Chapter One: Petrova
I pulled Ward from the hallway into an empty room. “Trova what are-” the surprise on his face transformed as I cut off his sentence. I had moved swiftly but not swift enough that he hadn’t caught my hand on the way up to wrap behind his head. He smiled toying with me pulling away a little, his hand holding my wrist still, he leant in a little, lingering just out of reach. He released my hand smiling. Challenging me. I wrapped it behind his head, running my fingers into his hair as he leant into me, our lips barely a distance away, his breath warmed my lips as I held his steady gaze. I felt playful and full of mischief, something he loved about me, when he went to kiss me I pulled back just a little and smiled at his frustration before I leant back in and pressed my lips to his, the warmth of his touch spread. My focus detached from our mouths warm and hungry against one another. I felt his hand fall from near my wrist, down my arm tracing it to my shoulder. Settling his palm against the small of my back pulling me closer. I could feel every point our bodies pressed against one another. I took his other hand in mine and wrapped it around me, letting go of his hand now pressing against me. I rested my now free hand on his shoulder. His kiss growing hungrier, I can’t help but smile. Our breathing quickened by the kiss.
There was a warmth, a strange sensation spreading from every point our bodies touched. Something inside of me flinched. A reminder to not lose control.
I ended the kiss. Pulling away felt like a cold sobering shower. Whatever frustration was on Ward’s face faltered on seeing mine. I hadn’t wanted to stop, not really. Had I not pulled away, I don’t know if I could have stopped. But an empty room in the lecture building doesn’t often remain empty for long. I peered out of the door into the hallway, no one would notice us exit the room, I didn’t doubt the bustling hall would be perfect cover as we slipped out of the room. We headed to the next lecture. Taking our regular seats, we sat waiting for the others to join us. Our friends came in next. There was a handful of us taking the class for a genuine reason others took folklore as an easy fun elective, for us, we had to as part of our training.
Let it never be said that the protectors of humanity had no formal training. This was the way it had to be. Physical training was something we had endured our whole life, but when it comes to education, well our parents have always wanted to keep us alive as long as possible, and there is that old cliché. Information is power.
I however had no information, no intelligent response when someone walked in the class, it was like looking in a mirror. Dark chestnut hair, brown amber eyes that looked like a reflection of mine, only somehow, looking at her eyes I couldn’t shake the sense they were somehow colder. But there it was, that flicker of recognition. Like I already knew this stranger, this person in front of me. I barely heard her name. it wasn’t until I caught her writing it on her notebook “Leianna Amaris”. I know I had heard the name Amaris before somewhere, like a distant memory. It wasn’t an uncommon name, not for one of the touched. Rumour has it that a few generations ago there was a branch or two of the Amaris line that were quite prolific. It’s not uncommon for broken fractions to return to the fold, perhaps that was all it was, but I couldn’t for the life of me shake this feeling. Some part of me called to the name with such familiarity, like it was in my blood. I had to put these thoughts to one side as the professor began to start the lecture switching on the projector. I couldn’t afford to fall behind, university isn’t cheap and to be honest, as unbelievable as it might be, one day these lectures might just save lives, hopefully my own one day.
When she went to leave at the end of the class I stopped her. I held out my hand “I’m Trova.” I say smiling softly trying to remain polite but when her hand touches mine I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Unsure if I am uneasy at her touch or if it is just because how like me she looks. I can’t stop myself. “Who are you really?” I ask.
“I am Lei… I’m a transfer.” She says. Her smile is soft but that isn’t enough information, that doesn’t explain anything.
“Are you one of us?” I ask her. Wanting to know so much. I know doppelgangers are possible, they act like a back-up, no one usually meets theirs, not the touched generally. They are our replacements that have to play catch up to be able to be a part of the battle. Doppelgangers don’t really meet, they are waiting in the wings for our death usually, tabs are kept on them, but we never out right meet them, and as I am no twin, I don’t think I work by the same rules, after all, I feel as much an outsider to my own race. I am not sure I welcome meeting the person destined to replace me when I am likely killed off.
“I don’t know what you mean.” She says so levelly. I search her face knowing she isn’t telling me the whole story, better to cut my losses, I think before turning to walk away. “Have you ascended yet?” She asks. I feel my breath catch. She knows what I was talking about. What’s more, she knows the ritual.
“You know who I am?” I find myself asking her, often we recognise our own kind, but I don’t know about her, there is something unnerving, I can’t help but give the excuse of her similarities to my own appearance as a logical explanation. Any explanation fits better than nothing. I continue “then you know I can’t ascend until tomorrows-”
“-Sunset.” She finished my sentence. “Me too.” She says nervously, still studying me, she smiles but it falters when I speak.
“You had a twin?” She shook her head no. The more we speak I see more of myself in her. It makes a knot form in my stomach. Is this what the others used to feel like?
“Many like us, we are meant to” she speaks quietly. “that’s why I was transferred to this ward, to be paired with the other anomaly.” I know what she means now. She is going to be the partner I get assigned to. It’s not uncommon, that they would assign this kind of match to see what happens. No one much likes anomalies but, anomalies tend to be more powerful according to legend. She looks around, not wanting to be over heard. “Did you go through it as well?” What she means causes a ripple across what feels to be my whole existence. A closely guarded secret, not exactly something anyone who went through it wants acknowledged on any planet. She is referring to a forbidden ritual, the sway is done shortly after birth and then reinforced not too long before the ascension process. A family secret is still a secret; I answer by means of a nod not wanting to vocalise what I meant. She doesn’t end her question like I had hoped. “Meeting your blood bringer is…” she seems lost for words.
“Terrifying. His gaze felt…” I try to fill in the blanks but fall short letting her take over.
“Heavy? Like they are weighing their investment in you? Their risk?” She offered. I winced remembering how I had been under my blood bringer’s stare. Wondering what they thought and yet afraid to know all at once. It was as much a risk to them as it was to us.
“Exactly.” I feel the world fall out of my mouth. Undeniable but an accident none the less. She smiled sympathetically at me for a moment. In the brief moment of conversation, weighing her up, now alone in the room I suddenly felt a little vulnerable, too exposed. I knew Ward and the others would be waiting, possibly to see who walks out of this room alive after the conversation that was inevitable. I don’t know if I could have begun to ask all the questions that kept forming one after another. But I still had much to do, ascensions are private family affairs, and after that, there is a massive celebration just to celebrate the new life and blood. We all were going through it tomorrow, me and my few comrades. Leaving those questions unanswered didn’t seem like much of an option either.