*Click here to read chapters 1-2 if you haven’t already.
He Peered at Me
6th of the Days of Warmth
Distractions are harder to dust off than I’d previously planned. Especially when they are a handsome, hard-working, six-day-a-week presence. And when I’ve given so much thought and attention to them for so long. Too long.
Eldin was here today, working on the farm with Father and Javin as always. However, today was different. Very different. From the outside, no one would notice the change. But being able to see inside, changes happen more often than you think. Some for the better, others for the worst. Today, it was both.
Father prepared to collect chump—chewed grass made savory and nutritious by the saliva of gurns—from our oldest gurn, Magenta. She had apparently swallowed more than she could chew because before Father could grab the pail to catch the chump, Magenta vomited grass the size of her head onto his lap. He called in Eldin to catch whatever chump remained, then Father went inside to clean off.
Did I mention Father had me brush leakers from Magenta’s fur? I tried desperately to ignore Eldin’s heart by overly concentrating on scraping off a giant, oozing leaker from Magenta’s rear, but then the change happened.
The usual loyalty, diligence, joy, kindness, and compassion poured from Eldin’s heart in warm waves that ignited my mind with thoughts of King Nifal, but I realized the horrible feeling of pity wasn’t prickling my skin. Sadness hung, heavy in the air. But bewilderment changed to curiosity. And then reality slapped me in the back like a pleased Gavrailian. Eldin hadn’t attempted to chat with me as he always did. He sat as quiet as I’d been since he replaced Father in chump-collecting.
I removed my stare from the stubborn leaker and looked over at Eldin, seated on the stool, pail in hand, catching chump. But he wasn’t just catching chump. He was peering at me, observing me as if I were some mysterious artifact.
My skin tingled. My stomach flopped. I never held gazes with his shimmering, deep purple eyes. They infiltrated my soul, making my knees weak, and heart pound.
I scraped so hard, brown leaker-insides splattered onto my face. I dropped the brush, my cheeks burning.
Eldin jumped to his feet and removed a handkerchief from his back pocket. He tried handing it to me, but I was so embarrassed, I just scurried out of the barn as Javin was entering with a pail of water. I crashed into him, drenching us both.
“Elly!” Javin grabbed me by the shoulders, his eyes lilac, mirroring the concern and anger consuming his heart. “What happened?”
“What did you do to her?” Javin released me and strode toward Eldin. “Did you touch her?”
I bustled after my hot-hearted brother. “Javin, he didn’t do anything.”
“Really, Javin?” Eldin set his pail on the ground. “You think I would ever harm Elisena?”
“That’s ‘your sister’ to you,” Javin said.
Eldin smiled, yet anger kindled in his heart. “Elisena is much more than just ‘your sister.’”
Javin stepped close to him. “Maybe to our family, but not to you. So don’t you dare even think of—”
“Of what? Being her friend?” Eldin stepped forward as my heart ached at the mere friend response, while every inch of me cringed at the swelling anger in him and big-mouthed Javin.
Eldin continued. “You aren’t her father so you should stop acting like one.”
Javin shoved him. Eldin staggered, knocking over the pail of chump. Javin swung his fist. Eldin dodged and then rammed into him, sending them both tumbling to the ground.
Eldin raised his fist.
“Please stop!” I screamed. And cried. Eldin peered at me again. Remorse.
He lowered his arm, rose to his feet, and walked out of the barn.
I have a feeling more distractions are on their way.
Did My Calling Just Knock?
11th of the Days of Warmth
Eldin hasn’t been back. It’s going on day four of his absence at our farm. Father said, “It’s best to give the boy space to forgive.”
Meanwhile, I am needing my own space to forgive Javin. Papa-twin is banned from roto-flying and has twice more work to do until Eldin returns—if—Eldin returns.
I pray Javin would at least attempt to work on his trust issues. He and Father are two unhealthy extremes in the trust arena. Despite all he’s been through, Father is quite trusting. Whereas Javin is the complete opposite. He doesn’t even trust Father because of how trusting Father is. It’s a deep-rooted heart issue that began when we were seven.
Father and Javin sat outside shearing the new purple fur that had grown on our youngest furth, while Mother brushed my hair in the cottage fore-room. I used to enjoy going on adventures around the farm. We own a few acres, and Ollander and his wife always let me venture into their land.
They have two big slinkpaws; a fluffy black male and an orange-spotted female. Rina, the female, loved to play with me. I’d hide and she’d come skulking. With a playful growl she’d pounce and we’d roll around in the grass. That day we actually rolled down a hill. My adventures always left a tangled mess of brown curls, but because of the hill-smashing, the knots were worse, and Mother had to untwine sticks and grass.
The brush caught on a knot. Mother cussed and yanked. Anger speared from her heart like a dagger into mine. She yanked again. More cussing. I started to cry.
“Well if you didn’t act like an animal and play with those beasts, you wouldn’t have this ugly, wretched hair!” She pulled so hard the brush broke.
I wailed. Mother threw the brush on the floor, strode to the closet, and shoved the curtain aside. Rage, disappointment, and something even more horrible suffocated the air. She snatched her satchel off a hanger and stormed out of the cottage, leaving the door open. She screamed at Father. I ran to the entryway and peered outside.
Mother stood across from him while he held back Javin with one hand, the other grasping Mother’s. “Lillian, please. Let’s go inside and talk about this.”
“Oh, now you want to talk!” She shook her hand free. “You’ve had years to get to know your own wife, but you put this farm before me.”
“I work for you, for our children.”
“Stop. Just stop it. It’s too late. You’re too late.” She turned to the right. Alongside the cottage, three sibling rotos and their mother drank from a water tray. She marched in their direction.
Father released Javin and trailed Mother.
“Mama!” I jumped off our wrap-around porch and raced to her, Javin following suit.
Anger, disappointment, and self-pity bombarded my seven-year-old frame, poisoning my thoughts. Good for nothing. How could he? I want nothing to do with him.
Mother hopped onto the mother roto. She screeched and flapped her red wings.
I reached up and clasped Mother’s calve. “Mama, where are you going?”
Javin gripped the roto’s feathers. “Stay, Mama! Stay.”
Father’s voice trembled. “Lillian, don’t do this. Please. We need you.”
Grasping the reins, she looked down at Father, and something I didn’t understand then consumed her heart. “You need me. What about love?”
A crushing weight of defeat and jealousy shrouded Father’s broken heart. Tears spilled from his purple eyes. “Clearly, you know nothing of love.”
She kicked the roto’s side. She leapt into the air and they soared away.
From that day forward, Javin never trusted anyone, but me. We were the victims. We were the ones abandoned. Our own mother traded us for what she believed was love and chased that fantasy to another town. Word traveled fast about her adulterous relationship with a married man of seven children.
Father couldn’t protect us from that betrayal, but Javin believes he can spare us from another. And so he behaves accordingly, keeping people at a distance or pushing them away. He certainly shoved Eldin hard. I guess it was an answered prayer. No distractions now. Which reminds me…
Today is Invitation Day. All the gifted in Zephoris who have been chosen to attend Knight’s Elect Academy will receive a letter of acceptance and invitation. No one gets to apply to the academy. They have only to wait for the letter and choose to accept or reject it.
With all the thoughts of slapping Javin or pushing him into roto waste, I hadn’t thought about this day. Well, I somewhat forced it from my mind. How could my gift be used to serve the people of Zephoris? Knights are strong and intimidating. I’m short, somewhat hefty, and shy.
It’s hard to imagine King Nifal would want me to become a knight. I’m clumsy with a sword at best and downright hazardous at worst. Ask Javin. The scar at the end of his eyebrow and descending his cheek is a consequence of my terrible swordsmanship. After that epic failure, he and Father never let me lift a sword again.
Hmm. Javin’s anxiety level is tearing through the walls of my bedroom and prickling my entire body. Even Father’s nerves are leaking in. Now intense anger from papa-twin. He’s yelling at Father. I’ll be back.
Javin received an invitation to Knight’s Elect Academy.
And so did I.
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