I didn’t mean to kill her.
I just wanted to protect Skye.
We all stand in silence, me, Skye and her dad, as we stare at the limp body on the floor, blood oozing from its neck. It was from Skye’s mom’s neck.
I glance at the knife still clenched in her hand, and then to my own hand, where another dagger, but this one coated with blood, is clenched tightly. Her body lays motionless on the pristine marble floor in the lobby of Skye’s mansion.
My best friend, Skye Lowe, slowly lifts her head and stares right into my emerald green eyes. I can tell she doesn’t know what to think of the situation. Her expression was one of confusion, panic, and a little bit of relief. I killed her mom, but only because she tried to harm Skye first. Skye doesn’t know that. And no matter how much she hated her mom, she was still her mom.
Skye is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. Her petite figure is complemented with a heart-shaped face. Her bouncy blonde hair always effortlessly caresses her face, and her bright ocean eyes make her stand out in large crowds. She’s around medium height, and I stand only an inch or so above her.
I get to live with Skye. Well, I have to live with her. Our world has two types of people-- The Wanderers and the people of Vanelle, or Vanellians. I’m a Wanderer, so when I was 5 years old, I was forced to move in with her family, who are Vanellians, to work as their slave. I became friends instantly with Skye. We did everything together and we love each other to death.
However, her family is very abusive towards her. She is an only child, and her parents take out their anger on her brutally. I’ve always had to try and protect her, even if it means that I suffer too. We’d do anything for each other, but what I just did now might have been a little too far.
She looks at me with the most incomprehensible expression ever created, and silently demands an explanation. I can’t have her thinking that this was on purpose. Besides, it’s almost noon, meaning I only have about 5 minutes left.
I open my mouth in a panic to explain what her mother was about to do to her. This morning, while I was cleaning Mrs. Lowe’s room, I found the files on her dresser that changed everything. Those files can fix the unjust side of Vanelle, and obviously, Mrs. Lowe did not want that happening. The only thing she had to do to prevent it was to kill Skye. Thankfully, I caught her before she could. The problem is that Skye doesn’t know what was about to happen. I’m leaving the impression of me murdering her family member for no reason, right before I get taken to die in the courses. My best friend is going to hate me and my spirit. Before I can speak, Skye’s eyes turn wide and her words interrupt mine.
"Ro!” She screams at me.
Before I can respond, my body is tackled onto the ground from behind. The familiar scent of alcohol mixes with my scenes as it immediately identifies who is attacking me— Skye’s dad. It immediately makes fear broil through my body, but there’s no time to self-pity over my childhood trauma.
I’m faced with his icy blue eyes and blonde hair. I instinctively grab his shoulders and roll over so I’m hovering over him. With my dagger still clenched in my hand, I struggle to plunge it towards his throat as he presses against it. Another one of her family members I’m trying to kill.
I grunt as the tall, stocky man uses his force against mine. In the heated moment, I can barely hear Skye screaming for us to stop. I glance at her, seeing tears flowing from her eyes in a heavy stream. Skye is too gentle for this. She’s always been the joyful light in everyone’s life she meets. She sings to the animals, caresses the flowers, and brings life to the sad parts of Vanelle. And yet, I’m making her witness a scene in which someone is going to be murdered. I can’t believe I’m putting my best friend through this.
She doesn’t know.
Noticing I’m distracted, Mr. Lowe takes a strong heap of force and uses it to unexpectedly throw my hand with the dagger into the air and flips me over again. I’m left with one of his legs pinning my arm down, and him sitting on my stomach. He grabs my own arm with the dagger and slowly grazes it across my collar bone, leaving a long, painful stream of blood. I don’t have any energy left-- he’s way too strong for me. He gets much more food and strength training than I could ever hope for. I whimper in pain as the cut gets deeper and deeper. I fight against his body weight, but he must have at least 100 pounds of pure muscle on me. The only thing I can do is scream.
I glance over at Skye, her eyes filled with a type of fear I’ve never seen, even given that she’s had to live through fear her whole life. However, we both know that if it were between her dad and me, Skye would choose me to live. She gains a look of determination in her eyes and looks at me one last time before she comes darting at us. To my surprise, she begins to punch his back repeatedly, trying to get him to stop. I’d never thought in a million years that Skye would hit someone-- she’s just too good. But I guess it’s different when it comes to my life.
“Dad! Stop hurting her! Please, I’ll do anything!” Skye sobs. A tear begins to stream down my cheek. Not from the pain, no. I will never let Mr. Lowe make me cry. I cry because Skye is trying to take the pain instead of me.
She doesn’t know.
“Skye, stop. I’m not worth it!” I scream back. I really am not worth it. I’m a Wanderer. I’m supposed to die at 18, which I’ll be very soon. In about a week from now, all I’ll be is a dead body. I’d prefer she get to live her long life than me getting to live through the next week or two, if I’m lucky. Skye screams in response and continues to punch his back repeatedly. Her dad is literally going to kill her. “Stop dad, please, please!” Skye shrieks. Her dad death stares me one last time before he’s over annoyed with Skye. He releases my hand, sending the dagger across the room to turn around and grab Skye by the throat.
Mr. Lowe sneers at his agonizing daughter. “Well, I’d never expected my darling Skye to be so fierce. You’ve been very misbehaved lately.” Skye’s dad chokes her and her eyes begin to bulge. The thought of my best friend taking her own life for me is excruciating. I have to save her before she can save me.
She doesn’t know.
When I sit up, my loss of blood hit’s my head with a pounding headache. I look down and see that the blood has stained my shirt and is oozing quickly. Everything is blurry, except for my knife stationed a couple of metres away. I begin to quickly, but quietly, crawl over to the knife, struggling to keep study. Her dad’s words begin again.
“Apologize to dad,” he says sinisterly. Skye responds with gags and I can feel his patience running out. I feel so faint, but the knife is now only a few feet away. I take the last bit of my strength to reach for the blade.
“No apology? What a bad, bad girl,” he says with fake sympathy. I reach out my fingers and pull the blade towards me. “Do you know what happens to bad girls like you?” before he can commit another crime, I launch the blade at him, aiming for his head, but instead hitting his hamstring.
It’s the worst shot I’ve ever made.
Luckily, he still winces in response and releases Skye, who falls to the ground and caresses her throat. I gather more willingness to stand and clumsily run to her side and shake her. “Skye!” I sob, tears falling. “Don’t let him win! Fight through it!” The world starts to slow down. My gash is coating her in blood. Her eyes turn to mine and the only look she has is sympathy for me. I can tell she won’t die, but I can already see the bruises forming on her throat.
I scream as my bun of wavy, strawberry blonde hair is suddenly pulled, forcing me to stand. I’m dragged quickly to the nearest wall and slammed against it by Skye’s dad. He uses his knees to press my thighs against the wall and his arm grab my hands and clutches them together and holds them above my head. He rips the dagger out from his hamstring and presses the tip of it against my throat.
“Well, I’ve finally got you, Rowan.” He pants. “Skye can’t protect you, nobody can protect you. I can finally finish you myself.” I gasp as he pushes the knife deeper into my flesh, that if pushed any deeper, would cut my throat wide open. Skye moans on the floor. I have to win. For Skye.
She still doesn’t know.
“I’ve always had to save you for the courses, but now that you’ve committed a crime this big, I’m legally allowed to finish you off myself.” My blurred mind still realizes his words that are only good in this scenario. The courses. That’s right. They should be coming any minute now to take me away. I just have to stall.
“Are-- you sure y-you want to kill me?” I ask between slobbery pants, not knowing where this was going.
His face gives a stern, yet satisfied look. “You can’t trick me out of this one,” he speaks through gritted teeth.
I smirk. It’s starting to work. As long as I can keep him talking for a minute, I’ll be safe. New inspiration pops into my head. “Well, I mean, can you kill me? I mean, sure you’ve taken your part in making me and Skye’s life a living hell, but it’s usually Mrs. Lowe who does the really dirty work, like what she tried to do just now, for instance,” I look over to Mrs. Lowes dead body as a form of gesturing to it. “I just feel like... You know, you’re too soft to murder someone." I pant the words out but smile as Mr. Lowe gets annoyed.
“Well then, I’d be glad to show you that I’m quite capable of doing so,” He chuckles and starts to wind up his arm, ready for the kill. It’s not working anymore. I need to find a way to make him question his pride.
I quickly move my eyes to the large red light mounted by the front door as it begins to flash, signalling the departure of this month’s batch of Wanderers. I have 30 seconds.
A new idea pops into my head. “You’re scared,” I say calmly. Skye gives one last “be careful” grunt before passing out for good. She’s not going to wake up before I’m taken.
She’ll never know.
“I’m not scared,” he says, confidence already shrinking slightly. “You should be the one who’s scared. I can have you dead in a second.”
20 more seconds. All I can do now is hope that I can stay conscious for that long.
“But you are scared.” He begins to grit his teeth and makes a low growl sound. “You have to take out your fear and insecurities on everyone else. You’re scared of everyone else thinking you’re weak, so you have to make others feel lower than you.” He’s become the angriest I’ve ever seen him. It’s working.
10 more seconds.
I smile at the impact I’m having on his confidence, making him hesitate. “I’m not afraid of you. No one should be. We all know how weak you really are, Mr. Lowe. You’re not tough and scary, you’re only scared yourself!”
He growls and gives one last shout. “Do you have any idea how much I am worth in this country?!”
“Oooh, nice comeback.” I spit.
He raises his knife and screams, about to make his final move. However, I’m not scared. I smirk at him, as I count down in my head.
The red light above the door starts ringing and as if on queue, the front door bursts open and about a dozen of President Korella’s Guardians, fully clothed in black armoured suits, burst through the front door of the mansion.
The Guardians rush in and circle me and Mr. Lowe right away, pointing guns straight at my head. “Good evening, Sir Lowe,” One of the Guardian’s greets. Mr. Lowe is the head Guardian trainer, making him very well known across Vanelle. “Is this her? Rowan Gray?” He nods, shocked from the sudden entrance, even though he knew that today was the departure of this month’s 18-year-old turning Wanderers, in particular the May-born babies.
“It’s time for the departure. Commence the collection of the Wanderer!” He yells out of the door. The rest of the Guardians jump at me, holding down my arms and legs as they use metal detectors to scan me for weapons. Sure enough, they find the hidden dagger that I keep with me for safety.
I give them no satisfaction of watching me struggle, as I know it will be no use anyway and only make me look weaker. They start judging you at the moment of your departure. Plus, I can’t see straight anymore and breathing is becoming really hard.
The restraint chair is brought in and I’m strapped into it quickly. My limbs are already bound to the chair, and the guards are finishing off my head restraints. I can’t believe it’s already time for me to go to the courses and lose my life.
“Thank you for your co-operation, Mr. Lowe.” The same Guardian spoke. “A new slave will be delivered here tomorrow at dawn.” Mr. Lowe nods.
With the action dying down, the head guard begins to walk towards the door once again and notices the bodies on the floor. Oh my gosh. I just remembered about Skye. How selfish am I to have forgotten about her so quickly? I’m the worst friend ever. I could’ve fought off those guards and saved her. “Would you like us to provide any medical care for your loved ones?” The Guardian says, sounding concerned with all the blood and broken bodies on the floor.
“No, actually, I will be just fine,” he says as he smirks at me. My mouth drops open. He is going to finish off Skye.
“No!” I scream, blood coming out of my mouth. “Help her! She’s going to die! You’re all si--” I’m cut off when the guards tie a gag around my mouth, silencing me. I try to scream through the gag and kick against my restraints. My best friend, my only friend, is going to die. I have to save her.
“Gosh, she’s going to be a tough one. Most of them give up by the time we seal their arms and legs. Give her the mask.” The guard speaks. Before I know it, a black mask is forced onto my head, which reeks of drugs.
Skye will never know. Maybe Skye’s dad will tell her that her mom tried to kill her, but I don’t think even her dad knows why she tried to do it.
I’m the only living person who does.
As my body begins to shut down, I have one last thought.
I’m going to survive those courses.
Not for myself.
But for Skye.
I’m going to save her.