My day started the same way it usually does. Our butler was banging on my door, shouting my name, and the maid was scolding him for being so noisy. I opened my eyes and was immediately blinded by the sun reflecting off of every white piece of furniture in my room. I was always kind of a slob growing up, so my father insisted on my room being completely white so that wouldn't dirty it and learn how to be neat. I hate to say that it worked.
I crawled out of bed, resisting the urge to roll onto the floor and fall back asleep, and slipped a robe on. It was also white, and my red hair looked extra bright against it. In the sun, it's red, but normally, it's just a really ugly shade of orange. I have light skin and green eyes, too, so I could easily pass as a fruity cocktail. Anyway, I pulled slippers onto my feet and opened my bedroom door, looking straight into the eyes of our butler. His eyebrows were wrinkled and his mustache was all scrunched up.
"Miss Kristin," he began, "I have been trying to wake you for minutes!"
"You mustn't rush her, Claude, I've told you that a million times," said Felicity. Her makeup was always done perfect, with her curly hair pinned back and her tiny skirt just barely covering her behind. She was, literally, the perfect woman, and I always wished my father would see that. I would love it if she became my stepmother rather than just our maid.
"But her father is insisting-" I cut him off by walking away, heading in the direction of my father's office. The big wooden door used to intimidate me as a child, but nowadays, I'm used to it. I shoved the door open with a rough push, revealing my father sitting at his desk, scribbling on papers furiously.
"Hi Daddy," I said, strolling up to him. "You called for me?"
His round glasses sat atop his round nose, making his eyes seem rounder and his body round, as well. He had on his usual suit and tie, his graying hair slicked back, with a mustache I've always dreamt of shaving off in his sleep. "Yes, darling, I wanted to speak to you about that boy, what was his name? That boy you're always playing around with, the dirty one."
"Flynn," I said, immediately annoyed. Flynn was my only friend, and my father always hated him. He doesn't even live in our town because his family is too poor to. They live right outside of our town, in the outskirts where everything is dusty and houses are actually tents. They still get taxed, but not as much as living inside of town. It's not really his fault that he's dirty.
"Yes, Flynn, that's his name. Well, I'm going to have to ask you to stop seeing him, because there have been rumors floating around town," he put his pen down, shaking his head and removing his glasses to massage his eyes. "Rumors of a rebellion."
"A rebellion?" I ran my fingers through my hair, confused. "What do you mean?"
"Well, you know how I raised taxes last month," he began. I nodded. "Yes, well, the townspeople don't like that very much, as you also know," I nodded again, "and they want to rebel. And I don't want you around them when it happens, because they know you're my daughter. I can't have you getting hurt on my behalf."
I didn't say anything to him. I let it sink in for a few seconds, because he was right. People did know I was his daughter, and if they were mad at him, they were probably mad at me too. "Well, at least let me go tell Flynn."
"I'll let you go today," my father said, "but try to conceal yourself, and be very careful. Be back here before dark."
He kissed me on the forehead and thanked me for understanding. But as I left his office and headed for my room, I couldn't help but wonder why he had to keep raising the taxes. It's not like he did any special renovation for the town or even used it on us. The money just seemed to be disappearing. I never questioned him though. No one questions my father. You can get angry at him, you can get upset with him. But you don't question him.
I got showered and dressed, and made sure to wear something with a hood. I always have to wear boots when I go to see Flynn so that I don't get any of my good shoes dirty. I was going to say goodbye to my father before I left, but Claude was bringing him some mail that had just been delivered and insisted that I do not interrupt. I never liked Claude much so I just left.
The area that Flynn lives is actually just behind my house, but the town is surrounded by a wall. It's like a big circle, and there's an entrance on the opposite side that I live on, so I have to cross the entire town, leave town, and then walk all the way around the circle to get to Flynn's tent. I can see my room's window from Flynn's tent. It would be easier if we could build a bridge from my window to the top of the wall, and a ladder down the wall to Flynn's tent. But I lack the freedom and he lacks the money.
My black boots were covered in dust and dirt by the time I got to his tent. His mom was washing clothes in a basin of water. Sweat was dripping from her forehead, and it wasn't even hot out. "Hey Miranda," I said, walking up to her, "you alright?"
"Hi Kristin, dear. I've just got a little fever, is all. Cleaning up the clothes and cooking dinner for the kids," she wiped her forehead.
"Why don't you take some aspirin?" I took my hood off, looking around for anyone nearby that could be a rebel waiting to assassinate me. "The medicine woman right at the town entrance always has some in stock."
"I was going to, dear, but I only had enough money for either dinner or medicine," she laughed quietly, "the kids are more important."
Miranda had three kids. Flynn, and his two little sisters. Their father was the main source of income but he was murdered a few years back. That's when it all started going downhill for them. Miranda doesn't have many skills, and is getting old. The girls go to school; Flynn doesn't. He spends most of his time venturing into the woods, hunting, and collecting things to sell. He makes decent profit usually, but it's spent pretty quickly because they have four mouths to feed, plus my father's taxes.
"Flynn is inside if you're here for him," she said. I smiled and headed inside of the tent. It was dark inside, but Flynn was sitting by a little lamp, just bright enough that he could see the stones laid out in front of him. As soon as he saw me, he grabbed all the stones and shoved them into his pocket.
"Kristin!" He said, surprised, his face immediately turning pink. "What're you doing here?"
"Today is the last day we'll get to spend together for a while," I said, sitting next to him and explaining the situation. He kept nodding as I spoke. He didn't comment at all. I knew he hated my father and what he was doing to the townspeople. He didn't have to say it. His brown hair bounced ever so lightly with each nod. His normally bright blue eyes were glazed over. "I have to wear this stupid hood, too, so no one will recognize me."
"What do you want to do today, in that case?" He asked, standing. I stood too, shrugging my shoulders. "How about a trip to Shilling? We can meet your husband-to-be." He laughed. I didn't.
Arranged marriages aren't a funny thing. They're not cool, either. I'm only seventeen and my husband is already picked out for me. Just because my father controls this town, Siphon, and his father controls Shilling, doesn't mean that we should get married. In fact, I'd prefer to not be involved in government affairs anymore. Yeah, Shilling is this really rich and fancy town with shiny buildings and fancy cars, but that doesn't make me want to marry this guy. He's practically a prince, the way they're so rich.
Flynn always jokes around with me when I talk about this practical-prince. Flynn says I'm like a princess. He says that my hair shines in the sunlight and my fingernails are always clean, so I must be royalty. I don't like being like this, though. Flynn always has dirt under his nails, and he's always a little sweaty, and his hair always feels gross if you touch it. But I like to touch it, and I like to shove him and feel his skin all sticky. It sounds gross but it's so different from my house. Everything is so in order, and everything has to be my father's way. Felicity cleans everything as soon as it's dirtied, and Claude always makes sure things are going smoothly in the house. When I'm with Flynn, I can burp or spill my drink, and nothing ever goes right. Sometimes we get lost and sometimes I fall into mud. But I like it that way. That's why I like being with him.
We actually met at school. I didn't get along with anyone. No one wanted to be my friend because of my father. They were scared of me. They thought my father would arrest them, or something. Rumors spread about me. It was like I had the Black Plague. But Flynn didn't care, and he talked to me. He said his family got sick so often that he must be immune to the Black Plague by now. He was uneducated and I loved it. I could talk to him about anything and he always thought I was funny. Then he dropped out and I started to get home schooled when my mom died. We got even closer after that, because we'd both lost a parent.
Anyway, he realized his comment bothered me, and we decided to head to the beach. It wasn't too far away. As we passed town, though, I brought him in and headed in the direction of the medicine woman's stand. He followed me, watching as I bought a bottle of aspirin for his mother. "Give these to your mom later," I said, handing him the bottle. "She needs them." A smile tugged at his lips, but he didn't say anything. He just put them in his pocket and we continued on our way. That's when I remembered. "Hey, what were those stones you put in your pocket earlier?"
"Oh, just some good finds from yesterday. I was looking through them. I should be able to sell them for a good amount," he gave me a thumbs up. His thumb had dirt on it and it made me laugh. "You know, I'm going to miss you."
"I'm going to miss you too! But don't worry, I'm sure this whole rebellion thing will be over before we know it." I gave him a reassuring smile, but inside I knew that the rebellion would last long once it started. When we got to the beach, the sun was directly above us and beating down on our skin. I took off my boots and let my toes sink into the sand. Flynn started to do backflips, and I stood there watching. He landed on his back and just laid there, looking up at the sun. I laid next to him. "Why don't I feel like we're having as much fun as we usually do?"
"Because we're not," he chuckled. "Why does your dad keep raising the taxes?"
"I don't know," I said.
"How do you not know," Flynn looked over at me, "you live with him. You can listen to his phone calls. You can read his mail. You can do a lot, Kristin, you could probably even influence his decisions. I'm your best friend and my family lives in the dirt, and you're letting your dad take all our money! How can you just lay here and not do a thing? It's a good thing people are finally standing up for themselves and rebelling against that monster."
My eyes widened and I felt my heart beat faster. It made me mad that he would say all those things. But it mostly made me mad because he was right. I could call him daddy to his face all I wanted, but inside, all he could ever be to me was my father. But instead of getting mad at him, I got mad at Flynn. I stood up, looking down at him, and kicked sand in his face. It was the most immature thing I've ever done, but I didn't look back. I grabbed my boots and started walking home.
I heard footsteps behind me but I still didn't look back. He could follow me as far as he wanted, but once I got to my house, he wouldn't be allowed inside. Claude would say, "you'll stain the carpet, sir," or Felicity would say, "oh, all the dusting I will have to do!" and Flynn would have to just leave. I was disgusted with him. I was disgusted with my father. And I was disgusted with myself. And so I kept walking.
My mind wandered back to the question. Why does he keep raising the taxes? I had to find out now. I had to, no matter what the consequences. I can listen to his phone calls, I can read his mail. Flynn was right, but he didn't have to say those things. He just didn't have to say those things. It was our last day together for a while. And he ruined it. …or maybe I ruined it.
The footsteps behind me got louder and quicker, so I stopped walking and looked behind me, screaming, "Flynn, I swear if you don't stop following me-"
But Flynn wasn't behind me. Three men in brown, baggy tunics approached me, and I realized my hood wasn't on. I wanted to scream but no sound would come out of my throat. I just stood there, watching them get closer to me. I wished I hadn't left Flynn. I wished I hadn't kicked sand at him. I wished he hadn't said all those things and I could just be laying next to him again.
I started to shake. I was defenseless, and suddenly one man grabbed my arm. I let out a blood curdling scream of "Flynn!" and then fell to my knees. Another man grabbed me by my collar, my head snapping forward, and the other's hands took hold of my ankles. I was thrown onto the first man's shoulders after my wrists and ankles were tied, and my mouth was stuffed with cloth. I started to cry. My nose was running and tears were dripping down my cheeks and I couldn't wipe either. I messed up.