“What is civility? In contrast, what is savagery?” the old philosopher, Edric, asked. I rolled my eyes and turned my attention elsewhere. Since we were all lounging about a small quid with cobble stones beneath us and a few stone benches to sit on, there was a lot to look at. Meanwhile, Edric stood, towering over us like a Greek god on top of a small stool, but at the same time, small and frail. The boy sitting closest to him with a journal opened on his lap- a few notes scribbled in it neatly- raised his hand immediately. Edric nodded to him after scanning the crowd for anyone else. “What is your theory, Blaine?”
“To be civil, you must have and practice moral teachings, such as, showing diplomacy instead of war. Savagery is defined as those who would fling head first into war without a second thought for peaceful negotiations.” Blaine finished staring at the elderly man with a hopeful smile on his face. Edric nodded his head in approval before beginning to explain why Blaine’s explanation was right.
“That’s so asinine.” Rose, my best friend sitting next to me on one of the benches, whispered in my ear. I leaned closer to her so we wouldn’t get caught talking by the temperamental old man.
“Does he really think anyone cares for his lectures?” I whispered back to her, a bored frown on my face. Rose mirrored my expression with an added touch of disgust in hers.
“What does he expect for a bunch of teens from rich families to get from this- a touch of ‘civility’?”
“He wants us to be less savage.”
“Oh right, so the next time I take your apple pie be sure to express some ‘civility’ and come up with a diplomatic solution won’t you?”
“Of course, you savage.” both of us had to place a hand over our lips in order to muffle the laughter that consumed us.
“Jayde, Rose,” Edric’s booming voice silenced our lighthearted banter. Rose and I both turned our attention to Edric who has been annoying me for the past hour. “Is there something amusing about what the class is discussing that you want to share?” Rose opened her mouth to deny it but I cut her off with a short, ridiculing laugh.
“On the contrary, I do.” Edric stayed deathly quiet, his dark eyes that were hidden from my view as they sunk into his face never breaking eye contact. “You will have to forgive me if I sound rude, but your question is absurd and, overall, ineffective. What is civility in contrast to savagery? Civility is what people in power like to flaunt and preach about while savagery is what powerful people call their enemies. More importantly, no one cares enough to even consider what you’re saying to be relevant. What are you expecting a bunch of over privileged, spoiled brats to gain from this? As I said, your lesson is completely absurd and I see no point in why my parents are paying you to teach it. It’s such a waste of money.” By the time I finished, the others were whispering. I couldn’t understand most of it, then again, it’s not like I was going to go out of my way to find out the topic they were discussing when I have a pretty good guess of who is on their lips.
“Ms. Henryk,” Edric finally spoke after a few minutes silencing the noisy lot. “Stay here after I have dismissed the class. It seems you need extra tutoring in, not only civility, but respect.” My smile left my lips being replaced by a deep frown. Did he really just call me disrespectful? At least I’m not the one drawing obscene pictures of him falling into a rocky lake like the guys in front of me!
“That seems like a harsh punishment coming from a youngster that had the courage and ‘civility’ to speak up.” Everyone’s eyes turned to a cloak figure that suddenly appeared from the middle of the students seated on the ground. Needless to say, the old man was not happy.
“How dare you interrupt my class? Who are you?” Edric demanded, his face turning an alarming bright red. Is he about to have a heart attack? Besides, who is this mystery person? Their voice sounds light and feminine, so it could be a girl or a prepubescent boy.
“I’m merely an advocate for knowledge.” the hooded woman- I think- clearly stated before turning their head in my direction. “I assume you are Jayde, the uncivilized, disrespectful, over privileged, spoiled brat, correct?”
“Those are some pretty serious declarations coming from someone I don’t know.”
“But aren’t they merely the words you and your teacher spoke?” my frown deepened. Am I really getting another lecture?
“I fail to see the point in neither your words nor the reason why you are here therefore I will only tell you once more to leave or I will be forced to call the guard to take you away.” Edric threatened in a firm no-nonsense tone. The person didn’t even flinch as they let out a bellowing chuckle.
“Didn’t you say that the mark of a savage lies in their inability to perform negotiations?”
“There is nothing savage about using force to get a desired outcome.”
“Aren’t you going back on your words now?”
“What are you attempting to say?”
“I am saying that there is no such thing as savagery and civility because human nature is not one or the other. Human nature is unpredictable which constitutes that it is free and pure. Attempting to place a label on it will only serve to show your inability to accept that despite your obtuse views.”
“Are you saying that I am stupid?” Edric questioned dangerously straightening his hunched back in order to appear taller. The woman let out a chuckle as she relaxed in her seated position, leaning back on her arms.
“If you would like to interpret my words in that way, then yes. However, in reality, that is not what I said.”
“Then by all means, explain.”
“I was saying that your societal views and standards are, as you so plainly put it, stupid. No human alive is either savage or civil. We are merely what we perceive to be correct and what is correct is in the mindset of the person who believes in it. To put it in simpler terms as you require, reality is what a person believes it is. No amount of lectures or any other form of teaching you come up with can change that fact.” Edric stood still for a long moment, staring endlessly at the woman, but, for some reason, I found myself staring at her in admiration.
This is the first time I’ve heard someone actually defend my view points on how bias our society really is. I mean come on, who honestly believes that any person would attempt to negotiate with someone who attacked them first? No one, because any person would have gave the same answer- they attacked me so I defended myself. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar or a pacifist by nature. Since I know for sure that Edric is everything but a pacifist, he’s the former. As of such, I don’t pay attention to any of his pointless lectures. In response, Edric has labeled me his worst student- Rose being the only other rival to my position just because she associates with me. Knowing Rose as long as I have, I know she believes the same thing I do. After all, she was the first one to bring up the topic, but I also know that she would never express her thoughts out loud. Hearing someone besides me speaking the real facts to Edric is really refreshing.
“If that is what you truly believe, then allow me to explain to you the errors in your ways.” Edric began with the faintest traces of a smirk. “Human nature is neither pure nor free. In fact, our nature as a species is solely governed by our selfish needs and frivolous wants. We are untamed beasts built to withstand the harsh bitter cruelty of the world with barbaric deeds and thoughts. Our kind does not simply need direction and order, but it craves it. We as the human race crave that of which you dare to call stupid. To put it in simpler terms for you to understand, the human race is bursting at the seams with corruption that needs to be contained. Therefore, we as a society- as a species- must enforce discipline and principle into our fellow brethren in order to control their impure nature.”
“But isn’t that what you call savagery? Aren’t you refusing to negotiate with those who would not believe in the same things as you? Aren’t you practicing savagery by plunging head first into war with those who would oppose your views? Judging you by the standards that you have set, you and your practices are savage.” Edric’s face contorted and twisted until a nasty scowl formed.
“I think he might be having a heart attack.” Rose whispered to me.
“Who are you? Take off that hood this instance or I will call the guard and have you arrested!” Edric half yelled in such a strained voice it really did sound like he was having a heart attack.
“Sounds like it.” I whispered in amusement to Rose covering my mouth so I could hide my laughter. I mean, come on, how can anyone take Edric seriously when he looks like he’s constipated?
“If that is what you wish.” The hooded figure replied in unhidden amusement.
“You best.” Edric gritted out.
I can most certainly guess that, whoever is underneath that hood, is smiling or laughing because she deliberately lifted her arms to her hood slowly, curling her fingers around the fabric of the hood. Right when she began to peel it back, a small ball fell from the confines of the hood and exploded on impact with the ground. A large cloud of smoke filled the area stinging my eyes and clogging my throat. I could hear Rose choking next to me along with the rest of my classmates. When the smoke finally cleared a few seconds later, the woman was gone.
“Ugh, what was that?” Rose groaned still coughing. Taking a deep, calming breath to test my lung function, I turned to her and patted her hard on the back once causing her to sputter and glare at me.
“Pretty sure they’re called smoke bombs, but that’s just a guess considering it released smoke and all.” Rose rolled her eyes at me before standing up looking in the direction of Edric. I followed her gaze and saw him lying on the floor mumbling before turning his hazy eyes to the sky screaming dramatically.
“That savage! Do you see? There are savages everywhere! They must be contained! That savage will pay for this!” I could barely resist the urge to laugh as he continued his hissy fit on the ground while the teacher’s pet, Blaine, knelt next to him doing everything he could to help the old man. Everyone else, after assessing the situation, gathered their things and left.
“Well, I guess class is over.” Rose yawned picking up her journal that fell off of her lap during the fray. She tucked the little brown book underneath her arm then turned to me. “Would you like to walk home together?” I shrugged standing up holding my own journal to my chest. I dusted off the back of my dress before facing Rose again.
“I guess so. I have nothing else I have to do anyway.” And with that, we left Blaine and Edric in the quid.
After dropping Rose off at her house, I began the trek to my own. It wasn’t far away- half a mile or so from Rose’s. However, the scene with the woman and Edric plagued my mind.
Savages and civility truly don’t exist now that I think about it. Even those who claim to be high and mighty with civility and decorum can be the worst of savages. I know it’s true because I see the evidence of it every day with my own family- a supposed rich noble family with a high standing in the government. My father, the almighty Ethan Henryk, is a part of the king’s council of loyal advisors. Every man in the country- and probably in the continent- admires him and more than likely would kill to be him. My mother, Evelyn Henryk, is the perfect house wife and not to mention very beautiful. She cares for her two children, my little brother and me with the utmost affection and unconditional love. Every woman alive models themselves after her and every wife copies her actions in order to create the perfect home environment. My little brother, Aric Henryk, is the perfect son. He is top of his class and can master any subject you throw at him. Then there’s me, Jayde Henryk, who is the perfect daughter and the perfect heiress to the vast fortune and fame of the Henryk family. Any and every boy in the continent is fighting at our door step just to get the chance to speak to me and attempt to court me. At least, that’s what it looks like on the surface.
In reality, my family is plagued with savagery. My father is a traditional maniac. Our entire family must be perfect or else he will leave without a second thought as to what will happen to us. My mother is a heartless puppet who merely obeys and does whatever is told of her from my father. I’m not even sure how much she truly cares for Aric and me even though she tells us she loves us occasionally before we go to bed and sometimes when we leave for classes in the morning. Aric… well he’s exactly how he should be. He’s a seven year old boy whose only goal in life is to make his parents proud and to take care of his elder sister. He once even told me that he wants to be a part of the guard so he can complete both of his goals.
To think other children his age want to be pirates or the next king. I, on the other hand, am the black sheep of the family only because I’m smart enough to see the flaws and brave- or maybe even foolish- enough to call my parents out on them. The amount of times I’ve been punished by my father or mother for calling them some kind of degrading name or another is too many for me to actually count. As of such, we’ve grown an unusual relationship- they boast about my academic accomplishments in public while in private they scorn me for everything I do or say and I admonish them for their failures at being caring, loving parents. That’s just how it works in my family.
“Hello, Jayde.” my gaze turned across the street to our neighbor’s son, Hadyn. Inwardly I sighed.
“Hello Hadyn.” I called back with as much fake pleasantry as I could muster. I mean, come on this happens every day! I walk home, I try to go inside, Hadyn calls me, tries to ask me on a date, I decline with as much ‘civility’ as I can, then slam the door in his face before he can make a bigger fool of himself. Does he have any creativity?
“My mother is planning to have a picnic in a few days, would you be interested in coming with me?” My smile never wavered as I began to walk backwards towards my door. It wasn’t until I felt the handle in my grasp that I spoke knowing exactly what was about to leave my lips.
“I would love to if I had the time. I’m afraid my family and I will be in the capital that day for an important meeting with the king my father has to attend to, maybe another time?” Right before he could speak, I closed the door letting out an annoyed sigh. When will he ever learn?
“-then the queen told Jax that she will hold on to the jewel until he comes back to get it, but Jax never did. Years went by and Jax became old and frail. It was on the day his sons became older that he told them the story of the queen. He told them to never forget about it and to keep the memory of it alive through their children until the day came that they may have to go back to the queen and get it. Three short months later, Jax died from his old age.” I heard Aric recite as he sat at the kitchen table swinging his legs back and forth staring at a spot on the wall with mild interest. I turned my gaze from him to look at the clothed back of my mother as she washed dishes and seemingly ignoring every word. Rage built up in my heart as Aric turned his hopeful eyes to our mother’s back and asked, voice filled with hope, “How did I do mommy?” She stopped in her robotic motions gazing over her shoulder at him.
“You forgot parts of the story. You must remember every detail or else your father will not be pleased.” The sight of Aric’s bright brown eyes turning downwards in dejection made my blood boil with hate.
“I think you did an awesome job.” I spoke loudly drawing both of their attention. Aric’s eyes lit up in happiness as my mother’s expression stayed cool and indifferent like always.
“Jay!” He shouted jumping from his chair and running to me, but our mother clapped her hands- loud and sharp- stopping him in his tracks.
“What have I told you about doing that?” She barked out staring icily at Aric’s back. He took a brave deep breathe and slowly turned, keeping his eyes down casted.
“That a respectable boy greets others calmly and with dignity.” He repeated, not once lifting his eyes to her grey ones. Our mother nodded before lifting her eyes to my glare. She didn’t even flinch.
“I’ve told you before not to nourish this type of behavior.”
“And I’ve told you before that Ricky is a seven year old child. He should and will act like one.” I turned my gaze down to Aric’s down casted head and wrapped my arms around him pulling him to my chest. Softly I blew on the back of his neck causing him to erupt in laughter.
“Stop it Jay!” He laughed trying to shake out of my embrace. A loud smack on the table brought our attention to our mother glaring heatedly at me wielding a wooden spoon in her hand.
“I will not tolerate your blatant disrespect for my authority.” I stood up straight not releasing Aric from my embrace while I stared her down defiantly.
“Funny you should mention, today in our lesson we spoke about the difference between civility and savagery. Going off of what I learned today, you and father are just two people plagued with the curse of human nature that we all have. It just so happens you two are more savage than the rest of us.” An angry fire shot through her eyes as she took a threatening step forward.
“I will not-”
“Do you know what else I learned today Ricky?” I asked Aric completely ignoring our mother who was now fuming with anger. Aric looked very uncomfortable but shook his head anyway. “I learned what an old man looks like when he has to poop!”
“Jayde!” I laughed along with Aric who was trying his very best not to as our mother was glaring dangerously at the both of us. “Jayde, I will not tolerate you corrupting your brother any longer. Go up to your room and wait for me.” I gave her a leveling look as a smirk came to my lips.
“Isn’t the first sign of savagery not being able to negotiate with your enemies?” Her eyes narrowed into slits. I grunted in amusement fully turning my attention to Aric. “Why don’t we go to my room to go over that outdated fairytale our parents seem so adamant on forcing us to remember, okay?” Aric’s eyes lit up at the thought and he nodded his head vigorously. I smiled taking his hand before heading upstairs without saying another word to our so called mother.
When we made it to my room, Aric happily ran in and jumped onto my bed with a childish laughter lingering in his wake. A wide smile was permanently on his face as he glanced around my simply furnished room with open curious eyes. My eyes softened as I quietly closed the door with a soft click.
“How was your day today, Ricky?” I asked strolling over to him and lying down on the bed next to him while he sat cross legged. His eyes lit up from the simple question as he animatedly told me the trials and tribulations of his day.
“It started off when I went to school. Ms. Laura was very nice to us- she brought us cookies and even read us a story about this little old lady who lived in a shoe! After that she gave us a philosophy question to answer. The question was about how a person was similar to an animal. She said I came up with the best explanation.”
“What did you say?” I asked bemused by his intense happiness by something so simple.
“I said a person is like a worm because we all start off as babies. We are all little and full of hopes and dreams about what we want to do when we’re bigger. Then, we turn into cocoons and, by that time, we have to decide what we will be. By the end, we turn into beautiful butterflies and we are the person who we always wanted to be.” He finished with a spark in his eyes that warmed my heart.
“How did a little seven year old like you come up with something like that?” His little face twisted in his deep thoughts before he nodded his head coming to an acceptable answer.
“I got it from you! I remember you telling me something like that a few months ago when daddy got mad at me for going to their room during the thunderstorm.” He finished, his voice growing softer and less happy. A frown marred my features as I sat up and stared deep into his eyes.
“What have I told you at least a thousand times before?”
“Not to listen to what mother and father say.”
“So why are you now?” he stared off towards the door.
“I don’t want to make anyone angry, but I don’t know how to make everyone happy.” A sigh broke through my lips as I grabbed both sides of his face and forced him to look at me.
“Ricky, no matter what you do, you will always make me happy. As long as you’re being the person you want to be and not what others think you should. You are still a little worm, but you’re turning into a cocoon with so much greatness I’m worried about what will happen to the rest of the world when you hatch into a butterfly.” Aric’s eyes slowly turned to mine. “Besides, our parents may seem like cold hearted people, but deep down in their hearts, they care and love us.” He blinked slowly before letting out a soft sigh.
“Are you sure?” I grunted letting out a cocky huff which brought a smile to his face.
“Of course- have you forgotten who I am?” He let out a childish laugh as I began to tickle him beneath his ribcage.
“No! I haven’t forgotten!” He laughed trying to escape me. I laughed along with him pulling him into a warm hug.
“I love you Ricky.” He chuckled as he wrapped his smaller arms around me hugging me back.
“I love you too Jay.” I gave him a tight squeeze before releasing him. I flicked his nose playfully and he whined in retaliation rubbing his sore nose. I laughed just as my door creaked open. Our mother stepped into the room leaving the door open. She looked on to the scene with indifferent eyes, but I could easily see some form of a happy light within those grey deeps identical to my own.
“Aric,” She called to the little boy. He cautiously glanced to me, and when I nodded, he puffed out his little chest and turned brave eyes to face our mother.
“Go to your room while I speak to your sister, please.” Aric nodded, giving me a quick tight hug before running out of the room. Our mother watched him leave before turning her attention to me. She closed the door and walked into the room settling herself in the lone lounge chair in the corner of the room next to the window overlooking the vast space of open grass that made up the backyard.
Neither of us spoke. We just sat in complete and utter silence. I stared at her waiting for her to say something while she stared almost longingly out of the window at the wide open space just beyond it. It was almost like she was wishing that she could be out there- running in the field completely and utterly free. Just like a worm dreaming of becoming a butterfly.
“I love you.” She suddenly said bringing me out of my musings. I blinked confusedly at her.
“I love you.” She repeated turning her gaze to me. Her eyes were much softer and her face held so many emotions that normally are void. She actually looks motherly. “You know that, right?”
“That’s what I tell myself and Aric.” She nods slowly before standing up and slowly coming towards me. She stopped just a foot away from me forcing me to strain my neck to look at her. Reaching out a hand, she softly placed it on my right cheek and began to smooth her thumb over the skin.
“Even though you may defy your father and I- even though we may argue seemingly all of the time, I love you. I want you to know that whatever it is that you wish to do- no matter what it may be- I will love and support you.” My mouth opened slightly in complete shock. Did she really just say that I could be whatever I wanted? And did she really say that with sincerity?
“I… love you too.” A small sad smile formed on her lips as she let her hand fall back to her side.
“Dinner is almost ready. Ethan will be home soon. You are free to do as you wish until then, alright?” I nodded blinking distractedly.
“Yeah, alright.” I absently replied shaking my head slightly, but by the time my mind stopped reeling from the completely out of character conversation, she was gone.
Just like she said, dinner was ready in a little over ten minutes. My father walked through the door when my mother was putting the food on the table, but he wasn’t alone. Trailing behind him was his closest business partner, Layne Peirce.
“Uncle Layne!” Did I forget to mention he’s our godfather? Yeah, he is. The elder man smiled down at Aric as the young boy ran to him. Before my mother could scold him, Layne scooped him into his arms.
“Hey champ, how have you been?”
“Good! I got praised today in class for my philosophy explanation.” Layne’s smile grew as he ruffled the little boy’s hair.
“Still the little genius I see? What need do you have for school when you’re so smart?” Aric laughed in absolute bliss before Layne placed him back on his feet. He patted Aric on the back once before turning his attention to me. “Good afternoon little heartbreaker.”
“Good afternoon you dirty politician.” We both shared a hearty laugh.
“Still as sharp tongued as ever I see.”
“And you’re still as maniac as always.”
“Mr. Pierce,” my mother cut in giving me a sharp look. “What is the meaning of your visit today?” Layne turned his attention to my mother, a more polite smile on his face.
“Ethan here owes me a few documents. After that I’ll be on my way.” My mother didn’t speak again. She glanced at my father who did nothing but turn and disappeared into his study next to the staircase.
“What are you planning to do with these documents after you get them?”
“Jayde!” my mother snapped at me.
“What?” I snapped back. Seriously, what did I do to warrant her anger?
“I’m planning to take a trip to Rosesea next week. There’s just a little business I need to take care of before.”
“Awesome, can I come with you?”
“Jayde!” a soft laugh left his lips.
“Not this time, heart breaker.” He said fondly. By this time, my father came back from his study wielding a thick file of papers.
“This is everything that you need to know.” The tightness in my father’s voice was not lost on me as he passed over the file. Layne smiled, nodding gratefully.
“Thank you. I’ll see you later.” Layne smacked his shoulder in a goodbye before turning to the rest of us. “Goodbye Henryks! You shall stay on my mind until the next time I see you!”
“Goodbye Uncle Layne!” Aric happily yelled.
“See you later.” He waved at the both of us before sweeping out the door. Once the door closed, my father turned and walked towards the table. Before sitting down, he went over to my mother and gave her a peck on the lips. He even pulled out her chair and pushed it back in when she sat down! Usually he wouldn’t even bother with looking at us before sitting down and eating, but today? Is the apocalypse happening?
“Hello, Evelyn, Jayde, Aric.” He greeted as he sat down at the head of the table. It took everything I had not to allow my jaw to hit the ground. Seriously, what is going on? What conspiracy am I missing out on?
“Welcome home daddy!” Aric shouted not wanting to miss out on the uncharacteristic semi-warm greeting our father directed towards us. Our father turned his eyes to him and grunted in a strange form of a response.
“What did you do today, son?” He asked as he began to eat. Aric’s eyes lit up as he began to repeat his story telling from when we spoke together in my room earlier today.
Throughout his long soliloquy, both of our parents paid close attention to every detail. They even went as far as to ask questions about certain things and stayed completely engrossed in every word that left his lips. Even though I was itching to question them on their odd behavior, the look of utmost joy and unadulterated happiness on Aric’s face kept me silent. What kind of sister would I be if I took this small amount of joy from him? So, for the rest of dinner, I held my tongue and ate in silence. Even when our father turned his attention to me after Aric was completely finished with telling his tales of the day and asked me how my day went, I refrained from telling him about the hooded woman. That would surely send him hurling back into his old ways and that happiness that Aric is basking in would melt away.
“It was like every other day, extraordinarily normal.”