Paradise--A Scifi Romance Novel--Chapter 6

Updated on October 15, 2018
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Evelyn has published 2 novels, Justice Lost and Rescue, and 2 scifi/fantasy short stories in magazines.

Chapter 6

A long sandy peninsula ran beneath them, then a forest of palms took over. A city gleamed on high cliffs, the buildings painted bright colors that contrasted and complemented each other. At the center of the city stood a two-tiered white dome with a jewel on its top that flashed in the sun, changing different colors with each angle. The city was divided into three concentric sections, and the streets radiated from the central building like spokes on a wheel.

The car descended toward a building on the outer section, on the edge of the cliffs that faced the ocean. Its dome was blue with stripes of yellow; its walls were alternating stripes of orange and purple. She’d never seen such a garishly colorful building.

Below, on a broad plaza behind the building, sat another skycar. Ember brought the car down beside it. As he did, people crowded around, pointing. They car eased to a landing, and the people jostled closer, while others kept back.

Some of the people had iridescent, shimmering skin. Others were red or green, or a mixture of the two, while a few showed bright splashes of orange.

She climbed shakily to her feet. Ember offered his hand, but she shook her head.

I can’t touch Ember anymore, not until I can control my lightning. If he kept teaching me, I’d be so close my lightning could strike him. I can’t do it while he has scars—and I don’t ever want to hurt him again—to be near him is to have the possibility of hurting him. I can’t live with myself if I do such a thing deliberately, just because I can’t stand to be without him. To do that—for mere pleasure’s sake—would be too much like my father.

If someone else teaches me, I won’t be flashing my lightning all over the place. This way, I won’t have to worry about hurting Ember while I’m learning. Eventually, if my lightning isn’t too damaged, I’ll be able to touch him again.

I hope it doesn’t take long….though if it’s damaged, it might take longer…..

Ember stepped out the door, flanked by the two Ms. He stood, looking back at her.

She hesitated on the threshold. Her heart flipped. She dreaded being so close to a man she barely knew.

Ember’s father won’t hurt me. Not all fathers are like mine.

For Ember, she told herself, and stepped down onto the red brick plaza.

Ember turned to the crowd. “Hello,” he said, and an echo filtered through his voice as the com behind his ear translated for him. “I am the son of Justice March. This is my wife, Sky.” He looked at her, caressing her with his eyes. “I have come to see my father.”

“I know your father!” came a voice translated through her own com, the foreign tongue a jabbering whisper in the background. “He just returned to the inn a sun’s-breadth ago.”

“Thank you.” Ember strode forward, and the crowd parted a little.

The male M stepped in front of him. “Make way for the Heir of City Magnificent!”

Ember touched the M’s arm. “Please tone it down a bit. We’re not supposed to act superior here.”

“But you are superior in all respects.”

“We’re not superior, just different.”

“That is contrary to all M protocols.”

“Your protocols include obeying me in all things, don’t they?”

“Yes. I will do as you say.” The M turned to the crowd. “Excuse me, please. My master would like to go inside now.” The crowd backed away a little more. She hunched over, trying to be as small as possible—not easy to do when she towered at least a foot over the natives. Most of them were shorter than six feet. All of them—the men and women—were bald, except for the children, the youngest with long thick hair, and the older children with short tufts scattered over their heads. Some wore loose rough looking shirts and pants; others wore skintight shimmering suits, and a few wore long robes that looked too hot for this climate. Some of the people kept changing color, while others’ colors were in complete equilibrium. Once, she caught a strange glimmer moving among the crowd; she tried to catch a glimpse of it, but it vanished.

A little girl stood in the pathway, and her face flickered red as she looked up at Sky with wide, wondering eyes. A man grabbed her, pulled her back, and slapped her hard against her cheek.

Part of her felt like she wanted to sink into the ground. And part of her wanted to grab that man and slap him to make him see how it felt—

She stopped, looking for the girl, but she melted back into the crowd.

“What’s wrong?” asked Ember.

“The girl—that man hit her—”

“She must’ve been midcaste. It’s taboo for them to show emotion-colors like the undercaste do.”

“Oh.” She didn’t really understand—and nothing justified hurting a child. But it was clear there was a lot about this world she’d have to learn, if she was going to stay here for a while.

They walked up to an archway at the back of the inn, and she followed Ember to a tall red door. He knocked. A girl opened the door. Red flooded over her face, subsuming the iridescent shimmer. “Welcome, my lords.” She had short black curls and green eyes. “What is your desire?”

“We would like a honeymoon suite, if you have it.”

“What is a….hohnee moon?”

“Sorry. I guess that’s untranslatable here. Just a nice suite, preferably with a view of the sea.”

“It is good that it is not yet Harvest, or our best suites would be full. Please, come with me.”

She led the way through a foyer to two ascending staircases, winding upwards on either side of a red carpeted hallway. Huge bouquet-filled vases sat on glass tables. Beyond another archway was a large common room, people laughing, talking in a river of voices she couldn’t decipher. Light shimmered through crystal lamps on the ceiling, splashing iridescent patterns on the floor.

“The best suite we have available is on the fourth floor. If you don’t mind the height.”

The hint of a smile tugged at Ember’s lips. “No, that will be fine.”

She followed Ember up the staircase, careful not to get too close to him, or touch him accidentally. For a primitive world, this was an elegant, luxurious place and excitement thrummed through her at the prospect of staying here.

They apparently didn’t have elevators, and Sky was gasping by the time they reached the top. Shame filled her that she wasn’t in better shape.

“It’s just down here,” said the girl and stopped at a door down a hallway with a green rug. She lifted a jumble of keys from her pocket, jingling into the air, and twisted one of the keys in the lock. “Please, take a look and see if it’s to your liking.” She bowed as Sky and Ember passed her just inside the door.

Sky stepped into a large room with a green carpet, its border etched with gold. A floor-to-ceiling window looked out onto a stone balcony, and beyond, the sea sparkled with the golden gleam of sunset.

On the right side stood a desk and an elegant wooden table, then another doorway which revealed a smaller room with a divan and a low marble table, lit by the glow of early evening. On the left was a large bed hung with a velvet red bedspread, intricate designs curving across its center, which glimmered with threads of iridescent color. The bed itself was dark wood and had high bedposts carved with birds and strange mammals.

An ache tugged at her heart when she saw the bed. How could she even risk sleeping beside him, entwined among the sheets, her skin touching his? What if she hurt him in her sleep when he was totally defenseless? No, she’d have to sleep elsewhere, perhaps on the divan in the other room. She was thankful the suite was large enough they could be separate, but still together.

“Is it to your liking, my lord?”

“Oh, yes, it’s perfect. Thank you.”

The girl’s face blushed bright orange. She tugged a key off of her keyring. “Here is a copy of the key. You can return it to the front desk when you are finished here. Oh! I forgot to tell you—we have the most modern conveniences here. Through the other room you will find a bathroom with indoor plumbing.”

“That is very…modern. And convenient.”

She beamed. “This is the best inn on Tisjajai.”

“Who owns it?”

“A great man—Jalalu. He earned wealth on the high seas, and he put most of it into providing the luxuries you see here.”

“Is he here?”

“Oh, yes. He sometimes goes seafaring, but he is in his suite on the fifth floor now. Would you like to see him? Most do not without an appointment, but you are distinguished guests.”

“Not at this moment, thank you. We would actually like to see Justice March.”

“Ah! He is your….”

“My father.”

“Would you like me to take him a message?” Green twined across her face.

“No—we would like to see him in person. After we freshen up a bit. Where is he?”

“His suite is just down the hallway. But I believe he is down in the common room.”

“Thank you—what is your name?”

“My name is insignificant, my lord.”

“I’d like to know it.”

Her face brightened. “I am Suda. You are like your father. You look like him, and you don’t pay attention to castes. Your people may look strange and frightening, but you are kind and good.” She smiled. “Please, enjoy yourselves, and ask me if you need anything.”

“We will.”

She bowed, and Ember bowed back. Suda looked so flustered that she dashed away in a streak of light green.

Ember turned to Sky, his golden eyes serious. “You look exhausted. Please, sit down.”

She collapsed on the bed. She meant to sit, but she ended up flopping onto her side, not even enough energy to stay upright. The red dress flowed down over the edge of the bed.

He sat down next to her. “If you want, we can stay up here and not see my father till tomorrow. It’s been a long two days.”

That was an understatement. Had it been only last night that she’d asked Ember to hurt her, then told him of her past, and Ember had gone in anger to attack her father? It seemed a lifetime ago. Only three days since the wedding….when she’d been trembling with fear to let the Heir touch her…..

No wonder she was exhausted. She’d never had such an eventful three days in her life—and those days had changed her life forever. She’d become a new person—or at least, halfway, as if she were partly stuck in one world, and partly in another.

But she wanted to at least see Justice tonight and see if he’d help her. She wanted to start the journey to control her lightning as soon as possible. If only she could learn tonight—and then she and Ember could be together again!

That was wishful thinking, but she needed to cling to hope.

She pushed herself to a sitting position. “I want to see your father first.”

“Would you like to wash up?”

“I don’t think I have the energy to do that, but I probably look terrible.”

He laughed. “You could never look terrible. You just look like you need some rest.”

“Not yet.” She forced herself to her feet, willed her legs to stop trembling. She didn’t want him to have to catch her…although if she fainted she probably wouldn’t hurt him with lightning….

The Ms, who’d stayed outside, followed them downstairs. Perhaps one of them would catch her if she fell.

Her mind floated into reverie. Focus. She had to be coherent enough to talk to her father-in-law.

They stepped into the hallway again and then into the common room. A crystal chandelier rotated high on the ceiling, spilling brilliant rainbow patterns on the floor. More crystals flickered on the window, flashing prisms born of sunset light. One landed on her cheek.

“Stop,” said Ember.

“What?”

He reached toward her face. She flinched back. Hurt cut through his eyes.

“You look stunning like that.”

The people from the nearby tables—and for that matter, the people at all the tables—looked at her. She froze. She’d never liked being at the center of attention. She wished she could shrink into the floor.

“Ah, Ember! Sky!” boomed a voice from the other end of the room, near the windows. A man stood from his seat at a padded booth. He strode past his table toward them.

Her new father-in-law. Justice.

© 2018 Evelyn

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