Her hair was as blonde as the sun, and her eyes as silver as the moon. She wore our usual black dress just like everyone else at our school, but the way her sharp chin and bright eyes contrasted with it, she was as beautiful as time itself. She smiled, and curtsied right then and there in front of me, leaving me only to blink.
My own hair was as red as a lion’s mane, or perhaps a dying tiger lily. My eyes looked like little olives, in both shape and color. But somehow, she had chosen to curtsy to me.
“Hello,” she said, her smile bright and burning like my hair. “My name is Noemi. I will be sharing your dormitory.”
I nodded, clumsily curtsying in response. “I’m Emila,” I muttered under my breath, my tangled hair flopping onto my face. “Welcome, I guess.”
“But aren’t you new here as well, Ms. Emila?” She was so dainty, so delicate. It would hurt me to tell her I had misspoken, and even more to tell her I had lied. So I simply shrugged, letting her presume what she wanted to.
“Ah, I see. You must have come earlier, then.”
I nodded, breaking eye contact with her as I ran up the stairs. She smiled, rushing after me with her clicking shoes. “Ms. Emila,” she said, as I flopped myself onto the bed closer to the window. “I would really like it if we could get to know each other since we will be spending so much time together. Where are you from?”
I brought the blanket over my face as I tried to drown in my disappointment. “I’m from Atoria,” I grumbled out, letting my distaste show. “And I don’t need a friend.”
Noemi let out a chuckle, leaning her head back. “Oh, Ms. Emila. Everyone needs a friend. Especially in such a dreary place as this.”
This time, it was my turn to laugh. “You call this place dreary?” I asked her, bringing my head up from under the blanket. “Roasir is beautiful. When we were walking through the streets this morning, all I could think about were the bright buildings and cobblestones. I-”
She laughed again, and I blushed, my cheeks turning only a shade lighter than my hair. “Never mind,” I said, bringing my head down once more. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it matters, Ms. Emila.” She paused, looking out the window I had chosen my bed by. It was a small window, but the room was easily large enough for the two of us. I would have preferred a room alone, though. I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t need friends in Roasir. “I only meant that this room was quite drafty. You see, I am from Calintera. We have the same cobblestones, but ours are-”
“In hexagons, yes, I know.” I grumbled it out again. I didn’t want her to see how fascinating the pavement was to me, especially not here at the academy. Here, our interests must solely be on our studies and becoming proper ladies, not on architecture or anything else of the sort.
Here, we are trapped.
I blame it on the war, for tearing the world apart. But Noemi probably doesn’t care. She probably only focuses on her studies and the way the world should be.
I yawned, turning towards the window. The view was lovely, though I doubt Noemi noticed. The sun was setting in the sky, and the moon’s faint glow and pale sickle shape reigned over the town. The oranges of the sunset looked beautiful against the blue roofs of Roasir.
“Night, Noemi,” I said, closing the curtain. “We better get to sleep. First day’s tomorrow.”
She smiled. “Goodnight, Ms. Emila.”
I woke up to the calls of birds flying over our dormitory, swooping over the sky. Noemi glanced my way from her bed by the door, already putting on her shoes. “Hello again, Ms. Emila,” she said, giving me a small wave. I smiled back at her, quickly frowning when she wasn’t looking. Silently, I began to get dressed for the day.
She sat there on her bed the whole time, looking away from me. Waiting to come to class together.
I laughed. “Noemi, you can go on,” I said, strapping on my boots. “You don’t need to wait for me.”
She smiled, scrunching her bright silver eyes. “But I want to,” she said, holding out her hand to help me up. “Is that alright, Ms. Emila?”
I shrugged. “You don’t have to call me Ms., either,” I said. “Just Emila is fine.”
She nodded, her hair tied up in a neat bun. “Alright, Emila,” she said, still waiting for me to take her hand. “Let’s go to class.”
I ignore it, bringing myself up on my own.
One night, I ran away.
I watched to make sure Noemi was sleeping, carefully opening the door. I slipped on my boots once I got outside, so as to make sure no one heard me leaving. I rushed out, running through the streets, the moon now full, looking just like Noemi’s silver eyes.
As soon as I got out of the building, I laughed. I laughed and laughed, running through the town, dodging honking cars and even the occasional horse and carriage. Finally, I was free, and I knew exactly what I wanted to see.
Silently, I ran as fast as I could towards the old clock tower in the center of town, hoping to get a glimpse of the stained glass windows on the side of the clock. I gasped, seeing the lights from inside the building, where the clockmaker slaves away, fixing the gears so the clock can run properly.
Every night in Roasir, I hear the clock strike midnight. I wanted to go see it, to see the stained glass where the clockmaker works. But I never could, as we were never let out.
Suddenly, I felt someone’s arm on my shoulder, I gasped, my heart beating rapidly as I turned around to see who it was.
“The clock is quite beautiful, Emila.”
I frowned, squinting at her face. Her pale silver eyes and bright blonde hair illuminated the sky with the moon, so I knew exactly who she was, but I wanted to see her expression.
I wanted to see if she would turn me in.
“You know, M- I mean, Emila, if it weren’t for the war, I would have liked to be an artist. I used to paint all the time at home in Calintera, even pictures of our own clock tower.”
I stared at her while she stared at the clock. “Yeah,” I said. “I would have been an architect. I love even the smallest details of new places. My dream is to craft my own city skyline.”
Then, I remembered who I was talking to. “You won’t turn me in, right?” I asked.
She laughed, a bright smile coming over her face. “Of course not, Emila. We’re friends now.”
I turned my attention away from her face and back towards the face of the clock. “Yeah,” I said, reaching to take her hand. “Friends.”
Together, we stared at the clock until the sun rose again, the wind blowing as we laughed and spoke about the war and our dreams until it was time for class to start.