THE SCARS OF THE SEA / book two /// chapter 36 - haleena's chapter!
Posted March 19th, 2017 by Garrett
in a city drinking coffee
a/n: Haleena hasn't had a chapter in a while but here's one and it's pretty IMPORTANT.
| 36 |
Fleeing the Beast
Haleena trudged down the street, muddied with emotionless people. Hungry and depressed, begging for spare change, asking for medicine or drugs or anything else that could keep them distracted from the ugly black cloud hanging over Berea. Who was she kidding? That damned cloud was suspended over half the continent. The empress had been ruling for almost half a year now—a couple months from it—and Haleena had never seen Euanthe’s capital city at such a low. There had been an economical depression five years past, but that was gone and healed.
This was worse. Most of the food they had was smuggled in, and only distributed to those with the highest amounts of money. Luckily for Haleena and her family, her father forced her into whoring. And in times like these, when men’s thoughts were full of rain and thunder, they would pay all they owned for a few minutes of sunlight.
Haleena provided that and earned a fair amount of coin from that.
She was payed more than she’d ever been before Empress Serilda’s reign. She took part of that money and bought her family the necessities of life. She took another—large—part of it and gave it to her father when he yelled and screamed and threw his fists. That portion of her money would be used for the liquor that her father ached for. And with the last dwindling coins Haleena owned, she saved.
She saved them for the day when she finally decided to kick away from her father’s nest and take Alexander with her. When she finally made that life-changing decision to leave her father in his own shit.
What a glorious day that would be.
Though now, as things progressively soured, she realized that day may never come. The day Haleena had been dreaming about for ages may never materialize into something real. It would live in her head for eternity as mere fantasy. An idea she wished she’d gone through with when she was young and could get away. When she still had a father to abandon.
It would be all too easy to take Alexander in the middle of the night and leave. But Berea’s walls were heavily guarded and the city wasn’t large enough for them to hide from their father forever.
Haleena saw a loose stone and kicked it. The rock soared down the street, landing somewhere near a fellow miserable citizen’s feet. A small, shadowed corner of Haleena hoped that he would trip over the stone and crack his head on the street. That he would die. Men deserved to die.
All but Lawrence.
Though if her brother didn’t hurry his ass up she would kill him when he finally arrived. He had promised in his letter to be in Berea as soon as possible. That could be anytime. And with the Witches seated atop Euanthe and the Savages crawling over Kaede like flies on a carcass, it was possible that Lawrence’s journey south would be cut short.
Later that day, as Haleena sat on the tiled roof, listening to the sad bustle of the city and the useless wind trickle by in the muggy heat, she prayed. She closed her eyes and craned her face toward the sun. The rays baked her skin, making her feel as though her flesh were bubbling and peeling away.
Hopefully Tomoki would listen. She hadn’t in the past—the last time Haleena tried asking her for aid.
“Tomoki, goddess of life, mother of breath. Hear me out. Turn your ears to the sun’s rays and listen to my prayers…please.”
It was always a strange, almost awkward experience…speaking aloud when there was no one to hear her words.
“Watch over my brother Lawrence on his travels southward. Wrap him in a shawl of protection. If danger should fall upon him, if death should cast its unwelcome shadow over him, fill his lungs and heart with life, dear goddess. If he should turn to you for prayer, heed his words—they are better words than my own…knowing Lawrence, you two are probably close.”
“Maybe you’re listening to him right now instead of me…maybe you’re with him…who knows?”
Just then, there was a crack to Haleena’s right. Her eyelids flew apart and her skin tingled with the shock of fear. She looked around for the source, and noticed it skidding down the slope of the roof. A shingle had broken off—without any force put upon it. The tile sprinted down the roof and leapt off the lip, down the eaves, and into the street below.
It shattered on the cobblestones. There were a few curses directed at their cheap roofing. Men.
Haleena grinned, hoping like a child that it’d hit him right in his stupid head.
Right in his bleeding, stupid head.
Haleena crawled through a window and drew the curtains behind her. Inside, it was even hotter.
A full seven days turned, and Haleena’s conditions had only worsened. She was out earning money most of her time. Her father was more violent, more demanding, asking for more and more and more—Haleena was constantly worried she would have to chip into her savings to provide him his necessary funds. Luckily it hadn’t come to that. How would he react if she suddenly had a healthy trickle of coins to deposit in his hands every few days? It would certainly put an end to their fights, though before long the money Haleena had spent so long building up would dry out.
Her father was a master at draining rivers.
Haleena sat in her flimsy bed, her mattress sinking under her. She had a few wool blankets, but often slept without them. She’d always wake up in the middle of the night scratching at herself when the wool rubbed against her skin. Alexander slept in the bed beside hers, his soft head only a few feet away in the dark hours. She would often hear the patter of his feet just before he crawled into her bed, his cotton blanket draped around his shoulders.
“I had a bad dream,” he would whimper. “The big mean man was there again…he had the knife again.”
“And the bottle?” Haleena always cocooned him with her arms, keeping him as close to her heart as possible.
“The bottle was there but it was far-er away.”
Alexander closed his eyes. He would wake up from a nightmare sweating and shivering and be willing to delve back into sleep moments later. Breath entering and exiting in gentle strokes. In and out. In and out. Until eventually his sighs would stretch and his inhales would rattle and Haleena knew he was dreaming once more.
She dreamed too, though her fantasies resided in the waking world.
She stared out her window in the long night hours, glossy eyes watching the moon lap slowly through the pool of darkness, surrounded by twinkling motes. Instead of pebbles at the bottom of the night river there were thousands of stars. Winking at her, mocking her. They were free and she was trapped. They could smile and be happy and frolic from dusk to dawn, and she cried.
On this chilly night, Haleena trailed her fingers through Alexander’s silky blond locks. His head was pressed against her chest, rising and falling like an ocean wave. Up roll down up roll down.
And the moon stared back at her. And the stars dared her. Haleena rocked her brother’s shoulder. He stirred awake, blinking against the watery moonlight pouring through the window.
“What is it Hal?” He murmured, his words scattered with sleep.
“Get your shoes on, and pack a bag. Quick.”
“I don’t get it—”
“Shhh.” Haleena was already up. She’d pushed her blond strands behind her ears and stuffed a pack with the money she owned and the clothes she could spare. It took Alexander a few minutes later, and when he emerged with his packed bag, it was stuffed with food and clothes and almost overflowing with things he’d only used once or twice.
“No, Alex. You must pack light.”
“This is light!”
“Shut up,” she snapped. Just after her words whipped against his little back, as fresh and pure as a new blanket of snow, Haleena heard footsteps creaking in the hallway beyond.
Crap, she thought. She gripped Alex’s hand, made him drop all his stuff, strapped on her bag, and unlatched the window. Haleena climbed out, steadying herself on the sloping roof beyond. It was an angle, no doubt. One misstep and she would go plummeting into the street down yonder. Haleena would rather not.
“Here,” she said. “In front of me. Quickly.” Alexander tiptoed around her and walked across the slant.
Haleena turned to close the window—to cut her off from her father for eternity. A heavy-set, huffing figure cloaked in shadow came stumbling into the room. She wondered if he could see her with the moon’s light haloing her head. Her father clawed his way through the darkness to the window. Haleena slammed it down, scampering after her brother, hoping to the gods that her feet wouldn’t fail her.
The window whined open. Haleena ran and ran, her feet flapping across the tiles. Wind whistled through her ears and twisted her hair in spindly tendrils. Alexander’s small figure wobbled across the roof.
“Hal!” Her father screamed. She imagined his round red face, veins bulging in his forehead, eyes bloodshot and spider-webbed with red cracks. “Get the fuck back here!”
She heard the pounding of footsteps behind her—or was that her own heartbeat? Thumpthump, thumpthump, thumpthump.
Run run run run run
Sand swirled with the wind like half-materialized phantoms. Haleena blinked against the sting. Alexander’s breath was high and short and strained and—
“Run, run, run,” Haleena muttered.
Meaty farmer chasing after runaway cattle.
The end of the rooftop was riding near, coming close. They would have to jump. There was no going back—only forward. Move forward, move forward, move forward.
Go, go, go.
Run, run, run.
“Jump Alex!” Haleena yelled through the sand-slicing night. Her little brother teetered on the edge. She knew her father couldn’t make the leap, for he was old and out of breath and overweight. Haleena’s toes touched the edge of the roof and she soared. A second of freedom and wind roaring around her. Her nightgown cracked and like a canvas sail. Hair rippled behind her; an ivory flag protruded high, high, high into the air.
Haleena’s heels crashed into the tiles, the shock zapped up her ankles and throbbed in her legs, and the fantasy burned to ash.
As soon as she recovered from the impact, she spun around and faced her brother. The gap between rooftops was five feet wide—maybe more, maybe less. And in the space below there was just darkness and the glint of moonlight on a puddle far below. On her brother’s face was fear. It was difficult to know if his face was wan from the height or from the nighttime glow.
The lumbering figure was coming closer—thumpthump, thumpthump, thumpthump. Huff, huff, huff, huff. In a few seconds, her father’s face would emerge from the shroud of shadow.
“Come on Alex,” Haleena hissed. “You have to jump. I’ll catch you. I promise, Alex, I’ll catch you. Just jump right here—right into my arms. Just jump Alex, jump.”
He swayed forward and backward. “I—I—”
“Alex!” Her father’s rough voice boomed. “Stay there.”
“Alex,” Haleena said. She opened her arms wide, spreading them like a bird readying to take off. “Come to me.”
Her brother turned around, saw her father reaching out mere feet away, turned back to Haleena—and leapt.
His little feet flailed in the open space. Their father’s hand stretched out, fingers itching out, out, out.
She reached out.
Her father’s fingers caught onto Alexander’s bag, snatched him. He yanked the boy back, but before Alex was on the roof, her father released him. Haleena’s brother’s tiny body whipped through the air. He plunged into the darkness, wide eyes locked on his sister’s. Down, down, down he went, tumbling between the buildings like a stray shingle.
Haleena screamed—shrieked. “NO!” The word was a sword driving through her throat. Blood filled her lungs and spilled from every cavity and she ran ran ran.
She ran until the cold sand-grazed tile made her feet numb and blistered.
Even then, she ran.
Later, she would cry.
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