I must have fallen asleep on the man's shoulder, because the next thing I knew, I woke up in a dark tent. I'd been kidnapped by rebels, obviously, and I was probably going to be used as "lower the taxes or we kill your daughter!" or something. The cloth was out of my mouth, but my hands and ankles were still tied up. I assumed I was too far away for anyone to hear my screams and save me.
I scooted to the entrance of the tent and peeked my head through. I saw the three men sitting at a fire. It was the middle of the night, and the stars blanketed the sky. I let my father down so much. First, I didn't conceal my self. Second, I didn't make it home before dark. I wasn't so nervous anymore. I had to control myself if I was going to figure a way out. First I had to get my wrists untied. I raised them to my mouth and started to nibble until the rope broke. It was that easy. These kidnappers obviously weren't experienced.
I untied my ankles with my hands.
I was free. I sat in the tent still, though. I didn't know how to get past them without them seeing me. I peeked out again and noticed they were starting to fall asleep. I felt like I was on level 1 of a video game. I left my boots off and started to crawl out of the tent. They didn't hear me.
As soon as I had crawled far enough, I stood and started to run. I didn't know which way I was going, but I knew I had to get as far away from them as possible. I never ran that fast in my life, and I quickly lost control and tripped. It wasn't even a light trip, it was an intense trip-and-fall-a-few-feet-away trip. My knee was bleeding and it was cold.
I got away from the men but I didn't know where I was. I sat on a rock and looked up. I didn't know how to tell direction by using the stars, and I didn't know how to build a fire. There were leaves in my hair and dirt under my nails. Everything I said I liked before. But I wasn't with Flynn. So it wasn't so enjoyable anymore.
I felt doomed. I kept my cool though, and stared at the trees for a while longer. I started to cry again, but now I could wipe my eyes, so it was okay. I hugged my knees to my chest, and I felt lonely. Like when my mom died.
I liked my mom. A lot more than my father. She used to sing me lullabies and she didn't mind when I hung out with Flynn. She never called him dirty. She would make clothes for Miranda and babysit the girls every now and then. My mom always made me pumpkin pie because she knew it was my favorite. But one day she got sick. Maybe that's where the Black Plague rumors started. She didn't have the Black Plague, obviously. Even the medicine woman couldn't cure her. One day I woke up and she was just gone.
I wanted to sing one of her lullabies but I couldn't remember any. I could barely remember what her voice sounded like. "Mom," I said, "help."
I felt the wind blow against my skin, and I wanted to believe that it was her spirit. I knew it was just the wind. I shivered and put my hood on. "At least now you remember to wear your hood."
I jumped and turned around to see Flynn standing before me. I started to cry harder, standing and hugging him as tightly as I could. He hugged me back, and everything seemed to be perfect for that split second. "You found me!" I shouted, "how did you find me?"
"I followed. You never finished saying what you would do if I didn't stop following you, so I kept following you. Those men interrupted your sentence." He smirked. "Good job escaping, though. I was gonna ambush them as soon as they fell asleep, but you fled all by yourself. I'm proud of you."
I shoved his shoulder lightly, "don't make fun of me."
"I'm not making fun of you! You did good. They weren't very hard to escape from, but you still did good." He hugged me again. "I was so worried they would hurt you."
"Thank you so much, Flynn," I buried my face in his chest, "I don't know what I would do without you."
"Well you're gonna have to figure that out soon, because the rebellion started," he said, "I heard them talking about it while I was waiting for my chance to rescue you. You've gotta get home and hide. You can't come visit me anymore or they might get you. And I can't visit you. They might think I'm a traitor. I can't risk my family's safety." He held my shoulders as he spoke to me. "I'm going to walk you home, but that's the last we'll see of each other for a while."
I didn't answer him. I held his hand as we walked through the woods because I didn't want to get lost. It was dark and I could barely see, but his hand was warm and secure. He had this way of always making me feel comfortable, like when I first got my period. A little gross and weird, I know. But my mom had just died and Felicity hadn't been hired yet. It was just me, my father, and Claude. I panicked and ran to Miranda, who wasn't home. Flynn was babysitting the girls and I was bleeding down my leg.
When he saw me bleeding, he didn't know what to do. He thought I had gotten injured but I explained to him it was just my period but it was my first one. He seemed petrified at first, but then he laughed and ran to the medicine woman to get advice. I watched the girls while he was gone. They were sleeping so they never saw me covered in blood. When Flynn got back, he gave me clean clothes and told me what the medicine woman had told him, and before I knew it, I was laying with my head in his lap, and he was playing with my hair, telling me jokes.
Neither of us spoke the entire walk to my house. For some reason, I kept thinking he was remembering the same memory as me. We had to sneak through town to make sure no one saw us. We both knew all the alleyways of town and how to get by any guards, although I didn't spot any guards, or even any rebels. I figured my father didn't know the rebellion had started yet, and the rebels were still plotting. But I wasn't sure of anything, really.
When we got to my doorstep, we stopped.
"I made this for you while I was waiting for my chance to rescue you," said Flynn, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a chain with a small gem at the end. It was bright red and shined in the moonlight. "I found it in the woods and the color reminded me of your hair. That's why I hid all the stones from you earlier. I didn't want to spoil the surprise. I was going to give it to you on your birthday next week, but I guess I can't. Remember, you're my best friend."
It was too dark for him to notice, but my cheeks were nearly as red as the gem. I felt his fingers brush against my skin as he put the necklace on me. It was just long enough to reach below my collar bones. We were staring at each other, the seconds were passing more and more quickly. "I'm scared," I mumbled, and it was the only thing I could think to say, "I know my dad isn't a great person but I don't want him to get hurt. There has to be a reason he's doing this."
"Don't worry," he touched my cheek gently, "I'm sure he has a good reason. You just have to figure it out. Be careful. Look out your window every night at sunset so I can know you're okay. I'll be waiting for you." He kissed my forehead. He could probably taste the dirt and sweat on my skin, which he was probably used to and didn't mind. But the funny thing is, he didn't move away. His lips just stayed there, half an inch away from my skin, and I could feel his breathing, warm against me. Then he moved his face lower, and my heart sped up.
He was going to kiss me on my lips, I knew he was. And I'd never kissed a boy. I always felt like Flynn would be my first, but not now, not like this. It was supposed to be on the beach or something, with the wind blowing through our hair and smiles plastered on our faces. Yet it still felt right to press my lips against his in that very moment, and I still managed to smile.
Then my front door flew open and Felicity stood, staring at us, shocked. Not so much at the kiss. More so at the fact I was there. "Miss Kristin, you're alive!" She began to scream quietly, her arms being thrown in every direction her body allowed. Flynn quickly stepped away from me, then sped off. "Your father will be so happy to hear this, oh, come with me right now!"
She grabbed my wrist and began dragging me in the direction of my father's office, and I never got a chance to tell her that my wrists were pretty bruised from being tied. She probably wouldn't have stopped dragging me even if I told her. She nearly flung me into the room, and my father immediately rose to hug me.
"I was so worried," he said, nearly crushing my ribcage in his embrace, "what did they do to you? Did they hurt you?"
"No, I'm fine," I pulled away. "They're pretty inexperienced and sloppy. They tied me up but it was easy to get away. They're plotting, though. They're going to get better at this and you need to be prepared." I sat down in front of his desk and motioned for him to sit behind it.
"Did you overhear any plans?" He asked, sitting and organizing some papers he had scattered about.
"No. But Dad, I have to ask you something," remember I said no one questions my father? "Why do you keep raising the taxes?"
He glared at me, eyes thinning and color fading from his face. "Kristin, that is none of your business."
"My business!" I stood up, slamming my fists onto the table. That hurt, and was dumb to do, but it felt necessary in the moment. "It is most definitely my business. I'm going to be an adult next week! I'm your only family here, and I can't know the reason you're destroying Siphon?" I wanted to knock all the papers off his desk and his lamp and his books and his phone and everything. "I'm sick of Claude knowing more than me!"
"Don't bring Claude into this! He has helped raise you since you were a baby! And you're right, sweetheart, you are going to be an adult next week, which is why it is time you move to Shilling and get married to William." William is that practical-prince. My father stood, as well, and began walking toward the door. "It's for your protection, as well. Shower and go to bed, tomorrow is a big day for you. Escorts from Shilling will arrive at noon."
I couldn't believe him. But I didn't question him. That was useless, and I knew that now. I was going to have to figure this out myself, and it wasn't going to be easy, especially while living in Shilling. I left his office, showered, and then went to my room.
It was perfectly white. Every inch of it. I hated it. I wished I hadn't showered so I could lay in my bed and get dirt all over the sheets. I wanted to spill soda on the couch and knock my old dollhouse all over the floor. But instead, I looked out my window, and could see Flynn's tent. There was a little fire lit, and a figure sat next to it. Too dark and far away to tell who. I climbed into my window sill and sat, wondering if whoever it was could see me. I started to play with the gem on my neck, crying. I knew it was Flynn down there. And I knew he was looking up at me. He could see me perfectly. He could probably even see the tears. But he would never know why, and he would never see me again after tonight.
It hurt too much to keep sitting there so I got into bed and pulled the blankets over my head. I cried into my pillow until I fell asleep.
I dreamt of William. I had never met him, but in my dreams, he was a stuck up pig. Not a pig like a slob. No. Flynn and I are pigs like slobs. But William was a pig, like he actually looked like one, with a pushed up nose and beady eyes. He probably even has pinkish skin from being so spoiled and rich. As soon as I met him, he would probably tell me to get my eyebrows waxed. He would have his servants braid my hair and make me carry around an ugly dog. Our room as a married couple would be bigger than mine now, with whiter furniture and puffier pillows. The dog would have it's own puffy pillow to sleep on in the corner, with a gem encrusted collar and a little pink dress.
Flynn had a dog for a week. It was the greatest. He found it in the woods with a broken leg and countless other little injuries. Miranda and I went to the medicine woman to learn what to do with it. We put the leg in a little cast and watched it learn how to walk again. It wasn't very good at walking, and was probably in a lot of pain, but it picked up sticks and liked to catch flies. I loved that dog. I hated seeing all the cuts and scrapes on it, and I couldn't help but wonder what happened to it. Then my father said if they had a dog, they would have to pay taxes for it.
Flynn and Miranda didn't know if they could afford to keep the dog or not. But that didn't matter. They never had to make that decision. It passed away.
"All the infections it had must've caught up," I said to Flynn that day.
"Or it had the Black Plague," Flynn replied as we buried it. We were both upset, but he got me to smile at him. And then we hugged. I covered the grave with flowers. We never even got to name it.