“Honestly, Aine,” I fall back onto the bed, arms splayed out, “he can’t expect me to marry just because he feels we need to our expand our trading routes. Apparently this is the only way to do it.”
“He is your father.” Aine replies with a sigh, then says, “not that I agree with him.” They are my closest friend: brutally honest, but not to a fault. Not when it comes to me anyway.
“So you’ll come to the party tonight then? Even if just to fight off the self-righteous men that will be jostling for my attention.”
Aine smiles. Their eyes – which today are a pale blue – are shining as they stare down at me on the bed. With how well I know Aine, I’d say they were plotting something. I leave them to it.
“How do you know for sure that you don’t want to get married?”
I throw a pillow at them, but they side-step it easily, their long ivory coloured hair catches the air as they do so.
“You are such a child!”
“Am not!” I retort with a huff.
Aine frowns pointedly.
“When I was 11, maybe, when we both used bed sheets as wedding dress trains.” I roll over onto my stomach. “Things change,” I mutter, “feelings change.”
Aine doesn’t reply, but I feel the bed shift slightly as they lie down next to me. After a while they speak.
“I’ll come then.” They don’t sound reluctant, just thoughtful.
“Of course, Zahli,” they reach out to rest their hand on my own, “it’s you who asked me.”
The dress I’m wearing is far too tight in all the wrong places. I’m short and broad, with very little waist. You would have thought that the earth colonies wouldn’t have reverted back to the clothing of the 1800’s yet here we are. Even if it is fancy dress, it’s a bit much.
The hall has been fitted out to mirror that of an old earth period dance hall. The pale wallpaper stretches neatly to the ceiling from which hangs a delicate chandelier. It would be almost believable, if it weren’t for the glass ceiling which stretches out above us. A glass ceiling looking out into space. The darkness beyond is spotted with stars and distant planets, all surrounded by swirling galaxies of stars, rubble, and space dust.
I am always happy to be at a party, especially one with an intergalactic guest list such as this. There is just one problem. As the eldest daughter of the leader of this galaxy sector, I am expected to marry outside of our sector to a wealthy suitor et cetera, et cetera. My father is trying to broaden trading borders and apparently he needs to marry off his daughter to do so, and soon too. Soon being tonight, but that is the last thing on my to do list (if it is there at all). The need for young women to marry well, or to marry at all is archaic, even if it is for a greater cause.
I consider running (always a suitable option), but I haven’t even had a drink yet, or a dance. That’s when I spot Aine through the crowd and all thoughts of running disappear instantly.
Aine looks stunning, as usual. Their midnight blue suit looks like it has been sewn from the fabric of space itself, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. The Lakree family have incredible talents when it comes to all things sewing, they’ve been in the business for generations. Aine is clever about her work, but almost reluctant; they have about as much desire to follow in the family business as I want to choose my future tonight.
I notice the swirling galaxy over their heart is the same deep purple of their eyes. Clever, I can’t help but think, Aine is always trying out the latest body-modification trends. Only in little ways though, and never all at the same time so no matter how many times they change their appearance I can always recognise them. Tonight is no different, though in addition to their eyes, Aine has added a purple tinted shimmer to their white blonde hair.
My own dress is a deep red. No stars or galaxies here, but the trimming does shine. Thanks to Aine, of course. They sewed the trimming on for me. I’d been rifling through their box of offcuts and took a fancy to the pearly trim. It is much too extravagant, even for the daughter of a sector leader, but Aine insisted.
We stand off to the side of the party, near the refreshments table. The table itself runs along one side of the grand ball room. Even the usually plain wooden floors manage to look impressive amongst the beautifully dressed people and candle lit walls. On closer inspection however, I realise the candles are actually delicately spun wires shaped to look like candles.
Aine’s gaze flits around the crowded room, but they never actually move from their position beside me. They seem nervous.
“You’re looking for someone…”
“I’m scouting out the quality of possible partners for you.” Aine replies in a tone that clearly says, ‘I’m plotting something’.
I can’t help but sigh. “My dad put you up to this didn’t he?”
Aine smiles apologetically. “He knows I know you well, and he trusts my judgement, shurely, or he wouldn’t has asked me to do this at all.”
“Oh?” The sound is out of my mouth before I can stop it.
“I have a different plan.”
Aine’s smile brightens the already well-lit room. When they look at me it is as if the room just slips away.
“There are plenty of handsome men who have noticed you,” they continue.
“Don’t lie to me!” I gasp dramatically. “They’re all looking at you.” And I don’t blame them. Not when it comes to Aine.
Aine rolls their eyes. “Slander,” they joke, a small chuckle leaving their lips.
I laugh with them, not quite able to keep my eyes from their wide smile.
“Dance with me.” Aine asks calmly, as though it is the easiest thing in the world.
The question seemingly comes out of nowhere, but because it’s Aine asking, it makes sense. I manage a quiet ‘yes’ before they lead me to the centre of the dance floor. Once my steps are synced with Aine’s I can’t help but feel like I’m just as graceful as they are. We spin in time with the music, weaving in and out of the other dancers with practiced ease.
Aine draws me closer and whispers, “I thought it would be easier to talk like this.” They spin me out and pull me back in close.
“Uh huh.” I deadpan, not quite following.
“When you dance with someone you make your own world. No one will hear us talk here.”
“I see.” A smile flickers on my lips as I try not to seem as confused as I feel.
“Zahli,” Aine begins, they miss a step, stumbling slightly but I steady them easily and lead us on.
“I want to ask you to run away with me.”
My breath catches slightly. This isn’t what I was expecting at all, yet it’s all I want to hear right now. “When?” I ask. My voice an excited whisper.
“Tonight, I brought my own space-craft, we can leave right now if you want to.” Aine watches me carefully, her deep purple eyes never leaving my own.
“Is that you asking me?” I smile wide, my chest feeling lighter than it has in months.
“Is that you saying yes?” They mirror my question, a knowing smile on their face.
“If you’re asking, then yes, more than anything else in the world, yes!”
“In that case,” Aine pulls me in to brush a light kiss to my cheek, “I am asking.”
Aine takes my hand again as the song finishes and we run from the crowded dance hall. It’s strange, I expected there to be gasps of shock, an uproar as the guest of honour leaves the room at a run, but there is nothing. I’m sure my father will notice soon that we are nowhere to be seen, but even then, he might not realise we aren’t coming back until much later.
A bubble of nervous laughter rises in my chest as I run. Even as a stubborn teenager, no matter how many times I planned to run away from home, I never actually did. Aine joins in my laughter as we stumble to a stop at the entrance to the series of lift-pods down to the parking bay.
“Are we really doing this?” I ask breathlessly.
“Only if you are sure this is what you want to do Kahli.”
I swallow. This isn’t going to be easy. As soon as father realises he’ll send people after us to get us back. Well, to get me back. “We won’t be able to relax properly. We’ll never really be able to stop.”
A touch of guilt holds my chest tight. It won’t let go as I continue to speak. “That’s half the fun of it though, right?” I grin as I take their hand and we run again towards the lift pods.
I can see the expanse of space beyond us through the clear walls of the lift pod, it’s so close it feels as if I can reach out and touch it. The door of the pod slides open again and I can see the sleek black side of Aine’s ship. The last of the guilt almost melts away as I notice the excitement on their beautiful face. We’re nearly at the ship, but then-
“Leaving so soon?”
The drawling voice of what I call my father’s second shadow reaches my ears. He’s a cross between my father’s bodyguard and his personal assistant, and he is also a galaxy class stickler for rules and I groan internally and turn back.
“That docking station won’t work,” the Shadow says loftily, “I told your father something like this would happen,” he continues, “but he didn’t believe me. No matter, I locked all the docking stations in case.”
He didn’t think I would.
I glance back at Aine but they don’t seem to be concerned. They’ve torn out a panel at the back of the docking station, and they are pulling out the bunch of wires and examining them. The Shadow must not have noticed because when I turn back he is grinning. I’m about to say something when Aine cries out triumphantly behind me.
There’s a small crack and a fizz as I see a small burst of light out of the corner of my eye. It must mean something good because I watch as the Shadow’s smug smile falter and contort to a look of panic.
“Time to go Zahli.” Aine takes my hand again as they press the other to the lock on the side door to their ship.
“No!” The Shadow yells out, “You can’t- when your father finds ou-”
“When my father finds out he will be able to contact me, and I will explain then.” I reply with a lot more confidence in my voice than usual when dealing with the Shadow.
We turn back as the Shadow stares at us, mouth agape, and we step inside Aine’s spaceship. The clean white interior of the spaceship calms any anxieties I may have had. The craft is small, so the space feels almost cosy despite all the tech and the white walls.
“Good evening Aine.” The ships AI speaks over the intercom as Aine starts up the ship.
They smile, “evening Bo.”
“Where are you wanting to go tonight?”
“Anywhere.” They reply brightly, then look to me for confirmation.
“Perfect.” I smile, savouring Aine’s bubbling excitement.
“Then please Bo, get us out of here,” Aine takes my hand and gives it a light squeeze, “take us somewhere beautiful.”
Aine is pronounced ‘AWN-ya’
Lakree is pronounced ‘LACK-ree
Zahli is pronounced ‘ZAHL-ee’
This was written for the 20/20 Hindsight project with YeahWrite. The June prompt was to re-write January’s 1000 word piece in up to 2000 words.
You can find January’s piece here!
This was an interesting process as I edited it back a little first then added the sections I wanted to. I hope you enjoyed the additions. Please let me know if you think anything doesn’t quite fit.