Apologies for the late posting–thank you, readers, for your patience. 💜
Friday, 29 / 4 / 2135
Over the next week, Scarlett did everything she could to keep busy. She helped out with chores and volunteered for supply runs; every minute she spent not working for the court, she filled with various physical exercises across the farm. While the newcomer had convinced herself that she was acclimating well, her neighbor felt otherwise.
The ranch that Alice had claimed for the Zeroua Court consisted of seven buildings: the main home, two extra houses, two barns, a workshop, and a shed. The court only had ten members, so the main home’s seven bedrooms were sufficient as their main dormitory. Noah and Isaac Callahan were temporarily doubled up in one of the larger rooms, as the older brother had given up his room to their newcomer. Wells and Julian had a likewise spacious room to call their own, an arrangement meant to give the youngest members some relative privacy as they adjusted. Ginnifer shared a room with Chloe, and Aria, Eric, and Alice all had their own rooms, with Eric’s marking the end of the male-occupied rooms and Aria’s marking the beginning of the female quarters. The newest recruit’s closest neighbor was the princess herself, her room situated just across the hall–and according to her, this made them unofficial bunk buddies.
The juvenile idea of a “bunk buddy” made Scarlett want to cry out in frustration. Alice checked in on her often, rapping her knuckles against her door when she noticed her light on during the late-night hours. Scarlett could feel the leader’s presence as she extended her calming aura out to her during a conversation. She would notice her blue eyes unfocus while studying her as if she were tuning into her emotions.
Scarlett was just about sick of it after a week, so much so that she had woken up before the princess’s morning check and hurried down to the farm. The sun was still rising, so she had not expected anyone to be in the main barn.
She saw the angel before he noticed her. He was in the corner that was converted into a chicken coop; his back was turned, arched as he bent forward slightly to reach into the bucket he held. He lifted a fistful of feed out from the oversized can and tossed the mixture haphazardly at his feet. The chickens had swarmed him, pecking at the kernels and oats on the ground.
She had turned to leave him to the barnyard chores when he spoke up.
Her shoulders fell; she was caught. “Morning.”
“You’re out here early,” Noah remarked. There was a hint of amusement in his voice that made Scarlett turn back. “Let me guess, wanted to get out before Alice cornered you?”
Her smile was more of a grimace. “Yeah, actually.”
The teenager tossed out the last of the bucket’s contents and carefully stepped over the feeding fowls. “Yeah, we’ve all been there. It’s her way of wanting you to feel comfortable.”
“It’s annoying,” she complained, almost immediately biting her lip. Up until that point, the only other member she had shown any hint of her true self to was Alice.
Much to her surprise, the other angel chuckled at her slip. “Can you blame her? We found you passed out in the chicken corner, covered in feathers and dirt. You don’t just wander onto someone’s property and sleep with their food. It’s concerning.”
“Well, like I told her, I don’t know how I got here,” retorted Scarlett. She watched Noah exit the makeshift coop and followed him over to the rabbit corner. The pen was surrounded by chicken wire and was sectioned off to accommodate the numerous does and few bucks. A wooden board almost two inches thick stood out against the furthest wall within the confined area. “Hell, the last couple of years have been a huge blur. The last vivid memory I have is my human tribe being attacked by a group of demons.”
Noah mulled over her words as he swiftly entered the indoor hutch, shut the wire barricade behind him, and crossed the straw-covered floor. Rabbits crowded around him, eager to let loose. Once on the other side, he slid the makeshift rabbit door up and out of the way, revealing a man-made hole in the barn. The cute critters scrambled for the exit, hopping out one or two at a time for the chance to stretch their legs.
With most of the rabbits in the outdoor portion of their hutch, Scarlett took the opportunity to grab the bucket labeled “bunny poop”–a label courtesy of Julian–and a pair of gardening gloves to match Noah’s before she entered the enclosure, cleaned out each litter pan and removed all the old bedding. She pulled out strands of old straw and paper, dumping them in the bucket with the pellets of feces she had pulled from the pans. It wasn’t until she was stepping into the fourth den that Noah had swooped in after her, adding fresh new bedding to the dens. They continued in silence, the sounds of the nearby livestock growing as the larger animals began their day.
By the time they had added clean water and fresh green vegetables, a few of the rabbits had returned to graze and rest from their morning romp. Noah pet the critters that loitered by his feet, allowing Scarlett’s escape from the indoor hutch without letting any out. Bucket in hand, she exited the barn and headed for the garden.
She was almost alarmed when his footfalls came up behind her. She spun around, confronting him. “What?”
“I’m sorry about what happened to your tribe,” Noah offered.
She shrugged, avoiding his eyes. “Bandit raids are just a part of life, right?”
“I thought you said it was a group of demons that attacked your people?” he probed.
Shit. “I don’t know if the entire group was made up of demons, just that a couple of demons were there. They couldn’t have been human–they could do the most outrageous, impossible things. The majority had to be bandits.”
She caught Noah nodding in her peripheral. “Sounds a lot like what happened to Wells and Julian.”
Her head lifted, granting her cinnamon eyes the chance to examine his sienna pools. They were friendly, welcoming, considerate–
All things I don’t deserve. “What is it that you want from me?”
It was his turn to shrug. “We all come from the same planet, right? We may not remember who we were when we first came to Earth, but we shouldn’t let that keep us from being a family.”
“We are not a family, Noah,” she grumbled before adding a little louder, “And no amount of time dedicated to being nice to me will get you in my pants.”
The angel snorted out a short laugh and ambled on toward the pigpen, a bucket of slop in his right hand. “Aria was right, you’re definitely straight. Your gay-dar is broken.”
Scarlett blinked as he walked off, her cheeks burning. Okay… Didn’t see that coming.
Before she knew it, she was running after him. “Hey, wait!”
He was already in the pigpen, planted between two slop troughs. He glanced up, his eyes mirroring his smile. His expression was brimming with amusement. “Yeah?”
“I’m sorry about–that,” she jerked her thumb over her shoulder, referencing their previous encounter. “Back there. I assumed, and… That wasn’t cool.”
Noah shrugged again. “Not a big deal, trust me.”
She nodded and began to turn back to the garden when she spun back around abruptly. “Oh–and thank you. For giving up your room for me.”
“Don’t even mention it,” he insisted, waving off her gesture. “If we put you out alone in the guest house before you’ve had a chance to acclimate, then you’ll never feel like you belong, right?”
Scarlett swallowed hard and took a couple steps in the direction of the garden, still facing him. “Yeah.”
“And, hey–!” Noah called out, leaning on the fence between them. “If you ever need to talk to someone who isn’t an empath, I’m going to use the rest of the day to move out of the main house and into the little one. You could tag along and we can swap war stories.”
She scoffed. “Yeah, um, I don’t think you’re using that old expression right. Neither of us have been to war.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “You sure about that? We live in a world where bandit raids are a part of everyday life. I wouldn’t exactly call this paradise.”
“Maybe not everywhere, but…” Scarlett let her gaze wander all around them, a sad smile creeping onto her lips. “This kind of feels like it.”
“Let me know before breakfast if you’re coming with,” he stated as he turned back to the pigpen.
Grateful, Scarlett mutedly continued on to the garden. A wave of nostalgia hit her as she thought back on Noah’s words.
“Then you’ll never feel like you belong, right?”
She frowned at her own wistfulness. Where have I heard that before?