I force 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 from Parallax and the creatures of the Shadow Realm. None of this feels real, I have to wonder if it ever will.
My aunt and uncle are gone, the loss creates an ache in my chest that I don’t think will ever go away. I pull 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 ignore it but Ember pops her head in anyways. Her eyes are kind and hopeful, I’m shocked at the surge of annoyance I feel. I’m not used to feeling emotions yet, and 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 slides her whole body through the crack in the door and closes 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 shake my head no, I’m appalled she even thought for a moment that I could be.
“Would you be?” I snap, but she doesn’t shy away from the bite of my words. Instead she climbs onto the bed with me and leans 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 Beck and I could walk we have trained to protect you, which is why I believe he seems to resent you a bit. So no, I don’t understand your shock or your pain. I wish I could help more.”
She speaks to me softly, as if I may break. Honestly, I feel as though I may.
“I didn’t ask for any of this…” I trail off, my voice breaking with the tears that burn my throat. They beg to break free, but I shove them back.
“None of us did, babe.” Ember says bluntly, and in that moment I suddenly feel less alone. She knows loss as I do, and I know she is with me in this.
I sit up and run a hand through my hair, pushing it away from my swollen face. I’ve never cried myself to sleep, but I don’t like the groggy feeling it gives me.
“I need caffeine,” I grumble. Ember laughs and pulls me off the bed with her. Together we leave the warm room and head 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.
“Hey you.” Alatar tips his cup to me and I nod back. Ember puts a cup in my hand, pouring in the coffee and stepping away; giving me time to adjust. Beckett ignores me as always, so I ignore the shocks of electricity that shock my skin.
The earthy coffee calms my nerves, and with each sip I find my mind clearing through the fog.
“So, now what?” I ask, breaking the silence that had surrounded us. They all look at me now, three sets of eyes looking at me shocked.
“Well we expected you’d want time to mourn?” Ember suggests, but I shake my head no. That’s not what I need, at least not now. I want to put my aunt to rest, yes, because she deserves that much. But after, I want revenge.
Revenge, something I never thought I’d need to seek. But now I feel it deep in my bones, I want Parallax to pay. I want him to pay for every death he has 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 is aggressive, and my coffee cup shakes 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 speaks 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 nod sadly.
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 attends the funeral, except for me. Ember and Beckett sit in the back, giving me space. Alatar stayed home, he never leaves the nest he told me.
I think the sermon is nice, only I don’t hear a single word said over the roaring 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 keep my eyes on the grass, as they lower her, and I fight 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 is, next to my parents, and their parents. Tears flow down my cheeks, and Ember hands me a silk tissue that does little to mop up the tears.
Nobody is here to tell her goodbye, except for me. The priest, and the men who carried her, leave me alone with her lowered casket.
“What do I do, Aunt Amelia?” My words tremble with the lump in my throat. I drop to my knees, holding onto the golden railing that surrounds her plot. “What do I do now?”
My chest heaves with sorrow, and I lower my face into my hands. I want 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, and I feel my arms and hands grow unbearably hot. I pull my face back to find them glowing a dull gold, the coloration getting brighter towards my palms.
“Woah, woah! Okay, hon, we need to get you calmed down.” Ember soothes, coming to the ground beside me and putting an arm around me.
Energy courses through me, my arms grow hotter, and a small ball of golden energy appears in my right hand. It frightens me, and with a cry I push my hand into the grass as if to extinguish it.
“Breathe, ok? Inhale...yes, ok exhale. Good.” I follow her instructions until the heat is 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 is quiet, I stare 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 crack a small smile at Embers 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 is as close to kind as he can manage, probably since we’re only inches away from my dead relatives. I notice he’s made a portal on the ground behind us, it swirls without sound.
I turn back to my aunts 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.” Tears flow again as I sit back onto my heels and allow myself to fall backwards into the portal.