Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Resistance Chronicles, Part Three: CONFRONTATION

Here it is! Part Three of the Resistance Chronicles.
This story is from Alyssa's Point of View. 

Here's a teaser: Alyssa is miserable. Adiano has never given her an order she couldn't obey, but now-- she's not so sure. 
Can she really face her past?
If you are unfamiliar with this series of short stories I'm writing, here's a description:

The city of Thera is not all it seems-- the people there live controlled by the cuffs around their ankles, forced to comply to whatever Ferucil wishes. But there is hope: The Resistance, the rebel faction, fighting for the true ruler of the land. Four members of the Resistance find themselves in dire situations, some a result of the war, some a result of their personal struggles with anxiety, pride, doubt, and worth. This series of short stories focuses on these members, each one from one of their perspectives.
If you haven't had a chance, you might want to read Part One and Part Two. :) 
You can also read this story on Wattpad! 

        I argue back into my earpiece, my voice cracking in indignation. “I can’t do it! I just—I can’t. You don’t understand!”
        Adiano’s voice echoes in my mind, honest, caring, but firm. “Alyssa, I understand perfectly. I’m not saying this is easy.”
        “Yet you’re still asking me to do it!” I slam my hand down on my desk a little too hard, the impact pulsing through my bones. My eyes mimic the stinging pain. I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this. I can’t talk to them.
        “Alyssa, you know it’s the right thing to do.”
        I shake my head. That doesn’t make this any easier. Adiano’s voice picks up again, but this time I turn the volume down. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to deal with this right now. Even with the voice gone, the nagging idea of seeing my parents tears at my defense systems.
        I hate feeling vulnerable. But my parents were always good at that. They made me helpless. They hurt me until I couldn’t stand on my own. They forced tears to fall from my face until I couldn’t cry anymore. And then I stopped altogether. I moved on with my life.
        But now I have to go back?
        Keiko waits for me in the hall outside my door, his expression twisted in concern. He has good cause too, since I’m usually the one waiting on him to show up, dancing around to match the pattern on the carpet of the old hotel’s floor. But today I took extra time on my way out to regain my composure. He can’t know what’s going on.
        He’d find some way to convince me Adiano’s right, and I don’t feel like being wrong.   
        You okay?’ He asks, his hand moving with precise meaning that makes up for the fact that he doesn’t use his voice. I don’t respond right away, and study him instead. His layered black hair frames his eyes, and I grin when I notice his scarf matches my shirt, both of us draped in red plaid.
        “Yeah, totally. Let’s go, shall we?” I smile wide, flashing my teeth in hopes to cover up the pain in my eyes. I can feel his distrust.
        I can’t fool him. We’ve known each other too long. He’s my best friend. My family. He cares too much to let me go.
        But he also knows when to pick his battles, and now isn’t the right time.
        So you’re going to take Zayla to meet Varity today?’ He carves his words into the dust that floats down the hall.
        “Yep! She’s going to be great at it. Gut feeling.” I smile as I rest my hands by my side again and start for the stairwell. A cold draft seeps in through the walls, threatening the onset of winter, but other than that the hall is warm. It smells like new wood and musty old books all at once.
        It smells like home. A real home.
        I try to ignore Kei’s piercing gaze as I open the door and make my way down the steps, but it’s impossible. He knows something’s wrong. He can feel it. I bite my lip and sign, “Stop looking at me like that.”
        You’re upset. I know it.’
        “I’m fine. Really.” We reach the ground floor and walk through the foyer, where the smells of breakfast creep out into our living area, a room furnished with a few chairs that surround our fireplace. I step out into the kitchen, where other recruits are already scarfing down the food that Allen’s preparing faster than any other chef I’ve met.  
        Of course, I haven’t met any other chefs, but that’s beside the point.
        I stand up on my tiptoes and wave hello, putting every ounce of my usual energy into the performance. He wipes the bacon grease from his hands and waves back. I start to walk over to him to have a conversation, but Keiko gently pulls on my wrist.
        We’ll talk about this later. Whatever is bothering you, you should know it bothers me too. Even if I don’t know what it is.’ He raises his eyebrows, eliciting a small nod from me.
        Then he lets it go.
        “Zayla! It’s so good to see you again! I heard you did pretty well in your first skirmish, eh?” I bounce on my toes, my excess energy finally returning.
        “I guess,” is all she responds with.
        “Well, I’m going to help you get better! I mean, you did okay, but I think you should try a different weapon.” I cock my head and squint my eyes. “Has Cameron told you all this already?”
        She nods, a small smirk forming at the corner of her mouth.
        “Okay then, let’s get going, shall we? Keiko and Cameron have a mission today, so I guess it’s just going to be me, you, and Varity. You’ll like her. She’s awesome.” I smile wide, a buzz of energy running through my veins. Anything that gets my mind off of my parents is a good thing, especially if it has to do with weapons. And it’s nice to have a break from repairing Spera Domus, too. I can only handle wood shavings and nail guns for so long before I really just need to get away from the Hotel.
        Zayla steals a look at Cameron, a silent plea for help. I bite my tongue. She’s too sensitive for a smart comment right now.
        But, for goodness’ sake, there’s nothing wrong with me; why is she so afraid?
        “Let me know how it goes, okay?” He smiles at her with his perfect comforting grin that works every time. Seriously.
Keiko nods in agreement, then his face lights up with a sudden memory. He signs, facing Zayla.
        “He has something he wants to show you. I think it’s about your bird.”
        He pulls out his tablet and opens up the screen. A pattern flashes across it with his design for a specialty falconry glove that has tech intertwined with the leather.
        She steps over warily, but her eyes light up as she realizes what it is. I try to jump toward them to translate, but Cameron blocks me.
        “Hey. I was thinking,” he says in a low voice as he guides me away from our friends. “I was kind of caught up in everything that was going on a few days ago. So when you didn’t want to help I got offended instead of trying to understand why.”
        “Look, I told you. I was busy.” Why did he have to bring this up again?
“If that was it, you would still have helped. You’re not that self-centered,” he laughs.
“I am not self-centered, period!”
His smile fades, his voice deepening. “Alyssa, what’s going on?”
        I take a step back. “Nothing.”
        He shakes his head. “I don’t believe you.”
        “That’s not my problem. Now if you don’t mind, I have an appointment to keep.”
        Varity stands waiting under a tree, her brown hair pulled back in a high ponytail tied with twine and green ribbons. She wears a brown sweater-coat that falls in pleats and ruffles at her thighs, and tall brown boots that reach just over her knees. Her layers of wool and fabric keep her warm in this part of the woods, where the shade from the trees is chilling despite the warmth of the sun’s rays that peek through the leaves.
        She hears us coming before she sees us, twitching her head to position her careful ear in our direction. When she recognizes the sound of human footsteps, she spins around to face us, a playful gleam in her eye.
        “Hey!” I shout through the trees.
        She puts her fingers to her lips and waits till we reach her tree before speaking. “You have to be quiet. You’ll scare the animals away,” she whispers.
        “Good to see you too,” I retort.
        She rolls her eyes and turns to Zayla. “So you want to be an archer?”
        She nods.
        Varity beams with excitement. “This is going to be a lot of fun.”
        An arrow whizzes by my head, catching a wisp of my hair as it flies by. “Hey! That was too close!”
        “Exactly how I planned it.” Varity lowers her bow and smiles. “Are you sure you don’t want to try? The bow really is superior to the spear.” She raises one eyebrow.
        “You know—I could argue that with you. Buy you’re clearly delusional.” I lean back against the tree I’m taking refuge under, at peace with maintaining some distance from the flying arrows. I've never got the hang of archery, despite my enthusiasm for weapons in general. Of course, Varity is determined to get me behind a bow at some point. “No point in trying to reason with you.”
        She lets out a snicker. “Okay then, your loss.” She loads another arrow and shoots at the target, piercing the bull’s-eye again. “Zayla, try the smaller target this time.”
        “But that one’s—“
        “Twenty-five meters. You can do it.” She takes long strides and shows Zayla how to aim for the longer distance. “Now raise it just a little bit, and let go!”
        Zayla squeezes her eyes shut and releases the arrow, sending it soaring through the air. It hits the target dead center with a loud thwack.
        “Whoah,” I mutter.
        “Excellent! You show a lot of promise. I hope you’ll come back for another lesson?” Varity puts her free hand on her waist.
        “I don’t want to be an inconvenience,” Zayla mumbles, staring at the ground.
        “Nonsense. I put up with towhead over there all the time. And she’s no good with a bow.”
        I cross my arms. “You don’t know that! I just never practiced. I’d probably be just as good as you if I put any effort into it.” I toss my hair. “Besides, you make me drink tea every time we go on a mission.”
        She grins. “Touch√©.”
        Zayla perks up. “So you really don’t mind teaching me?”
        “Absolutely not. I’ll see you next week.” She spins around, waves at me, and then disappears into the woods.
        The pine needles crunch under my boots, masking the sounds of crickets and birds. I twirl a strand of hair around my finger, trying to think of a conversation to start, but I don’t want to give her another panic attack. Besides, I’m still not one-hundred percent convinced she’s not crazy. For all I know, she could use her new bow and shoot my eye out.
        I giggle out loud at the rate at which my thoughts turned to violence, and Zayla examines me suspiciously.
        Her voice is quiet when she speaks. “What’s funny?”
        I bite my lip. I can’t exactly tell her I thought she was capable of murder for a second. That probably wouldn’t work out too well.
        “I was trying to think of something to talk about,” I say. It’s the truth anyway. Mostly.
        “Not talking is okay. I’m not much of a conversationalist.” She kicks a twig out of the way.
        “I see.” But not really. “I don’t know much about you, you know.” I glance over at her just in time to see her cringe a little.
        “There’s not much to know. I have a falcon,” she says as she lifts her arm and tugs on her sleeve, showing her leather protective glove that has the fingertips cut off, “and I freak during stressful stuff. Sometimes for no reason at all.”
        “Wait—if you have an attack when you’re stressed, how come you didn’t have one during your first battle?”
        “It doesn’t work quite like that. Sometimes I just get overwhelmed by everything and I panic. Sometimes I don’t.” She looks into the distance. “but I don’t know, I think the real reason the battle didn’t trigger an attack is that maybe I wasn’t scared.”
        I laugh. “You weren’t scared at all? Yeah, right.”
        “Okay, scared I guess. But I wasn’t hopeless. Adiano helped me.” She smiles faintly.
        Yeah, he’s great for that. But wait for the day he asks you to do something really difficult. “So, anything I couldn’t figure out on my own?”
        She sighs. “I have a brother. And my parents. But who knows how long that will last.” She tugs at the end of her sleeve, playing with a loose thread. “I just wish they could see things like I do now. I want them to be free, too. But I--I think they hate me.”
        Pain surges behind my eyes and pinches my ribcage. “At least you still live with them.”
        Her forehead creases and she purses her lips. Then she cocks her head and give me a strange look. “What’s your story? I mean-- if you don’t mind my asking.”
        My story? Oh, it’s a good one. A real heart wringer. The reject child whose mother was too weak to stand up against her raging father. The girl who found hope, and in exchange, gave up everything she’d hoped for.
“I left my story behind a long time ago. Now I live in Spera Domus—It’s an old hotel that got reimagined as a home for Recruits that couldn’t live with their families anymore. Keiko lives there too, in the west wing with the rest of the guys.”
        “Oh,” Zayla whispers.
I don’t want to talk about anything before that. I don’t want to think about my parents. I left that family. I rejected it, like they rejected me.
        I can’t resist it. The memories draw me back like a wave pulling a boat out to sea. There’s no fighting it. I have to see the house. I have to push myself. I have to see what I left behind once more so I can really move on. Or maybe—
        No. This is just to remember what I don’t want to go back to.
        The mist tickles my nose and strings beads of water through my hair. I kick aside pieces of trash that line the road. This is one of the few places in Thera where the streets look like the alleyways. As the house comes into view, I second guess myself for coming here. What did I expect to feel as I saw once again the broken screen door and the chipped white paint? What did the rotting wood hold for me anymore? I cringe as the memories flood back, crashing against my mind in a seething foam of pain and suffering.
        That’s what the dilapidated house holds for me. Pain from a past life.
        My dad screams at me from the kitchen all over again. I can feel the pain and fear that clouded my mind that night, the gripping tightness of my throat as I fought not to cry. He grabbed my shoulder—so tight it felt like he was crushing my bones—and shook me until my head ached.
        “What were you thinking?! You worthless child,” He bellows in my ear and grips my chin with his rough hands. “My daughter would NEVER have done this!” He shoves me aside and points at my ankle, unshackled. “You disowned your city.” He trembles with anger, his nostrils flaring. “Now I’m disowning you!”
The tears fall; this is the most angry I’ve ever seen him.
        My mom shrieks from behind me, but the sound is drowned out by my thoughts. How could my own father reject me? How could my mother stand by and watch?
        What had I done?

        I can feel the tears stream down my face still, five years later. But this time, it’s just the mist.
        I am done crying for them. I am done wishing I had my family back. And I am done hoping they’ll come around.
        I turn my back on the old house and run down the street, a sudden urgency prodding me to get away. The mist turns into icy cold rain that pounds against my shoulders and sends shivers down my spine. My boots slip over the grime and I fall to my knees, the impact pulsing through my legs and echoing in my skull.
        I push myself back onto my feet and wipe the dirt off of my hands onto my jeans. There is an awning that hangs over the door of a flower shop just a few feet away. I used to take shelter there whenever Father would get angry and start yelling, and I do so once again, leaning against the wall. I close my eyes, staring into the darkness, searching for an answer.
        I’m just not sure what my question is yet.
        I run my fingers through my hair and pull it into a long braid. As my fingers twist in the same pattern over and over again, I mull over what I’ll do when I get back. How can I get Adiano to just let this all be? What will Keiko think?
        I stop braiding when I hear footsteps around the corner. Who would be out in the rain like this? I lean forward, shifting my weight from the wall back onto my knees again, still weak from my fall. I peek around the corner, and then someone grabs me from behind, cupping their hand over my mouth. The glove digs into my gums, cutting off the scream that forms in my throat. I squirm against the arm that grips my waist and claw at the hand that covers my face, but it’s no use.
        Another man comes out of the shadows, approaching me with a knife. He kicks at my ankle. “Lookie here, man, she’s a Recruit!”
        I shudder as the man holding me lets out a sinister chuckle.
        The raspy voice pierces the air again. “You got any money on ya, traitor?”
        I study his face, which is mostly covered with a hood that only reveals his eyes and the bridge of his nose. Those eyes, however, are unlike any others. Deep set and nearly black, a small scar reaches from his left tear duct. I can only imagine how he got it. He steps closer and brandishes his knife close to my own eyes. “Hmm? Any valuables? Or is it just the pretty face?”
        My stomach churns at the sly smile I see in his eyes.
        I have to get away. I bite the hands that’s gagging me and use every ounce of force I can to slam my head against my captor’s nose. He lets out some brand of foul slang and I duck, partially out of tactical movement, partially from dizziness. I dart into the road but the other man grabs my hair and yanks me back, slamming me into the concrete. I cry out as the pavement scrapes against my cheekbone.
        I struggle, but he’s stronger than the first one, and smart enough to pin me so I can’t escape.
        I might never make it back to Domus.
        I hear footsteps again and panic seizes my chest. What’s going to happen to me? I glance in the direction of the noise, desperately trying to bravely face whatever danger is coming for me now. The red plaid shows first,  then the pea coat and the shaggy black hair that falls just above his eyes, pinched even smaller than usual in determination.
        He plunges at the man with the scar without hesitation, throwing his full momentum against his body. I am freed again as the man is ripped from my arms, and I jump forward to help Keiko as he places a device of his own design behind the man’s ear—a small pulse emitter that will knock him out for just long enough to escape. He sets it off and the man goes limp. The other attacker runs away into the alley, and Keiko lets out an exasperated puff of air. He doesn’t watch after him for long, though, quickly turning his gaze to me and running a gentle finger where my cheek is raw. He shakes his head and looks at me in shock.
        ‘Are you okay?’ He moves his hands slowly, cautiously.
        I bite my lip. No. No I’m not.
        I don’t have to answer for him to know. He takes my hand and runs, leading me away from the neighborhood, helping me escape the fear and pain of the last hour.
        When we reach safety in a city park he pulls me into his arms, and I bury my face in his shoulder. I finally relax, not able to hold the tears back any longer. My breath comes in shivering sobs.
        It’s the first time I’ve cried in years.
        Maybe you never really moved on. Maybe you just buried it so deep you couldn’t feel the pain anymore,’ Keiko signs.
        I nod. He’s right, but what do I do now? How do I deal with this all over again? I’m angry and hurt. And they don’t deserve forgiveness.
        Will you at least consider what Adiano is asking? He only wants what’s best for you.’
        I rest my head against the back of the pillowed chair of the living area, letting the warmth of the fire dry out my hair and warm my cheeks.
        I sign without speaking so no one else will know what we say. “He wants what’s best for them too.” And I’m not sure I’m okay with that. They should suffer. They should feel the pain I’ve felt my whole life.
        ‘Why wouldn’t he? They need his help just as much as you did when he found you.’ He bites the inside of his cheek, the small indent almost imperceptible. ‘You have to forgive them. It doesn’t mean what they did was okay. It’s just a matter of you letting go of the bitterness.’
        I don’t want to let go.
        “Even if I do try to recruit them—they’ll never do it. Especially if I’m the one asking.”
It’s not like they ever chased me down. They don’t want to hear from me again, let alone join the Resistance. “I don’t want to do it, Keiko!” I feel the shivers crawl through my skin again, the cold seeping into my chest.
        He kneels in front of my chair. ‘Don’t let their wrong decisions keep you from the right one.’ He gives me one last, long look, and then stands up and leaves.
        Darn it anyway, that boy knows how to convince me.
        I wake up to aching bruises down my legs and arms, and scratches on my cheekbone and my palms. My head throbs for a different reason, though. I have to do this.
        I’m still angry. I’m still hurt. And to be honest, it still goes against every single bone in my body to agree.
        But I see it now. Adiano is right, as usual. I have to be willing to help them, not just for their sake, but for my own.
        I have to forgive them so I can move forward, maybe even mend a relationship. The thought sends a shudder down my spine. I can’t think that far ahead yet. I just need to take the first step and see what happens from there.
        I turn my headset’s volume up again.
        “Adiano—I’m sorry. I want to do what you asked, even if it seems impossible.”
        His voice echoes in my ear. “I forgive you. And you won’t be alone for a second.”
        I nod, even though he’s not in the room to see it. He knows.
        “What if they don’t want to hear me?” My throat tightens again.
        “Even if they don’t want to listen now, they will still hear something. I’m not promising a family reunion, but your words mean much more to them than you know.”
        A tear falls down my face again, hopefully the last one for a good while. “Okay. Just tell me when.”
        I step into the coffee shop with Keiko at my side, and scan the room for Cameron and Zayla. Ignoring the glares I get from the other customers, I take a few enthusiastic strides toward their booth. Cameron smiles at me and Zayla offers a quiet grin that barely moves the corners of her mouth. I drop onto the seat and scoot to the wall so Keiko can place himself next to me.
        “So, How’s it going?” I ask.
        Cameron sits back. “Pretty good, you?”
        I nod. “Better.” I look over at Keiko and smile, unconsciously showing off the scrape across my cheek.
        Cameron practically jumps out of seat. “Alyssa what happened? Are you okay?”
        Keiko laughs to himself at Cameron’s overbearing concern. I know, because I can barely stifle a chuckle myself. “I’m fine. I’ll tell you the whole story some other time.”
        He leans back cautiously, studying my face, and then taking notice of the scuffs on my hands as they lay flat on the table, waiting to translate. Zayla stands up and gives a brief explanation before walking away—“Bathroom. I’ll be right back, if that’s okay.”
        I nod enthusiastically, but I’m caught off guard by Cameron’s serious expression once she turns away. “I wish you would just be honest with me,” he whispers, leaning over the table.
        I cringe. No one calls me dishonest. “I got an assignment I didn’t want to do.”
        “What do you mean?” He clasps his hands and places them in front of his nose.
        “My parents. I’m recruiting them.”
Keiko places a hand on my shoulder.
        Cameron leans back again. “Oh.” He runs a hand through his hair, his forehead creased in thought. “Let me come with you. You shouldn’t go through that alone.”
        Keiko chimes in, pulling his hand away to sign.
        “That’s right,” I say, nodding at Kei, “Keiko’s going to come with me. And we don’t want to overwhelm them with three people.”
        Cameron nods. “Okay then, but keep me posted, alright? We’re all here for you. Zayla too, just not at the moment.” He chuckles, and the laughter is contagious.
        This is my family. These are the people I love.
        But that doesn’t mean I can’t reach out to my parents. It doesn’t mean I can’t love them, too.

Once again, thank you so much for reading. It means a lot to me that you guys take the time to read these stories... and that you actually enjoy them. :D

Leave me a comment! Constructive criticism and suggestions for topics to address are welcome!!!