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I walked for what felt like forever, following the road that curved out of Brendale. I was sure that at any moment my legs would give out, that I would fall down and lay there until Mother found me and dragged me back home. But somehow, the promise of a future that only I controlled kept me going.
What must've been hours later, I reached the breaking point. I just couldn't go on. I didn't know where I was going, I was exhausted, and the nearest town could be days away, for all I knew. I wondered, traitorously, if I had made a mistake in leaving at all.
Look behind the hill.
I jumped about ten feet in the air. Where had that voice come from? Was I going crazy?
No, you're not going crazy, you're not hearing voices, blah, blah, blah. I'm your guardian, so you might as well listen to what I say. Look behind the dumb hill!
I was confused and still not convinced that I was sane, but I decided that it couldn't hurt to see just what was behind the hill on the side of the road.
I trudged to the top of the hill, my tired legs groaning for me to stop, then I gasped. There were houses. People lived in houses. Somehow, I had made it to an actual town!
But even the happiness of entering a populated area wasn't enough to make me ignore the suspicious source of information: my supposed "guardian."
"So let me get this straight," I said. "I have a guardian. Who does what exactly?"
You inherited me from your father. You should consider yourself lucky, not everyone gets a guardian you know. I get to guide you through everything you do, and help you make smart decisions. I can speak to you in your mind, so there's no need to say anything to me out loud. But be warned, when it comes to the crucial moment, I can advise but I can't choose for you.
"So," I said slowly, still taking in the strange idea. "You're basically going to be around in my head helping me all the time, and I got you from good old Dad. But I was never his favorite. Why not Tunia?"
We both agreed that you needed my help more. You're special, Blue, you have a chance to make a real difference. But go to sleep now, you're tired and you have a big day ahead of you. We can talk more tomorrow.
I followed my guardian's instructions to the nearest bench and laid down, fast asleep within minutes.
The morning after Blue left, I woke up to find Mother in an absolute panic. She was shrieking and pulling her own hair. I knew I was in for a rough day.
Mother found me, of course. I steeled myself for the storm.
"Where is she?" Mother squealed. "Where is that good for nothing brat? She must've told you where she went, didn't she?"
"I don't know," I said defensively. "To be honest, I doubt she knows where she's going. You scared her away with that guy you moved in."
Then Mother began muttering to herself, as if I wasn't there.
"I can track her," she said under her breath. "But most likely she's already out of my reach. No, I'll find her later. The best option right now is a curse. That she'll feel no matter where she is."
Mother laughed like a lunatic.
My heart froze. What would a curse mean for Blue?
"Don't do it!" I cried, before my self-preservation instinct could catch up to my panic. "She doesn't mean any harm. Just leave her alone. We'll be fine here by ourselves."
"Fool," Mother said coldly. "Your sister on the loose means more trouble for me than you can comprehend. Better that I get rid of her quickly. Don't be too upset, curses like the one I'm about to do are meant to last for generations. Blue could survive... too bad almost none of the original recipients do."
Then she laughed, loudly but icily. Mother's laugh was so evil that I wondered how Daddy could have married her, how everyone tolerated her.
Mother's eyes got big as she said words that sounded like nonsense. Yet they were somehow malicious, and I wished she would stop. It made my ears hurt.
"I'm finished," she said, beaming. "And if you know what's good for you, Petunia, you won't try to help your sister. She's beyond saving now, and you will be under my power for as long as we both live."
I tried not to feel too much like a traitor for doing nothing to stop Mother, but I still felt incredibly guilty. A big part of me knew that Mother would use me as a weapon against Blue if possible. I wished desperately that I'd escaped with Blue when I had the chance.
I woke up and found myself in the middle of a bustling little town center that I hadn't noticed the night before, in my exhaustion. I looked around, awed by everything. It was so different than the castle I'd lived in my whole life.
Something has just happened, the guardian said. And it sounded almost... panicked? Could that even be possible? Your mother has placed a curse on you. For ten generations, you and your descendants will face a terrible challenge, tailored to your individual personalities. One that will nearly always be a matter of life or death. I will help, but I cannot always anticipate or prevent the challenge. That's up to you only. And the issues you face will not be clear cut.
The sudden knowledge was absurd; too much to take on day when the whole world around me was new. I ignored it for the moment, deciding that dealing with surviving in this place was my bigger priority.
I found a lovely little dress hanging up on a tree, exactly my size and not at all dirty, and wondered at the amazing coincidence, before putting it on behind a bush. Could guardians find you clothes? I mentally thanked my guardian, then I walked a little, then saw a man standing outside his house. Jumping on the opportunity, I went over to introduce myself.
"Hello," I said said, nervous. "I'm new to this town. Can you help me out?"
"Of course," the man said in the friendliest voice I'd ever heard. "My name's Goodwin Goode, and welcome to Twinbrook! What's your name?"
I hesitated. Something was telling me not to introduce myself as Princess Bluvia Roland. That's not who I was anymore, or who I ever wanted to be again.
"My name's Blue," I said softly. "Blue, ummm, Bird."
I don't know why I chose Bird as my last name, except that it sounded good to my ears, like a new start.
"What a nice name!" Goodwin said, and I could tell he really believed it. He already sounded like an honest guy. "Now, what do you need help with?"
"I don't even know," I admitted, my voice a little broken. "I need money, I need a house." And I need a friend, I wanted to add.
"Well, what kind of training do you have? Are you certified for any type of work? Do you have a high school degree?"
My silence told him worlds of information about my pathetic state of education.
To my surprise, he smiled. "You know, the hospital is giving out free medical training for promising students. Why don't you go over and give it a try? They might even hire you! And I have an idea about a house for you, come back after you check out the hospital and we can talk."
I had very little idea of what it meant to work at a hospital. Was that like being a healer in Brendale? I knew it was my only chance though, so I followed Goodwin's directions and went there.
To my absolute shock, the hospital agreed to give me training classes and pay me for the entire duration of the training! They told me it wouldn't be long before I actually had a full position on the staff. Apparently they were short on doctors, and said I had a lot of potential. My new boss, Molly Coddle, said that the patients seemed to improve when I so much as walked into the room. It sounded ridiculous, but I watched, and it did seem kind of true.
I went back to Goodwin's house afterward, flushed with victory. The best part was that being a doctor sounded amazing. I got to help people, and not just people with money. The hospital was for everyone!
Goodwin gave me a congratulatory hug, and I knew without a doubt that I'd made my first friend in Twinbrook.
I went back to the hospital an hour later to take my first training class. When I got out, Goodwin was waiting for me.
"I found the place for you," he said, excited. "Come on, get in!"
I knew I should be worrying about the curse, but I was too happy with Twinbrook. It was like a paradise town: friendly people, a hospital for everyone, and now a place to live.
We got to the house, and I cried out in delight. It was a cute little shack, abandoned according to Goodwin.
Though the shack had only two rooms, it was furnished and definitely liveable. I couldn't believe my luck.
"No one owns this place?" I asked Goodwin as we sat down to eat the salad he'd brought in my new home. I was practically brimming over with excitement.
"Nope," he said. "It's always been a kind of oddity, a house that no one could claim. Some people would try to live there... they'd be gone within an hour, claimed the place was haunted. I think the house was waiting for you."
The idea was strange, but oddly fitting. I liked that the house belonged only to me.
After moving in, life settled into a pleasant routine.
Goodwin would come over in the morning and read the newspaper while I got up and ready for work.
Then we both left for our separate jobs. Goodwin was a firefighter, and he told me all kinds of crazy stories at dinner. I worried sometimes, but I knew that he would go crazy if he wasn't out saving people. It was what he, what both of us, loved.
Goodwin usually came over for dinner. He said that putting out all of those fires made him hungry, though I knew for a fact that he spent most days waiting around at the station. Goodwin teased me for being an awful cook, but he ate my food anyway.
Then Goodwin would drive home, and I would feel a tiny bit lonely. It was always nice to have someone else around the house.
After Goodwin left, I'd try to get in some chess practice. Building logic was really important for my new job. Besides, I found the game a lot of fun.
We loved to celebrate each others' successes. We went out for dinner the day that Goodwin got promoted, and I joked about how snazzy his new uniform was.
So on the day when I had at last completed all of my training classes, and promoted into an actual position on the staff, I couldn't wait to tell Goodwin. I practically ran over to his house to tell him.
"Congratulations," he said. "That's amazing! You went through the program really fast. You know, I think I'll cook you dinner for once to celebrate."
"I bet you'll be worse than me," I said teasingly. "What're you going to make us for dinner, cereal?"
Abruptly, it struck me how close we were standing to each other. Was I flirting? I didn't like Goodwin that way. I mean, he was my only friend in Twinbrook. I couldn't screw that up with dating. But all the same, I was distressingly aware of his eyes, a blue just a few shades lighter than mine.
The awkwardness ended when we stepped away and went inside to eat. I chided myself for imagining things. Having absolutely no love life was no reason to ogle a friend (no matter how attractive he might be).
A few hours later, I said goodbye and left. I wanted to get to sleep early and be ready for my first real day working.
I decided to walk home to clear my head a little. Convince myself that the moment outside had been a brain blip. I took a little detour through a wooded park, still amazed at the beautiful scenery of Twinbrook.
Suddenly, I had the gut feeling that someone was behind me.
I turned around, nervous that Mother had caught up to me, or that the curse was finally taking affect in the form of a murderer about to chop my head off.
Instead, I was face to face with a strikingly handsome man. His green eyes pleaded with me silently as he said, "Please, I need your help."
Who is this man? What does he want with Blue? What will happen between her and Goodwin? Stay tuned for Chapter 1.2 to find out! And thanks once again to all readers, feedback is greatly appreciated :)