Emi stared up at her ceiling, as she tended to do for a while each morning before getting out of bed. She liked to make shapes and images in her mind out of the imperfect swirls of paint and indention. Over in the corner was a misshapen potato with one very large eye, and near it was a pridecow… but then she couldn’t see the animal anymore and her mind wouldn’t make the image again.
This was nice, but she needed something nicer.
Suddenly, she sat up in bed and looked around at her bedroom. Clothes strewn all over the floor and a stack of books toppled over. All just like she liked it. These days she made a conscious effort to lock the door every time she exited, no matter if she left the house or not, just to ensure no unwanted visitors could ever enter. If someone were to rearrange it from how she liked it, she wasn’t sure she could handle it.
But… she thought she was handling all of this fairly well. Ms. Khami hadn’t yelled at her in a really long while and since her parents weren’t home, that meant there was nobody willing to scold her no matter what she did–or in this case, didn’t do.
Today, though… felt different. Her parents arrive back in Balarand sometime this week, and they would most likely force Emi to get involved in whatever house parties or supper dates or brunch time meet-and-greets they had in store for her pre-wedding preparations. And thinking further, it was only a month, at best, before you-know-who would arrive. Soon there would be rehearsals, dress fittings, coming-of-age ceremonies, and the like. And it wouldn’t stop from there.
Emi needed to seize this day, then. She needed to jump at the opportunity to do something rash and dangerous and stupid while she was still unsupervised.
She was going to sneak out of the house and go to the marketplace! The snow had mostly melted and the weather had warmed up some, so it was time for Emi to go on an adventure!
The levers pushed around in her mind, the springs pulled and compressed. She began to formulate a new devious plan she could use to break out of this self-imposed prison and escape the L’Hime Family home without anyone noticing.
Yes… Ah, yes. Perfect.
She would have to slide down one of the pillars holding up the second floor balcony and enter the foyer, for maximum speed of course. But then there would be a high risk of being spotted by one of the many housekeepers cleaning or carrying things, so she would need to distract them first. She would do that by first going up to the third floor, where there is a lot of construction going on for renovations, and maybe… knock over a paint can while nobody was looking. It would get everyone’s attention and make a lot of people upset, which would provide ample opportunity to make her escape. Yes… this was a great plan.
So, Emi grabbed a few things she might need and stuffed them in her handbag, and locked the bedroom door behind her as she quietly looked down at the foyer and around at the second floor. There was… nobody here. Not a sound.
She ventured up to the third floor, and it appeared that this was the case here, too. Where was everyone? Was it time for a lunch break already? Emi had been sleeping in a lot lately, but this would be just too far.
Well, this just meant that escape would be a lot easier now. She made an even more risky move, hopping on a pillar and sliding from the second floor down to the first. One false move and she would have had a broken back, but… that was really fun.
Emi walked toward the front door. But as she did, she heard a rhythmic buzzing noise that grew louder with every step she took.
Pip and several other housekeepers were there in the foyer, standing in front of the door with an air of unease. They hardly seemed to notice Emi until she came their way.
Pip met her gaze, but only for a second before her eyes darted away. “Hi, Emi,” she said, her cheerful, flirty attitude replaced by curt politeness. Ever since that day Emi dropped the sauce bowl and screamed at everyone, Pip had become a lot more distant. And now, with whatever was going on outside…
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“I don’t know… It sounds like…”
Well, if she didn’t know, Emi was going to go outside and find out.
When she opened it, she realized what it was– A crowd of fury-filled protestors standing outside the gates and chanting. Screaming.
“Save King Kline! Save King Kline!” was the main message Emi could decipher, but it was supplemented by countless other yells and shouts. It was angry, but it also seemed sad, in a way. A protest with a broken heart. A protest like people were mourning something. She knew that feeling well.
And, at the same time, she realized her parents were here, too. She didn’t even know they were back. Their carriage was right in front of the gate and looked scuffed up and damaged. “Mother?” she asked.
“Emi! What are you doing out here?”
“What’s… what’s happening, Mother?” she asked. “When did you get back?”
Mother, whose face was red and eyes were sore, wiped her face off with her sleeve and frowned. “We have just returned from our emergency negotiations in Fathie, and… Listen, dear. We will explain this to you inside. You shouldn’t stay out here; it’s not safe.”
Emi realized that she wasn’t going to be sneaking today after all.
Dannark soldiers arrived to break up the crowd, but many of the protestors refused to go without being beaten down. It erupted into a scene of violence. Emi flinched, wanted to look away, but knew she couldn’t. Knew she shouldn’t.
Emi’s Father walked up to the front door. “Emi. Go inside.”
“Can’t you tell me what’s going on?”
“Come inside.” He walked past her and held open the front door for her.
The moment the door shut behind them, Mother once again burst into tears, falling to her knees and sobbing.
Father looked to Emi. “Your Mother and I tried to.. We did the best we could, and we failed the people of Elince. Our consequences were instant, as the protestors followed our carriage home. We imagine that… the rancor may continue.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“I– We– I’m sorry, Emi. You’ll have to excuse me.” Father had begun to cry, too.
Ms. Khami and the other housekeepers had come down to the foyer to see what all the commotion was about. Emi helped Mother to her, and then looked at Ms. Khami. “What’s going on?”
“Your parents were sent to Fathie to negotiate King Kline’s surrender,” Ms. Khami said. “They were trying to save him from being sent to criminal trial in Dannark.”
“And they failed,” Emi said, looking out a front window, and seeing the protestors past the main gate, continuing to chant to save their king’s life.
“Yes,” she said. “You had better go upstairs.”
And they failed.
The protests would continue on into the night, and then again into the next morning. No matter where Emi went in her home, she could hear the strained voices shouting through the walls.