It has been one up and down week! My back has gone out again, went to a car show with The Boyfriend, Boykid and Boykid’s girlfriend, argued with the ex, wrote 3,000 words on Tuesday, made a new friend, had great successes in therapy, worried about Wolfman, and had some laughs with both The Boyfriend and Girlkid.
What more can you ask for, right?
A brain that works consistently would be nice. *laughs* Pain will do that though. Totally had the dumb on Monday, and again on Wednesday. Needless to say, I’m a bit behind, but that’s okay. I’ll catch up again.
Last week I said that I would let you meet the three main characters. Delilah and Savannah share the protagonist role while Dennis is the antagonist. The first chapters that introduce them are in the past; they’re all in their teens. The next time we meet them they’re older, established in their careers and heading towards full lives.
Except maybe Dennis. He’s bitter and kind of a dick.
Let’s see their beginnings, eh? Perhaps I’ll post a bonus in the middle of the week to show you them when we see them again. I’d like to share this story with you all but I don’t want to make the blogs too long.
It’s a first draft though, AND a 50k-in-30-days challenge, so, if you read it, you’d be accepting that there are bound to be errors. *grins*
Let’s get on with it, shall we? I have writing to do and a beach to trudge in wellies and raincoat.
Have a great Friday evening!
2075 Delilah, 15 years old, 17 years 8 months, 22 days on timer
Delilah DuMarchand, fifteen year old amateur photographer, grits her teeth as her friend Sarah sighs dreamily as she pets her timer and says, “It’s going to be perfect! We’ll say our vows in Athena’s temple, dance in the woods and live happily ever after. He’ll be tall, movie star handsome, strong and I will be the center of his world.”
“Of course you will!” Tiffany titters. “How could he not love you? You’re so beautiful.”
Delilah tries not to snort as she lifts her camera and snaps a profile picture of the silent brunette to Tiffany’s right. She looks at the screen and smiles in satisfaction; the camera has captured Tee’s elfin nose and ethereal quality perfectly. She moves the camera to look at Sarah through the lens. The blonde has a movie star quality about her for sure – icy and untouchable, artificially beautiful, (everyone knows her hair is really mouse brown and that her parents paid to have a “deviated septum” fixed but no one mentions it).
She yelps in the next second as a pillow hits her in the side of the head. “What?” she demands crossly.
“I asked you what your wedding will be like.” Tiffany scowls at her. She’s been paying attention to where Delilah points the camera and hasn’t once seen it come her way even though she’s been doing everything she can to make sure she’s photo ready.
“I’m not going to get married,” Delilah announces as she sets the camera down and readjusts the wide leather cuff style bracelet on her right wrist. The fact that it covers the timer is not lost on her friends.
“I don’t understand you,” Tee says quietly. “Why don’t you want to get married? It’s what is expected but more than that, we are guaranteed to have the love of our lives.”
Delilah rolls off the bed and walks to her dresser. She opens a drawer, pops the secret bottom off and pulls out a forbidden cigar. Lighting it, she studies her friends. “What if I don’t like him? My parents hate each other but they can’t be away from one another either. They’re trapped because even though they hate, they love just as strongly and they need to be within reach of the other person all the time. They fight all the Godsdamn time. It’s like living with Hephaestus and Athena!”
All three of the other girls frown. Sarah accepts the cigar when Delilah offers it to her. “I don’t understand it,” she says. “How can they hate each other so much?”
“Well, for one thing, Mom is from the German part of Europe and Dad is from Canmerica and because he is the High Priest in Temple and is said to actually channel Apollo, she can’t go back to her family. We’ve flown over there a couple times but we can’t stay.” Delilah shrugs as the cigar makes it back to her. “How can you know for sure you’ll be happy? How do you know you’ll like him or that he’ll be from around here? What if you can’t even get to him or him to you? Remember what happened to Miss Vandyke?” The poor woman had hung herself from the tree outside the high school when she learned that her soulmate would never be able to leave Iraqistan.
She points the glowing end at Tiffany. “You said you’ll never leave Lake Huron.”
All three of the other girls look troubled. They hadn’t known that her parents fought so much. Tee looks sadly at Delilah. “You’re not staying, are you?”
“No way! I’m not going to sit around here waiting for him to be drawn to me. Besides, I want to photograph everything. I’m going to travel the world to do it. And I’m going to date whatever man I want.” All of them look at the wall where Delilah’s prize winning photos are displayed. She has won several thousand dollars in cash prizes already. She’s won contests for teens and adults put on by Canadian Geographic, a magazine that retained its name, even when American, Canada and Mexico because the same country; two from National Geographic and one from a contest in Europe. That picture was part of a series she’d taken when her family was last there. The photo was part of an advertising campaign to draw visitors to Europe’s various provinces.
Sarah might look untouchable and be generally self-centered but there is one truth about her: she loved her friends. She doesn’t understand Delilah most of the time, although she thinks she does a little better now for her own parents fought sometimes and said cruel things to one another, but she cares about her. She rises and draws a stiff Delilah into a hug. “Don’t worry, life will work out the way it should.”
2075 Savannah Lopez 20 years old, 17 years, 8 months, 22 days on timer
Savannah grunts as she lands on the mats yet again. “Dammit, that one hurt, George.” She drops her head back and stares at the large tree of life painted on the ceiling. She marvels, yet again at the detail in the four seasons depicted around the tree. It is the symbol of Janus and she has been staring at it for two years.
George shrugs then holds his hand out. “You think the enemy will be easy on you?”
“Well…” she grabbed his hand stuck her foot in his gut and threw him over her head to drop him on his back behind her. “…do you think I’ll be easy on them?”
George’s breath leaves him with a whoosh. “Nope.” He groans. “Why do I never see that coming?” George LePriex enlisted at the same time as Savannah, in a different city, and was funneled to the same training center. He is originally from Louisiana and felt a kinship with the girl from East Texas.
“I don’t know, George,” says a deeper voice from the edge of the mat. “You really should; she’s been doing it to you for over a year.”
“Shut up, Syd.” George’s voice is good-natured. He likes his friend and roommate. Sydney is the only one in their squad Savannah hasn’t been able to through around like that, but then he’s is a mountain of a man, several inches over six feet, muscular and with skin black as night. He’s a walking shadow. He was Australian and from one of the few remaining Aboriginal tribes. He had publicly disappointed his father with his decision to join Janus. Privately, Yarran had been proud of his son for choosing to protect the world. Sydney, too, had been funneled into this training center in Toronto. He had felt an immediate kinship with Savannah too, and stuck with her.
Now, he holds his hands out to his friends and hauls them to their feet. “Sarge said it’s chow time. Let’s go.”
Thirty minutes later they all sit down at long tables filled with other members of their team. All of them would be graduating and sent to their assignments within the next eight weeks. Savannah stares at her metal tray of slop. It sort of looks like roast beef and potatoes with gravy and some limp things that used to be green but she can’t be sure. Didn’t matter, she is starving. “Where are you hoping to be sent, guys?”
“Wherever you go,” George says.
“Ditto,” echoes Syd.
“That’s shiny,” she borrows a term from an old show she dug up from some entertainment archives and loved. “I don’t care where I get sent, just as long as I get to travel.”
George and Syd nod. “We got your back.”
Savannah smiles and digs in as she takes a surreptitious look at her timer, wondering where her soulmate is now and what they’re doing. She sincerely hopes it’s a woman. To be tied to a man and never be able to be sexually attracted to them seems like a nightmare.
Sydney chuckles, reading her mind. After two years of training, bunking and eating with Savannah he knows what’s on her mind. “Don’t worry, it’ll be a woman. How could it not be? Your soul would not be a part of someone you could not find attractive.”
“You never can tell. Maybe
They are is almost finished eating when the Sarge comes to the table.
“Yo! Lopez! Look lively and step fast. You’re to report to the Colonel, immediately.”
She leaps to her feet. “Sarge, yes sir!”
He barks at her when she reaches down to grab her tray. “What part of ‘immediately’ did you not understand, Lopez? Walsh can take your tray. Move!”
“Thanks, Syd,” she whispers as she turns and runs from the mess hall.
A few minutes later, she presents herself to the Lance Corporal manning reception. “Savannah Lopez. Sarge said the Colonel wishes to see me.”
“Take a seat, Lopez, he’s on the phone.” The man nods at a chair near the door before going back to whatever he was doing on his vid screen.
Savannah sits and eyes him out of the corner of her eye. He looks like he’s playing a game, he is tapping the touchscreen at a rapid rate, all with one finger. She giggles as she hears him cheer almost silently.
The Lance Corporal blushes. “Ahh, you caught me. I like to play when I have some down time. Helps me organize my thoughts, which helps me organize the Colonel.”
“So he doesn’t care?” Savannah looked curious.
“Nope. Says that my organization skills have improved since I started playing Star Drop. Ordered me to keep it up.” He smiles wryly. “Ordering me to play it almost killed the enjoyment of the game.”
Savannah snorted. “Can totally see that.”
The door to the Colonel’s office opens and both of them jump to attention. The Colonel is a man not much bigger than George’s five foot, nine inches, though he has a barrel around his middle and his hair is thinning. His hair is the same brown and his eyes the same chocolate colour, his nose almost the same shape. Savannah tries not to stare, tries not to figure out if the Colonel is George’s father. If so, the secret has been very well kept.
“At ease,” the Colonel says. “Come in, Private Lopez.”
“Yes Sir,” she says as the Lance Corporal sits back down. She follows him into the office, stepping aside as he closes the door.
It’s an hour later when she sits on her bunk, looking shell-shocked.
Sydney looks at her in concern. “Are you alright, Savannah?”
“The Colonel wants me to sign up for officer school.” She looks at George. “He knows my test scores, my physical results, how I am with weapons, everything. He even knows that I want to travel.” She rubs her timer with her thumb, an old habit meant to comfort. “He says you can’t come with me, you two aren’t officer material. He mentioned specifically that it’s not something you want, George.”
George squirms then clears his throat. “Yeah, Uncle Pierre would know.”
Sydney jumps to his feet. “He’s your uncle? And you’re just telling us now? Did you tell him to suggest Savannah go to the school? It’s in Scotland! It’ll be years before we see her again, if at all!” Syd’s hands curl into ham sized fists. “What have you done!” he roars.
Savannah stands and puts her hands on Sydney’s chest. “It’s okay, Sydney. He told me they have me marked for something special. He said I will be able to pick my own team when I graduate. It’s a combination of officer school and something else. We will be together again.”
George nods. “Oui. Tomorrow you and I will get orders for some special training. Weapons for me, tech for you and some combination for both of us. Uncle Pierre says we are marked for ‘something special’ too. He will not say what it is but he says we’re, the three of us, perfect for us.”
“I leave tomorrow,” Savannah says quietly.
Sydney looks close to tears. He swallows noisily then scoops Savannah into a big bear hug. “Then tonight, we toast your success! Let’s go get smashed.”
2075 Dennis Harris, 17 years old, timer stopped at 18 years, 3 months, 4 days
Dennis glowers at the judge and fingers the cross at his throat. “Just because I worship Jesus Christ doesn’t mean I’m a delinquent!”
“You’re right, boy, it doesn’t. I wouldn’t advertise your beliefs too strongly where you’re going though. The jail is part of the Temple of Hera.” The judge looks sternly at Dennis.
“Jail!” he shouts as his lawyer, the last one his parents told him they will ever pay for and the second he’s had, tries to get him to calm down and shut his mouth. The first one quit after Dennis got caught stealing his sixth car when he was fifteen. Dennis had managed to stay clean for eight months before the urge to steal had caught up with him again. Now, the law was staring him in the face and threatening to lock him up. “I’m a minor, you can’t send me to jail.”
“The province of Oregon and this great country of Canmerica says I can. You have a rap sheet as long as my leg and juvie doesn’t want you.” The judge looks up from the vid screen built into the top of his desk. He looks the boy over and thinks that the smallish redhead with the cute bow of a mouth will get eaten alive in adult jail. He’d become someone’s little girl very quickly. He taps the vid screen, looking for something. “Remind me what the charges are.”
The prosecution, there to make recommendations for sentencing (none of which the judge liked), says quickly, “Grand theft auto, destruction of property and vandalism – for painting on this very courthouse.”
The judge nods then smiles as he finds what he’s looking for. He looks up at Dennis. “Mr. Harris. It happens that I don’t want to send you to prison. It seems to me that someone who looks like you would be claimed immediately, beaten and raped until you understood your place.” He looks satisfied as Dennis pales. “Therefore, I’m going to offer you a choice. You can go to jail or you can have five years probation. The terms of your probation would be simple – you will work for someone who deliberately strives to bring more beauty into the world. You will do your best to learn the job and be the best at it. You will maintain a residence and behave like an adult. That means reporting to work on time, keeping up with your hygiene and health, paying your bills.”
The prosecutor snapped his mouth shut then opened it again. “I object! I can’t believe you would offer him such a cushy deal, your honour! He’s obviously a menace and will only get worse.”
The judge turns to the lawyer. “Mr. Jackson. You are new to my court room, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question.
Jackson turns red under his collar. “Yes Sir, this is my first case.”
“You did very well during the trial. Don’t cock it up now. Keep your mouth shut.” At Dennis’s snicker, the judge looks back him. “What’s it going to be?”
Dennis looks suspicious. “What would I have to do?”
“Exactly what I just said: Be a grown up. Repent. I believe ‘repent’ is in your religion.”
Dennis’s lawyer whispers in his ear and Dennis heaves a sigh. “Obviously, I don’t want to go to jail. I guess work would be better.”
“Good choice. Now, you can pick up trash and learn about recycling, become a horticulturalist, or learn about photography. What’s it going to be?” As Dennis opens his mouth the judge holds up a hand. “Think carefully. Sit down, take a few minutes.”
Dennis shrugs and sits down. He gives each job a moment. Recycling and trash sounded smelly and like a lot of work. Ditto with working with plants. He figured there had to be fertilizer involved somewhere and a lot of digging and flowers. Ew. What kind of work could be involved in photography? None as far as he could see; you pick up a camera and push a button. “Photography,” he says.
“Wonderful choice!” the judge exclaims. “Just a moment.” He taps on the screen again. There’s the sound of a phone ringing.
Hello? The voice is deep and masculine.
“Hey, Rush, it’s Arnold.”
Arnie. How are you? Why are you so hollow sounding?
“I’m in my courtroom. Do you remember the ‘Save the Youth’ program you signed up for?”
Signed up for! Rush snorts loudly. We developed that together. Have you found someone?
Judge Arnold laughs. “Right, it is our program. And yes, I have. I have Dennis Harris here. He’s seventeen and I’d like to keep him out of jail.”
Did he choose the program?
“He did. He also chose photography.”
What’s he there for?
“Grand theft auto, vandalism, shit like that.” The judge winks at Dennis. Dennis just stares at him, shocked.
Perfect. I’ll be here waiting. The call is disconnected before Arnold can say anything.
“There you go, young man. You now have a career. I will take you over personally. Rush is a fantastic photographer and one of my oldest friends. He will be an excellent teacher and mentor. He will help prepare you to be the best person you can be by the time your timer runs down and you meet your soulmate.”
Dennis keeps his face carefully blank as he rubs his timer. It stopped around the time his crime spree started again. There is a deep ache inside him that started suddenly one day. It felt like someone had torn half his heart out. He is bitter and angry. He swallows it all down and merely says, “Yes Sir.”
“Then it’s a done deal!” Arnold slams his gavel down then says, “Bailiff, take the young man to my reception and stay with him until I’m done here. I have one more case to see.” He nods to the lawyers. “Councillors.”
Dennis follows the bailiff and wonders what he’s gotten himself into. He shudders as he considers the alternative.