My brain woke before my eyes, the trauma of yesterday flowing through me and playing out behind my eyelids. I felt sorrow again before my eyes were even open. My body shivered as I was swallowed by it all.
I forced myself fully awake, grounding myself to emerge from it all. I’m in a room, a warm sunny room that matches Alatar’s kitchen. With yellow walls and sun streaming through thin curtains, it looks like a golden hour around me.
I’m not in my own room, my own bed, which just confirms yesterday really happened. Beckett and Ember came into my life, bringing the truth of everything with them. I am a weapon, a creation of the stars, and I’m supposed to save every one from Parallax and the creatures of the Shadow Realm. None of this feels real, I have to wonder if it ever will.
My aunt is gone, and my uncle is still missing. The loss created an ache in my chest that I don’t think will ever go away. I pulled the thick comforter around me tightly, to protect myself from what lies outside of this room; whatever it may be.
There’s a light knock at the door, I ignored it but Ember popped her head in anyways. Her eyes were kind and hopeful, I’m shocked at the surge of annoyance I feel. I’m not used to feeling emotions yet, I don’t know if I’m feeling them stronger than I’m supposed to or not. What I do know is, as thankful for her as I am, I also resent her and her brother for their lack of protection over my aunt.
“Morning, how are we feeling?” I don’t respond to her, clenching my jaw and wishing I could just get sucked into the bed. At my lack of response she slid her whole body through the crack in the door and closed it lightly behind her. Today she wears a knee length form fitting black dress, which only accentuates her pale skin even more.
“Astra? Are you ok?” I shook my head no, I’m appalled she even thought for a moment that I could be.
“Would you be?” I snapped, but she doesn’t shy away from the bite of my words. Instead she climbed onto the bed with me and leaned against the headboard, letting out a long sigh.
“Honestly? I’m not sure. I was raised around this all, I guess you could say I’m desensitized. When my parents passed, it was what it was. That’s how this lifestyle tends to end. But at the same time, I can’t imagine the shock you must feel. From the moment I could walk I have trained to protect you, which is why I believe Beck seems to resent you a bit. He wanted a different life for me. So no, I don’t understand your shock or your pain. I wish I could help more.”
She spoke to me softly, as if I may break. Honestly, I feel as though I may.
“I didn’t ask for any of this…” I trailed off, my voice breaking with the tears that burn my throat. They begged to break free, but I shoved them back.
“None of us did, babe.” Ember said bluntly, and in that moment I suddenly felt less alone. She knows loss as I do, and I know she is with me in this. From what she told me it seems like she also didn’t get a choice in any of this, just as I hadn’t. Who, I wonder, in their right mind justified signing a bunch of children up for this?
I sat up and ran a hand through my hair, pushing it away from my swollen face. I’ve never cried myself to sleep, I don’t like the groggy feeling it gave me.
“I need caffeine,” I grumbled. Ember laughed and pulled me off the bed with her. Together we left the warm room and headed down a hall into the kitchen that I’d first met Alatar in. Him and Beckett sit at a table sitting hot coffee and eating scones, Nova sits on the counter. Cat form Nova, that is.
“Hey you.” Alatar tipped his cup to me and I nodded back. Ember put a cup in my hand, pouring in the coffee and stepping away; giving me time to adjust. Beckett ignored me as always, so I ignored the shocks of electricity that burned my skin.
The earthy coffee calms my nerves, and with each sip I find my mind clearing through the fog.
“So, now what?” I asked, breaking the silence that had surrounded us. They all looked at me now, three sets of eyes looking at me shocked. One set of cat eyes, too. I should confirm that Nova and the girl with the tea are the same person before I assume. Later.
“Well we expected you’d want time to mourn?” Ember suggested, but I shook my head no. That’s not what I need, at least not now. I wanted to put my aunt to rest, yes, because she deserved that much. But after, I wanted revenge.
Revenge, something I never thought I’d need to seek. But now I felt it deep in my bones, I wanted Parallax to pay. I wanted him to pay for every death he had caused.
“I want a funeral for my family. But then I want you guys to help me get revenge on the asshole who decided he was going to order the death of my family.” My tone was aggressive, and my coffee cup shook with my rage.
“Anger isn’t a primary emotion, Astra. It’s a secondary emotion, it’s a reaction. You’re feeling loss, pain, right now. Parallax wants you like this, you need to overcome and embrace your inner power. You are the strongest weapon that exists, you need training and to be taught how to use your power.” Alatar spoke calmly, as always. I’m still angry, but I understand his words. I can’t go anywhere with guns blazing.
“So we can do a funeral?” They all nodded.
My stomach aches with both hunger and sadness, I feel guilty for not feeding myself. I know, if anything, my aunt would want me to always care for myself. Her body is pale, curls framing her sleeping face, Ember put her in a beautiful periwinkle dress.
I am thankful for this, for the ability to put her to rest on the plot as she’d planned. Nobody attended the funeral, except for me. Ember and Beckett sat in the back, giving me space. Alatar stayed home, he never leaves the nest he told me.
I think the sermon was nice, only I don’t hear a single word said over the roaring waves of my own sadness.
While the world feels like it moves in slow motion, it is also only moments before I watch gentlemen pick up her casket to bring her to her plot. Ember and Beckett take to my flank as a form of protection as we make our way out into the sunny field that is the cemetery.
I kept my eyes on the grass, as they lowered her, and I fought back my urge to scream. She shouldn’t be in the ground with the dirt , she should be up here with me.
But there she was, next to my parents, and their parents. Tears flowed down my cheeks, and Ember handed me a silk tissue that did little to mop up the tears.
Nobody is here to tell her goodbye, except for me. The priest, and the men who carried her, left me alone with her lowered casket.
“What do I do, Aunt Amelia?” My words trembled with the lump in my throat. I dropped to my knees, holding onto the golden railing that surrounded her plot. “What do I do now?”
My chest heaves with sorrow, and I lowered my face into my hands. I wanted her with me, to love me through whatever mess I’ve found myself in. Who will love me now?
The waves of my sadness grow stronger at the thought, through that I felt my arms and hands grow unbearably hot. I pulled my face back to find them glowing a dull gold, a golden mist that swirls through my fingers, the coloration getting brighter towards my palms.
“Woah, woah! Okay, hon, we need to get you calmed down.” Ember soothed, coming to the ground beside me and putting an arm around me.
Energy coursed through me, my arms grew hotter, and a small ball of golden energy appeared in my right hand. It frightened me, and with a cry I pushed my hand into the grass as if to extinguish it.
“Breathe, ok? Inhale...yes, ok exhale. Good.” I followed her instructions until the heat was gone, and my tears subside. I never knew I could do such a thing, but after everything I guess I’ve grown to be desensitized.
“That’s what I am? That’s the weapon? Just...pure energy.” My voice was quiet, I stared in awe at my hands in the grass
“The very essence of the stars, that’s your name you know. Astra, it’s star in Latin. It’s really a wonder how they didn’t tell you. Your eyes are a giveaway.” I cracked a small smile at Ember’s light comment about a serious topic.
I guess it is strange, how I never thought anything of my weird life.
“I can feel danger around, we need to get her back to Alatar’s. Now that she has unlocked her abilities Parallax will know her location.” Beckett’s voice was as close to kind as he can manage, probably since we’re only inches away from my dead relatives. I noticed he’d made a portal on the ground behind us, it swirls without sound.
I turned back to my aunt’s grave, looking down at her sleek mahogany coffin.
“I’m going to make things right, I swear it. I love you. I really do. Thank you, so much. For everything. I will be great, like you said.” Tears flowed again as I sat back on my heels and allowed myself to fall backwards into the portal.