Chapter 3 - Pearl
I’m hugging my brother.
He smells like freshly mown grass and lavender. I love the smell of lavender.
My brother’s only ten years older than me, but he acts like my father. He’s a lot taller than I remember. He holds me by my shoulders and looks down at me. “My little princess, do you want to hear a bedtime story?”
I nod my head. Anything, Aragon. Anything for my favorite person in this world.
I cuddle up next to him on the big butterfly chair we always sit in. He smiles and cracks open my favorite book, velvet-covered with gold-trimmed pages.
“Once upon a time in a faraway mine, there was a piece of Coal named Colette. Colette was unlike all the other Gems in the mine. While all the other Gems had either sparkle or luster, Colette had black soot as her best trait. As a result, all the other Gems thought Colette was the ugliest of them all. They made Colette carry them on her back and made her clean up after them.
“Colette thought all the other Gems were beautiful, but she thought she was beautiful as well. So she sprinkled black soot here and there, thinking that the other Gems would appreciate her sharing. The other Gems only disliked Colette more and told her to keep her filth away from them. The Lead Gem named Ruby locked her up deep in the ground and wouldn’t let her out.
“One day, another Gem named Amethyst went in the ground to save Colette, but she was utterly shocked when she saw her. Colette had developed a shine brighter than any Gem Amethyst had ever seen. After enduring lots of heat and pressure underground, Colette had become a stunning diamond.
“Soon, the other Gems noticed Colette was not only beautiful on the outside but also beautiful on the inside, so they elected her as the new Lead Gem. Colette was a kind and gentle Lead Gem, and she loved each and every rock in the mine. She thought every rock was beautiful in its own way. Everyone settled in the sand happily after that. The End.”
My brother closes the book and places it back on the shelf. “Pearl, why do you like this story so much?”
I reply with the only answer I ever give to that question, “Colette never loses her inner sparkle.”
I jerk awake on my bed.
Black squiggly lines on a white marble ceiling. Pewter walls with harbor gray curtains. I heave a sigh of relief but also, however much I would like to deny it, disappointment.
I’m still in Gneiss headquarters. My brother’s not here.
I have my own niche—a single room with a small marble bathroom, an oval mirror, a twin bed, and a marble closet.
There’s no wooden furniture here because the Gneiss Clan lives underground. Wood would only rot in the damp air here.
From my closet, I pull out my gray maxi dress with a sapphire and a topaz embedded into the collar.
Every girl in Gneiss wears the same dress. The only difference between us is the jewels on our collar. The more the jewels, the higher the rank. The only way you receive them is from the Gneiss Lord himself after you complete a “notable” mission.
My brother Aragon said that if anything ever happened to him, I should come here, to this underground group of people known as the Gneiss Clan.
“They teach you how to protect yourself. They might not be loving people, but they’re strong people who take care of each other,” he said.
I thought my brother would be by my side forever, but something happened to him, and now I’m here.
After I slip on my dress, I head out the door.
Fixing one of her bouncy red curls, Rosie, who’s also an early bird, is outside my door, pacing back and forth.
She throws her hands up in the air. “God, it takes you forever to get ready. I was about to barge in there and change you myself!”
I smile, but then I notice that the mark from yesterday has left a scar on her face. A Gneiss girl’s unblemished face is one of her advantages. Now, Rosie has lost that.
She catches me looking and says while pointing to her face, “No worries about this. Garnet says he’ll love me even with this nasty scar, so you might want to start finding a Maid of Honor dress soon. I think he might be the only guy willing to give me a ring.”
We laugh and talk as we walk down the corridor to report to the higher ups.
For a moment, I give myself the luxury of imagining that we’re just two girls gossiping about trivial matters—subjects like boys rather than murder and blood.