270 Days Until Havoc and The Uncertain End (part 2)
It wasn’t that the man particularly bothered Heia. He kept to himself. He kept an eye on the children when asked and watched over the triplets as they practiced with the holoblade. He helped with food, and told stories to those who could not sleep. He was not a bother, did not speak much, and staid out of her way.
What bothered her was that he wanted to take her away from there, from home. What bothered her was that he knew her name and not a single part of his story lined up. At first she and Andre had suspected him to be a spy for the Unwanted Guests. That proved to be a dead end as the Guests hunted him like he was a prized chicken.
What bothered her was the way that he kept his bag on him at all times even as they gave him new clothes. The bag seemed to have more weight than his life. Not even she was tempted enough to try to figure out its contents, despite how much she wanted to know what was inside.
What bothered her was the way that his old clothes seemed to be dyed in yellows of Aralax blood, a smell and color she had seen once and had hoped would be the only time. What had he done? What had he seen? How many had he killed? Why had he killed so many? How had he killed so many? The answer was in the backpack, she knew that much.
What bothered her was when he caught her glances and began to speak about the outside world to those listening tempting her curiosity as if he knew that she was confined to the underground. That she was kept as a defense, as her siblings went away on missions to collect food and goods for their orphan family. The way he crafted stories of blue skies, and tall towers, of the world of a Circle, made her want to see it. It made her want to go with him despite knowing that he was a liar, a creep, and someone she could never trust.
What bothered Heiphilia was that she wanted to talk to this Evester more.
“As a Circle did you live in a big mansion?” Kori asked him.
“Sure did.” Evester answered her.
“Do you have siblings?” Karla asked.
“Two. Sister and brother but I don’t talk with them much. My mother took care of my brother and sister, but I lived with my father.” He explained how his father was away for business most of his childhood and how he was raised by his grandfather and the staff at the house he lived in. That was, until his father started working from home.
“Why?” Kori asked. “Were they divorced?”
“Divorced? No. It was complicated.” Evester answered. He then went on in a dreamlike speech to weave the story to them all. “They weren’t living together. She lived in the family house and he lived in one she helped pay for. They married for love, despite the protests of what would be best. They staid married because… I like to say it was for the benefits. After all how could they still love each other? Yet… They did. Their love was something far more complex. She took care of my brother and sister, but my father fought to keep me with him. I didn’t hear much from her.”
“Why?” Kony asked.
“He needed me.” Evester answered and then there was the lies. He thought he was a good liar, but there was the smallest of twitches in his smile every time he lied, and the way his eyes flickered knowing the truth as he spoke. “Heir to his legacy and everything.”
“What are your sibling’s names?” Kori asked him.
“Eurpoa and Endwin.” Evester answered. What odd names, Heia thought. What was with Circles? Why couldn’t they pick names that at least were more normal? Not that her name was the most normal either, but she knew of other girls with her name.
“Trust him?” Andre spoke from behind Heia as she packaged food. She had been so focused on the conversation across the room that she hadn’t realized she’d been doing the same thing for too long. Evester had heard Andre, it was clear in his lowering smile.
“No.” Heia glared at Evester and then looked to Andre. “News?”
“Nothing. Other than a few new orphans that Layla is going to have Robee and Trace bring here.”
“How many more?”
“We’re flies.” They were dying like flies. The contaminated food and disease was already enough to worry about, but with waning resources, fighting killed many adults. “Keep an eye out for diseases.”
“And if they spread?”
What would they do then? Evacuate? Leave their fortified home and resources to go where? There were only eight of them, she and her siblings, that had the chance of being able to defend the others. “We start training the older kids to fight.”
“I’ll get Robee and Trace on that.”
Heia never wanted the kids to have to learn to fight. She wanted them to grow up in LakeLost the way her family had. It may have been run down and over populated, but it was filled with life. There was a time when there had been community gardens, sports, libraries, schools. There had been a time when they hadn’t had to fight for their lives to survive, and those times were long gone. Those times she had taken for granted.
“What are you looking at?” Heia felt Evester’s eyes still on her. She did not look at him.
“You could always come to help me.” He suggested. He wanted her, and her alone. Not her family. It was not an option.
“No.” She would never abandon her family. Not for him. Not for his mysterious backpack. Not for his mysterious and sketchy origins. Not for a boy named Evester, no last name, like an X. Circles all had last names and this man was hiding his on purpose.
“What will you do when you leave here?” Kori asked him.
“Go to the CloudCity of Valaria to find my mother and someone named Zeydar.”
“Why?” Kony asked.
“I need his help.”
“With the kids?” Karla clarified.
“Yes.” He was a dirty liar indeed.