Anelle’s stomach starts to growl as she leans her head on Leia’s shoulder. Night came down like a downpour. Letting the world fall into darkness. Leia is telling a story of a woman who sings and snatches people who go close to the lady. Chills run down her back and arms at that.
Anelle wraps the fluffy, red blanket around her hunched figure tighter. Hoping that by doing so, it protects her from getting snatched up by the lady’s long nails. Leia saw her expression and laughed. Anelle smacked her sister on the arm. “Don’t laugh at me!”
Anelle should be mad for being laughed at. She can’t stop her fears, and she also can’t stop the smile that spreads over her lips.
“It’s hard not to when you make that face every time I tell you a scary story,” Leia tells her.
“Well then, maybe you should stop with the horror stories. Tell me something bright and funny.” Anelle looked around. “It’s dark out enough that I don’t even need a story to be scared.”
“They’re not real,” Leia reassures her. A strand of her purple hair fell over her face.
“How could you possibly know that? They could be real and lingering out there, but no one knows because those who have seen the creatures had died by them.”
She chuckled. “You’re too paranoid.”
The front door to the house opens behind Anelle and Leia. Anelle’s mother, Lily, pops her head out from the doorway and calls them inside for dinner.
“Race?” Anelle raised a dark brow at her sister, challenging her.
They both scrambled to their feet and ran for the house, pushing and shoving one another while laughing. The smell of Lily’s food wafts out to Anelle as they entered. She dropped her shoes and blanket at an entryway bench.
“Haha! I won!” Leia flashed a triumphant smile Anelle’s way. Her purple hair with its dark roots was tied into a ponytail, but now it’s loose and messy from the run.
“No, you didn’t! We entered right at the same time,” Anelle points out.
“That’s not what I saw,” she drawled, then turned and walked to the dining room.
Anelle stares at her sister’s retreating figure, trying to burn a hole through her shirt. After a few failed attempts, the oversized t-shirt won’t burn. As Anelle walks to the dining room, she looks at the pictures and decor adorning the walls. They’re filled with photos that Lily had collected when she traveled.
The dining room isn’t huge, but comfortable enough that they don’t mind the space. In the middle is a long, dark wooden table that Ruby, Lily’s friend, gave them. On the sides, you can make out doodles and paint from when Anelle and her sister were kids and created destruction everywhere they went.
Anelle takes her seat. She felt a small spike of excitement because of the food in front of her. Reaching for a buttered bun, Lily smacked Anelle’s hand away and placed the bowl of bread farther away from her.
“What was that for?!” Anelle exclaimed.
“We’re not eating yet,” Lily tells her daughter. “Wait for your father.”
Anelle huffed at that but did as Lily said. She drummed her fingers on the table, can’t seem to sit still. Every dinner, her father always have to be late to the table. Doesn’t he see how hungry we all are while he’s up there in his study? Anelle thought.
“He’s leaving next week, Mom. It’d be rude if we don’t say goodbye,” said Leia, holding Lily’s hand in hers with pleading eyes.
Lily gave in with a sigh, running her hand through her brown hair. “Fine, but you come back right after. It’s not safe to stay out late around this season. The Gardsnare-”
“You still believe in that?” Anelle said, interrupting her mother. Lily believes in stories that were told as bedtime stories. It never made any sense as to why her mother spends her time looking into things that don’t exist. They’re all just superstition.
“Yes,” Lily nodded at her. “As a matter of fact, I still do. Be careful is all I’m saying. You don’t want Gardsnare anywhere near you.”
Leia was excited nonetheless. She never believed it because Gardsnare was a massive beast that no one has seen in years. Anelle has to agree with her on that. How can a creature that no one can prove real be so scary that it makes people run at the mere mention of it?
Elijah, our friend, is leaving for Ala to complete the Trials tomorrow. The Trials are for people who want to join the Alabase Army. They’re quite known for their expertise in archery. If you have to depend on anyone for the best bows, it would be the people of Ala.
You have to be eighteen and up to be eligible and as Elijah is now eighteen, he’s leaving. As sad as the thought is, Anelle won’t let it affect her. She would be proud and support him. Anelle even bought ink and paper to write letters to him as Ala is in the west, hours away.
Leia always liked his company. She found him quite charming, and as much as Leia wanted to be with him, she couldn’t. Anelle had talked to her about how it’s wrong to date him as he is now an adult. Plus, Elijah just sees her as a sister.
Anelle knows that his departure will make her devastated, but now happy that she gets to see him before he leaves.
A door upstairs slammed shut. A few seconds later, Anelle’s father, Pierce, walks into the room and takes his seat.
“Did you get the papers done?” Lily asked him, starting to scoop up food for her plate. Anelle did the same thing, grabbing buttered buns to devour before they get cold.
“Not all of them,” Pierce replied, getting his portion of the food. “Muck was dead asleep at a bar and didn’t get the rest in on time.”
What papers? Anelle thought. She didn’t ask it out loud because she knew they wouldn’t tell her. But it didn’t stop her curiosity from growing.
“I hope you forgave him.” Lily raised a brow.
Pierce sat back, glancing at his wife before eating. “Keep on hoping.”
“Pierce! He just lost his wife. You can’t blame him for wanting to drink the pain away.” Lily looked upset, or maybe it’s sadness. Anelle couldn’t tell—it’s hard to.
“I very much can,” Pierce smoothly said, taking a sip from his cup. “Muck can just get another wife. The papers needed to be done by tonight.”
Lily pursed her lips but stayed silent after that. Muck was just a business partner of Pierce’s. They were never close, so why does it affect her more than it should?
Anelle continued chewing her food. She glanced at her sister and saw Leia doing the same thing, ignoring their parents and their arguments.
For the rest of the night, Anelle was distracted. Tomorrow morning is when Leia and her will head over to Elijah to say their goodbyes. In four years, Elijah will return to their town, so why did everything about it made her nervous?