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A Better Kind

I recall the day that my life changed forever. Whether or not it was for the better, is up to you to decide. After all, I am not here to give you an opinion, only a perspective.

The year does not matter, but know that it was long ago. I was but a little girl by the name of Eve, living a perfectly normal little girl kind of life. I played with toys, played dress-up, and loved to dance. My brothers would play their guitars, and I would bounce about without a care in the world.

We lived just outside of a small English town. We had a little stone cottage. It wasn’t nearly big enough for the five of us, but we made it work. The land was overseen by a Queen and a Witch. The Queen made sure to keep peace and order, while the Witch dealt with disciplinary actions and unruly citizens. She was a cruel and evil woman, but I suppose it was a necessary evil.

My mother was a merchant. She would travel into town every day with a cart full of blankets, sandals, and tunics, hoping to trade as much as she could for as much gold as she could. She never had any interest in riches, only feeding her children. We had always grown fruits and veggies in our garden, but that year was particularly dry, so my poor mom had to work twice as hard to fill our bellies.

My father was one of the Queen’s knights. Most of the knights made more gold than they knew what to do with. They would gorge on meats and wines every day before falling asleep on their gigantic feather beds, while my brothers and I slept on quilts woven by my mother. I never understood why my father never seemed to make any gold. When I was little, I didn’t pay it much attention, but as I grew older, it began to perplex me.

One morning, in my teenage years, my curiosity finally got the better of me. I saw him kiss my mother goodbye as he left for the day. He put on his helmet and stepped outside. I finished my biscuits and porridge as quickly as I could and ran up to my mother, bag in hand.

“I’m gonna go to school early today, mom,” I told her. “I want to study before class starts.”

“Alright, hun,” she replied, almost too perfectly.

I was almost certain I would at least be questioned, but she just smiled and accepted it. Perhaps I still wasn’t used to the freedom that came with becoming a young woman. Whatever the case, I was in the clear. I ran outside just in time to see my father riding away down the dirt road on his horse.

I put my fingers to my mouth and blew. A sharp, high pitched whistle echoed through the yard. I waited only a moment before hearing the trot of Peggy from behind the house. She had been my horse ever since I was little. She had light brown fur and a platinum blonde mane that flowed in the breeze as she walked up to me excitedly.

Peggy and I followed him down a few roads and through town. Then, though, it dawned on me that someone might recognize me. I didn’t need them yelling out my name and getting my father’s attention. I glanced around frantically, looking for a solution. As I did, I noticed James, one of our neighbors, up ahead. He would surely recognize me.

I noticed a stand selling scarves on the right. I quickly searched my pockets for a gold coin. When I found one, I threw it on the table and grabbed a scarf.

“Keep the change,” I said to the merchant. He smiled back at me gratefully.

I wrapped the scarf around my face until only my eyes were showing. I just looked like a drifter, passing through. At least, that was what I was hoping. I saw James, up ahead. He was selling his meats. I briefly made eye contact with him as I passed by on Peggy, but he didn’t seem to pay me any attention. I was clear. Onward we went.

The castle was just on the other side of town. I could see it in the distance. It was magnificent, if not a little foreboding. Mostly, though, it was just enormous. It looked like its own city entirely. I had never been, my mother had always forbade me from going. She said it wasn’t safe. If my father went every day, though, it couldn’t be that bad.

My father stopped at the front gate. I saw him say something to the guard, and then the guard let him pass by. This was an obstacle that I did not foresee. I looked around a little and noticed a tree right by the gate, with a big branch stretching over the fence. It looked promising.

I left Peggy by the tree and quickly climbed up it. Once I was on the branch, I looked over the fence. I could still see my father. He was heading to the main building in the middle. Once over the fence, it looked like I would have a pretty straight shot. I tiptoed my way to the end of the branch until I was over the fence. The guard was still at his position, almost directly below me. Looking back at Peggy, I nodded to her and whistled. She came running and went right through the gate.

“Hey! What the?” the guard shouted as he ran off chasing her.

I removed my scarf, tied one end to the branch, and let the other end fall down. It was almost touching the ground. Gripping it tightly, I climbed down the scarf to the ground. Once back on solid earth, I scurried to the main building, crouching down to avoid being seen.

I pushed the front door open slightly, making sure the coast was clear, before slipping inside. As I made my way down the dark corridor, I heard voices. They sounded loud and obnoxious. I saw a large armoire and jumped inside, hiding away. As I waited there, peering through the slats into the hallway, I saw a group of knights walking down in the opposite direction. They were all holding goblets of wine and joking with each other very loudly. As they passed down the hall, another man passed by them. This man looked old and frail. He was bald, somewhat hunched over, and moving very slowly with a cane in one hand and a box of glass bottles in the other. He had a very kind and innocent aura about him.

As the knights passed by, one of them pushed the old man. He fell to the floor, dropping his box, and whimpered. A few bottles broke and leaked amber liquid onto the floor. The knights laughed and jostled each other around. Another of them poured his wine out onto the old man. They all laughed some more. The old man, trying to ignore them, tried to get back to his feet. Once he got to his knees, though, one of the knights kicked him and he fell back down. They all cackled like hyenas as they left him alone on the floor.

I was heartbroken for him. I wanted to get out and help him, but I didn’t want to get caught and get in trouble. I decided to stay in the armoire. The old man slowly picked himself up, salvaged what he could of his glass bottles, and went on his way. Once he was out of sight, I stepped out and continued my journey.

I had no idea where I was going. I figured that once I saw it, though, I would know. I passed by a few empty rooms and some pretty strange paintings before something caught my attention. I heard my father’s voice coming from one of the rooms. I quietly approached the cracked door and peered in.

I saw my father talking to another man, who looked like one of the Queen’s dukes.

“No pay as usual?” the duke said.

“Nope,” my father said. “Just here to work. Send it to the usual place.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. My father was willingly not taking pay. I had no idea why he would do such a thing. It boggled my mind. Why would he do that? I tried to keep listening but almost jumped out of my skin when I felt someone touch my shoulder. I whipped around and saw a woman standing behind me.

She was a fairly typical looking woman. She had red hair and some freckles, and wore a black robe.

“Eavesdropping?” she asked.

I didn’t know what to say. I froze up. I was petrified.

“Hearing is a privilege, my darling, a privilege that can and will be taken away. If you want to hear things that you aren’t supposed to, then you won’t hear anything at all.”

She waved her hand around before softly tugging on her ear lobes. As she did, I felt tugging at my own ear lobes. Then, suddenly, all I could hear was a faint ringing sound. It soon faded away.

“What did you do?” I said. At least, I tried to say it. No sound came out of my mouth though. I tried again, and failed to make any sound again. The woman chuckled, but no sound came from her mouth either. She turned and walked away. I paid close attention to her feet as she walked. They made no noise.

Beginning to panic, I turned and looked back into the room. My father and the duke were still talking, only I couldn’t hear them either. I couldn’t hear anything. I ran down back down the hallway, beginning to cry. Even still, I couldn’t hear my sobbing. I ran out the door and back to the scarf dangling down from the branch. I climbed up it, over the branch, and back down where Peggy was waiting for me. I buried my face in her mane, crying. I didn’t know what to do, or what had even happened.

When I went home I tried to hide my impairment, but it didn’t work. My mother quickly found out. She seemed sad for me, but didn’t seem to question how it happened. She embraced me and gave me a slate with a piece of chalk to communicate with. Before handing it to me, she wrote everything’s gonna be alright on it. It comforted me for the moment.

I took the slate and chalk with me to school the next day. I used it to talk to my friends and teachers. It seemed to work well enough, until a couple of boys walked up to me. They were laughing and pointing at me. I couldn’t hear anything they were saying, but it didn’t seem nice. Then, one of them grabbed my slate and threw it to the floor. It broke apart in a hundred pieces. They all held their guts as they laughed more. Enraged, I tried to push one of them, but he jumped out of the way and I fell onto a wastebasket. Without knowing what else to do, I ran out of the school, tears running down my face.

I ran down the street and through the town. I couldn’t even hear the sound of my own footsteps. It was as if I was a ghost in my own life.

As I neared the edge of town, something caught my eye. It was the duke I had seen with my father the day before. He was walking up to an old, decrepit-looking house. He was holding a little burlap sack in one hand. He knocked on the front door and waited a moment.

I ran and hid behind a bush, watching the events. The front door opened, and the kind-looking, frail, old man from the castle answered. He was holding a broom, but he set it aside to receive the burlap sack that the duke handed to him. The duke made some sort of signals with his hands to the old man. The old man opened the sack and pulled out a handful of gold. He had a bewildered look on his face. The two of them shared more strange hand signals, before the duke finally bowed and left, and the old man took his gold inside.

I didn’t understand what I had seen. It wasn’t until later that night at home that it all came together. My father came home and immediately walked to me while I was eating supper. He handed me a new slate and chalk with a message already written on it.

Sometimes, being a different kind of person is what makes you a better kind of person.

He smiled at me, gave me a kiss on my forehead, and set a bottle on the table. It had an amber liquid in it. I turned the slate over and noticed another message.

Got this from a friend.

I picked up the bottle and looked at the label. It said Hearing Restoration Serum. I was overcome with joy. I pulled out the cork and went to drink it, but just before it touched my lips, I stopped myself. The image of the old man popped back into my head, and suddenly it all made sense.

My father refused gold, because he saw what it turned the other knights into. Instead, he gave it to someone who he felt needed it more. Perhaps I didn’t really need it, at least not as much as someone else might. I sat there for a moment longer, contemplating, before putting the cork back in the bottle. I looked at the slate again.

Got this from a friend.

I think about that day all of the time. I dream about it. It is a part of me now. I don’t use the slate anymore. A kind-looking, frail, old friend taught me how to use hand signals. I still have it though. It sits on my mantle, still baring my father’s words, reminding me every day to be a better kind of person.