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Chapter Two

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It was barely eight o'clock in the morning and I'd already lost my temper.

"Mom, I've told you, I'm done packing!" I hissed through gritted teeth. My mom slid the zipper around the suitcase, then dumped the contents onto my bed—every piece of clothing that I had spent hours ironing and putting neatly inside. "Why. Did. You. Do. That?"

Ignoring me, my mom tossed aside all of the old T-shirts I loved so much. She pulled out dresses and some faux-fur coats from the plastic bag she'd had with her when she had barged into my room and packed them in place of my choices.

"I'm not going to wear those."

"You will," she said as she turned on her heels and rummaged through my wardrobe. "You won't have a choice when these are the only clothes you have with you."

"If I am the one who has to wear them, don't you think that I should be the one deciding what I wear?"

"Nope."

This was too much. We had already fought during breakfast an hour ago, and I really did not want to have another argument now. I left, paying no mind to her yelling as I raced downstairs, took my coat off its hanger, and dashed out the front door.

My mom and I had never had a stable relationship, and without anything in common, it was even harder to build one. We were doomed to clash. Our personalities were too different: I was fire and she was water. If I was lucky, I could use my fire to evaporate her water. But if she held her ground, she would put out my fire with her water. It entirely depended on who was more stubborn at that moment. We could never reach an agreement because neither one of us was willing to compromise—maybe that was the one thing we had in common. We didn't even agree on small things, like what we should have for dinner or who would take a bath first. Most of the time my dad had to come between us with a solution that we'd both accept.

Taking a left turn at the junction, I headed to Bryan's swing and sat there for a few minutes before pulling out my phone to call my best friend, Kristen Ambrosia. Although Bryan had been my partner in crime, Kris was the one person I shared all my bottled-up feelings with. We had been best friends since her first day at my Hellenic school. She had walked toward me—the fat girl with ginger hair and freckles all over her nose—stopped by my desk, and asked to sit with me. She ignored everyone else who had tried to befriend her simply because she was a Pure Royal, and chose me, a Regular.

Other than glorifying soul mates, the Hellenicus were obsessed with status and how to promote themselves. I never understood it; it wasn't like you could elevate your caste based on who you hung around with. Still, Royals tended to be even more status hungry than us Regulars, who had accepted our place. Besides our love for mystery novels and detective TV series, Kris and I had bonded over our shared dislike of the Hellenicus caste system and how it made some people so shallow.

After trying to phone her several times and having all my calls go straight to voice mail, I slid my phone into the front pocket of my jeans and decided to go to her house, which was only a few blocks away, in a fancy gated community.

The house looked like a cutout from an architecture magazine, looming proudly behind creaky iron gates and flanked by rows of skeletal trees swaying gently in the December wind. At its threshold stood a delicate marble fountain. On summer days the soft gurgling of the clear water resonated melodically in the surrounding silence, but now that it was winter the water had frozen, and all that could be heard were my footsteps crunching on the snow of the front walkway.

Cloaked in blankets of white snow and days of little sunshine, winter was a long season in Alaska. Although it only took fifteen minutes to get to the Ambrosias', my feet were numb thanks to my stupid choice of footwear. I should have worn extra socks.

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by AJ Rosen ⁷
@agatharoza
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