by Grace Nehls
Viridian had left the window open in her room again. Necatia found it, curtains rustling when the occasional carriage rumbled past, the casement thrown wide, its white paint covered completely with her younger sister’s ink drawings; the pot of ink sat open as if she had been there just moments before.
Shutting out the heat, Necatia set the ink out of reach, locating the calligraphy pens Viridian had stolen from their mother’s special collection. She paused upon leaving, her eyes trailing across the lower margins of the bedroom walls where she saw more doodling still, and not for the first time did she think her sister had too much time on their hands. It wasn’t Viridian’s fault she felt trapped, in the house, in her own body. Her hands and mind were the only things that did not hold obstacles for her. It was as if Viridian’s very thoughts were bleeding into one another on the wall, a pattern both creative and complicated. Just like her sister.
“Viridian!” she called, stepping into the hallway. She entered the main room in the house that her family spent most of their time in. Books were stacked in corners, the small fireplace was a smudge of ash and brick, threadbare chairs surrounding it. The kitchen was the only clean part of the place; their mother was a stickler for an orderly place to cook. “Viridian!” Necatia squinted into the sunlight as she took to the cobbled street outside. The air smelled of woodsmoke. The entire city of Diarmund was preparing, cleaning the iron lamps bending like elegant women on the sides of the road farther down, dusting the cobbles and throwing water onto the stones to give them some semblance of cleanliness. Necatia couldn’t imagine the uproar in the palace.
Tomorrow evening was the An Roghnu, The Choosing.
Every year all unmarried young women at the age of seventeen were presented to a group of noblewomen called the Cealgair. Many of the contestants came from as far away the borderlands of Diarmuid. A grand ceremony was held in the Cealgair’s honor at the palace that evening, and the group of women chose one person they deemed worthy to train to become a noblewoman. It was a beautiful prospect to all the girls in the city- they all dreamed of their names being called out by the Cealgair, to be the one that had a chance to marry into a wealthy family, and gain the king and queen’s approval.
A wink of light glancing off metal caught Necatia’s eyes. “Viridian! Where have you been, I’ve been worried sick!” Her sister rolled forward, sundress crumpled, leaning heavily in her wheelchair as she maneuvered expertly in from of Necatia. Her eyes were bright with excitement.
“I was looking at the list. They posted it on the Western Gates of the palace thismorning… our names are on it, Necatia! We can go to An Roghnu!”
“That’s halfway across the city!” Necatia knew both their names would be on that list. They were both seventeen.
Viridian grinned, wiping her forehead, pushing back the black strands of hair plastered there. “I can move faster in this thing than you think. It only took me a couple hours.” Necatia glanced at her sister’s wheelchair, then at her legs, long and pale in the sunlight. Useless. Her sister saw her glance and frowned.
Viridian had been born without the use of her legs. She was lucky the lack of muscular function hadn’t spread past her hips, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way. Viridian would still be different. They were daily reminders of what Viridian could never have.
Necatia cleared here throat. “I told you I wasn’t going to go,” she began.
“You must!” Viridian accused. “If our names are on there we don’t have a choice!”
Necatia also knew that her sister had been waiting for this night. It had taken years to save enough money, and even then Necatia had to pool some of her own to compensate for the rest, for spells were expensive and hard to come by. There was an old woman living not too far away from the castle who dabbled in magic, the only one in Diarmuid. It was simple magic she did, special creams for mending bones or broken skin, leaves that relieved fever and headaches, potions for long memories, draughts to make the skin glow. And there was a spell that would help Viridian walk again. It wasn’t a permanent spell, they both knew that, but it would give Viridian the ability to move her legs and feet on her own without the need of a wheelchair, as if she were walking like normal. It was all her sister could think about at night, a time when she could move around Diarmuid and not have to worry about the stares. A night without the conscious thought that she was broken. It was a huge risk to take.
Author Biography: Grace Nehls is an 11th grade student at the School
for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati, OH where she majors in
Creative Writing. She aspires to be an author. Besides writing, Grace
is a competition dancer, an avid reader, and is fascinated by the
mechanics of astrology.