The gold streamers hung high along the crowded streets, my braids flying behind as I yet again challenged the street boys to another race. My heart beat heavy in my chest as I could hear their shouts fast approaching me from behind.
The delicious waft of food flowed around me as I continued dodging in and out of the crowds. I remembered the last race we had and how mother had grounded me for weeks because of it.
“Ladies aren’t supposed to race in the streets, especially with boys”, she had once told me. And I spent the rest of my afternoon scrubbing laundry until my hands were red raw.
She never approved of the many activities that I chose to become interested in, therefore everything I did had to be discrete. Especially when I started watching the warriors of our town train.
Nothing intrigued me more than their skilled fighting and fluid movements with weapons.
I hopped over a basket of apples, the sun kissing my hair as I was rounding the last corner. I could taste the victory already, my soul rejoicing-
A muscled arm shot out and gripped me firmly by the arm, dragging me into a store. I yelped loudly as the door was shut harshly. “Explain to me why you thought running in the streets in your new dress is a good idea, Aida.” My father’s low, baritone voice rattled my bones.
I was still gasping for air from my running, he just shook his head. “Your mother would tan your hide if she saw you racing again, especially in the new dress she made you.” I stared out the window as Koi made it first to the fountain in the middle of the square.
His eyes darted about trying to find me, I ached to be out there. “Aida!” He grounded out between teeth and fang, my spine chilled as I turned back to him. He closed his amber eyes and let a large sigh escape his mouth before continuing, “You can’t keep acting like a child.”
He spoke softer this time, he knew just as well as I did that sitting inside and looking pretty while baking tarts and gossiping with other ladies wasn’t my interest in life.
“In a few years you’ll be ready to receive your job in the town, and then shortly after that there will be the courting and-” I covered my hands over my Fae ears, “I’m sick of hearing what I am supposed to do and what is off limits!” I shouted back at him, his eyebrows narrowed the beautifully wrapped braid behind his ear falling across is shoulder.
“I know you sneak out to watch the warriors of this town train,” Fear gripped my insides as his warm eyes became cold. “I turned a blind eye to it all these years, hoping you would get that wild side out of you.” All I could do was grip my hands into fists to stop myself from shaking, if mother knew...
“You can’t force me to-”
“That is enough Aida.” His tone was clipped as he shone his canines to me, a silent warning to submit to his order and go home.
I thought of Koi and the hunting we did together, and how I just longed to do the things I wanted to do.
We would even sneak out at night into a nearby meadow and talk about our dreams under a star speckled sky.
I snapped back to reality when he abruptly opened the door.
Anger burned hot in my chest as he said, “You are to tell your mother none of this.” His voice was gruff, the summer wind rushed over my face as we both stepped back out into the festivities. The rest of the boys were at the fountain splitting a star fruit among themselves, Koi’s gaze met my own as soon as I came into the full sun.
His blonde hair shimmered gold in the light, and his family ring became a beacon on his finger. The ruby shield representing the long lineage of magic wielding male warriors in his family, it would most likely be what he would become too. My heart thudded so loud, I became afraid father could hear it over the hoofbeats and bargains in the square.
His crystal blue eyes held my green ones, he put two fingers against his brow in a form of a salute. I gave him a soft smile and repeated the gesture, it was our own version of a farewell. “Come, Aida.” He placed his large hand to my small back and guided me down the street that would lead us both home.
“You should lend support to your eldest sister, she is nervous about her first Choosing.” All I could do was manage a nod of my head as I turned my back to Koi and strode home.
Father opened the door as I dragged my feet behind him, Ura was shouting at our brother inside, Father went to mother and kissed her gently on the cheek. I shut the door with a loud thud, “What in the heavens is on your dress, Miss Aida.” I froze and tried to suppress a groan, her sharp eyes never missed anything.
“Turn around.” She demanded, and as I did her eyes narrowed to the hem of my summer dress, and sure as the sun there was a large dirt spot that covered the delicate, purple flowers. “Were you running in the streets with that boy again.” I bit down hard on my tongue to prevent myself from receiving a slap on the cheek, “Look at me.” Picking my head up I glared into her green eyes, many people said they matched mine.
I never believed them though, hers were always so cold, closed off even as if she’s always trying to hide something. Father cleared his throat before cutting in, “Some town boys were picking on her.” My eldest sister’s cackle cut through the air, “Probably because she runs around with them like a headless chicken.” I whirled on her so fast, “Aida, don’t even engage.” Mother’s warning was like ice along my veins.
I was already in a mood from being dragged back to the house during the festival, and no doubt Ura only happened to make it worse.
“Ura!” I shouted her name loud enough for probably the whole village to hear, “At least I’m not shoving my tongue down Lyle’s throat like some desperate slug!” Her face turned a deep shade of red, from embarrassment or rage I couldn’t tell. Ry stilled what he was doing as he glared at my sister, “I can only do so much to help you Ura, but if you-”
I saw her fingers twitch in anticipation
Then she lunged at me and I was more than ready to accept this fight. “You’re such a child!” She screamed as her fingers lunged for my throat, she knocked me down so fast the breath escaped from my lungs as she pinned me to the floor.
Although she was a two years older and much taller than I, all those days I spent secretly training alongside the warriors and running with Koi in the square gave me an edge.
“Ura! Aida! Cease your antics this instant!” Screamed mother, but I was already seeing red and clawed at her hands that forced my shoulders to dig into the solid, wood planks beneath me. “You won’t amount to anything in life if you choose to run with your hair down in the street like an animal.” I spit in her face, earning a scream of disgust.
And just as I had seen the warriors in our village do hundreds of times, I lifted my hips and flipped her over. Her pink gown pulling apart at some seams by the aggressive movement, and that’s when I felt something stir inside my chest.
A warm, ember glow.
I was so engrossed in my anger that I didn’t even care to pay attention to it.
The warmth bobbed and bowed in the sea of my fury, it curled its tendrils around my veins and spread over my body. Until it concentrated the heat into my arms, then my palms, and finally my fingertips.
It’s where the heat festered the hottest, Ura started bloody screaming as my fingers tightened around her wrist. The heat, the power that flowed through me-
A powerful hand grabbed the back of my dress collar and flung me off of her, and just as quick as it had come the warmth disappeared along with the heat in my fingers.
I flexed my fingers as the feeling dispersed.
Ura was bawling on the ground as father grabbed her wrists to inspect them, an expression twisted across his face. “What did she do!” Mother’s shrill voice echoed off the walls, Ura started cursing profanities at me and the stare my father gave me turned everything around in my stomach.
It was a look of disgust.
Mother charged over and as soon as she saw Ura’s wrist with my burnt fingerprints on them began to yell at me. “Look at what you’ve done to her!” Ry was quickly behind Ura, examining the marks as well. He looked at me with an unreadable expression.
I couldn’t speak, couldn’t even breathe.
All I could focus on was the burn I left on both of her wrists.
Those were burn marks, my burn marks.
Permanently imprinted into her flesh, the bile burned hot at the back of my throat.
I felt as though I was underwater, everything slow moving. All of their shouts of panic nothing but garble, I only snapped back into reality as a sharp sting sliced into my cheek. My head flying to the side as mother towered over me, gripping my own wrist she dragged me into my sister and I’s room and locked the door.
I stared at my hands, a soft pink of flesh, bone, and blood.
My shoulders shook as a strangled sob left my throat, “What have I done...” I whispered to myself.