THE REVOLUTION part 2
“You can’t return to your people until tonight and I didn’t think it prudent to leave you alone.” A small self-aware smile lights his face. “This must seem a strange world to you.”
“A little,” I confess. Just then something flitters between us. Something small and vibrant and so orange I think it will burst into flame any second. “What is that?”
“Haven’t you ever seen a butterfly before?”
I shake my head. “It is like our moth but more colorful. Beautiful.”
“I’ve heard of moths but never seen one. In theory I guess they would be very similar.” He gazes at me thoughtfully, his chocolate eyes shimmering with anticipation. “I know a meadow, deeper in the forest, where there are hundreds—maybe thousands—of butterflies. Would you like to see it?”
Helping me to my feet, he shoulders his bag before placing his hand firmly on my elbow. “Take your time,” he cautions. “And lean on me as much as you need.”
I have never been so close to a boy for an extended length, at least not with the kind of tangible awareness that Perseus elicits. Not knowing what to say, I remain mute.
My silence causes him pull me closer. Lifting his hands to my hair, he adjusts my veil. “Can you see all right?” he asks. Then thinking aloud, he frowns, “Maybe I should carry you.” His fingers linger around my ears, lightly stroking my hair.
Afraid he is about to heft me over his shoulders, I take a step back and away from his touch. “I can walk.”
Tipping his head to one side, he narrows his eyes as if considering whether or not to overrule me. “Fine,” he pronounces. “But you will lean on me.” When I open my mouth to protest, he declares, “it is far,” putting an end any argument.
Picking our way over the difficult landscape—hidden crevices, steep inclines, jagged rocks and soft pits of mud—Perseus holds my arm, guiding me away from peril and keeping me upright when I lose my footing.
Along the way he points out foliage, insects, and the occasional animal as it crosses our trail. When our path become a sharp ascent, he remarks, “It is not long now—just at the top of this rise.”
Straining to glimpse our destination, I see nothing but trees and thick underbrush. The severity of our incline halts our conversation as our efforts turn to the simple task of climbing. Mere feet from the crest of the hill, I see a single butterfly—an explosion of orange against the gloomy grays and dark greens of the forest.
Then ahead, crystalline brightness beckons as the sun-dappled meadow comes into view. Vibrant green grass is dotted with yellow and red flowers and the dancing orange of hundreds—maybe thousands—of flitting butterflies. It is everything Perseus promised and more…
As if sensing my overwhelmed state, my companion stops, quietly letting me absorb the beauty as it unfolds before my unaccustomed eyes. When I have looked my fill, I turn my attention to the boy beside me. The captivated delight I feel for the meadow is mirrored on his burnished face… but instead of focusing on the scene in front of us, his attention is singularly on me. My stomach does another funny little flip as I register the intense pleasure emanating from his eyes.
Breaking into a wide smile, he inquires, “Ready to go forward?” When I nod, he takes my arm and leads me the final steps into the achingly beautiful clearing. Stopping in the center of the meadow, he instructs, “Put you arms out, like this.”
Copying his posture, I lift my arms away from my body, palms up.
“Good. Now stay very still.”
After a long moment, a flame-colored butterfly perches on the tip of my finger. Then another one lands… and another… Soon I am covered with the tiny creatures. In amazement, I glance at Perseus, who despite being covered with his own butterflies, stares at me in awe. I cannot help but smile at him, at the expression on his face that makes me feel so special.
A gust of wind stirs the colorful insects and we are enveloped in a vibrant, orange cloud. As they flutter away, Perseus takes the pack from his shoulder and produces a thick woolen blanket. “I think we should rest and eat.” Then retreating a few steps, he picks a heavily shaded patch of emerald grass.
I watch as he arranges the blanket on the earth, then lays out bread, a blob of white with which I am unfamiliar, and raspberries. My stomach rumbles in approval and I realize it has been a long time since I’ve eaten. Spreading the white paste onto a chunk of bread, he beckons me, holding out the food as an enticement. “Here.”
Coming to sit beside him, I take the offering and inspect it. “What did you put on the bread?”
“Goat’s cheese.” At the lack of recognition on my face he asks, “Don’t your people make cheese?”
Shaking my head negatively I reply, “No. We do occasionally roast goats though. But meat is scarce, so we only prepare it for the approved holidays.”
“This cheese is made from the milk of the goat,” he explains. “Try it.”
I do, letting the creamy texture of the cheese coat my taste buds. Perseus watches me attack the morsel with obvious gusto before pressing a response. “Well?”
“Good – have more.”
Taking another generous piece, I inquire, “What about you? Aren’t you going to have any?”
Delicately nibbling on a raspberry he says, “Not at the moment, so please eat your fill.” While I gobble up more bread and cheese and a fair bit of the raspberries, Perseus divides his attention between me and the visible expanse of sky. “The sun is far in the west,” he proclaims. “It will be evening soon.” In the waning light, the forest is full of deep, lengthening shadows.
“Hold still, Lyra.” Reaching around me, he removes the filmy fabric from my head and, lifting my chin, stares into my unveiled eyes. His own chocolate ones are uniquely expressive, not the cold, pale orbs I am used to. Emotions and thoughts flicker across the canvas of his brown eyes beckoning to me.
Sweeping his gaze outward, he focuses on my flaxen hair. “May I?” He waits for my consent before delicately capturing a fine strand between his thumb and forefinger. With a gentle tug he examines its silky softness before leaning in to inhale my hair’s rose-water scent. His exhale is a low sigh, nearly a hum. “You’re… so different.”
“I’m yellow,” I admit with resignation. My awareness has always been such that his description carries no sting. “Most of my kind are silvery-white, like the moon. I am too dark to be considered a beauty.”
“Dark?” Perseus gives his head a gentle shake. “No, not dark…” He peers at me with his fathomless eyes, his finger twining around the lock of my hair. “And you are not yellow. You are golden, like shimmering sunshine. And so soft.”
His pronouncement causes strange sensations to radiate through my insides, like I’ve swallowed a handful of moths that now beat madly to get out. “I guess compared to you and Cassius, I am not that dark.”
Frowning over my shoulder into the distance, he purses his lips, musing over some memory only he is able to see. “I have always been the most adventurous of my friends, stronger and more daring, too. But it is Cassius who captures the girls’ fancies. Compared to his perfect dark features, I am nothing.” In that moment he seems sad and lost—and my heart wants to break for him.
“You are not ‘nothing.’ You are handsome, like the heroes of old. When I look at you I am reminded of our ancient stories and my chest aches from beauty of it.”
“And you,” he murmurs solemnly. “Like something out of a fairie tale, something elusive and pure.”
From deep within the forest, a bird calls and is answered by another. Although the light wanes, it is impossible for me to judge the evening’s passage. “What time do you think it is?”
“Almost night. You can go back to your people soon.”
“And you should return to yours…”
Eyes—so dark—large and grave, pierce me as his mouth broadens into a rueful smile. “I’m thinking it is past time I experience this night of yours. For so long I’ve wondered; I’ve dreamt about the night. The dream is too close to give up now.”
And despite the terror I am certain grips my family—likely my entire colony—concerning my fate, I say, “I don’t need to go home yet. I have until dawn to return to the vaults.”
“So, you’ll stay with me?”
A small thrill flutters low in my stomach at the expectancy in his deep voice. “If you wish it.”
Such a simple word, deep and soft yet uttered with a hard conviction. Perseus’ “yes” steals my breath away.
When I am able to breathe again, I inquire, “Does the twilight frighten you?”
“A little.” His guileless admonition touches undiscovered places in my heart. “My whole life I’ve been taught to dread the dark. To abhor the moonwalkers.”
“And do you?”
He laughs to himself before gazing at me from beneath his dark lashes to share his thoughts. “I could no more fear you than my own self.”
“My people are as afraid of the sun-dwellers. Even at night their fear keeps them inside the colony borders and away from the forest. We should be safe here, in this meadow. If you like, I will show you our constellations and tell you the stories of our ancient ones.” When he nods, I add, “Although, now that night is falling, we should probably move to the center of the clearing.”
Perseus stands—a deft, powerful movement filled with grace—and offers me his large hand. His warm touch feels heats my whole body. Tiny currents of electric awareness spark where his skin touches mine and tingle up the length of my arm. After I have gained my feet, he continues to hold my fingers. When I start to move his grip stops me, pulling me back to him.
His burnished brown eyes are feverish as he searches my face, eyes lingering on my mouth before snapping back upwards. “Have you even been kissed?”
“No.” I swallow down the lump that lodges in my throat. “You?”
Shaking his head back and forth, he sadly confesses, “All the girls want to kiss Cassius. Never me.”
The pain he feels is twin to my own. Lonely and rejected, we are incomplete souls without hope of solace. Wanting to ease his suffering, I admit, “Nobody wants to kiss me either.”
His eyes drift downward, back to my lips. He swallows. “I do.”
Turning quickly, I wrench my hand away and walk to the center of the clearing. As Perseus follows, I stare at the rose-colored sky, memorizing my first sunset. Continuing to stare straight ahead, I feel his fingertips twine with mine. And I’ve never dared to dream—never even hoped—of having a moment like this. A boy at my side who wants to kiss me… Part of me is dying to taste his full, warm lips but another part is terrified, not of being kissed but of returning to my people and my loveless future with the memory of Perseus’ kisses burned into my brain.
Rough fingers gently graze my cheek as he brushes the hair from my face. “Don’t you want me to kiss you, Lyra?”
I want to answer no…and yes.
Staring in indecision, the compulsion to touch him, to run my fingers through his chestnut hair becomes all-encompassing. Raising a trembling hand, I tentatively graze his temple. His hair is course and thick but surprisingly soft. In the moment, Perseus’ eyes close as he leans into my caress. Of its own volition, my other hand snakes around his neck to cup the back of his head. This brings our faces closer together, mere inches apart, my nose level with his chin.
When his eyes open again, my answer is written on my face. Tipping forward, my sun-dweller brushes his lips against mine, as soft and fleeting as our orange butterflies. Then he pulls back the space of a breath. “More?” he asks uncertainly.
“Yes.” My heart hammers in my throat as insides quiver and flip with the after effects of his whisper kiss.
Perseus cups my face, slowly kissing each corner of my mouth before pressing his lips fully to mine. My senses fill with raw heat and exotic spices, with the essence that is uniquely this boy. His exploration starts slow, as he traces the shape of my mouth with his tongue before capturing my bottom lip between his own. The electricity, the headiness of what is occurring, makes me anxious to begin my own discovery. My tongue darts between his parted lips, to start its own dance. He tastes of raspberries.
After I have been thoroughly kissed, his head drops to rest hotly against my neck. His panting breath rushes in and out, stirring my sensitive skin. Leaning my check against his wavy hair, I am content to just breathe him in.
When he finally looks at me his lips are swollen with kissing. Tracing my lips with a fingertip, he chuckles in a way leading me to believe mine are similarly affected. What now? After kissing like that what comes next? Not in the physical sense, but for the sun-dweller and the moonwalker, where do we go from here?
Seeing the askance in my eyes, he presses a kiss to the back of my hand in a kind of reassurance. His shimmering eyes penetrate mine as he admits, “I’ve never seen a sunset. Have you Lyra?”
Fetching our blanket he lays it out in the center of the meadow. Reclining in the center he reaches for me. Sinking to the ground, my body relaxes against him, my curves fitting perfectly against his hard angles, sharing his heat. My head comes to rest in the crook of his arm.
He does not kiss me again and I am glad of it. Easily I could lose myself in Perseus’ kisses. Forget my people, my home, my family, even Quil…
As if reading my thoughts he says, “Tell me of you home, your family.” I tell him everything about my life in the vaults. Of my parents and my young, subversive sister with her no longer so foolish ideas. Of the all-encompassing fear that governs our colony. Of my aunt and uncle, and grief so ragged it can only be tempered by strong drink. When I get to the part about Sirius, Perseus smoothes his fingers against my hair.
“But sun-dwellers have never been what your people believe them to be. So what happened to your cousin?”
“I don’t know.” That is the truth.
“Perhaps he got lost in the forest or attacked by animals?”
Lifting my head to look down at him, I reply with shrug, “It is a mystery. Now tell me about your family.”
Hovering above him, I watch as her talks animatedly about his parents and three younger brothers, about life in the repositories, and the livestock in the pastures. When he broaches the subject of Cassius, his features cloud.
Remembering the look on his face when he admitted the girls all want to kiss his best friend and not him, I cannot help but kiss away the tiny puckers on his brow. Continuing my ministrations, I kiss his eyelids, his high cheekbones, his nose and chin, before coming to rest against his lips. “I only want to kiss you, Perseus,” I whisper against his mouth. “Only you.”
Some minutes later, when we return to our senses, Perseus points upward. By now the sky has darkened allowing the first stars of the evening to appear in the purple-blue sky. Somewhere in the distance an owl hoots. With a sly smile, he recalls, “I believe I was promised nighttime stories.”
For much of the night I lay across his chest, pointing out formations in the heavens above and telling my people’s ancient tales. Once the stories have all been told, we grow quiet, content to listen to the intermingled beating of our hearts as we hold one another.
“I can’t bear the thought of the night coming to an end.” We have been so quiet for such a length of time, that the deep timbre of his voice startles my train of thought, yet, I understand perfectly—for his feelings are my own.
Covering his hand with mine, I search for his face in the darkness, resigning myself to what must inevitably happen. “Eventually we have to return to our people, you to your repositories and me to the vaults.”
With a pensive, far away look he muses, “Maybe I will stay out here for another day. Then at night, you could come to me again.”
I like the idea, more than I care to admit. But it seems terribly selfish to make his people worry needlessly. Still… If they already fear the worst, will another day really matter? “Won’t they come looking for you?”
“No, they’re terrified of the forest.”
“But Cassius, after he explains—”
“—they’ll be even more afraid. That a moonwalker is in the forest by day will make them more petrified to venture outside our borders. And Cassius—when he is finished telling his tale—will probably make it seem like I was enchanted away.” Before I can comment he shakes his head, pronouncing, “No—they will write me off for dead.”
“Don’t be sorry for me, be sorry for them.” And I am sorry for them. The same way I am sorry for my own colony. For my aunt and uncle, for my parents and all those who live in mortal fear of the sun-dwellers.
My thoughts turn to Perseus, and when I realize he is staring, he winks at me. “And I was by the way.”
He pulls me forward for another kiss and the night fades. Sometime later, as he cradles me to his chest, arms wrapped tight around my trembling frame, I have the kind of fantastical thought worthy of Quil. “What if we don’t go back? Ever. What if we keep going deeper into the forest?”
Stroking my hair, he asks, “Then what?”
“I don’t know... We’ll find our way as we go.”
For a moment he gravely examines my face, and then stands, lifting me with him. “Okay.” He folds the blanket, returning it to his sack. “I couldn’t go back now anyway… Not without you. I don’t suppose your people would welcome me any more than mine would embrace you.” My mind flashes to Regulus, to my uncle and some many others in the vaults bound by hatred. When I shake my head, he brushes his lips over mine. “So we find our own way. Together.”
Moving past the meadow, we pick our way through the darkness down the far side of the hill, searching the horizon for an indication of the breaking dawn. We walk for a very long time, but it is a good kind of walking. Hand in hand, Perseus and I move toward our shared destiny.
Finally birds begin to wake, calling out to one another in greeting. In the dusky haze preceding the rising of the sun, we see an opening through the canopy of trees up ahead. Gray tendrils of smoke rising lazily into the sky confirm we are not alone.
Drawing closer, a small rustling makes us freeze warily in our tracks. A small child—neither dark not pale, but somewhere in between—with tousled, caramel hair and bright emerald eyes emerges from underneath a bush to stare at us. Before I can open my mouth, the child puts his finger to his lips in warning. Silence…
Perseus grips my hand tightly, his protective energy rolling over me in tense waves.
A man, clearly in pursuit of the child, weaves his way through the underbrush, coming to an abrupt halt behind the child with a triumphant grin. “There you are. I found you.”
The boy giggles and I realize his warning has been part of a game. Hide and seek. Perseus relaxes his grip but doesn’t let go as we wait for events to unfold.
Although he bears little resemblance in coloring, I can only surmise the smiling man before us is the boy’s father. His angular face is fair, yet ruddier than mine, his fine silver-white hair gathered into a band at the nape of his neck and pale colorless eyes… Watching him scoop the smiling child into his thin arms, recognition dawns. “Sirius?”
Thinking himself alone with his child, he whirls on us, blinking at me in surprise. “Lyra? Is that you?” When I nod in confirmation he exclaims, “I’d know your flaxen hair anywhere.” With a broad, welcoming smile, he regards Perseus and me. “So you found us, cousin!”
Continuing to stare, I stammer, “But—but you’re dead. A victim of the sun-dwellers.”
His booming laugh causes me to jump. “I didn’t die, Lyra. I left. But you’re right about one thing, I did fall victim to the sun-dwellers, one at least. My wife Miram.”
From behind Sirius steps a dark woman of equal height as my cousin. Coppery skin, sleek ebony curls, and large onyx eyes, she is more lovely and exotic than I could’ve ever imagined. At first shy, her dark curving brows arch in surprise as she regards my companion. “Perseus?”
“Hello Miram.” Percy’s still swollen lips quirk in amusement. “I am relived to discover you did not fall victim to the moonwalkers and their insatiable lust for blood as our colony feared.” As I open my mouth to protest he gives me a playful wink, his hand wrapping possessively around my waist.
“The only thing I fell victim to was my desire to see the night sky… Well, that and Sirius.” Linking her arm through her husbands, she graces him with a radiant smile.
My long-lost cousin kisses his wife’s dark cheek, his pale eyes full of adoration. Then turning attention back to us, he beckons, “Come and meet the people of our settlement.”
Looking from Miram to Perseus to Sirius in confusion, I frown. “I don’t understand… What are you? Are you and your people sun-dwellers or moonwalkers?”
“Neither,” he pronounces with a laugh. “And both. We live as the ancients, before the divide. A life spanning daybreak and nightfall. Lived in harmony and without fear. That’s the most important thing Lyra. Without fear of one another, we truly live.”
In the breaking dawn I gaze expectantly toward the thick tangle of forest straining to catch a glimpse of silver-white movement in the shadows. It is my daily ritual, waiting for the day Quil’s curiosity—her hope—will lead her to this place.
“Good morning.” Perseus slips up behind me, greeting me with a tender kiss on the sensitive skin behind my ear. Wrapping his strong, sinewy arms around my waist, his rough hands come to rest on my swollen belly. Our child, nearly ready to come into this world, kicks from within. A greeting to his father.
As he does each new morning, Percy whispers into my ear, “She’ll find her way. Faith Lyra.”
I do have faith, because out of us all, Quil was the one to feel the truth, instinctive yet tangible in her heart. One morning soon she will emerge from the forest, guided by her belief in something better, to embrace the new world that waits for her. A revolutionary world—without fear—where moonwalkers and sun-dwellers exist together, free to live each and every moment of the earth’s turning in harmony and love.