In the distant future, in a country simply known as Nation, Arianna Lockheart has always wondered what role she will take in the world. As a girl, she felt the future had already been set out for her, but she yearned for more, for a purpose. From her first sight of a female soldier as a child to when she sees the horrors of war as a young adult, Arianna braves the harsh realities of the world she can only just about understand.
Tree...tree....tree...I keep track of every tree the jeep storms past, while my fist remains buried in my cheek. I'm still a child, and I'm so, so bored. I try my very, very best though, I tried to listen to 'The Big Book of Fairy Tales' but it's so boring! The lady needed help from Prince Charming. I also thought the idea of women needing help stupid if they could do it themselves.
I lean forward, my hands and nose press firmly against the window and I start to damn its existence. While still far away, I catch a glimpse before the soldier is like an little ant. The soldier was a lady standing at the roadside, armed with a gun that my carer said are bad but I have seen soldiers protecting us millions of times with those things, but they were still bad. They are bad for the people getting hit by them, I suppose. The lady had another, a much larger gun strapped to her back. Maybe if she lost the gun, she could use that till she found it again or someone handed it back to her. Anyway, she had hair like the colour of the sandpaper back at the orphanage, while the rest of her hair had been tucked away and hidden under a red hat that seemed to flop to the side, with a shiny gold badge attached to it.
'What're you looking at, Anna, baby?' Sara, my carer, asks. She always knows what I have something on my mind.
The soldier is miles away now, but I remember every detail of the soldier because she fascinates me. She's the right kind of woman that would easily get out of the dungeons and kill the evil dragon that guarded her and would have to save the Prince from certain doom.
'I saw a soldier!' I reply, laughter eating up my words so that now it only comes out in silly sounds. 'She was a girl! I want to be her!'
I look to Sara so she can smile and tell me that I should go for it, like she always does, but I see the doubt in her eyes, making horrible lines above her eyes. She then gets up from her seat, sits by me and then gives me a hug. I giggle once again. She must be happy with my plan to be like the woman. I love Sara. She has been my mummy and my daddy for as long as I can remember, and I guess the thought of her holding a bad gun must have worried her. She starts to braid my hair, her eyes loving. I've finally been adopted but the bond we made could never and will never be broken. I can feel her fingers tremble as she places one strand of my hair over the other. I try not to think of bad things however, and think of what will happen at the end of this drive. I'm being sent to a family called the Lockheart. Arianna Lockheart - I'd take that over Arianna Howard any day. They are in Kiloft, which I know is in the north of Nation from the map Sara gave me for my birthday last month. She told me more about Kiloft the day I found out I had been adopted. It's a village that is cut off from the rest of the country because of the tall mountains and the deep forests that surround it. She must have let me go there because she told me I would be safe there for the rest of my life, away from the soldiers and the dangers that I would often seen in Lower Feopolis - it annoys me. I like danger.
'You sure you wanna to be like that kinda woman? Awful dangerous, you know.'
'I can do it.'
Sara smiles once again, and nods. We both understand my position back at the orphanage. I am Arianna Howard, soon to be Lockheart, the girl who would either break up the fights or start them, would lead groups and hated boys for being do stupid, and I still believe that to this day. Sara finished the braid and then undid it before giving me a big kiss on the top of my head. 'Course you can, sweetheart.'
The jeep finally stops, and my heart starts to flutter. What if this family doesn't like me? What if they want a girl who likes flowers and dresses instead of a girl who hates the thought of shopping and hates boys? My stomach feels funny now, like they have butterflies in them or something, so I look out of the jeep window to see a large helicopter outside. I now remember Sara telling me that you could only get into Kiloft from the air. I giggle with excitement again at the thought of flying, like a bird, in one of those. There were many of them that flew past the orphanage. One boy suggested they are pirates stealing treasure and another said they came from a different planet and want to eat our brains.
The door opens, clinging onto Sara's hand so I know she's there with me, until it slips from my hand when I hop out of the door. I pause for a second and turn to Sara, her eyes fighting back tears. This is confusing. Why do adults smile when they're crying? Why is Sara's crying?
'There's gonna be someone there who'll make sure you get there nice and safe, my girl.'
'But I want you -'
And I do. I want her like crazy. She kneels down to my height and places her soft hands on my shoulder. I hold onto her the apron-like cloth thing she told me is called a scapular in utter desperation. I then hear the sound of footsteps approaching and it only makes me hold onto her more and more. Sara kisses my cheek and scoops me up into her arms, like a baby. We both look at the pilot, who stretched out his arms to take me. I can feel the fear growing and growing inside my stomach and the butterflies are starting to flap their wings hard. The whole of the man's upper face were not there, his eyes are two larges black circles strapped to his face where his eyes should be. He must have been some sort of cyborg, like in the films I'm not allowed to watch. The thick brown moustache under his nose looks like a giant hairy caterpillar. I avoid people with moustaches. I can smell his breath from her, like the drinks adults drink late in the evenings that make them talk funny, and his teeth are like horrible yellow fingernails. I look up at Sara and stroke her flawless olive skin. When she smiles, her teeth are like pearls from Upper Feopolis. Her eyes are a bright blue, which I liked. I've never seen her hair that was always tucked away under her wimple, but I know it's probably very beautiful and shiny.
She brushes a tear away from my cheek and then lowers me back to my feet. She places a warm hand on my back and gently pushes me towards the man, who sighs, and would be rolling his eyes, if he had any.
'Will you be long, Sister?' he asks and taps his gold watch. It's 09:52.
'She coming. Come on, little cherub. It gonna be fine.' She gestures towards the pilot, but I'm not giving up, and I throw my little arms around her reaching as far as I could around her waist. The tears are now coming out of me like rainwater, and I cough when the tears leak from my nose and into my mouth. She kneels down to my height again and takes my chin gently, making me stare into her mystifying eyes.
'Now, you listen here, little missy, you don't need to be all scared and crying like this, Arianna Lockheart, you gotta tough girl reputation you need to maintain (she always knows how to make me giggle). Seriously, though, girl, you need to be strong and kind and good. This may be end with me but now, you're on your own brand new adventure, a new life for yourself, not a lot of people get that chance, you know. (She wraps my little hands around hers and kisses them) You is smart, you is beautiful and you is bossy - they're ain't bad things to be with. You is going to brighten up someone's life, and you is going to do something real important, you be sure about that, little missy.' She kisses me once again and turns me towards the pilot, who had been in the middle of lighting one of the those cigarette things but flicks it away and crushes it under his boot. I frown at this, but I take a deep breath and walk into his arms. He takes me to the helicopter and straps me securely into the seat next to the window. I thought the helicopter would have loads of alien technology on it, or lights flickering on and off like on a spaceship, but there's just a few screens with yellow lines that would spin around, over and over again, and loads of switches. The pilot flicks a few switches and the engine starts, making my seat shake, and makes a loud roaring sound like a motorbike.
I look to the right of me to find what I guess is my new carer until I'm handed to my new family. Her outfit bulge from wearing clothes a few sizes too small, but she seems friendly enough and I feel safe around her, which is always good I suppose. She had heard the most terrible of adoption stories, like my once best friend Jessica who was adopted by a family in Upper Feopolis. We all thought she would be treated like a princess and get everything she wants and become one of the fancy ladies I often see on the billboards near the junkyards, but we found out a week later that she was treated like the staff. But this woman feels nice because she smiles warmly and this gives me confidence. Sara always told me never to judge someone by their appearance, unless it was to compliment it.
I look back to Sara and the jeep. She blows a kiss to me, and I try to catch it, lifting my hand and wanting to catch it. I know I did catch it though, even through this thick glass. Kisses can pass through anything.
'We'll see each other again!' I just about hear her say. I nod and smile. I look forward to that day. I'll come back as a really famous soldier or maybe the most famous girl in Nation. Whatever happens to me, I'm sure she will be proud of me.
The helicopter lifts off the ground, bouncing up and down on the seat, maybe the pilot's way of trying to scare me, and Sara starts to get smaller and smaller until she becomes ant-size, like the soldier.
'Are you okay, sweet pea?' the woman asks, and places a heavily jeweled hand on my head, which hurt a little as her rings brush hard against my scalp. They are nothing like Sara's soft and beautiful hands that were the last thing I would feel before going to bed at night. I look to the woman and, for the first time, notice her circle shaped head that's caked with make up with crayon red lipstick splattered all over her lips.
'Strong...and kind...and good...'