This world is different from the one your reading this in. In this world, everyone's born with a shape tattooed on their body. It could be anywhere from the bottom of your foot to the tip of your nose, though most are on people's arms. This shape dictates where you belong in society. Squares are at the top of it all. They live lavish lives and work little. Squares got to be kings and queens, actors and musicians. Next were Rhombuses. If someone is a Rhombus they work under the squares. They mostly handle taxes and management jobs. They oversee many of the other shapes in their jobs. Triangles often work in the enforcement careers. They are police officers and peacemakers. Triangles are expected to be strong and show no weakness. They often have their emotions beat out of them. Then there are rectangles who work hard labor. Rectangles often worked construction and mining with a few lucky ones working in businesses and social working. At the very bottom of the hierarchy were those without shapes. If they weren't killed when they were born they lived on the streets becoming barbarians and forced to steal to survive. Other's live in camps like gypsies.
Amelia was born to a family of squares. When she was born they checked her head to toe for markings. They checked in vain because the tiny baby didn't have any. Amelia was dropped into the arms of an old rag-clad woman that was lurking outside the city. The family hadn't even bothered to wrap the baby in a blanket. The seemingly homeless woman carried the child in her arms back to where her people had set up a small encampment. Occasionally a Rhombus or Square in pursuit of political favor with the people would donate some money to the group of people. These people raised Amelia alongside two boys. The elder of the two was named Opus and the younger was named Cal. The three were joined at the hip and they ran around making the most of their childhood. It was when Amelia turned eight that things began to change around their camp of misfits.
A few men had joined their encampment and every day they would bring back enough food for everyone to eat. Before they were lucky to get more than salted water with weeds in it. The three children were overjoyed and tried to help out as much as they could. They learned to prepare the meat and cook it properly. For the first time, the trio actually felt like they were contributing to the camp that raised the orphans. Two years later the men brought Opus along with them. That night they all came back laughing and Opus had a bruised wrist but a grin on his face. Opus left their trio after that. He always spoke like he was more important than they were. Amelia tried to still think of him as her friend.
Cal started studying with the medicine woman, Shira, after Opus left and Amelia was left on her own. At least Cal wanted to talk to her but with him working so often she felt alone a lot. Fed up, one day, after a long time of waiting, Amelia followed the group of men and Opus. They walked into the city and stopped before entering drawing rectangles on their arms. Amelia watched as the group slowly sneaked meat and bread into coat pockets and bags. Opus, himself, stole the change purse from a rhombus woman. As they walked out the group took a detour and stopped in a small field. The men began to eat and drink, feasting on whatever cakes and sweets they'd managed to acquire. The men brought back the meat and bread to the camp pretending to be generous.
Amelia felt fury boil in her chest but kept her mouth shut. The camp deserved as much as those men could bring. That night, at only sixteen years old, Amelia stole a pot of their ink. She headed out to the city early and drew a delicate rectangle on her wrist. Throughout the day she sneaked sweets and cakes from vendors. She narrowly avoided both the group of men and Triangles. She made it back to camp and began to pass out the treats. Just seeing the smiles on everyone's faces made Amelia's heart leap. When the group of men came back they were shocked by the merry laughter and happy screaming children. When asked who caused this Amelia stepped forward.
Several of the men stepped forward with harsh glares on their faces but Opus stepped in front of them all. The men laughed and pushed him forward. Opus dragged Amelia out of the camp.
"What did you do?" He shouted at her.
"What so only you men can have the sweets?" She retorted. "They've been here for eight years and not once have the brought back cakes or sweets for anyone. I'm sorry. I said they didn't I? Not once in two years have you brought treats back. Not a piece of candy to the children or a cake to the elders."
"Why should I? They just sit around and do nothing all day."
Amelia steamed, "They raised you! They took you in when no one wanted you! Of course, you can't even remember that. Opus, your family didn't even want you. The camp took you in and gave you clothes they made with their own calloused hands! They gave you shelter from storms! They gave you whatever food they could! Not once did they ask you to do more than just be a child and be happy!"
"Well, not all of us can be children forever, Amelia."
Amelia slapped him hard. The sound echoed off the trees. "I chop down trees for you to have fire! I stitch your clothes when they've been torn. I help Lainet wash the clothes and Grey take care of his two babies! Cal works with Shira to patch you all up when you get a little too rough! You don't do anything! You rob and steal not only from the rich but from your own people."
"And what would you do without us?" Opus laughed humorlessly. "You'd be back drinking river water with leaves in it for dinner."
"We'd be fine without you menacing apes!"
"ENOUGH!" called a hoarse voice. It was Hilla, the old lady who commanded the camp. The same lady that had Amelia dropped in her arms twelve years ago. "I want the men out of my camp. Opus, if you chose to stay with them I want you gone, too. Amelia, come with me to my tent."
Amelia took the elder by her arm and carefully led her to her tent leaving a stunned Opus behind. They passed through the camp where the men were packing their things sneering at the people around them. Hilla and Amelia walked into the tent at the back of the camp. There was a small lantern burning in the corner and just enough room for Hilla and Amelia to sit.
"Child. I expect you to take over getting food for the camp. While you were gone today three people showed up. A mother, swollen with child; her daughter, just a few months older than you; and a small son. I want you and the other girl to start taking over for the rotten barbarians. Take only what we need and nothing more, you never know what situations others may be in." Hilla coughed harshly causing Amelia to rub her back with worry. "The girl resides in the tent next to yours. You are not to ask about the head covering she wears for it is not your place. Am I understood?"
"Good, go eat and talk with the girl."
Amelia nodded and exited the tent and looked around for the new people. The three were sitting alone off by themselves. The mother was severely pregnant and looked like she couldn't even stand. Despite this, she still looked quite young. The boy was thin and pale but still small and happy. The girl had a light cloth wrapped around her head so that all that could be seen of her face was below her eyebrows. Amelia began to walk towards the family but was stopped by Opus. She was immediately on the defensive.
"What?" she snapped.
"The guards don't question rectangles but don't try to go higher withing the system. They'll know." He looked conflicted and then pulled her into a hug. "I never intended for this to happen. I'm sorry I've been so selfish. Take care of Cal, please."
"I will. Stay safe," Amelia said hugging him back.
"I'll do my best."
"Just don't be stupid."
"I was always the stupid one."
"You were. Get going."
Opus nodded and pulled away and walked over to the med tent where Cal slept and worked. Amelia turned back to the family and strolled over.
"Has anyone shown you where the med tent is, miss?" She asked crouching next to the group.
The woman nodded. "Are you the Amelia that Hilla spoke of?"
"Yes, I was rescued by Hilla as an infant when I was born with no marks into a square family." Amelia may have imagined it but it seemed as though the girl looked down at the mention of marks.
"I was raised as a slave to a family of rectangles. Thya's father was who eventually led to me being thrown out of the house when I was only a few months pregnant with her."
"Stories of the past are heavy burdens. May I be allowed to lighten your burden by listening?" Amelia asked, the saying was a respectful term used often in their world.
"I stayed in a camp much like this one. Everyone was very kind and welcoming. The women helped me during Thya's birth. There were... complications and I was forced to flee the camp. The next camp was where I met Lance's and this little one's father there. A few months ago, when I was just starting to show, a group of angry triangles burned down our camp. My husband under nature was slaughtered and I barely made it away with my two children." The woman was tired and her head hung. Her daughter wiped at the beautiful brown eyes that Amelia could now see up close. "Since then we have been traveling. Hilla offered us a place here. I hope we will be able to stay here long."
"I am sorrowful you had to experience those things. I hope you will find the home you are seeking here." Amelia lightly rested her hand on the woman's shoulder. "We have a few children here Lance's age and our medicine woman, Shira, is well versed in delivering safe births. I, of course, will be working with Thya often but if you have need of anything never feel that you are unable to ask me for help."
Lance looked at Amelia, "You were the one who gave me the cake today!"
"Yes, I did."
"Thya and I have never had cake before. Thank you, sister!"
"Lance!" The mother scolded. "He developed the habit at our first encampment, he calls people he respects brother and sister. I apologize."
"Don't, I've always wanted a little brother." She ruffled the boy's hair. "Thya, we have a pond down ways if you would wish to accompany me. I've witnessed the struggles traveling does."
Thya glanced nervously at her mother but her mother just nodded grimly. "Thya, this girl will not judge you. There must always be trust in a partnership."
"I will accompany you."
"I might have some clothes that will fit you and I will have one of the women drop off some clean clothes for Lance come morning. Give me a few moments." Amelia smiled at the family and went to her tent.
Outside Amelia's tent was a trunk of clothes and towels. She grabbed two changes of clothes, a towel, and a rag in case she or the girl was on their bloods. She walked back to the family and led Thya down to the pond. They walked in silence, Thya carefully following Amelia through the darkness. When they reached the pond the moon shown down on the murky water. Amelia began to undress and wade out to the water. Thya remained on shore nervously fidgeting.
"Is something wrong?" Amelia asked. She wasn't used to people being modest about their bodies.
"Please don't tell anyone what you're about to see." Thya nervously stuttered.
Thya began to unravel the covering on her head revealing long dark hair. Eventually, the cloth fell away and Amelia gasped in awe. Thya was not shapeless, she couldn't be. Because right in stunning black was a perfect circle on her forehead.
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