Haha. my summary sucks so bad; i just read it and i was like, wtf. Heh. this is a character sketch i entered in a competition a lil while back. humphz. and i didnt win. i never win. wahhhh. i got second place for it. heh. the winner got four votes and i got THREE. -poutz- well, i hope you guys'll like it (appreciate it) hehe. 'cause its one of the onli thingz ive ever written that i actualli liked. dum dum.

Well, basicalli, it might confuse most people so i'll lay down some of the rules of the contest to help you guyz. i was given a char out of a list and i had to write a piece with a 3000 word limit i think to show said charz personaliti but not actualli giv away who the char was --the readers had to guess. My char is ROYALTY to avoid confusion. -smilez- and the rest adds up around that. hope you enjoyyy.


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Bird Cage

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Darkness swept through and fuelled me with something soft and tangible –a bored hope, a resolution that lingered at the edge of something, awaited abundance but ceased to topple. Moon-light criss-crossed over red fabric, cutting holes in shadows that streamed over carpet like bars in a prison –a bird, trapped in a high cage which swung rhythmically beneath the soft trepidation of an upcoming sun-set.

Patter.

Click.

"Kallina!" The voice was hushed, wary, and I dropped the thread-work, made to the window.

I was met with a cold rush of wind and black curls danced as I gazed out, squinted. A figure, silhouetted in the darkness by a flickering candle, waved, beckoned.

"Kallina," he said again, voice hushed. Something jolted in my chest and I looked around, almost instinctively, to check if we were alone. We were.

I nodded, indicating continuation.

He wavered. "Come on."

"But –" The bars screeched, refused entry. He waited and I bit my lip, stopped, nodded. Compulsion fuelled me.

Carpe dium.

Live for the day.

"Okay –" I fumbled, contemplated, and was met with decision. "Give me a moment. I need to –" Wavered again. "Get something warm."

He moved the candle through air, seemed agitated. "Okay, then. But hurry."

Didn't he get how hard it was for me to do this?

"I am."

I found something warm, draped it over myself and made to the window again. By now the room was cold, frosty. I shoved a few pillows into my bed, drew blankets over them, then made to climb out of the window. My room wasn't too high up, so it wasn't that great a drop.

I reached the bottom, brushed myself off and peered around, quickly.

His voice snapped my attention. "There's no one here."

A white moon hung in the sky. "I –I know, I just –" I shook my head, cleared the paranoia. "How did you get in? I mean, through the –"

He tapped a heel on the floor, a soft, barely audible click. Had that been the pattering sound? "These sandals. Perfect for climbing."

I imitated him, indicated my sandals. "These sandals. Not perfect for climbing." The question arose. "So how do I get out?"

He shook his head, sighed; put a hand to his heart. "Don't you trust me, Kallina?" He had a habit of stressing the second syllable, making it sound longer than it actually was.

"I trust you, Pietro. But I don't see –"

"Then watch."

He handed me the candle, made to the yellow bars that seemed browner, darker, beneath moon-light.

Then pulled out a key, twisted it in the lock.

The gate swung open and I gasped.

I put my hands on my hips. "Pietro Dominici, what will your mother say when she finds out you've been stealing?"

He bowed with a flourish, smirked his trademark smirk. "Ladies first."

I hitched up my skirt, cast a weary glance behind me, and he rolled his eyes at the gesture, then made through the gate. He followed, closed the gate again and raced forward, to the trees.

"Come on."

I made towards him, bit my lip. "But where to?"

"Come, milady –" He indicated the trees "–and you shall see."

Then he was off, running, into the night.

"Carpe dium," I repeated, cast a glance back. "Live for the day."

And I ran after him.

oOOo

It was packed.

An ensemble of acoustics played rapidly as people danced in circles, kicked, laughed and round hats bent over steely glasses of mulled wine. The music was pleasing enough, more traditional –it had a beat to it.

Satisfactory.

He tugged at my hand, ran the other through tousled black hair and smiled at me. A dimple creased and I felt the waves crash, the cage beat against stone and beg for release as a bird shrieked, screamed, beneath the ululation of a storm.

I smiled back.

"Do you like it?"

How could I say no? "It's nice."

He noticed the unease, underlying contempt, but made no comment. I wasn't used to this, this – now, if it was slightly cleaner.

"Want to dance?"

I burned, ducked my head and pulled the hand away. He seemed amused. I shuffled my feet. "I don't know –" I watched my feet, searched for the correct words. "The dance, I mean. It's not –"

"What you're used to?"

I nodded.

"I'll teach you."

I shook my head, vigorously. What if someone pushed into me? Or –or if I looked out of place because I danced differently to them? As I watched the girls I noticed the care free attitude, the lack of limitations, the stretching of boundaries that seemed so foreign to me. It was as if they saw no one, felt no eyes boring into their back but danced for the sake of dancing.

Longing pitted in my stomach.

I didn't know how to do that.

I shrugged. "If you really want to."

He laughed, a soft laugh that always made me tingle, filled me with embarrassment. "Who would've thought that you of all people would find something difficult? And actually admit it."

What did he mean? I was sure that if I tried I'd be fine at it. After all, I had been taught well. "That comment was uncalled for." I tossed my hair, exaggeratedly. "I shall have to outshine you on the dance-floor, sir, and remind you of your place."

His mouth formed into an 'o' shape. "Oh, please, don't. How will I ever get over it?" Pietro smirked, outstretched a hand and indicated the floor again with a nod of his head. "Come on, then. Let's begin your lessons."

So soon? But I followed him, fuelled with confidence. "Let's begin."

I took his hand and an acoustic played, dimly, in the background. We moved into the crowd and I bit back my aversion, my fear of getting shoved into. He took both my hands, began to move his feet and I watched, awed.

"How do you –"

"Just move to the beat."

How was I meant to do that? There was no pattern to his movements; it was as if they were on pure instinct. Pietro noticed my lack of movement, raised an eyebrow, then something glinted in his eye.

His grip on my hands tightened. "Get ready." The music was faster and everyone around us was laughing, dancing to the beat.

"Ready for wha –"

And then he swung me round. I was tempted to scream, my stomach jumped in my throat, but chose not to, because then people might notice me and they might – The thoughts were replaced by a rush of adrenaline, a feeling of freedom. Elation fuelled my being and the laughter wouldn't stop.

He was laughing, too. Then he stopped twirling me and we moved, danced, randomly to the beat yet it felt so rhythmic, so choreographed. I was nearing the peak and the cage had rattled, brought me to absolution. Wind scattered and feathers danced, screeched for penance beneath the rays of a heated sun as something stark, unimaginable, was conjured and waited, just waited.

Someone shoved into me, shattered the laughter. I burned, whipped to face her. Didn't she even have the decency to say sorry? Pietro stopped, confused. She had stopped by now, too.

"You could have said sorry." My words were harsh, icy. Who did she think she was just ruining my night like that? And then she didn't even have the decency to say sorry. Had she no manners?

"For what?"

Still no apology. "For shoving into me."

She raised an eyebrow. "It's a free hall. I can move where I please."

"Not right into me."

She was eying me now, taking in my face, my neat hair and my manner of dress. I took in hers. She was so dirty. Hadn't these people ever heard of hygiene? A bath, maybe.

"I can move –" The words were slow, clear-cut. "–where I please, little girl."

The contempt, the condescension, of her last two words fuelled my anger. "Have you no manners?"

"Why don't you just run back to your mama, little girl. And stop bothering us normal people."

The words came of their own accord. "And why don't you have a bath. Or run back to your pig farm where we won't have to smell you?"

Eyes widened and I realised my mistake. The girl looked angry, hurt even. "Why you stupid, bi –"

A hand grabbed mine and we ran. The crowd parted –the music had long since stopped, obviously they weren't used to this sort of conflict. Out to the moon-lit streets where a few stragglers lingered, pushing carts. No one followed and the music continued.

Pietro began to walk away and I followed hurriedly, brushing myself off. "Can you believe her? I mean, how rude? It's bad enough that she didn't apologise, but then she went and began to act as though she didn't need to, I mean –"

"Do you think I smell like a pig, too?"

The question caught me off guard. "What?"

He pivoted, met my gaze, look intense.

"You're joking, right?" He wasn't. I hurried to justify myself. "She shoved into me, Pietro. And she insulted me. So I did the same."

"No." He ran a hand through tousled black hair, shook his head. "The hall, the music, you didn't like it, did you?"

I didn't answer.

"You thought it smelt. You thought the people were dirty. You said she smelt." He stopped, wavered. "She was no dirtier than me, than my family, Kallina."

I checked my words. "I didn't mean it that –"

He shook his head, silenced me. "Never mind. Let's just go."

And he outstretched a hand, indicated for me to take it. I did, warily at first, and we made down the path. Paranoia overcame me. We were in such an open space, so what if someone –

"Where are we going?"

He answered. "This time to somewhere less crowded, since you don't seem to like the company of other people."

There was no malice in his tone; nonetheless, it stung. I bit my lip. "But where?"

"You'll see."

I sighed, admitted defeat. "Okay. But not too long. They might notice that I'm gone by now, and then they'll –" I left the sentence unfinished, but we both understood what would happen.

He nodded. "It won't be. But we'll have to hurry." He broke into a run and I struggled to keep up. He was so fast, so agile. It was amazing that he had achieved it with no training whatsoever.

Wind lashed at my cheeks as we darted across paths, angled over street-corners and cut through towering grass that rustled beneath the night's light breeze. An owl hooted in the distance and crickets chirped, softly, beneath night's trepidation.

I heard waves in the distance –water – crashing, beating against something harsh and solid. He continued forward and we passed through an outcrop of lush, green trees, onto a vast beach where sand glittered, like hundreds of little jewels, under moon-light.

There was a stretch of water, which reached out so far it seemed infinite. It sparkled, wreaked of tranquillity and rocks bathed, perched on its edge; torrents of water crashed against their surface, making them seem darker and waves undulated, rose softly, before dropping once again. The moon was a single sphere, white and omniscient in a sea of shimmering stars.

Everything was so calm, so beautiful, and the air –so fresh.

I took a deep breath, let it fill my lungs, then exhaled. "I've never been down here before." I stepped onto the sand and a longing, a necessity, fuelled me but I stopped myself. It would be breaking boundaries –or reaching near enough to it – and I couldn't afford to let my guard down, not even once. Some boundaries were not meant to be broken, and to take the first step, as small and insignificant as it may be, could lead to ruin.

Pietro pulled off his sandals, brushed them off and made to the sand. I watched it collect, crunch over his feet. Toes as they coiled over the soft substance, gripped it, like a bird gripping its perch.

He was nearing the water now, then turned, lifted up a sandal in beckoning. "Aren't you coming?"

I nodded, quickly, and ran onto the sand, my sandals plodding against its surface. By the time I reached him he was perched on a rock, gazing out at the waves. I sat beside him, folded my hands in my lap.

"It's a nice place."

He nodded, lightly. "Yeah."

I wavered; cast my gaze over crashing waves. "I've never been here before."

"You haven't been to many places."

Once again, the comment stung. "I've had good reason not to."

His legs were in the water and he was kicking them through it, gently. "Don't make excuses."

Anger welled up in my chest. How dare he talk to me like that? And so bluntly, too. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

He turned his gaze from the water, out to the stars. "You can do anything, Kallina. You have so many opportunities; you can have anything you want. Some of us aren't that lucky." He kicked the water again, harsher this time. "Don't take advantage of it."

He spoke as if he knew everything, but he didn't know the half of it.

I peered over the rock, into the water and watched the ripples as they cascaded in, out. Took in a breath, "Wow."

"Wow?"

"It's so beautiful."

A corner of his lips tugged into a smile and he turned to face me, ran a hand through tousled hair. "You're obviously not used to these sorts of things."

I shrugged. "Natural beauty –it's so had to find nowadays."

He propped his head on his elbow, cocked his head to the side and watched me. "It is, but when you find it –" His look was intense, impenetrable and I felt something clench in my stomach, " –it seems so beautiful."

Waves crashed, ululated a cry in the distance.

I blushed.

He took my hand and his grip was warm, concerting. The bird screeched and the cage rattled, refused penetration; the wings remained clipped, absolute, denied aviation and his grip softened. He kissed my knuckles, lightly, and something sharp cut through my chest as heat collected, diminished.

"Shall we go back now?" His voice was hushed and a dimple creased, his face softening into a light smile that melted something hard, basked in solidity.

I nodded, lightly. "It's late."

He jumped off of the rock, landed barefoot in sand and outstretched a hand. I took it, still wary and began to make my way off the rock. I reached the edge, stumbled, and he caught me. The arms were firm and I blushed, slipped from his grip, gold glinting beneath my sandals.

Pietro cocked his head to the side, waited for me to brush myself off and we made back to the trees, my face still burning. He was in front and I fiddled with my sleeve, watching his form, nervously.

And then he stopped, abruptly.

Patter.

Paranoia returned in full blast.

"Pietro, wha –"

"Dive!"

Gun-shots filled the air.

We fell, headlong, into sand and the heavy beat of gun-shots cut through my ear drums. It was so loud. His arm was over me and we began crawling, slowly.

"They haven't seen us yet." The voice was a whisper. "But when I say run, get up and go. You know the way."

I managed a nod. I had to get back. I couldn't stay here, and – and what if, no, I couldn't afford to think about it that way. I would get back and call someone, then they would go back and help Pietro. It seemed like a good plan.

His voice cut me from my reverie. "Run!"

And I did.

Through trees that scraped against my skin, tore at my dress and my feet pounded, heavily, against tarmac. They throbbed and I heard shouting in the distance, heavy foot-steps. My breath caught in my throat and I dived into another alleyway, across an empty path.

Shouts. In the distance.

They were catching up with me.

And Pietro?

I met another corner, swerved into it and knew instantly that I was nearing my home. Only a little longer.

A whip of air cut past me and I fell back, abruptly.

A figure stood before me, poised, a gun in hand, aimed straight at my head. He cocked his head to the side. "No-where left to go." The voice was a hiss.

I stepped back and his hand rested on the trigger.

This was it.

Then a voice screamed from a distance. "Kallina."

The figure was caught off guard for a moment and someone rammed into him. He shot, randomly, and the bullet seared into a nearby tree. I took the queue and ran, to the gate and dialled something, then shoved it open.

I had to get someone, anyone.

Something stopped me.

If they found out, then they would know I had left without permission and the punishment would be severe. Anyway, it wasn't likely that they would help and even if they did, Pietro would still get punished.

I made my decision.

I whipped round to where they were. "Pietro!"

He turned and our gazes met, briefly. I opened my mouth, desperate to say something, but no words came out. Something wavered, teetered for a moment and was bit back, replaced with something new –more tangible. I ran back to the building, climbed up, through my open window.

The gun-shots were distant now. My fingers fumbled over the light switch and I turned it on, bathed the room in amber and picked up my thread-work, then perched on my bed.

My door was flung open and a maid ran in, looked frantic.

I kept my eyes on the red, the intricate red.

"Outside –" She gesticulated. "Guns –a boy; he's been shot."

I turned my gaze, slowly, placidly. "Then why have you come to me? Get someone to sort it out; otherwise, father will get into trouble."

I reached for a thread, focused on the colours. Black –yes, black would look good with red.

She nodded, left.

And gun-shots died out in the distance.