Continued from ‘For Your Safety‘
The tall woman escorts me from her flimsy home into the bright sunlight of mid-day. “Remember to stay out of the way,” she adds over her shoulder as she strides away. “Not everyone has control of their electricity yet and we already have one outsider to save. We don’t need another.” With her words still hanging in the air, she catches up to another woman, older than herself, and helps her walk towards one of the nearby homes.
When the two vanish behind the material they use for doors, I glance around the camp. Dozens of people fill the space. Some young, some old, but all blonde. Every last one of them has hair fairer than I’ve ever seen, drawing me closer out of curiosity.
I wander among them. Each one glances up at me as I pass. Their eyebrows furrow. Their blue and green eyes dance across my body as if inspecting me, as if I’m a strange creature. Yet, none of them look at me like I’m a threat. Rather, it’s like I’m a harmless animal, weak and frail in their eyes.
Something about it irks me. I pull my shoulders back and incline my head, puffing out my chest as best I can to look stronger. I’m not a fighter, but I wouldn’t consider myself weak either. And just because I have city blood doesn’t make me any less strong. Just because I’m a water adaptation doesn’t make me weak.
One of the men around my age stands as I walk past. His blue eyes narrow. His fingers twitch at his sides as if preparing for a fight, as if threatening me to stay away, and normally I would, but instead I meet his gaze. Even so, I keep walking. I have no intention of fighting someone. It’s just not in my nature.
Suddenly, something pokes me in the stomach.
All my attempts at appearing bigger than I am vanish as my shoulders curl forward.
“Stop trying to be intimidating,” a familiar voice says.
Drawing my gaze from the other man, I meet pale eyes. Above them, one eyebrow is cocked in a questioning gaze.
“You’re not intimidating and you look ridiculous trying to be,” Kalla scolds.
“Who says I was trying to be?” I incline my head to look down at her, drawing myself to my full height.
Her eyes draw a line down my body and back up, arriving on my face. “Seriously? You’re a twig.” Her hand wraps around my bicep, or lack thereof. “Those with city blood are always weaker, living an easy life, in comfort.” Unlike the tall woman, Kalla holds no tone of aggression when she talks of the city.
“I wouldn’t say it’s comfortable,” I return.
Both eyebrows raise. “Oh?” Innocence dances across her face. “That’s what they all tell me.”
“What who tells you?”
“Everyone.” She shrugs her shoulders, drawing my attention to their broadness. She’s not nearly as lithe as Alice, but she’s not big either. At least, not in a bad way. Kalla wanders away from me.
I rush to follow her. “You mean, you don’t remember the city?”
Without missing a beat, she responds, “I wasn’t born in the city.”
My feet halt in shock. I thought everyone was born in the city and just happened to escape to here, but if Kalla was… born… here…
She rounds one of the fragile homes.
I run after her, questions flooding my mind, longing to spring forward. “Wait!” Around the house, I skid to a halt just before knocking into Julian.
His eyes narrow in aggression as he sees me. “City blood.” He says it like an insult.
“I have a name.”
“Good for you,” he grumbles, turning his attention to Kalla. “What are you doing, Kalla? You’re supposed to be helping-“
Kalla steps up to him, chest to chest, and stares into his face. “And you’re supposed to be minding your own business. I don’t recall Rayna making you my mentor.” A challenge dances in her words despite being a head shorter than Julian.
He glares down at her. Invisible sparks flash between the two of them, hinting at some hidden conversation they’re having.
I feel I should leave. I long to back away, to go back to the safety of the center of camp, but my feet don’t move. My eyes won’t even look away.
“Whatever Kalla.” He places a hand in the middle of her chest and shoves her.
She takes one step back, but doesn’t let her gaze leave him as he walks away from the two of us. Yet, her nose twitches with anger as she glares at where he disappeared to.
“Kalla?” I venture, stepping forward with a hand outstretched. “Is everything okay?” My fingers brush her arm.
In one swift motion she jerks back, her arm swinging wide.
I duck to keep from being hit in the face.
“Don’t touch me!” Anger glows in her pale eyes.
I throw my hands up in defense. “I’m sorry.” I step back. “I didn’t-“
Her eyes scrunch closed and she looses a single, loud, aggravated growl. Her hands run through her hair and she spins from me, storming off among the homes.
This time, I let her go. I’ve dealt with Alice for enough years to know better than to follow a woman in a rage. Still, curiosity claws at me. What’s going on between Kalla and Julian? I glance over my shoulder to where Julian vanished to, doubting that either of them will give me an explanation.
Next Installment: Accusation