short fiction: Carefree

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“You’re a pretty one aren’t you?” Anita cooed to the pigeon in her hand.

Wide eyed and heart pounding, it jerked its head away from her fingers. But as soon as an offering of bread was presented, it settled back into her palms once again. Anita peered at it, and the pigeon trembled.

“Well, off you go,” she said. “We both have a day to start.”

With a delicate lift of her arms, Anita set the bird flying through the canopy of the forest. She picked herself off the ground and repacked her bag. Now that breakfast had comfortably settled in her stomach, the rucksack felt much lighter.

Tip toe, toodly doo.

Anita hummed under her breath a little melody her sister had woken her up with. It had been a delightful morning. Even though she hated the fifteenth of Mays, most everyone did. Anita loved days like these where the sun rises with exactly nothing on but a lazy smile. Today, Anita could almost believe that she can finally relax. Maybe everyone else can too.

Mmmmmm. Anita hummed deliciously into the sultry perfume of magnolias that watched her from darkened trees. Anita brought her arms up from her sides and twirled until her skirts hiked up her knees.

Tip toe, toodly doo. Daisies for me, maggots for you.

On such a wonderful morning, Anita thought, it is only appropriate to dance like no one is watching. She relished the idea of doing so without a petticoat on. Her sister would have scolded her if she knew.

With great ease, Anita parried to the side with pointed toes. It’s not like she’s a princess, she had thought as she twirled to a stop. Anita grimaced and did a little shake to let loose the skirt tangling up her knees. She definitely did not want to be a princess. Horrid courtly rules, all prim and proper. Absolutely no fun at all. It’s pure suffocation that’s what. Anita always wondered how Preyanna managed to survive it. Pretty, precious Preyanna. The sharpest thing the princess ever touched was a butter knife. Anita blew out her mouth. Royals just don’t let go like the common folk.

Petticoat on or not, Anita was pretty certain that there was no one within a ten meter radius of her spot. She had checked the area herself, and she never makes mistakes.

Then with great care to seem Carefree, Anita slipped into the cobblestone path of the village.

The little town had just woken up, and the smell of freshly baked bread wafted through the buildings. Anita could hear the blacksmith ringing out peals of metal melodies. It was in this direction that she directed her new course. She made a mental note as she passed the bakery to pick up some yoselolee pie on the way back. It was her sister’s favorite.

This week had been the Blackmith’s busiest week. The fifteenth of Mays always were. As soon as Anita reached the opening where the Blacksmith’s shop stood, she was surrounded by people clamoring to get their orders filled.

At the sight of the crowd, Anita’s skin prickled with annoyance. She never was one for large groups of idiots.

“Anita!”

It was the Blacksmith. He waved her over.

Anita shoved her way through the crowd. The unlucky few got the breaths jabbed out of their lungs and a nasty set of bruises to match. The lucky few turned tail and fled to the back of the crowd as soon as they caught sight of a familiar, dainty looking elbow. It was not long before the crowd parted with a whisper, and Anita sidled up to the window. She lighted up the steps, preened her hair and lifted her lashes up to the sky.

“Lovely morning isn’t it Mr. Blacksmith?”

The Blacksmith had his hands firmly gripped against the planks of his window counter, and was staring fiercely at the grains in the wood.

“If you say so Anita.”

Tip toe toodly doo,” Anita tapped her lips in false contemplation, and then flashed her teeth. ” I do say so.”

“I have your order already completed. No need to pay.”

Anita stopped reaching for her pocket.

“No?”

“A trade,” The Blacksmith began, “will be sufficient. Your services for tonight’s…celebration.”

Anita pondered this and decided to settle on flashing the Blacksmith a coy smile, “Deal. I’ll be back with my sister around seven. We’ll be sure to arrive in our very finest.” Anita ran her hands through her hair, down her shoulders, and melted onto the counter. She knew that this position encouraged a healthy glimpse of her cleavage, what little she had. Her sister was, like a good amount of her other talents, blessed with a good deal more. But, that sly witch had always had them strategically hidden under high black wool. To Anita’s delight, the Blacksmith became perfectly unnerved. “Just. For. You. ” Anita bit at her finger, “Mr. Blacksmith.”

“Anita!” The Blacksmith was exhausted. He wiped his face deeply as if he could wipe away the years of worry and trouble. “Give it a rest. Brian is in the back. He’ll give you what you need.”

Brian. Anita perked up. She liked Brian. A lot. With his golden curls and floppy smile, the boy was simply adorable. To make it even more fun, Anita was also quite certain that Brian was head over heels in love with her.

Anita made sure to pinch her cheeks and bite her lips before she made her way into the shop.

“Anita!” Brian exclaimed, nearly dropping his hold on a four foot machete as he realized that the dark figure in the shadows was really just a girl. A really pretty girl. He didn’t remember her coming in.

“Quite a lovely morning isn’t it, Brian? I’m excited for tonight.” Anita leaned against the counter allowing her elbows to skid against the smooth granite. She gave him a wicked smile.

Brian glanced nervously at the sudden decrease in space between their faces.

“Umm”

“What did you say?”

Brian then seemed to finally register her words. He managed to straighten himself a little, looking at everywhere but the gap between their noses.

He held his breath and gathered what little courage he could muster, “I can’t believe you.”

“What?” Anita pulled back, irritated.

“You know what day it is.”

“I know what day it is. I know that it is the fifteenth of May. I also know that the birds were singing this morning, and that Ms. Hilston has just made a fresh batch of yoselolee pie.” Anita said as she turned her back on Brian and began picking through the shelves. “Of which I know for sure I am going to buy by the dozen. So yes, it’s going to be a great day! And you and me… we’re going to have fun-”

“Stop. Stop it!” Brian said. And then more quietly, “Please.” Perhaps it was because Anita had never heard Brian raise his voice before or perhaps it was how sharply he had insisted, but something caused her to turn around and really give the boy a good look. He sounded almost angry, and Brian was never angry. At least not with her.

“Stop what?”

Brian reddened and dropped his head. “Being all cheery like you don’t know what today even is. Maybe you aren’t, but other people…,” Brian ducked under the counter and began pulling packets out from underneath the desk.

“…Other people are terrified,” he finished softly.  Brian’s forehead peeked out behind the counter unshielded, it was the color of the sun.

Anita couldn’t help but notice that something was different about Brian these past few weeks. Ever since he came back from his trip, Brian had seemed a bit more on edge when she was around. He was spending more time huddled indoors than stumbling around with her, and there was something about his face that unnerved her a little bit more than she would like to admit. A tightening of the eyes, a crazed buzz in his pupils, the solid set of his mouth. It was like there was something Brian was hiding, like there was something he needed to protect.

Anita huffed nervously, “I’m being cheery, because no one else is. Come on. Today is supposed to be a day for loosening up. It’s supposed to be refreshing. Fun!”

Brian shivered at that word.

“It’s not my fault that instead of black skies and lightning we have white clouds and birds,” Anita continued.

Brian carefully placed the packages on the counter and began peeling away the cloth. He needed to be careful with this part. Lemon oil cloth is beautiful but expensive. His father and him would have to reuse this swatch again for next year. They had to impress their best clients or else…not that he really want to think about it. He concentrated on his hands in order to not have to respond to Anita’s preposterous mood.

Anita on the other hand, changed tactics to get Brian’s attention.

“Besides,” she said, her voice suddenly turning dangerous. Anita peered over her shoulder from the poison-coated arrows she had been plucking. Her face was unreadable under the shadows of the shelves. “You have my sister and I tonight, and we always guarantee that we are untouchable unless we allow it.”

Brian almost cuts his hands on the sword he had been unwrapping. So, that’s why his father had worked so hard on this particular order. A night with Anita on the fifteenth! Brian didn’t know whether to be relieved, aroused, or terrified.

Terrified. He finally decided. We should be terrified. What was Father thinking? There are no laws against the two sisters murdering their own clients. Especially tonight.

Especially with what was in his room right now.

Anita had sauntered back to the counter, her mood improved considerably when she saw the gleaming objects that laid against the pile of iridescent cloth. Fanned out against the fabric was an arrangement of arrows and bows, daggers, throwing stars, a collection of stilettos, short swords, axes and a pair of deadly looking sickles. She picked up the sickles and held them against her forearms admiring them like fine jewelry.

“These are lovely, Brian,” she practically swooned. “Tell your father that he has exceeded my expectations.”

Brian swallowed hard, “No need, I asked if I could make these. I had heard they were your favorite.”

Anita looked at him then, her face seemed to regain its loveliness, inevitable of a girl flattered. Her lips blossomed into a smile.

“Indeed, Brian. You did a lovely job. A job very well deserving of a tip.”

Before Brian even processed the compliment, he saw Anita lean across the counter with her eyes closed. Oh God. Brian’s eyes fluttered to a close mimicking her movements. At the very last moment before their lips touched, Anita changed course and pecked him on the cheek.

“I’ll be back at seven. My sister and I expect dinner to be part of the deal.”

Brian didn’t respond, too stunned to reply as Anita slipped out the door with her pack of dangerous goods.

That was nice, Anita thought to herself. He smelled like silver and polishing oil.

As Anita trudged back through the streets, she remembered to stop by the bakery. It was still high noon, but shops were closing down. All around her, the town folk have begun setting up iron cages around their shops and nailing windows shut. A few brought out iron padlocks to lock their doors again and again and again. Behind those locks, Anita could hear the sharpening of knives in the kitchens of wives.

A layer of dread seemed to have pulled itself across the town. It seemed that the further the clock ticked, the more the people curled in on themselves. There were few greetings and even fewer conversations. Everyone acted as if something dreadful was upon them. But, Anita knew better. She could practically taste it. Under the fog of fear and anxiety, there was a sharp crackle of excitement.

She slipped away from the town with a box of three pies. Ms. Hilston had given her some extra with a hopeful wink. It wasn’t a day where people had much appetite, she had said. Plus, she had hoped that Anita would remember such a gift for the sake of friendship.

Oh silly Ms. Hilston, friendship holds so little merit in this town the moment the bell tolls eight.

It was then that Anita looked up at the palace that sat miles away, safely on a hill. Preyanna, if you only knew what you’re missing out on. The fun. The satisfaction. You nobles should really give it a whirl for once instead of hiding it out in your fortress of a castle.

Loosen up you stiff-collared, sour-faced gaggle. For the most discontent group of people alive in this town, Anita knew that there was no more perfect a prescription.

What they needed, Anita thought, was a healthy dose of a good, old-fashioned Purge.

Maybe I will give you a visit tonight, Preyanna, Anita thought to herself. Have your butter knife ready and hide away your lovely things. At eight, when the law drops away like a curtain upon a full stage, it won’t be dolls we’ll be playing with. No, Preyanna, we’ll be playing with dice and knives.

Tip toe, toodly doo.

Daisies for me, maggots for you.

 

 

 

-Notes for the author herself: Feeling like a change of pace from my primary story and more serious pieces. This will be to change the foundation of this story. I don’t read much YA but I figured that’s enough reason for me to write a trashy YA novel myself, right? Granted,  I am duly unqualified for this, but a piece of the puzzle clicked into place and I just cannot resist. Trashy YA kingdom here I come!

The concept:

Anita’s friend Preyanna is royalty and royalty are born with magic in their veins. It is a very rare condition, (think recessive genes on steroids and many factors have to fall into place) and the fact that Anita’s sister is magical is nearly unfounded. This, plus Pearl’s rejection of her magic, drives Anita insane with jealousy. Oh she loves her sister, she does she does, but Anita craves magic more than anything.

Instead, Anita is blessed with cunning, beauty, and a thirst for blood. Fighting is how she manages besides her sister and Pearl’s occasional foray into dangerous territories and underground friendships. It’s not like royals to use their magic for much else but good. Witches like Pearl, on the other hand, have a bit more freedom.

So, there is the Purge. Every year this is upheld by the Royalty and supported by the common folk as well. Since it is upheld by both sides, the Royals are in danger as well. They just tend to be statistically safer, because, duh, magic. More pacifistic folk like the Blacksmith and his son protect themselves by hiring others to do the killing for them (if it comes down to it).

And that introduces us to Brian, our ordinary apprentice with a brilliant secret. Brian is tinker, an excellent craftsmen, and has been pondering the power of lightning for a while now. He becomes, quite accidentally, embroiled in the life works of a brilliant thinker. I dont remember his name, let’s call him Joe. So Joe, “invented” electricity, and seeing the potential in Brian, has kept the boy on as an apprentice to help him apply it to the world. Brian accepts, but must return to his father’s village in time for the May 15th rush. He worries for his father’s safety.

Now Brian is irrevocably in love with Anita (she has her good sides, such as she is brave and selfless when it really matters and incredibly naive), and accidentally reveals electricity to her. Anita recognizes a source of power in it and convinces brian to teach her everything there is.

 

Tidbit: Eventually, when they realize the dangers of Electricity, they are stunned as they realize it has the power to kill as well. Anita, raised on a decade of killing gruesomely wonders out loud….”That’s it? They just shoot across the room, and boom like that, they’re dead?”

Brian: “Oh my god, Anita, a man is dead. And I think we may have just killed him! yet here you are talking about how it wasn’t fantastic enough???”

Anita: “Well, I mean it’s electricity! Given the stuff you’ve shown me what it could do, I thought that if this thing did kill then it’ll do it with a little more artistry.”

Brian: is silent with his mouth hanging open.

Anita: “Maybe, oh I don’t know, It goes something like Sparkle Sparkle Zap Zap. He sings an opera and then explodes into a thousand falling comets, or something like that.

Brian: “And what would you do if something ridiculous like that actually happened?”

Anita:  I would applaud his showmanship, and then I would ask for an encore.

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8 thoughts on “short fiction: Carefree

    1. Thank you! I’m quite impartial to sinister stories so it wasn’t so much a surprise to me that it turned out so as that it started out so nice. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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