People have been waiting for this and ordinarily I would wait a few more weeks before posting it, but this is to help you use some of your time while you are distancing from the rest of the world.
“Happy birthday to me” Angelika Leanne thought as she hovered around the corner of the entrance to the kitchen and listened to her sister whine about her. The old saying was true, though it didn’t stop her from eavesdropping; people who listened in, never heard good things about themselves. Karen was seven years older and for some unknown reason she was still unmarried. It wasn’t something Angelika figured she should shoulder the blame for, though her sister seemed to think so. She didn’t know why Karen was still single because her sister was easily the most beautiful young woman in the two worlds. Maybe Karen just needed to meet the right man, something her sister was certain she wouldn’t do with Angelika around.
Karen could have any man she wanted but she was fixated on Ravel. Even hearing that man’s name was enough to make Angelika want to roll her eyes in disbelief. Sure, the man was enough to make any woman drool, but seriously, Ravel? She felt sorry for him because she couldn’t think of a single reason anyone would name a child that. It was a wonder he had any friends. His brother wasn’t much better off with a name like Rafe. How lame could they get? Their sisters had decent names, so why couldn’t they?
“What are people saying about Angelika now? I don’t believe ten percent of what I hear. Your sister is a beautiful girl and she is just turning sixteen. She hasn’t had the time to do much more than mature to suit her age, which is not nearly as much as the gossipmongers credit her with,” Teryka spoke softly.
Teryka loved her daughters equally but there were moments when Karen’s whining grated on her nerves. This was one of those times. As far as she was concerned, Angelika was the victim of a very badly orchestrated practical joke. Her youngest child was the polar opposite of her sister. Shortly after she had turned ten, some young boy had decided to tease her cruelly about showing signs of becoming a woman. He had begun by telling her she was a minion of the devil because she was so dark in comparison to her sister’s angelic looks. Her name, he claimed, was her parents’ attempt to hide this.
Angelika had dealt with the matter poorly. Then again, she had only been a child. She had curled up her little fist and blackened both the boy’s eyes, and then had broken his nose. It had signaled the beginning of a feud, one he was still determined to win. Ever since, he had invented stories that showed her in a negative light. The sad part was, he had a way of phrasing things to make them sound believable. What added fuel to his fire was that Angelika ignored him. He found her attitude irritating and it made him more determined than ever to ruin her reputation. He swore that if it were the last thing he did, he would fix her for breaking his nose.
Teryka was sure Angelika wasn’t even aware of how beautiful her darker looks were; she was just that much in awe of her sister’s blonde perfection. If they would have told her, she wouldn’t have believed she was every bit as willowy as Karen or as pretty. The only difference was that her muscles were more defined from all the exercise she gave them. She did a lot of walking and running and because of the trips she made through the portal every other day to see her grandmother, Merika, it showed. It was something she did without fail. She never took the horses as she was told. Instead, she would run, something she loved doing. She was swift and sure-footed even in the forest, which was another place she spent a lot of time when she had it to spare.
As beautiful as Karen was, Angelika sometimes made her look slightly washed out but that was more a matter of character. Teryka’s youngest child was more animated than her oldest, especially when she talked. There was no restraint in her actions nor did she attempt to make it seem she was something she wasn’t. She wasn’t a perfect little lady and she wasn’t about to pretend she was.
While Karen wore her perfection like a cameo, Angelika couldn’t be bothered. Her hair was so dark it bordered on black and it fell in torrents of unruly curls past her hips. Her bright blue eyes were outlined with naturally long dark eyelashes and sparkled with mischief. Unlike her sister’s pink bowed lips that slightly curled at the ends, hers were red and usually spread in a wide smile that showed her pearly white teeth. If there was a grin covering her face it was a sure sign she had done something to bug her brothers. That often ended in riotous laughter as they retaliated and the house echoed with unfettered gaiety. No one wondered whether she got along better with her brothers than with her sister, for they knew it as a matter of fact. They loved her sense of humor and the way she took their teasing in stride. But she always tried to make sure her sister wasn’t left out of the games, even when it wasn’t appreciated.
“Corinth says she has been trailing after Ravel lately. The other girls say she is always flirting with the young men and he says they are more than willing to take her up on the promises and challenges she throws at them. It is scandalous,” Karen confided in Teryka, even as she slathered another layer of icing on the cake they were making for the evening meal. It was one they had made special to celebrate Angelika’s sixteenth birthday.
“With Corinth, that could mean that Angelika was running past Ravel on the way to see her grandmother. Haven’t you learned to quit listening to that boy’s tall tales about your sister yet? He has spread gossip about her since she broke his nose six years ago and it has only gotten worse with time. You know he harbors a grudge against Angelika that has only gotten worse through the years,” Teryka chided her daughter.
“You just don’t want to face the truth. She is wild with no moral standards. That is what we get for allowing her to run free with the animals the way she does. She even acts like them at times and I have to live with the reputation she has been acquiring. Some of my friends are lumping me into the same category and it isn’t fair. I don’t deserve that, I act in a respectable and civilized manner. She is driving all the young men away from our door and I will never attract a serious suitor,” Karen complained. “It is no wonder Ravel doesn’t want to be with me.”
There was no mistaking the sound that followed Karen’s comments for anything other than what it was. Teryka had slapped her eldest child and probably for the first time in her life. She continued with a lecture. “You are a whiny little snob. I have taught you better than this and I will not condone your speaking about your sister with such malice. It is wrong and you know better. You are picking on her for no good reason and I want to know the real reason why. This is not like you, Karen.”
“Fine,” Karen shot back between the tears of self-pity she shed, “I hate her. I wish she had never been born. She thinks she has the run of both worlds and believes none of the rules apply to her. You talk about right or wrong, deal with that.”
As Karen finished speaking, she took the cake they had been working on and turned it upside down on the table. The only thing she ruined was the icing, which Teryka figured there was too much of anyway. She, however, wasn’t about to let her daughter act like a spoiled two-year-old lost in the midst of a fit of jealous rage.
“If you are finished with your tantrum, you can turn the cake back to how it was and fix the decorations. I am through listening to your self-pity and the lies you have been spouting off to justify your jealousy, especially when there is no reason for it. I will return in an hour to check on your work,” Teryka informed Karen, then left to see to the kitchen.
Karen felt like picking up the cake and throwing it. She was so frustrated with how things had turned out. At the same time, she realized she was being petty. The sense of wrongness about what she had done assailed her conscience until she could barely stand to be in her own skin. She hadn’t meant half of what she had said, nor did she understand why she had said them. She loved her sister but it was too late to take the words back. What made it worse was that she knew her mother was right. To top things off, nothing had gone right for her over the last week. Ravel had told her he wasn’t interested in her other than as a friend, and now this had followed on the heels of that news. It wasn’t Angelika’s fault things hadn’t happened the way she wanted. She gave a sorrowful sigh as she righted the cake and cleaned up the mess she had made. She went about decorating the cake all over again. This time she was determined to make things right. She would make this the most beautiful cake she had made.
Angelika didn’t wait for Karen’s tantrum to cool. She burst into silent tears and ran unheralded to her room. She had always thought everyone in the family loved her, despite her habit of disappearing into the forest to commune with nature on a regular basis. She hadn’t been doing anything wrong.
Now, Angelika realized, things needed to change. She crumpled the letter she received barely an hour before from her godmother, Tyndal, congratulating her on her sixteenth birthday and braced herself to face her future. This was no time to feel sorry for herself or for tears; it was time for action.
With this in mind, Angelika pulled her backpack out of the closet, stuffed it full of the best of her everyday clothing, added her favorite personal possessions, zipped it closed, and shrugged it over her shoulders. To be fair, she decided to leave a note to her parents, to let them know where she was going so they wouldn’t worry. She checked to make sure no one was around to see her walk out of the house with her belongings as that would have caused questions she didn’t want to face at this time, if ever. She figured that by the time they noticed she was gone, she would be beyond the portal entrances and in the real world. She was going to live with her godmother, if for no other reason than she was welcome there.
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