you ever like Prince Alec?” I asked. Lyra’s face flushed red, her eyeballs nearly popped out.
“Why would you asked me that?” Lyra said.
“Just asking” I told.
“Look,” Lyra sighed. “I know it may have looked like that but I was just as shocked as everyone else”
“So, you never liked him?” Amara asked in disbelief.
“No” Lyra confessed. “And now I hate him because he’s marrying a person he doesn’t deserve”
“What is that supposed to mean?” I huffed.
Lyra swallowed. “Oh you know.....” she hesitated “You don’t know how he’ll turn out to be like. I mean, you don’t know him....at all”
“Yeah but....” I took a breath “I’m gonna make the best of it and try to be happy”
My heart sunk as I said that. The words floated in the air, they echoed in my head.
“I don’t know,” Lyra sighed “why I was upset.....maybe it’s because all the exciting things happen to you and we always talk about you”
“I wouldn’t call having nightmares exciting but I’m sorry that you felt that way” I said.
“That’s not what I meant,” Lyra started. Amara groaned.
“It sometimes got irritating” she continued “You were the center of attention”
“I never wanted to be and I’m sorry” I told.
“Not this again” Amara begged.
“From now on I will be more......thoughtful” I decided. I remembered the rebellion, the marriage. Alec my betrothed and my head spun. My mouth felt sour and my throat was dry, I felt bile rising in my throat but I managed to swallow it down.
“Thanks,” Lyra said “and you can talk about yourself it’s not that but just dial it down a bit”
“Okay” I promised and gave a smile.
“Don’t you wish you could escape Stellaregno?” I asked after a while.
“Sometimes” Amara said.
Lyra was smiling, “When I was a kid my mom told me made up stories about magic jellyfish and how they could take us outside the kingdom and bring us back in” she told. We had to laugh at that.
“What’s a jellyfish?” I chuckled.
“That is ridiculous” Amara giggled.
“I was five years old, okay?” Lyra said but she couldn’t help but laugh at herself. It felt nice to smile and laugh, we talked some more and Lyra told us more humiliating stories. This was a side she only showed to people she trusted more than anything. Funny, embarrassing and crazy were things that no one besides us at seen from Lyra Gemini. But I guess we’re all like that.
Lyra and Amara’s cue to leave was when Granny stomped in my room and started pulling out dresses.
“Guess we’ll leave now” Lyra said.
“Bye” I waved.
I watched them walk out of the room, I could hear their footsteps as they walked down and out of the house. I imagined Amara and Lyra stargazing on their way back home, Gemini and Aries following them and keeping them safe.
“What are you doing?”
“Picking a dress for you to wear tomorrow” Granny informed.
“What time do we have to be there anyway?” I ask.
“Seven in the morning”
I didn’t ask why instead I grabbed my coat and slipped my feet into my shoes. I brushed my hair, sprayed a little perfume and rubbed some lip balm on my dry lips. I looked out my window and the constellation that I hoped was shining was brighter then any other.
“Where are you going?” Granny inquired. She was still examining dresses in my room.
“I have to go do something,” I told “I’ll be home late”
It was so cold I thought I might freeze, but I managed to bare the weather. It was a long walk to The Tower, I hoped that he was still there. I’m going to have to thank Lyra and Amara for this later.
I took a deep breath which was a bad idea because I scared him and he took five steps back.
“Relax,” I said “It’s just me”
“Belle, you scared me” Tristan said. He was dressed for a snowstorm, he was wearing three layers of clothes and his head of dark brown hair was covered by a green cap.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, stepping forward.
“I wanted to see you” I said softly.
“How did you know where to find me?” he wondered.
“I just knew” I smirked.
“How?” he smiled.
“Because I know you so well” I said. He chuckled.
“It’s a beautiful night” he whispers. I can feel his warm breath on my face.
“It is” I agreed.
We stood there, staring at the stars. I didn’t dare look down, it was way to high for me but I like being here. It made me feel calm and I could see every inch of the kingdom.
“Why are you really here?” Tristan asked.
I hesitated. Bile rised in my throat, what should I say? I fought the tears hanging on my eyelashes.
“Just hold my hand for a bit” I said, I offered him my hand and he took it without blinking. Tristan knew exactly how I was feeling because he was feeling the same.
“It’s alright,” he comforted “I’m right here”
“We’re gonna see each other after we leave, right?” I sobbed.
“We will” he confirmed. “I promise” he added.
Tristan walked me home and I wished that he would say something about the rebellion. I know your secret, I wanted to say.
“Don’t you wish we could see the outside world?” I blurted, hoping to start a conversation.
“Yeah, sometimes” he replied. “Did you hear? The uprising is getting worse” Tristan added.
“No. I..I...I didn’t” I stammered. “But I had a feeling something bad was happening.
“People are dying” Tristan told. Can’t argue with that. Everybody is pretending like nothing is happening, nobody cares.
“We should do something about that” I said.
“Some people are fighting to overthrow the Hydras” Tristan said.
We had been given our Matches but people who were brave enough refused to believe in ‘celestial compatibility’ and they were prepared to die for that. It’s not just that, constellations are growing weak.
“What am I going to do after your gone?” I asked.
“You can come and visit me or I could” Tristan squeezed my hand. We both remained silent for a long time until Tristan talked.
“Annabelle,” Tristan whispered.
“Yes?” I said softly. My real name was absurd in his mouth.
“Do what you want” he said.
I was confused. I have no idea what you mean, I wanted to say. I nearly asked but decided not to start a conversation right now and besides he had to go home.
“Bye” he said quickly and walked home in a rush.
Do what you want. The words got stuck in my head like glue. Do what you want. The words repeated in my head until I had to bang my head against the door to make the voice stop. That was the biggest problem, I had no idea what I wanted. Up til now my plan was to just do what I’m told and go with the flow. I sat outside the front door, my back resting against it. Instead of thinking about what Tristan had said I thought of Alfred. My grandfather said that if I wanted to come with him I could. But I was double minded about it.
I could see Virgo in the sky, it made me feel safe and calm. I let out all my emotions and made Virgo shine so bright that if I looked at the constellation I would have been blinded. I breathed and let everything out, this time Ophiuchus was shining. It was no longer dark. The Signs on my wrist burned as the Stars shined brighter but I didn’t care. Those thoughts were still there and in that moment there was only one thing I could do. Pray. I closed my eyes and prayed to Virgo to help me. I prayed for my friends and a better future with happiness.
I went inside, Granny had made dinner. My mouth watered, I forgot how hungry I was. It was maybe my first meal of the day. I fought the urge to lock myself in my room, I sat at the table and helped myself. I devoured the salmon with watery sauce and washed it down with lemonade. Dad arrived the minute I cleared my plate.
“Annabelle, take a shower and go to sleep” Granny informed. I wanted to argue but Granny spoke again, “You have to wake up early tomorrow”
“I’ll shower in the morning” I decided.
“I’m not asking, I’m telling” Granny said through gritted teeth.
“You have a habit of doing that” I recalled.
“When have I ever done that?”
“Let’s see....” I sighed “Forcing me into this marriage is a good example”
“Do as you’re told, Annabelle” Granny growled.
“Listen to your grandmother” Dad added.
“You don’t even care. Do you?” I raged.
“It’s just a simple marriage, it’s not the end of the world” Dad stormed. I huffed and crossed my arms. I turned slowly and took a step.
“I never said anything about the marriage” I said through gritted teeth. “It’s just that I would appreciate it if you guys would slow it down a bit and....”
“I am not taking any more of your nonsense, Bea” Dad cut me off. I stopped. Bea, it sounds familiar. I think I’ve heard that somewhere, someone called me that once.
“What did you call me?” I asked, my voice barely audible.
Dad’s expression changed, he reflected the definition of shocked.
“What did you say, Antonio?” Granny repeated. She knitted her eyebrows and uncrossed her arms. Her face told me she was worried and scared.
“Nothing.......It....uh...it....it just slipped out” Dad hesitated.
“Why did you call me that?” I pleaded.
“Nothing” Dad lied. “Go to your room” He added. I walked upstairs to my room in silence, wondering who had once called me that. To my friends I was always ‘Belle’, to Dad and Granny I was ‘Annabelle’. I took a shower on Granny’s request. I covered myself in as many blankets as I could. My eyes closed and my sleep produced brand new dreams, brand new nightmares.
I can’t figure out where I am. It’s dark and there is no starlight.
“What are you still doing here?” says a familiar voice.
“Where are you?” I ask. My hair is plastered to my neck and forehead by sweat, despite the cold air touching my pale skin I’m sweating. Maybe it’s out of tension and confusion.
“Don’t change the subject” she says. “You have to leave”
“I don’t know how” I say.
“Go with your grandfather” she tells.
“Don’t tell me what to do”
“I’m telling you this because I care about you” she says. A light appears in front of me and I have to avert my eyes, it burns my skin. A woman is standing in front of me, the same one I see every time. Wearing a white dress, her crimson hair is flowing around her, her arms and neck are adorned with golden accessories. Her feet are bare and she’s standing a few inches away from me.
“I don’t even know you” I say as loud as I can but my voice can only be polite.
“But I know you” she smiles.
“No, you don’t” I insist.
“I’ve known you since you were a child” she tells. “I’ve watched over you ever since your.......” she stops.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“It does not matter. Run away from home” she says. “If you don’t Stellaregno will be exactly like this place” she warns. Her glowing aura dims and she vanishes but before she leaves, “Stellaregno will become dark, darker than it already is” her voice echoes.
I feel empty. Actually, I don’t even know what to feel. Confused? Scared?
Sweat wets my hair and my forehead, dripping down my neck and traveling over my whole body. My mouth tastes sour, like I’ve just drank expired milk. I rub my tongue all over my mouth to try and make it feel less dry, I’m suddenly thirsty for a glass of water. I didn’t cry, there was no point. No one would hear me cry anyway. Food travels up my throat and I don’t try to stop it.
I wake up coughing, I ran to the bathroom and spilled out the contents into the sink. It comes out in one go, I feel more coming but it never reaches my mouth. I cleaned up the things that came out of me, that’s when I notice the scarrs on my arms. How did I get these?
As I lay in bed I recalled my dream, when the woman appeared in a ball of light so hot it hurt my skin. It burned me. How could that been real?
I could see the sky was turning pinkish orange, that means it was early morning. The stars were still there obviously and Granny was about to come and wake me up any minute. I closed my eyes and planned to tell Granny I was sick and couldn’t go to the palace. I brushed away that idea immediately, that would only make her mad and I’m not in the mood to fight with her.
I was definitely going to need another shower, I didn’t wait for my grandmother. I pealed off my nightgown and slipped in the bathroom. It smelled terrible so I sprayed my perfume in to freshen the air. I couldn’t open the window because that would only bring cold air. My hair smelled of flowers and it was soft once again, my skin was free of sweat and I brushed my teeth.
When I stepped out Granny was sitting on my bed adjusting the dress she had put on my bed. It was a high neck with black lace and a green skirt, the hem fell to the floor. It was tight around the bodice and it would make me look like McKenna Scorpio or a Hydra. Which is what Granny was going for.
I let Granny paint my face it was only because I was tired. All I could think about was what was going to happen to me when I told Prince Alec that I can’t marry a Hydra.
Granny twisted my hair into a bun but I pulled away. She did my makeup in a completely different way, it was dark and it was sickly. She had powdered my face so much it was as white as paper and my lips were painted purple and she had somehow made them look big.
“I am not going like this” I decided. I grabbed a towel and wiped my face before Granny could stop me. Granny was furious with me, I could tell but she managed not to snap at me.
“Dress like you want” Was all she said.
“Thank you” I flashed an irritating smile.
“Soon, you’ll have to dress like someone else. Like a Hydra” Granny sneered.
“Are you done?” I demanded then splashed myself with water from the bathroom, I wiped away the makeup. It took me forever to find myself under all the stuff on my face. I ripped off the dress and Granny clenched her fists as I did.
I pulled on some leggings and a red dress which was the same color as my hair, it was plain and it’s long sleeves covered my arms perfectly, the bodice was tight and fitted around my waist and the hem fell to the floor. The shoes were golden flats and no one couldn’t see them because they were hidden by my dress. My hair was straight and I kept it like that. My makeup was less and I looked natural. The only jewelry I was wearing was my star stone, the round piece of Virgo around my neck. The size of an eyeball, the crystal like ball hung in a silver chain around my neck. It was protected under my coat which was black and unbuttoned from the bottom so my dress was comfortable and loose.
I sprayed my favorite perfume, it was made of stargazer lillies. “I hate that smell” Granny coughed. I ignored her.
“Does it smell familiar?” I asked.
“Yes it does,” Granny replied “Your mother used to smell like that everyday”
“Did she ever know?” I questioned. “Did she know that you were with the Hydras and that you don’t care about your family at all?”
“You will be a good girl and apologize for what happened the other night” Granny explained, ignoring what I asked.
With that she left, I sat on the side of my bed and the strangest thoughts came to me. If I do as Granny says I’ll live until King Jaxon takes away Virgo and maybe even Ophiuchus, if I do the opposite he’ll kill me right on the spot. I’ll just have to wait and see, that is my strategy for almost everything.
Breakfast would be served at the palace but I had an apple and a glass of orange juice before we left. I stepped outside where Dad was helping Granny get her dress in the carriage. She was wearing a dark green dress and her head was covered by a big, ugly black hat. She was wearing black gloves, her star stone had been traded for a jeweled necklace. The dress was long and velvet, she was also wearing a black fur coat. Dad was wearing a simple tux and his hair was combed back carefully.
December was coming to an end and it was so cold that it could have snowed. Dressing up for the palace is something I’m used to to by now and I loathe it. At least this time, I was fitted into something I was comfortable in.
The ride was long and to keep myself entertained I stargazed. It only took up whatever energy I had left but I didn’t care. The streets weren’t empty, people were walking around. They looked weak and deprived of food and water. Some of them had fallen asleep on the sidewalks or maybe they were dead. So many people had been kicked out of their houses or murdered, just because they rejected the pairing system. Someone must have been killed because they were rebels.
We arrived at the palace in a few hours, for the first time it was quiet and empty. We had to climb marble stairs to get to the entrance, the doors were heavy and decorated with diamonds and jewels. The floor was slippery and made of black marble, the walls were lined with tapestries and paintings. From the ceiling hung a chandelier, it produced as much light as a thousand stars. I had to look away.We were welcomed into the dining hall, it was the same as the rest of the place. Except there was a long table in the center of the room, it was covered in a white table cloth, the chairs looked comfortable. There were empty plates and cups on the table, they would bring in the food later I guess. Granny, Dad and me were standing behind our chairs. There was a chair that looked like a throne on either end of the table, that’s where the king would sit.
The doors swung open and the royal family entered, first cam the King Jaxon and Queen Sophie, then Prince Alec, then Princess Lydia with her brother Prince Keegan. They were all wearing shades of black, green and silver. Princess Lydia looked the most uncomfortable to me, her star stone was pressed into her collar bones, the crystal like rock shimmered every time she moved. I didn’t dare ask how she did they or why she did that. Would I have to do that too?
The king sat at the end of the table and the queen and Prince Alec sat on either of his sides. Dad was sitting across Prince Keegan and right next to Prince Alec, Granny next to Dad and across the princess and I was sitting next to Granny. Queen Sophie Serpens fixed me with a death stare and King Jaxon Hydra did the same. The Hydra siblings looked at me with disgust, as if I was a piece of trash. We stared at each other’s blank faces, there was tension in the air. I could feel it. Each of them stared mostly at me and the tension still didn’t break when they brought in the first coarse.