The Reluctant Journey Ch. 03byDarlin92©
"Malia, did you pick which ones you wanted?" A tear streamed down her small face as she looked at her full bookshelf.
"Can I please just take ten? Mom they don't even take up that much room!" the twelve-year old girl begged. Her mother looked devastated on her behalf, but Malia knew it wouldn't change anything, wouldn't change the answer.
"Sweetheart, I didn't make the rules. You only get three." She said softly and sympathetically.
Three personal items, that was all. Three items to remember what would never be the same. Her parents had told Malia and Olivia that they would be moving soon. At first Malia had been stupid enough as to be excited at the news. She wasn't excited now. They wouldn't be moving to a cute town with lots of children, not to a big city with lots of things to do. They were moving to a unit.
Malia hadn't known what her parents were talking about at first. They'd said the war had taken a turn for the worse. The war had been going on for years, but this was the first time Malia had ever given it any attention. The news called it the biggest civil war the world had seen. She grabbed three books randomly and handed them to her mother. It didn't matter, she loved all of them and it would hurt. Her mom looked like she wanted to say something but just nodded and walked out of Malia's bedroom.
The memory was fresh and still stung. Finn had been giving a tour of the biggest "house" Malia had ever seen, apparently with its own name, Milan Manor. She looked at General Malcolm's library, filled with shelves and shelves of books. It was bittersweet for her. She hoped she would get a chance to personally explore the library and read something new for once. On the other hand, she thought of her own lost treasures and felt a wave of anger that the general should have so many books when she never could.
The tour was simple and silent. Finn showed her the room she would inhabit; it was bigger than her entire house in the unit and made her sad. He showed her the bathroom that would be her own; it had hot water all day as well as electricity, not to mention a velvet lounge and a water feature in the center of the room. Every room that had been between the dungeon basement and the third flood bedroom had been briefly mentioned and lavishly extravagant. Clearly Finn wasn't one for elaboration. However, she didn't care, she was busy being astonished by the amenities. He'd taken her down to the first floor library last. It was absolutely beautiful. Wherever there was wall space that wasn't overtaken with books there were tall magnificent windows. The windows were indented into the walls and had benches as windowsills covered in pastel green cushions with white throw pillows. The dark polished wood floors were offset by the wide white trim that outlined the shelves and windows as well. It wasn't what she had expected of the general's mansion.
"You can wait here for General Malcolm. He should be here shortly." Finn spoke matter-of-factly and left her. Finn was less personable today; clearly any sympathetic feelings he'd previously held were dried up. She mentally shrugged; she didn't want anyone's pity. She walked up to a shelf and ran her finger along the leather spines. The ceilings were high and the shelves went all the way up, as did the windows, giving the entire room a grand appearance. There was a ladder with wheels to give access to the upper shelves. She picked a random book out.
"Do you like Greek mythology?" A voice startled her from the large archway into the room. She knew at once that this was the general's brother. He didn't look enough like him to cause her to mistake the men, but there was a definite resemblance. He gave her a friendly smile.
"I don't know," she replied tersely, returning the book to the shelf. Despite her unenthusiastic response he smiled more.
"The whole section is very interesting, though I suppose I am fond of everything here." His smile was infectious, much like a child in its innocence. She was inclined to return it.
"This is incredible," she motioned at the giant shelves filled to the brim. He smiled again.
"I know. It is most certainly my favorite room in the house, and one of the few things in which I am openly proud." He looked fondly over the room, as if it was the first time he was seeing it as well. He looked back at her, "Excuse my lack of manners, miss. My name is Tristan Malcolm." He extended his hand towards her.
She shook his hand, unsure as to how this cordial man could be related to the tyrannical general. "Ma- um, my name is Olivia Yates," her heart skipped a beat at her near slip-up. If he'd noticed he didn't say anything or look at her strangely. She needed to keep her wits about her or she would fall into the trap of becoming too at ease with the friendly man.
"You are the general's brother?" She asked though she knew the answer. He grinned towards her.
"Ah, my reputation precedes me I see. " he laughed, "Somehow I think it more likely that my brother has already left an impression, it would account for your expression at the mention of him."
She nodded slightly, looking uncertainly at him. "You resemble each other."
He smirked at her reply. "Yes, I believe we have both heard that before. I assure you, we are very different, and though I'm sure my brother has shown more of his negative attributes than the positive, more hidden ones, Cain is more than he appears." He smirked conspiratorially. His lack of cruelty was confusing her so she went with the blunt approach.
"He said you are in the market for a mistress." She couldn't help some pent up hostility from leaking out in her words. "No, you know what, I believe he said that if I didn't have sex with you I wouldn't like the repercussions?" She looked at the handsome man accusingly.
He looked affronted at first but soon began to laugh hysterically, much to Malia's annoyance. She openly glared and he raised his hands in apology while fighting off his laughter.
"I'm sorry." He said sincerely though still openly amused. "It's just, Cain has never been especially tactful when not absolutely necessary. He isn't one to beat around the bush. As for what he said, it is only his latest scheme to run my life, I assure you I am not on the market for a mistress." He smiled gently at her.
"Well then, can I go home?" she asked, uncertain that he had the power to grant her request. His brows pulled together in confusion.
"Of course you can. Where are you from? I will have someone drive you." His response worsened her fears.
"Unit 118", she replied.
Tristan's face immediately filled with shock, which turned into anger, and she could see the resemblance to the general even better. His strong jaw was clenched tightly and he lightly shook his head back and forth.
"Is that a problem?" she wondered why he would have such a strong response to the mention of her home.
He was silent for a moment. "You're from a unit?" he asked incredulously, his green eyes nearly shooting sparks at her.
"Of course I am." She was highly confused by his response. Her unit was a peaceful place; the only military they had was in charge of guarding the walls that encircled the unit. They didn't go out looking for a fight like many of the units of which she'd heard terrible stories of their fates. They worked together and had a comfortable existence free from ambition of power. Malia found it unlikely that her unit would be enemies to anyone, especially General Cain's unit with its obvious military presence. "What unit am I in now?" she asked uncertainly, treading lightly with the clearly agitated man.
His countenance changed. There was still anger underneath but he looked pained and piteous. He took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. He was silent and looking towards the ground, frustration etched in every feature. He looked up at her again and seemed about to speak when footsteps came from the large archway into the library. Both Tristan and Malia turned to look towards the sound. General Cain Malcolm strutted towards them as if, well as if he owned the place. Malia scowled towards him as he approached, Tristan glared daggers in his direction. He stopped when he was close to the pair and looked apprehensive.
"I see you've met." When the general only received a hostile glare in reply from Tristan he asked, "Something wrong?" Tristan smiled antagonistically and squared his broad shoulders as he faced his older brother head on. Cain looked surprised and mimicked the stance, both men now looking especially aggressive.
"You failed to mention where our new guest came from, brother." Tristan spat the endearment at Cain. "You are unbelievable Cain. A unit! Have you lost your mind?"
Cain showed sudden understanding and his stance relaxed minimally. "I don't see your problem with this." The general said matter-of-factly.
"My problem with this! You know better than anyone the problems with this!" Tristan yelled at his brother. Cain was unfazed and simply studied Tristan's anger filled face. "But you knew that, didn't you? " Tristan looked absolutely disgusted with his brother. Malia's frustration and confusion were increasing by the minute.
"Will one of you please tell me what's going on?" she spat. Both brothers looked towards her as if she were apparitional. Tristan shook his head back and forth in disbelief then continued to glare at his brother. The general looked disgusted with her.
"Well brother, why don't you answer your hostage? You will, after all, have to tell her the truth eventually. I mean she will be with us indefinitely wont she? Whether she likes it or not. You made sure of that. " Tristan turned to leave and stumbled slightly. The general's indifferent expression turned to concern immediately as he moved to steady his brother. Tristan angrily shrugged Cain's hand off of his arm.
"The least you could do is let me properly storm out! You owe me that!" Tristan yelled, his voice pained and full of emotion. The general actually looked saddened as he nodded apologetically towards his younger brother. Malia wasn't sure but she thought she saw guilt enter Tristan's angry face, and then it was gone. Any softness that the general had shown Tristan was gone the instant his brother left and he turned to Malia.
She could see that he planned on channeling all of his anger towards her, so she had nothing to lose. As far as Malia was concerned it was question time.
"Indefinitely? Why?" She asked the imposing man. When he simply glared down at her she continued. "Why was he mad about my unit's name? What unit is this?" She was getting more and more frustrated as the questions flitted through the forefront of her mind. She wanted to go home, now. "Why can't I just go home?" She sounded more vulnerable than she would have liked.
"Finn!" The general summoned his right-hand-man and he entered the library immediately. Had he been just standing there waiting to be ordered around? Malia shook her head. "Show our guest the gardens. Fresh air would do her well." He didn't even look at her as he gave orders.
"No! Answer me damn it!" He arched his stupidly elegant eyebrow as he finally looked down at her like someone might look at gum on his or her shoe.
"Little girl, don't presume to give me orders. Tristan was correct in your timeframe of being here. You will indeed be here indefinitely. If I were you I would want to start off in good standing with myself, something in which you are miserably failing. I suggest a change in attitude, or you might find the future living situation less than hospitable."
She paled at his words. She could not, would not, be here forever. Malia was going to get home, one way or another. With her growing desperation all fear was dissipating, leaving red-hot rage in its wake. The tall general's broad chest was annoyingly close to her line of vision. In her less than logical state of mind, this caused her to be absolutely furious. She pushed his chest away with all of her might. Her odd jobs in the unit kept her reasonably fit and fairly strong. However the general was very large, outweighing Malia by at least sixty pounds, and only took a step back to steady himself from the surprise attack. This irritated her immensely and she attempted to punch him in the jaw. Before her hand could make contact the general caught it and twisted her wrist painfully, making her hand instantly limp. She gave a small scream of pain.
He grinned evilly down at her. " I seem to be getting the impression that every lesson you are to learn is going to be learned the hard way. My advice would be to rethink that tactic." Her teeth were clenched as she stared into his dark eyes. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of any more outward signs of pain. He smiled at her with knowledge of her stubbornness, and then he released her hand and walked away. She watched his back disappear, his gait strong and elegant.
She turned to look at Finn, who was still faithfully behind her. He looked dumbstruck, which made her laugh. He was so serious and she began to giggle uncontrollably. Soon her laughter turned to tears, then the amusement faded and there was only panic left. She was hyperventilating. She felt a strong hand push her shoulders down until she was bending at the waist. She put her hands on her knees to steady herself. Finn mumbled reassuring things at her, but nothing was seeping into her brain. She felt like she was falling. It had been one day and she was lost. She wanted her mom. These people were going to keep her here forever. Eventually she calmed and was looking down at the wooden floors when Finn grabbed her shoulders gently and righted her.
"Are you okay?" his voice was laced with concern. His bright blue eyes were very piercing. He was beautiful. His features were opposite those of the general and his brother yet each man was gorgeous, it wasn't right, not when they were holding her here against her will. It reminded her of something her mother had told her once.
Malia was fourteen years old. She'd never imagined her life going in the direction it had. She was supposed to be in high school with friends and pep rallies and dances. The unit was different and hard and nothing like what life should have been. There were rations on food and sometimes there wasn't anything to eat at all. The unit grew its own food supply and if something went wrong, outside assistance was limited. They could ask another unit for help but apparently allies were few and far between. There were other children in the unit but schooling wasn't like it had been. Everything was basically up to the individual's parents.
Most children helped with the farming and other manual labors of the unit, anything that could help, though children weren't required to help out until they were sixteen. Usually this rule wasn't enforced and anyone who followed it was seen as a freeloader. However her father did a lot for the unit and was highly respected for pulling more than his own. With a doctor for a father and musician mother, education and appreciation for the arts were emphasized in Malia and Olivia's lives and they spent their days learning.
Malia was walking around one day during a rare break from her father's early morning lessons. She stopped to pick a wild daisy that was growing near the footpath she was on.
"Hope you can pay for that!" a boy yelled over to her from the front porch of his shack. She looked up, frightened that anyone was watching her.
"I'm sorry," she mumbled dropping the flower on the path.
The boy laughed and started to walk over to her. She recognized him, though she didn't know his name. She didn't work with the other children and didn't have any time to socialize with anyone this far from her home. He was cute, that had been what she had thought when she'd first saw him. He was older than her, maybe seventeen. He had rich brown hair that shined in the sunlight and fell slightly over his forehead. He had been lanky when she'd first saw him; though farm work had improved his muscle mass and tone. She wasn't the only girl who noticed, he was quite popular around the unit. Malia could see girls fawn over him during communal meals.
"What's your name?" he asked her.
"Uh, M-Malia," she stuttered pathetically, nervous that he was actually talking to her.
"You're the doctors daughter?" Her face fell a little at that, she didn't want to be known as the doctor's daughter, she wanted him to have noticed her for the same reason she noticed him.
"Yeah." She mumbled.
"Well, Malia," he grinned, "Tell you what, you can have my flower," he bent to pick up the fallen daisy, "for the price of a kiss." His smile was so pretty and so taunting. Her breathing picked up and her heartbeat was wild. She nodded her head stupidly.
He was so close. He wasn't as tall as she thought he would be, but still slightly taller than Malia. She had never done this before, she was nervous. She parted her lips slightly because that's what she thought she was supposed to do. He shook his head condescendingly and quickly kissed her cheek.
"There you go kiddo, now could you quit staring at me while I'm eating?" He laughed and took a step back.
Malia could feel all of the blood from her body rush to her face. He was laughing at her. She was absolutely pathetic. She heard a door open and close then and saw a beautiful blond girl walk out of his house.
"What's up?" she asked sweetly from the porch.
"Ah, I was just granting all of little Malia's dreams and fantasies." He laughed. The girl joined in and walked closer and slipped her arm around the boy's waist. Malia was mortified.
"Ah, yes you're the little girl always staring at my man." The blond girl teased. "Who knows maybe in a few years you'll grow boobs and I might just have to talk to you about it." She laughed and he joined in. Malia was going to cry, there was no stopping it. She turned back the way she came and ran without looking back. She ran all the way home. Tears had streamed down her face and her nose was stuffy.
She was supposed to find her mom when the break was over, but she just wanted to lie down and lick her wounds of humiliation. She went into the house and threw herself on the bed. She could see his face in her mind, mocking her. How could she ever think that he would be attracted to her? She was boyish in build and her dark hair was always windblown and unruly, not exactly comparable to the blond beauty. Her eyes were a greyish blue and her best feature, large and innocent. That's all he would ever see her as, innocent, a little girl.
Malia heard the door open and laid still on her stomach on the bed. Maybe someone had come to put her out of her misery. She felt weight sink the mattress down next to her. She felt a tangled mass of black hair being lifted from her face and saw her mother's face. She couldn't help it, she openly sobbed. Her mother pulled her into her lap and hugged her.
"Shh my sweet, what's wrong?"
Malia tried to retell the story coherently, but it mostly came out in broken sobs. However, Kristen was a mother with all of the powers that entailed, and understood the entire story. By the end of the retelling, Malia had calmed. She sat in her mom's arms as she stroke Malia's hair.
"Why do you like that stupid boy anyway? Have you seen his father? That's him in twenty years, no hair and excess belly." Malia chuckled despite her sulking. Her mom could always make her feel better, even if it was just a little bit.
"It wasn't just him, the girl he was with, she was beautiful." Malia looked down at the blanket, too embarrassed to face her mother with such a petty concern.
"My sweet, beauty isn't anything but an attribute, and a completely relative one at that. That boy is physically attractive to you young girls, for now at least," she smirked, "but it doesn't mean he is any more of a person than the most unattractive of people. In his case, I would say it means he is less. His pretty face masks his awful personality. If the evil in the world were so easily perceived as an ugly face, everyone would avoid it. It is determining a person's true character that is challenging, but it is the only way to allow any lasting respect and attraction. Not to mention the fact that you continually sell yourself short. Malia you are so beautiful, inside and out, and you are going to be such a beautiful woman, much sooner than you expect." She turned Malia's chin up with one of her long elegant fingers and smiled down at her daughter.