Runaway | Teen Ink


August 28, 2021
By Chloe_yu, Newton, Massachusetts
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Chloe_yu, Newton, Massachusetts
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Author's note:

Hi! I'm Chloe, a student from Newton South Highschool. I'm an aspiring writer who loves to write amd has been writing since I was a child 

The author's comments:

This is a short story, so there's only going to be one chapter, but I hope you enjoy!

    Bathing wasn’t necessarily a complicated process for Amari, but as she let her back rest on the warm bronze walls of the bathtub, she couldn’t help but let her mind wander. The more she let her body sink deeper into the water, the more she unconsciously let the memories of the past resurface. 

She would often find herself back at her family’s old castle, sitting on the edge of her bed as her sister Thema wove her long curls into tight braids that slowly started to fall on either side of her shoulders. As Thema’s hands gently brushed through Amari’s hair, she slowly let her eyes close and her head lean into the touch, only to fall backwards onto her bed. She scrambled to get up, shocked by the loss of her sister’s touch, and turned around to see Thema lying on the ground with a pool of blood around her. 

Amari stumbled back and let out a bloodcurdling scream that reverberated across the walls. Her cries for help soon turned choked and her eyes began to sting the longer she kept them open. She tried to calm herself by breathing but it only made the feeling worse, filling her nose and lungs with a burning metallic sensation. It was only then that Amari realized she was swallowing bathtub water, and she gasped, jerking her head back to the surface. 

She took a moment to adjust her senses to the present before deciding she was done bathing for the day. The warmth of the water slowly left her as she stepped out, but Amari was relieved to leave it, afraid that if she stayed any longer she would’ve let it take her. 

When she fully dried herself, Amari grabbed a silk robe that was folded neatly on a wooden bench and wrapped it around her body, taking a shaky breath. The cool air around her finally hit her, but Amari didn’t flinch, nor did she tighten the silk robe. Instead, she glanced at the floor, making sure that Thema’s bloodied body was just a memory. 

“Princess Amari? Are you alright?” A soft voice said from behind her. 

Amari turned to see Xiuhua, one of the palace maids with a towel draped over her left arm. She was a petite girl, no older than 13, her outfit too big for her small body. The vest and the dress that came with it went past her waist and spilled onto the floor. Everytime Xiuhua stepped forward, her feet accidentally caught onto the edges of the dress, causing her to stumble and apologize profusely about how incompetent she was. It was customary for them, however, no matter how old or young a maid was, much to Amari’s dismay. She hated watching her friend suffer, and did not want someone to be at her beck and call. Still, she had no choice but to silently comply and let the Empress assign a maid to her, now that Amari resided in the palace of Xia with her mothers for protection and alliance from the raging war.

“I’m fine,” Amari said, averting her gaze to prevent them from making eye contact. 

Xiuhua gasped, noticing the drops of water on the floor that led to Amari’s feet, “I knew I shouldn’t have left you alone. You must be shivering!” She took the towel off her arm and attempted to wrap it around Amari, much to her dismay. 

Amari didn’t bother to shrug it off, too tired to try and fight with Xiuhua about how it wasn’t necessary to constantly bring her things or escort her everywhere she went. Instead, she let Xihua lead her out of the bathroom and through the corridors of the castle that was dimly lit by the paper-red lanterns hanging on the walls. 

By now, she should have been used to the halls being quiet at night after living in Xia for so many years, but the further she walked through the corridors, the more it reminded her of how alone she truly was without the presence of her two sisters. It was too quiet around the palace, an environment she wasn’t used to after spending countless hours with her sisters running around her old castle. Without them, she could never feel at home. 

After a few more minutes of walking, Xiuhua stopped in front of bright red double doors lined with gold that stood at the end of the hall, bringing Amari back to the grim reality she was in. The reality that her sisters, Thema and Emeka were gone, and being forced into a marriage that would determine the outcome of the war her country had been involved in since she was eight. 

The people who built this part of the palace must’ve known what was to come as well, since the doors were painted brightly for what stood behind it - Princess Qiulin’s chambers.

It wasn’t Qiulin that Amari dreaded, it was the privacy that the room would give the two of them. They both knew today was the day before the marriage, and it was required that they spend the night together to bring good luck to them in the future. 

Amari wasn’t a fan of love- she never had been. Even when she was young she never had any romantic feelings for anyone. It didn’t mean that she was clueless when it came to people who showed signs of liking her however, and it was obvious the moment the marriage was announced that the Princess truly wanted to be with her forever. The fact that it was only one-sided made Amari guilty, and she had tried countless times to figure out a way to see Qiulin romantically attractive, but nothing worked. 

Standing in front of the Princess’ Chambers for the first time, made Amari feel incredibly small and helpless. 

Xiuhua gave Amari a look of concern before reaching up to knock, “Your majesty, Princess Amari is here.” 

“Bring her in,” Amari heard Qiulin say from the other side of the doors, her voice soft but filled with excitement nonetheless. 

Xiuhua complied, pushing the doors open to reveal a chamber with a large canopy bed built out of wood, the red curtains made out of fine silk. On the side of the bed were a couple of drawers and nightstands but Amari’s eyes focused on a young girl sitting on the edge of the bed wearing a long formal dress with projecting shoulder epaulettes known as a chao pao. On top of that, the girl had a sleeveless vest over it that opened down the center and a skirt that had flowers embroidered into it. 

Her eyes met with Amari’s and she immediately regretted making eye contact with the Princess. 

Xiuhua glanced between the two of them, seeming to notice the awkward tension that Amari felt within her stomach, but said nothing. 

“You may go now,” Qiulin said, waving her away, “And make sure you close the doors tightly.” 

Xiuhua nodded quietly and bowed at the two of them before walking away, the doors closing shut behind her. 

Now that the maid was gone, Qiulin turned her full attention to Amari, and she reflexively tightened her grip on her robe. It made her feel vulnerable knowing that it wouldn’t be difficult to take the article of clothing off. 

Amari watched as Qiulin stood up and walked over to her, tucking a strand of curly hair behind her ear. When her hand moved to Amari’s shoulder, she stopped, a frown forming on her face. 

“You seem troubled,” Qiulin said, “Is everything alright?”

Amari tensed, not knowing what to say. For weeks she had been told that she wasn’t allowed to interact with Qiulin, as it was considered bad to see the bride before the wedding day, even if it was months before. Now, she had stood face to face with Amari, gently caressing her face with her soft hand, wanting Amari to enjoy this night as much as her. She could’ve easily forced herself on Amari, but she didn’t. Instead Qiulin stood there waiting for an answer, her eyes patiently searching her face.

“I’m… not ready for this,” Amari said, her voice faltering. And she would never be ready either. Not until she found Emeka, who Amari still believed was alive out there somewhere, even though her mothers had lost all hope. 

“Emeka is out there, possibly in danger and all I can do is think about what has happened to her,” Amari continued.

Qiulin lowered her hand and Amari watched as her arm went back to her side, “Queen Janaia and Kaea said she died in an ambush by enemy soldiers.”

“No, I have to believe she survived,” Amari said firmly, “She’s out there, probably in trouble, and I can’t stop worrying. Please, your majesty, I just want to find her and bring her back…” 

Amari could hear her voice crack, and Qiulin studied her for a solid second before saying quietly, “I believe you, and I’ll try to help you leave the palace tonight to start searching.” 

“Y-you’re going to help me escape?” Amari stared at her in shock, surprised that the daughter of the Empress would be so open about assisting her. 

Qiulin smiled sadly, “Even though you don’t want to be with me, I still want you to be happy. It’s the least I can do.” 

She walked over to her drawer, pulling out a stack of neatly folded silk robes before handing them to Amari. 

“Here,” Qiulin said, “You will need to properly dress before you go.” 

Amari felt tears prick at her eyes as she took the robes from her, “Thank you… and I’m sorry I couldn’t love you.” 

“Don’t apologize,” Qiulin said, “You cannot control how you feel, but you can control the choices you make in your lifetime. If finding your sister is what brings you happiness then I don’t mind.” 

Amari nodded, “It would make me feel whole again.” 

“Then don’t waste anymore time. Tomorrow, I will make something up, but until you find your sister, don’t come back here, not until everything has calmed.” 

Amari took one last glance at Qiulin, giving her a look of gratitude before turning around and opening the double doors once more, sprinting into the darkness. 

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