6th Century BC
His hands were rough and calloused as they wrapped around my neck, lifting me off the ground. His skin was golden brown, his eyes were dark as night. As his grip tightened, I reached into my belt and pulled out a jagged dagger. The hilt glistened with a thousand jewels. I held it taut and thrust it into his gut. His eyes widened as his hands scrambled to pull out the blade. I crashed to the rocky ground. Pain reverberated through my legs. I clenched my jaw as I looked over at him. He stumbled backwards, hitting one of the columns.
His coal black eyes glanced from me to the dagger then back again. Blood seeped through his wound, caking in the dirt. His breathing became ragged as his hands fumbled to find the hilt. He slid down the pillar, leaving a smear of blood on the column. His movements became sluggish. He coughed, spewing blood and spit. It dribbled down his angled chin. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. His arm fell away from his stomach, falling to the dusty ground. I stared at his body, limp in the fading light. His once rich blue aura dimmed, flickered, and then was gone. I had done it again. I had killed the one person who could have made me happy. I had killed my soulmate. His death was on my hands once more. Nothing, I felt nothing.
I picked myself up, dusting away dirt from my blue peplos. My sandals scuffed against the ground as I walked away from what I had done. I could have ended my life then like I had in Egypt, but there would be no point. As long as I lived, the cycle wouldn’t restart. I wasn’t sure why, but nevertheless I wasn’t going to kill him again. I couldn’t, unless I had to. I would end this cycle…. I shuffled through the columns and down its steps toward the city below. A warm breeze rustled my hair. It tickled my face. The sun cast its last rays as I reached my destination. I kicked away scattered rocks as I came upon one of the many homes of the city, my home. I ran, my sandals pounding against the dusty street. As the distance between my safety and my body lessened, I jumped.
My hands latched onto the clay roofing. I pulled myself up and scrambled toward the courtyard. I jumped, tucking and rolling as I landed. I walked over to the stone fountain. The water glistened in the moonlight. The pool rippled and pulsed as fresh water ran down the second tier. My reflection shimmered and flickered. My face was pale, my eyes too big, and my once flawless neck was marred blue and purple. I sat down on the stone, tucking my feet behind me. The cold seeped through my thin peplos. I ran my hand through the water, my skin prickling as it lapped against me.
Strands of red trickled through the crystal blue. The water was tainted with blood, like my soul. I shivered. My deep blue aura gleamed against the lightness of the pool.
“Sybil, is that you?”
I looked up to see my sister in the doorway. Her bare, bronzed skin shone like the sun in the moonlight. Her long, black hair cascaded down her back, falling just short of her waist. She was three years younger than my sixteen years. Her aura was a soft yellow, matching her kind nature.
“It is, sister. You should be sleeping like mother and father, Daphne, why are you awake?” I asked.
“I couldn’t sleep, not without you.”
She cast her blue eyes down, shuffling her bare feet in the dirt. I sighed, drying my hand on my dress before getting up. I walked over to her and rested a hand on her shoulder.
“Come then, let us sleep,” I said, leading her back to our room.
“Why were you in the courtyard, sister? Was it the dreams again?” she asked.
I looked down at my younger sister and nodded.
“Yes…they leave me shaken. I watch the water flow from the fountain; it calms me.”
I didn’t lie, but I didn’t tell the whole truth either. I had woken from one of my nightmares, but I hadn’t gone to the courtyard. I went to the temple, to pray to Athena for wisdom and guidance. I had found none; instead I was attacked. I knew I shouldn’t have been out after the sun had started to set, but I had a sudden urge. I had to; there was no stopping me. I had climbed the hill towards the Parthenon and marveled at its magnificence. My sandals had just touched the stone when I saw him.
My eyes cast around at the columns, wondering if she would hear me. I took a step toward the inner sanctum. Dirt crunched under my feet. I scanned the pillars, feeling eyes watching me. He came out behind one of the inner posts like a panther stalking its prey. My heart stopped then sputtered back to life. I stood immobilized as he crept closer. I was a mouse caught in the grip of a snake. His coal black eyes ravaged my body with a mere look. I shivered, feeling cold in the dying summer light. His blue aura stood out against his tan skin and dark hair. The same color as mine. It rippled and pulsed around him, clinging like a second skin.
He wore a green exomis that was fastened on the left shoulder, leaving his right bare. The exomis reached his knees and was cinched at the waist. I bit my lip, afraid to move. I should have run the minute I saw him, but his chiseled face and muscular build drew me in. He took a step towards me and smiled. His lips crept up into a smirk that would make any woman swoon. I would have if I didn’t already know where this was heading. I screamed at my legs to move, to run. Instead I stood as still as a statue.
“What do we have here?” he laughed.
His voice wrapped around me, caressing my body. His dark eyes shimmered as he came ever closer. My heart thrashed against my chest. I was a deer caught in headlights. My voice clung to my throat, unable to produce a sound.
“Speechless I see. No matter, you don’t need to speak, just feel,” he said.
His words were laced with hidden meanings. He was inches away from me by the time I found my voice.
“No,” I managed to say.
He laughed, but it held no humor. I tensed, clenching my jaw. He raised his right hand and stroked my cheek. He left a trail of heat as his hand went lower. I was paralyzed, unable to do anything but watch. His fingers were rough and calloused as they caressed down my neck to my shoulder. My clasped left shoulder strap followed his hands down my arm. Instinctively I wrapped my arms around my chest, covering them from his greedy eyes.
He frowned and grabbed both of my arms, yanking them away from my body. With one hand, he gripped both of my wrists behind my back. I whimpered. His grip only tightened as his other hand brought my other shoulder strap down. My dress fell to my wrists, revealing my bare breasts. His eyes devoured my skin, scorching it. Without skipping a beat, his lips crashed against mine, rough and needy. I gasped at his intensity and insistence. My insides turned to mush the minute his lips touched mine, his body pressed against me, and his hands groped frantically.
I was speechless and feeling like he had wanted. I couldn’t let this happen, despite his aura. I wasn’t going to allow this man to assert his dominance on me, not like this. His hand fell away from my wrists as he held me against his chest while his other played and fondled my breast. I took the opportunity to kick him. My sandal collided with his privates. He groaned, falling back a bit. I made my escape then, fumbling as I tried to pick up my dress and run. I dashed into the inner sanctum of the temple, hoping to hide. He cursed, rocks clattering as he came for me again. I straightened my peplos and stopped, listening for his breathing. Everything was quiet.
My eyes scanned the columns again. I let out the breath I was holding about to take a deep one when he lunged. He had caught me off guard. His calloused hands wrapped around my neck-
I jerked, turning to my sister. Her blue eyes were wide, staring through me.
“Sorry…,” I said, looking down.
We had reached our room a while ago, yet I had been so wrapped up in my thoughts I hadn’t noticed. Daphne had.
“I’ve been calling your name, but you didn’t answer. I was worried.”
Her pale lips curled down into a pout. I rolled my eyes and pat her head, leading her into the room. Our bedroom consisted of two beds and a wooden chest for our clothes. The only light in the small room was an oil lamp atop our chest. Despite her age, Daphne preferred to sleep in my bed with me. I didn’t mind on cold nights as her warmth added to mine.
She crawled into bed, curling up on her side and waited for me. I stripped quickly; my peplos pooling around my legs. I picked it up and laid it on the bed then unraveled my shoes. I licked my index and thumb before snuffing out the flame. We were cast in darkness. I crept into bed, wrapping my arms around Daphne as I pulled what used to be my peplos over our naked bodies. The dreams came soon after….
The sand sifted through my toes as I walked, burning slightly in the midday sun. A soft breeze caressed my skin. Even with the wind, the air was hot and sticky. Mini sand tornadoes blew passed, swirling in the sudden gust. I smiled, picking up speed. I muscled through sand dunes, using my hands and feet until I reached the top. Below me was the city. The pyramids cast shadows across the land. I skidded down toward the village.
Monuments of past pharaohs guarded the entrance to the city. I stared up at them as I passed. The streets bustled with people meandering around: women gossiping, children chasing each other, and men trading what little they had. I slipped passed them unnoticed. My dress brushed against the ground, kicking up dust and sand as I walked. My eyes roamed the city, searching. I caught a flicker of blue pass through one of the alleys. My pulse quickened.
I scrunched up the bottom of my dress and ran towards him. I brushed passed onlookers with only one person on my mind, Ini-herit, my twin’s husband.
“What the hell, Harper?”
“Huh?” I said, lifting my eyes from the sheet music.
“You played the wrong note. That’s a low G not an E. You would think after four years of band, you could tell the difference.”
I sighed and tried again, holding the flute against my lips. I blew air through it, moving my fingers to match the notes I needed to play. All else disappeared around me except the sheet music. B flat, A, C, G, F, B flat again: notes played in different succession, creating a song.
“Better, but you’re mixing up eighth notes with triplets. We have two weeks left to perfect this one song before the first game, and I’d rather not look like a fool out on the field.”
“I’ll get it, Chanita, trust me.”
“I’m not worried about you getting it sitting down. I’m worried about you playing it on the field. Learning the music is the easy part, marching to it is where everything goes to hell.”
I rolled my eyes. Chanita was being melodramatic. We would pull it off. There was no doubt in my mind that this year we would surprise the crowd. I’d be damned if we messed up my sophomore year. Being a band member was bad enough, but if we screwed up, we would be the laughing stock of the school.
“Well I’m starving and tired of listening to you play, horribly I might add.”
“You could have left a long time ago.”
She feigned hurt. “La gasp, and leave my poor, defenseless best friend alone in the band room and let who knows what happen to you, certainly not!”
I laughed. “You act like I can’t hurt a fly let alone a human being.”
“Well duh, because you can’t. Why else would I stay by your side?”
“Oh, you know, I thought maybe it was because you actually liked me as a friend, but I guess not.”
She laughed and stuck out her tongue. I smiled, rolling my eyes again as I put my flute away. She jumped up, knocking over one of the music stands. It clattered to the floor.
“Oops, anyways, hurry up before I leave your ass.”
“I thought you said you wouldn’t leave me defenseless?”
“That was before my stomach started to eat itself, now come on!”
I sighed, collecting my stuff before following after her. We walked down the hallway, passing one of the side gym doors and the boys’ locker room. The smell of rotten fish and dirty socks wafted through the closed door. I almost gagged as we picked up our pace, cutting left then straight. Chanita skipped ahead, swinging her ebony arms as her black hair bobbed up and down.
I smiled as I trailed behind. We cut right, passing rows of lockers on the right then slipped through one of the archways into the cafeteria. Tables upon tables could be seen as we walked to one of the vending machines. Chanita held out one of her hands as the other pressed against her hip.
“Seriously? Do you ever carry money on you?”
“Hell no! If I did, I surely would get robbed.”
“Robbed in Mathews? I highly doubt that,” I said, pulling out a five from my jean pocket.
She snatched it out of my hand, grinning. The machine buzzed as she inserted the money. After much debate, she picked A4. She ripped open the hot fries’ bag as soon as she pulled it out. I rolled my eyes and collected my change. A crunch could be heard as Chanita popped them in her mouth.
“Is that all you wanted?”
“Of course not, I want a drink too,” she said, holding out her hand again.
“You really need to carry money or at least a purse.”
“Why would I do that when I have you, a walking piggybank?”
“Sometimes I hate you.”
“Awe thanks, I love you too, Harper.”
She smirked, her brown eyes bright. Her pink aura was just as light. I smiled, bumping into her. She laughed, pushing back. I stumbled backwards, falling onto my ass. Chanita snorted, squealing like a pig.
“Thanks, you’re such a great friend.”
She continued to laugh as I picked myself up. I rubbed my behind as I walked away.
“Hey, wait! I need your money!” she called.
I stopped and looked down at my hand. The change I had received glistened. I clenched my jaw and turned back toward Chanita. I pulled back my arm and let them go. Quarters flew in every direction. Some pinged to the ground while others bounced off the tables then hit the tiled floor. Chanita stared, gaping. I walked back through one of the big archways and turned right, passing the glassed, outdoor area. I heard her call out again, but I ignored her. I strode through the science hallway. I was halfway to the end of the hall when I heard them.
High pitched squeals, giggling, the clapping of hands, and the unmistakable aroma of cotton candy were the only warning I had before walking right into the jaws of the cheerleading squad. I froze, blinded by the array of colors flashing before my eyes only I could see. I had two options: creep behind the beehive, pressed against the lockers or go all the way around and pass Chanita on the way.
I didn’t know which was worse: facing the queen of the Blue Devils cheer squad or dealing with my best friend who had plucked a nerve. I could have gone with the lesser of two evils and gone back to Chanita, but my pride said otherwise. Instead of clinging to the lockers like I had planned, I walked straight through them. Blondes and brunettes stumbled backwards, cursing and pushing each other. I kept my head down, my face hidden by my brown hair and continued walking. I had almost made it to my turn, passing the gym, when she spotted me.
“Who do you think you are, interrupting my girls’ from learning this cheer?”
Her voice was icky sweet but held a note of malice. I cringed. I was screwed; no one escaped Adalyn. Her viper green eyes locked onto me. I was her prey, caught in a trap. Her blonde ponytail swung behind her as she sauntered toward me. The squad spread out until I was the only one in Adalyn’s line of fire.
“Oh, it’s just Harper Smith,” she said, her voice coated with venom, “just one of the many unimportant, unpopular, band geeks.”
I clenched my hands, holding them firmly to my sides. She wasn’t going to spark anything; I wasn’t going to beat her to a pulp despite what my thoughts hoped. She circled me. Her neon orange aura flickered in and out of my sight.
“Have you lost weight? Oh wait, you can’t. All you can do is put on more; soon you will look like Big Bertha.”
Her minions laughed, exposing their necks. I fought the urge to fight and ran. Their laughter followed me, taunting me. I turned sharply to the left, tears streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t bother to wipe them away, what was the point when more would show up. My sneakers squeaked then lost traction. I pitched forward. I threw out my hands, catching myself in the nick of time. The impact jarred my arms. I took a sharp breath as pain radiated from my right wrist. I sat up, tucking my knees, and surveyed the damage. Nothing seemed out of place. I twisted my wrist back and forth, wincing slightly.
“Hey, you okay?”
I nodded, catching the sight of cleats. My eyes traveled upwards, passed tight yellow pants, bare abs, and stopped at his eyes. They were brown yet green. His eyes reminded me of the forest: green leaves against brown bark. He held out a hand. I took it cautiously. His fingers wrapped around mine. I winced as he helped me up.
“You sure you’re fine?”
“Yeah, just landed on my wrist wrong, no biggy.”
I shrugged it off, looking away. I frowned, realizing he was still holding my hand. Before I could snatch it away, his grip tightened. I gasped as a surge of pain went up my arm.
“Seems to me like you aren’t fine.”
“What’s it to you?” I said through clenched teeth.
“You know what, forget I even cared,” he said, letting go.
I stood frozen as he brushed passed me. I hadn’t noticed his aura until then…a rich blue, like mine. I turned, about to say something, when she appeared. Cotton candy laced poison. Adalyn materialized out of thin air.
“Jaxon!” she squealed. Her spray tanned arms wrapped around his neck.
I felt like throwing up. I must have actually made the noise because her viper eyes locked onto mine. She smiled. My chest tightened at the sight of the glint in her eyes.
“Harper,” she enunciated like she was talking to a child, “will you be a dear and scramble back into the hole you came from, thanks.”
I held my tongue, fighting the urge to claw out her eyes. I looked away and caught Jaxon’s eye for a split second. He was the first to advert his gaze. I turned and walked away. I straightened my shoulders and held my head high. I wasn’t about to let her win. I left only because I wanted to, not because of her.
“Now where were we?” I heard her say.
“Not now, Adalyn.”
I smirked. I could only imagine what her reaction was. I pictured her being detached from his neck, her throwing a hissy fit, before storming off. I wished I could have seen it for myself, but that would have put me higher on Adalyn’s hit list. I made it halfway to the band room before I heard his voice again.
I turned, meeting his gaze.
“Yeah?” I called back.
He opened his mouth to say something, but he never got the chance. Football players burst out of the locker room.
“Hey, Jax, you ready?” one of the guys’ said.
He glanced my way then at one of his buddies.
“Unless you like broken bones, I don’t think so. You don’t even have your shoulder pads on. Come on, Bro, get your head in game, or are you too busy thinking of Adalyn naked. I know I would be if I had a smoking hot babe like her.”
I didn’t stick around to find out what happened next. I bolted to the band room. I pushed open the double doors and went straight to my usual seat. There were only a few band members present. When I said only a few, I meant over half of the band was here. Disadvantage of living in a small town, small band.
I looked over to see Danny waving his hand. I smiled.
“Hey, Danny, what’s up?”
“The sky,” he said, grinning, “actually nothing really, unless you count being man-handled by quarterback Jake.”
“Nah, it wasn’t all bad. He got man-handled by coach when he saw us.”
I laughed. “Well, I’m glad you didn’t get hurt.”
“Me, get hurt? Nah, I have tough skin, nothing can hurt this body,” he said, punching his chest.
He winced. I rolled my eyes.
“That’s good to know. At least I can count on your thick skin to protect me,” I joked.
He grinned, pushing up his glasses. His blue eyes magnified in the lens, matching his crystal blue aura. I looked away and concentrated on putting my flute together. The clinking of metal soothed my raging heart. I pressed the flute to my lips; the cold metal was like a balm. I closed my eyes for a second, savoring the moment. I took a deep breath and started on my scales. B flat scale: b flat, c, d, e flat, f, g, a, b flat, then back down. I repeated the notes in my head as my fingers glided over the keys. Next up was the C scale, and then E flat.
I went through each scale with precision. There was no room for mistakes. I finished the A flat scale, when Chanita waltzed in. She walked with the confidence of one of the populars instead of one of the band. I knew that look: eyes twinkling, reapplying lip gloss, tousled hair. Chanita just got back from a make out session. I wasn’t privileged enough to have experienced one, but I knew the signs from watching the popular crowd. She took a seat beside me. I didn’t say anything. I knew in a minute she would be gushing about this guy, so I waited.
A minute passed then five, and still nothing. I frowned. Why wasn’t she blabbing? Maybe she just wanted to build suspense. I waited a little bit longer until I couldn’t take it anymore. I laid my flute on my lap and glared at her.
“So you going to tell me or not?”
She glanced at me then away. “Tell you what?”
“Um, about the boy of course.”
I clenched my jaw. “The boy you were making out with before sauntering in here.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She wouldn’t look at me.
“Oh come on! It’s written all over your face.”
She shook her head. I sighed, giving up. I thought best friends told each other everything, I wanted to say. I couldn’t though. If that were true then I wouldn’t be hiding my secret. Ever since I could remember, I’ve been able to see a person’s aura. Everyone had one. I was just now figuring out that two people could have the same aura. I just didn’t know what it meant.