One morning several weeks following the demonstration, Viola awoke violently, staring stupidly at the naked rafters under the roof before rationality slowly returned to her and she started to relax.
A dream. No, it wasn't enough to say it was a dream. It was the same dream, the one that haunted her since she got the news of Sebastian's death, the one where she was stranded in the middle of a storm-enraged ocean that was determined to finish her off after her sinking ship failed to pull her down with the rest of the crew. This time around the dream was somehow different. In the past she always woke up just before she was heaved into a line of cliffs, but that had not happened this time. What did happen? She strained to remember, but the details were draining away like water through a sieve. She seemed to recall being lifted from the water, saved from the cliffs at the last minute, but when she tried to picture what saved her the last of the dream slipped away and was lost to the morning.
Viola sighed, rubbing the back of her neck to un-stick the hair that clung there, then took a moment to look around the room she once shared with her twin brother. Everything was as it should be, more or less. Viola and Sebastian were not sloppy people by nature, but the small loft apartment they rented since their arrival in Port Illiam had acquired a homely clutter where everything had a place of its own, even if it was not necessarily a conventional location. Stacks of clean, folded clothing never quite seemed to be able to complete their journey from the laundry basket to the chest of drawers, and although they did a relatively decent job making sure the dishes were washed on a regular basis, they always seemed to be lacking clean drinking glasses and forks. There were always more books on the floor than on the bookshelves and Viola's uniform apron and trusted pair of skate shoes took permanent residence on the chair by the front door.
Ever since Sebastian died, though, Viola found it to be more and more difficult to muster up the motivation to keep the loft in whatever order it had before. Laundry began to pile up in the corners of their bedroom, and she just wasn't able to make herself wash the dishes as often as they needed to be. The only thing in the whole loft she made sure remained immaculate was Sebastian's bed. His quilt had been steamed and pressed and wasn't marred by so much as a wrinkle, his pillow perfectly plumped and resting against the headboard like a cloud. Sebastian's bed had never actually looked like that when he was alive, even after the rigorous discipline drills he had to endure as a naval recruit, but for some reason, seeing it in disarray felt like a horrible violation to his memory. Mercutio sat on it once, which sent Viola into a blustering fit unlike either of her friends saw before. Although Viola had apologized afterward and no one mentioned the incident since, she still felt ashamed by the memory of her behavior.
Propped in the corner at the foot of Sebastian's bed was the ceremonial saber that was given to her when she was informed of his death. Viola tried not to look at it. Not only was it a constant reminder that her twin was gone, but it also reminded her of what she still had to do. Traditionally, the families of sailors lost at sea would keep the funeral sabers for a year and a day after their deaths, then board a navy vessel to bury the sword at sea in the sailor's place.
That meant having to go out onto open waters.
Viola didn't like thinking that she became afraid of the open ocean since Sebastian's death, but in the past couple of weeks the vast bodies of water surrounding Ardenlore had turned into something dark and ominous looming off the horizon, a constant presence that was around her at all times, unable to escape it no matter where she was in Port Illiam. She wasn't so discomforted by this realization that she couldn't go to the shoreline, which was where she most often went when she needed to be alone for a while, but comparing the gently lapping waves to the rest of the ocean was like comparing a fluffy kitten to a ravenous, man-eating tiger. Ever since Sebastian's death, it seemed the only thing Viola was capable of dreaming of was the sea, and in her dreams it was always hungry, and it was always searching for her. It already claimed her brother, swallowing him whole without leaving any trace that he ever existed, and now it wanted her.
Mercutio talked about leaving the island to escape the chaos building along its coast. Viola wasn't sure she could leave even if she wanted to.
The small alarm clock at her bedside began to chime melodiously, and Viola leaned over to turn it off without a fight. She kicked the quilt off her legs, letting it pile on the floor before she crossed the room to look out of its one small, circular window. The early-morning marine layer still hung low over the southeast end of the island, bathing the city in shades of muted gray. Streamers of mist clung to the taller buildings like wayward ghosts, and Viola could feel the cool, near-microscopic beads of condensation on her face and arms as she leaned out the window to look down onto the streets below. Flocks of sailors and dockhands were headed in the direction of the harbors, while the factory and warehouse laborers made their way to the center of Port Illiam in the opposite direction. Merchants and craftsmen were sprinkled among them, going to and from the markets to buy and sell and go about their daily lives as normally as possible. Viola pushed away from the window, knowing it was time for her to start making the same effort.
The ritual of getting ready for work had become an absolute necessity to her life, starting with a quick shower in the loft's tiny bathroom to washed away the remnants of her latest dream. Afterwards she would dress in Olivier Grocer's uniform, which consisted of a knee-length dress made of sturdy green cotton and cream-colored apron with beret and thick-soled boots to match, then took a moment to attempt to tame her shoulder-length hair into a somewhat acceptable fashion. She stepped back from the dusty mirror, making sure she looked somewhat presentable before leaving the loft.
In spite of how everything was changing around her, Viola somehow managed to stay exactly the same. She wasn't exactly short, but she was by no means a tall girl, and while the last of her baby fat burned off years ago, she wasn't stick-skinny, either. Her nondescript dark brown hair could have looked nice if she took the time to style it properly, but it mostly just stuck up at unruly angles and ultimately completed her tomboyish appearance. The only truly remarkable feature she believed she possessed was her eyes. People always said that she and Sebastian had eyes that reminded them of amethysts, a deep, crystal-clear purple that changed in intensity on their mood. When they were children, no one, not even their parents, could tell them apart, but as they grew up their eyes were the only shared similarity they kept. While Sebastian had developed features that seemed irresistible to the opposite (and in some cases, the same) sex, Viola had somehow managed to stay remarkably plain.
Deciding that this was as good as it was going to get, Viola grabbed her shoulder-satchel from her bedpost and her skates beside the door, pausing only to lock the door before descending the flight of stairs four stories down to the apartment house's ground floor. Most of the house's other occupants, who were largely made up of new arrivals to Port Illiam like she and Sebastian once were, were already crowded into the large dining room for breakfast. Viola slipped by as quickly and quietly as possible as to not draw any of their attention; or, even worse, the attention of her landlord, Mrs. Julie. It wasn't that she disliked the woman – she and Sebastian were always punctual in paying rent and respectful to her and the other tenants, and that respect was returned to them in turn – but if she saw Viola then she would insist that the younger girl sit down and share a meal with others, and whenever she insisted it meant Viola didn't have a choice. The other tenants were all nice enough, so she had no issues with them either, but there always seemed to be at least one person who didn't know the whole story of Sebastian's untimely death, and Viola was getting tired of repeating herself. Once she was safely outside and on the street she bought a nut-and-honey bun from a passing vendor, munching it complacently as she laced up her skates and joined the swelling throngs on her way to work, weaving in and out of the crowds with such ease that no one else seemed to notice her pass.