Monday, 6/ 6 / 2135
Scarlett spent so much of her free time at Noah’s that when the healer joked about her moving into the guest house with him, she took him up on his suggestion and moved the very next day. While the older members of the court weren’t so shocked, there was one youngster in particular who wanted to join them–and the morning following her sudden move, Scarlett was dressing for her supply run when she heard a frenzied knock at her door.
“Scar? You there?”
She frowned and hurriedly slipped the loose-fitting muscle tank over her head. What’s he doing here? “Give me a sec.”
Scarlett finished getting dressed and grabbed a black hairband, leaving it to cling to her wrist as she retrieved her socks and boots. “Come in.”
The door opened slowly, and a small head topped with dark brown waves peeked in. Julian Sanchez resembled his older brother, particularly in the way his wooden eyes took in the room. “You’re dressed, right?”
She scowled at the preteen. “You think I’d let you come in if I wasn’t?”
“That’s fair,” he admitted, letting the door swing wide open as he took a few steps and glanced around. Since she had not had anything to her name when she was recruited, Scarlett used her supply runs as a means to find decor and entertainment that aligned with her interests. Most of her runs take her into Jackson, and occasionally she would come across traders from the Denver colony. At least half of their wares were needless merchandise; posters, figurines, music, books, films, and other products that only served to provide entertainment. Scarlett managed to barter with one of the younger traders; she would give him ten rabbit hides, and he would give her thirty pieces of merchandise of her choice. They both knew that her offer benefitted the trader greatly, but being a member of the Zeroua Court had reawakened her love of music and the arts.
As a result of this trade, Julian had entered a bedroom where the walls were covered in posters for various rock bands. A three-by-four grey corkboard in a black wooden frame acted as the centerpiece for the wall opposite her full-size bed; a growing collage of images clipped from magazines and album sleeves spread out across the canvas, depicting some of her favorite musical artists in their prime. Black wooden shelves hung on one side, housing some figurines she salvaged from a nearby abandoned shop. To the right of the board was a bookcase filled with novels, comic books, some manga, and various music-centered magazines. Beneath the board was a writing desk that had some pens, pencils, and a few notebooks and leather-bound journals.
“I just realized that I never saw your room while you were still in the main house,” he pointed out, sounding uncharacteristically meek. His dark eyes passed over her bed–it was dressed in simple mauve sheets without a comforter or blanket in sight. She had only one nightstand, and it held a wind-up alarm clock and a small, slender lamp. “It’s different than I imagined.”
She shrugged and continued lacing up her boots. “I didn’t have most of this crap on display in my old room–it was all just taking up space in a box in my closet. All those books–” she jerked her head toward the bookcase. “–were in stacks in a corner. I didn’t organize anything until I got here.”
“I like it,” insisted Julian. He strolled over to the desk and leaned over it to study the corkboard collage. “Is that Vic Fuentes?”
Panic briefly welled up inside her as Scarlett realized that the angel’s face was directly over her diary. She hastily double-knotted her right boot and stood abruptly, bringing Julian’s attention back to her. “Yeah, he’s one of my favorite musicians.”
Julian nodded, offering no response as he continued to study the board. It wasn’t until Scarlett cleared her throat that he tore his eyes from the magazine clippings for good.
“Did you need something?” she asked.
“Uh, not really,” he admitted with a half shrug. “I just wanted to catch you before your supply run.”
She cocked an eyebrow, prompting him to confess. “O-Okay, well, I guess I was wondering if you could talk to Alice and everyone about me moving out here. To the guest house.”
Scarlett frowned. “And you want that why?”
“ ‘Cause then I’d get to hang out with you and Noah!” Julian grinned. When the older teen said nothing, he tacked on, “And I want my own room. I’m tired of sharing with Wells.”
“So why don’t you just move into my old room?”
“Your room is on the girl side, and Alice says I have to stay on the boy side,” he grumbled. “I tried asking Aria and Chloe to move to your room since their rooms are closest to the boy side, but Aria’s had the same room since she moved in and she doesn’t want to switch. Chloe said she’ll think about it if Alice says it’s okay, but Alice told me to stop bothering everyone about it and to just stay with my brother.”
Scarlett thought back to when she was thirteen and Albert had finally secured his own bedroom–a near-impossible feat in a household with five younger siblings. I’ve never had to fight for my space before since I was always dad’s focus. Scarlett Moon can’t relate to this kid at all, but… She sighed aloud and waved for him to follow her as she led him out of her room. The real me can sympathize with the desire to be seen as an individual as opposed to just another child in the bunch.
“I’ll talk to Alice and see what I can do about you getting your own room,” she began. Julian pumped his fist in the air and let out an exclamation of success when she cut him off. “Don’t celebrate–I can’t promise anything will come of it. But I don’t think you should think about moving out here with us until after you’re, like, fourteen at least.”
“Sweet! Thank you,” he beamed. “Can I go on your run with you?”
She scoffed. “Okay, now you’re pushing it. You know you’re too young for supply runs.”
Julian let out an exasperated grown. “Jeez, you people think I’m too young for everything. When will I be old enough?”
“When Wells, Noah, and I say you’ve passed your training,” she countered. She and Wells were giving the young boy lessons in survival and self-defense, while Noah was teaching him first aid. Julian’s training had only begun the week prior when Scarlett went off on Alice for not insisting that their members be trained in combat.
Though a little disappointed, Julian bid the older teen farewell and returned to the main home, allowing her to meet with Chloe and cross the river into Jackson. That same day, she met with her trader acquaintance and found a small poster that caught her eye. I think he’d like that.
When they returned to the property, Chloe went directly to the main house in search of Ginnifer, while Scar stopped by the guest home with the intention of changing out of her scouting clothes. She had barely made it two steps past the door before she heard her name called.
“Scar! You’re back!”
Her eyebrows rose as she took in the small assembly in her and Noah’s living room; Alice, Gin, Isaac, and Julian had all joined her housemate, the five of them deeply engrossed in their conversation before the newcomer’s arrival. Julian spun all the way around in his seat, kneeling as he gripped the back of the sofa in excitement. Isaac, who sat beside him, tugged on his t-shirt and said something to the effect of how the boy was seated inappropriately.
Noah, who was sandwiched on the second sofa between the princess and the psychic, rubbed his hands together. “Ooooh, girl! What’d you bring me?”
Alice frowned. “Wait, what the fuck? Has Noah been getting first dibs?”
“Yep,” everyone replied, including Alice’s own cousin. The princess gasped and stared incredulously at the shy girl. “Gin?! You knew and didn’t tell me?”
“I-I-I, well, I–” she began, only for Scarlett to chime in.
“She didn’t tell you because she probably thought it wasn’t a big deal. It’s not like Noah just keeps everything I bring; he goes through everything and tells me who would want what and what no one would want.”
Alice pouted and slumped back into the sofa with her arms crossed under her chest. “Fine, whatever. Just make sure to save me the MCR stuff you find.”
Scarlett rolled her eyes and set her backpack down on the table between the couches. She pulled a poster out of the bag, unfurled it, and presented the desired image to the princess. “I don’t know, I think they’re growing on me. Maybe I should keep it since I am the only person who goes on every single supply run, and I am the person who bartered with the traders to give us all this merch every week–”
“Okay, okay! I’m sorry! I love you and appreciate your insane bartering skills!” Alice pleaded with her friend. Satisfied, Scarlett let out a hmph and rolled the poster back up before handing it over to the princess, who accepted it greedily. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“Here,” Scarlett said, handing a stack of books out to Noah. He accepted them graciously, reading through the spines. “One of those is a recipe book, so share with your brother.”
“Yes, please!” Isaac squealed, clapping enthusiastically. Noah rolled his eyes dramatically and handed the recipe book to his younger brother as he sarcastically droned, “Okay, mom.”
Then the scout rummaged through her backpack and pulled out a grey box. The cover depicted white font and a woman who wore a serious expression. She handed the box set to Ginnifer, who let out a loud gasp as she accepted the gift.
“You found the second gig box set?! I’ve been looking for this for sooo long!”
“It helps to actually go outside to look for it,” Scarlett teased her, before adding, “Oh, and Chloe’s looking for you.”
She caught the flash of red that spread across Gin’s face. “O-Oh? I, uh–okay, I-I’ll go see what sh-she wants.”
Scarlett was intrigued by the psychic’s reaction. Oh? Someone’s got a crush.
Having heard her thoughts, Gin jumped up from the sofa and shouted, “Sh-Sh-Sh-Shut up Scar!”
And then the psychic ran out of the home, leaving their group to giggle amongst themselves.
“Am I crazy? How long has that been going on?” Scarlett asked with a smirk.
“How long has what been going on?” asked Julian, eliciting more laughter from the group. “What?”
“Nothing, you’ll understand when you’re older,” Isaac waved off the kid’s questions.
“Honestly? She’s been like that since they met,” Alice revealed, ready to spread the gossip. “The only ones who are oblivious are Chloe and that one.”
She pointed at Julian as she emphasized the word “that,” prompting him to throw his hands in the air and ask, “What did I do now?!”
“Ignore her,” Scarlett told him, pulling out his first gift. It was a five-inch hilt with grooves to allow for easy gripping. Julian’s eyes widened as he took it, fiddling with it for just a moment before activating the spring. A serrated blade swung out until it locked into place, nearly doubling the length of the pocket knife.
“Whoa! The blade’s black!” he gushed, turning the knife over delicately before returning the blade to its previously hidden position. “Wells said he wasn’t gonna give me another since I lost the last two.”
“I bet you’d find them if you’d just clean your side of the room,” Noah practically sang, earning him an annoyed look from Julian.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” he grumbled.
“Just don’t lose this one,” Scarlett warned him. “I don’t give people things lightly. I expect to see that at our training sessions. Got it?”
“Got it!” he promised. “Thanks, Scar!”
That was about when she felt him arrive. He had entered quietly and was idling by the front door, watching without bringing attention to himself. She almost turned to invite him in–almost.
No one is supposed to know that I can do that. I have no abilities.
With that in mind, she ignored the prickly feeling of being watched and pulled another poster from her backpack. “I saw this and thought you might like it–since you recognized him on my wall.”
Julian’s face was scrunched in confusion, but he was smiling nonetheless as he took the poster and unrolled it. By the time he had the poster flat enough to see its image, his smile had faltered.
Scarlett frowned. “What’s wrong? It’s Pierce The Veil. You pointed out Vic on my board, so I thought–”
“Ah, I don’t actually listen to them,” he admitted. A corner of his mouth was upturned in a nervous half-smile that leaned closer to a grimace. “I just thought I recognized him.”
“Oh,” she blinked. “How’d you recognize him, then?”
Julian jumped at the sound of his brother’s voice. Their group all turned to see the porter standing by the front door. He appeared as relaxed as ever, his shoulders slumped and his hands in the pockets of his cargo shorts.
The younger Sanchez brother stood from the sofa. “Oh, right. I said I’d help treat the hides for next season’s meeting.”
He handed the poster back to Scarlett, who rolled it up. “Sorry, Scar. I appreciate the gesture. Maybe someone else here will like it?”
“It’s cool, dude,” she assured him with a small smile before jerking her head toward Wellington. “Go help your brother. I’ll see you around.”
“Okay, see ya!”
It wasn’t until she felt that the brothers were far enough away that she broke the tense silence that hung over the communal space, her smile faltering. “Anyone wanna tell me what that was all about?”
Alice, Noah, and Isaac all swapped wary glances. “You don’t know?”
Her frown deepened. “No, okay? I’m not constantly updated on everyone’s business like the rest of you. Why was Julian being weird about the poster?”
“Well, he’s telling the truth about not listening to–whatever that band is,” Isaac offered. “He’s more into rap and hip-hop, but he dips into some super old, classic rock on occasion.”
“Then…” Her thoughts flew back to that morning, and how intently Julian stared at her corkboard. “Then how did he know who their lead singer was? He saw him on my wall and called him out by name and everything.”
Noah turned to their leader. “I assume you want to be the one to tell her?”
Alice rolled her eyes. “Gee, thanks.” Then the princess faced the newcomer. “Julian was the one who found you in the chicken coop. You were covered in dirt and feathers, so he didn’t really get a good look at your face when he first saw you, so… He thought that you were Corrissa, his sister.”
Scarlett couldn’t help the shock expressed on her own face. “I-I didn’t know he and Wells’ had a sister.”
Alice bit her bottom lip. “They don’t. Not anymore–not after the Spokane colony was wiped out. She was the one who sent them away; her boyfriend was the one driving. She stayed behind with their parents to defend the colony.”
“According to Wells, you look and act a lot like Corrissa,” Noah revealed to his housemate. “It explains why they’re both so taken with you. I think she was your age when the attack happened, too.”
Scarlett furrowed her brow and gestured to the rolled-up poster that now sat beside her backpack. “What does that have to do with Vic Fuentes?”
“Ugh, seriously?” Isaac groaned. “Keep up, girl! You and Corrissa have the same taste in music–she probably had that Vic guy on her wall, too.”
“I guess congratulations are in order,” Alice sighed as she pushed herself up from the couch. “You’re officially a big sister. Now let’s go to the main house and distribute the rest of the stuff you brought.”
“But I don’t know how to be a sister,” Scarlett blurted out unintentionally before clamping her mouth shut. She then zipped her bag closed and slipped her arms into the straps until the weight of the backpack hung from her shoulders. “N-Never mind. Let’s go.”
“Hey, let me see those books you got–!” Isaac exclaimed, nearly pouncing on his brother as the girls stepped away from the living room. They could hear the two of them bicker half-heartedly as Noah showed his sibling the novels he had recently acquired, their voices carrying through the dwelling and following the princess and the scout as they made their exit.
Once the two young women were outside, Alice professed, “You know, Julian’s just gonna cling tighter the more you pull away–if that’s what you were thinking about doing.”
“I know,” admitted Scarlett. “And I wasn’t thinking that. If he wants a big sister, then I can try to be her…”
“But you’re not sure how?” guessed Alice.
“I’m not exactly the world’s greatest sister,” she clarified. “But I do have experience with little brothers. Noah and Aria, too. Come see us if you have any questions.”
Scarlett tucked her dark hair behind her ear. “For Wells too?”
Alice smiled sweetly and rubbed her friend’s back as they walked side-by-side. “Yeah, for both of them.”