calm sea during golden hour





8/26/20236 min read

When she entered the room, all eyes were on her and Vienna self-consciously felt like they knew what she had decided to hide. She stood by the door, apprehensively holding their eye contact, her hands clasped.

“How was the walk?” Lyss chirped.

Vienna let out a nervous laugh. “Yeah! It was nice. I- well, it was…a pretty normal walk. I, er, ran into this Blue Badge.”

Zinnia looked intrigued. “Which one? Clementine? Mayday? Or was it Simmon?”

Vienna cleared her throat. “No. Actually, it was Dimitri Alexei.”

At the mention of his name, both Lysistrata and Zinnia’s expressions became a bit more somber and they exchanged strange glances.

“Oh, him.” Lyss said, rolling her eyes. “Yeah, you don’t wanna be friends with him. A weirdo, that one.”

“I agree with Lysistrata. He’s…well, mixed. And he’s a bit of a…well, rebel.” Zinnia added.

“But he seems nice. And he has no friends. I told him I would get him some. He is Decima’s younger brother, isn’t he? Decima’s nice.” Vienna said defensively.

“Decima’s great! You just have to stay away from Dimitri. I have a feeling he never wanted to serve the Doyenne.” Zinnia said quickly.

“He never talks to anyone, so he wouldn’t have friends.” Lysistrata laughed. “He just sulks around. None of the Sirens OR the Royals like him.”

Vienna felt irritated how they were disparaging someone who had seemed perfectly alright to her. At least Dimitri wasn’t like Elliot, rude. But as she always did, she backed down, not wanting to lose the company of two people who were always around her. So she contended herself with rolling her eyes when Zinnia and Lysistrata turned back to their cards and burying her face in a book until they finally left her room.


She had fallen asleep with the book still in her hands. Noon had turned to evening and the sky outside the window was a dusky violet and the bright morning light had disappeared into darkness.

“I really need to get a clock.” Vienna said aloud to herself. For a moment she was unhindered- but then all the memories of the wine cellar and the maps came crashing back to her and she felt guilty. What if Elliot really was up to something horrible? He hadn’t seemed very enthusiastic on Elswyth- but he did seem to care about Eleanora a great deal- as a sibling should, of course, but his hatred towards Elswyth had seemed unending and quite alarming. Elliot and Lysistrata, on the other hand were cousins of a very common kind- they got along freely in that lightly sarcastic manner.

She sat up and decided to change into something more comfortable- her version of it, anyway. A T-shirt and trousers, her hair twisted up. Then she sat down at the desk and decided to sketch a bit- at the end of a day with so many social interactions- breakfast with the Royals, meeting Eleanora, hunting with Elliot, cards with Lyss and Zinnia and running into Dimitri, her social battery was sapped. A bit of alone time- just what an introvert needed at the end of the day.

She wished there was some music to accompany it. Suddenly, she remembered the thing that brought her the stuff she wanted. She didn’t know the name of it- but she recalled it from her room tour. She located it again and tapped the speaker, then said: “Headphones”.

A minute passed by, then two. She didn’t really expect anything to happen- after all, a pair of headphones wasn’t food. But then the flap opened, and a pair of cutesy cat ear headphones with the color-changing LED lining popped out.

Of all the headphones, Vienna thought exasperatedly, and put them on. Noise cancelling, fine, plush, alright, but where would she find the music?

She had an idea.

“Knee Socks.” She said aloud. All of a sudden, the thrilling guitar strums began playing in her ears- with the fierce lyrics to match.


Now all she wanted to do was listen to some music and sketch and float off into a dreamland with all the fictional characters she loved.

Midway into the torso of her Spidersona, a memory came to her with a jolt.

“I hope we can talk again later. Perhaps we could meet to talk every evening?” Vienna said.

“I would love that!” Eleanora said excitably. Vienna had once again forgot that Eleanora was just a girl like her, who needed friends and company to talk to, not just her brother and her younger cousin. How long could a book substitute friends?

Damn! She was supposed to meet with Eleanora every evening to talk with her.

Vienna was a girl who never went back on her promises, even when it cost her everything. So she put down the pencil, dragged herself up and changed into a turtleneck, a hoodie over it, and black slacks. She pushed a brush through her hair, pulled on her shoes and set off towards Eleanora’s room.

As she stepped outside, the place was just like always- almost deserted apart from all the Guards standing in clumps, hissing away in their language or laughing quietly. She walked past them without any trouble, climbed out the stairs, and was walking towards the Princess’s door when suddenly she heard heated voices from inside. Her instincts told her to lay low, and she did exactly that, flattening herself along the wall and keeping her ears pricked. Thank God there weren’t many guards around on Floor 6. She could only hear snatches of the vehement conversation.

A deep voice, male, Elliot’s, most probably, almost yelling, but in that quiet way people try to be when they’re keeping secrets.

“-And of all the people, I never thought you, my OWN SISTER, would be the one to doubt me, to not be on my side, you know, our cousin, she’s understood-”

And Eleanora’s, equally stressed but lower, replying in a worried tone,

“I AM on your side, brother, but this thing you’re planning, it’s-”

“She DESERVES it! You know what she did-”

“But this is EXTREME, she is our SISTER after all!-”

“I CAN’T RIGHT NOW WITH THE SISTER, just think about it and let me know! I’m in the right!You’ll realize SOONER or LATER!”

The voices died away and Vienna was just slowly approaching the door when it flew open and Elliot stormed out, looking vindicated, his eyebrows twisted into a fervid frown.

Vienna shrank back, not wanting to be spotted, when suddenly he turned and their eyes met. Elliot gave Vienna a piercing stare, still frowning, and Vienna, having no option, slowly tried to smile. She felt searched and judged by that glare, pinned under a microscope. So Elswyth and Elliot were related after all- Vienna had seen that intense glare many times in Elswyth’s eyes.

“Hey, Elliot! I was just coming up here to meet Eleanora. I JUST came up, haha.”Vienna tried to laugh it off, no way wanting Elliot to know she had heard their conversation.

Elliot stared at her some more, looked her up and down and then slowly said, “Oh, yeah, I was just leaving. You know, since Eleanora doesn’t come down anymore I was just talking about my day. Nothing serious.”

Vienna forced a smile, made some random gestures and then pointed at Eleanora’s door with her thumb.

“Uh, don’t want to keep the Princess waiting!” Vienna chirped. “See you later, Elliot.”

Elliot nodded and went down the steps one by one. Vienna took the opportunity to flee into Eleanora’s room.

“Good evening, Eleanora.” Vienna said as she slid into the room. The room was now brighter than it was in the morning, lit by the chandelier. In the glowing sapphire light, Eleanora looked paler than ever and positively stressed. Her hazel hair, by comparison, was practically glowing. She was pacing the length of the room, and Vienna could see her socked footprints traced in the rose gold carpet. She was wearing a different outfit, a V-necked, gigot sleeved white top with jeans.

“Oh, hello, Vienna, just sit down.” Eleanora said, ceasing to pace and sitting down in one of the chairs around a coffee table. Vienna took the opposite chair and seized her chance.

“So…what happened?” Vienna asked, hoping to seem casual.

“What…oh, nothing.” Eleanora replied, seeming distracted.

“You were pacing. Really, um, stressed-like?” Vienna edged her on.

“Oh. I just, er, fought with Elliot. He’s so IRRITATING sometimes.” Eleanora said, taking a deep breath.

“…And….?” Vienna said again.

“Well, he’s…trying to make me see his perspective and I don’t like it! He’s mixing with the wrong crowds, I- I don’t know what to do, it’s like I have to be the older sister even though he’s older and well, it’s Elswyth’s job, all of it, but it’s like we have to do everything OURSELVES!”

Vienna sighed. Not another rant. She wanted to be a good friend but these rants…they were all about the same person: precious, shining Queen Elswyth.

She was tired of being the pillow everyone cried into.