The State of Affairs

I’ve been burnt out and homesick, but I’ve decided it’s not so bad here.

The door of our dwelling is huddled under the stairs up to a walkway. Sometimes I walk among the small spit of grass and trees on my way to take the trash out, instead of parading past a row of garage doors, hoping Murphy’s Law won’t initiate another awkward pedestrian-driver waving game. I grew to take the latter way, though, as the path got littered with plums from the trees.

The back of a horse ranch sits on the top of the hill behind our apartment complex, and sometimes riders take their horses to the corner store, clopping back up the hill outside our apartment balcony with cases of beer. A little white house down the road is home to three dogs: two heavy duty feather dusters and a velvety pitbull. When they’re let outside, they bark for fun, but sometimes one of the little dogs gets really stressed out around the big one.

If I stand out on the patio, I can see the big illuminated sign of the shopping center where I used to work, sluggishly flashing red and blue over the trees like a lonely, distant beacon. It’s a little creepy.

We live across the bay from the San Francisco International Airport, so airplanes frequently roar overhead. Sometimes when it’s particularly loud, I half wonder if a plane is crashing, or if the apocalypse has arrived.

We have a hummingbird and a seed bird feeder attached to our balcony, and I’ve begun making a list of the birds who come to visit. Some of them are birds from home.

Our furniture and beds are inflatable. We planned to get real lounge furniture like regular adults, but before that could happen, we all realized that we’re moving on as soon as the lease is up. Can’t be tied down by real mattresses just yet. My current inflatable mattress doesn’t give me back pain and it’s decked out in comforters and flannel scottie dog sheets, so it’s a pretty decent setup.

We have a little side-room that I think is supposed to be a sort of dining room. This became the office early on. As is my way, I set up camp here pretty much exclusively over the fall semester and now it’s kind of unofficially become my workspace. I finally accepted that, and opted to move things around and add my own touches to the space—like Christmas lights and a cup for writing utensils with plastic molecule models in it.

We’re now just starting to decorate our walls after four months of being here. That’s the kind of four months it’s been. Too tired for initiative for extras. Surviving only.

Though we haven’t failed to cover our fridge in Lord of the Rings-themed word nonsense.

There’s a massive wildlife reserve just a 10 minute drive south, but I’ve yet to actually go there…among other places. There are a lot of welcoming, green places if you know where to look for them. The east bay city I’m currently living in is all right if you know where to go or have your own haunts, but, being new to the area, my aversion to driving in California, and an empty social energy bucket, I haven’t gone out and found them yet.

However, attempts to explore are beginning to bud. So far they’ve been reaping positive results.

My car likes to kill itself in the night. A few weeks ago, I put oil in it, jumped it, and charged the battery up again like an ADULT. One of these days, I’m going to stop worrying I’m going to destroy my car whenever it needs any sort of maintenance.

Afforded six weeks in which to recover from my intense stages of burnout, I more or less hibernated. Things are better now. But I’ve effectively destroyed my sleep schedule, and I’m trying to get it to at least resemble something regular before school begins next week. That hasn’t been as successful as I would have hoped…

The goal of this semester and beyond is to come back to balance. Getting a handle on my cancerous, stubborn cynicism, encroaching social anxieties, and lack of willpower to want to be patient or brave. I’m pretty optimistic that things are going to change for the better, actually. Things are already shaping up in many inexplicable ways.

I’ve felt tired and empty and cold for too long. I want to feel like things are worth it again. I want to work with ambition, pursue the things I love without groaning so much—if at all. Plans are taking shape: Among other things, I’ve decided to start exercising again, to venture outside the apartment more, to again take up recreational reading and daily reflection and prayer, to operate within “responsible self-care,”—minimizing procrastination, taking care of myself and my current home and roommates as a means of staying healthy instead of trying to define rest with avoiding all responsibility.

I want to feel whole again; peaceful, growing, alive. And for the first time in a long while, I feel…malleable–like perhaps the spiraling is over and I’m finally at a place where I can pick up and start making stronger strides forward. 

They say it’s more about the journey than the destination. And for me, this season’s destination is more a general cloud than a distant landing pad. Looking for that inscrutable target causes all kinds of stress for me, so I’ll focus on the journey. The daily steps, the digestible pieces.

I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I understand that such a point of satisfaction does not exist.

But perhaps where I am right now–in this little apartment south of San Francisco, on the verge of bigger and better things–isn’t such a bad place to start, all the same.

We are not monsters

When it began to mature, I was terrified.

There was no hiding what I was.

People would stare. They would think they knew what I was supposed to be or do or want. Some would understand, others would look at me like some kind of animal.

Centuries of objectification, symbolization, fanatic sacralization.

Beautiful yet ugly, sacred yet shameful. Mysterious but inferior, immaculate yet disgusting. Desired, yet abhorred.

Just because ideas are ancient doesn’t make them right.

What does that make someone feel, to be born in such a body?

Someone who wants only to be human?

Who looks upon their own physical container and wonders why. A child feeling that pain for the first time and thinking what a curse it is to be born this way. Why do creatures like us carry such burden? What an honor, I’m told.

What an honor. We can be procreators, but never human.

And rising against the voices, the dominant, the brutish, the ancient, we hear our own. Insisting what we are. Perhaps we’re crazy. Perhaps we’re wild. Rabid, diseased beasts. Overstepping the lines we did not set, renouncing our masters. Whispering or snarling what we know to be true, however we can get people to listen.

We are not monsters.

We are human.

We are human.

+++

A/N: Thoughts while milling around the apartment this afternoon.

I’m Going to Need a New Planner

2015 was a year of change and challenge.

By the middle of December, I was always tired, and holding desperately to a dwindling sense of motivation to keep up with anything. In the midst of it, I didn’t understand why I was having such a hard time, but looking back, it makes a lot of sense.

(Me being too hard on myself? Surprise, surprise…)

Exactly a year ago, I was yet to begin my last semester at George Fox University. I still didn’t know what I’d be getting myself into by electing to take Advanced Anatomy, and I’d already been feeling the beginning stages of burnout. I was in the middle of writing my second book, and I didn’t yet know how it would end. I hadn’t even applied to grad school yet, but I had decided I was going to go for it, and had initiated contact with a graduate admissions counselor.

By the end of May 2015, I had:

  • graduated from George Fox University with a biology degree
  • applied and been accepted to launch straight into an MFA Illustration-Graphic Novel program at Academy of Art University in September
  • arranged and embarked on another four-week trip to Costa Rica to visit my host family–my first time traveling internationally without academic affiliation.
  • finished my second novel (which I actually did in Costa Rica)
  • started initial stages of my next large writing project
  • made headway in plans to move to the San Francisco Bay Area with my prospective roommates

Graduating college heralded huge changes I didn’t understand until I was far removed from the graduation ceremony itself. The undergraduate science major life I’d grown accustomed to was no more. The friends I had made were spreading out across the country, or staying in the area while I planned to leave to attend a completely different type of school.

Having finished a 10-month writing project, I found myself struggling to keep my creative drive satiated. I had to be writing something. Editing was its own animal. I was practically scrambling for something new to work with. Fortunately, I had something in mind, which develops further by the day. I’ve unofficially started it. School and the other two novels needing attention have to come first. I exhaust myself when I try to work on four large projects at once, much to my annoyance.

I had a great time in Costa Rica, thanks to the very gracious hospitality of my friends and adopted family there. I hope I can go back and visit again someday.

The next couple of months saw preparation for the fall, trying unsuccessfully to secure an apartment from afar, hoping my meager savings would be enough before my financial aid kicked in, undergoing a plan B trip to find work and an apartment before the actual move. A lot of lists and changes of plans took place during this period.

My sister and I drove down August 15, and stayed at a friend’s house for 3 weeks (THANK YOU SUE!) until our apartment was ready. September 15, we were faced with moving into an apartment amid school and work, which proved to be much more exhausting than I had anticipated. Apparently apartments need a lot of things like food and soap, and lack of furniture makes it hard to do homework?

I started work about the time of the move, and I loved the people I worked with, but the amount of energy it took from my already burnt out countenance took a huge toll on my mental health and interfered with my classes. Thank God for financial aid. After two months, I had saved up enough where I could quit and have a reasonable stipend until things shift next September.

Moving away from home was hard for all the reasons I didn’t think to expect. I was suddenly separated from my support group, and I wasn’t yet up to the challenge of putting forth the effort making a lot of new friends at my new school would require. So I found myself rather isolated. The last couple of years have been relatively low seasons, so everything took too much energy and attention. Self-motivation was difficult.

New school meant new expectations, as well as a new area of study I still wasn’t accustomed to. Being a biology major in undergrad, homework was studying and reading and research presentations, not charcoal renderings and figure studies. I felt like I had absolutely nothing under control, and I resented the fact that I needed so badly to be in control. I know having a type A personality is nothing to be ashamed of, but man, I was sure hating it there for a while. (Sounds like freshman year all over again, doesn’t it?)

Stress is needed for growth. I just wish I was able to handle so much stress with more composure.

Despite everything, I actually did well my first semester. I love the school. I learned a lot, improving my grasp of anatomy, learning how to render with charcoal and pastel (something I had very little basis in), learning new media, etc. I again came to grips with the finiteness of time and energy, learning to do what I can to pay attention to my limitations and adjust my movements to allow for them.

I’m really looking forward to next semester, and I hope that it will go more smoothly than this last one. I was so incredibly burnt out.

I still kind of am, but I’m ready to step out a little more, make friends, explore more than I’ve had the ability to.

As things are right now, my first book is nearly finished and I’ve yet to begin looking for agents/publishers (more likely the former). I’m dead set on traditional printing, which is perhaps the hardest way to go.

It’s been rough, coming into a terrifying stage with my art and writing. I’m studying to be a professional artist, and, with my first novel being on the cusp of professional pursuit as well, I’m definitely out of the dreaming stage. The years of working more recreationally than anything else and hoping everything will come together someday. Well, someday is now, and truly stepping out with both my most cherished forms of self-expression, into the zones where risk and failure abound is daunting. I’ve started to feel all the doubts, about life, my passions, my ability to function as a person. Nothing too sticky, mind you. I want this too badly for them to really prevent me from pushing through them.

This year’s been crazy, to say the least. 2015 was like grabbing hold of a cord that proceeded to drag me through all kinds of mire and foliage too quickly to really have time to realize what was happening. Or I was left too drained by it all to want to think about it anymore.

I look forward to working hard and growing more in 2016. An awful lot happens in a year, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Eislin

She appeared with the thunder, her voice whispering among the rain.

Irix.

Lightning flashed. The young mage jolted awake in a cold sweat.

She stood by her bed. Her uniform was singed, torn, and bloodied, her orange face pale and drawn. Her eyes were empty white, the expression in them of dark, pulling dread.

Irix…

Irix brushed her long black hair from her face, her heart freezing to stone within her. Blood was soaking through the bandage around the soldier’s head. Another large splotch stained the fabric over her heart.

Pain pulled through Irix’s chest. “No…” She shifted toward the specter, horror squeezing her throat. “No, you’re across the sea,” her voice came out as a timid plea. “You’re in Dilikí…”

I… the figure hesitated. Pain crossed her sheer features. I think I’m dead, Irix…

Irix’s shook her head. Her breath caught. She pulled the covers aside and stood up. “No—No I’ll fix this. I’ll get to you somehow. I can—”

Please…Don’t. The young, war-torn woman reached out a hand. Her palm was icy against the back of Irix’s hand. It’s too late…The cuts and burns began to fade. I’ve come to say goodbye.

Irix stepped closer, tears welling up in her eyes. How much pain she must have been in before she died.

She was dead. How could she be dead?

Slowly, the specter raised her hands. They gently took either side of Irix’s head. She leaned in, planting a cold, misty kiss on Irix’s forehead. Tears began to spill down Irix’s face. She raised a hand to touch the hand of her friend, but it passed through. Irix bowed her head, choking on her grief. This couldn’t be happening. This had to be just a nightmare.

But Irix wasn’t one to dream. Not like this.

“I’ll find a way to bring you back,” Irix said.

No, the specter said, softly, fading. I must go. I’m sorry, Irix.

            “Promise me,” Irix looked up into the vacant eyes, desperate. “Promise me you’ll remember me. You have to find me again.”

The young woman managed a sad, gentle smile. Irix…

“There has to be something,” Irix insisted. “I could—”

Let this happen. The specter ran a tender hand across Irix’s face, brushing a strand of hair from the mage apprentice’s eyes. Irix, let me go…

“I can’t,” Irix said, the tears resurging. She shook her head again, her voice breaking, “I can’t….”

I’m so tired…the specter sighed. She bowed her head against Irix’s. Keep faith, all right? Prosper, for me.

            Irix bit her lip. She closed her eyes tightly. The tears burned her face. She nodded. “Your death will not have been in vain. I swear it.”

The soldier smiled. A smile Irix had missed. She’d seen it so many times before. But on a healthy, orange face, with brown eyes and warm breath. A herald of unbridled sarcasm, in brighter days, gone forever.

It was sorrowful now, faded, aching.

Never again. It would never be the same again.

“I love you,” Irix said, her voice shaking.

As do I, the soldier’s voice was little more than a sigh now. She faded, pulling apart like vapor. Goodbye, Irix…

Irix opened her eyes with a start. Thunder clapped loud, snapping painfully through her jaw. Her room was empty, her face drenched with tears.

She tore her covers aside and lurched unsteadily for the door. She couldn’t see straight. She tore out into the hallway, and tripped on the rug. Her palm hit the wall. She fell to her knees.

Irix clutched her face in her hands. “Eislin,” she choked. “Eislin no no no…” She doubled over, bowing her head. “No why did this happen…” Irix was mere months from finishing her training. She was going to return to the continent. They were going to be together again. Irix was going to protect her so she’d come home too–

The thunder churned outside, the rain tapped on the roof, but her friend was no longer within it. Eislin was gone.

Irix dragged herself upright and pushed on in the dark. She could hardly breathe. She welcomed the static seeping in through the looming windows. She gathered the pain, pulling it into her. Drawing the energy, collecting it, holding it. She could imagine the book in her mind’s eye, its location on the shelf, about where the spell would be located. What would happen if her master caught her attempting it, or if she even managed to pull it off.

The Arkenyon monarchy would fall. Arken and Dilikí would pay for their war. For cutting Eislin’s life short. Irix would dismantle them both.

And she would make something new.

Eislin would grow up in a better world than the one she left behind. And she would stay alive in this one.

Even if Irix never saw her again.

+++

A/N: Kennick’s master is neglecting to mention something…Not important, right? Probably not important…

Overdue

I am both driven and plagued by the conviction that if one works hard enough, they can achieve anything. They can make anything work, push themselves further than anyone, especially themselves, thought possible.

A classic American cultural value. Good old optimism and elbow grease. Taking hold of your life and making something good.

But it doesn’t apply to everything. I knew that. But still, when it’s time to bail, I find myself blaming my weakness, my lack of faith, my inability to self-motivate, my lack of desire. Whether it’s true or not, I want to blame myself, berate myself for being so incompetent, so weak, so tired.

I came to California thinking I had to do it all. But I see now that things have to back up a bit. Maybe I jumped the gun, put too much faith in my own abilities, maybe I was naïve, or maybe I needed to learn more about what I do and do not want out of my life.

If I divide myself, I will be divided. I should not divide myself so much if I cannot accept the consequences. As a biologist, I should know that energy is finite.

Perhaps in a higher energy season, I could have pulled it off.

But I came here drained. I could only hope I’d be all right. So far, I still cling to that hope. It feels like I start again every week, and not in the good way. The never-settling-down kind of way, the constant-exhausting-complications kind of way.

But am I just jumping off because things have gotten hard? Too many warning signs cropped up in the 14-day period I just spent without a day off from work or school. Where I needed to do homework little by little, but left it undone for days because I was simply too tired to concentrate and resist the stress. Today is my first day off in two solid weeks, and it must be spent working on homework.

I haven’t been playing much these days. I can’t muster much more than noncommittal doodles, scribblings, and homework. I want to draw digitally, but I don’t have the energy. I haven’t been getting enough sleep. The constant strain and frustration of never feeling settled has made me unhappy. It took me weeks to admit it.

I’ve been waiting for more coherency to write a life update. More courage to focus on only the positives, poke fun at my own insecurities to help work through them, think deeply enough for organized social commentary. After such a long silence, I wish I had something more interesting, more polished.

But this is all I have on the nonfiction front. At least for now.

Don’t worry about me. Things are in hand. They just need to shift.

Snake Wrangler

A/N: Kennick is too old for a proper governness, not that Irix thinks she needs additional house staff to manage him. Edhard Delaine is the head of Irix’s household security, which incidentally includes miscellaneous tasks not included in his job description, such as chasing down the baby mage.

+++

Edhard appeared in the doorway of Kennick’s room. “Master Kennick, you’re to get ready for—”

Kennick was over the side of the bed in an instant, catching himself on his hands and propelling himself toward the side door.

Edhard jumped. “Hey—Kenn—”

He leaped for Kennick’s serpentine lower half, but Kennick managed to pull it out in time. He heard Edhard scramble up as he grabbed the corner and pulled himself around it.

Any moment, he expected to feel Edhard’s grip. He had to find some way to lose him, somewhere to hide. There was no way Kennick was going to a political meeting and pretending he wasn’t slowly turning into a snake in front of royals and politicians, while pretending he understood or even cared what they droned on and on about.

He spotted a window. It had a ledge. If he could access it in time, he’d be able to hang on it and cling to the trellis below and hopefully throw off Edhard’s pursuit. Irix couldn’t drag him anywhere if she couldn’t find him.

He veered toward the opening to freedom.

A body slammed down around his tail. A tug stopped Kennick dead. He lost his momentum, along with the balance of his torso.

Frantic, he planted his hands underneath him, pulling and reaching up for the sill.

“Oh no you don’t—” Edhard said, clawing his way up Kennick’s flank.

The floor tiles offered a poor anchor. Kennick could shift his tail under Edhard’s grip if he twisted it right. Maybe if he jerked everything to the side—

But then Edhard was on top of Kennick’s back, and Kennick’s torso was pinned. His tail looped and thrashed behind Edhard, while Kennick pulled uselessly. Edhard had the physique of a brick wall. His hands planted on Kennick’s shoulders.

“Come on, Master Kennick,” he said as Kennick struggled. “You can handle being bipedal for a couple hours.”

“Last time was horrible!” Kennick’s tail collided with the wall. He could get it out and over the sill, but he might hurt Edhard if they both fell. “I start feeling sick after 30 minutes! And I puff up like a biscuit and everyone can tell—”

Edhard pushed Kennick’s shoulders flat with a grunt. “Your master is waiting.”

“I’m not going,” Kennick huffed.

“I don’t think that option was on the table…”

“I’ll be sick then,” Kennick said. “You’re breaking my ribs, anyway…”

“Sorry…” Edhard gingerly eased himself up from Kennick’s torso.

Kennick tried to bolt immediately—an act which earned him a headlock.

He squirmed, gripping Edhard’s clamped arms. He shifted and wrapped his tail around Edhard’s legs, trying to pull him off, but the guard held fast.

The more Kennick pulled, the more he pulled his own neck. He stopped, finally, to catch his breath.

Edhard’s breathing had deepened as well. His body was humid around Kennick’s face. Between breaths, Edhard began to laugh. “Never a dull moment,” he said with a sigh of a scoff. “Never a dull moment…”

Kennick slowly released him. “I’m not going,” he said again, strained.

“Are you now?” Edhard seemed content to lie there on the floor, Kennick’s still-attached head as his prize.

“I can’t,” Kennick said into Edhard’s sleeve. “I’ll be bipedal while Irix is gone, if she wants, but I’ll transform at home—not in high society.”

“I’m afraid there’s nothing to negotiate,” Edhard said gently.

Kennick moaned.

“I had a feeling this would happen.”

Kennick looked up. His master stood over them, arms crossed.

Kennick exchanged a glance with Edhard.

Irix sighed. “Thank you, Edhard. You can let him go.”

Edhard hesitated. Kennick considered resuming his attempted escape, but thought better of it as the guard released him.

Edhard helped pull Kennick upright. Then he brushed himself off, tipped a polite nod, and departed, scooping his hat up off the floor as he went.

Kennick waited, chagrined.

“Stay put,” Irix said.

Kennick nodded, looking at the floor.

“So what is all this?”

“Can’t we wait until I’ve fixed this?” Kennick mumbled.

“We can’t put anything on hold,” Irix said. “I have enough portable energy reserves to last you all night if necessary.”

Kennick made a face. He preferred to use the master reserve downstairs in the temple with its warm, crackling energy. The portable energy reserves were angry little electrocution boxes. Callous, abrupt. Like shooting lightning up his nose.

“I’d have to use them every two hours,” Kennick said. “And because you won’t have a moment, I’ll have to transform all the way in order to revert back. That’s a waste of energy, and I’ll have to do it in some bathroom somewhere. Some of those fancy bathrooms are really small.”

“Maybe,” Irix said. “But you won’t have to do it more than three times—at the very most.”

Kennick’s expression darkened. “If I was sick with a virus, you’d let me stay home.”

“Life goes on even when participation is hard to stomach,” Irix said simply. “If we waited for perfect conditions, we’d never accomplish anything.”

Kennick rolled his eyes.

Irix flicked his forehead. “None of that, Kennick.”

“Sorry.” Kennick rubbed his forehead.

Irix turned. “Come on, then. Get ready and meet me down in the temple in half an hour with your trousers and other effects. You can revert right before we leave.”

“And if I’m late?”

Irix didn’t turn around. “You don’t want to be late.”

Kennick crossed his arms. The door to the hallway closed behind her.

Kennick frowned. He’d been punished by his master enough times to know that suffering through the night’s political meeting with his current affliction was probably better than finding out what Irix had had in mind.

With an exasperated groan, he directed himself back to his bedroom.

He should have planned this out better.

Perpetual Low-level Panic

I don’t think my family and roommates quite thought through what it would be like going through this transition with me. Or maybe they did, and didn’t tell me they knew what they were signing up for.

Because I certainly didn’t.

Soft road-raging and regular word-vomit, escape mode when I should be enjoying the novelty, fussing up a storm about things that aren’t technically my responsibility, sleeping in the same bed as me for 5 weeks, broken ranting sessions full of things I mostly don’t mean but need to cleanse myself from at 11pm when you have to be up at 5:20am for work the next morning, tearful, timid conversations about how scared and anxious and tired I am, random texts about how California’s the worst because money and traffic, unexpected fits of “I got the job but I still feel like the interview went badly and I can’t stop feeling so incredibly awkward about it.” And so on, and so on.

I used to think I was generally pretty easygoing. But perhaps not in a time of such transition when I was in the middle of one of those “off” years anyway—when everything feels forced and painful and borderline useless, yet everything’s changing out from under me because of this step I’ve made. I’m still hurting from the burnout of this last year, but I’ve launched myself into a position where nothing is familiar or straightforward; and swift, multifaceted adaptation is demanded or else.

So, my brain’s been crying a lot, but somehow the knots are gradually untangling. Things are generally ok, and though I seem to get lost every time I step outside, I’ve managed to show up for where I need to be. There are still some hang-ups we’re working on, but I pray those will be resolved soon.

Thanks for sticking it out with me. You know who you are.

Needless to say, I haven’t been in a great position the last few weeks to write a coherent blog post. It’s been a lot.

But in the midst of the ongoing “Sara-is-losing-her-mind” times, good things have been happening. I’ve made it through orientation, for one. Training for my job starts a week from tomorrow, which is also the day we can hopefully move into our apartment, which is within walking distance of the transit station (aka no more swearing/praying while trying to find a parking space is making me late first day of orientation). I’ve attended both of my on-campus classes once, and though I’m not sure how to approach homework efficiently, I think I’ll get used to it pretty quickly. I’ve already learned so much and I’m really looking forward to all this semester will bring.

It’s all going to take so much work, so many extra miles with hurting feet. Admittedly, I still don’t feel ready, but I’m unsteadily bracing myself anyway. I feel like I’m training to become a wizard. Illustrators are wizards, truly. And training for wizardry’s intense, man.

We’re not in undergrad anymore. No social events, no indeterminate bedtime, no room for procrastination or “I don’t want to do homework right now.”

It’s time to break out the upbeat anime protagonist music (though I’m more the sarcastic, tired, awkward protagonist these days—but they’re a part of happy slice-of-life shows, so it’s fine, I think). I’m here to work. It will take early mornings, late nights, dead recovery Sundays, hardcore time budgeting, probably some blood, and lots and lots of charcoal.

But I think it’s going to be worth it. I really do.

The Ghost Prince

“Why did you take your coverings off outside?” Evin’s governess, Gwinna sighed as she applied a pungent glob of salve to the raw skin on the back of the boy’s otherwise colorless neck. “And why did you leave them off for so long?”

Evin winced. He looked at the reddened skin of his burned hands. A little closer, he thought. A little closer to the color he should have been.

Though he was still very far off.

“It was too hot,” Evin said quietly. His mask and hood breathed well enough, but the canvas chafed against his face. The coat it was attached to became humid if he ran, especially in the summer.

Not to mention the garb looked stupid. He hated it.

The only part of him people could see were his eyes, but only through large tinted glasses—which didn’t fit his face properly and constantly slipped down his nose.

Everyone knew Evin couldn’t set foot in the sun without being covered head-to-toe. Yet Stephan and the other kids always insisted on playing outside anyway. It was supposedly more fun.

Evin had freed himself that afternoon. Just once, to see for himself how expensive it was. They didn’t understand how good they had it.

A door opened and the smug, violet face of his older brother appeared.

“Hey old man,” Stephan said. “How’s the ectoplasm?”

“Shut up,” Evin muttered.

“Stephan,” Gwinna said. “I think your brother needs some space right now.”

Stephan smiled and shrugged. He sauntered out to the balcony and disappeared over the side.

“You know how dangerous it is for you to be out in the sun,” Gwinna said. “Don’t ever take your coverings off outside again, all right? I know you don’t like it, but it’s not worth hurting your health over.”

Evin nodded dismally.

Everyone in the whole world got to have some sort of color: Red, orange, burgundy…And how could Evin, a kid who happened to belong to a family with a very specific, important skin tone, be the only one denied?

Poor Evin, they said. Had to be cursed, they said. The royal family was always dark violet. What had the king and queen done, people whispered, to deserve to have a child without pigment?

“This is going to blister…” Gwinna sighed, gently applying the salve to his face. She lifted a hand to rub some in the part in his white hair. “Thank goodness you kept your glasses on out there.”

Evin nodded, narrowing his red-violet eyes at the tiles beneath his feet.

At least Dilikí had one proper heir.

+++

A/N: Diliken tend to be superstitious, and rather shallow in some circles. It’s just a genetic defect, guys. Everybody calm down.

Still, 13 years later, Evin did rise to the head of the monarchy. How? We shall see.