I show the girls my ring at break. None of them can believe that Sal would give me such a lovely gift.
After break time ends, I go up to the library and make sure that all of my notes are written up. I feel eyes on me and spot Lucio looking over from across the room. He smiles briefly and then looks back down at his book.
It’s a sunny day, so the girls and I collect our lunches and then sit at our picnic table that we usually sit at during break. I spot The Four sitting on the field through the cloisters surrounding the quad. They’re talking heatedly, nodding and laughing. It’s strange how badly I want to know what they’re talking about. They’re such enigmas, such mysteries to me and the rest of the school. I wish I knew them better.
After lunch, we change for PE. As the weather has remained warm, the teacher takes us outside, onto the field. We’re split into teams of eleven and we play football. It’s a lot of fun. I’m out of breath for most of it, seeing as I’m a midfielder and spend my time running up and down the pitch with the ball.
It turns out, we’re all pretty good at football. I get a chance in goal, but I enjoy being out in the game more. I’m a sweaty, muddy mess when we finish up.
With my football trainers in one hand and my shinpads in the other, I walk with the girls back to our dorm. My cheeks burn with embarrassment as we have to pass The Four, who are coming out of the gym, sweating from a workout.
Whilst I look like an overripe tomato, they all look like sportswear models with a glistening layer of sweat on their skin. It makes their muscles all the more pronounced.
I snap myself out of my trance and force myself to keep walking. When I get back to the dorm, I take a shower in my en suite. I dry myself off and wrap a towel around my body. I stand in front of my wardrobe, wondering whether to wear any of my new birthday clothes for dinner. I feel like I should dress up on my birthday.
There’s a knock on my bedroom door.
“Come in!” I call out.
I hold up a new dress that my mother gave me. It’s completely black, which means I love it. Honey pokes her head around the door.
“Hey, you’ve got another present,” she says and steps into my room. She places the red box on my bed. “It’s so weird. Someone knocked on the door, but when I went to get it, no one was there and there was only this box on the floor.”
I frown in confusion and hang my dress back up. “That’s random,” I comment.
“I know, right? Anyway, the girls and I are trying to find something to watch tonight. Any requests, birthday girl?”
“Not Twilight,” I reply, and she laughs.
“Alright, not Twilight.”
She turns and leaves the room, shutting the door behind her. I make sure that my towel is tight around my body and then I approach the bed.
The red box is about the size of an A5 piece of paper. I gently untie the red ribbon holding the lid down and then remove the lid. A silver necklace is sitting on the black velvet.
I gently pick up the chain. Hanging from it are five silvers rings, all interlocked. It’s beautiful.
I run my fingers over the plain rings, making them clink together with a tinkling noise. There is nothing on the rings. No clue as to who it might be from.
I look down at the box and spot a small piece of red card. I place the necklace back into the box and read the note.
Happy Birthday, Emery. – IV
I read it again to make sure I have actually read it correctly. IV. Four in Roman numerals.
The Four have given me a birthday present? Why would you give a girl you don’t know, a necklace of five interlocking rings?
The piece of card slips from my fingers in surprise. It flutters to the floor silently.
No freaking way.
There’s only one explanation, but I refuse to dwell on it. I grab the note and put it back into the box. I put the lid back on the box and place it on my nightstand.
I rush to get dressed and then go out into the living room. When Honey asks me about the gift, I tell her that I don’t know who it’s from, but it was a pretty necklace.
She’s curious, but luckily, the movie distracts her. I can barely concentrate on the film. The possibility that I am mated to The Four, or one of them, swirls in my mind.
On Wednesday morning, I wake in a cold sweat. Despite showering last night, I take another shower in the morning. Snippets of my dreams come back to me in the shower as I wash myself. My hands slide over my skin, rubbing in the shower gel and flashbacks of someone’s hands sliding over my body in my dreams, fill my mind.
There is no doubt about it. I dreamt about four sets of hands on me again. My cheeks are burning by the time I get out of the shower, and it has nothing to do with the temperature of the water.
I dress in my uniform and do my make-up. The red box stares at me from the vanity. On impulse, I unclip the necklace and then fasten it around my neck. I slip the chain under my shirt, so that no one knows that I am wearing it.
After tutor time, I have philosophy. I don’t mention the necklace to Malvolio. He is relatively quiet all lesson, until the end.
“When do you get your prophecy?” He asks me as I’m packing up.
I look at him in surprise. “Period 5.”
He gives me a tight smile. “Good luck.”
He’s out of the door before I can reply. I shrug off the weird encounter and head to my next lesson, business studies.
Mr Andrews has marked our tests. We are each given our results. Salvador and I aced it. Together with Lucio, we got the highest marks in the class.
Break is uneventful with the girls, as is maths afterwards. The weather has turned cooler again, so we sit in the cafeteria for lunch.
I have alchemy with Sal period 4. We do another practical, making poisons that work on humans. I’m not sure why we are taught things like that, I swear that the teachers are supposed to promote healthy relationships with humans.
Finally, after what seems the longest day in history, I make my way to Madame Dechaume’s class for my prophecy. She’s ready and waiting for me. After closing the door behind me, she leads me over to the prophecy flame again. It changes from yellow to red the moment that I step near it, I haven’t even put my arm over it yet.
“Okay, Emery, hold your arm over the flame like last time. Your tattoo will probably throb a little, but nothing too uncomfortable. You’re going to see a vision of some sort and it might make you disorientated,” Madame informs me. “There is a chair behind you for you to fall back on, okay?”
I nod and pull my sleeve up. I do as she says and hold my arm over the flame. The red flames flicker and lick upwards, towards my arm. My tattoo starts to throb, as though I can distinctly feel the blood pumping through my vessels.
Blackness clouds my vision and my eyes close of their own accord. A scene starts to play out on the back of my eyelids. I recognise it is instantly, it’s my dream.
I’m lying on my bed, blindfolded and being touched again. My face heats up and I am sincerely grateful that Madame Dechaume cannot see this vision.
This time, the blindfold is removed. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the light. It clears away to reveal four faces standing over me, four very familiar faces.
I come out of the vision with a gasp. My eyes fly open, and I grip the armrests of the chair with both hands.
“Emery? Are you alright?” Madame asks gently.
I try and get my breathing under control. “Is it possible to be mated to four people, Miss?” I blurt the question.
I can feel my face turn even redder.
Why have I asked my teacher that?
Madame looks surprised for a moment but then smiles. “You are mated to The Four?” She asks.
I nod, unable to admit it out loud yet. My mind is still reeling. I never believed that it could actually be true.
“There have been records of multiple matings throughout history, Emery, don’t worry. It is perfectly normal. Besides, the powers that be have chosen them for you. They are never wrong.”
She’s right. They are never wrong, and they chose this.
Why on Earth did they think that I would make a good match for four mates? What was wrong with just one?
I take deep breaths, trying to calm my racing heartbeat.
“You have a free now, right?” Madame asks and I nod. “Good. Take a moment to catch your breath and get your head around this new information. I won’t breathe a word of this to anyone, I swear to you.”
In the midst of my panic, I manage to give her a weak smile.
“Thank you so much, Miss.”
“No problem, sweetheart.”
I leave Madame’s classroom and stand in the empty hallway. I keep breathing deeply. Without realising it, I have reached for my necklace from under my shirt and I’m running my thumb back and forth over the metal rings around the chain.
I look down at them and gasp. From the heat caused by the friction of my rubbing, names have appeared on the rings. On each individual ring is a name, glowing orange with warmth.
Lucio, Malvolio, Esteban, Oro and…Emery.
They knew. They knew that I’m their mate before I did.