Feb. 1st, 2010

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Prompt 5 – Outsides

Here we go again.

The thought wasn't particularly kind, but it was true. The shouting, the smoke lingering on the air, the smells of burn and wet, the angry looks, his parents trying to field the complaints off with promises of repair or payment... And his sister standing in the middle of it all, head bowed, fists clenched and her face wet with tears of mixed fury and despair as people pointed accusingly at her and hurled insults.

“Out of control!”

“Dangerous!”

“She'll kill someone one day, mark my words!”

“Lock her up!”

No she isn't! He wanted to scream at them. It was an accident! She never means it! If you people would just stop treating her like this then she wouldn't get so angry! He didn't open his mouth though. It never helped to yell at the masses when this happened. All trying to defend his sister did was make people suggest that there was either something wrong with them – who had ever heard of triplets being born with completely different signs after all? Must be a sign that something had gone wrong – or that their parents were incapable of raising any of their children. He didn't want to start those rumours again. The temple and the guard had already made noises that hinted they were seriously considering taking the children.

He knew what would happen if they did. They'd separate all four of them. Make sure none of them ever saw each other again. Or at least, make sure he and Tres never saw Artica and baby Tavia again. They'd probably send him as a servant to one of the temples in Maelstrom proper, with orders to train him to 'good' behaviour. And Tres... Who knew what they'd do to Tres? Lock her up, perhaps. Throw her into Naurorod and leave her to die there?

Zap was only six, but he wasn't stupid. Tres might be a Fire, but she'd never survive alone in Naurorod. She was too little. They both were, but if someone tried to take her, he'd fight them. Or at least make them take him too and they'd stay together.

“Why does she always do this?” Zap looked over at the speaker, saw Artica holding Tavia carefully and looking at Tres with annoyance. “It's not fair. She does that stuff and no one wants us around any more.”

“It's not Tres' fault,” Zap protested quietly to his sister, finally able to voice his feelings. “She's trying real hard to control it, you know she is.”

“I know,” Artica sighed, some of the annoyance fading. “But she should try harder.”

“I think she's trying as hard as she can,” Zap replied, looking back at his red-haired sister. He wished she was the blonde haired girl triplet or that he had red hair. Then she could cut it or he could grow his and he could claim it was his fault – that he'd knocked a candle over or something. And he'd look more like Tres then Artica.

He and Tres should have just been twins. Artica could have been older, she'd have liked that. She always wanted to be grown up and act like one. She hadn't been fun in ages, not since they were old enough to take lessons at the temple and she'd started to play with other kids.

“I'm telling you, Tanson, if you don't control that girl of yours, the village will deal with her.” The captain of the guard glared at Tres with unconcealed disgust as he spoke to their father.

Dragar, I'm sorry, but Tres is only a child. And there's no one really who can teach her properly. She is trying but-”

“Then send the girl to Naurorod!” snapped Dragar. “Or Ilyamen! Sell her to the clears if you want, but that girl does not set one foot off your farm from now on unless it's to leave Sparkstrike. If you insist on putting your own home and children in danger, so be it, but the entire village does not need to suffer for your foolishness. Mark my words, Tanson, if that girl is the cause of one more fire in this village, I will remove her myself!”

“NO!” Zap couldn't stand it any more. He pushed past people and ran out to stand in front of Tres, his arms spread out to protect her. “You leave Tres alone! You can't take her away! I won't let you.”

“Boy, be silent,” Dragar snapped. “I can do whatever I need to protect this village. Tanson, control your offspring or lose them. I won't tolerate any more incidents like this.”

“Zappary, Tres...” Their father sounded and looked tired. “Go home now, both of you. And straight up to bed.”

It wasn't fair, Zap thought as he took his sister's hand and led her away from the crowd. It wasn't like he'd done anything wrong or Tres had meant to burn the temple's stupid paintings and ugly rug. They shouldn't have been shouting at her for trying to light the torch that had gone out. They'd frightened her. “It's all right Tressie,” he whispered as they walked. “I know it was just an accident. I won't let them ever keep us apart. Even if they try and take you away, I'll make them stop. Or take me too. We'll never, ever, be apart, I promise.”

“Really promise?” Tres asked, looking up from her feet for the first time.

Zap pulled off his shirt and tried to dry her tear stained face. “I really promise,” he replied. “I'll never, ever, let anyone make you cry again, Tres. Never ever.”

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Ann Rosa Starr

May 2012

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