Walking along the stone path to my mother and father’s house, I can feel the weather shifting from Spring to Summer. It’s a biannual tradition for Kit and I to write to each other when the seasons change. Since she wrote to me first in the Spring, it’s my turn to write to her first. I can imagine her sitting at her desk, checking the time and waiting for my letter to show up.
As I’m knocking on the door to the castle, a panting servant shows up beside me, placing his hand on the wall while trying to catch his breath. There are scratches up and down his arms and dirt is covering his clothes.
I clear my throat. “Is there something you need?”
His head jerks up, eyes wide. “God, don’t sneak up on me like that, Pi-Miss! You nearly scared me into running some more!”
“If I recall correctly, you were the one who just snuck up on me,” I say.
“Either way, I apologize. It-it’s just that...one of the horses has escaped.”
“What? Which one?”
I dread the next words that escape his mouth. “Your horse, Miss.”
Just then, the doors to the castle open. I take one glance back at my mother's disturbed expression and take off towards the stables. Checking the time on my watch, I see that it’s almost nine in the morning. Kit is expecting my letter in ten minutes. There’s no way that I’ll be able to catch Rocky in time. He’s the most misbehaved horse we’ve had, but undoubtedly my favorite. An idea pops into my head, circling around the disapproval that my mom would give me if I was to do it.
Ignoring the fact that the headache I’ll have in the future will be almost unbearable, I slow down and duck behind a tree. I turn the knob on the side of my watch, whisper “Paz a tu alma” and close my eyes.
I wake up again at seven in the morning. The sun is barely up but I throw on some clothes and head towards the stables.
Just as I’m walking up, I see a servant pouring food into the bowl in Rocky’s stall. He moves with slow movements, rubbing his eyes every couple of minutes. I stay behind a tree, watch as he takes off Rocky’s halter and walks away without closing the stall. Relieved that this was the only reason Rocky got out, I walk up, latch his stall shut, and head towards the castle.
It takes my mother a few minutes to open the door but when she does, her expression moves from welcoming to angry.
“Get me in trouble later! I’m going up to the Signing Room!” I yell as I run past her, up the stone stairs, and into the dark room.
I light the torches on the wall and sit down in the old wooden chair. I’ve only been in this room a few times to send off tests for school or applications to buy a new horse. Every house is required to have a Signing Room in order for a family to be involved in business or to put their children in school. Our Signing Room isn’t too impressive; it only has two desks with two ancient chairs and a sliver of a window on the North wall.
I pull out a piece of crisp paper, still trying to catch my breath. I ignore a random letter addressed to me on the desk because it’s most likely my test scores, something I care very little about. Then, I pull out an ink pen and begin writing.
Oh, how I miss you. It’s been almost a year since we’ve seen each other. Veda will be the first place I visit when my mother approves of my traveling once again. It’d be nice to live with you, my home is so isolated.
Last week, Elora had a celebration in order to welcome the upcoming Summer season. Mother let me go with an escort, the stumpy servant that cannot do anything right, he almost let Rocky escape today! Elora had quite the celebration. The tapestries seemed so much more vibrant and everyone was smiling. The arrival of Summer is definitely lifting my spirits. I love all the colors of the flowers that bloom near our marsh. For your birthday, I am going to send you a bouquet of marigolds, they’re already blooming and I can tell that they are going to be beautiful this year.
Have you heard of what happened in the Sol Kingdom? The princess had a baby! Can you imagine? Having a child at the age of seventeen! Mother would be furious and I wouldn’t like to imagine what father would do. Luckily it was a boy so they already have a future king in their midst.
Speaking of kings, I heard the news...do you like him? It would be amazing to be able to meet the king of your own kingdom, especially since he’s your age. You’d make a great queen one day, Kit. You’d have to let me be your lady, though. Doesn’t that sound marvelous!
Time for my news. I’ve met someone. Someone who has lived in the walls of my home for thirteen years! All these years, I’ve paid no attention to him but I ran into him at the stables the other day, and...he’s quite the catch. I would reveal his name if I could, but that information could be dangerous. So we will call him Finn. I actually saw him this morning but unfortunately, we have to pretend that there is nothing going on between us. You’re lucky to have the freedom to speak to the king whenever you please. I have to sneak into the servant village during the night and it is far from peaceful to walk through the woods in the moonlight. I’m working on connecting my tunnels that lead out of our land to connect to his house. Promise you will not let anyone know of my disobedience, you would understand if you were confined to the same 600 acres for your entire life.
I have a confession that I might as well tell you, I turned back the time today. It was a dire situation and if I was to go without it, the Paz would be disturbed, so I broke the rules again and I feel quite guilty. After I send your letter, I plan on telling Finn. I sure hope he’ll understand. He’s still getting used to my...powers. Or whatever you would like to call them.
I hate to end my letter here, I could write for days but I can hear my mother coming down the hallway. I will be expecting your letter at the beginning of this Spring.
Adieu and goodbye. I miss you more than ever.
I take out a pastel-colored envelope and slip the letter into it. While licking the envelope, my worst fear happens, I cut my tongue on the edge of the paper. I suck in a large breath and let my tongue hang out of my mouth. I look around the room for anything that I could use to bind my tongue. Grabbing a piece of tape, I put it over the cut that is now gushing blood. I hear my mother's steps getting closer down the hallway so I try to hurry.
“Paz a tu alma,” I say and the cut heals as soon as my mother walks in the door.
“What did I tell you about turning back the time, Piper?” She yells instantly.
“Mother, it was dire! I couldn’t have written Kit's letter if I hadn’t!”
“Sit down,” she says. Her face has turned red but she tries to steady her voice. “Your father and I, this is exactly what we were trying to avoid. We didn’t want you using Paz because it’s an unfair advantage in life. Our life is perfect as is, but when the slightest inconvenience happens, you can’t always be using Paz, it’s never going to get you through life correctly.”
“Mother, why does it have to be about getting through life correctly? And how do you even expect me to experience life when I cannot become independent outside of the stone walls of our land?”
“We’re simply protecting you, Piper. This is not up for negotiation. I have to go,” she says, already halfway out of the door with my test scores in her hand. A memory of her lecturing me about my bad test scores last year enters my mind and I prepare myself for what she’ll say about these.
“Nego-” I start to say but the wooden door swings shut and I hear her footsteps clicking back down the hallway. My mother has always been stubborn and cruel. I say that’s the reason I moved out to spare her reputation with the servants when she was really the one who kicked me out and built me a house about 50 yards away from the castle.
In a hurry to leave this suddenly claustrophobic room, I write Kit's name and address on the envelope. The ink of my own pen disappears and the envelope appears to deflate a little bit. A message on the front appears; Received. I smile and make a mental reminder to sneak into the castle tonight to read her response.
I decide to get out before my father finds me and ruins my mood even more, so I head down the stairs, trying to make as little sound as possible. My mother appears near the front door and I stop where I am, bending down to make sure she won’t see me. My letter is open in her hand and she’s speaking angrily to my father.
“I have to fire him. I will have no more of this in my household. One is enough,” she snaps.
“Whatever you think,” my father says sleepily, which is my mother's cue to storm out of the castle.
When I exit the castle a few minutes after her, the sun is right over my head and the heat of the day has risen along with the humidity. I tie my hair into a braid very quickly before I decide to visit the stables, in hopes of finding Finn. I only told Kit that his name was not Finn so she could guess any other name but that.
When I reach the stables, it looks like my mother has already found Finn. I roll my eyes and laugh at the thought of her finding out that I have relations with him. I hear her tone, it’s more angry than usual. Then I realize something. I told Finn all about my plans to write to Kit today, he must’ve taken his chance to deliver me a letter, and without a Signing Room, he’d have to deliver the letter himself.
My heartbeat escalates as Finn's fate plays out in my mind. Without a job here, I’d most likely never see him again. My heart jumps into action before my mind can.
“Mother!” I yell.
She whips around and Finn’s gaze rests on me. Instead of his usual smile, he looks terrified.
“Leave, Piper! This is none of your business!” my mother says.
“It’s nothing but my business, mother! What you read in that letter-it was meant for me...only me.”
“Piper, please. Just let me speak to your mother,” Finn says pleadingly, his eyes never leaving mine.
I ignore his pleas and turn to my mother. “You had to have expected this. What with you keeping me inside these walls, never letting an outside visitor enter unless you do a full investigation of them, leaving nothing to remain in their private life. I’d go insane if I never got the chance to speak to anyone other than you and my father. So what if I have relations with a servant? Yes, you can fire him, you can force him to leave but nothing will be permanent enough to keep me away from him.”
My mother's eyes widen and her face becomes pale. Finn, behind her, seems to be holding his breath.
“Relations? That wasn’t in the letter!” she says. I freeze. I said something wrong.
“What she is meaning to say, Ma’am is that we’ve become great friends. With me working in the stalls and her tending to the horses every day, we were bound to talk to each other. It would be rude to not speak to such a beautiful girl,” Finn responds nervously.
“It’s best you both leave, in different directions. I expect you to be at the castle tonight, Finn. A carriage will be waiting to carry out you and your personal items. My husband has arranged work for you at the-” her eyes snap to mine and in the most venomous voice she says, “Piper leave, you cannot hear this.”
I walk away from the stables, unbothered. Paz makes anything possible, and my mother cannot do anything to take it away from me. Just as I’m about to take a secret path to the servants' village, the warm air drops, as if I’ve walked under a cool vent of air. I look around and see a servant stop in her tracks, looking up into the sky as if she feels the sudden change in temperature as well. I’ve never felt a natural cool like this in my life, only on hot summer days is when our houses cool down to a temperature around the one I’m feeling now. Then, the leaves turn brown, the grass becomes an ugly color and the world becomes grey. I hear a horse whinny from the stables and my mother's voice rising above the wind that has begun to blow the trees in all directions.
“YOU! Find some blankets to throw over the horses!” I hear my mom say. “YOU! Find Piper and you both need to hide in the dungeon under the cleaner’s quarters!”
Soon, Finn comes running around the corner, his dark hair whipping around his face. When he reaches me, he puts an arm around my waist and we both begin running towards the castle.
I didn’t think it could get any colder but the temperature plummets even more and white rain starts to fall out of the sky. It’s like rain, but it falls slower and sticks to the ground. I can barely feel it when it hits my warm skin but when it melts, I get an uncomfortable feeling across my body. Rain isn’t supposed to get us wet, it usually rolls off of our skin, but this is different…
It’s not peaceful.
My father stands at the threshold of the castle door, motioning for us to run faster. He leads us to the dungeon, a room that I had no idea existed. When we’re settled in, my father tells us he has to go find my mother and leaves the room, locking the door.
An eerie silence surrounds us and the mildewy room is filled with the sound of our fast breaths and dripping water. Some of the wind outside can be heard in the background but I’m convinced that it’s stronger than it sounds.
“Finn, what was in that letter?” I ask after it hits me that it may have something to do with our current situation.
“Not now, I shouldn’t say.”
“Fine, but you can’t tell your mother that you know. She’ll kill me, literally.” I stare into his green eyes, the rush of sneaking around with him is non-existent now.
“Okay,” I croak.
“We’re a lot alike Piper. More than you think.”
“Just tell me!”
“Paz a tu alma,” he whispers while touching his mangled hair. The dark curls fix themselves, resting perfectly among his head, looking just like they would when we would meet up. “Piper, you’re not the only one. Someone’s after us, the whole population of us.”
“Nothing’s ever going to be the same, is it?” I say in a quick breath.