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Author's note: I got the idea of the changing babies thing and just started writing. It wasn't until I got a bit further into the story when I decided to mingle in with it a bit of magic.
They were the perfect couple. The woman was beautiful and kind and lovable. The man was handsome, intelligent, and well built. When the woman, Ail, got pregnant, they went straight to the Muto. There, people can adjust the child. They can choose its gender, what it looks like, and even its personality. Ail and her husband, Aleron, decided together what they wanted. A boy; muscularly built like his father, with deep black hair and his mothers bright blue eyes. They wanted him to be charismatic and kind to earn the respect of his peers.
Everything seemed perfect for the couple, is what everyone says, until soon before the birth. Something had gone wrong at the Muto. The child was too strong. The doctors informed Ail that the child could kill her. She wanted to go through with the birth still. But she did not tell Aleron. On the day, the chances started to thin for Ail. She became pale and weak a few days before the baby was due. When the baby came, she looked at Aleron and smiled sadly, letting a single tear escape the corner of her eye. Ail knew what was coming, she knew that she was too weak physically, but in her mind she held strong. It wasn’t until the nurse turned to show Ail the baby that anyone realised her spirit was gone.
The nurse put the child in the father’s shaking arms. He tried to smile at it, but the tears streaming down his face conflicted.
“Austyn,” he whispered under his breath, looking into the babies blue haunting eyes. Then he stopped and looked up at the nurse looking more confused.
“It’s a girl?” He said. She strode over to take the child. She raised an eyebrow, and then looked back at him.
“Yes,” she was almost questioning herself.
He looked back at the baby, and didn’t say a word.
My name is Austyn Scott, and I’m the girl that wasn’t meant to be.
“Austyn!” Cole called from across the street, waving his arms frantically. When he saw that I had caught his eye, he waved me over again and ran inside his house. I backed into the house and shouted out to dad that I was going to Cole’s house.
“You should see more girls and less boys, girl!” His voice echoed through the house unsteady and slurred. He had been drunk a lot recently. After I was born, he was left to raise me alone. He was depressed over mum’s death, and in his mind, it was me who had killed her. His brother Mark had helped look after me when dad was too drunk. Even so, I can still remember dad shouting at me and sometimes beating me if times were really harsh. I can remember distinctly, going off to school one day with a black eye. Dad hadn’t been awake before I left, and when I got home he was sober. He took one look at my face and cried. Mark always put him right, but last month he had been in a car accident. He passed away the next day. Even though I had lived with my father’s hatred for me- both with being a girl and causing the death of mum-I felt for him. He was swimming in a pool of death, and everyone close to him had drowned.
I ran after Cole and when I found him in the back garden tackled him to the ground, where we both erupted with laughter. I rolled over and smiled at my best friend. I hadn’t seen him in a week and we were straight back into old routines. Old habits die hard.
“So,” I said. “What’s on the agenda today?” He smiled mischievously and his green eyes lit up, as he reached for my arm. I gripped onto his wrist and he heaved me up.
“I thought we could walk,” he stuffed his hands in his pockets characteristically. I let him walk in front of me for a while, as we made our way along the beach. His already messed dark brown hair was ruffled in the wind and I watched his feet in the sand. The difference they made to it with every step. I watched and followed him as he went down the beach so that the water lapped at his feet like a loyal dog. I stared out across the sea, with thoughts of swimming away. Away from the sorrows bottled up in the house, away from the tears that formed a moat around it, and away from the stares. I didn’t realise that Cole had stopped until I walked right into him. I looked up and he was already looking at me. He put an arm around me and smiled sadly at me.
“You okay, Austyn?” He asked, trying to decipher what was going on behind my eyes. I forced a smile and nodded. He grabbed my hand in a friendly gesture and led me up and to the forest.
“I have something to show you.” He grinned, excited for my reaction. He ran up to just the outskirts of the trees, dragging me behind him. How easily he could make me smile.
He stopped and I stood at his side, looking up at a huge thick tree. Planks of wood nailed into the tree made steps, leading up to the most amazing tree house that I had ever seen. There was a large balcony that stretched across to another tree, looking out over the ocean. The hut was made with a straw roof and the door was locked on a latch that looked just a rusty as the old hinges.
“Go on then, ladies first,” Cole said smiling right into my eyes. I glanced at the steps and then back to Cole. He nodded and offered an encouraging smile. I skipped up to the trunk and climbed up the steps with Cole on my tail. I stood on the balcony and watched the waves rise and fall on the yellow sand. I noticed before how high up it was. But as I stared out across the sea and the bush, standing next to Cole, letting the wind tousle my hair, I saw beauty instead of usual sadness. I walked around to the door and saw a piece of wood hanging from a nail. It was scruffily painted in Cole’s obvious handwriting; ‘Austyn.’ I looked at him over my shoulder and he smiled with a shrug. I rolled my eyes and pushed the door open. The walls were painted blue and had waves rolling over with the white spray flying around. A tattered old couch looked out of a window to the sea and in a hole in the ceiling, a thick climbing rope hung. I climbed up the rope after Cole and he put down his hand to pull me up. It was like the balcony up here, only higher. The branches hadn’t been cut and many hung in front of us. I picked one and walked along it right to the edge where it emerged on to the beach. My legs dangled over the branch and I watched the fascinating blue. I turned and Cole was gone. I walked back to the rope, dangling off of an overhead branch, and slid down. Cole was sitting on the couch, staring intently at the motionless waves on the walls, and when my feet thumped down on the ground his head whipped up. He offered a smile and stood.
“So?” he said, only softly, to me. “Do you like the walls?” My jaw almost fell off. I didn’t know that Cole painted! I just stared at him, and then at the looming waves, frozen mid-fall.
“Wow,” was all that I could get out; it really was beautiful. Cole grinned at me, and laughed. And jumped out of the window. I ran over to the ledge and stared down. He was standing on the ground, completely unharmed. He laughed and darted around a tree and out of sight. I sighed and considered what I was about to do. Then, I jumped. The fall was long but, when my feet touched ground, it was soft and I landed gracefully. I looked around at the ground for a second in astonishment, before I set off into a run after Cole.
I let my hair drape across my eyes for once. I found a seat on the bus and turned my music up to overcome the noise of 11 year old girls squealing in excitement over their first day back at school. I wondered if I’d ever looked that pathetic. With high pony tails bobbing around and giggles, that sounded like they could be coming from seven year olds. I nudged the window open a little and closed my eyes as the wind’s styling fingers reached in and caressed my face, pushing my hair aside and leaving it waving around.
I watched the trees, catching glimpses of the beach and sun, speed past. Sometimes, I felt that my life was like this. Just sitting, watching everything happen in fast forward, but with the speed you were travelling, if you jump, you die. Then, a voice interrupted my thoughts. “Can I sit there?”It was distinctly male, and I nodded, still with my face turned away. But, even though I was looking away, I could almost feel his eyes on my face. I turned to throw some sarcastic comment at him, but was stopped when I saw his face. His dark black hair was spiked at the front, and his dark brown eyes were staring into my blue ones. He blinked and put out his hand, in the awkwardly small space between us. “Heath,” he said, with a one-sided smile. I put my hand out too, forcing a smile even more awkward than the space between the two seats. “It’s Austyn,” I said. He nodded and turned to face me better.
“So,” He started, “from a student’s perspective, what do you think of the school?”
“Well,” I cocked my head to the side, “you would have to ask a student about that now, wouldn’t you?” I topped it off with a flirtatiously cheeky smile and poking my tongue out at him.
“Oh dear!” he said, catching on to the game. “So terribly sorry, miss. You look very young for your age.” I nudged him with my elbow and smiled as he bent down to grab his bag.
I was disappointed that our conversation had ended so suddenly. Everyone piled out of the bus and I slung my bag over one shoulder. Heath hurried off and disappeared into a crowd and left me to walk alone, across the huge field towards the high school campus of the school. Most people on the bus had gone to the intermediate campus, there were very few my age that caught this bus. The grass was still damp from the early morning dew, and the birds were singing in the trees that bordered the field. The songs brought up my mood every morning, but today I had been lifted already. I got to the musty old library and found Cole sitting at the usual table. He was hunched over an old book and his eyes bore through every letter. I smiled a little, watching him like this. I sat down and he lifted his head to smile at me.
“Hey,” he said, lifting his head a little to acknowledge me.
“Good book?” I asked; the usual. I saw his lips curl up just a little even with his head down.
“Sure,” he said, looking up, “If you find science exciting.” He showed me the front cover of the book, snapped it shut, and shoved it in his bag. The bell rang, and we took our separate paths to form class, waving and smiling.
I found Kelly and Zoe giggling at the seats in the corner where they usually were.
“Hey Austyn,” Kelly said with one of her sweet smiles. Kelly was the perfect one here, you could say. Her long almost-platinum blonde hair crawled down her back with perfect curls at the ends. She had a soft face with full pink lips, and deep muddy brown eyes. Not only beauty, she was the brains too. She could probably live off compliments and praise from teachers for her perfection. Still, she was so nice, that it was good to have her as a friend.
Zoe however, had medium brunette hair that would never see a day without a hair tie, holding it in a scruffy pony tail or bun. She was good with her school work too, but liked to focus on her sport more. Zoe pretty much lived in the gym, practising basketball, playing basketball, and working out in her extra time. Unlike me, Zoe hadn’t been gifted with muscle. Not many girls had. I could tell that Zoe was jealous of my effortless strength, but she was still kind to be around. The girls couldn’t match up to Cole at all, but I had known Cole for many, many, years and I had only met the girls last year.
“Hey guys,” I said, trying to mirror Kelly’s smile. “What were you laughing about?”
Zoe nodded her head over, as to point to the other corner of the class. And sitting there was, Heath.
“So,” Zoe, wiggled her eyebrows. “You think any of us has a chance?”
“Hell no!” Kelly interrupted. “He is way too hot. Jo Jo and Candace can’t take their eyes off him.” We looked around and sure enough, they were. Kelly carried on, “I bet you he’ll be surrounded by sluts as soon as he walks out the door.” Jo Jo and Candace were the ‘it girls’ of the school. They had the most disgusting reputations. I just heard Zoe tut and mutter something under her breath about stupid whores. After a short silence filled with screaming stares at Heath, the bell rang for us to go to class.
I was first in the music room. I usually was. I walked to the front of the room and let my hand brush against the old piano in the corner. I don’t know why I loved this piano so much. When you played it, you could hear the imperfection in the keys and the soft twang that some left off with. There was a blanket of dust over the top that somehow stood out to me as a strange beauty. The thin and ripped curtains let through little light, and the ceiling lights were off. There was something special about the whole of the music room. I sat down at the piano stool and lifted the lid. I was about to launch into Allegro when the blinding lights flicked on. Old Mrs Glasgow smiled slightly and I pushed the stool out, as it squealed in resistance. I sat at the front in the corner nearest to the piano and watched my class mates filter in. There weren’t many people taking year 10 music, which was actually surprising. But I was very surprised when none other than, the Mr. Holy Hotness Heath, walked in and sat down next to me. No one ever sat next to me in music. He flashed me a very boyish cheeky smile and lifted his hand in a makeshift wave.
“Hey,” he said, with an extra grin. I sighed dramatically and lifted my hand to him. I only just managed conceal my smile, and he noticed that too, giving me a nudge with his elbow.
“What do you play then?” I said, considerably curiously.
“Drums,” he replied, oh so casually, with a hand through his hair.
“Cool,” I added in an encouraging smile. “How long?”
“Um…” he paused for a second, bending over the desk and leaving me staring at his biceps. “About five years,” he squinted in thought and then nodded to himself, before looking back at me and smiling. I nodded.
“Cool, do you play in a band?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “At my old school, some mates and I were in a band together. He smiled lopsidedly, as if remembering a funny memory. I smiled and he caught me, snapping out of his haze. Mrs Glasgow chose that moment there to slap the white board with her ruler and she began, in her raspy voice.
“Welcome back to school everybody. I trust you all had exciting holidays, but that’s not what we’re here for! We are all here for the music! So, today, we are going to get ready for our pre-assessment.” She scanned the class faces, looking for someone to pick on. Obviously, there were no perfect subjects to her wrath for today.
“You will be put in pairs and create a piece. It can be any style at all. Now, Go!”
People rushed around to find friends and others with good instruments to work with. I stayed still. But, strangely, so did Heath.
“So, what genre do you think?” he said twisting his chair. I was speechless for a moment. Heath had chosen me to be his music partner.
“Well, if you’re drumming, then it’s got to be upbeat.” I said, thoughtfully. Heath nodded. Stupid, I thought to myself. Stating the obvious, much.
“Cool. Why don’t you get started on that now while I attend to some catch up work.” Heath sighed and rolled his eyes..
“Yeah,” I said, already planning in my head. “Sweet.” I stood and twirled around to the piano just as Heath walked away.
I fiddled around a bit. Starting with slow octaves and going into a few slow arpeggios. I stopped and looked up at the clock. It had only been about 15 minutes. Time was going slow today. I sighed in annoyance and got back to work.
I got through my second lesson dreamily and when interval came around, Kelly came running over to me, a huge grin on her face.
“Oh my god, Austyn! I have drama with Heath!” she was almost screaming.
“Calm down, calm down,” I noticed her breathing reach a normal speed again. “So what happened then?” I asked.
“Guess what play we’re doing!” she said, getting excited again. I crossed my arms and waited.
“Romeo and Juliet!” She squealed. My jaw dropped, as if someone had thrown it off a cliff.
“Well?” I raised my eyebrows.
“We have auditions next lesson!” her smile grew and grew, and she must have looked like she’d just gone right round the bend to others. Then she skipped away, her tiny satchel bouncing with her. I sighed at her stupid girly drama. I found Cole and sat with him on a bench.
“So,” he said, flashing his signature almost mischievous smile.
“How about the new guy? Heath? I hear every girl saying his name!” I laughed at his pretend annoyance. Or, I thought it was pretend.
“Don’t worry, Cole,” I said jokingly, “Someday you could look like that.” He sighed and I laughed again.
“I don’t think I would ever have a chance though,” I said softly to the wind more than Cole.
“Sure you do!” he said. “Your funny, kind, awesome at music and…” He paused for just a second. “Yeah.” He said softly, and his eyes shifted down to his knees. I hugged him then.
“You’re the best, best friend, you know Cole.” I said with a smile. He tapped my back and we sat back again smiling at each other.
“Thanks Austyn,” He said with a slow kind smile. Then he walked off to see his other friends waving to him.
Cole came to see me that afternoon after school. He knocked on the door and I came out with him, telling dad where I was going and receiving an unpleasant, drunken comment from him. We walked out, along the beach, and to the tree hut. We sat on the couch together for a bit in silence, before I decided that it bored me.
“So, you asked me before about Heath. What about you? Any girls that you got your eyes on?” I winked at him cheekily and laughed.
“Why would I tell you?” he replied, sticking his tongue out.
“Ha!” I quickly exclaimed. “So there is someone!” He flushed a little and gave me a light punch on the shoulder.
“Okay…” he said. “You don’t know her. Well, you kind of know her. But you don’t really know what she is like… you know?” I laughed at his confusing words.
“Tell me more about her then,” I leaned in on my elbow.
“Well, she’s very interesting; pretty too. But I… I can’t be with her. She’s too… different, I guess.” He finished, looking down. I put my arm around his shoulders and smiled sadly at him.
“I bet you you’ll get her one day,” I said encouragingly. He nodded and patted me on the head with a smile. Then, he stood, looked out the window and swore lightly under his breath.
“We gotta go now, Austyn. Come on,” he said, beckoning me over to the window. We jumped, just like the last time, and landed easily and softly. I wondered how it worked, sometimes. But for now, it would just remain a mystery.
Heath was on the bus again the next morning and we planned out our music assignment. I found Cole again at the library and got out my own book. I walked to form class and found Kelly and Zoe deep in conversation.
“Hey Austyn,” started Zoe, “My parents are out this weekend and I was wondering if you wanted to come for a sleep over. It would be us three together for something.” She smiled hopefully at the end.
“Yeah, sure. Sounds fun.” I said.
So there I was, one Saturday afternoon, walking all the way to Zoe’s house across the other side of town, with all of my gear because dad was too drunk and he had hit me over the head when I had pleaded for a ride. I reached her house in about half an hour, and Kelly had just pulled up with her mum at the wheel of a very expensive looking car. We set up our mats and sleeping bags and Zoe got the movie for us. It was ‘The Corpse Bride.’ I had seen it a few times before, but only when I was younger. Now, watching it again, I acknowledged the piano more. It really was beautiful. We finished the movie and curled up in our sleeping bags in a circle together.
“Truth or dare, Zoe!” Kelly said ecstatically. Of course, I thought.
“Truth,” Zoe said.
“That guy that we watched from the old film. What was his name… um…”
“Taylor Lautner?” I suggested.
“Yes!” both Kelly and Zoe screamed at the same time.
“But he’s all old and ugly now.” Kelly pulled a face.
“Yea, but when he was born the parents couldn’t design the kids. So he got all that muscle himself!” Zoe countered.
“Meh, okay,” Kelly put up her hands, dismissively.
“Austyn, truth or dare?” Zoe asked
“Truth,” I replied.
“Best guy you know?”
“I don’t know anyone called Guy,” I pulled a silly smile. Kelly laughed quickly but stopped when she saw Zoe’s face.
“You know what I mean,” Zoe put her hands on her hip, a little annoyed.
“Well there is Heath…” I said slowly, thinking it through a bit. Both Zoe and Kelly giggled a bit at that.
“Well, just because I’m not a slut doesn’t mean I can’t have a hot boyfriend!” I said.
“I bet you couldn’t get him to go out with you,” said Kelly, scarily challengingly. “Ever.”
“You got a bet, then,” I said. The night drew on.
The weekend passed with a long day with Kelly and Zoe, before I was right off to see Cole. He was just on his way home from seeing his friend, Harry. I caught him on the way back and we walked down the road home together. I dropped my bags off at home and Cole and I went down to the beach.
This time we didn’t go up to the tree hut. We just sat on the sand with our feet in the water. I felt a calming sensation fall over me as the water rolled over my feet and spun around in mini whirl pools. I watched the sky go from blue to orange to pink and then start to darken as me and Cole talked about the usual; school, homework, pranks that people had pulled. I yawned and looked up, realising suddenly that the stars were already watching over us in a very dark sky.
“I should probably go now, Cole,” I said, hurriedly standing up and stretching out my limbs.
“Yeah, I’ll walk with you then,” he stretched out and yawned.
We were quiet walking back. I tuned in to the sounds of peace and sleep and beautiful dreams and smiled. I liked this time in the night. The time where it was dark, but light enough to see, and quiet and peaceful sounding all over. Like the cover had been pulled up on a gigantic bed that the world was in and everyone fell asleep.
Heath stepped on the bus. I felt a rush and light flittering butterflies in my stomach. He sat in the seat next to me, as usual. The butterflies were getting worse. It felt like they were going to burst out of me in an amazing array of colour. But it felt good.
“Hey,” he said, in his deep but soft voice. I felt a shiver crawl down my spine. All I could do was smile in acknowledgement.
“Good weekend?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said, trying not to sound as breathless as I felt.
“That’s good,” he said quietly, ending the conversation for today.
I hadn’t had it this bad before. It must have been the sleepover, I thought to myself. That was the only reason; it was just the stupid bet. Or, at least, that’s what I convinced myself. But I didn’t want to imagine the consequences of having a crush on the new hot guy in the school.
Kelly and Zoe were doing something very unusual for them today. Giggling. Sometimes I wondered if gossiping was all they ever did. I sat with them silently and took only one glance at me. They didn’t speak a word to me.
The wind was soft and tentative today. It meant that the waves were much smaller and I waded out a little, with Cole watching my back. I let the sea ride up to my knees and twist around slowly.
“Do you wonder about the future sometimes?” Cole said suddenly, making me turn.
“Yeah…” I started, thoughtfully looking out across at the forest edge and then back at Cole. “I hope we’ll still be friends then,” I started to walk back to sit next to him.
“We might… but then again…” He stopped and looked down at the ground.
“I swear to you, Cole, that I will try hard as I can to stay in touch,” I held his hand in mine. He smiled almost doubtfully and, watching him walk away, I suddenly dreaded the day that he would disappear.
It was Wednesday at school. It was music class. And it was assessment day. Heath had volunteered to finish off the piece at his house, with my piano on a demo. He stood to introduce it to the class.
“Hey everyone,” He started, awkwardly trying to get everyone’s attention.
“This is a piece that Austyn and I created. She did the piano and I did drums and lyrics. I hope you enjoy it.” I couldn’t believe it. He’d put lyrics to it. The piano intro went and then came Heath’s voice. The song was sad and I think I was just a little caught up in the idea of Heath singing. It ended and the huge applause was well earned. I almost forgot that I had done the piano. Heath sat back down next to me with a swift bow. I threw him a side smile and he chucked it right back at me. I shook my head with a sigh and he chuckled softly.
There was a musical knock at the door. Cole was out with his parents somewhere, but I could distinctly tell Cole’s knock. And this wasn’t him. I wasn’t quite sure if it could be Kelly or Zoe. But I got to the door first, luckily, because it was Heath.
“Hey,” I said biting my lip. He smiled crookedly.
“I was wondering if you wanted to take a walk?” He said, slowly, as if he had planned out the words in his head but still didn’t know how to say them. I shrugged, not trying to look too excited at this magical moment.
“Sure thing,” I said and closed the door silently. Dad was passed out on the couch.
I followed him down a road that I hadn’t seen before. The end expanded into a long row of trees. But some were scorched, black and shrivelled. Like a war ground, something that used to be magnificent and beautiful, but had been destroyed.
“That was nice on the music assignment, Heath.” I looked up at him. I could see his eyes move to see me, just out of the corner, but he didn’t turn. His mouth turned up a little in a smile.
“You didn’t ever say that you sang,” I added, watching his facials more curiously now.
“It’s not really a ‘guy thing’” he said, looking down and right at my eyes this time, but they flickered away as soon as I met his gaze, like a shy bird.
“Look, Austyn…” He stuttered and stopped for a second, rolling his hand through his hair. He stopped walking and I sat down on a stump, surrounded by perfect white mushrooms.
“Well…” He paused again. “I really like you Austyn,” He shoved out. I looked up at him with a smile. He took my hands in his palm, they were warm, hot, as if he had been holding them over a flame for too long. And they felt strange on my hand, but the thought was good.
“I was wondering what days you were free,” he said, and this time his eyes met mine. I smiled so big that someone could have mistaken me for some kind of crazed clown.
“Any day,” I said softly and walked off, leaving him hanging, and tingles still in my hand.
Suddenly, I started to see a lot less than Cole, and a hell of a lot of Heath. We met every afternoon, and we studied for music at his house or went to the burnt forest, where he had asked me out. Everyone in the school was talking about it, the invisible girl who was dating the hot new guy. And suddenly, everyone knew my name.
But slipping through my fingers like thin sand, was Cole. My best friend. I had jumped on another boat and sailed away.
It was a month to my 15th birthday though, a couple of weeks later, when Cole came to the door. He seemed paler than before, and his hair had become shaggy and thick. His slight fringe was crawling further down his face and over his eyes.
“You need to come with me,” he said flatly. Wheels creaked in my head, trying to decipher this strange message. He took me by the arm and pulled me out the door.
“What is it, Cole?” Confusion encircled me like mist. He just shook his head, but he let go of my arm to let me walk beside him. We went along the beach and to the tree hut. I hadn’t been here for what seemed like ages, but Cole had obviously been keeping it clean. He took me to sit on the couch and he paused before saying under his breath,
“God, have I stuffed this up.” I looked at him, checking for weak spots as I used to. Making sure my best friend was okay. He saw me.
“I’m going to tell you something, Austyn. And it’s going to surprise you. A lot. But will you promise to keep quiet and hear me out?” I nodded.
“So, starting from the beginning,” he dropped off for a second. “In this world, there are the three main elements.” He looked at me and I nodded to show that I was following.
“Earth, water, and fire.” I nodded again and he carried on.
“There are certain people- born of certain descent- that have power over a single element. The way you can tell element users is from their eyes. That’s why most fire users wear contacts if they’re around humans. But your mother was a water user, Austyn. She ran from the sea, her past, her parents, to come and live within a human community. She didn’t want to be a part of the element users any more, after all, she was heir to the throne.” He stopped and looked at me.
“Why are you telling me this now, Cole?” I asked, trying to keep my breathing and voice level.
“When you turn 15,” Cole started and paused. “You will become the queen of the water users.” I stared at him. Not only had he just told me that there was some magical people around the earth, and that I was one of them, but also that I was queen.
“But then how do you know all of this? Are you a water user? Why do I have to be queen?” I shot at him.
“No, I’m not a water user.” He said. “I’m an earth.” He stopped to answer the last question.
“When your mum left the elements behind her, a war was breaking out. A war between the water and fire users. They clashed when they met, and so a treaty line was drawn. The agreement that the two had was very thin and they never got along. One day, when some water users were out in one of their land parks, the fire users attacked. But the war is still going on now. Us earth users have teamed up with the water users and together we are fighting against fire. When you turn 15 there will be fire users everywhere, out to assassinate you. That’s why…” He stopped and looked down at the ground.
“The night before your 15th birthday, you have to go to the kingdom. You will be crowned queen and never return here again. You will do your duty.” He watched his hands, fiddling with his thumbs on his lap. But then I started to smile. Many thoughts entered my thoughts. And none of them were sad.
“If I control an element, Cole,” I started, with old friendly playfulness seeping out around me. “What can I do?” I grinned and he took my hand. He led me to the window.
“Do you want to know how you were always able to land so softly on the ground when you jumped from up here?” he said with a sly smile. My mouth dropped open in joke accusation.
“It was you!” I said, my smile stretching right across my face. He laughed and we jumped, but this time when we landed, the ground was bouncy like a trampoline. I screamed out in giggles as we jumped, hand in hand, and then the ground flung us like a catapult to the beach where the ground softened again and let us land on our feet with grace.
“Put your hand out over the water,” said Cole. I walked forward and put my hand out. I could feel it. It was like someone had the most delicious food in front of me and was trying to tempt me.
“How come I never felt this before?” I asked him, still mesmerised by the feeling.
“It’s all about belief,” he said. “You have to know it and faith in yourself for it to work.” I closed my eyes and lifted my hand forming a clear picture in my mind. I opened my eyes and the water had risen up before me. In swirls and patterns in the air it read, ‘amazing.’ Cole laughed and a ball of sand shot through the words, I lost control of the water and it fell back to the sea.
“I was expecting a very different reaction from you to all of this,” Cole said with a gleeful smile. A spray of water hit him right on his fore head and dribbled down his face, and then two finger like things floated towards me and drew muddy lines under my eyes. We both started laughing together and we were just good old friends again.
I soon learned to balance boy friend and friend. Cole and I continued our play fights on the beach or in the forest and Heath and I kept our outings frequent enough. It was Kelly’s birthday, only a week before mine, and me and Zoe decided to throw a small surprise party for her. It was a Friday, and Heath and I usually hung out Friday nights, but I’d told him that I was doing something.
Zoe and I crept slowly through the house, to find Kelly’s room. We were both wearing party dresses with money so that we could take Kelly out to her favourite pizza restaurant. We pushed the door open on the count of three.
“Surprise!” we said shooting party poppers up into the air. But when they came down, I almost screamed. Kelly was lying down on the bed, and on top of her, was Heath. His top was on the floor, but other than that, they were both fully clothed. Kelly screamed when she registered it. I felt the first of my tears dribble down my face. Heath was cheating on me. With my friend. But worst of all, the thing that destroyed me the most. Was Heath’s glowing red eyes.
I cried properly, for the first time in a while. I lay in my bed awake all night, not able to sleep. I was haunted by daytime nightmares. All I saw was red, red everywhere. And it was so hot. I was on fire. When I finally slept, I didn’t dream at all.
The next day came round. And I felt like crap. Cole found me sitting in the tree house, on one of the branches that stretched out across the sand. I was swirling water around my head like a lasso and it dropped down when Cole’s hand met my shoulder.
“You ‘kay?” he said to me softly. I shook my head and he put his arm around me. I let the tears escape my eyes before lifting them up and drawing pictures in the air. I let my thoughts wander and when I looked up, Cole’s smiling face was perfectly water painted, as I liked to call it. He gave me a soft shake and a smile.
“Do you want to tell me?” I had a sudden impulse to spill all of my feelings out then.
“Heath was cheating with Kelly,” I hung my head down again.
“Oh,” Cole said. “I’m sorry.” I smiled up at him in thanks before it hit me suddenly. I felt as if I couldn’t breathe.
“Cole,” I started, getting worried.
“I don’t think Heath ever loved me.” The pieces fell perfectly together now.
“What do you mean?” Cole said. “Of course, he must have loved you at some point.” I shook my head.
“When I found him cheating,” I said, stuttering on the word ‘cheating.’ “His eyes… were red. He was a fire user, is a fire user.” Cole sucked in a breath and I think he had realised by now.
“Cole,” I said, “I think Heath was trying to kill me.”
“S***.” Cole suddenly took on a different personality. “How could I have been so stupid!” He hit himself on the fore head and put his head in his hands.
“Cole…” I started.
“I was supposed to be your protector!” he said. “I lost you, and I almost got you killed…”
“Cole, you never could have known,” I reassured him.
“No, Austyn.” He said slowly. He dropped his head. “You have to leave now.” I looked at him in pure shock.
“When you are in the water you will know where to go, and how to get there. You must go now, Austyn. Please. Just leave.”
I shuffled down the branch, leaving Cole still and alone. I slid down the rope and walked down the ladder to the beach. I stepped into the water for the first time. I remembered how I had always dreamed of swimming away, leaving this town. But in those dreams, Cole was always with me, and I was happy.
The water was dark, with a single moon lit strip across it. I waded out until my toes had parted ways with the sea floor. My head slipped under and I felt the waters soft palms close fully around me. Although I knew that at this time of night, the water should freeze me, it was warm and calming. I finally felt as if I had found myself. It was magical, being here. Surrounded by my element. All my worries and bad feelings were left behind and filled with happiness. And then, I knew where I had to go. And I could hear the talk of sea creatures that may have been a few kilometres away. Soon, there was a small dolphin by my side. It squeaked, and somehow I knew that it was telling me to ride on its back. When I got on we flew off, faster than I ever had been before. Soon, I saw it. The sea bed dropped off and below me, was the sea castle. The water must have been over 100 metres deep, because of the height of the turrets. The castle was made out of black stone and glistened under the moon light. The dolphin took me down to the huge double doors and I came off, commanding the water to propel me. But the doors opened before I even touched them, and a group of small boys, who must have been about eight or nine, showed me through. One led me up the huge double stair case and through a door where an old woman sat on a green couch with a coffee table full of goodies in front of her.
“Sit, dear. We have matters to discus.” She said. I sat on the couch opposite her and she pushed over the table, a mug of hot chocolate. I smiled and cupped it in my hands.
“Cole informed me of my role in this place,” I said to the woman. She nodded.
“Yes dear. And we are very excited for you to finally take the place as our queen.” I smiled.
“So, for this, we must find you a dress.” The woman smiled.
“Of course, Miss…” I dragged off.
“You may call me, Chantal.” She said, with a soft smile.
“Yes,” I said.
“So… I think we could go for a deep royal blue, floor length, strapless. Yes, I’m getting a good picture now…” Chantal dragged on and I couldn’t help liking her. She had a special spirit and I made a mental note to do something for her when I became queen.
The date was set for the next week, and though I was rushing around at day time, I had a lot of time on my hands at night to think. I missed Cole. I realised that and it hit hard right in the chest. I had left him with the worst of goodbyes. I hadn’t even said anything special or given him something to remember me with.
It was the night before my crowning ceremony. I couldn’t sleep from anxiety. But also, I was thinking about Cole. I missed him a lot more now. I finally think I understand that saying, ‘you only miss something by the time you cannot have it any more.’ But tonight, I wasn’t yearning for my friend so much. I just felt alone. There was the terrible feeling in the back of my head that Heath had never truly loved me. He had only ever wanted Kelly, and all he wanted me for, was my dead body. I made the decision that night that I would forget Heath completely.
Even with so much practice in the dress and heels, I still felt unsteady as I walked down the aisle. I felt as if I was getting married here. I reached the end and listened as the man at the podium, who had been the temporary king, read an old poem about courage and coming of age. Then, he asked me to bend down on one knee. He whispered a few words, summoning all of the magic of the element to name me. Becoming the queen, I would be gifted with extra power over the element, and especially, the people who used it. The man lifted the silver crown, encrusted with sapphire and diamonds, and placed it on my head. The crowd cheered madly and I felt a rush go through my blood. I could sense so much power and a shiver crawled down my spine at the thought. I stood and threw my hands into the air, letting spirals of water shoot from my finger tips, this made the crowd scream, cheer, and whistle even louder than before. I put on my most dazzling smile and bowed. The ceremony was over and I was led to a new bedroom that had been made especially for the king or queen. It was the highest room of the castle, in the centre of the tallest turret, and it was amazing. I crashed and drifted off to sleep swiftly.
I dreamed of Cole that night. I awoke early, before the sun had started to leak through the water. I called for Candy, the dolphin, and I set off, headed home. It took us only half an hour to get to the beach where Cole and I used to walk. I went to the tree house first, so that I could go back to a place we had been together. The memories surged in as I pushed on the door, and saw, sitting on the couch, Cole. His eyes widened and so did mine. We looked each other over and then I ran to hug him. He stood and took me in his warm arms. I felt as if I could have cried, but instead, I laughed. I was with Cole. One last time. I stood back to look at him and I felt right with my hand in his. My best friend and I, in our tree house together. And that was when he bent down to kiss me. The power that I felt in that moment was incredible. I felt warm and happy and full. I was complete again. I smiled and he pulled back.
“Hello, old friend,” he said. I smiled even wider.
It’s funny, how I had never considered Cole in that way. But it felt so right, now. I felt that I had always known, somewhere deep inside of me, that it had to be Cole. It was always, only Cole. We sat on the couch for what seemed like only mere minutes, but was realistically, probably over an hour. That was when I heard it. After being crowned queen, and given extra powers, I had increased hearing. I could hear faint voices and the crunching of twigs on the forest floor.
I knew who it was. And I knew that I had to face them. The door burst open, but I was already prepared. I squeezed my hands and watched the man in the door way gurgle and fall unconscious from lack of air. I flung a wave of water through the door way sending the others tumbling down with a sizzle. Apart from one. Standing in the door way, with steam rising from his heaving shoulders, was Heath.
“I should have killed you before,” he growled. “You pest of a little girl, you won’t be able to run away this time!” I was just about to knock him down to the ground with another wave when a voice came up from behind me. The walls and air all around us glowed a scary green.
“Don’t you dare touch her, you son of a b****!” Screamed Cole, and hurtled through the air, a boulder of dried mud and rock. All we heard was a fast scream, before Heath truly was gone from my life. For good. Cole made the tree branches swirl down to the ground for us and we climbed down. The sun was starting to rise now.
“I have to go, Cole,” I said sadly. “But, thank you.” He kissed me again, soft and reassuring.
“We will see each other some time again,” Cole said, determined. I smiled.
“I should hope so,” I said to him. And with a quick peck on the cheek, I was off, and back in the water.
I hadn’t gone back to my house and I realised that that was only my house now. And the place I really called home was the beach, the sea, the tree hut. But most importantly, Cole.
It was time. I could feel the tide restlessly swishing around, waiting for me to catch it’s ride. I called up my dressers and they started on my hair. They curled its ends and put it in the perfect up-do before going to find my dress. It was similar style to the one that I had worn, what seemed like an age ago, to the crowning. But this one was the classic white. Lastly, I applied a small amount of makeup, before making my way down the stair case. I could see the bright blue carriage just through the doors, sealed in an air bubble. Chantal was already in the carriage and when I got in and closed the door, we were pulled out and away. This way was longer, but it was the only way. The only safe way. After the war had ended between the water and fire users the truce between the water and earth users was broken. The two groups had negotiated on the day that was today. The day that became ‘The day of peace.’ It was to celebrate the winning of the war, but also the only day of the year when the two groups could meet. It was also the only day of the year that Cole and I could meet. I smiled, trying to imagine how much he might have changed in the past year. We arrived soon, and I stepped out of the carriage and onto the beach. I walked slowly, with some young girls behind me, beaming. And then Cole came in to view. And he looked magnificent. My smile grew even larger. His did too. And then I reached the end, to stand by his side. We had heard of the ancient magical ceremony like this, but this exact one was different. Today would be the day that the water and earth users united.
Cole said his lines and I echoed him. Above us, swirls of blue and green were thrown up into the sky and mixed together. This was the final binding ritual. And then they plummeted, and into us, through our hearts and minds. I could feel him now. I could feel his happiness, his every emotion. Then came the words I had been looking forward to for years.
“You may now kiss the bride. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Cole and Austyn Marks!”
The kiss was soft and filled with finality. Then Cole whispered in my ear,
“Only ten dates before marriage. That’s a scandal!” he said in mock horror. I laughed and he kissed me again making the crowd go mad.
“I love you, Cole,” I whispered, and I could feel through the bond, how the words surged through him like an adrenaline rush.
“I love you too, Austyn.” He said softly and wrapped his arms around me for the first of many times to come.