It's hard to tell whether a person is good or bad - conclusion: everyone is a mixture of both; like a rose, which is both beautiful yet dangerous. After meeting three mysterious women, Felicity is thrown into the world of gang rivalries, a city full of misfortune, forming unlikely alliances within Eden, a city far from paradise.
The starkness of the red stands out among the void of blackness surrounding me. A single rose in my line of sight, half withered, half alive. Petals desperately trying to survive against all the odds, probably due to the lack of water. Did it fall from a bunch or was it a single rose discarded from a failed date? An anniversary? For someone sick? Maybe it just wasn’t as good as the others. The thorns speak to me as if they were willing me to stay away from the dangerous stem:
If you touch me once, you’ll wither like I did.
Then it disappears under the thud of a boot and everything becomes too bright. Where is that light coming from? It’s a strain to try and lift my head but I manage, my eyes slowly adjusting to the bright light shining straight into them. Just as quickly as it comes, it goes, leaving me those black dots in my vision.
A female voice echoes in my ears, “Hey Anastasia, what are we supposed to do with her?”, blinking a few times, everything comes back into focus.
A tanned young lady lazily holds one katana across her back while slow drips of blood slip from the tip. Her loose braided hair blends in with the night while her clothes blend into the surroundings. Dark ocean blue eyes look at me skeptically before another woman comes into view with a gaze different to the first - less harsh. She is a bit shorter than the first but the opposite - her chocolate brown hair flows in the wind with the breeze and it’s her eyes that catch my attention, they shine in the moonlight like two emeralds. Flicking my eyes over her full appearance she could be considered model worthy.
Roughly she hands the bow to the other woman and bends down, lifting my head gently with her gloved hand, “We take her in Val, that’s what.” This must be Anastasia.
Val drops onto a knee, using the edge of a knife to lift the shards of my barely ideal coat, no doubt seeing the skimpy outfit I wore underneath.
“Alright then,” Val says, slipping off her trench coat and wrapping it around my barely movable body. “Can you move?” She asks but I could only whisper out a no that I’m not even sure she heard.
Flicking the katana off to the side, the blood splatters violently against the wall, like a chore she regularly does before skillfully slipping it behind her back. Her hands slip underneath under my knees and around my waist, and I flinch at the touch that drags up nightmare worthy memories. She readjusts her hand from around my waist, gripping softly around my shoulders instead.
“Do you have anywhere to go?” She questions, cocking her head to one side, replying with a solemn shake of my head. “Well, you can stay with us for a while until you are back up on your feet. Only if you want to though.” She smiles down at me, a smile that warms your insides, one that I hadn’t seen on anyone’s face in a long time.
This can’t be true – who are these people? Offering to help a stranger, no one’s ever done that for me without a motive. This city, especially North, doesn’t thrive on kindness, as I have so brutally learned. Even if I wanted to make my way out of this stranger’s grip, I can’t move my body at all. Bumping gently up and down in her arms, I didn’t dare to look back at the bodies that they have so casually left behind.
“Ellis, watch the rooftops.” Anastasia declares to no one in particular, but taking a closer look at Val, an earpiece sits snug in one ear.
Val’s muscles stiffen against my body as I hear the metallic clink of a can bump across the pavement. Shifting her hands, she leans me up against the cold brick wall of the alleyway, holding a finger up to her lips. A dangerous snake like smile slithers its way onto Val’s mouth as she unsheathes her katana sending a shiver down my spine - how can her warm smile morph into something so vicious? Her eyes seem to sharpen, more vicious - a stark contrast to the look on her face from before. Tilting my head up, I barely make out the glint of what must be the other lady, Ellis, her rifle in the moonlight. The same question floats into my mind again, who the hell are these people? One breath before chaos erupts. Val moves so fast that I don’t even see her move from the spot in front of me, before I hear the first splatter of blood on the pavement cringing at the noise. Someone grabs me from behind, flailing my arms I hit something hard, Anastasia’s face comes into view, and the next thing she’s quickly pulling me onto her back and behind a corner to avoid whatever was going on there. Gunshots ring out in the cold air and without realizing it my hands and legs tremble with no sign of stopping. Her hand slips into my hand, giving it a tight squeeze, before she moves us somewhere further.
“What - what about them?” I finally manage to choke out.
“They will be fine.” Anastasia reassures with a thin smile. The night was silent once more and Val comes around the corner with a small grin on her face but my eyes glue straight onto the blood splattered across her face and katana. How could she smile covered in so much blood?
Ellis silently lands behind Val, pushing a handgun into the back of her head, “How many times have I told you to clean your blades after.” Ellis scolds, before she lowers the gun, slipping it onto her hips.
“Too many.” Val murmurs, rubbing the back of her head. She seems to suddenly remember all the blood on her, flicking the katana away from her. The blood flies off onto the pavement for the second time tonight and my eyes couldn’t tear away from the red stained pavement. A soft voice breaks me out of my trance, “Did you want to come with us? If you don’t like it, you can leave.” It is Ellis looking at me.
My eyes scan over her tied up simple ponytail, how the sides of her fringe frame her brown face, her brown eyes catch mine and a smile forms on her face, as she slings her rifle behind her back. Her long slender frame moved with a certain grace that she must have been a dancer before. The smile didn’t fade from Val’s mouth and even Anastasia looks slightly amused. I didn’t have anywhere to go tonight and all they have done is protect me. Scanning my eyes over these three people, did I just get into something worse?
This isn't what I was expecting at all. Soft lights illuminate the high iron gates that skirt around the blooming gardens inside, however those pale in comparison to the looming Roman styled mansion that towers over us. Marble pillars uphold the spotless white veranda but if I strain my eyes enough I can see people stationed all around the place; within the garden, behind pillars and around the fences. How rich were these people? Entering through the pristine oak doors, a crystal chandelier hangs above glittering like stardust falling onto the marble floors. Two oak staircases lead up to another floor and turning my head to look left and right, all I can see is endless hallways.
"Alright Val, take her to get setup. There are a few things Ellis and I need to do. We will see you at dinner." Val nods, gently taking me off Anastasia's back, cradling me in her warm arms, walking up the stairs and down a variety of hallways before she stops in front of a pair of white oak doors.
"This is Anastasia's office, you will find her here most of the time if you need anything." which I try to make a mental note of in my mind. I couldn't help but notice how soft yet comforting her arms are, it reminds me of how my brother used to carry me when I hurt myself. Down a few more hallways, she stops in front of another door, easing open the slightly ajar door with her foot.
"Apologies I didn't mean to get blood all over you. You'll probably want to refresh up, so feel free to take a bath or shower up to you, there is both." My eyes search for any light source but all I can see is darkness. I don't even understand how Val navigates her way through, but soon enough we are in a bathroom, a very fancy one might I add. A small pool sized tub sits off the left-hand side, that looks practically untouched, while on the right side is a glass shower and a toilet with a range of buttons. In the middle sits a long marble bench top with a mirror that runs the span of the bench with some soap and a single toothbrush on it. My reflection stares back at me huddled in Val's arms. I am still covered in Val's oversized trench coat; my blue eyes are sunken against my normally golden skin, little specks of dirt and blood mix with my dirty blonde hair and dark splotches cover my arms and neck.
An involuntarily sigh escapes my lips and I catch Val staring, "Don't worry, we all have our bad days." She reassures but just taking a better look at her now, the bags hang so deep and dark under her eyes, I wonder when the last time she had a decent sleep.
"Bath or shower?" She asks.
"Just let me warm it up a bit, I have never actually used it, but I still clean it anyway." She carefully places me on the too white tiles of the bathroom. She slips off her stained shirt, but her singlet didn't cover the terrifying scars all over her arms. Slashes here and there and what looks like burn scars are mix-matched on places that seem to continue further under her singlet. I want to ask but don't against my better judgement – I don't even know her.
"Just chuck your clothes in this box here. I'll get them washed and bring them back to you." She is too busy filing up the bath with mint smelling soap to see my face scrunch up at the thought.
"No please - I don't want them anymore." I croak.
"Alright then, I'll find some new ones for you then." I like that she doesn't ask any questions.
"How do I repay you?"
She looks at me with soft eyes, cocking her head to her side, "Want to work for us?"
My muscles groan in pleasure as I drop my body into the soapy goodness. Steaming water ripples from around my body to the edges of the bathtub. Steps shuffle around outside the door, it sounds like Val is talking to someone on the phone. Letting the strands of hair fall around my face, my shoulders sink a little further into the water. Should I work for them? Asking questions is what I should do first. It should be better than working for him. It could even pay better. My head drops below the water and I try to rid myself of all the dirt and blood in my hair. I don’t even know these people. I didn’t know Dorian either. Can they be that bad if they are letting me take a bath? My mind wanders to the hour before, watching them slaughter those men in front of me. The metallic smell of the blood and the sound as it hits the pavement send a shiver up my spine. Pushing the thoughts out of my mind I quickly dry myself and slip on the clothes Val had left me; trackpants and a blue shirt with cat paw on it. Odd choice. Escaping out the bathroom, Val is standing on her balcony staring out into what I assume must be the garden.
She turns around, quickly heading into bathroom, “Make yourself at home.” she calls through the door.
The lights had been turned on this time and a queen size bed rests under a tall glass window. On one wall, a range of swords and katanas are mounted carefully and near them is a complicated looking computer set up that has a range of gadgets spread across the desk. A single table and chair sit outside on the balcony and trailing my eyes further, three leather sofas enclose a small coffee table facing a window sized flatscreen mounted to the wall. I forgot I hadn’t eaten since yesterday and my stomach grumbles eyeing the small coffee table covered with a range of snacks that are lined up particularly neatly.
I don’t hear Val come out of the shower making me jump as she comes up behind me, “Take whatever you want.” I’m hesitant but she insists, swiping some chocolate coated sticks off the table and collapsing into one of the couches.
“So, what’s your name?” She asks between bites.
“Nice to meet you I’m Val.” Throwing a pack of chocolate sticks my way. My hands clasp around the box, but my body is too tense to move. What am I supposed to say next? Val beats me to it. “I guess you might be wondering what you have to do. Mainly answering phone calls, running errands, helping with paperwork and possibly helping down at the orphanage. Something will be worked out.”
“Nothing else?” She lifts an eyebrow at me, seemingly picking up on what I am referring too.
“Nothing that requires any form of exploiting yourself. You’ll get paid for your work and everything, so don’t worry if you are providing for someone.” Maybe working for them won’t be so bad, I would be able to send some money to Adrian, possibly even bring him here one day. Then there is Dorian to worry about, no doubt he will come after me, or worse after Adrian, I made him the most money after all.
“Why the face?” Val asks, with a chocolate stick peeking out the corner of her mouth “Also you’re hurting the chocolate sticks.” I didn’t realise how tight I was clenching my jaw and I look down at the now crushed chocolate box in my hand.
“Sorry. It’s nothing.”
“Well anyway, Felicity besides a job you can stay here for a bit. You can pick if you want to stay in a guest room or with whoever for the time being. Anastasia said you could choose.” If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t want to stay by myself, not after the night I just had. Looking over at Val, her deep blue ocean eyes look at me curiously but also with a hint of concern – it makes me feel like I can trust her. Maybe that is a mistake.
She throws another stick into her mouth, the corners of her mouth turning into a grin and her eyes turning soft, “You probably don’t want to be by yourself after tonight.” It’s like she read my mind. “You can stay in my room if you want?”
“If you wouldn’t mind.” I say quietly.
“Not at all.” She replies. It’s silent after that.
“How can you take in a stranger like me so easily?” I blurt out.
“It’s not unusual for us. In a city as broken as this one, you do what you can really.” She replies. A part of me wishes that I had been raised in South instead of North. A ding interrupts the silence again and Val flicks her eyes at her phone, “Sorry, make yourself comfortable or get some fresh air. I need to handle something. I’ll be back soon.” She says jumping up and shooting out the door. Clasping and unclasping my hands, I scan over the room in more detail. The katanas on the wall look like they haven’t been touched in ages, are they decorations or real swords? The whole room is surprisingly neat and clean. The light disappears in the room and without warning a hand drags me off the chair, trapping me against their body and whilst the other covers my mouth. Screaming was no use and I can’t get a good position to bite their hand. Thrashing my arms and legs to get free it is no use against this person, their grip is like iron. To my surprise, the grip suddenly loosens and I hear a thump on the ground. The lights turn back on, blinding me a little but after they adjust, I turn around to see Val sitting on top of another woman, twisting the woman’s arm behind her back.
Her chestnut hair is sprawled all over the ground, covering her face, “Alex chill would you, she’s not an enemy.” Val grumbles, releasing the grip on Alex’s arm, pulling Alex up with her. Her amber eyes look apologetically towards me before in one blink she disappears from my vision. I spin around in a circle but she is completely gone. What just happened?
“Who was that?” I ask, completely stunned.
“That’s Alexandra, my partner.” She says in a tone that suggests she’s a little annoyed. “I didn’t mean to scare you like that.”
“It’s alright.” But my hands say otherwise, still shaking a little.
Quickly changing the topic, “When do I start working?”
“That was a quick choice. Think it over a little bit more. Take the next few days to chill or something. You can hang in my room for the day, I won’t be there anyway. I’ve got a TV and a bunch of movies and shows loaded up on there. If not walk around the mansion, familiarise yourself, just make sure you knock before going -” but I couldn’t make out the rest of what she was saying. My vision blurs and my hands get clammy, I try to steady myself but Val must have caught me because I can’t control my body at the moment. My breathing becomes ragged as I try to get whatever oxygen I can into my lungs. I could feel the cravings for drugs crawl through my body and soon enough I start screaming for them. Something hard is shoved into my mouth and my body is hit with a wave of relief. Letting it dissolve on the center of my tongue, sweetness replaces the high I normally got from the drugs. Refocusing on my environment, Val and I were kneeling on the floor across from each other, her hands on my arms steading me. A bag of hard candies lay scattered in a rainbow of colours across the floor and it wasn’t until then that I realised how hard I had been gripping Val’s arms and let go.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to.” I whisper, feeling the tears in the corner of my eyes. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her.
“It’s fine, in all honesty I was kind of expecting a withdrawal at any point now since I took away your drugs.”
“Wait you knew?”
“Those men we killed tonight did a lot of terrible things, drug dealing being one of them. Call it a hunch.”
“The lollies then?”
“My friend came up with a way to help deal with drug withdrawal with these specially made candies. Just don’t get me to explain how, it’s too much science.” Looking up at her, that warm smile is plastered on her face again.
“Thank you for helping me.” I murmur. She rests a hand on top of my head, just how my mum used to, “I would want someone with me too.” Pushing herself up, she holds an extended hand out to me, “Let’s get going to dinner, hey?”
Dinner - more like a feast. The mouth-watering smell of the roast and salted vegetables brings my memories back to the Sundays where Mum spent three hours perfecting her roast, Dad would grab something random yet sweet for desert, while Adrian, Leona and I always ran around the kitchen trying to help. Gobbling down my food, a soft laugh makes me flick my eyes to the person sitting across from me, Anastasia. Taking a look at her glowing face, she is barely over mid-twenties and seems to be the one calling the shots here.
“Take your time, we don’t need to be anywhere.” Anastasia muses, her smile never wavering, “By the way, how old are you?”
“I’m just about to turn nineteen in a few months.”
“I can’t believe you made it all the way to South from there. North is the roughest area out of the four sectors.” Anastasia turns to her right, poking Val in her arm, “Val also came from the North.”
“How about you?” I ask.
“South, I’ve been here my whole life.” She pauses, placing her spoon down suddenly, “What were you doing there tonight?”
My blood runs cold and I feel the colour drain from my face. What will she think when I tell her I work as a prostitute? A soft hand lands on my shoulder, Val is standing behind me.
“Don’t worry, tell us when you’re ready.” Anastasia looks me up and down one more time, before leaning back into her chair.
Wanting to change the topics, I blurt out, “How old are you?”
“Twenty-five.” The shock must have shown on my face because Ellis, who had been sitting next to me, laughs.
“I’m sorry I just wasn’t expecting you to be..”
“So young?” Anastasia finishing my sentence for me.
“She’s an oldie.” Val chimes in.
“Val you can’t talk, you’re only a year younger than both of us.” Ellis counters. Val pokes her tongue out at Ellis retaliating in the same manner, making me giggle. Looking around the lively room filled with people, the laughing faces, food on the table and the easy atmosphere, maybe this place can be the home I’ve been looking for.
“You can sleep on the bed.” Val says, turning on the light in the room before disappearing into the bathroom. Walking over to the bed, the sheets now have been strewn all over and the pillows are everywhere on the bed. Scanning over the room again, everything else was in perfect place. Still staring at the bed, Val comes out in a t-shirt covered in cute bunnies and matching pants, furrowing my eyebrows - they certainly did not match not match her demeanor from before. It’s almost scary.
“I’ve got some clothes for you if you want to change.” Handing me a silky turquoise pajama set,
“I’ll be on the couch if you need anything.”
She flops onto the couch before I could ask any questions. Quickly dressing into the clothes, I turn off the light and slip into the soft bed. Unable to find a comfortable position, I rest my chin on my palms, staring out at the night through the window, replaying tonight’s events in my mind.
“I’ll see you again next week darling.” One of my regulars purred as he left out the door. Lifting up a hand to my forehead, I had let out a sigh. What was I doing with my life? I needed to earn the money for Adrian. Was that all? “You better earn double this week or you won’t be the only one suffering this week.” Dorian had threatened me that week. I had barely made enough to even be close to half of what I was supposed to make. Fear ran through my veins, but I guessed that would be tomorrow’s problem. Pulling my scraps of clothing off the floor, I pulled them on and walked out of the hotel room that had been rented. Dragging my feet across the ground with every step, I couldn’t help but feel the slightest excitement at receiving a new batch of drugs. I could get the high I desperately needed. Walking down the alleyways I knew all too well, three bulky males appear out of the shadows with grins on their faces.
“Felicity, been waiting for your new batch? It’s a new formula” Liam wiggles a bag with little white tablets in front of me. Liam along with two others of Dorian’s friends carefully eyed me as I approached them for the drugs.
“No one followed you right?” I gave him a raise of my eyebrow, like as if I would lead people to my drug dealers.
“Alright alright. Here.” Quickly I snatched the bag out of his hands, not waiting a single moment before popping one into my mouth. Letting it dissolve on the tip of my tongue, I felt like I was flying and overwhelmingly happy. You end up losing yourself in nothing and I can’t deny it - it felt great, like I was truly alive. However, I was still aware enough to hear Liam say, “And payment?”
Gripping his shirt, I pushed him up against the wall, pressing my body against his, running a finger down the side of his face, tracing all the way down his body. This didn’t even mean anything more, the high was enough. Just as I was about to press my lips to his, something whooshed past my ear and straight into the wall, next to Liam’s head. I fumbled backwards and another arrow entered his chest within the blink of an eye. His mouth gaped open and his eyes widened, his body sliding down the wall, leaving a trail of blood until he slumped on the floor. My body froze as blood pooled around his body and his lifeless eyes continued to stare out at the distance - at whoever was behind me. A pain throbbed at the bottom of my skull which sent me crumbling knees first into the cement. I couldn’t hold myself up anymore and completely collapsed onto the ground. That lone red rose laid broken on the pavement. A light, too bright, shone into my eyes before I heard Val’s voice, “Hey Anastasia, what are we supposed to do with her?”
Cold sweat breaks out in palms and I can’t help from shivering even with the heavy quilt. They need to know about Dorian even if I get kicked out of here for it. He might come for me - to here - he would cause a lot of trouble not only for them but for Adrian too. Lifting off my sheets, my feet sink into the carpet’s softness - thankful for it actually - making it easier to sneak up to Val. They say people look younger when they sleep and with Val in her bunny pajamas, she can pass as a teenager. I sneak down the halls trying to remember the directions Val had shown me earlier when to my surprise, two large oak doors loom in front of me. Sucking in a sharp breath, my fist beats on the wooden doors and a murmur calls through the door to come in. Anastasia drags her eyes up from her papers in front of her, the bags weighing heavy under her eyes, she motions me to sit down.
Two lamps illuminate the mass of papers strewn across her desk, “Is something wrong? Isn’t Val with you?” A wave of nausea hits me. I wish Dorian would just disappear. “Take a seat.”
Just say it. “I need to tell you something.” I breathe, sinking a little into the chair, feeling the cushions deflate underneath. Anastasia moves from her desk next to me, placing her hands in her lap, waiting.
“I was buying drugs tonight, I needed them. It was my first time being an..an escort, that’s when it started. H-h-he made me submit to him more than the others. Every day just got worse and worse.” Anastasia leans a bit closer but still distant.
“How did you get caught up in all this?”
“My father had got caught up in some debts and couldn’t pay it, so he sold me to them.” Just the thought leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
There is silence in the room before a thought slips past my lips, “Why didn’t you kill me with them?”
“Call it a gut feeling. You don’t seem like a bad kid.” I search her emerald eyes for any trace of a lie but they look genuine “Is there something else on your mind?”
Gulping down my fear, I confess, “Dorian Polletto who I - owns me is not a man you want to get involved with. He could cause some serious problems.” My hands clasp together for shock, disgust, any reaction at all but her face remains blank.
“Is this the man?” She asks pulling out a photo, revealing the same man who stole my freedom.
“Yes..yes, you know him already?”
“He’s been causing a lot of chaos in the South - kidnappings, most being female. Sex trading and slaves. I think you know that though.”
“Does that not worry you?”
She evades the question but recalls instead, “We are trying to destroy his industry right now. It’s been a bit troublesome at times if I’m being honest, but we can handle him.” Her smile didn’t feel reassuring.
“But that’s Dorian Polletto.” I exclaim, not understanding how he doesn’t make her skin crawl.
“I am aware of who he is. Those men we killed were some of his largest traders. However, it’s not Dorian whose scary, it’s how big his business has grown.”
Anastasia's eyes light up like an idea had just flashed in her mind, “If you’re up for it, maybe you could help us?”
My body sinks further under the sheets, savouring the warmth and the softness of the bed. My eyes fly open - where am I? Everything from yesterday flows back into my mind and I let go of my clutch on the blanket. For once I don’t feel like a zombie when waking up and revel in how long it has been since I got such good sleep. Throwing off the blanket, I see Val typing away on her computer.
The bed creaks as I stand up and the typing stops, “Morning Felicity,” Val greets, swiveling her chair around, “Did you sleep alright?”
“It’s been a while since I’ve had this much sleep.” I admit, and her eyes glaze over before brightening again.
“Well get dressed. Let’s head to breakfast.”
Val decided to have warm food this morning, so I had taken a seat before her. Since sitting down, my eyes stare at the crisp golden flakes float lazily in the white liquid. The conversation with Anastasia yesterday weighs on my mind as I swing my spoon through the milk, watching it disrupt the peacefulness the bowl had before.
“Why were you in the South if you’re from the North?” Anastasia inquired.
“Tomorrow night is pay day for Dorian. We all pay up our earnings.” She seemed to contemplate this.
“Perfect. We will send a team with you to take him out.” Silence. I did not want to go back their. I dropped my gaze from Anastasia, focusing on an odd dent on the side of her desk. Anastasia’s voice was soft, like she was talking to a child, “If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine, but you could end his reign right here and now if you show us.”
“You have so many skilled people, you must be able to find him without my help.” Trying to reason with her.
“We haven’t been able to discover his location.” Was she lying? Her gaze and breathe remained constant, nothing indicated that she was. If we could rid Eden of Dorian, it would mean my family will no longer be in danger. I could free all those women who were taken against their will. All I had to do was say yes.
“On one condition, there are many good women there, can you please make sure they are safe.”
“Of course, we shall do our best. However, there is something I do want to ask you.” I raised an eyebrow at her.
Her eyes look as if they just dissolved into a deeper shade of green as her voice comes out evenly, “Did you want to be the one to kill him?” My heart had skipped a beat at that moment. Kill him? Was she kidding? Her face said otherwise. No matter how much I hated and despised that man, I couldn’t kill another person.
“No. I don’t.” Trying to hide my shaking hands.
“Alright, if you change your mind, just let Ellis know, she will be going with you tomorrow.”
Kill Dorian. You have to be kidding me. I had seen Dorian in fights, he had both the speed and strength that would make any professional fighter jealous. Apparently, he used to be a well decorated army general, that’s what the other women said anyway. Could this group take him on? Hopefully. Ellis is obviously skilled, but how many years of experience could she have on a war general?
“Something bothering you?” Ellis asks taking a seat down across from me, “Your cornflakes aren’t looking too appetizing.” Looking down, the crispiness now had deflated into soft chunks of yellow.
“It’s nothing really.” Wanting to change the topic, “Anyway Ellis, what else do you do around here?”
She took one more long hard look at me before answering, “Well I run an orphanage. We hold classes there and provide for the kids. Also I own my own cafe.”
“That’s so awesome.” Forcing interest into my voice.
“Anastasia is obviously busy around here all the time. I could say the same about Val too, she does a lot of the organising and background things here, making sure everything runs smoothly.”
After taking another bite of her toast she asks, “What do you plan to do today?”
“Probably walk around the mansion a bit and watch a few movies in Val’s room.”
“Chill. I like it. Anyway, I gotta head to the orphanage, so I’ll see you tonight.”
“Wait, you’re coming?” “I’m just following you there.” She winks and gets up, eating the rest of her toast on the way out.
My body slumps as soon as I see her leave and my mind wanders back to before. A shudder runs through my body at the realisation I am about to send a man to his death. Maybe they won’t kill him? Just throw him in prison or jail. Deep down I knew that in the city of Eden, throwing people into jail isn’t how problems are solved.
Val never showed up for breakfast and I didn’t feel like being in the bustling room full of people anymore. I had spent the last three hours exploring the mansion trying to figure out what and whoever everything is. No matter where I look, the house is immaculately clean. Shiny tiles you probably could eat off, pure white walls and windows so clear you might mistake it for not being there. How many people must be cleaning every day? After a few wrong turns, I successfully find my way to Val’s room, slowly opening the door to find it empty, like expected. A little part of me sunk though, I don’t want to be alone. That feeling quickly faded as I turn on the television to drown out my thoughts. Not many people in the North could afford a television like this. Flicking through the channels, I pick some random movie, popping one of the colourful candies into my mouth, savouring the relief.
The opening of a door startles me and I messily wipe at the side of my mouth. Knots must have formed in my shoulders from the awkward sleeping angle, tight enough that it’s a struggle to lift up my head, to find Val faceplant onto her bed, discarding her katana onto the floor.
“Hard day huh?” I ask groggily, coughing out the sleep in my voice.
Her head half turns to me, furrowing her eyebrows together, “You have no idea. Anyway, we need to get ready for tonight.”
“Wait you’re coming?”
“I’m just doing perimeter stuff.” She doesn’t elaborate any more than that.
Pushing myself up, I wonder how many white shirts Val must go through as the one she had now was stained with reds and browns. I don’t want to know how she got those. Thinking about it, I never really saw her much in anything else but a white button down and black slacks.
“Alright kiddo, you better get ready. I need to get ready as well. Clothes are on the bed.” She disappears out the door and I drag my feet through the carpet back to the bed. It wasn’t exactly the most ideal thing - a skimpy red dress that would hug my figure too well with a matching lace set of underwear. I had to look the part Anastasia had said. Quickly changing into the dress, I sneak a look into the mirror, watching my face crinkle in disgust. I head back into the room, trying to look for a suitable jacket – anything that would cover this. Val doesn’t have many long jackets and the best I could find was a floor length black trench coat. A knock sounds at the door and opening it reveals, Ellis smiling at me with a pair of black heels,
“Put these one and let’s get going.”
“She’s not coming with us. She and Dante will be setting up.”
“You’ll meet him later. He’s a sniper who works for us.” Following after Ellis in my perfected high heel walk, she chuckles, “I can’t believe you can walk in those, I would probably break my ankles. I’m glad after tonight, you won’t need to feel as uncomfortable as you do right now.”