(This one is long… but I couldn’t stop writing once I got started)
He ran through the streets, his brown eyes darting around as he tried to make sure no one was following him. He understood that people had to make their livings but he also had to eat. The young man spotted a dark alleyway and twisted through the oncoming crowd to hide. His chest heaved as he leaned against the faded brick wall, he let his head rest against the brick blowing a hard breath. That was so close though. Alijah clutched his bag close to his chest and glanced at the streets, no one seemed to even care about him so he slipped into the crowd. Woof! Woof! The dark haired young man looked over his shoulder, a large grin plastering his face. His beagle friend came bounding over, his brown ears flopping and his pink tongue hanging out.
“Fox!” he knelt down to pet his little dog, Fox’s tail wagging happily. “I was worried I lost you.” The dog yipped and Alijah grinned. “Yeah, I should know better by now right? You’ll always find me.” He held up his bag, Fox barked excitedly, his strong nose smelling what his friend stole for them today. Alijah stood and they both walked off to their humble abode.
It wasn’t anything special. A hole in the wall place to be honest. It was a ramshackle old building, no one lived there anymore. He wasn’t sure what the building used to be but he’d been living there for at least eight years, it served its purpose and it was home. They climbed the dark and corroding steps. He walked over to the bowl he found and poured the water into the bowl for Fox, who lapped happily. He couldn’t help but to smile at his friend, Fox made his sorry life bearable. He plopped down on the large ratty pad he used for a bed and pulled the bits of fruit he stole, as well as the loaf of bread. Once Fox finished his water, he trotted over picking over the fruit Alijah left for him.
“I would say I’m sick of this Fox,” the dog glanced up, his head tilting to the side “You know, stealing to survive, living here. I mean I’m glad we have a place but…” he shook his head, his curly ponytail shaking against his neck. His voice trailed off. This happened at least once every few months, where he wished his life was more than it was but there was no changing it. He would be a street rat for the rest of his life.
“Look at the view Fox.” He pulled the tattered curtain back from the hole in the wall he called a window. In the far distance sat the most beautiful place he’d ever seen. The palace was beautiful, with its curved arches and beautiful yellows and golds perfectly reflecting from the colors of the sun as it descended behind the mountains. “One day.”
Jade sat in her bedroom, a book open next to her as she was reading but tired of it. It was all she did every day. Lessons, reading, lessons, reading, perhaps a bit of free time and conversations with her beautiful white cat Nyla.
Her light brown eyes followed the intricate details of her bedroom ceiling before she closed them out of frustration. She grew tired of her schedule, of her nonstop everything. Why couldn’t she have just a bit of freedom? Of a bit of leeway? Perhaps a day to something that she chose to do? She was passionate about wanting her freedom, of wanting to do something she chose for herself. Her arms hung over the large bed and she started feeling soft fur at her fingertips. She rolled over, seeing her cat rubbing against her fingers. Jade couldn’t help but to smile. Nyla always pulled a smile from her full lips. The turkish angora jumped to the bed, purring gently against Jade’s cheek.
“Jade.” The young woman sat up on her bed as her parents walked into her bedroom. Her mother tall, slender with beautiful brown skin, long dark curly hair, full lips and dark eyes stood with a kind expression, whereas her father, with his dark skin and dark eyes stood looking grim. Her father was the one who spoke.
“We need to speak darling,” her mother came gracefully to the bed, sitting next to her, her hands resting against her shoulders. Her father stood awkwardly stiff, Jade knew he appeared to be intimidating and while he was, he was her father and she knew this wasn’t his true nature. Eventually, he relaxed and slumped on her bed on the other side of her.
“Dearest, you are seventeen, soon to be eighteen…”
“Not for another year father.”
“…yes but this is something we need to begin speaking of. You will be preparing to take the throne and you need to find a proper suitor…” Jade pulled away from her parents with exasperation. She climbed off her bed, her elegant and light skirts moving with her.
“I thought you promised not to talk about this anymore.” The ONE thing she thought she was able to do for herself, they were taking away. When she turned sixteen, her parents began speaking with her about marriage, about her future as queen of their small kingdom and while she was prepared to speak about her duties, she did not want to be forced into anything.
“Yes but it’s been a year my darling.” Her mother said softly. Jade’s eyes narrowed completely irritated with her parents now. What if she just wanted to be Queen without having to marry? That law was stupid and outdated. “The law clearly states-“
“But you are the King father. You can change the law.”
“I cannot change a law my ancestors put into place just because you throw a tantrum every time we speak of it.” Ugh, she was NOT throwing a tantrum. This wasn’t fair! She already had no control over her life, couldn’t this be the one time she did? She threw open the large doors to her balcony and tried not to stomp out to the rail. She rested her hands on the brass railing, her eyes taking in the sights of the kingdom. “Jade-” she felt large, warm hands on her shoulders but she remained tense.
“No.” She snapped but she didn’t move.
“Tomorrow, suitors are to be arriving for you to meet. You must choose one. It is your duty, as the princess.”
Maybe I don’t want to be a princess anymore. But she didn’t say it. She heard the steps fade and she knew they were gone. She blinked the tears from her eyes. No. She wasn’t going to go through with this. This peacock parade… no. This was the last straw. Her eyes zeroed in on the marketplace that wasn’t far… they would never find her there.
The next morning Alijah climbed to the top of the melon stall. This man was one of the worst, his name was Bernard and Alijah affectionally called him “Bernie” which the man hated. Any time he could get the chance to steal from the man, he would and this was one of those days. It was all planned. Fox would create the diversion and Alijah would steal a couple of melons.
“Alright Fox.” He whispered, if he could nod, the dog probably would before he ran off barking loudly towards Bernie’s stand. The older man began fussing with the quick moving dog, Alijah couldn’t help but to watch the spectacle for a moment, his stomach hurting from laughing so much. The other vendors tried to help catch the animal but Fox was too quick. Being sure to not be seen, he wrapped his legs around the pole that held up Bernie’s sign, and hung upside down to grab a melon. As Bernie was still distracted, he grabbed two more, he couldn’t be greedy. Putting the melons into his bag, he climbed off the stall and into a nearby window. He sat on the sill and waited for his friend to join him. It wasn’t long before Fox trotted up the stairs of the building and nosed the door open. His dog was like a monkey, he could easily climb and jump but Alijah wanted him to not show off today.
“Woof.” Alijah cracked open a melon and sat it down for his dog.
“Good job Fox. Now we eat like kings!”
Jade walked through the marketplace. It was nothing she’d ever seen. It was loud, it was brash, parts of it smelled and she loved it. She wore a long dark maroon cloak to cover her long curly hair, that she pulled back into a ponytail and clothes. While she tried to find the less royal thing she had, it still was more than what she saw on the streets. Plus, the sun seemed so much hotter here, perhaps it had to do with the small amount trees that were around compared to inside the palace walls.
It was so loud! Her eyes were wide with awe, people were selling their items, people were trying to barter the prices lower, children ran through the stalls, small dogs chased after them and she couldn’t help but to smile. She loved it. She’d never been outside the palace walls and now she wasn’t sure if she ever wanted to return.
“Watch it!” She gasped feeling someone knock into her, Jade stumbled gracelessly backwards, she threw her hands out trying to catch herself to not fall. Her hip slammed into the side of an apple stall, some of the apples dislodging from their pyramid structure. She grumbled in pain but no one came to her aid. She was almost shocked. You’re not a princess here Jade, they have no idea who you are. Her hood fell back, her hair almost dislodging from her bow, she pulled herself to her feet and quickly covered her hair back up being sure to push any stray curls back. She hoped no one saw, but someone did.
Alijah paused in the digging of his melon at the commotion he didn’t cause outside. He leaned slightly off the sill to see a girl, wearing a maroon cloak fall into Maggard’s apple stall but the man was busy arguing with the woman trying to barter against his ridiculously high prices. The girl’s hood fell back and his eyes widened seeing her face.
“Wow.” He muttered watching her. She was beautiful. Brown skin, obvious curly black hair she tried to pull back, brown eyes, long elegant fingers… he knew everyone but he’d never seen her before. Who was she? He felt Fox’s cold nose nudge his leg but he ignored him, his eyes only on the mysterious girl.
Jade glanced around, a young boy scrambled over to one of the fallen apples. His tiny hands trying to grip the ruby red fruit. It rolled out of his hands, so Jade plucked one from the stall. “Here you go. No need to eat one off of the ground right?” The boy looked at her with wide eyes, he smiled a grin, a few teeth missing before running off. She rubbed her sore hip and began to walk away.
“Stop thief.” She felt a large hand fall against her shoulder. It made her entire body buckle from the force. She tried to jerk away but the man held tight.
“Unhand me. I am no thief.”
“You stole an apple from my cart. You must pay.”
“Pay?” Jade’s eyes furrowed in confusion. She didn’t understand. What was he talking about? She didn’t steal, the boy wanted an apple and she gave it to him, it was a good thing. “You mean with money? B-but, but I don’t have anything.”
Maggard released her shoulder and grabbed her arm, jerking her towards his stall. Fear began to boil inside of Jade, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. She didn’t know what to do. “Thief!” He shouted loudly. She looked around frantically but no one was going to help her. Those who looked on, just watched curiously, or with pity and the others ignored it. Did this happen often? Was this a normal occurrence in her kingdom and she didn’t know? “Do you know what we do to thieves!?”
“No! No please, I’m sorry. I could get money from the king! Please I didn’t know!” The man refused to listen and he slammed her arm down on the free space of his stall, he was prepared to remove her hand. Jade pulled with all of her strength but he wasn’t going to release her. What would she tell her parents when they saw her left hand gone?
“Now now Maggard, that’s hardly necessary.” Alijah slipped up next to the two, pulling the sharp dagger from Maggard’s hands. “She doesn’t know any better, she hardly gets out of the house.”
“You-you know this urchin?” The man demanded, his dark eyes still focused on the girl. Alijah could see the fear mingled with confusion in her eyes, he winked and she blinked, the confusion slipping away and being replaced with intrigue.
“Unfortunately. She’s my sister and she suffers from delusions. I didn’t realize she managed to get away from our mother, poor thing must be worried sick.” The young man stabbed the dagger into the side of the stall to prevent the older man from using it. Jade felt her anger rise at his words, she felt like reprimanding him for his insolence. He’s just trying to help.
“She took an apple from my cart. She also said she knew the king.” Jade inhaled sharply but the young man didn’t miss a beat. He gave the man a wide grin, his face brightening and his eyes twinkled.
“She thinks our dog is the king. She talks to him all of the time.” The beagle’s ears twitched as Jade glanced down to him before she took note and dropped to her knees in front of the door.
“Your majesty” she said massaging behind the dog’s ears. She could pretend too. Alijah smiled at her quick thinking. While Maggard watched on, his brow furrowed and the murderous look gone from his eyes, he managed to slip an apple from the stall behind them, before pressing it into Maggard’s hands.
“No harm done.” Alijah took Jade’s hand and pulled her to her feet. “Come on now, let’s get you home before mother comes screaming through the market.”
“She’s in the trees.” Jade said with a dreamy expression and tone for extra measure. She heard a soft chuckle from the young man.
“No, she’s at home. Come on your majesty.” Fox made a snorting nose, an apple in his mouth as he trotted after the couple. Maggard turned back to his stall noticing a few more apples missing. His dark eyes swung around as he saw the two teenagers run through the crowd. He’d been swindled!!
When they were out of the bustling marketplace, Alijah couldn’t help the loud laughter that escaped his mouth. He led the girl through the back ways of the kingdom, to prevent being seen.
“Where are you taking me?”
“You look like you’re trying stay out of sight. So I’m just helpin’ you.” Fox trotted ahead of them, Alijah kept a gentle hold on her hands. Unlike his they were soft, no calluses, she’s never worked a day in her life but he didn’t mind that. It was nice.
“You really don’t have to do that. I can take care of myself.”
“I know. But you should let me help you. Come on.”
He led through dark alleys, they climbed over fallen trees and roofs. It was hard going but she adapted and he couldn’t help but to steal glances back at her every time. He could still see her face through the hood but he wanted it to fall back like it did earlier. When they got to his home, he paused before turning to her. The hood had fallen back slightly, her skin seemed to glisten with sweat, her eyes wide as she breathed heavily.
“This is it.”
They walked up the steps, through the opening that no longer held a door. He muttered warnings at the low hanging beams, and the broken steps but she made easy work of it. Alijah heard a intake of breath and he felt horrible for bringing her here.
“I love it.” She whispered. Surprised, he turned to face her. She took in everything, the little trinkets he’d stolen over the years, the ones that caught his eye, the things he kept from his childhood. He watched as she moved around the small room, Fox watching curiously as well from his old pillow. “It’s so… lived in.”
“Yeah-” he chuckled scratching his head “-it’s home. But all of that stuff isn’t the best part.” He hopped over the items littering the floor and pulled back the tattered curtain showing her the view he so loved. Jade’s smile faded seeing what she was sure he was smiling about. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Yes… beautiful.” She turned away from the palace and sat on the ground, crossing her legs under her cloak. Alijah’s eyes stayed fixated on the palace.
“Imagine living there. Lots of trees, new food and clothes every day. Servants waiting on you hand and foot.”
“Yes, everyone telling you what they think you should do with your life. Lessons and reading, not even the books you’d want to read.” Her tone was flippant but he didn’t notice.
“Sweet smells, warm beds, cool air from tall ceilings. I mean it has to be better than living here.”
“But you’re free here.” She turned to him, he looked at her. “You can live your life the way you want. You don’t have to submit to any rules.”
“But that’s not freedom, having to run from the guards if I’m caught stealing. Not having a real home for me or for Fox. Having to go hungry some nights, freezing when it’s too cold, dying from heat when it’s too hot.”
“You can make your own choices.”
“Maybe but I- I don’t want to live like this anymore.”
Jade stared at the boy. He leaned against his window, she finally decided to give him a good look. He was tall, with an athletic build, with golden brown skin, his hair seemed to be long and curly but he kept it back with a ponytail. You don’t understand. She wanted to say but instead she asked him his name. He pulled an apple from his pocket and tossed it to her, he seemed to avoid the question.
“Where did this come from?”
“You stole it?”
“Well, after all of that fuss he was giving you, I figured why not. Besides, I’ve never liked him anyway.” Fox barked lightly and Alijah tossed one his way “You already had one Fox. Greedy.
Jade laughed “Why is his name Fox?” Alijah plopped down next to her, taking a bit from his own ruby red apple, his lips quirked into a grin. That grin seemed to be his default expression.
“When I was thirteen, I found this old crumbled and moldy box. I was going to leave it but it moved and I heard a noise. So, I looked and inside was this tiny runt of a dog.” Fox bounded over, jumped into Alijah’s face and licked his cheek. “I could barely feed myself, so I was going to leave him but he followed me. He was so small he could fit in my hand but he followed me back here. He couldn’t make it up the stairs but somehow he made it halfway.” He shrugged and petted his friend “He was so quick and silent that I didn’t even know he was there until he got tired and whined halfway up. Foxes are quick and clever. It seemed to fit the best.”
“I have a cat back home. She’s a white turkish angora.”
“Why’d you leave her and your home? You don’t seem to get out much. Your hands are really soft and smooth.” As soon as it was out of his mouth, he blushed. “Uh, I mean-“
Jade laughed and rubbed the smooth apple in her hands, her eyes focusing on the beautiful fruit.
“I was tired of being told what to do with my life. I didn’t want to leave Nyla but I couldn’t very well bring her with me. I was only able to grab a few things to eat but I must have lost my pack somewhere in the mayhem of the marketplace. I wanted to see what it was like away from home. Besides, my parents wanted me to choose a husband so when I turn eighteen, I can marry and-“
“Marry? But why?” She didn’t answer. So he changed tactics. “What do you think of today so far?” She shook her head trying to figure that out. She said it wasn’t what she thought but it’d only been one day. It was his turn to laugh. “Yeah, but a day should be enough, especially if you ain’t used to it.”
“Well I’m not going back.”
“You don’t have to. You can stay here.”
Jade turned to him, her eyebrows raised in surprise and Alijah’s eyes widened in shock at his declaration. That just came out. He was much closer than before, she could see a splattering of freckles on his tanned face and she felt a flutter in her stomach. It wasn’t long before there was a noise down the stairs, it was heavy footfalls and angry shouts. They both jumped to their feet.
“They’re after me,” Alijah said fearfully. This wasn’t the first time the palace guards came to his home, accusing of him something he may or may not have done. Fox began to bark, Jade faced the boy her eyes narrowed.
“Why would they be after you?” She demanded nervously. No one saw him steal the other apples. Her father must have sent them after her. Freedom was going to be snatched away before she even got to have more than a day. Alijah ran to his window, his eyes narrowed as he took in the area, he always had a quick getaway but he never had to worry about another person before. “What are we going to do?”
“Do you trust me?” Jade turned back to him, his eyes held an excited glint.
“Do you trust me?”
Hearing the guards get closer, Jade knew she had to make a choice now. It was now or never.
This is a long one but I wanted to try my hand at an “Aladdin” story. I was going to try and make it modern but that requires more thought than I thought, I may still actually write that but for right now… here lol.