American High School Teens & Young Adult

author’s note: this story is the fourth installment in my “calliope” series (i know, it’s a really dumb name). it’s not even that good of an idea, and writing a reedsy series and adding weird disclaimers at the beginning pretty much guarantees a 0% chance of winning or being shortlisted; though, if we’re being honest, i never really have a chance of winning anyways--i’m just doing this because i enjoy writing it, and i really like the characters. since i know that expecting viewers to read, like, multiple thousands of words in several different pieces beforehand is a big favor to ask, please don’t feel bad if you’re not up for doing that. however, if you have decided that you want to read this story, it’d probably be a good idea to read the three previous ones ;) i’ll list them here chronologically, but if you want to read them in the order they were submitted, you can just go to my profile :)

happens first (but part three): https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/74/submissions/48466/

happens second (but part one): https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/59/submissions/35048/

happens third (but part two): https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/72/submissions/46864/

okay, now to the story :)


“Cal, listen to me.” Aiden looks anxiously at me, his features bent into a concerned frown. “This isn’t a good idea. We don’t know anything about this woman, and there’s so much secrecy surrounding everything about this…” He clenches his fists frustratingly and groans. “We don’t need the money. You don’t need the money, Cal. This is a really, really bad idea.” 

“It’s not about the money, Aiden,” I say quietly, staring at my feet that are swinging back and forth over the edge of the bed in my hotel room. “Like you said, there’s mystery shrouding this, and…” I glance up at him. He’s now leaning against the wall, his forehead pressed into it as he contemplates the floor. “Don’t you think I’ve wondered? Don’t you know how I’ve questioned, every day that I have to live with the family--why am I here? Where do I, truly, belong? This is my chance to find out,” I say, as Aiden turns around so that the back of his head is against the wall. He stares conflictingly at the ceiling. “And I know I can’t expect you to understand, but please just try.” 

“God, Cal,” he mutters to the light fixture. “You’re being so difficult.” 

My mouth drops open as I scoff in indignation. “I’m being difficult? You’re the one--” 

“No, I do understand!” Aiden yells. I fall silent as he continues, “You’re the one who doesn’t. I know, Cal. I know this must be hard for you and you don’t know where you’re supposed to be and you’re adopted and you want to help people and you feel like you don’t fit into this family but…” Aiden slumps to the floor and hangs his head between his knees. “I’m your brother, Cal.” A singular teardrop falls from the tip of his nose to the carpeted floor. His voice sounds scratchy as he whispers, “You have no idea how hurtful it is to hear you deny that.” 

I shake my head in shock, not believing what I’m hearing. “Are you kidding? Are you kidding, Aiden. I would never--”

“Really?” Aiden interrupts, his voice cutting through me the moment the sound reaches my ears. “Because you just did.” Another teardrop falls from his face onto the carpet as his hands, clasped in front of his knees, grow white from clenching. “What family do you have in Scandinavia? What grandfather? What inheritance? We’re your family, Cal! You don’t have another!” Aiden rests his forehead wearily on his knees, speaking to the ground as he whispers, “Oh, clueless, clueless sister. You have no idea how afraid I am of losing you.”

I scream and fall back onto the bed, tugging at my hair in anger. “You’re not going to lose me!”

“Oh, really?” Aiden hisses. “Then why do you want so badly to leave?”

“I don’t! I just want to know where I came from!”

“You came from here, Calliope!” Aiden screams. “I’m your brother! You don’t have another family! So what if there’s mystery or sketchiness or shit surrounding whatever the hell it is you ‘left behind’--it doesn’t matter! You’re my--” Aiden inhales raggedly through his mouth. “You’re my sister, Cal. That’s in the past. They’re not your family, anymore.” Though by this point I’ve closed my eyes, I can feel him sit slowly down on the side of the bed. “Do you really think they are?”

“Fine then,” I reply, forcing yes, they are, they share my genes, they gave birth to me, I wouldn’t be here without them, they’re the reason for my existence back down my throat. “But the money. I need to claim it. It’s my inheritance.”

“From who? Your grandfather? He’s not--” Aiden chokes on his words. “For the love of God, he’s not your grandpa, Cal. You’ve never met him. And--three hundred thousand dollars? Why? Mom’s a multi-millionaire. You can have anything you want. I--”

“No, I can’t,” I hiss, opening my eyes to glare at the ceiling. “I want to help people. Mom would never do that. I want independence. I want to run away with you. I want--” Anger seethes inside of me as a few hot tears streak their way down the side of my face. “I want to forget this damn family that isn’t even mine. They don’t love me, and I don’t belong to them.” I curl onto my side, away from Aiden, making myself even smaller. “I just want to forget.”

Aiden remains silent for several moments, then says quietly, “That hurts, Cal.” He leans over to angle my face towards his, to make sure I understand the full force of his words. “You just hurt me, and you’re being stupid. Consider for two seconds what you’re about to fricking do, and then decide if you really want to do it.” A sob catches in Aiden’s throat as he stands up from the bed just as slowly as he’d sat down. “You’re hurting me, Cal. Because I’m your brother. But I guess I can stop being that, since it really seems as if that’s what you want.” I sit up just in time to see his hand on the knob of the door leading to his bedroom. “Don’t do anything rash. I’ll see you in the morning.” And before I can say a word, the door is closed behind him.

I laugh quietly, maliciously, to myself. “I’m an idiot,” I say numbly, my fingernails digging into the pale flesh of my forearms as I think back over the past half hour.

Fittingly, as soon as my great-aunt Anneke made her ominous proclamation, that my biological grandfather had just died and his--my--family had secrets to keep and he’d left me a huge inheritance but, per the final instructions in his will and the mysterious wishes of my great-aunt, I’d have to travel to my birthplace to retrieve it--as soon as she’d announced that to me and Aiden, the fair weather turned to an absolute downpour of rain in a matter of minutes. But before we rushed away to our separate temporary lodgings, Anneke gave us her number (we were shocked that someone that ancient even had a cell phone) and email via a strange-looking business card she withdrew from her purse and told us to keep in touch. Then she smiled, as if she knew something we didn’t, and walked the way she’d come down the blocked-off street, procuring a black umbrella from somewhere in between the folds of her long lace dress. Street vendors on either side of the road hurried, frantic, to make sure all their wares, paintings and jewelry and woodwork, were under cover of their tents before the storm began. Aiden and I ran back to the hotel, holding our jacket hoods over our heads and not bothering speaking over the sound of the rain. I tripped, once, on account of my limp, and would’ve fell smack onto the sidewalk if Aiden hadn’t grabbed me in time. We were almost to the hotel by then, where we scurried through the revolving doors and, dripping, rode the elevator to the twenty-seventh floor in silence. Aiden flashed his keycard at the door to the hallway, then we snuck quietly into my suite and convened in my bedroom. Our hair was wet, Aiden’s sneakers were squelching, my makeup was smudged--but somehow, as soon as the door to my room closed, we broke out into an argument.

I’ve never fought with Aiden like that before.

I scream again and roll off the bed onto the floor with a thump, desperate to feel something in my hollow, bony body. I open my eyes and fixate on a tiny speck of mud in the thick hotel carpet; but before I even have time to study it, a harsh ringing noise goes off from somewhere in the room.

I sigh and stand up, plugging my ears with my index fingers and looking around for my phone. It’s on the floor by the door; I nudge it right side up with the toe of my platform sneakers and bend over to read what’s on the screen. It sounds like some kind of AMBER alert.

“Urgent Warning: The air quality is unfit…” I murmur, not fully grasping what I’m reading. I unplug one ear to tap the notification so I can see all of it; text stretches across the screen. “...unsafe…unforeseen...the entire planet...evacuate immediately…” By now, the ringing has stopped, and my confusion has begun. “What the hell?”

I pick up my phone, my reflection sometimes showing in the screen’s brightness; here, a glimpse of my small button (God, how I hate that term) nose; there, my glossy, dark pink lips, open just enough to reveal the gap between my front teeth; and as I fumble to turn the brightness up (because everyone loves seeing what they look like), a final glimpse of my short black lashes and the dark eyebrows above them, scrunched into a frown.

I’m trying to read what it says, but my hands are shaking, and my eyes are still blurry from itchy tears, and I’m shivering from the rain, and--

To my left, I hear someone open a door. It’s Aiden, of course, coming through the passage between our rooms. Before I can speak, he’s rushed to me, wrapped his arms around me, holding my short, skinny frame in his strong, reassuring one. “I’m so sorry,” he whispers down to me, as I twist my head to look up at him. A long, loose curl covers one of his eyes, but in the other, pure gold flecks glisten through an unshed tear. He looks at me, worry etched into every line of his flushed face. “Did you see the news?”

“I don’t understand,” I say quietly, glancing back down at my phone. “What’s going on?”

“Something with a chain of factories… an explosion, pollution leaks… the air isn’t safe to breathe in here, or anywhere on Rectar… everyone has to evacuate immediately…”

Suddenly, there’s a pounding coming from the front of my hotel room. I twist away from Aiden and make my way through the living room and kitchen. I’m reaching to open the door when it bangs opens by itself and my mom, with a bodyguard in tow, rushes into the foyer.

“Oh, baby,” she exclaims, smushing my face into her chest. Her voice is muffled through a KN95 mask; who knows how she acquired one so quickly. I pull away from her as the security guard hands me, and then Aiden behind me, a mask. I hesitate before putting it on.

“We have to leave, honey. Now. It’s a seven-hour flight to earth, but they probably won’t let us land. I don’t know where we can go--no one will accept us, anywhere--at least not in the United States…” Mom’s voice falls into a mindless chatter as I run back to the bedroom, stuff clothes and phone chargers and whatever else the hell I’ve packed into my suitcase. I try to look around, to see what else I’m leaving--my makeup in the bathroom, bottles of Coke in the minifridge in the kitchen--but Mom’s hand is on my shoulder, telling me we don’t have time, we have to go.

I grab as many bags as I can as Aiden rushes through the door to his room. I stumble through my suite again, to the hallway, dragging my backpack behind me. Mom’s still talking, the bodyguard in the black suit is saying something, the mask is making it hard to breathe--

“And god, god, I don’t know where we’ll go…”

“I might,” I murmur. I shift all my bags to my left hand, hooking my fingers around every strap or handle I can, and with my right, pull a small, soggy rectangle out of my jacket pocket. I hand it to Mom, who, understandably, regards it with disdain, but, realizing our rush as we stagger to the elevator--Dad and Xaviar, both wearing masks, have joined us at some point, and Aiden will soon--takes it between her manicured fingertips. “What is this?” she asks scornfully.

I laugh under my breath. “It’s my aunt’s,” I say, slinging my backpack over my shoulder. “I know where we can go.”

February 12, 2021 20:17

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