"If we're looking for a way to expand the kingdom in terms of power why not make it a refuge for the Xgifted?" I offered.
"Absolutely not! I will not allow those hideous abominations to run loose in my kingdom. It's bad enough that you're here." My father refuted as he stood from his seat at the head of the table and continued, "You'd be enslaved already if—" He paused and I watched as a small smirk graced his lips. He then put his stoic facade back in place and sat down while smoothing out the wrinkles of his royal attire.
"If what, your Majesty?" I grit through my tightly clenched teeth. I knew he was doing this on purpose, but I couldn’t help but react. No matter how much power our kingdom would gain, or how strong his influence would grow, any help from the Xgifted—from people like me—was out of the question. When my father remained silent I flung myself across the table and seized him by the throat.
"I said continue!" I demanded viciously. The councilman in the room held their breaths.
I could feel the fear wafting off of my father. I could see the reflection of my irate black and red eyes in his quivering, icy blue ones. And yet, the rest of his cold expression remained. I steadily squeezed his neck harder and hoped for a reaction. I received nothing but a beet-red face in return, along with shallow breathing, and rapidly bruising skin beneath my fingertips. With narrowed eyes, I released him.
"Pathetic," I spat and calmly sat back down. "Alright, the meeting is dismissed."
My father, the King, looked up at me with wide eyes and exclaimed frantically, "You can't do that! Know your place! I am the King here, not you." He ended his sentence with a grimace and bit harshly, “Not yet.”
The council members glanced at him and left the room smugly as if to mock his authority as the Ruler. As soon as the room was cleared, the older royal let out a crazed yell and lunged at me, his earlier uninterested facade forgotten. Casey, one of my personal guards, intervened. She grabbed his forearm and began to harshly pull him towards the exit. The King hurled slurs and profanities at both of us until he was forcefully shoved from the room.
"That scene was highly unbecoming of a King!" I yelled at him before Casey slammed the heavy oak doors in his face. She then came to stand behind me, waiting. I knew what she was waiting for—the aftermath. My emotions had always been fickle, like that of a paper bridge. I’d like to think that I’d progressed to the steadiness of a cardboard bridge, but my lip quivered and I wasn’t so sure that would hold true. But, I couldn’t let her see me like this.
Never again, I thought and fought ruthlessly to maintain my composure and keep my watery eyes at bay. I had to show her that I was improving; maturing. However, when Casey caressed the side of my face with the back of her hand, I felt my walls crumble. Was this all it took to break me? A slight blow and my paper walls tip over?
"Damnit..." I muttered harshly and my colorful eyes began to sting. My head dropped into my hands when a single, strangled sob left my mouth. Then, I felt Casey's large, calloused hand rubbing circles on my back.
"Take a minute to collect yourself. I'll go draw you a bath. Oh, and Locke is waiting outside the office to walk you to your sleeping quarters," she said in a motherly tone. I gave her a slight nod in response. When she turned I caught sight of the worried expression on her face. Yet, when she opened the door to leave, she managed to show me a warm smile. How? How does she do that? Why can't I do that? Can I learn to do that? To pretend?
When the door finally shut behind her I felt the tears I'd been holding back flow freely down my face. They won't know. They can't know. No one can see me like this, these were the only thoughts that plagued my mind as I sat sobbing in my cold, empty office.
When my tears finally subsided I cleared my throat, straightened my wrinkled clothes, and headed towards the intricately carved door. I heaved it open and was surprised to see my mother waiting outside instead of Locke, my other guard. "Mom?" I squeaked and stepped into the hallway, "Where's Locke?"
"Oh, honey, forget about him for a moment," she waved a hand dismissively and started walking. I sighed and reluctantly followed her as she sped down the east wing. "I came to tell you about tomorrow's evening dinner. It's for the planning of the Gala, so you'll need to attend. We'll be serving..." It felt like she continued endlessly. Eventually, I tuned her out, which left me alone to drift within my thoughts. It's just a mask. She doesn't care about you. Never has, never will. All she cares about is keeping her title as Queen.
I was startled when a delicate, yet firm hand landed on my shoulder. My eyes were hazy with newly accumulated, unshed tears, and I was unable to identify the perpetrator. While reflexively trying to protect myself, walls of ice shot up around me. I crouched within the cold confines and waited, a sob leaving my mouth. What was that? Who grabbed me? Thoughts rushed through my head in fast succession, and my frantic mind couldn’t keep up. Could it have been an intruder? I tried to listen for any movement outside of my ice walls, but all I could hear was my shallow breathing and my heartbeat in my ears. You can do this, Angélo, I encouraged myself and took deep breaths, willing myself to stay calm, and allowed the surrounding ice to fall. Quickly, I observed my surroundings, but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. When I glanced over my shoulder to check the rest of the hall, I did a double-take when I spotted my mother, sculpted perfectly out of fine ice, with an outstretched arm.
"Mother?!" I shouted and lifted her from the curse of my icy ability. The shards slowly melted from her body, leaving it slightly damp, but otherwise unharmed.
"Angélo!" She yelled and slapped me hard across the face. "I thought you said you had control over your powers! Do you have any idea how dangerous they can be??" I averted my eyes to the ground and focused my attention on my stinging cheek.
Why...why would she hit me? She's never hit me before. Why now?
"Just wait until your father hears of this!" Her harsh words made me wince. "And don't forget about tomorrow's dinner!" I watched my mother’s retreating back as she stormed off towards the throne room in a fit of rage.
With a sigh, I gripped my upper arm, the crescents of my nails digging into my skin. Just ignore her. She's not worth it. I quietly trudged down the labyrinth of halls until I reached my bedroom. Waiting outside the grand oak doors stood my second guard, Locke Moss, in all of his beauty. A small smile quirked my lips but was ultimately smothered by the memories of what transpired just moments before.
"Are you alright?" He asked as soon as I came into earshot. If I hadn’t been feeling so melancholic, I’d have been startled. "I could hear the Queen yelling from here." When I stayed silent with my eyes trained on the floor, he added, "Well, maybe you'll feel better after you bathe."
I finally looked up at him, meeting his gorgeous eyes. They had a purple hue, which was unique to a certain type of elemental bender. Unlike my father who had blue eyes or my mother who had brown, gifted people with purple eyes were considered to be the strongest. Well, with the exception of the Xgifted. I recalled back on the eye-color ranking chart I had seen in one of my many classes.
[Purple: Elemental manipulator, Blue: Water/ice manipulator, Brown: No known abilities, Xgifted: No known information. Handle with caution.]
Locke ran a veiny hand through his hair in a frustrated manner before murmuring, "I guess I'll leave you be. Don't do anything stupid." When he finally moved away from the door, I released a heavy sigh and went inside. I stepped onto the velvety carpet and felt my heart melt a little. Besides Locke and Casey, this room may be the only thing I appreciate in this hellhole, I thought to myself with a sigh as I took in the room’s magnificence. The enormous bed called to me, begging to be slept on beneath its silk, black and gold-lined sheets. The chandeliers cast their usual yellow hue throughout the room and a grim smile overtook my face. With sorrowful eyes, I trudged into the attached bathroom. I sat down on the fluffy toilet seat cover and began to strip out of my princely attire.
Off came the annoying crown, tight red vest, stiff button-up, and practically painted-on slacks, until all that was left was me. Me, with my scarred body and mind. Me, with my 'positive' mask gone— just me.
I stood and looked into the mirror—looked into the depths of my black and red swirling eyes—and sighed. After a quick glance at the steaming tub of water, I gently submerged myself. My stark, naked body burned with the heat of the boiling bathwater, and my hair splayed around my head like a rusted halo. I sat in the tub for a while and allowed the water to rinse away my thoughts and worries.
However, my fears and concerns returned faster than water rushing down a drain pipe. I glanced around at the several toiletries that surrounded my gilded tub until my hand found the bar of pink soap. The movement was as subconscious and easy as breathing to me. Peeling up the silver blade that was hidden beneath, I watched as it glinted in the fuzzy lighting of a small chandelier overhead. Placing the flat side of it gently against my skin, I enjoyed the brief contrast of the cool blade against the warmth of my body. After lifting it at a slant, I quickly swiped it across. The sharp sting of the incision burned just enough to pierce through the replays of all my past mistakes that fought to conquer my mind.
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