My internal clock still used to the training schedule, I woke up on my first day back home at five in the morning. An hour and a half before the sun rose. And two hours until my father woke to get the store ready for another day. And two and a half hours until my mother walked from bed to the kitchen.
I rolled over and burrowed deeper into a warm nest of blankets, trying in vain to tempt elusive sleep to take me back into its arms. But sleep merely laughed and ran further away. Typical.
Reluctantly, and with a groan, I pushed the blankets away from my head and stared at the ceiling. I could still see the constellations that Jet had painstakingly carved and painted into it one summer. The summer before he left to become a kit. He'd originally wanted to be an astronomer, but the "science" of astronomy was dying out, and of no use to the Kingdom. But a soldier could be used for the Kingdom. Who cared if the soldier's job wasn't ethical? That didn't matter as long as what the soldier did was for the good of the Kingdom. That was one of the things Machiavelli had written centuries ago. That was one of the things drilled into our heads, from the time we were young. Nothing was wrong as long as it furthered the Kingdom. Even if lives were lost. What were a few lives when compared to many? Right?
That was something Jet and I had spent many days discussing and debating. That, and whether it is better for a ruler to be feared, or loved. I said feared, and Jet would laugh and say that the Kingdom had brainwashed me, same as everyone else. He said they would never do that to him. And maybe they didn't completely brainwash me, either
I lingered in bed reminiscing until the rest of the house was awake and my limbs were growing numb from lying too long in one position. Still feeling out of place, I slowly walked downstairs, pausing again outside the kitchen. Through the fading walls, I can hear my mother softly humming to herself as she begins pulling out the dishes and ingredients for today’s breakfast. Today’s Tuesday. Omelet and made-from-scratch biscuit day.
I take a deep breath and brush back a long piece of hair that fell from the braid last night, tucking it into place behind my ear. Before I could walk into the kitchen, I heard small footsteps on the other side of the wall.
“Mommy?” Bentley asked.
I smiled faintly. I could imagine him pulling on her apron to get her attention.
“Mommy, who that strange girl that came here last night?” he asked.
My heart sunk down to my stomach and my smile fell.
I heard mom pick him up and set him on the counter. “That’s your older sister, Bentley. Her name is Dauphine. You remember who she is, right?”
I peeked around the wall. His round cherub face was scrunched up as he rifled through his four years of memories to try and put my face with the term “sister.”
He finally shook his head. “No she not. Haley my only sister. I no know who she is.”
Tears rushed to the corners of my eyes and I bit my fist to try and hold them back as my heart sunk all the way through my feet and to the floor beneath me. I heard a blur of my mom’s voice as she tried to explain to my youngest brother. My feet carried me silently and swiftly out of the house and running down the streets. Tears slowly began falling down my face as I sprinted through the streets, narrowly avoiding running into people and cars.
When my senses were finally returned to me, I was standing in front of the rusted iron gate in front of the graveyard. No wonder this is where my feet took me. Whenever I’d been upset or wanted someone to talk to, I’d always come out to Jet’s grave. When he was alive, we were so close, we were nearly inseparable for years.
Wiping my cheeks roughly with the heel of my hand, I pushed open the gate, the rusted hinges squealing loudly. I left the gate open and slowly walked back to our family plot, arms wrapped loosely around myself. A few stray tears rolled down my cheeks, leaving glistening trails down my face. I sniffed and wiped them again as I stopped at Jet’s grave.
“Haven’t seen you in awhile,” I said softly to his headstone as I put my hand on top of it. “Things have been really crazy since you’ve been gone, Jet. But maybe if you’re watching over all of us, you know that already.” I sniffed again and sat down next to the headstone. “You’d know how to cheer me up if you were here,” I said as I leaned my head back against the cool stone and closed my eyes.
Something clicked quietly behind my head. I opened my eyes and looked around. I was still alone in the graveyard. Slowly, I turned and looked at Jet’s headstone. In the spot my head had been was a shallow indentation about the size of a brick. My inquisitive nature taking control, I reached out and brushed my fingers across the indented stone. It didn’t move. I pushed it. The stone fell backward into a hollow space I didn’t know existed inside. My hand was small enough to fit through the hole. I reached into the hole and felt something curled against the back of the headstone, then grabbed it and slowly pulled it out.
A large envelope fell into my lap. The corners were curled with age and had small smatterings of mold on them. Carefully, I opened the envelope and shook it upside down. A stack of papers fell into my lap. Interest piqued at the new mystery, I picked up the first paper and began to read. My eyes widened. I read quicker.
My brother had been keeping a secret?