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Chapter One Part One
“Hurry up Anne! We’re going to grab dinner!”
“Just a minute!” I was in the middle of cleaning the kitchen, how am I supposed to just drop it all now? I don’t want to lose my zone. I usually hate cleaning. I ran the mop over the floor once more and then left it to dry. As I ran out I grabbed my long coat and cap. “Where are we going?”
“Probably to the market and then we’re gonna go to Potluck at the Firea’s,” my mom, Nellie, replied. I hated parties, I really don’t have friends but at least I don’t have to clean I suppose. I moved the donkeys into their pens and hopped into the back of our old pickup truck. The wind in my short curly hair blows it all around my face and in my eyes so I couldn’t see anything. Not that there is anything to see. Everything is square and boring. I’ve heard in Emeraldia there are beautiful buildings hand carved wood in a beautiful green. I love the color green. I love all colors but grey. Grey isn’t even a color! By law it’s the only color allowed in Popiela but they truly can’t enforce that. There are plants and rocks you can find fairly easily that are green or reddish as well as the slightly colored tone of our skin. And then the bright brilliant orange of my secret. Anyhoo I’ve seen nearly every color but blue.
Screeeeech the truck pulled into the parking of the market. There are many stands outside the main building all of the attendees yelling this and that. My mom and dad got out of the front of the truck and pushed through the crowds. I hung behind and went to the back where they sold coal.
“Hey is Steve in?” I asked. Steve is my childhood friend and possibly my only friend. I have a feeling he’s always had romantical-like feelings for me and while I don’t know if I feel anything back, I know he’s smoking hot and chiseled from working in the coal mines. He could have his pick of women if he bothered to put on a smile. He’s always smiling with me though and that makes me feel really happy.
“No, sorry ma’am he took the evening off, said he had something to get done. But if a pretty lady like you needs help I am at your service,” a burly man told me. “Prices are high but it keeps your electric heat going!” he continued. I shook my head and walked into the market. Coal prices are high because the assholes in Ruby’s Eye buy the coal, our coal, and sell it back to us. I’m not sure how that came to be as surely the mining companies are losing money with that deal.
Inside the market every aslie was lined with freezers, everything was frozen. If you wanted fresh food you went to the stalls outside but then you couldn’t be sure the food was clean or even what it really was. I picked up a bag of potatoes and looked at the price. Twentynine copper? For a pound of potatoes? I put them back. My diet consists of mostly rice and a grey pudding we’re told contains special rocks called potassium or iron and has vitamins. I don’t know what all these fancy words mean, but I’m sure Steve does. The pudding supposedly keeps us from being weak and getting sick easily. The slang term for it is grug. My dad, Isol, refuses to eat it despite pressure from me and Mom. It tastes like dust and water but it fills the stomach fine. For events Mom tends to splurge a little for food even though she doesn’t need to and there will be food there. She gets invited to every event in town without fail. That’s her gift but I find it annoying. People just like her but Dad and I have a much harder time making friends. I wandered over to a counter that my parents were paying for the food at.
“You’re buying pepper?” I exclaimed. That must cost a fortune.
“Don’t worry, we’ll switch it into a smaller bottle at the party and keep the rest for ourselves,” Mom said. She then leaned in and whispered to me, “Maybe we can trick Isol into eating his grug too.” I smiled and nodded but I still worried about our finances.
On the way out I saw a flier saying it was time for a new Rainbow Sun to be selected. I smirked at thought maybe it could be me! That’s a laugh. Most of the people here don’t get their powers until they are older because of poor diet. None have been as old as me though. I stared at my hands, and on my fingers were the marks of when my parents obtained their powers. They were small because their powers weren’t much. Isol can heat small things to 70 degrees and Nellie can charm people to a certain extent. They were both 13 years old when their gifts developed but here I am at 20 without so much as a scar to mark my life. I like looking at some of the marks that aren’t from recent family and make up stories about the lives they had. My ancestors didn’t have spectacular powers either. They mainly had social marks meaning they had gifts similar to my mom’s or transfer marks which means they could give part of themselves to other people. Because these were such small marks the transfer was probably of something not all that useful like their food energy. No one starved here but no one has great amounts of food either so that wouldn't’ have been useful at all.
I was lost in thought during the ride to the Firea house. They were nice enough but I had no desire to go. When I got there I was surprised to see Steve in the yard. And he was surrounded by pretty women! I guess I started feeling jealous or resentful to them. I don’t like this feeling whatever it’s called. It’s not my place to tell him he can’t do that. We’re not together and I’m not his mom. Regardless of how I should feel, I see him over there with that Sarah Silverman and her posse of friends cooing over him and I get enraged. Sarah has a low cut coal colored dress and her long silver hair had been straightened and fell as flat as paper down her shoulders and back. I notice him smile and my anger just bursts inside and I feel my face get hot as I walk past. My mom is a seamstress so despite being on the poorer side of things I always look good. I strut past them with my long coat and Steve notices.
“Anne!” he calls then turns to the group of girls. “I’m going to say hi to Anne now.” I can’t help but smirk to myself but Sarah catches me and gives me a glare. Steve takes me by the hand and I wink back at Sarah. Steve leads me inside.
“I used to come here every weekend to play with Hen and Derrick,” he told me. “When my parents died I was able to live on my own but the Firea’s always had a place for me. I’ll let them know you’re here and come back with food.” He took off my coat and hung it up then went off to look for Mrs. Firea. One of Sarah’s friends comes over. This will be painless I think to myself sarcastically.
“Hey Anne!” she says with a phony smile. “I’m Lydia, we sat next to each other in high school!” I give her a small smile trying to let her know I’m waiting for someone but she doesn’t get the hint. “I was wondering if you wanted to join the committee for the community center. We organize dances and you can take classes and there is a bunch of clubs!”
“See you haven’t moved past high school life.” I replied coldly. I immediately felt bad but not enough to try to remedy what I said. She frowned for a millisecond then started smiling again.
“I’ll see you around,” she told me and bounced off to the next victim. I felt awkward just standing there but I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t want Steve to think I left. I start daydreaming about what power I get. I hope I get to be super powerful, I could move to Ruby’s Eye, the center of the world. Inside Ruby’s Eye there is a huge city. The Holy City of Tecza, or just Tecza where every color is bright and beautiful is everyone’s dream to live in. If I was powerful enough I could become a Priestess and move to Tecza. I’m not sure if they allow family but I’d make sure they were looked after regardless. In Tecza is the Sun Mountain where you can speak directly to the Rainbow Sun. The Rainbow Sun is our messiah. She creates life and death and looks after everyone in the empire. Each Rainbow Sun dies and is replaced by a new one after so long. Some live 5 years and some live for hundreds of thousands. Our current Sun has been here for over 11,000 years and apparently has called for her replacement. Soon officials will be coming in search of the next Rainbow Sun. I wouldn’t want to be the Sun. She is shackled to the sky with chains and doesn’t get to talk to anyone without them climbing the Sun mountain, the tallest mountain in the Empire. If I look up in the sky I can see the shackles that bind her to the sky. Sometimes when it’s windy I can see some of her purple hair peeking over the inner border.
“Did you miss me?” I smiled as I heard Steve’s voice. “I’ll take that as a yes. Come with me now.” I followed him and we went downstairs to the basement. He pulled me to the back of an empty storage room littered with boxes and we sat on the floor behind a wall of packaged items. “I have food!” he exclaimed to me. “Look at all this. There is fish soup, dumplings, pork, rice noodles, rice dishes, and cake!” He gave me a plate with everything on it and a bowl of the soup.
“Thank you,” I said quietly before starting to eat. I’ve learned that being nearly starving the whole week and then eating at a party can make me really sick unless I go very slowly but sometimes that’s hard.
“You’re really pretty. Much prettier than Sarah.” I looked up startled at his comments. He laughs and says, “I saw your face when you saw me with those girls all over me. Were you jealous? Was Anne ‘I don’t care about boys’ jealous?”
“I never said I didn’t care about boys,” I replied, angry that I’d been called out.
“Then you were jealous!” he winked at me.
“No I wasn’t!” I was starting to have fun with his teasing.
“Okay name one boy you’ve had even the slightest crush on. I always told you all my crushes when we were younger. You were a terrible wingman,” I tried to think of a response that would satisfy him but I didn’t know. Did I have a crush on Steve? I’m not sure. He’s cute and fun and I love him. Feelings are weird. “Sometime this century would be a nice time for an answer,” he urged. Ummm.
“Why do you care so much about my lovelife?” I asked him.
“You’re my best friend, I like knowing things about you.”
“Well then I’d like to know why you were letting all those half naked girls squirm all over you!” I told him a little too angrily.
“Sarah is my friend. We went on a few dates back in highschool but we aren’t together and never were.”
I picked up my glass of water but he stopped me.
“Here,” he put his finger in the glass of water and it turned from grey to clear.
“What the frick?”
“Well you know my talent is cleaning and one day I tried it on water and it did that. I don’t know why it does that. It tastes the same and the officials have promised our water is clean. It comes from Aquirina afterall,” he explained.
“Your talent is cleaning? I should marry you right now. I hate cleaning,” I told him jokingly.
“Look in your glass again Anne,” he told me. I was confused but I did, there was something weird in my water, I fished it out. It was a ring? When I looked back up Steve was on one knee. Oh no...
“Anne, will you marry me?” The world seems to stand still. “I know this is really sudden and crazy but I, I have reasons!”
“And what are they!?” I almost scream at him, trying not to sound angry but I had a right to be!
“Because…” he started. “I’m never going to see you again.”
To be continued...!