My feet stick out awkwardly from underneath the small blanket, trying desperately to get warm in the cold night. Frustrated, I get up and toss the blanket on the floor, comforting my feet with wool socks. It is useless to try and stop tomorrow from coming; it is the Star Child’s destiny or whatever. Anger bubbles up inside of me but immediately disappears to give room for the empty. The windows are drawn tight like they always have been, hiding me away from the people I am supposed to guide. But tonight, nobody will see me pull the curtains back and watch the city lights gleam in the distance. Nobody will see me watch cars speeding through highways, and tall buildings glistening in the night sky of my city.
There is no escaping the palace either. Often times I try, one of the guards always pulls me by the arm, looks me in the eye, and locks me away again, as was done today three times. Each time, there would be tut-tutting, and the humming of tunes behind the door, Henrietta, one of the guards, murmuring to herself.
“There is no escaping the palace. There is no escaping at all Stargirl.”
So there is no way to stop tomorrow from happening, only time on my hands to wait and watch the city lights, all the way down the hill.
“Stargirl, it's time.” I sit up abruptly, addressing Henrietta with a cold stare.
“My name is Alma.” Without waiting for her response, I begin the walk to Main hall, not trying to slow my steps or run away. There is no escaping the palace, or a visit to the queen; my mother.
Henrietta quickly catches up with me, using my shoulders as pretend steering.
“Woah there young lady; remember, you need to remember to leave room for the empty-” I quicken my pace, and almost burst through the doors of Main Hall.
Inside, I forget why I am here and focus on the Star people, each and every one of them waiting and watching for me to get my burden of a thousand lifetimes. Some kind of people I’m supposed to guide, huh. They eye me with curiosity and start chanting my birthright. “Stargirl. Stargirl. Stargirl.” I shake my head and see my mother, chanting alongside them on her throne. I remember, and shake my head again, not wanting to do this. But it was my destiny-or whatever.
Suddenly, all the lights go out. I am alone, and the empty is with me. It wants me to choose, takes my hand and squeezes. It feels cold to the touch and is slimy up my spine. So, this is the new successor of Minnie the Third. I don’t bother to correct it and frown instead, waiting for it to end. A jolt of energy fuses into my hand and I squeeze my eyes shut as the empty takes refuge in my hand. If we are lucky, we won’t see each other again.
All my life, I have been hidden away from people, learned to conceal myself and my inner self, all for a whirlpool of stars and purple swirls etched on my right hand. My people smile and clap their hands wildly, but I feel numb and weary. All my life I have been preparing for this moment, and now it is over. Now I’ll be locked in my room forever. That’s it. No.
I can’t help it, despite years of training I let the tears come, and run. I can hear the groans in the Main Hall, and though I should feel bad, it is relieving. I want to compose myself and lock the empty inside, but it feels so good. I don’t want to tell anyone I’m afraid, so I run. Running is what I’m good at, and if I could run forever I would. My destiny doesn’t matter when I run, even when I’m hiding in the courtyard where nobody will find me.
Purple threw up on my hand and spread like butter all over my right arm. It snakes up and up until the purple smear reaches my shoulder. It is peaceful among the birds and trees, even when the crickets start chirping their woeful song among the grass. I observe the swirls and shapes and stars forming on my arm, gingerly touching them like they will fall out of balance if I move it ever so slightly.
“So, you’re the new successor, Alma.” The voice takes me by surprise, so I jump, scooching farther behind a tree. A boy my age with a deep voice shines a flashlight on the tree, smiling.
“I knew I’d find you here; it's where I come to relax sometimes.”
“Who are you?” I squeak, hating how my voice sounds. This boy has no right to confront me, the queen’s daughter.
“That’s not important.” He comes closer and sits beside me, so I can see his messy curls hanging above his face, covering a small birthmark. In his hand is a note from my mother, addressed to me.
“How did you get that?”
“Well, d’ya want it or not? I was sent to give it to you, m’kay.” I snatch the letter from him and, without reading it, start to rip the letter into neat halves. I catch the boy staring, not at me but at my purple arm, in fascination.
“So, how does it feel, you know.” He gestures to my long robes and purple arm, making me blush.
“I hate it, actually.”
“So why not run away?” His eyes find mine and I feel the familiar rush of excitement tingle all over my body, not silencing it for the empty. From underneath his tattered clothes, he pulls out a black hoodie and some bread.
“Come with me.” I forget about the doubts churning in my stomach and follow this strange boy into the woods, not knowing what else I could do. Destiny and the empty could get life together; I didn’t care. We were heading for a new beginning.
A wheelbarrow is parked by the entrance of the palace, holding a few sacks. We climb inside and hold our breaths as a woman whistles and pulls it down the road to the city down the hill. I look at the castle for a second, then turn away solemnly. There is no escaping the palace. Henrietta’s words come flying back at me, but I am here, not stuck inside my room.
“So, Alma. You like, hold a universe on your arms, like literally.”
“Yeah, I happen to.”
“What are you going to name it?” He whispers to me from inside the wheelbarrow. I ignore him and stare out of the flap in the sack at the gleaming city down the hillside. There is no escaping the palace, except when you hold the universe in the palm of your hand.
I told you to keep me in, but now you will pay the consequences.