Alyera,Fall of 2008

Reily pov

The mall was huge. I looked over a railing and could see at least four flights down to the ground floor. Everything seemed like the inside of a castle. The walls had a glassy golden color and there was a gigantic chandelier on the ceiling.

The hair salon was huge. It look up half of the whole floor. The sign said, 'In the Garden of Evelyn'. Below it were the words 'Hair Salon', and, under that, a smaller sign in the window read, 'Arches and Duos Only'. I stopped walking.

I'm a nought - and I'm not supposed to be here.

"Come on, Reily," Joi called out to me.

I felt my feet move my legs, and my legs did the same to the rest of my body. I entered. The inside of the salon was way bigger than the outside of it. You could see steps leading downstairs and two more flights leading upstairs. You could tell they had been busy, at least earlier. They had some customers, and the workers that weren't working on hair were running up and down the stairs with boxes. An arch walked up to us. She smiled, and her eyes were a deep yellow. Her hair was a light brown, almost blond color, and it was braided all the way to her back.

"Hello," she said. "And welcome to In the Garden of Evelyn. How may I help you?"

"My daughter and her friend need to get their hair done," Miss Charne said.

The lady turned in our direction. Shock registered in her eyes as she looked at us, but it disappeared almost immediately, and she said in a sickly sweet voice, "Hello, girls. Do you know how you want your hair to be done?"
Ellis nodded and Joi shook her head.

"Well, why don't you girls flip through these magazines and get an idea of what you want, and I'll talk to your moms for a sec. Okay?" she counted in the same tone.

They nodded their heads, and we sat down on a couch. Ellis and Joi sat next to each other, I on Joi's right and Gem on Ellis' left. They began flipping through the glossy pages, studying various hairstyles, from braids and twists to straight and curled, casual to formal and everything in between.
They all had oddly colored eyes. No one had eyes that were brown, green, or blue.
Before I could stop myself, I asked,

"Why are their eyes so weird?"

"They're not weird!" Ellis retorted. "They're beautiful, unique, and exquisite. They're better than plain old blue, green, or brown eyes. Those colors are the mark of children. That's what noughts are, children and animals. Servants are children and slaves are animals. It's the reason we, arches rule: children need to be cared for and animals live on pure instinct. Of course," she finished.

"Of course, Miss Ellis. Miss Ellis is always right." Gem chirped in a strange voice. "Miss Joi, you should really listen to Miss Ellis. Since you're from Mylera and all, you need to know how to act and such. And, I mean, you couldn't find a better teacher than Ellis."

Joi stared at her blankly, gaping.

Gem quickly added, "I don't mean any offense, of course, Miss Joi. If I did offend you, I'm very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very sorry."

"Um...it's okay, Gem. You didn't have to say that many sorrys," Joi said.

"Girls, do you know what you want, yet?" the Arch lady asked, arriving back at our couch.

"Yes, ma'am, I do," Ellis said.

"And what about you?" the lady asked Joi.

Joi looked up at her. "I don't really know."

"If you don't mind, I have one hairstyle in particular you might like," she responded.

"I'd like to see it," Joi replied.

She grabbed a magazine off the table and began flipping through it. She stopped at a picture of a woman around 20. Her hair was twisted into long braids that went down her back, and around them was a crown of braided hair. On one side, a diamond incrusted flower was twisted into the crown. Joi stared and gasped.

"It's beautiful. I love it. I want that hairstyle," she said.

"Of course. Would you mind if I do it personally? It has been a long time since I've done the hair of royalty," the lady said.

"Royalty?" Joi asked, flabbergasted.

"Well, with those eyes, I just thought you were royalty," the hair stylist said.

"My eyes?"

"Yes, purple, red, and pink eyes with a hint of child's mark are the mark of royalty, at least in girls. Boys just have immense power, as their female counterparts have as well," the lady continued.

"Well, of course she's royalty. Just look at her. On top of that her name is Joi," Ellis said obviously.
Joi's eyes lit up.

"Joi? Is that short for Joanna?" the lady asked

Joi looked up at her and smiled.

"Yes, yes it is," she replied.

I turned my head to see her mother looking at her. Her mother was on the other side of the room with Miss Charne and my mom. They were all looking at us. Watching us. Her mother looked at me.

Get her to shut up.

Miss Helena's voice echoed in my head.

What?

Get Joi to be quiet.

I nodded, cleared my throat, and said, "M...Miss Joi. You should really get your hair done. I mean, you haven't even started and it takes a while to do it. Also, we have a lot of other things to do, you know, like...getting clothes," I ended.

I felt disgusted. Admitting Joi was above me was...sickening.

"She is right, you know. You have to get your school supplies and clothes. School starts in a little more than a week," Gem added quickly.

"Your sla- servants make good points, Tvo'je Joanna," the lady said.

"Princess? I'm not a princess," Joi exclaimed in shock.

"I wished I had sensed it earlier. You're her. You're one of the princesses of the fifty-two royal families." The lady said, with a hint of what sounded like bitterness and disappointment.

"I'm not a princess," Joi said with rising anger.

"Whatever you say, Tvo'je Joanna," the lady said as she dropped the subject. She led Joi to a chair and began to do her hair


Joi

Princess stuff aside, I actually enjoyed myself. After the lady finished, she wanted to put the flower in my hair personally and give me something. She came out of a storage closet, and in her hands were a few small boxes.
In one box were the diamond incrusted (super realistic) flowers. She placed the violet one in my hair. She said that was because it matched my eyes. In the other box was something that was, the lady had said, 'for a later, more appropriate time.

She smiled at me and my mom, her expression sad, bitter, and sweet. She then left to help another client.
We left the hair salon and went to a small yet well-sized shop. It sold weird outfits. The girls' section had these dresses that resembled ones from the Victorian era, except they were shorter and had to be worn with some kind of bottoms. I noticed Reily shifting uncomfortably.

"Are you okay?" I asked her.

"I...I'm okay. I just have a weird feeling about this place. That's all," she replied.
I nodded.

"Miss Joi, how about this?" Gem suggested, holding up a shirt on a hanger in one hand and a pair of pants in another.

"Nah. No thanks" I said. "Reily, do you have anything for me?"

"I found this," she said as she held up a cute shirt and a miniskirt.

"You know what our moms will say to that. You know 'no'. So put it back," I replied.

"Do I have to? It's so cuuute," Reily pleaded.

"Young lady," a voice said from nowhere.

A woman walked up to us. She was duo. Her hair was a light auburn, and she eyes were a mixture of golden, green and silver. Her lips were pressed tightly together in a frown.

"How dare you! Trying to corrupt a sweet, young Tvo'je. I mean, really. Just because you're a nought doesn't mean you have to go and destroy everything. Just because you see things in a child's view doesn't mean you have to wreck everything in your path, for your own amusement," the lady scolded.

"Um...thanks, ma'am, but I already had it under control," I said.

"Oh, sorry. Silly me. Then I'll be out of your hair," she said in an very respectful tone.

"Reily-" I started.

She looked like she was going to cry. She ran off in the direction of the bathroom. I started to go after her, but Ellis stopped me.

"Don't worry about her. It was only a matter of time before she got put in her rightful place," Ellis said haughtily.

I pressed my lips together to avoid beginning a fight.

"Miss Joi, how about this?" Gem suggested, momentarily distracting me from my thoughts. She was holding up a dress on a hanger in one hand and a pair of pants in the other.

The dress was mostly various shades of blue, but the cuffs were black, and it was accented in subtle yet shining silver. The style of it had an odd gothic lolita feel, with a hint of regality as well. The jeans were normal enough, though. They were dark blue, and black and sliver thread outlined the pockets. It had a tiara design on one of the back pockets.

"Thanks, Gem," I said, nodding. I took the clothes from her.

"Uh...where's the bath-changing room?" I asked.

"Oh. I'll show you." Ellis offered. I shot her a weird look, but followed. We told our moms where we were going, then left. We passed Reily, who was going back to meet up with Gem on a bench a few feet from the rooms. The changing rooms had doors that were ranch-style and painted a light greenish-blue. Inside, it looked like a run-of-the-mill changing room. I slipped the clothes on. My breath stopped when I looked in the mirror. I was beautiful.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

"Um...yes?" I called.

"Joanna, yat te'ti'le," Mom said, asking me to come out.

"Si'c Mima," I consented, feeling the foreign, yet familiar words come out of my mouth.

I opened the door as images began to flash through my head. People...my family, blood...death, gunshots, bullets, shattered glass, yelling, screaming, English, and the other language. Emotions grew as more and more things flickered through.

Then I remembered...

Everything.

I feel my throat tighten up as the emotion of it all runs through me. I fall to my knees. A hand at my chest, holding on for dear life. Reily tries to rush to my aid, but Gem stops her. My vision begins to blur and there's a ringing in my ears and the sweet darkness takes me away in her gentle, warm arms.

But the last thing I hear is:

"Yace'rus!"

Assassin.

My last thought is that there's an assassin, and I'm going to die.

A few hours later

I jolted out of bed. Well...actually...a couch.

Where am I? Wait, oh! I'm in my house, I thought.

"Joi, you're awake!" Charlie exclaimed.

"Joi, are you alright?" Henry asked with great concern and alarm, it seemed.

I felt wet on my face and tasted something salty. I touched my hand to my face — I was crying. I felt confused...and sad. Very, very sad.

"Joanna, what's wrong?" Charlie asked with his usual urgent and demanding tone, yet there was something different about it.

I looked up at him. His eyes were a golden, fiery orange like his wings. They were filled with so many emotions, I couldn't name them or count them or any combination of both. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out, only very soft sobs. Then I saw it.

A girl no older than 11 or 12. She was an arch and had deep violet eyes and hair braided into pigtails with big fluffy puffs. She was smiling and swinging on a swing.

"Come on, Joi. You may be my soer'min, but that doesn't mean I have to teach you anything about swinging on a swing," she said.

"I can't believe I-I-I...I...I...f-forgot my...my own soer'sen," I said with sobs breaking out of me every other second.

I buried my head in Charlie's chest. My hands clenched into fists, grabbing his shirt. I began to cry as I felt a hurricane of emotions come with every breath I took. I remembered my past. I remembered growing up here, meeting Reily, the Incidents and what happened afterward, flee- no, moving to Mylera. I rembered kindergarden, I rembered the therapists, the meds, and more.

My body wouldn't stop shaking, my throat felt tighter and tighter. Soon I was gasping for air.

"Shhh. Shhh," Charlie repeated.

"It's okay, it's okay," Henry whispered over and over again, rubbing my back.

The door creaked open. I could hear the intakes of breath from surprise.

"Your mom said she wants one of you boys downstairs," I heard Reily say.

"I'll go. You stay with her, Charlie," Henry said.

There were a few minutes of odd silence.

"What are you standing there for?" Charlie asked.

"I'll be leaving now, then," Reily replied.

The door creaked closed. My cry had quieted down to soft whimpering.

"It won't stop," I said softly.

"Please...stop trying to remember it," he pleaded.

"I can't," I say in a whisper.

"I know it's hard. Very hard. But you have to, or you're not going to get better, and it's not going to stop," Charlie said.
"Does it still hurt? I mean, when you think about it?" I asked him.

He pulled me away from him and looked deep into my eyes. Everything on his face said 'hurt', and something else. He took a deep breath.

"Every single time. But...it does get easier to think about it," he replied.

"Promise?" I said in a small voice.

"I promise," he said, wrapping me in a hug.

I believed him, but something didn't sit right with me. I looked at the door as it opened. My vision began to blur, but I saw two girls walk in. One was an arch, and the other was a nought. I knew them. One was my great-great-grandmother and the other was Reily's great-great-grandmother. They're ghosts. Those were my last thoughts as I fell asleep in my fra'sen's arms.