“Well if you would stop snatching the map, maybe we’d get somewhere!”
“You don’t even know how to read a map, you bonehead!”
“Right, as if you can!”
“I’m the one who got us to the town square! You can’t find your way around your own city, what are you going to do when we travel to other districts?” I listen to Zayn and Andre’s childish bickering. It amuses me, but it’s also annoying. I realize we’re not getting anywhere unless I butt in. I sigh and push the two of them apart.
“Both of you idiots are wrong. Just shut up and listen to me. I can read this map better than any of you can.” Zayn looks like he wants to say something, but he stops himself. They both know I’m more experienced than them and arguing with me will only get them in trouble. I’m glad they understand that. They need to know that I’m in charge here.
“Okay, so I suggest we go to the poorer areas of Riverhall first,” I say. Andre wrinkles his nose.
“Well, I want to check the suburbs. Why should we listen to you?” he retorts. I sigh. He doesn’t seem to get it. I’ll have to convince him with logic.
“Well, the suburbs are patrolled and searched more often. If Blue were there, the knights would have already found him. The poor areas are too packed and dirty. You don’t find cops there very often. If he’s in Riverhall, he’s most likely there.” I say, trying to keep my cool.
“That’s what everyone thinks. Which is why he’ll try to hide in the suburbs. No one expects it.” Zayn counters. We argue for another 10 minutes until I finally give in. It’s two to one anyway. Zayn and Andre walk ahead of me, blabbering on and on about how they don’t want to be here and how I can’t do anything on my own. I’d fight back but I know better. Arguing with these two will be a waste of my time. They aren’t worth it. We find our way to the clean suburbs by 6:00 pm. Children play outside and I can smell dinner being made inside the houses. I breathe in the smell. It seems like someone is making a turkey. My stomach complains loudly. Zayn looks at me and I see that I’m not the only one who’s hungry. But we don’t have a very big food supply so we decide to wait until we make camp for the night.
By the time we start searching, it has already gotten dark. We search through every alley and every park. When we finally give up, it’s midnight. I realize I haven’t eaten since the last morning’s breakfast. I pull out three rolls from my bag and give two to Andre and Zayn. They don’t even thank me. We eat in silence and set up our tents. Zayn and Andre share but I get my own. Thank god for that.
I have a terrible night, filled with nightmares. Some are of the king, but they are mostly of the family member I lost in the Edgehollow Fire. I think about her all the time. I think about the day her name was drawn in the raffle.
Some districts including Riverhall have a tradition. Once a year, a few names are drawn from a giant raffle. If your name is chosen, you are given a week-long vacation to the destination of your choice. Riverhall is very strict about vacations, so it’s an honor to be chosen. The policy is that unless you have a contagious illness, you’ve won the raffle, or the king allows it, you may not take a break from your work. The king rarely ever allows it, and a contagious illness is no vacation, so that leaves only one option to take a break.
To enter the raffle, you must pay two Zorans. To enter a second time, you must pay four, and if you want to keep entering, you must pay double the number of Zorans every time. One time, I was able to enter three times! I was homeless for a few months after that and I still didn’t win.
Evanna didn’t put her name in the raffle more than once a year. She said she barely had any chance of winning anyway, and it was a waste of money. But one year, the impossible happened.
“Evanna! Hurry, the party is about to start!” I yelled. I was very young, only 8 at the time. We were getting ready for the annual Riverhall Gala. Everyone, no matter their status was invited. At the end of the night, the lucky winners of the raffle were drawn.
“Oh be patient! I’m coming!” my sister called. A few minutes later, she came out of her room in a stunning emerald dress.
“Well, how is it?” she asked.
“You look amazing! It brings out your eyes!” I said in awe. She told me the same, and we started towards the town square. I felt confident in my long blue gown. I had sewed it with the help of Evanna.
We danced through the night and ate delicious food. By the time we finished, it was already one in the morning. Evanna suggested we go home but I refused.
“We’ll miss the raffle.” Reluctantly, Evanna agreed and we stood in the crowd of people waiting to hear who the winners were. The royal family stepped to the stage and the chatter died down immediately.
“Welcome to the Gala! We are so glad to see you here. This has been a tradition for years, and we hope it stays one. Tonight, our young prince will be reading the names of the winners!” the queen said cheerfully. Everyone clapped as Prince Alexander stepped on the stage. He was the same age as me with stunning grey eyes just like his father. He gave everyone a half toothed grin and stuck his grubby hands into the big bowl of names. Everyone waited in anticipation.
“Uh…it says, Jadyn Becker!” the prince called. A tall man jumped up into the air and took his place on stage. I had never seen him before.
“Julian Meyers!” Six people had taken their place on stage. Everyone was on edge. Usually, seven winners were chosen every year. Who would be the seventh winner?
“All right, I will take over and read the name of the last winner.” the queen said, clearing her throat. “And, the winner is….EVANNA GREY!” she declared! The room went silent as everyone looked for my sister. She stepped forward in her glittering emerald dress and all eyes turned to look at her. My jaw dropped open in disbelief. My sister, going on vacation??? Although I was happy for her, I couldn’t help feeling a bit jealous. Anyone would.
That day, when we got home, Evanna seemed to sense my jealousy and sadness. Like the perfect sister she was, she sat down with me and we talked it out.
“Hey Izzie, do you want to talk?”
“Okay, well, what’s on your mind? Just let it all out.”
“I dunno. I guess I’m a bit sad you’re leaving. I wish I could come with you.”
“Oh, I see. I understand I’d probably feel the same way. Well, how about this. When I go, I promise I’ll bring you back a gift, hmm?”
“Well, what kind of gift?”
“I guess we’ll see.” With that, Evanna sent me to bed, and before I knew it, I was seeing her off at the train station.
Five days into her vacation, I received a package from Evanna. It had a card and two wrapped boxes. I opened it happily, excited to see the gift from my sister. I started by opening the card.
Hi Lea! I miss you and I can’t wait to see you again this Saturday. I got you something! I hope you like it. Oh, and guess what? The queen is here, in Rose District. She and the prince are vacationing too. I saw the royal carriage! Anyway, I’m having so much fun here! I’ve visited the royal garden, the town square, so many amazing places. And have I told you how AMAZING Rose District smells. It smells like roses. Isn’t that funny? Okay, well, I have to go. There are more places to visit. See you soon!
I smiled at my sister’s words. As much as I missed her, I was happy for her too. I moved on to opening the gifts. The first one contained a simple silver bracelet. It had a charm that read my name as well as a heart charm. I put it on and admired it. I still have it to this day and have promised myself that when I die, this bracelet will be buried with me. It’s the only piece of my sister I have left.
The second box contained some sweets I didn’t recognize. They looked like little cream balls covered with some kind of fruit paste. Their smell was delicious, like strawberries and flowers, and chocolate. It took all my self-control not to eat them all right then. I never found out what they were called. All I know is that they are traditional Edgehollow desserts. I only got to eat them one more time in my life. It was a few weeks after I started my assassin training. I smelled the delicious desserts and my nose led me to the dining hall. Stacked on gold platters were towers and towers of sweets. I practically lounged at the sweets. I don’t know if someone saw my obnoxious eating habit, but if they did, I didn’t know. From that day on, those sweets were never served again. I’d give anything to try them one more time. They remind me of my sister, and that day she gave me a box of them. If only she were here. She’d tell me what they’re called. We’d go to a cafe and eat some together and wash it down with a cup of warm hot chocolate. Anyway, that will never happen, so it wouldn’t do me any good to fantasize.
On Saturday morning, I traveled with my parents to the Riverhall train station to pick up my sister. But when we reached the train station, Evanna wasn’t there. We waited for hours until my father finally decided that Evanna’s train might be late. Reluctantly, we traveled back home and waited for word from Evanna.
In the evening, we heard knocking on the door. I was working on homework, but I got up immediately, hoping it was my sister. Instead, it was a police officer.
“Good evening. Are Mr. and Mrs. Grey here?” he asked politely
“Yes, that would be me and my husband.” my mother responded.
“Alright, well, there was a great tragedy in Edgehollow. I am not authorized to tell you the details, and we have not counted the injured and dead yet, but there is to be a town meeting tomorrow at 6:00 pm. The king will be addressing the situation then. I advise you not to worry, but I was obligated to tell you, as your daughter, Miss Evanna Grey is in Rose District.”
“Oh my goodness. Okay, we’ll be there.” my mother gasped. My father shut the door slowly. I felt bile rise in my throat. A tragedy in Edgehollow?
God, please give me a sign, any sign that Evanna is okay. Please, please, I need her. I thought to myself. There was no sign.
The next day, I put on my coat and stepped outside with my parents. The clock read 5:45 pm. Fifteen minutes before the town meeting. My parents didn’t say anything but we all felt the tension in the air. We walked to the town square where everyone had already gathered. I recognized some of the families of the raffle winners. Everyone looked worried. The king stepped to the stage. His face was stained with tears. It scared me. I’d never seen the king cry.
“People of Riverhall-” he managed to say, “As you know, something very- unfortunate has happened. I must tell you what has happened. So as you know, one week ago, seven winners were chosen to go on a vacation. They all chose to go to Rose District. It’s a beautiful district. Queen Caroline and Prince Alexander decided to vacation to Rose District as well. Now, this is the hard part. There was a fire in Edgehollow, it started near the Indigo Castle. We do not know the cause yet, but it killed many people. It enveloped Edgehollow fully, and our queen and prince weren’t able to escape the burning city, as well as some of your family members. I will now tell you which of our raffle winners survived and will be joining us soon. Ahem, Annalise Pickett, Julian Meyers, and Isabel Zimmerman. I’m so sorry for everyone who lost someone. You will be allowed to go to Rose District and pay your last respects. Thank you.” And with that, he walked off the stage. I felt frozen. Evanna was dead. My mother started sobbing uncontrollably. I just felt numb. This was the first tragic experience in my life. Unfortunately, there would be many more.