There were four of us in the car. The driver, me, a woman with a feather hat in the passenger seat, probably in her mid twenties, and a blonde boy about my age in a hooded sweatshirt next to me. He had on these stylish black pants that were beat up, matching his dirty boots and messy hair. He's the one that grabbed my bags for me when I was hurrying into the car. One bag sat on his lap and the other sat between us. He must be the bellboy, I thought to myself. I avoided eye contact with him even though I could feel his eyes burning holes into my skin.
We were well into the woods and probably halfway to Shilling when the woman finally spoke up. "Well, hello sweetie," she said, and it reminded me a little of Felicity. "My name is Ariana and I'm your future sister-in-law."
"Oh, hello," I said quietly, "I'm Kristin, it's a pleasure to meet you."
"Yes. Well, when we arrive at Shilling, you can get settled in. Then later I'm going to measure you for your dress and other clothing. I'm having a few new outfits mailed in from various other towns so you can look fabulous around Shilling," she turned to look at me and that's when I saw her hideous blue eyeshadow and bright red lips. "I can't have you running around in street rat clothes like those."
I looked down at my dress. It was the fanciest dress I owned, and she was calling it street rat clothes? I couldn't imagine what she would say about Flynn and Miranda. She would probably even make fun of the girls, and they were just younglings. I turned to look at the bellboy, and wondered what she thought of him. She probably didn't care what he wore, because he was only working for her. And he probably didn't care what she thought, anyway, because he was getting paid. The driver didn't say a word. He was in a suit and tie, so there was nothing to complain about.
I knew it was going to be bad, but I didn't know it was going to be this bad this quickly. Anyway, we didn't talk much again. I commented on the scenery a couple times, like, "wow that tree is really pretty," but Ariana didn't answer me. She let out a 'humph' every now and then but that was all.
When we left the woods, I could see Shilling up ahead. It was my first time seeing the grand town. The buildings were so tall, I thought they could touch the sky. I imagined climbing all the way to the top and just flying off. It seemed like if you fell, you'd never hit the ground. You'd just fly. Maybe evaporate into the clouds or something. I figured I wouldn't try that though.
We entered town and the buildings seemed to be sparkling. People were eating fruit on the streets and children were blowing bubbles. The sidewalks shined like candy and the wind made women's hair flow like a river. I touched my own hair, dry as paper. It didn't look like a river. It looked like a piece of dirty magma. Like dry magma. Not wet magma. Because wet magma probably looks like a river. Which isn't what my hair looks like.
"How do you like Shilling so far?" asked the bellboy. His eyes were purple. I'd never seen purple eyes. But I liked them. He had the slightest bit of scruff on his face. He looked like he knew how to work and be clean at the same time. And he was kind of handsome. If he got to be my bellboy my entire stay in Shilling, I could probably manage to be happy.
"It's pretty," I said, even though I didn't want to admit it. I wanted to hate Shilling. I really, really wanted to hate Shilling. But the sky seemed bluer and the grass seemed greener. There were flowers in town. Siphon only had flowers outside of town. Like I could only see beautiful stuff outside of town. Like Flynn. But here, I could see it inside. I always felt like leaving Siphon and being with Flynn. But I just felt like staying in Shilling. I want to keep looking up at the sky. I wanted to reach out and grab the clouds and eat them like cotton candy.
There was no rebellion in Shilling. There were happy, laughing people. Their skin glowed. Their eyes gleamed. They spoke so eloquently and danced as they walked. They weren't angry at the government. They were happy.
I was happy.
We reached William's house, and all four of us got out. The driver waved to us and then drove away, leaving me, the bellboy, and Ariana on the sidewalk. I went to grab my bags, but the bellboy grabbed them before I did. I followed them to the porch, listening to the pitter-patter of my shoes against the pavement. Ariana opened the door and immediately disappeared into the house.
The main room was gigantic, with a beautiful red circular carpet in the center of a wooden floor. To the left was a kitchen and dining room, to the right was a room consisting of a bookcase and sofa. Straight ahead was a staircase and a hall that lead to the living room. I could see doors leading to bedrooms on the upper floor. The bellboy headed up the stairs and I quickly followed him.
"You live here?" I asked him, trying to catch up to his fast pace. He seemed used to climbing the staircase, but my feet wanted to stumble and trip after a few steps.
"Yes?" He laughed. "And now you do, too. You'll have your own room for now."
I liked his laugh. It made me feel comfortable in this alien world. He walked to the third door, pushed it open with his shoulder, and threw my bags onto the bed inside. The two of us stood silently in the middle of the room. I kept looking around, taking in every detail. The bed was huge. And the pillows were puffy. Just like I thought. It seemed right though. I liked it. I wanted to jump on it and pretend that they were marshmallows. The walls weren't white like mine, though. They were light orange. Like pumpkin pie. "I love these walls," I said. I had to say it. It just slipped out. The carpet was a really pale pink like bubblegum. I kicked my shoes off and buried my toes in it. I paced around the room a couple times to keep feeling its softness. There was a painting of flowers above a little brown dresser. On top of the dresser was a phone and an alarm clock. I knew what I wanted to put in between.
I opened one of my bags and found the bear my mom made me. I placed it right in the middle of the phone and clock. It fit perfect and looked perfect. The bellboy was still standing there, just watching me. "Want me to help you unpack?"
"Sure," I said, not minding his company. My future husband was missing in action and already making a terrible first impression. He should have met me at Siphon's gate, kissed my hand, and then offered me his jacket or something. But instead I have a lovely bellboy. But that was okay. I liked the bellboy. His scruff reminded me a little of Flynn. And so did his dirty boots. It's not like he could replace Flynn. But he made me feel better. He just did.
I was packing my clothes into the dresser and he was making my bed with the blankets I brought. "So, Kristin," he said, "is your favorite color orange?"
I looked at him, confused, "why would you think that?"
"Your blankets are orange, and so is your hair, and you seemed pretty thrilled about the walls," he chuckled, "or is that just a coincidence?"
"Well, it is my favorite color, but my hair just happens to be orange… and sometimes it's red. It depends on the lighting, I guess," I mumbled, surprised he figured that out so quickly. "Is your favorite color black? I mean, you're wearing black pants and black boots."
"My favorite color is actually blue," he winked at me and I got nervous, "you're not so good at playing detective, Kristin. But that's okay, I'll just be the problem solver in this relationship."
"What?" I asked. "What relationship?"
"Our relationship- wait, do you not know who I am?" He started to laugh really, really hard. It scared me a little now. It wasn't the laugh I liked from before. It was making me nervous because I didn't understand why it was happening. "It's me! William!"
"What," I stared at him. "I thought you were the bellboy," my cheeks got as hot as fire and as pink as the carpet.
He couldn't be William. He didn't have a pushed up nose, and his eyes weren't beady. His nose was tiny and cute and his eyes were the color of orchids after a rainy day. And he was kind. And I liked him. I was so confused. "Bellboy? We don't have a bellboy!" He kept laughing. It scared me a little less now but I was still freaked out.
"Then why did you carry my bags?" I was running my fingers through my hair and pacing back and forth, but not for the carpet now. I was pacing because I was freaked out.
"I carried them because you're kind of my fiancé," he walked up to me, "I wanted to make a good first impression. I know things are hard for you right now, and I just wanted to make sure you felt welcome. I know my sister is a piece of work, but I'm not like her."
"Then what are you like?" I took a step closer to him, trying to calm down, "we might as well get to know each other."
"Okay, I have a game we can play," he sat on the bed and laid back. I laid next to him. "I'll ask you a question. You answer it. Then you either ask me the same question or make up your own. And we go back and forth. But you have to answer in full. No one word answers."
I laughed a little. "Okay. Deal."
"Who's that necklace from?" He asked, pointing.
I quickly answered, "Flynn. He made it for my birthday. Where'd the dirt on your boots come from?"
"The train track. I worked there earlier today and forgot to wash them. Tell me about your family," he said, looking towards me. I didn't look back at him. I looked up at the ceiling. It was painted white, like mine back at home. I thought maybe it would have been painted orange, too, but it wasn't. It was like I could just stare at the ceiling and pretend that I was in my own bed. But this bed was a lot more comfortable. So maybe I couldn't really pretend too accurately.
Anyway, I answered, "my mom was really great. She sang me lullabies and made me pumpkin pie. And she made that teddy bear over there. My dad's okay. He doesn't like me hanging out with Flynn very much. And he's really selfish and mean sometimes. But I guess I still love him. Claude isn't really family but he helped raise me. I don't really like him. He's rude. Felicity has been like a mom to me since my real mom died. She's really kind and loving, and always looks perfect. I think she cares about her lipstick more than her job. Miranda is Flynn's mom. She's really kind, too. But she got sick. I don't know what happened to her. I'm trying not to think about it. What about your family?"
He took a few seconds to think about everything I said. "My mom was really great, too. She couldn't sing like yours, though. But she did make me pie. My favorite pie she made was pizza. The crust always came out perfect. My dad has always been there for me since she… passed away. We're not very close but he's the only parent I have left. Ariana is stuck up and mean, but sometimes she can be fun to hang out with," I couldn't believe his mom was dead, too. I didn't say anything about it though. I didn't want to hit a soft spot. He stretched a little and I could see the muscles in his arms. That's when I realized I was looking at him, too. And then we made eye contact. That purple still got me. "What's your favorite thing to do?"
"I like going to the beach with Flynn," I said quickly. I didn't have to think about that answer. It just came to me. "He does backflips and I wet my feet in the ocean. And sometimes we catch crabs and build them houses in the sand. What's your favorite thing to do, William?"
He took another few seconds to think about everything I said. I felt like he cared about my answers so much more than I cared about his. "I like to help out at the train tracks," he mumbled, "sometimes I help load the trains, sometimes I help unload the trains. I don't get paid but it's kind of fun."
I didn't answer because it was his turn to ask a question. But he didn't ask a question. So I just stared at the ceiling. And I felt him staring at me. He was burning holes into my skin again. I got shivers.
"First kiss," he said, chuckling. "Too personal?"
My eyes widened and I glanced over at him. "Are you asking who my first kiss was?"
"Yes," he chuckled again.
"Flynn," I choked out, "who was yours?"
"I haven't had one," he frowned, "I thought maybe you hadn't either, and we could have it together at our wedding. But now that I think about it, that was pretty unlikely, since you're so pretty."
I didn't answer again. It was his turn to ask a question again. But he didn't ask a question again. So I just stared at the ceiling again. And I felt him staring at me again. And he was burning holes into my skin again. And I got shivers again.
"So who's Flynn," he asked, "you keep mentioning him but you never tell me who he is."
"He's my best friend," I said, "who is your best friend?"
"I don't have a best friend," he replied.
"Oh," I said.
He never asked another question.