Posted by: rebeccajrobare | July 27, 2012

“The Prince” End of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

He sat across from me at dinner that night. I guessed meals weren’t the strong suit of any place feeding large numbers of kids. We’d moved up in the world from chicken nuggets to sliced turkey, and there was blueberry cobbler for dessert, but the most that could be said for any of it was that it was optimistic. I picked at my plate, moving gravy around, stacking and unstacking my peas, until I heard a tray slide on the table, and saw Arion putting his hand on the back of a chair.

“Good evening, Rachel,” he said. He pitched his voice soft and low, and I could not only hear him, but I didn’t feel as though I was being shouted at, like I usually did if someone spoke to me during the cacophony of meals. “May I sit here?”

I wasn’t sure if I should blush or not — even back when I was normal, when life was normal, I hadn’t exactly thought of myself as the girl guys wanted to be around — but I felt my face growing warm anyway. I nodded assent, and he sat, waiting until I had redirected my attention to food before picking up his own fork. Myself, I didn’t know what to do, so I began working industrially at cutting pieces of turkey and putting them in my mouth. If my mouth was full, I couldn’t talk, right?

“I miss music,” Arion said softly, and I nearly goggled except for the fact that I didn’t want gravy to drip out of my mouth if I gaped while I was eating. The conversation seemed so normal and so genuine; it wasn’t about things I’d lost interest in years ago or in things like drugs or vandalism that I had never been interested in. “At home, we always had music at dinner — so many different kinds! Every people and culture has their own music, and all are beautiful.”

He paused, and he was so earnest, so honest, that I found myself swallowing and answering, though the minute before I’d have said I wasn’t interested in conversation.  “There’s music therapy,” I said, “but it’s not much like listening to music with your family.” I looked down again. I thought about concerts I’d been taken to as a child, records I’d been played, and I wished I’d appreciated them more.

“What happened to them? Your family.”

“They died,” I said softly. I turned my hands up and looked at the scars. “Almost a year ago.”

Arion nodded; I caught the movement out of the corner of my eye. “My parents are also dead,” he said. His voice was also quiet, but I caught steel in his tone. “They were murdered.”

Chapter Two

There were a lot of tragic tales around here, and a lot of less-than-tragic ones. Mine wasn’t anything special. But murder was something I hadn’t heard before. It added to the growing fascination I felt for Arion. He seemed sad and gentle, and somehow noble, as though he were carrying honor and responsibility. We began to spend our free time together, and I began to tell him about the things I’d lost.

“I guess it was just about ten months ago,” I said. We were sitting on the swings again — that corner had become our place, and though fights weren’t exactly uncommon, none of the other boys bothered Arion, with his well-muscled figure — and a little ray of sunlight was warming my hair. “I hadn’t wanted to go the party with them. My mom said it was okay. They left me money for pizza and I had such a good time by myself just watching TV and stuff. And then the cops came, and I just felt so awful. Like, maybe if I’d been with them, they wouldn’t have been on the road so late because I’d have wanted to leave earlier. Or maybe I would have seen the truck that hit their car. I don’t know, I just — like I was responsible. I just felt so guilty. So, one night, I just — did it. I took a knife and just — cut them. It was like watching someone else do it. It didn’t even hurt, really. I just felt so relieved to know that I was finally getting the punishment I deserved. Then I passed out, and I woke up in the hospital. Afterwards, they brought me here. I still feel like that, you know. Like I should be punished for my parents’ death.”

There was a long moment when I expected Arion to tell me that I was stupid or that I had done something wrong. Instead, he reached out and took my wrists, covering the scars gently with his hands. “I understand,” he said softly, and the words were like a shock of ice waking me from sleep.

“You — you do?”

“I do,” he replied. “I feel that, had I been there, I might have prevented my own parents’ deaths. Instead, they were killed, and in the rush of grief I was an easy target, and it was not difficult for our enemies to take me and bring me here, out of their way. But, Rachel,” he said, earnestly now, “I cannot give in to guilt. I must return and avenge their deaths, and take my place as their heir. Surely your parents left you some legacy of duty or honor that you must fulfill, and even if not, then I cannot believe they would desire your death, no matter how angry their souls or how deep your guilt.”

“No,” I said, “but I still don’t know what to do.”

Arion shook his head, but he did not let me go. “I don’t know,” he said, “but for now, let our task be healing. Once we have come a little ways out of death’s shadow, then we will see our paths more clearly.”

Chapter Three

Until the fight, I thought we were just friends. Afterward, I knew there was something more to it than that.
Some of the kids in that place — they were bullies to the littler kids. The staff tried to stop it as much as they could, but it was like any school or any place. If you’re bigger and stronger, you have power, and people with the wrong mindset use that power to get the things they want without regard for others. There was this kid – Donny. And there was this other kid, a littler kid, who went by Petey. He’d been a foster kid — I guess technically he still was. He’d been brought here because the foster family was abusing him, taking the state money but not feeding him, things like that. I remembered the night they brought him in, filthy, looking like a starved rabbit. He didn’t look so starved by this time, but he was still rabbity. An easy target for a kid like Donny.

So Donny was picking on Petey, trying to get Petey to lose his temper. If a big kid attacks a little kid, it’s bullying, but if the little kid swings first, it’s self-defense, and Donny and his friends thought it was funny, watching a little kid try to take on a teenager twice his size. Petey was getting red in the face, and I saw him cock his fist back, ready to take a swing.

Then Arion stepped in. He caught Petey’s punch neatly, without hurting the younger boy, and said, “I admire your bravery, but this foolish knave can fight someone who knows how to fight back.” And he turned, just in time to block the swipe that would have caught him on the back of the head.

The fight was so short that it was over by the time the counselors got there. Arion fought like an artist. The first punch was blocked; the block was followed by a fast strike to the side of Donny’s face. The next blow was directed at Arion’s ribs, but he turned and caught Donny’s arm and just — tugged, a little. Donny went staggering into the side of the wall. He turned, and you could see on his face that he was going to duck the next blow to make Arion hit the wall instead. But that blow never came; instead a next roundhouse kick took Donny in the side and he hit the dirt, hard. Arion pressed his foot into the back of Donny’s neck and demanded, “Yield to me.” And that was it. Any reply Donny made was muffled in the dirt, and then the counselors were there, shouting for Arion to get away. Arion backed off, and I saw a syringe pocketed surreptitiously, and he went meekly enough to be interviewed by a therapist about the fight.

When I saw him later, he was completely unmarked by the scuffle, but disgusted.

“In my home, I was taught to defend the small and weak. Here, I stand up for a child being bullied by a youth the size of a knight, and they want me to take drugs! For being aggressive!”

“There was a kid a few months ago,” I said, “who attacked a boy three times her size. She bit him. They had to sedate her to get her off him. He had to go to the hospital, he was injured so bad.”

Arion frowned. “And the girl?”

“Well, she gained a lot of weight from the medicine. She went home, but I heard a counselor say that she has to go to special ed now, because the drugs dumb her down.”

He shook his head, eyes flashing. “Rachel, I cannot stay here much longer. I had intended to use this time to grieve for my parents and regain my strength, but if I wait, they will attempt to drug me into submission, which is surely what my captor intended.”

“But, where will you go? How will you leave?”

“Will you help me?”

I was stunned, that this capable boy could need or want my help, but my mouth said, “Of course,” before I could even consider the question.

“Then I have a plan.”


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