Bhu-uu. Bhu-uu. Bhu-uu.’
Trevor Tuite’s rippling muscles twitch letting him know they wish to shatter the door and enter. Gritting, he wills them to settle for pounding on the door.
‘What’s up?’ Chantel chimes delectable in an orange asymmetrical dress.
‘Marble would have smiled and angled her head. Focus! That’s beside the point.’
‘My car mysteriously broke down, my shirt’s suddenly too small and everything of mine is malfunctioning. In addition, the person who can fix it with a thought thinks I’m engaged to her half-sister.’
Finally, he huffs out a long-frustrated breath.
Chantel blinks, ’Marble believes I’m engaged to you?’
‘Can I come in?’ he asks huskily wanting to escape the cold rain that had started when he reached Chantel’s house.
‘You don’t love her?’
She sizes him up, from his bare broad shoulders to his Chelsea boots. ‘Not once did you say you love her.’
‘Of course, I love her.’ He reaches for her shoulders. ‘It’s…’
‘You love your legacy,’ she quietly spits before the door slams in his face leaving him shirtless in the rain.
‘Brilliant. I wonder how long I have before the earthquake that will leave my legacy in ruins.’
The future fades, leaving Mercy disoriented and a little dizzy. She refocuses her eyesight on the stretch of grassy land at the foot of the mountain.
‘Matli.da,’ she splits her daughter’s name in two, infusing authority, ‘if you can only see the future.’
Matilda continues her brisk loud march to the peak of the mountain leaving her mother no choice but to scuttle after her.
Through clenched teeth Matilda roars, ‘What’s the point mother,’ she raises her thin hand commanding a bolt of lightning to split an ancient birch tree in half, ‘of seeing the future if you cannot change it.’
She’s never used her dexterity to yield weather in anger, understanding and cherishing it as a gift. Being lynx is no gift to her as almost everyone is lynx, including her mother, but commanding the skies is like sitting with the gods themselves.
‘Of course, mother will argue that seeing what the future promises trumps over yielding the weather to give the earth long promised rain or rest.’
‘I should have killed you when I saw this moment, yet a mothers love would not allow it,’ Mercy observes dryly.
‘You deliberately misunderstood the point,’ the latter reinforces patiently, ‘If you can see the future of your action you can change the future by changing the action.’
A rigid promise keeper- lynx- Matilda expects everyone to do the same.
‘What did you expect from someone whose dexterity is to break promises?’ her mother casually points out mockingly.
This is Mercy’s version of ‘I. told. You. so’. The meaning is not lost on Matilda who orders a gush of wind to forcefully bend tall proud trees until their noses touch the ground.
‘He’s also lynx, mother?’
‘Ahh,’ she cries sarcastically, ‘how could the ability to break promises fall on a lynx. Except’ she ponders loudly, ’if had fallen on a Moissan, nothing would get broken. They don’t sympathize easily, you know, used to others promising them this and that at their slightest whim.’
Matilda glares at her mother over her shoulder, ‘Mother,’ she warns slowly ‘the ground you stand on is not stable.’
To prove it, a blinding yellow flash crackles near her mother who stands her ground, heart beat accelerating to the speed of sound. Matilda can’t hurt her due to a promise never to hurt her kin. It seems Mercy had manipulated her gift, after all. A smirk lifts Mercy’s aging face to its girlish prettiness.
‘You should have put that young husband of yours to use by breaking your promise to never hurt your kin.’
Matilda’s patience snaps. ‘Don’t test me.’
Her black hair entwines with the strips of zapping light. Like a switch, she darkens the sky shade by shade until it’s so dark you cannot feel your fingers. Satisfied, she continues to trot up the mountain muttering to herself, ‘He broke his wedding voice, leaving me a fool. The most sacred and strongest vow blessed by the church.’
‘Quickly, my Jewel,’ a fruity voice prompts.
Leonardo Tuite, is at that moment, urgently leading his young, beautiful mistress by her elbow as she carries their two-year old son into a boat. He’s aware his ex-wife can drown them if she so choses. He’s only hope is the sailors pledge with the sea which allows passengers a safe passage.
‘You know what they say,’ Mercy recites annoyingly, ‘If you steal a man, prepare to let another steal him.’
Her daughter heaves a strangled breath, bits her tongue and continues her progress. Progressively, the weather settles and dim light shines. With her youngest, Mercy knows calm means a storm is brewing.
Reaching the plateau, Matilda grins at the sight of the huddled figures in the boat as hungry waves crash against the wooden sides. Mercy gazes sympathetically upon the young woman’s horror which mars a beautiful face.
‘LEORNARDO TUITE,’ his ex-wife calls, her voice the breeze which surrounds them. ‘You will only have one son who will bear one son. So, it shall be for generations. That one son will marry one woman who controls him from his socks to his estate. If he doesn’t marry her, he loses his legacy and way of life. So, it shall be for your son and the generations after.’
There’s no wind. No sound dares occupy the air. The sea has settled to a soothing rocking motion. Matilda calmly links hands with her mother projecting the promise into the future. However, as a promise keeper she needs to give something to seal the promise. Leonardo clutches his ring, quickly diffusing the promise before she seals it. Their eyes collide as they both become aware of what he’s doing.
She jerks her head striking herself with sudden lighting as Leonardo fumbles with the words to free his offspring. As she breathes her last, thunder roars and the earth vibrates.
After everything settles to a sunny morning, Mercy lays her pregnant daughter gently on the flat ground. Her face is pinched as she ceremoniously rises together with the bowed trees. Beholding the young mother clutching her son to her bosom in the boat, she softly offers, ‘I can help him, if you stay. You must get married before her blood gets cold. To each generation, I’ll send a picture of the chosen girl.’
‘Mooommm!’ a grapy voice yells.
’I don’t want a bean bag.
I don’t neeed a bean bag.
Everyone has one. That’s why!’
Eighteen-year-old Marble drags the words as she protests to her mom’s deaf ears. Mentally, she stomps her foot on the sapphire floors. Physically it would be futile.
There are dozens of Kardia’s merry local inhabitants sliding past each other in the massive furniture store which boasts of owning any item one dreams of, displayed on mountain high shelves the color of rubies glinting in the sun.
Doodlers shout, plead and cry. Pre- teens chase each other or play hide and seek or race each other down the long aisles. Those less energetic or lazy, dodge shoppers which they imagine are flying cars.
Above them, blades, on a pearly ceiling, slash the air to cool heated debates between know it all wives and annoyed husbands. Mothers negotiate prices with the assistants whilst young women excitedly pick exactly what they desire.
Outside tires roll raspingly on gravel. Teenagers, with newly acquired licenses hoot like a choir gone haywire.
That’s not the reason her mother won’t hear her. Her mom has the, annoying, ability to reflect whatever she didn’t want to hear back to the speaker with a tidy note that shouts ‘I aint gonna listen to that.’
To prove it, her mother throws her pink hobo bag like a basketball player shooting the winning basket. Surprised, Marble catches it when it roughly hits her chest.
‘Here. Hold that,’ her mom hoots as she swiftly proceeds to fall on the bean bag as if strong arms will catch her.
‘This’s not a fairy tale.’
Breathing out a hot scorching breathe; Marble manages to contain her thought.
The bean bag is a different shade of pink from the hand bag but still pink.
‘I think we’ll take this one for you.’
Calmly, Marble bits the reply which is ready to flow from her mouth.
‘You’re the one who likes pink.’
‘You mean for you,’ she dryly corrects her mother who, ignoring her daughter’s annoying buzz, raises eloquently like a cat stretching, retrieves her handbag, arranges her black bubble skirt then musically clicks her black platform heels heading for the counter.
‘Can you carry that for us,’ she pleasantly orders, her version of asking, one of the shop assistants. She flashes him a damsel in distress smile that has him feeling like a hero. Marble shuffles after her mother thinking of how to avoid buying the bean bag. She thinks of trying to dissuade her mother one more time. If that doesn’t work, she will use it for three days then give it to Lisa under the pretense of wanting to use it when she studies with her friend.
The pair can be mistaken for sisters. If Marble had brunette hair instead of her father’s black pine needles and if she tries to smile more. ‘At nothing.’
It’s not that the two are alike in appearance. The bouncy animated ambiance of friendship around them is one of sisterhood. They are known to share knowing stares and smiles when in the company of other people.
Marble doesn’t talk much, instead she observes every event, every movement and every word with subtle superiority that seemed to shout, ‘I’m above that.’ ‘Try better.’ ‘Really?’ Her mother’s always optimistic and takes everything as background music as she travels to some world of her own. The result is the same as her daughter, reserved.
’MOM!’ Marble is about to recommence her protesting, this time firm, when she feels shudders rippling through her, generating an attractive force from within. As if someone was the pull of gravity and was pulling her to them by merely watching her.
Instinctively, filled to the top of her head with annoyance, she hurriedly turns her neck to lock eyes with a pair of pleased emerald eyes belonging to a handsome young man. It’s not his handsome face that captivates her. He possesses natural charm and charisma which catches her. Standing on the balcony of the furniture shop, lazily watching the lively shoppers as they select, reject and finally choose colorful chairs, fancy desks, spacious cupboards and pricy, useless vases, he appears like a king ruling his kingdom. His elbows are casually resting on the metal rail in front of him while his shoulder length blond hair is pulled behind his left ear.
Marble is not far from the truth. His father had named the warehouse Royal Furniture. According to him, what rendered a king a king was his throne- a piece of furniture. So, he sold furniture to locals to transform them into royalty in the comfort of their homes. A bushy brow was raised when his mother remarked, ‘It’s all in the crown, don’t you think?’.
Marble smiles. A smile that demands, ‘What you looking at.’
He answers by sweeping his hands, both his hands, up and down her form. She suddenly feels self-conscious of her undeliberate messy bun, grey sweater dress, black jeans and knee-high boots. She smirks and is about to turn to her original position when he signals for her to stop.
‘Tsk. Like I’m a servant and he’s my superior master to be obeyed and attended to.’
She grins intending to leave the shop before he descends the stairs.
But who said he’s taking the stairs?
’Huh. What’s happening?’ she asks herself as she involuntarily shifts her whole body and steps towards him, like a servant ready to comply. He doesn’t use the stairs. After all, he had been practicing for two weeks for this moment. He grips the rail, leans forward and jumps over the metal bars to the ground 10m below him.
Landing, without letting his eyes hover from the target, he meets her half-way. Hungry lips crush soft lips as the stranger kisses her.
Marble is stunned and astonished, she doesn’t respond for a few seconds. Her mind is an endless expense of white. He assertively places his hands on her neck the other on her waist embracing her like a long-lost lover, interlocking their bodies together. It isn’t that hard, considering their bodies surprisingly complement each other like two DNA strands.
As the haze fades, Marble can feel his steady heart beat under her fingers which have, naturally, rested on his well-muscled chest covered by a t-shirt. His warm sweaty hand on her neck betrays his nervousness yet he coaxes her to respond.
They don’t exchange words.
She throws her head back so she can study his face allowing Trevor to see her dilated turquoise pupils. He feels her muscles harden in his hands. He would be scared too, if he hadn’t been waiting for this moment since being nine years old. He knows of her, when she didn’t know him. He deliberately ignored her, until two weeks ago when he’d finally faced the brutal truth- he needed her to claim his legacy.
‘Survey,’ he states breathless remembering the survey his friends are working on. The theory is most girls will respond to a stranger’s kiss if caught by surprise due to the need for romance in their life. Hopefully, this will calm the panic in her eyes.
She instantly shoves him with surprising strength that originates from inner determination. He respectfully steps back caught unaware.
‘A. Freaking survey. I’m a freaking survey!’ she growls only loud for him to hear then jogs to her mother. He watches amused at her reaction. A stranger just kissed her and she is angrier that he did it for a survey than at the fact she doesn’t know him. He runs his fingers in his shoulder length hair, smirking.
’That’s a beautiful backside.’
Marble returns to her mother who either hadn’t seen, because she’s busy selecting pink furniture, or was pretending not to have noticed.
He carefully studies the steep curve of her cheek and the stubbornness of her nose as she sits in the passenger seat of his pickup truck. Her eyelashes flicker up and down as she tries to close her eyes to concentrate.
Softly and feather light he whispers, ‘What’re you thinking about?’
She turns, to find emerald eyes intently staring at her face. Caught off guide, she gives him her first unguided smile. A shy smile that touches her eyes. Trevor quickly grasps her blanketed arm before she returns to her senses. Marble guides her feelings more securely than a dragon guides his treasure.
‘There’s this voice in my head,’ she begins facing the windscreen of his car once again, ‘It’s rusty and out of use. I feel I know the owner but haven’t heard them for a long time. I’m trying to think of the person.’
The edges of her mouth fall slightly. It’s a slow movement he would have missed if he wasn’t searching for it. The past three weeks, he’s learnt to rely on these small movements of her mouth. Even frowning she’s smiling such that it’s difficult to know what she’s feeling.
Expertly applying gentle pressure on her arm, he coaxes he, ‘What does it say.’
He loosens his grip praying she tells him at least this much.
‘She shouts or screams, depending on her mood, that we don’t belong together.’
’I knew it! Her reluctance to date me was not because she wants to be a nun or a single mum. The stuff about sperm banks and artificial Insemination was just to scare me.’
‘What do you think?’ he asks convincingly low. He lets go of her hand. Only when he pushes his hair from his face does he recognize his mistake. With everyone else, his presence made them talk and chat. He needs to touch Marble so she can talk. Even then, he can’t force her, his touch only prevented her from shutting her thoughts. That is, when he managed to touch her. Most times her evil glare burned his hand until he retrieved it. Other times she cleverly danced away from him. Frustrated, he turns to face the sun. As expected, she doesn’t answer his question but lets the silence stretch comfortably around them.
‘Trevor!’ she calls for the first time since he picked her up, at three in the morning. ‘Why am I here?’ Every word is like a punch laced with anger marching towards resentment.
He continues to stare at the gradual emergence of the sun over the brown grassland which stretches gloriously around the CBD.
It’s odd. The city’s layout. It resembled a delta with the neighborhoods spreading from the city center to end by the sea side. There was even one route to Kardia, which involved a highway road winding down a ragged mountain range erupting occasionally. No one worried about the fiery boiling magma, though. A warning of white smoke is always sent before the repainting of the mountain top. Red iced the five distinct peaks and drips off the other smaller peaks.
The wide, highly maintained highway was always, strangely, unmarked. Locals referred to it HighAway.
Tradition has it that you visited the mountain peaks when you were born, a newlywed, a mother or father, a grandmother or grandfather and an aunt or uncle. Fewer and fewer people traveled the journey. Rumors say the air is inspirational, relaxing and an aid to one whose acquired a new title.
The view is breathtaking. Red mounds forming a C around a topaz sea. A sea no one sailed in for pleasure or for fishing. Inhabitants used the water for everything- swimming to medicine- except for sailing. No one owned a boat, although a few could navigate one. Some locals believed it existed to cool the magma from below. Not very far-fetched, since the water was warm all year round with therapeutic steam in summer.
‘I wanted to talk to you away from everyone and everything,’ he pauses unsure how to continue. ‘I’ve been thinking.’
‘Something you do less frequently,’ she sighs studying his profile.
‘Sorry?’ he’s in a haze of his own making.
’I can tell by the ruffled hair together with the vest and shorts you are wearing in this cold weather.’
He faintly smiles, clearly searching for an opening to enter the solid rock she has around herself. ‘Dad wants me attend Harvard University before marrying you. Maybe for five years, studying engineering.’ He shrugs genuinely unconcerned about the separation. Maybe he can find a loophole in the Fate that tied him to her.
‘You mean you are going,’ she elaborates for him unaware of his thoughts.
There’s that too, he muses. Her ability to read in between the lines. It’s hard hiding his ingenuity in courting her.
‘I have to.’
‘Trevor, no one is hindering you. Go. I won’t stop you especially if your dad said so.’ If she had a dad, she would do as he ordered. She sighs, her dad threw her away.
’I want you to wait for me.’
He turns to examine her bundled form. She covers herself more tightly with the red flannel blanket that she had managed to grab before he had whisked her away from her sleep.
‘You mean will I wait for you?’ she raises her eyebrows to let him know it’s her decision regardless of what he wants. ‘Will I stop my life for you? When you ask, you expect two answers? This time it’s a no.’ A tear falls down her face. It’s the only peek into what she’s feeling as her face remains blank, indifferent.
‘Please will you wait for me,’ he pleads making it sound like the ultimate marriage proposal but she knows better.
‘You have to read between the lines because no one in this wacky world will tell you a thing. I’ll start now.’
Bubbles of boiling anger bust inside her inner caldron. Mentally, she violently adds salt. So, it’s tastier. Outside, she remains composed. Trevor has a way to read her, though.
Her full lips. Right now, they are stiff with resentment. Tears wouldn’t stop rolling yet her voice is level. She reigned her emotions, expertly
‘You can feel you can show. Do not let them control you.’
’Trevor, we have no definite future. In fact, we have no future. Firstly, you might meet someone else, I might meet someone else.’ The tears roll more rapidly as deformed orbs. She places his warm left hand in both her shivering hands. The irony is not lost on her. She huddled under a blanket trying to warm herself whilst he’s sitting there barely clothed yet his warm.
She continues, ‘We are only 18 and 20. We have a whole lifetime ahead of us and we can’t afford to spend a fraction of that lifetime tied to the ocean floor. We might drown.’ She meets his emerald eyes squarely.
‘I knew when I set my eyes on you, that you were my heart’s desire. I am quoting poetry because no new verses can be able to describe what I feel for you yet I know that it’s love. Please give me the chance to convince you.’
He squeezes her hand before adding, ’Unfortunately, not now because I made a promise to dad that I wouldn’t waste my talent. I can’t break promises.’ His determined green eyes capture her turquoise ones when she attempts to shut them.
‘Let’s set the terms,’ he suggests shifting in his seat. He wanted to kiss her or hold her hand but he knows she would push him away.
’You can date so can I, but when the big question comes and up, we need to notify each other if we are really sure. Do you now promise to wait?’ His voice is barely audible as he successfully embroiders each word alive with promise.
’Big question? As if we live only for marriage.’
In a fraction of second, she feels cold metal on her hot palms. Instinctively, she knows it’s a ring. The pressure exerted by the ring together with the lure of his green eyes manage to erase the doubts that had been flowing through her like a flooded river.
She assesses the situation for a while. ’I have nothing to lose. I, mean, I will still be free. I will win either way.’
Out loud she breathes, ‘Yes,’ determinedly.
She sniffs. ‘I promise to wait.’
He kisses her cheek excited and withdraws his hand to caress her face. Impulsively, she pulls the blanket tightly around herself feeling cold inside.
'Dad pushed me away now Trevor pulls away. I’ve no energy for this tag of war. Seriously.’
The metal band in her hand intensifies the iciness. She doesn’t study it. She doesn’t evaluate the stone. At the edges of her thoughts there’s this probing belief that he doesn’t belong to her.
Satisfied with the turnout of events, Trevor adoringly turns the key to rouse his beloved red pickup track. It hums to live with a proud shake or two of its mane, chasing away the whispering quietness such that the he’s no longer petrified by the early morning silence.
‘Will you come for my goodbye party?’