The following characters belong to me alone. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead was unintended. Any resemblance to any place in existence was completely unintentional as well. The names were picked randomly and only used because I liked the sound of them.
I'll warn you ahead of time that the contents of this story may be considered inappropriate for anyone under the age of eighteen. I'm just that kind of person. I like violence, and I like sex--better yet, I like sex between women and sometimes it's rough. If you don't listen to my warning and read this anyway, I don't want to hear about it if you don't like what you find.
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Genre: Original alternative fan fiction
POV: 3 rd
Summary: In a post-apocalyptic world, it's living that's hard. Questions go unanswered, needs go unmet, suffering goes unnoticed, and heroes are in short supply. But there's always someone searching for answers and willing to go the distance—even if it is for a price.
The residential area was set up on the eastern side of the village, uphill from the marketplace. It had been positioned there to prevent the drainage tunnels from becoming a problem. The rows of homes had been set up with a crisscross of wide alleys between each building. The wealth of each cottage's inhabitants was obvious by the state of the outside decor.
Sandoval's boots left imprints in the sand as she crossed the residential area to the third row of cottages. She turned right and headed down an alley to the seventh cottage in the row. She drank in the sight of the home she shared with Victor and Ellijay and sighed. She'd have to do something soon about the fraying edges of the support posts on the porch before they splintered.
The rough synthetic wood their home was built with was painted the pale blue with white trimming that most of Arcadia 's upper-class citizens preferred. The paint had been part of a trade they'd done two years earlier. Trade was how they got most of their household things. They had coin, but a good part of it went to food, clothes, and keeping up their stall. Very little of their coin was used for frivolous purchases like the dark blue drapes hanging in the front window.
That was part of one of Sandoval's fonder memories. Ellijay had a habit of sneaking off from the stall once a month to view the wares of their neighbors. She'd sometimes find something she liked, but she wouldn't buy it for herself because that was just the way she was. Sandoval occasionally followed and would buy whatever had caused her sister's eyes to light up.
Sandoval stepped up onto the white-painted porch and knelt to remove her boots. Then she stood and pushed open the door to enter her home. After placing her boots on the shelf by the door, she walked into the main room of the cottage. She briefly considered the leather sofa across from the fireplace and then shook her head as she turned down the hallway on her right.
She entered the room on the left and closed the door behind her as she swung her bag from her shoulder. She set it gently on the floor by the door and then reached for the hem of her shirt. She gingerly lifted the shirt up over her head and then crossed the room to put it in the tan wicker bin next to the matching dresser. She quickly finished undressing and then went to her dresser to remove a set of pajamas.
She pulled on the thin dark blue loosely-knit pants and then paused as she considered her bandage. Guess I can wait until after I get some sleep to check that. She pulled on the white shirt that completed the outfit and then crossed to her bed.
Out of habit, she flipped the mattress. Even in a village as active as theirs, they had to worry about unwanted tenants entering their homes while they were away. She shuddered at the thought of a scorpion or anything else crawling into her bed. Ellijay kept an eye on her stuff while she was gone, but it never hurt to double-check.
She pulled a fresh set of bed-clothes and a pillow from the wicker trunk at the foot of her bed and then proceeded to make it up. Once she folded the sheet down, Sandoval crawled into the bed and pulled the dark blue material tightly around her. After months of sleeping in various uncomfortable spaces, being in her own bed was a relief she couldn't describe. She rolled onto her stomach and buried her face in the pillow.
With the familiar comforting scents of home surrounding her, Sandoval closed her eyes with a smile. It wasn't long before she felt herself drifting off. It was so good to be home.
It never ceased to amaze Ellijay of how Sandoval could go to bed completely clothed and cocooned in her sheets to being half-naked and sprawled out on the bed. She often amused herself with wondering what it was like when she traveled. How did she keep from embarrassing herself in the communal housing most villages provided for travelers? Though it had occurred to her that those situations might just be why Sandoval didn't mind being seen naked.
Unless she has some new wound she doesn't want me to see, that is, Ellijay mused wryly. You'd think I was still a babe with the way she attempts to hide things from me.
“Sandoval, are you awake?”
The expected groan answered her. That meant that if she wasn't all ready awake, then she was at least halfway aware. Ellijay edged further into the room and paused by the foot of the bed. Any closer and the results would be painful. Sandoval's reflexes were always on a raiser's edge whenever she returned home from sharing cramped, crowded quarters with strangers.
“Come on, get up.”
Sandoval grunted and rubbed her cheek over the pillow. She refused to budge. The warm haze of comfort surrounding her was way too nice to give up. She sighed.
Ellijay eyed her sister in wary amusement as she stepped closer to the bed. It was unusual for Sandoval to show any kind of laziness. Maybe I should get the healer? She choked back a laugh.
“It's time for the mid-day meal. I thought you'd like something to eat.”
Now Sandoval's eyes opened. She lifted up onto her elbow to gaze up at Ellijay in frank interest.
“What've you got cooking?”
“Pouches,” She answered succinctly.
Sandoval's eyes lit up. Pouches were a popular dish. They were rectangular shaped pieces of dough stuffed with different food items. Her favorite combination was cheese, beef, and peppers. One of the things she liked most about pouches was that they could last for a couple days after they were cooked, making it possible to add them to her travel-rations.
“Okay, I'll be out in a bit.”
“Let me check your side first.”
Sandoval grimaced. She had hoped Ellijay would forget about that, though she really should've known better. She studied Ellijay's determined expression briefly before she sighed and turned onto her back. There was no use in delaying the inevitable.
“Okay, but make it quick.”
“Sit up,” She ordered as she took a seat on the edge of the bed.
She did as she was told, allowing the sheet to pool around her waist, and leaned back against the wall. The rough synthetic wood scraped gently against her skin and she sighed at the pleasurable feel. Then she held her arms out slightly to the side as she patiently allowed Ellijay to unwrap the bandage. A faint smirk played at the corners of her lips as she waited expectantly.
Ellijay allowed the bandage to fall away from Sandoval's side as her eyes went to the pink scar tissue nearly six inches in length down Sandoval's side. Then she sighed and lifted her gaze to meet Sandoval's. Her irritation was obvious.
“You could've saved me the worry by telling me it was nearly healed.”
“As if that would've done anything,” Sandoval muttered. “I get a hangnail and you're quick to stress it.”
Her expression turned wry and she shrugged helplessly. “Better that than indifference.”
“True,” She agreed, stretching her arm out to retrieve her shirt from the corner of the bed. “But it's a hell of a thing considering my lifestyle.”
“You kept the bandage on to keep the road dust out, right?” She asked, ignoring that last comment.
Ellijay always tried not to think of the numerous times Sandoval had returned wounded. Life was hard, for anyone living in their world. There were villages that had it worse than others and a lot of people despised any who prospered, Arcadians being at the top of their lists because of their market. Greed and jealousy sometimes drove even the most innocent of people to commit acts of violence. She shuddered and returned her attention to her sister.
“Yeah,” Sandoval answered, her voice muffled from the shirt as she pulled it on. “I didn't want to chance infection even this late in the healing process.”
“I'll leave you to get cleaned up,” Ellijay said as she stood.
Sandoval pushed her now empty plate away and settled back in her seat. Then she placed a hand on her over-full belly and sighed, content. She glanced up as she heard a deep chuckle.
“Tell me what's been happening since I've been gone.”
Victor nodded and gestured for her to wait for him to finish chewing. Considering his appearance and that he'd been raised in one of the outlying provinces, Sandoval was sometimes amused at Victor's mannerisms. He displayed the etiquette of a man whom had been around the upperclassmen his entire life. The genteel gestures didn't fit the rugged looking black man, though she knew better than most that he was so much more than he seemed.
He allowed her and Ellijay to see a side none other than his birth family had ever glimpsed. It was something she was honored by. He'd given her and Ellijay a chance at life whereas others would've turned them away; where others had turned them away. He'd given them stability and a family. It was something she'd be forever grateful of.
Victor sipped from his mug of ale and commented, “Councilman Gabriel passed on a fortnight ago.”
Arcadia was governed by a Council consisting of five members; Councilman Theodore, Councilman Silva, Councilwoman Sinclair, Councilwoman Genevieve, and Councilman Gabriel. Each was in charge of maintaining anything pertaining to their area of expertise. Councilman Gabriel had been in charge of commercial affairs. It had been his responsibility to maintain the laws surrounding their trade and sales, to handle trade agreements, and to generate interest in their marketplace.
He had been successful and well-liked. Sandoval shared a wince with Victor as a thought occurred to her.
“Did he name a successor?”
Their council wasn't an elected position. It was a position gained through apprenticeship like any other role in their village. A group of people would train for the position and when it was time, one of them would be chosen by their master to take it. It wasn't a job Sandoval envied. The idea of having to deal with the political side of things made her shudder.
She understood and respected the need for law and order. She even contributed to the upkeep of it at times. But she knew better than most that power could corrupt the wielder far too easily. She hated the dishonesty of it all.
“Yes,” Victor answered. “But they will have to remain out of session until Apprentice Langston returns so that they can make it official.”
The council bylaws dictated that they couldn't operate without complete attendance. It was to allow for fair rulings on any decision as each member represented a faction of their village. Langston Garrett presented a more actively aggressive attitude than Gabriel had.
Sandoval's expression turned thoughtful. She lifted an eyebrow.
“Interesting choice. Isn't she his daughter-in-law?”
“You know she is,” Ellijay said. “You were home last year when she took the Apprenticeship that opened up after her husband died.”
As Victor watched on, Sandoval stuck her tongue out in response. He chuckled and shook his head.
“You'll be expected to go to the ceremony as a representative of our family,” He reminded.
A ceremony would be done to officially promote Apprentice Langston to Councilwoman. Citizens would send a representative from their family to show their support if they agreed on the choice of Councilman Gabriel's successor. Their absence didn't make a difference, but some would refuse to show just on general principle.
“The things I do for this family,” She muttered, giving him a murderous look.
“You'll get over it,” Victor answered, chuckling. “Just as I did each time I had to drag you out of trouble when you were younger.”
Sandoval merely shrugged. It wasn't as if she could deny it. She hadn't handled confrontations well at first. It had taken her a while to relax her defensive reactions when she'd first arrived in Arcadia . She smiled wryly in self-acknowledgement.
“I'll go. Have you picked out a gift yet?”
It was customary for the representative to take a small gift to present the Apprentice with. Shopping was the one thing Sandoval despised more than politics. The only exception was gift-shopping for Ellijay. And that, she considered, is a labor of love.
“Good,” She drawled. “No one would've liked the outcome of my having to pick out a gift and deal with the political bullshit those things always generate.”
“We're quite aware that you've the social graces of a draft horse,” Ellijay muttered sardonically.
Sandoval's eyes narrowed and she asked slowly, “Victor?”
“Yes?” He asked, amused.
“Anything else you'd like to tell me?”
She was just guessing, but it was confirmed when panic flared in Ellijay's eyes. She smirked. Just what have you gotten into this time, sister-mine?
Her knack for getting into trouble every time Sandoval left town had been a source of teasing for years. It was the one thing at odds with the consummate businesswoman she was. It seemed as if any con-artists or cheap-skate that came through inevitably ended up at their stall. Somehow, even if they didn't come to their stall, they still ended up in a skirmish with Ellijay.
Victor smiled and merrily ignored the pleading look he received. “You'll be surprised to learn she didn't have any trouble from the customers this time.”
“Is that so?” Sandoval drawled.
“Mmhmm,” He answered. “This time the trouble was from Oliver.”
Sandoval's eyes darkened. Oliver Norton was known for his fixation on young women. Her jaw clenched and she lifted an eyebrow in warning. It wasn't something to joke about to her.
“It wasn't what you're thinking,” Ellijay rushed to explain. “He was just being a jackass.”
“Explain,” She growled, shooting a look at Victor.
“He approached me and publicly asked to court her,” Victor answered, deadpan.
Her expression cleared and Sandoval barked out a startled laugh. She let out a relieved breath and leaned back in her seat.
“The nerve of the bastard. What did you say to him?”
“Vic asked him if he looked like my daddy,” Ellijay interrupted, snickering. “When Oliver gave him that stupid confused look he has, Vic said that even if he was, he wouldn't let someone like him call on me anyway.”
“Then when he asked where he could find her parents, I told him her guardian was out of town,” Victor continued the explanation. “When he asked when you'd be back, I told him, ‘Sandoval will be back in a month or so. But I can tell you now, she'd sooner cut off your manly parts than let the likes of you anywhere near her sister'.”
“You should've seen his face when he heard your name,” Ellijay commented. “I thought he was going to keel over right there on the spot.”
“It would've served him right,” Sandoval replied. “He should've been put in lockup for being a menace to the public long ago.”
“Fortunately for you, being a disgusting pest isn't against the law.”
“You're lucky I love you, sister-mine,” Sandoval replied flatly.
“Why?” She teased. “He's a pervert... you're a pervert.”
“No,” Sandoval drawled and then pointed at her own chest. “I'm a pervert.” She jabbed her thumb over her shoulder in the direction of the village. “ He's a sick bastard.”
“You're both unmarried people who have sex with other people,” Ellijay muttered. “That's what most of society considers to be a pervert.”
“Isn't that redundant?” Sandoval asked, glancing at Victor. “How does someone have sex without another person?”
“Hell if I know,” He answered dryly. “Out in the dunes they called it masturbation, otherwise.”
“Oh, Gods,” Ellijay muttered, covering her flushed face with her hands. “This conversation has been sand-blasted.”
“We live in a desert,” Sandoval replied blithely. “Did you really expect anything else?”
“The desert has nothing to do with your sick mind twisting conversations until nothing resembling propriety remains.”
“Just look at that face,” Victor chuckled. “Kid looks like she's half-baked.”
“Isn't it time to return to the stall yet?” Ellijay groaned.
“Hey, we're headed out.”
Sandoval looked up from unpacking to see Ellijay standing in her bedroom doorway. She jerked her head, gesturing for her to come in.
“What's up?” Ellijay asked, striding up to her.
“There's something I wanted to discuss with you.”
Sandoval sat down on the edge of the bed. She entwined her fingers and propped her chin on her fists, leaning her elbows on her knees. She gazed up at Ellijay, serious eyes searching.
“What is it?” She asked, kneeling down in front of Sandoval.
“It's occurred to me that suitors are going to be calling on you soon.”
Oh, She breathed, faintly startled. She hadn't realized that would be bothering her sister. Should've known it would, She chastised. She's always been so concerned with my well-being, even to the exclusion of her own.
Ellijay shifted, propping her folded arms on Sandoval's knee as she rested her chin on her arms. The familiar position caused her heart to clinch with longing. This was the way all of their talks had gone, and they'd become few and far between over the past four years. She saw the emotion reflected in Sandoval's gaze from up close.
“And?” She prompted softly.
“What am I supposed to do?” Sandoval asked plaintively. “I have no experience to help me make those decisions, not even my own.”
Ellijay grimaced internally. It was yet another unintentional reminder that while she was free to live life as she wanted, her sister's experience had been very different. She smiled sadly.
“There's no one I'm interested in, sister-mine. I have no expectations of what I want to happen, yet. So if you wanted rules set in place for future reference, that'd be up to you.”
“I've never made decisions that affected you without your input before.”
“I know,” She answered. “And you've no idea just how grateful I am for that.”
“I never wanted you to feel as if you had no control over your life.”
“I never have.”
Just those words flooded her with relief even though she'd heard them before. She closed her eyes briefly to steady herself. She'd been raised in slavery and she'd been determined that Ellijay would have every freedom she could afford her. She'd allowed Ellijay to have a say in every decision she'd ever made that affected them both. She smiled and reopened her eyes.
“I'll think on it and then get back to you. That way you can tell me if my rules are completely sand-blasted.”
“You have no idea how relieved that makes me,” Ellijay replied, smirking.
“Don't you have work to be doing?” Sandoval teased.
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