There were a few things I had to do before I could leave my house with Noir. The most important was to make sure my Mema was safe and sound inside again. I would never forgive myself if I allowed her to stay in the garden alone and something happened to her -and I already had too many things that I couldn’t forgive myself for.
It wasn’t hard to convince her to come back inside once she realized my reasoning behind it. It didn’t mean she was exactly thrilled with the idea but she hobbled her way back inside, none-the-less.
The second thing I wanted to do was change. It was already fall and the temperature was dropping with each night that passed. I wasn’t sure if dressing up for this sort of situation was expected – should I wear a collared shirt and a skirt? – or if I should just dress down like it seemed the purple bow was. Eventually I decided that it would be better to dress down. After all, a bunch of rebellious citizens probably weren’t going to be wearing ball gowns and tuxedos. I threw on a simple pale yellow shirt and a pair of shorts, keeping my yellow Converses on my feet.
When I finally snuck back outside – and yes, I did sneak – he was waiting patiently on my front porch. The sun was setting and the weak orange rays lit up his face, illuminating his strong jaw and mischievous grin. I found myself blushing, not sure why I was embarrassed by the sight of him.
“Are you ready to go?”
I nodded mutely but stood in place as he began to saunter towards his car. Part of me had been expecting him to hold out his hand for me again – taking charge of the situation. Part of me was disappointed that he hadn’t.
Realizing I was falling behind, I jogged to catch up with him and made it to the passenger side before he had started the car. I opened the door for myself and climbed onto one of the torn cloth seats. Despite the wear of the seat it was surprisingly comfortable after I adjusted its height to match my own.
“I’m glad you are coming with me tonight, Estelle. My name is Noir, by the way.” The grin he shot me melted any worried I had away and I went to reply, writing out a short answer, but he didn’t give me enough time to finish.
We took off with a jolt, a loud yelp escaping my lips as Noir haphazardly guided his vehicle onto the street. His laughter flooded the car, eyes flashing with amusement at my expense.
“Better hold on tight if that scared you.”
I wasn’t really sure what he meant by that and I turned a quizzical eye towards him in order to get him to elaborate. He was already focused on the road, though, and it only took me a second to realize that he meant his driving was going to scare the living day lights out of me.
And he was right.
As soon as we hit the first major street he was weaving in and out of traffic like a mad man. I was constantly being jostled around from his rapid accelerations and sudden breaking and I decided to take his advice – I clung onto the edge of my seat like my life depended on it. Eyes squeezed tight, my nails dug into the cloth until I made out the faint noise of ripping. I wasn’t sure if I was screaming the entire trip but I did manage to make out a few cuss words that escaped Noir’s mouth whenever he caught a red light or had to slam on his breaks in order to avoid an accident. What amazed me the most was that he seemed to think the other drivers on the road did not deserve their license when I was pretty certain it was him that needed his privilege revoked.
When the car finally screeched to a halt, this time in a parking lot, I felt the air whoosh out of my lungs. My heart continued it’s dangerous pace and my hands continued to quake but a sense of relief washed over me like a tidal wave. I was alive. I was safe. I had survived the most reckless car ride I had ever experienced. As I climbed out of the purple suicide machine I tried my hardest not to remind myself that I had to climb back in there sometime soon.
‘You’re a bad driver.’ I wrote as he walked around the car and stopped beside me.
“I’m an AMAZING driver.” Noir stated with a grin, arms behind his back as he gazed down at me.
I rolled my eyes but followed behind him when he began walking towards the run down building in the distance. The sun had set during our perilous journey and the neon lights ahead glimmer ‘Sour Apple’ with the same intensity as the stars above. The door to the bar was a light green, caked with mud and rust. Noir’s purple hand rested on the doorknob before he glanced at me over his shoulder.
“Are you ready?”
I nodded faintly and he faced forward again, only pausing for a second to say, “Here we go,” before thrusting the aged entry wide open.
The inside of the bar was the same pale green as the door. The tile on the floor was a darker shade but kept up the theme the name of the bar suggested. What unnerved me the most was the sheer amount of individuals inside the bar. There were ‘bows dancing. ‘Bows drinking. ‘Bows conversing. Everywhere I looked a Berry filled my vision and soon my hands were no longer shaking from Noir’s driving. Instead these strangers were the cause of my anxiety. My mind was flooded with violent images – with all the violence being directed towards me. I had not hidden my hair or worn contacts – my Mixed decent was out in the open, exposed for the whole establishment to see.
Deep laughter caused my head to snap up, my eyes meeting Noir’s violet irises, “Don’t be nervous. They won’t bite.”
He went to head to the bar but I grabbed onto his bicep, stopping the steady pace he had started, ‘What if we can’t trust them?’
Noir gave me a weak smile, his large hand rising to rest on my shoulder, “Everyone here supports the Uprising cause. You don’t have anything to fear.”
He sounded so confident, so certain, that the fear that had seeped into my pores began to recede slowly. I watched in silence as Noir walked to the bartender, speaking with the Red berry easily. I lingered by the door, taking deep breaths in attempt to stop the shivering of my hands. I focused on Noir, trying my hardest to ignore the ruckus that was ensuing around me, pretending that they weren’t there at all. I was certain I would feel more serene if that was truly the case.
I was beginning to feel awkward and out of place, standing by myself by the entrance, when Noir motioned for me to join him. I froze for a moment, unsure if I really wanted to do this. Another lung full of cold air caused my feet to shuffle forward and soon I was standing next to Noir.
“So you are our hero, huh? Grew up into a pretty little thing.” The bartender greeted, red brows raised.
I felt my cheeks flush and confusion fill my eyes at his statement. There had to be a mistake – I couldn’t possibly be a hero. I wasn’t sure if my silence was what fueled Noir to revive his conversation with the ‘Bow but I wasn’t even able to flip to a clean sheet of paper before he was speaking.
“And you said it was impossible.”
“You can’t blame anyone for doubting you. Would you have believed yourself had you not seen her with your own eyes?” The bartender questioned, hands resting on the counter tops as he spoke.
Noir shrugged, seemingly indifferent, “Whatever. I just can’t wait to see everyone’s face when they realize who she is.”
The whole conversation caused my mind to swirl, picking out fragments and holding onto them -attempting to make sense of them. It was in vain, however, because no matter how hard I tried nothing they were saying made much sense to me. Why would people be surprised to see me? How did they even know me? And why did this red man seem to think I was worthy of being anyone’s hero? I was the opposite of a hero – I was a monster.
I didn’t have time to ask Noir or the man any of the questions that plagued my thoughts before Noir was holding out his hand for me expectantly. I hesitated for a moment but gently clasped my hand in his, allowing myself to be lead away from the bar and towards a set of spiral stairs. I watched over my shoulder as the bartender walked around the countertop and quickly locked the door we had recently just entered through, ushering a few of the more drunk patrons out as quickly as possible.
As Noir and I ascended in small circles to the second floor the chaos fell away, fading into background noise. The humming in the air buzzed around us still but my free hand managed to still itself next to my side. Noir lead me to a long wooden table – plain and surrounded by eight hard, uncomfortable looking chairs. The hand that had been captured by his was released as he motioned for me to take a seat. I obeyed almost instantly.
By the time Noir had settled down next to me on the cheap wooden stools four other individuals had appeared from below – the bartender himself and three other men. A teal Berry sat across from myself and the others filled the other seats at random – except the Bartender whom took a seat at the head of the table. He was by far the oldest man in the meeting.
“Who is she?” The teal ‘Bow questioned, eyeing me a bit suspiciously. His gaze made me uncomfortable and I found myself squirming under the intensity of his scrutiny, which did little for my already frayed nerves.
“This is Estelle.” Noir shot back, hostility laced in his voice. The teal eyes that were trained on my face, searching for some unknown clue, flickered over to Noir. The uncertainty that he had inspected me with faded into distain once they reached the other male’s figure.
“That doesn’t answer my –“
“Cut it out, you two,” The bartender growled, running a hand through his maroon locks in distress, “Estellise here is the girl Noir has been talking about for weeks.”
There was something about his sentence that had hidden implications. It was only reinforced by the look of adoration the other two ‘Bows gave me – smile replacing the serious looks they had been wearing less than a second ago. The teal berry’s suspicion towards me also faded, replaced by a mixture of emotions I couldn’t place. Noir was leaning back in his chair, looking rather smug with himself.
“Don’t be rude,” Noir chided, “introduce yourselves.”
“I’m Sunburst.” The orange man’s eyes glittered in the neon lights as he spoke, a rather smitten look written on his face.
“Eden Deluge.” This was the teal berry and the inflection of his tone was as mixed as the expression on his face.
“Flax, it’s a pleasure.”
“Jasper Redwood.” The bartender ended.
I nodded to each of them in turn, feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole situation. Luckily there was knock on the door to give me a short reprieve. Being surrounded by men I did not particularly trust or know was more taxing than I would have imagined and it didn’t help that they appeared to be being intentionally vague and careful with what they said to me.
Deluge, the teal berry that had been sitting across to me, was the one who got up to answer the door along with Jasper. Noir left the table as well, sauntering down the stairs.
“Anyone want a drink?” He shouted but only got a chorus of negatives in reply.
“Where have you been?” It took me a second to realize that the question was aimed at me. I stared blankly at the orange ‘Bow, not quite understanding the question. So I wrote a quick and brief statement in reply.
‘In Sugar Valley.’ All three of the men that were left at the table stiffened as I held up my notebook, eyes wide. Another reaction I did not quite understand.
“You can speak, we won’t bite.” The green ‘Bow, I think his name was Flax, encouraged.
‘No. I can’t.’ Was my swift reply.
“We’re on your side. There’s no need to be shy.”
I frowned, shaking my head gently at his statement, ‘I can’t speak. I’m mute.’
Another round of silence before Flax spoke up, “I… we… didn’t know-”
I held up my hand to stop him, throwing him a quick thumbs up and the biggest smile I could give while butterflies were flying in my stomach.
Sunburst spoke up again, the look of adoration that had been on his face earlier returning, “Ah, just your presence is enough to reassure our position. All these years we never knew if you even existed – never knew if the spark that lit the fire was real.”
‘Me?’ I wrote, confused, ‘but I haven’t done anything.’
“That’s not true,” Flax denied softly, “you’re the cause behind all of this.” His grass colored hands gestured around the room, encompassing everything and everyone that was inside The Sour Apple.
The absurdity of his statement weighed on my mind heavily. I didn’t want to upset any of the men in front of me but what they were suggesting was impossible. How could I be the cause of anything if I knew nothing? My note to them implied this sentiment gently.
“Perhaps Noir is wrong,” Eden had a deep scowl as he rounded around the last stair, “Surely our princess would know who she is.”
Princess? Now I was thoroughly confused and I found biting my bottom lip to calm my nerves. Who exactly did these men think I was?
“Look at her hair! Her eyes,” Sunburst protested, “they’re exactly the same shade of yellow. Estellise’s skin just as pale.”
“It just seems unlikely,” Eden drawled as he took his seat again, “that a face we would all recognize – a face the Resistance would recognize – doesn’t recognize herself.”
I watched in silence as the other two men contemplated this, disappointment creeping into their eyes, “She just looks so much like the sculpture…” Flax mumbled.
An almost inaudible gasp escaped my lips when at the mention of a sculpture – an image of my father working as my mother held me close to her chest flashing in my mind’s eye. Eden was in the middle of a sentence – speaking about something I hadn’t listened to a second of – when I finally finished scrawling out my message, ‘What sculpture do I look like?’.
“You’ve never seen ‘Can You See Me Now?'” Sunburst responded in astonishment. The look the other two Berries shot me implied that this was unusual indeed.
‘Nope.’ I wrote quickly, softly shaking my head.
“Here! I’ll find a picture of it!”
I gazed down at the phone that had been thrust on top of my notebook, shock written clearly on my face. The screen displayed a young girl in the arms of her mother. The girl’s face was scrunched up in pain, trying to hide herself in the crook of her mother’s neck as her mother gazed ahead – tired and worn but not broken. That was most certainly my mother. And if that was my mother than the little girl’s bright yellow locks and eyes could only mean one thing.
I was the little girl.
My feet were on the floor the moment the realization sunk in and I was flying down the stairs out of instinct. It was too much – too much pressure, too many expectations. I wasn’t an idol. I wasn’t a princess. I certainly wasn’t a hero. I couldn’t be of any assistance to these people. I would only hold them back, let them down. I would cause problems, bring pain and suffering to their group. With each thought my legs carried me through the Sour Apple a little faster.
They were better off without me.
————————–A/N: Jasper Redwood is Nestea7’s and Flax is FruHurricane’s.
Please check out both of their stories if you have a chance – they’re both wonderful.
Thank you both for letting me use your creations. ❤