This is my entry for the Tessa’s Birthday Bash Blogfest hosted by Tessa at Tessa’s Blurb. The rules are to write a story with either a birthday, presents, candles, or cake. This is an excerpt from The Wind Maiden. There’s no birthday or cake, but there are candles and a gift. It’s fairly self-explanatory, so no setup.
Everyone was safe, the bombing had stopped, and they would eat tomorrow. All of the big concerns were taken care of; she could afford to be upset over the little things. Tears welled up as she spoke.
“I would have won today. I was right there.” She sat down at the table opposite her mother and poked absently at the melted wax of the candle. “I hate this place.”
“This is your home, Sweetie.”
“Lucky me.” She walked across the tiny rectangle that comprised the flat’s main living area.
Thea’s mom got up and put her arm around Thea in just that right way that only mothers seem to know.
“Don’t touch me; I’m gross,” Thea protested.
“You’re my daughter. I love you even when you’re gross.”
“That’s not funny!” She broke away from her mother and stormed into her room. In the darkness Thea leaned against the door and waited for tears never came. As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she spied the soft rise and fall of the coarse blanket in the bottom bunk. She promised Joss she would win; he'd understand, of course, but he shouldn't have to. She walked over to the table where she had set Joss's drawings the night before. The pictures had been moved, and in their place sat an unassuming grey box. A handwritten note attached to the box read, “Theadne, love Mom.”
Without opening the package, she knew what she’d find inside. She lifted the box, and the weight confirmed it. She gripped the unexpected gift in her arms, and stood motionless in the dark room. Her eyes turned toward her brother; he did not stir. She wanted to wake him, to show him the package, to recount the bombing and the shelter and everything else. She wanted to unburden herself of the emotional rock slide that had buried her spirit. Instead, she let him sleep and snuck out of the room, closing the door behind her.
In the front room again, she leaned back against the wall, not taking her eyes off the modest grey box cradled against her chest. She could feel her mother’s eyes on her.
“Well?” Her mother asked. “Aren’t you going to open it?”
“I don’t deserve it.”
“Hey. I don’t want to hear that kind of talk. Go on; let’s see what you got,” her mother said, as if she didn’t know.
Thea slid off the box and stared down at the running shoes wedged into the tiny space, one opposite the other. She put one hand under the tongue of each shoe, shaking them free of the box which dropped to the floor. The dazzling white of the brarr’s hide gleamed even in the soft flicker of the candlelight, the only color the unmistakable four-point star of Brandt Athletics, the premiere sports apparel manufacturer in the Supremacy. These must have cost a fortune. Her mother didn’t just buy her a nice pair of shoes; she got her the best. The shoes blurred as tears welled up in her eyes.
“They’re not that bad, are they?” Her mother joked. Thea let a short, harsh laugh escape her lungs, but denied anything more. She didn’t want to laugh; she could find nothing funny about her life right now. She hugged her mother, hiding herself from the world in her mother’s embrace. Thea wanted to tell her the shoes were perfect, but she couldn’t find her voice. She was sobbing now; she wasn't even sure why; she just knew she couldn’t fight it.
“There’ll be other races, Sweetie.”
That was it; there wouldn’t be. Since she could remember, she had possessed a gift for speed. She wasn’t dumb, but by no means was she a brain, either. And if you did not start out smart, the pitiful Taldorot educational system would not get you there. With her slender, bony frame and sharp, angular features, she would never fit the Supremacy ideal of beauty. All she had was her gift of speed, and that was no small asset. Sports were big in the Supremacy. Very big. The most successful athletes in the State became superstars, and the masses were always looking for the next great speedster. Qalonians had long been known as the fastest runners in the Supremacy, and Thea knew she could outrun them all. Now she would never have the chance.