Chapter 10:

Years Ago — Five

The Story Of Who

"What just happened?" Thomas blinked over a dozen times and held his head. I could imagine the sort of pain he felt because I felt it too. This was the first time that I had wanted to hurt the person I was trying to influence.Bookmark here

I wanted him to feel more pain—feel the pain he caused so many people, the pain of being taken away and sold, the pain of never seeing your family again.Bookmark here

But there was no time for that.Bookmark here

"You were telling me how great the Sorting Farms are," I said then pointed to the ashy sky. "Then I said that the suns seemed really hot today and you agreed. You said that you were going on your break soon."Bookmark here

"Oh, yes." He bobbed his head then looked at Mother with a meaningful glance. "Like I said, three tickets, three people get to board. Don't hold up the line."Bookmark here

I watched him get off his seat and signal for someone inside the ship to replace him. Finally, I could let my guard down.Bookmark here

He didn't remember what had happened. He didn't know that I had been in his mind.Bookmark here

The relief I felt equalled the dread that made my fingertips grow cold. This is it.Bookmark here

Father grabbed me by the shoulders and turned me to face him before I could process the feeling. "Princess, what did you do?"Bookmark here

"I got him to give me a ticket," I whispered. My head ached now that I had nothing to focus my mind on. I felt as though I would fall on my back any second now.Bookmark here

I held onto Father to steady myself, held onto him because this was the last time I could.Bookmark here

He crouched down to look directly into my eyes. I saw two of him. I saw two of me in the reflection of his eyes. I saw two of everything.Bookmark here

I felt my breakfast churn in my belly and creep up my throat. Sickness washed over me, and horror. This is it.Bookmark here

"You said the Sorting Farms, why?" he asked, in a whisper more quiet than mine.Bookmark here

"That's where I'm going, in Centaur," I tried to explain while reminding myself that nothing was actually spinning. It was all in my head. I just needed to take a few breaths then everything would return back to normal. Except, nothing will ever be normal again. "That was all I could do. His mind was fortified. He wanted to bed Mother, I couldn't let him—"Bookmark here

Mother cleared her throat and Father and I turned to see that a new man was at the desk. He had dark skin and a skinned head, and I knew already that he was a better man than Thomas. If only we had bought our tickets from him in the first place, then we wouldn't be in this situation right now.Bookmark here

I pressed my ticket against Father's face and he stared at me, his eyes begging me not to do this. But I had to. We both knew that.Bookmark here

Your daughter loves you, she always will, I whispered in his mind, enjoying the way his thoughts wrapped familial warmth around my presence. Never forget that.Bookmark here

Father pulled me into a tight hug, crushing me against his chest. "I love you too, Princess. Never forget."Bookmark here

"I won't," I told him. I would never forget. I felt his emotions pour into me and understood. Some things didn't need to be said in words. Some things couldn't be said in words.Bookmark here

I stretched the ticket over his shoulder to hand it to Mother.Bookmark here

She nodded at me then gave all four tickets to the man in Thomas' chair before he could ask for them.Bookmark here

"We are really in a hurry," Mother said with a charming smile. She flicked Jethro's nose and he laughed.Bookmark here

I smiled at the sound, burning his image into my mind. I wished I could command him never to forget me but that would be too cruel. I didn't know if I would ever see him again, why would I torture him like that?Bookmark here

It was best if he forgot that he ever had an older sister like. If we met again, I could always command his memories of me back to the surface. That would be enough.Bookmark here

"One of these is a Sorting ticket," the bald man said, his compassionate eyes falling on me. "I hope you are aware that the moment I put this in the system, you won't see your family again. You won't even be able to travel with them to the Planet Centaur."Bookmark here

"I am," I answered before Father could. "I am sure about this."Bookmark here

I should have known, after having so many nightmare about this exact moment, it would finally happen.Bookmark here

Father pulled away from me, held me by the shoulders then took my face in both hands. I looked away from the tears pooling in his eyes. If he started crying, I would cry too, and if I cried, Jethro would never stop wailing.Bookmark here

"My brave little girl." He rubbed his thumbs into the spots beneath my eyes in a way that always soothed me. "I have failed you."Bookmark here

"No, you haven't." I squeezed his hand. "Because of you we are all going to survive."Bookmark here

"I love you, Father. I love you, Mother. I love you, Jethro," I said with a wide grin. "I am going to become a soldier for the government. My teacher told me that means that we'll be safe and we'll have enough money to live a comfortable life."Bookmark here

With a sad smile, Father took off the silver chain he always wore, placed it around my neck and kissed my forehead remorsefully.Bookmark here

"I am going to find you," he whispered against my skin. "Wherever you are, I will find you."Bookmark here

The crystal on the necklace was the one communicator we didn't give Mother because it was also the heirloom of Father's family, passed from father to son, from gunmaker to gunmaker, and now he gave it to me.Bookmark here

I had always wanted it to be mine but I assumed that he would give it to Jethro when he got older. The look in his eyes told me that it had been meant for me all along.Bookmark here

I tried my best not to cry as I tucked the transparent crystal beneath my shirt. As long as I had it, I would be able to see my family again. Father would find me wherever I was and rescue me. It was just a matter of time.Bookmark here

The man at the desk gave us back our tickets.Bookmark here

I stared down at the holes in mine and after a moment realized that holes had been poked through the paper to prevent us from reselling it. The same sort of punishment a rebel would face on live television.Bookmark here

This was what I was saving my family from. Anything that happened afterwards was more than worth it.Bookmark here

We were all going to survive. I would make sure of it.Bookmark here

Real Aire
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