All stories seem to start off with ‘it was a normal day.’ Unfortunately for this one, it didn’t start out like that. I knew something was wrong as soon as I stepped out of my bed. My stomach felt like it was doing backflips. I glanced behind me, to my sleeping sister. Laire could probably sleep through anything though. I silently shook my head and headed down stairs. My brother and mother were still asleep, so I tried to be as quiet as possible. I quickly started preparing, trying to shake the feeling. The feeling that something, or someone, was watching me. My twin soon awoke from her beauty sleep and joined me in the kitchen. Laire might have been my twin by birth, but she was drastically different in everything else. Her stunning golden hair that seemed to always be perfect, her fair skin, her happy face that would always be there for support. She took after my mother, whose blonde hair was already turning gray. I had always been told I look more like my father, but my mother hadn't mentioned him in nine years, ignoring whenever I asked. I had lost most of my memories from that time.
“Do you think we will see Geren at all today?” Laire asked quietly, pulling me from my thoughts. The comment made me smile, glad that my sister had time to think about boys.
“I hope not. He distracts you too much,” I teased her.
Geren, the governor's son, has been Laire’s crush for a very long time. Ever since we started school. Fortunately for my twin's heart, he confessed his love to her 2 months ago. Their relationship has been a secret, only me knowing. As the governor's heir of our province, Geren was expected to marry someone rich and important. Hence the secrecy. I was glad they had told me, it would have been embarrassing for them if they knew I found out. And it was almost certain that I would, my twin wasn't great at hiding things. Laire blushed at my comment.
“He does not distract me!” she protested. I rolled my eyes in response and focused on boiling the water. Didn't want to spill any.
The feeling of unease crept back into the corner of my mind.
“I’m going to go get us some ‘berries’. Watch the water,” I told my twin, wanting to get some fresh air.
I wasn’t actually going to get fruit, but instead was going to hunt for our dinner. However, my mother didn’t want my brother learning how I killed the animals, so I never fully said it. Something about protecting his 'innocence'. I guess he was only 9. I strode across the room, and out the door. I looked back after I had exited, to survey our tiny abode. The house, if you could even call it that, had two cramped bedrooms and a small kitchen/living space. The outside was made of brick, which kept the inside cool in the summer, and warm in the winter. I supposed it was cute but that place only held bad memories. My mother refused to move out of it, saying it was sentimental. I sighed as I turned back to the woods and disappeared into them.
The woods had always been my safe spot. It had been the place my father had always taken me when he had free time. He had always been saying that I needed to learn how to protect myself. The tall trees that were starting to bloom, the quiet chirping of the birds, the rustle of the river reeds were all calming to me. The unease almost faded as I listened. I unslung my bow that I had grabbed on my way out, and quieted my footsteps and breathing. There had been many legends about what lay in these woods, and I wasn’t about to test them today. The old man who sat in the marketplace told stories of another realm. A place where myths and legends came true, where there were magic powers. This was rambling however. He was getting senile, hit by a wagon a few years earlier. Since then, his wife had taken their kids and disappeared. Because he spent all his money on getting better, he was now homeless. I usually saw the old man sitting on the steps of the bar, talking to anyone who would listen. I liked to pretend that they were actually true, to get away from my problems. I dashed quickly through the underbrush, listening for any rustling, returning back into my routine despite the unsettling feeling that was making a home at the bottom of my stomach.
Today wasn’t a good hunt. All the animals seemed to have vanished, even though it was mid spring. Fortunately for my family's bellies, I managed to kill a small groundhog and a vulture, which would last us for tomorrow's dinner. If we did ever run out of food, we could probably eat Laire's chicken. She would never forgive me though, my twin adored that flightless bird. I chuckled to myself as I exited the woods. Suddenly, the unrest haunting me grew larger, coupled with a feeling of being watched. I whipped around, watching the woods and trying not to breathe. Trying not to awaken whatever was lurking there. I could swear I heard an unearthly voice, and I got goosebumps all over my body. After a few terrifying seconds, a melodious voice filled the air.
“Mel?” Laire asked, concern bubbling on the edge of her voice. “You okay?”
I quickly whipped around, meeting her eyes. My twin was standing on the steps leading up to the small porch. Hearing the worry in her voice, I leaned down and snatched up the dead bird that had fallen and walked towards the cottage.
“Yeah, Sis. I thought I saw something in the woods.”
Laire frowned in response. “Do you feel it too?” she inquired, reaching out toward me. Her hand grazed my arm as I climbed the steps leading up to the house. However, the words and contact made me halt in place. I half turned to my twin.
“What do you mean?” I asked, wariness creeping into my voice.
Laire shifted on the step, doubt crossing her face.
“I’ve had this really weird feeling following me around today. It could be my imagination…mother said that it was…” she replied, mumbling the last part. Laire turned to walk into the house, where Mother and Beno were waiting. I grabbed her arm.
“That looming sense of dread? I… I feel it too. That’s not only you,” I said, half surprising myself. She turned to me, eyes wide. She opened her mouth to speak but quickly shut it as footsteps approached. I hurriedly shoved the dead animals into a bag and tossed them into a corner on the porch, just as an older woman opened the front door.
“Laire, sweetheart, who is it? I hear voices.” The woman squinted at me.
“Hello, mother. It’s me, your daughter?”
“Oh. Hello Melynda.” She opened the door wider, and gestured for us to come inside. Laire shook her head.
“I wish we could, Mom, but Mel and I are heading into town.”
Mother frowned. I could see she was more worried about my sister, since the marketplace was open at the moment. It was mostly peaceful, but fights broke out every once and awhile.
“Alright… make sure to come back to be able to cook dinner.” She turned around as my brother started making a commotion in the kitchen. Looking over her shoulder, Mother called, "Be safe Laire!” I rolled my eyes, grabbed my twin's arm and pulled her towards the path that led to town. We weren’t that far from the main part of the village, but it was still a good 3 minute walk. I filled the time by asking Laire more about the feeling.
"So what exactly did you feel?" I inquired, wanting to know how much she had sensed. Laire paused for a moment, taking time to answer.
"It was like going to perform for the school's talent show. I felt like all eyes were on me, even as I was alone."
Laire had described what I was feeling almost perfectly. However, something told me that it wasn't as strong for her. I steadied my breathing. If I looked sick going into town, that would give them more things to talk about, on top of hunting, fighting, trading in the marketplace, and rejecting most offers of marriage. It was so 'unlady-like' of me, compared to my perfect sister, who was the best in the eyes of the townspeople. I shook the unwelcome thoughts from my head as we neared the town. Those thoughts could wait for later. I could almost see my sister's excitement radiating off of her at the prospect of seeing Geren. I too was excited, for it was market day.
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