Red Girl Rising – 5

The next few days passed off without a good sign that Rossa was actually trying to follow her father’s advice.

If they were actually prod of her, they would trust her and let her run her errands, walk in the forest. What could go wrong as long as she stayed on the path?

She was also supposed not to talk to anyone and anything, but she was starting to doubt that actually had any effect. After all, how could people not talk while on the road for forty years? That part must be of no consequence.

The monsters were supposed to follow your voice, but…

She just wouldn’t leave the road, and she’d be fine.

To keep herself distracted, she pushed herself deeper into her studies even as the date for one of Ferravia’s festivals was coming closer. On Midsummer’s day the entire town would come together to celebrate the highest point of summer and the moment of  the year that was the farthest from the uncertain struggles of winter. They would all get together for singing and dancing and maybe they would leave her alone at least one night. She could clear up her head.

Ah, but of course her parents had to rope her into the celebration as well.

“I am not going to fit in! I know I just won’t, why are you insisting? I can take my own decisions, I can just spend the night up in my room and nobody will even notice I am missing,” she wailed and protested as her mother adjusted the festival dress for her.

It was a beautiful green robe made of dyed wool, the kind of dress that would have made even girls born in the Ereworld jealous with how smooth and silky it felt. But Rossa did not really care, because wearing a dress meant she’d have to actually go out and talk to people and she’d make a fool of herself…

Sure, a part of her (a small part) did wish for a night where she could make some friends, and maybe more. She was a growing girl after all, and some of the older boys did strike her fancy, but they would not waste their time with a spindly and weird girl like her, so why even bother when she could just be spending her time in a better manner? One that spoke closer to her, one that would be meaningful, one that would make sure everyone would one day praise her

“Protesting is not what a girl your age should do, especially when she is about to attend a festival. Now enough whining,” her mother barked, and that was the end of the protests.

But Rossa was not to be underestimated, and she did manage to slip a tiny book beneath her robes when the festival finally came. This way she could have an excuse to leave and gave something to occupy her mind with, when the time inevitably came.

Her parents were there as well. They all ate together in Ferravia’s main square, which used to be the ancient parking slot of the steelwork factory. She could still see the concrete flaking off almost one century after it had been poured for the first time, but it managed to remain more or less unbroken. Ereworld people had such powerful means.

Dinner came, and Rossa did try to make some perfunctory talk with girls her are, or at least with boys, but the girls sneered at her, showing up in such aa nice dress after being the weird one out for  the rest of the year. As for boys, they all had their squeeze already, and her body surely did not look as nice as those of the other girls, so she did not really have much to share with people her age.

Besides, spending so much time dragging out embarrassed silences and trying to slither between the evil glare the other girls were giving her was getting so tiresome. Things had not changed from when she used to be just four years old and she had her first meetup with girls her age. She was the weird one out, and how could it be different? Meeting people was a spidery thing, full of hidden needles and traps and blushes and moments when someone would leave her in a lonesome silence she would want to paper over but had no idea how.

So, about one hour in, she pulled out her book and began to read.

And maybe the Spirits were indeed with her that night, because they finally left her alone.

It would have been nice if someone did try to pull her in, though. Even just trying.

But nobody did, so she remained at the table, picking up crumbles from the dinner plates, looking at the rest of the town dancing and singing in the parking slot beneath the flaring lights and even a few precious electric bulbs they had managed to recover from the coast. Perhaps she should start looking for something like that next time she went into the forest… people did seem to like practical artefacts such as those.

Thought she had yet to find an electrical bulb that could pass through the decades since the War.

Rossa sighed and leaned back against the chair, looking at Ferravia as it celebrated its festival. Looking at a safe distance and with too many things to unsay.

But she supposed it was fine nevertheless.

She strained her lips in a smile, looking at people living on the outside of an invisible wall she could never cross, no matter how hard her mother pushed and her father pulled. She was just not made for such things.

The village was still beautiful. The sweet scent of the rich dinner still lingered in the air, and the night, for once, was full of peace and hope. She turned to look at the treeline, stark against the darkening sky.

It seemed to loom and spill over the edge of the wall, as if it wanted to come closer, a dark tide that would break through the banks and roll over.

She had no future living like this.

Rossa pursed her lips. She needed to play her cards right and go back to the forest.

She would have something new to show off for the nest festival, for sure.

Something that would finally break that wall and make them look at her with pride.

And finally, everyone would praise her.

Author’s Notes: This was a chapter I found much easier to write than I expected. Thank you Muse.

Thanks for reading!”


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