(and I’m not referring to the chickens)
Street rat!” the guard shouted at me. I ran—ducking and diving to avoid people but unfortunately,
it was no easy task for a sixteen-year-old with four loaves of bread bundled in her arms to ‘blend in’. I had never been good at sticking with the crowd. I was a full-on misfit. I leapt over a cage of chickens which fell over and the chickens squawked angrily—they were running around like (excuse the pun) headless chickens. A few guards tumbled over the hapless chickens, but the leading guard seemed very eager
to get the bread… or to wrap his hands around my throat. I guessed the former as he looked like he enjoyed food—If you know what I mean. I jumped onto a basket of fruit that leaned against a cart then, taking a dare-devil leap, I landed on a flat roof of one of Hogsfeet’s houses. Great name for a town really, Hogsfeet.
From up there I could see the Temples of the Gods and the Castle. I looked down and saw that I had successfully caused an avalanche of bananas, which the four guards skidded on. “Come back here riff-raff!” the leader cried up at me while shaking his fist. “That is an idiotic thing to say. Like I would just come to
you,” I snorted. He tried to draw his sword but just slipped on a banana peel and landed head first in the fruit basket. “Get OUT of my fruit basket! Savage!” An old bent lady with a deadly looking walking stick started hitting the guard over the head. I laughed, knowing the wrath of a cart owner was something no one wanted to experience and broke off a piece of the loaf. The stolen loaves were still warm and a mouth-watering
smell emanated from them. Guards chasing me had become a daily game for me, and someone had to give those lugs exercise. I did them a favour by stealing a couple of loaves now and then. “Stella, please tell me you did not just steal four loaves just to eat them on your own,” Lila said behind me as I guiltily swallowed
the large piece of deliciousness I had stuffed into my mouth. “No.” “Yeah right,” Lila grinned and pulled the loaf out of my hands. Lila was a short ball of mischief with wild, black hair and rich mahogany skin. She had been my adopted sister ever since we were five. “No, I wasn’t kidding. I was going to give a loaf to mom,”
I smiled. “Sure,” Lila rolled her eyes before narrowing them. “You’ve worried us.” I shrugged in response as I thought of how I had been out the whole night before. “Oh, fair warning, Mrs Cheery is coming to speak to mom about you,” Lila said with glee. Mrs Cheery was really not very cheerful. Her real name was Mrs Rallis and she was a demon, wearing pink. She was an educator, but we didn’t really see eye to eye. By that I mean she would gut me alive, but then again many people would. Though, it was amusing seeing her face turn bright red when I annoyed her. She had given me many years’ worth of detention which I had been far too busy to go to. “I just remembered that I have a meeting tonight, bummer,” I shrugged apologetically. “You have a meeting tonight? Wait,” Lila narrowed her eyes, “you are doing that thing where you make an excuse not to go home.” Lila had always been unable to separate what was literal from what was sarcastic. “Yes, I am doing that thing,” I rolled my eyes. “Oh come on! The best assassin is afraid to meet a teacher?”
Lila burst out laughing. I frowned at the mention of what I was—an assassin. It was not something I was exactly proud of. There were very few of us assassins—twenty-five to be exact and I was the only girl which I blamed on stereotypes. Oh, you’re an assassin? But you’re a girl! I hated that. I was also the only Red. Lila and mom were the only people who knew what I did. I was a Red, along with the whole of Hogsfeet and Avalon. We, as Reds, were poor and didn’t have the powers that the Blues had in Atlantis. I didn’t see why this made us, the Reds, inferior and considered unimportant but the hate that brewed between
the two sides was nearly tangible. As an assassin, you weren’t a Red or a Blue. You were just you. That was the only good thing about it. “Can you come home please?” Lila pouted when I didn’t reply. “Fine,” I sighed and walked to the edge of the roof where the streets were quiet. I skilfully jumped down the two-story building and landed lightly on my feet. The number of times I had fractured my ankles when practising that. Lila ran down the stairs, not taking the risk of trying what I had done. I looked around the street and saw two homeless children huddled together sharing a tiny apple next to a dustbin, and I looked at the wholesome loaves in my hands. With a sigh, I pulled two out and gave it to the children who looked shocked. They seemed hesitant to take it—waiting for me to snatch the loaves back and laugh like the guards did so often, but I just gave them an encouraging smile. The oldest, a nine-yearold boy, reached out reluctantly but as soon as his hands touched the warm bread he snatched them out of my hands. “You’re welcome,” I laughed, knowing how it felt to be a homeless orphan. That was before Lila’s mother found me in the rain. “Thank you,” the youngest, a six-year-old girl, said sheepishly. “Stella!” Lila called impatiently. I winked at the children then turned to Lila. “Hometime,” she chirped, revelling in the fact that I was dreading going home.
“Why, on my one night off, do I have the pleasure of spending it with Mrs Cheery?” I mumbled to myself, following Lila.
Wrinkled, arthritic finger
Stella you have not returned homework for two weeks and you have not attended any of your detentions.”
Mrs Cheery’s voice sounded like a toffee was stuck up her nose. I sat in our tiny house with mom and Mrs Rallis, or Cheery. Lila stood in the kitchen, cutting the bread, with a very amused look. I’m glad she was enjoying this! I thought. Mom wore a stony face but I knew it was just for show. She had to look like a disappointed parent to not blow my cover. “You have fallen asleep twice in class and not to mention how late you are every morning,” Mrs Cheery pointed a wrinkled, arthritic finger in my face. “What do you have to say for yourself ?” I tried so hard not to mimic her voice when I answered, “I’ve been busy.” This only made her face turn the colour of a tomato. “Relax Mrs Cheer—I mean Mrs Rallis. After all, I’m only a hopeless little orphan,” I said, dramatically putting my hand on my forehead. Lila snorted from the kitchen, and I suppressed a smile. “You!” Mrs Cheery was literally shaking with anger. I think the ‘toffee’ dislodged to the left nostril. “I am sorry Mrs Rallis. I’m sorry I’m such a disappointment. I really will try harder,” I lied earnestly. “No, you always say that. Do you know why you enrage me so much?” she asked. I was caught off guard. “No?” I replied honestly. “Because you have such an intelligent mind and you’re wasting it,” she grumbled. “Thanks,” I muttered, wondering if she really just gave me a compliment. She sighed, apparently giving up. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow if you even bother to come. Thank you, Mrs Grey.” Mrs Rallis walked out of the house, and my eyes followed her retreating back. “You have to work harder at school, so you don’t look suspicious butterf ly,” mom said using her nickname for me, and I raised an eyebrow.
“Just because I fell asleep in class doesn’t mean I was tracking a gang of robbers,” I muttered. “You know people are looking for the assassins,” she said ruffling my brown, curly hair. I had always thought of Lila’s mother as my own even though we didn’t have the same skin colour and I wasn’t off icially adopted.
She had Lila’s rich, mahogany skin and the same wild hair that looked great. She was short and had prominent curves. I was tall, with brown, fuzzy hair, weird purple eyes, that creeped everyone out, and pale, freckled skin. My only curves included toned muscles from the physical work of being an assassin
and my body being a map of faded scars, from ‘when I was homeless’. What people didn’t know were the hours mom would spend patching me up after I was chosen to be an assassin. One day, a man dressed in all black told me I was selected to join the assassins and that if I didn’t do as I was told, my family would
pay the price. After that, every night I trained with boys one or two years older than me. My thoughts were filled with images of broken bones and blood from days of training. “What are you thinking?” Mom asked.
“Nothing,” I lied. “You’re thinking of something ’cause you’re playing with your dagger,” she said putting a hand on her hip. I looked down at my guilty hands and saw that I was balancing the blade on my knuckles. I f lipped the knife, making it spin a few times in the air and then caught it. “How long is dinner going to be?” I asked, ignoring mom’s statement. “Not long. A few minutes max,” Lila said from the kitchen. I stood and headed toward the door. I wanted to run. It always cleared my mind. “No! Dinner will ready in a few seconds!” Lila rushed out, realising her mistake, but it was too late. I pulled on my black cloak and lifted the heavy hood over my head, shielding my features. “I’m just going to do a routine check.” I sheathed the sword, that was hidden in the umbrella stand, so it sat comfortably by my side. “Five minutes,” mom ordered, “and no all-nighters!” “Alright,” I said over my shoulder. I didn’t want to leave, but something told me I should go. A terrible nagging sensation that was similar to having a thorn stuck in your foot. I smiled confidently at them, keeping up my lifelong act of enjoying what I am—a murderer—and then I dashed out the door.
Sobbing teenage girls
I hopped up onto the dumpster then pulled myself up onto a roof using a gutter. I looked down at the
ground I had stood on a few seconds before and thought of the times that a simple obstacle had caused me to
fall in the garbage or worse—onto the hard and unforgiving ground. I had once hung suspended in the air for two hours holding onto a gutter, refusing to fall again. Training had been merciless, and mom had told me that I had lost some human part of me to survive. I called it mind over matter. I ran swiftly over the rooftops of the Hogsfeet houses that were so close together, I was able to jump from roof to roof. I saw Reds walking down the street below, completely oblivious to me jumping over their heads. I suddenly halted at a smoky
pub, and even though no one was able to afford clothes, the pub boomed. I pitied those who valued alcohol over their families. I shivered at a deep memory buried within me as I looked at the alley just behind the bar. No time to dwell on the past, I told myself and ran on, blending in with the night. I heard someone
match my pace. “Good evening m’lady,” a silvery voice said. “Hello Alistair,” I rolled my eyes inwardly.
Alistair flirted with everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if rocks were included. “Why hello there rock. You’re rocking that granite!” “What is a lovely lady like you doing on these rooftops?” he asked, blue eyes glinting.
“Enjoying my run, on my own,” I said trying to speed up, but he didn’t take the hint.
“I was looking in the dictionary at the word beautiful, and I saw your picture there,” he said casually.
I shook my head, “Alistair how many times do I have to explain this to you, you’re like my brother. Nothing more.” “I know, but I’ve got to practice my pick-up lines on someone. It was a good one right?” he asked.
“No,” Alex answered for me, joining my run. Alexander, or Alex, was a midget with more of a personality than a fourteen-foot man. “Hello Alex,” I greeted. “So, have you found a girlfriend yet with all your amazing
pick-up lines?” Alex asked Alistair who rolled his eyes at the midget’s sarcasm. “I don’t need the criticism from a short, single arse,” Alistair respond arrogantly. “I’ll show you who’s short—” Alex growled whilst pushing up his sleeves. “Guys! Please! We are trained assassins, and you two are acting like a pair of four-year-olds,” I said whilst pinching the bridge of my nose. “Aww, come on. I was just playings,” Alex lied with a shrug, and I shook my head although a fond smile played on my lips. They had been chosen as children like me. We had endured training together, and we all shared a bond like none other, but that didn’t mean we didn’t enjoy occasionally pestering each other. We had stopped running and stood by the Wall. The Wall
split the Reds from the Blues. Over the Wall, I could see twinkling lights and Atlantis’s Castle gleaming.
Most of the houses had lavish parties going on inside. I didn’t have to see them to know that there were girls, with no pride, throwing themselves at satisfied boys. It was pathetic really. I saw adverts for the upcoming Trials to win the Crowned Prince of Atlantis’s heart. It made me sick to think of all those Blue girls with their make-up done and their dresses—that looked like a rainbow had vomited on them, might I add—on to f lirt
with the King’s son. I would rather kill myself then ever do something like that! A scream broke through the chilly autumn night. Within seconds I was over the Wall, running towards the sound. Alex and Alistair’s humour had disappeared as we jumped from house to house. All my thoughts evacuated my head as my eyes darted from street to street and my ears tuned into all the sounds of the night. Our feet made no noise and we moved with speed. I saw it before Alex and Alistair. A woman stood over a young man and she was crying. He looked about eighteen with crimson blood staining his blue top. He was obviously dead even if it wasn’t for the arrow that protruded from his chest. Blood pooled around him, and his eyes were open wide like the fish in the market. He must’ve been good-looking with the typical Blue appearance— blond hair and blue eyes. Those eyes were lifeless now. The woman who sobbed must’ve been his girlfriend. She had blonde and straight hair, which I grew envious over, and blue eyes. Time to integrate, I thought as I approached her.
“Ma’am,” I said with a gentle voice. She looked up and took me in and then she did something unexpected.
“Please don’t kill me!” she wailed, and I looked at Alistair and Alex who both shrugged. “I am not going to kill you. I want to help you,” I said gently like I was approaching a rabbit. She made a choking noise and
then threw her arm around me sobbing. “I-uh-ma’am I need you to let go of me,” I said awkwardly
patting her arm, “I need to examine the body before any evidence is destroyed.” “Yes, of course,” she choked out and let go of me. Instinctively, I went straight to the body. The arrow hit his heart so he would’ve died instantly. It was a clean shot that seemed to have been shot from above—typical for an archer. Whenever I examined bodies, I had to change my mindset. It’s not a person, it’s a body. I did the same thing when I had to kill someone. It’s not a person, it’s a robber, murderer, etc. “Thank you,” I heard Alex say and he came to me. “The archer was on a roof and the arrow went straight into his heart. The murderer was skilled,” I reported. I never showed emotions when working. “His name was Matthew. The girl was his lover. Apparently, the murderer wore black and had a limp.” Alex used the same voice I did. Emotionless. We all did. “Black?” I asked. The black I wore felt like it was burning myskin. The murderer wore the colour of the assassins. “Black,” Alex confirmed. I heard the bells chime signifying twelve o’clock and I winced. How does time go so quickly? “I have to go,” I said to him. “I’ll report,” Alex nodded gravely, his green eyes holding real concern, “Be careful.” “Always am,” I grinned and ran home.