*Companion piece to One and Only.
It was always there, as far as she knew. Her memory only put it back to about twelve years old when she first noticed it. As a little girl, she knew about the words on her shoulder-blade but she didn’t know the meaning until she was older.
That was what was written in an interesting scrawl on her shoulder-blade. She didn’t know what it meant, until her mother explained it. Her parents were soul mates. They met in college and been together ever since. Their words matched. Her mother’s was on her lower back, a place she hated by the way, You’re really pretty when you yell. It was the first thing her soul mate said to her after he accidentally hit the back of her car. She got out and said Are you blind!? and those words were printed on her father’s leg.
Neither one of them could truly tell her how it felt after they said their words to each other. Her parents couldn’t put it into words so she didn’t know what to expect. All of her life she heard people say “Seriously” in various ways, but none of them were the right one. She never had a feeling that she couldn’t explain. She had friends who found theirs, some in high school, which put a whole new meaning to the phrase “high school sweethearts”. She wasn’t jealous but she couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if she never found her soul mate. What if instead she fell in love with someone else whose words didn’t match hers? Would the words go away?
When she met Steve, they had a great conversation and hit it off right away. They talked more, spent more time together and she found herself forgetting and ignoring those words on her shoulder because as far as she was concerned, she found her soul mate. She loved Steve. He was a good man. Smart, had a stable job, a car and ambition that he pursued. Two years they dated, they often talked of moving in together and she barely thought of her words.
Every now and then, someone would say Seriously? and she would freeze thinking it was for her, but it never was. She moved on. Fate would not dictate to her who she had to love and who she could be with. No. She made her own future.
At least until she slammed into the body coming around the corner in the grocery store. She was looking for some goodies, she and Steve had a reservation for dinner and then a movie later. It was going to be a good night. But fate apparently had other plans.
Crap! She dropped her items. She scrambled to pick them up while glancing up to address the young man.
“Are you okay?”
Her shoulder tingled, like someone just barely caressed it. Her eyes widened as she looked at the guy who stumbled into the shelves behind him, her items forgotten. What…? His dark brown eyes snapped to her face and she couldn’t help but to stare. He was tall, his skin brown like coffee, hair cut short but she could see the curls. Her eyes couldn’t help but to look. He was well dressed even though he seemed to just be grabbing goodies himself. A nice shirt, with dark wash jeans, a jacket. He was handsome. He was perfect. She could feel it. It was him. It had to be. Now she understood why her parents couldn’t tell her what it felt like because it was like nothing she ever felt. How could she ever explain this?
She yanked herself out of her stupor. She had to. “Um…” he continued to stare. What should she say now? So, she moved closer and touched his arm to get his attention. “Hello?”
“Oh yeah! Sorry, yeah I’m good.”
Those dark brown eyes blinked rapidly as he seemed to get himself together. He wouldn’t stop staring though and she found herself…curious. She wasn’t uncomfortable but she wasn’t comfortable either.
“Are you sure? We hit each other pretty hard, you went back into the shelf.”
Her eyes flickered to the shelf behind him, though he hit it pretty hard, nothing too bad happened. Nothing that would cause a bad reaction from an employee.
“Yeah no, I mean, yeah. It hurt. But I’m good. Nothing I can’t handle.”
She smiled at his awkwardness. He seemed to be the type to not say much, he seemed to be someone who observed, which was clear due to how much he stared. But she couldn’t fall into this. Steve. If she was honest, she could have stared into those brown eyes all day, but… Steve. He was good. She told herself. He’s a good man. She thought of his face. His darker skin, bald head, which she always teased him about, his strong arms… Steve.
“Okay, well that’s good then.” She quickly grabbed her things and forced herself to walk away. She would run if she could. She couldn’t deal with this. Nope. She wouldn’t. Fate would not force her into anything, no matter how much her stomach may twist into knots, or how her heart feels like it’s aching. Nope.
“W-wait!” She froze. It was her words. He saw them. He had too. She didn’t even think to look for his words, because she knew. She felt him walk closer, he stood before her and she refused to look at him. If she looked at him, she would fall deeper and she didn’t want too.
“I can’t do this.” She said. She looked away. She couldn’t do this. Steve.
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what I’m talking about.” She could only muster a whisper.
“Can we at least talk about this?”
No. They couldn’t talk about it. What was there to say? Nothing. She made her own fate, she was with someone else. But she couldn’t help but to think of what would happen to him if she refused to accept this. Now that he knows, would he just be… alone? She shook her head.
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“That’s not true and you know it.” She felt his fingers touch her skin, she tried not to shiver at the electricity that occurred from his touch. He lifted her chin and he made her face him. She could see it in his eyes that he wanted to talk. “We’re not required to get married right away.” MARRIED?? Now she really wanted to know all of his thoughts. “We don’t have to do anything now.” He released her. “I just want to talk.”
After a moment of silence. She couldn’t think of anything else to say that would refuse him. Besides, she wanted to talk too.
She went through the store to get the rest of her things. Now her mind wouldn’t stop buzzing. What happens now? Gosh. She was losing her mind. What was she going to do? Part of her hoped he went home. But he didn’t.
“Oh, you waited.”
He leaned against the bike rack near the entrance of the store. When she walked over, he pushed off and came towards her. She felt her entire body stiffen with anticipation.
“Yeah, I didn’t want to overwhelm you.”
“Well… can I see it?”
“Huh?” She arched an eyebrow. Come on. He obviously saw hers. “Oh! Yeah.” He pulled up his sleeve, and she could see the script on his forearm. That looked just like her handwriting. Is… does the words match the handwriting of the soul mate? She needed to see his handwriting.
“Wow. How many times have you heard that?”
If he only knew how many times she’s heard “Seriously?”
He laughed and pulled down his sleeve. He shook his head and it seemed like maybe he was trying to remember but it was a loaded question. He couldn’t possibly remember.
“Too many to even count.” Right, that makes sense. “I’m Michael by the way.”
It was perfect. Everything about him was perfect. She wanted to know how his arms could feel around her. No! Steve!
“Theo. Well, Theodora but Theo.”
He nodded and it got really awkward. Theo shuffled her feet, unsure of what to say next. Perhaps it was time to go. She needed to get back home to get ready for tonight. But he had something else to say.
“So, about this whole soul mark thing-“
“I have a boyfriend.”
It came out before she could stop herself. Steve’s name was lodged in her throat and she couldn’t not tell him… Michael, that she was already with someone. She loved him. Her thoughts were like a broken record today, she would not let fate tell her what to do. She felt bad for Michael but she loved Steve.
His eyes widened in shock but at the same time, she could see the resignation in his face.
They stood in silence, brown eyes staring into brown eyes. A connection between them that neither could truly explain or deny. What were they gonna do?
It was an interesting concept, one he never really questioned. Not until recently to be honest. The idea of having words tattooed on your body… words that he didn’t choose, in a place that he didn’t want, and that he cannot remove. They’re just words right? Well, no. They’re words that someone else will say.
“Are you okay?”
That’s the phrase that wrapped around his forearm, from his wrist to his elbow. How many times has he heard those words? None of them were the right ones. How many times could he bump into someone and they ask him those three words? How many times must he be clumsy and fall over and someone asks those questions… how many times!? It’s so frustrating. Was he going to be one of those people who never ran into their soul mate? To never hear the right person utter those words?
Besides, what will happen when he does? Is there a feeling? Do the words go away? Do they glow? He doesn’t really know because no one seems to really know how to explain what happens when it happens. He dated this one girl for a long time, she wasn’t the one and he knew it. Those weren’t the first words she said to him and he didn’t say her words.
If he was honest, it hurt when she found her soul mate and left him. Well, it wasn’t as bad as that but it felt like it. They dated all through college and then she suddenly met the guy, and he supposed it wasn’t their fault that they found each other. It hurt and he wanted to make it work but why would he deny her her soul mate just because he wanted her? Was it selfish? He wasn’t sure then and he definitely wasn’t sure now.
When would it finally be his time?
He continued to walk through the grocery store, he had his mind-set on buying some junk food, it was going to be a night in with video games, movies and food. His mind was on other things, he thought about his parents and how in love they were, their soul marks matched. His older sister was getting married to the person who matched her soul mark, was he going to be the only one not finding his soul mate? He turned the corner and without realizing it, he knocked right into someone, their shoulders collided so hard that he stumbled back into the shelves behind him.
“Seriously?” He steadied himself, but his side ached. Great. Just great.
“Are you okay?”
There it goes again. Those same three words… wait…his arm tingled. What just happened? His dark brown eyes snapped up to the person he knocked into and he couldn’t help but to stare. She did the same. It was like everything around them came to standstill and it was just the two of them in the room. Her eyes were a light brown, her skin was a beautiful shade of brown, like it was bronzed by the sun. Her hair, curly and large, styled into a fro-hawk. She wore dark jeans, and a blue tank top.. he couldn’t help but catalogue everything about her. She was beautiful. She was perfect. He felt it. It had to be her. He also understood why no one could ever tell him what it felt like to find the one. How could he ever explain this?
“Um…” she started awkwardly, and he blinked quickly, pulling himself from his stupor. What does he say now? What should he say now? He scratched the back of his head and she moved closer to him, her hand touched his arm. “Hello?”
“Oh yeah! Sorry, yeah I’m good.”
“Are you sure? We hit each other pretty hard, you went back into the shelf.”
“Yeah no, I’m mean, yeah. It hurt. But I’m good. Nothing I can’t handle.”
She smiled. It was perfect. “Okay, well that’s good then.” She gathered the things she dropped and started to walk away.
As she moved, he spotted it on her shoulder. The beginning of the word ‘seriously’. It looked like “Ser” in a beautiful script. It was his word. It was her.
“W-wait!” The young woman froze. He could see her shoulders hunch. She had to know. Right? It can’t be one-sided can it? He walked over to her and faced her. Her eyes were wide, she HAD to know. He refused to believe that she didn’t. Those brown eyes looked up and the feeling he felt, it intensified. He wanted to reach out and hold her, to kiss her, to know her. Why would she walk away without even trying?
“I can’t do this.” She said. Her eyes shifted away and he wanted to look into them forever.
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what I’m talking about.” Her voice was a whisper. He knew exactly what she was talking about.
“Can we at least talk about this?”
She shook her head. “There’s nothing to talk about.” What should he do? Get on his knees and beg? Just when he thought he would never find her, she shows up. In the grocery store. On the yearly anniversary of when his girlfriend told him she found her soul mate and couldn’t continue their relationship. The poetry and irony of the situation was not lost on him.
“That’s not true and you know it.” He gambled and lifted her chin to look at him. He could feel the fear radiating from her. “We’re not required to get married right away. We don’t have to do anything now.” He released her. “I just want to talk.”
She released a heavy breath. Please think about it. He begged silently. He just wanted to talk.
He almost broke out into a large grin, he wanted too but he didn’t want to freak her out anymore than she already was.
He waited for her patiently outside once he purchased his items. His insides were buzzing with anticipation. He didn’t quite know what he was feeling, but he was sure that it wasn’t they had to love each other right away, they still had to get to know each other. He felt something though.
“Oh, you waited.”
He pushed off of the bike rack and walked towards her. “Yeah, I didn’t want to overwhelm you.”
“Well… can I see it?”
“Huh?” She arched an eyebrow. “Oh! Yeah.” He pulled up his sleeve and showed her the script on his forearm.
“Wow. How many times have you heard that?”
He laughed and pulled down the sleeve. He shook his head trying to think the amount but there was no way. “Too many to even count.”
“I’m Michael by the way.”
“Theo. Well Theodora but Theo.”
Interesting name. Must be a family one. He nodded and then the awkward silence set in. He wasn’t much of talker on the best of the days so this was torture. She seemed to be much more of a social butterfly but he could see the awkwardness in her as well. He wanted to ask her if she wanted to go someplace where they could talk, but…at the same time, it was so weird. It’s just like meeting her and asking her out. Get it together. Right. He could do that. So he took a deep breath.
“So, about this whole soul mark thing-“
“I have a boyfriend.”
She pressed herself flat against the stone wall, her heart pounded in her chest in nervousness. What if one of the winkies found her? Or worse, the witch? She’d been sneaking down to the dungeon where the Lion was being kept, passing him scraps of food she saved after preparing Trystine’s meal. Toto stayed close to her legs, after last time, the black terrier didn’t venture away anymore. The young woman listened for any noise down the hall but nothing so she slipped off the wall and continued on.
She clutched the small cloth bag close her chest, her breathing erratic. She was terrified and she knew the only thing protecting her, the only keeping them from killing her, or throwing her into a dungeon herself, was the silver slippers on her feet. Toto whined softly and she glanced down at the dog with a grim smile.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get out of here soon. I’m working on it.” It’d been a few days already and she still did not know what became of the Scarecrow or the Tin Man but she couldn’t allow herself to continue to cry about them every night. She had to start taking action and that was going to start tonight. It got colder in the dungeons, a chill went down her spine and she pulled her jacket tighter around her.
“How did you know?” She asked as she pushed into the room, seeing her friend in the large brass cage. He paced back and forth, his long tail swishing against the floor. He sat, in front of the door and Dorothy sat crossed legged in front of him. She opened the bag and passed the bits of meat, fruit and vegetables she managed to hide away. He purred softly and began to eat.
“I can smell you. I’d know you from anywhere. Plus, I could smell this.” Toto, no longer afraid of Lion, trotted over after being distracted by his nose and sat in front of the cage, his dark eyes on the larger animal, his tail wagging excitedly. Dorothy petted him behind his ears with a soft smile. “Did you bring anything for yourself tonight?”
She hesitated for a moment. She hadn’t really eaten, she wasn’t very hungry, plus, the Lion didn’t get to eat every night so she gave him both hers and his portions.
“I already ate earlier. Just eat Lion.” They sat in silence, the only noise came from the small crackles of the torches in the room. “I came down to here to also talk to you about escape.”
She watched his ears flicker and his tail swooshed. Perhaps with interest. The Lion knew this would come up again, it happened the second night they were here, as the Witch barely let the girl out of her sight the first day, biding her time to steal away those slippers but unlike him Dorothy was strong and brave. She held out and the witch grew bored, at least for now. He wanted to escape, to find their lost friends, but… at what price?
“I don’t know about this.” He leaned forward into a resting position and shook his head “The witch has been very generous. I don’t see why we can’t just-“
“Lion!” Dorothy said sharply, her brown eyes widening at him. The Lion looked away recognizing the anger in her face, it wasn’t the first time it was directed at him. He remembered when she slapped him. “We can’t stay here. The whole point of us even coming here is to kill her for the Wizard. Don’t you remember? What you want?”
Her eyes pleaded with him to understand, to be on her side, to help her find a way out, to fight. He remembered what he wanted, he wanted to be the king again, he wanted courage, something he never had, but these creatures, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, this girl and even her dog were braver than he and he is a lion!
“Yes.” It came out as a grumble. He wasn’t going to win this argument, not that he really wanted to anyway. “What do we have to do?”
Dorothy’s eyes lit up, her smile widened and the glow of the fire danced across her brown skin as she leaned forward, her voice dropping to a whisper. “I’m trying to think of a plan of how to get us out of here, to at least find the others. Make sure they’re okay. But first, I need to get out of here. Do you think, just in case I can’t steal the keys from the winkie guard, that you could break out yourself?”
The Lion sat up, his head tilted to the side curious at her question. His amber eyes glanced at the bars before looking at her.
“I don’t think so.”
“Lion, you have to try, you have to want to try.”
He shook his head, his fear causing him to move up and move away. He couldn’t do this. He wasn’t going to be able to protect her. He was sure her plan required him to be brave and he couldn’t. He just couldn’t. Then he stopped, his ears twisted and he jerked his head towards the door.
“Someone’s coming.” Panic crept into his deep voice, it turned into a slightly whimpering growl. “You’ve got to leave.”
Dorothy jumped to feet, Toto’s ears pricked as she scooped him into her arms. His small frame tucked against her chest. “How far away are they?”
“Down the hall, you should be able to make it without them seeing you. Go Dorothy now-” she nodded and ran towards the door “-go hurry!” She flung open the door and darted up the stone steps. The Lion watched her go. He wanted to be brave for her, he wanted help her, help the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, but he was just a coward. He was nobody’s hero.
Dorothy’s legs carried her up the stairs, Toto bounced against her chest but it was better than losing him in the dark. She could hear the footsteps of the guard and she plastered herself against the wall as he neared. He paused near her, she pressed hard into the shadows, hoping he wouldn’t notice her and if he did, he didn’t say anything. When he continued walking, she waited before going back to her designated room, the kitchen. The fire still crackled. She released her dog and stoked the fire with a bit more wood. It was warm and the bed wasn’t uncomfortable but it didn’t matter because pretty soon they were going to be out of here. They were going to return to the Emerald City and the Wizard will grant them their requests. She was sure of it. But first… sleep and tomorrow, they were going to find their friends.
“Do you trust me?”
Jade looked back to this boy, his golden brown eyes sparkled with excitement but she wasn’t sure if she could, should trust that look. He stood on the ledge of his “window”, she wanted to look and see how high up they were, was he going to make her jump? The footsteps were getting louder and the boy looked insistent. With a deep breath, Jade grabbed his hand, he hauled her up to the ledge, his other arm around her waist to steady her.
“What about Fox?”
Alijah glanced at his dog, whose eyes were on them before barking and taking off down the stairs.
“He’ll find me. Always does.” They slipped out of the window just as the guards burst into the room. The big men always ransacked his place, looking for something that was never there, something to get him into trouble as usual. Everything he had, were things people threw away or didn’t miss. It was never enough for them but enough for Alijah.
Jade held tightly to his hand, it was warm, firm and steady. He knew what he was doing as he led her across the thin ledges of the old buildings. Alijah grabbed a hanging piece of fabric and tugged on it.
“Will that hold?” He shrugged. “You’re not sure?”
He turned to her with a grin but Jade was not impressed. Alijah’s grin never faltered.
“It’s better than making a jump for it right?” His fingers grabbed tight onto the fabric and he pushed himself off the ledge, his feet keeping him steady against the side of the building. “Come on, I’m right below you. Try not to fall.”
Jade watched Alijah make his way down the fabric. It wasn’t long enough. It didn’t touch the ground and she’d never done anything like this before. It was ludicrous… but he was doing it without problem. You wanted to be here. So be here. With a deep breath, the young princess followed suit. Her stomach dropped to her toes feeling her body fall from the ledge but she held tight to the fabric.
“Hold on tightly.” His voice said from below. “Don’t look down.”
“Stop talking!” She hissed. She heard light laughter reach her ears and for a second it sounded like the best thing in the world but she had to focus. Focus Jade! She felt hands against her legs.
“Let go, I have you.”
With a shiver of hesitation, Jade released the fabric and while Alijah did have her, his footing caused them to stumble backwards. Jade dug her feet into the dirt hoping to prevent the fall, but with Alijah tumbling backwards and his grip against her, they couldn’t stop. They hit the hard ground hard, Alijah released a pained grunt.
“I thought you said you had me.”
“I did have you, I just didn’t have myself.”
They sat up, Jade turned to face him, catching the light from the sun as it descended behind the buildings. It shone across his face, Jade couldn’t help but to blink owlishly at him. The sun browned his skin more, caused his eyes to flicker from golden brown to a deep golden green. It shocked her. Who was this boy? She could see his freckles. Where did he come from? She had to know.
“Can you stand?” She nodded, still a bit dumbfounded but allowed him to pull her to his feet. “They will have to go all the way around to get back here, by then we’ll be long gone.”
Alijah glanced at her for a moment, her hood had fallen in the escape, she didn’t seem to notice. She was beautiful and he stared. Her deep brown eyes watched him. They watched each other. Silence hung in the air before he reached up, her eyes hardened at the motion, but he pulled her hood forward to cover her face again before turning to lead the way.
They walked as the sun completely disappeared, washing the back alleys of the kingdom in long shadows. Alijah felt Jade grab his hand, he grinned and squeezed it. Today wasn’t such a bad day after all. They walked in silence, but the kingdom was abuzz with the sounds of night. Songs from crickets, laughter coming from children on the streets, sounds coming from candle lit windows… it was different from the quiet sounds of the palace.
Alijah paused in front of a building, he glanced around, and knocked. Jade stood quietly next to him, wanting to know where they were but she chewed her lip instead. She was naturally curious, now that she was out of the palace, her curiosity grew and it was killing her not asking but obviously he had his secrets.
“Where are we?” she whispered. She couldn’t help herself. He didn’t answer. Candle light flooded the side street as the door opened. A woman with long dark hair that fell in waves down her back stood before them, her grey eyes shifted between the two before a smile appeared on her face.
“Hey there handsome,” her eyes shifted to Jade, suspicion crossed her features.
“We need a place to hide for the night Maria. Can we stay here?”
The woman’s eyes never shifted from the young girl, who narrowed her eyes in return. Jade was never one to back away from a fight, especially one as brazen as this. Maria’s eyes glanced down to see Alijah’s hand entwined with this mysterious hooded figure but she moved aside to allow them in. Alijah pulled Jade in with him before releasing her hand and putting an arm around her waist. She tried to keep her reaction subdued but it hardly mattered, the surprise at his movements was quickly masked by what she saw.
There were scantily clad women in various areas of the room. The building was two stories, obvious by the stairs near the back. There were women in rooms covered by beautifully colored curtains, women dancing about, perfumes filled the air, it was warm and Jade’s eyes widened. Alijah paid no attention to the surroundings. He followed the woman in the impressive purple dress in front of them. However, the tightness of his arm around her waist showed her he was in fact paying attention.
“This is where I can put you for the night,” She led them into a room on the top floor near the back.
“Maria is this your bedroom?” Alijah asked finally releasing Jade’s waist. Jade’s stuttering heart began to slow to a normal pace. Maria turned towards the two, her hair whipping around.
“Just… stay quiet and do not touch anything.” Her eyes flickered to Alijah before turning back to the girl. She then swept out of the room.
“This a brothel.” Jade’s voice shook with surprise. Alijah pushed the curtains back against the windows, checking for the guards.
“This is a brothel. I had no idea we had these in the kingdom.” He released the curtains and turned to her. She spoke so strangely. Where does she come from? She willingly pulled her hood from her head, her hair all but released from the bow she used to try and contain it. Seeing the dark thick curls, Alijah had to turn away. Something about her was familiar but he could not put his finger on it. She didn’t belong here, the smoothness of her hands, the way her hair curled, the way she spoke and carried herself. This world wasn’t for her, it may suit her though.
“Yeah. I think you’re pretty naive to this whole thing.” He pushed away from the window.
“Obviously. But why are we here?” She carefully sat on the edge of the bed, mindful to not touch anything. Alijah tried no to laugh at her rigid movements.
“Maria looks out for me. When I was younger, some older boys beat me up for stealing from them-” She arched an eyebrow and he rolled his eyes “-it was a toy for Fox. But they didn’t like it so they beat me up. So Maria on her way back here, found me and fixed me back up. Simple.”
Just on cue, the door opened and Fox trotted into the room. Maria shook her head before closing the door once more. Alijah greeted his dog, Jade smiled but it faded at the uninterested look Fox gave her before jumping onto the bed and curling up.
“I don’t think he likes me.” Alijah shrugged and sat on the floor against the wall. He pulled his hair from his tie, it fell against his shoulders and Jade’s breath caught. There was something so sincere and genuine about this boy. Why couldn’t the suitors her parents wanted her to meet be like him?
“Fox is hard to please. It’s been just us for so long. We’ve never had to take care of anyone else.”
“You’re not taking care of me.”
“If you say so.”
He ran a hand through his dark brown hair and smiled at her. He was comfortable with her, but the nagging in the pit of stomach told him he would never see her again.
Okay, I feel like this one isn’t that good but I had an idea for my Aladdin thing and I went with it. But this is probably the last Aladdin piece I’m going to write since this is about to become an actual story.
By the way: I pictured Alijah to be Anthony Ramos (with the longer hair). Freckled face cutie.
Princess Jade is harder to find someone to represent her. But her hair is very much like this in terms of length and texture.
(another part from what will become an “Aladdin” story).
She swung the double doors open of her father’s study, she flung the royal purple curtains away from the opening revealing herself to her father, who sat at his desk, his quill still moving furiously across the parchment. His dark eyes glanced up for a moment before turning back to his work. Jade frowned before swiftly walking over to his desk.
“I need to speak with you.” He nodded his head indicating he wanted her to continue. She blew out a sharp breath. “Father I-“
“I’m glad you’ve returned to us unharmed my dear.” It was the lilting voice of her mother, she swept into room like she was floating on air. She stood next to Jade’s father, her hand resting on her father’s shoulder. He paused in his writings to squeeze her hand.
Jade watched them both. Part of her still fuming over what transpired a mere hours ago and the other part falling in love with her parents’ love.
“-as I was saying,” her mother gave her a sharp look, causing Jade to glance away for a moment “I, uh-“
“Do not stutter dear.” Her mother interrupted again. Jade squeezed her hands into fists trying to reign in her anger. They both acted so unassuming or indifferent at times and she wondered why. They were royalty, they were the king and queen, they were her parents, they should be interested in what she had to say. They are, you’re just being a baby. No I’m not.
“There was a boy in the market, he saved me and cared for me while I was there. Just this morning, we left our shelter and the guards swooped in like a swarm of black bats and they arrested him! They had no right!”
Her father tilted his head to the side, his eyes focusing on his daughter, it made her want to squirm but she didn’t move. Her mother didn’t react.
“Dearest, Nazar handles the arrests-“
“Exactly! They said he was the reason why they wouldn’t release him when I demanded it.”
“You need to speak with him. If their orders came from Nazar, perhaps he can shine better light on the situation. I know nothing of this boy you speak of. He may be a well known thief if Nazar has the guards actively searching for him.”
“But he did nothing wrong. He helped me!”
Her mother moved from behind the desk and came to Jade’s side. She took her hands in hers, the look in her face allowing Jade to know her mother was on her side. Neither woman liked Nazar but he was the king’s best friend. They grew up together in the palace. Her father a noble prince and Nazar, the son of the king’s royal advisor. Her father trusted Nazar more than he probably should. He allowed him to handle issues he may not be able to get to himself, such as petty thieves on the streets and the poor.
“Chinelo.” Her mother’s firm voice said. The king frowned, he pushed away from the desk and stood, his tall frame moved gracefully towards the women he loved the most.
“Jade. Just, speak with Nazar. You’ll find he has reasons for the things he does.”
She knew this wasn’t going to be a conversation that would end in her favor. With an annoyed but resigned sigh, the young princess pushed her curls from her face before giving a quick nod. She pulled herself from her parents hands and slowly moved towards the door. Fine. He wanted her to speak with Nazar, then she would. She would get the answers she wanted.
It didn’t take her long to find him. He seemed to just appear in the large ballroom. Jade always wanted to know where he went, he must have secret passages but she could never find them, nor could she ever catch him escaping or entering one. One of these days.
“Nazar.” Her voice echoed in the large room, his dark eyebrows lifted as he approached the young princess. Jade met him in the middle of the room, her jade skirts moving quickly against her legs.
“Ah princess, how may I be of serv-“
“The guards took a boy from the market this morning, they said they were ordered by you to imprison him.”
Nazar’s face gave away nothing and it infuriated her. He was tall, with long limbs, his eyes were cut sharp, with intense dark eyes, his skin was not as dark as her father’s, unlike her father he wasn’t bald. He always wore dark colors, today it seemed a dark purple was his choice. The bird on his shoulder squawked loudly at the girl, causing Jade to startle just a bit, but she only scowled back. The bird was horrid but it didn’t frighten her. At least, not all the time.
“Ah yes, the street rat. They were operating on my orders, the boy is a criminal.”
“What was his crime?”
“Why, thievery, kidnapping, disorderly conduct, disturbing of the peace. The list goes on majesty.”
“Kidnapping? He never kidnapped me, I ran away.”
Nazar raised his eyebrows in surprise. Feigned surprise. The princess before him held a haughty and irritated expression and he couldn’t help but to inwardly smirk. The brat truly worried about his prisoner. The boy was of use to him, he was of no use to the princess. He touched his hand to his cheek, scratching at his dark beard, shaking his head.
“Oh dear. I wish I had known that before.”
“What have you done?”
The bird on his shoulder bristled at her tone, but with a gentle touch to its chest from Nazar, it calmed. Jade noticed the reaction and frowned. That bird… so strange.
“The boy has been sentenced. His death was only an hour ago.” His tone was indifferent but his expression help sorrow for the princess. Jade crumpled. No. He can’t be…
“W-what?” Tears begin to well in her eyes, she tried to hold them to not cry before this man but it was painful. That boy, she didn’t even learn his name, but he was kind, handsome and she liked being in his presence. He was full of life. Life she wanted. She stumbled away from him.
“Princess-” He reached out for her but she slapped his hand away from her.
“Do not touch me, you-you monster! He was just a boy!” She turned away so fast, that she was worried she might fall. But she was a princess, she would never fall in front of watchful eyes. Nazar watched her run from the room, her jade skirts swishing behind her, her long dark curls bouncing behind her. Her muffled sobs faded into silence. The bird squawked. Nazar nodded.
“Yes my dear. The princess’s attention has been diverted. She will mourn the boy, but it matters not. He is of use to us and she will never see him again.”
Alijah sat, his back against the dank stone walls of the royal dungeon. Manacles were attached to each wrist, both manacle attached to lengths of chain that barely gave him enough room to move them.
The princess. He was so angry with himself for not knowing. But how could I have possibly known? No one has ever seen the princess’ face. Anytime the royal family paraded through the town, Queen Kamaria and Princess Jade’s faces were always covered. Hot sun.
“Idiot.” He mumbled to himself. Alijah rubbed his wrist, wanting to scratch the itch he couldn’t reach. She probably thought he sounded stupid, all of his stories, his tricks of surviving the street, he thumped his head back against the wall, wincing only slightly at the pain. Then she had to see him be friendly with Maria and her brothel. He could die right now and not even be bitter about it.
It didn’t matter anymore. They arrested him without telling him what he did. At least that time. He was sure it was something about the melons but they never said and they weren’t even in the marketplace when he stole the melons, or the apples. It was impossible for them to have known.
“Street rat-” He perked up hearing the scraping of the prison door. It was too dark to see who entered but from the dark mass and the gravelly voice, it was the head guard. Kondo.
“The princess, is she alright? Did she make it back home safely?” Deep laughter sounded and Alijah frowned. What was amusing? It was a serious question. “It’s a serious question.”
“The princess is no longer your concern ingrate. You will never have to worry your criminal head again.”
What? Alijah frowned at those words. Was that a threat? His brown eyes narrowed at the man as he came into the moonlight streaming into the iron bars. It’d been a long day, he’d been down there since morning and he was tired. This was no time for games.
“What do you mean?”
Kondo stood down before Alijah, just enough out of reach that if the boy attacked, the chains would prevent him from touching.
“Midnight tonight, you will receive your punishment. All these years of stealing-“
“It’s only been food. To live, to feed my dog. I’ve never stolen anything important. Just food and trinkets people will never miss.” Those people didn’t care about their wooden carved camels, their broken beaded necklaces, or old worn shoes and their small balls he gave to Fox for enjoyment. Kondo grabbed the front of Alijah’s shirt, yanking him forward, fear flickered through the boy’s brown eyes but he refused to give him the satisfaction.
Kondo continued like he was never interrupted. “-lying and running from us is going to end. That stupid mutt will be without it’s master. You’ve been allowed to avoid this for far too long. That ends tonight.”
He flung the boy away from him, Alijah colliding with the stone wall. He stood a bit too gracefully for such a large man and he swept out of the dungeon. Alijah breath caught in his throat. This wasn’t his first time being caught by the guards, it wasn’t his first time spending time down here, it wasn’t the first time he’d been threatened with death or roughed up a bit but this was the first time that threat was eminent. What was he going to do? The silence around him seemed crushing and it took everything in him not to break.
(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.