Hi! This fanfiction is set roughly during Flashback, so spoiler alert if you haven’t read the book yet. It’s a fanfic exploring the possible relationship between Marella and Linh, and (hopefully) should be updated around every week. Constructive critiscm or comments are always appreciated, and thanks for reading!
Chapter 1 - Marella
“Try again.” Fintan’s voice echoed in the empty room, bouncing off the concrete walls.
“I am trying,” Marella said. Sparks jumped from her hand in annoyance before quickly dying out in the cold space. She clenched her fists, trying to remain civil. “What else do you want from me?”
“Same thing I always want. I would have thought you smart enough to figure it out, but I stand corrected.” Fintan smiled an eerie smile, sending shivers down Marella’s already freezing back. “You aren’t applying yourself properly.”
“What do you mean? I’m doing my best.”
“Lies. I can tell deep down you still hate the ability. The flames won’t listen to you if you don’t truly believe in them. You have to want them. Need them,” he finished with a whisper. Marella could sense Linh stepping closer, and she was suddenly glad she didn’t have to do this alone. When Linh had first started coming along to these sessions Marella hadn’t wanted her there. This was the place she felt most vulnerable, and the idea of anybody, much less Linh, seeing her like that was terrifying.
But she had come to appreciate the solid presence of her friend, especially in moments like this. Focusing on the heat surrounding her, she willed flames to materialize. “Like this?” she asked.
“Better. Now focus, and don’t mess up like last time.” Breathing heavily, Marella tightened her grip on the fire, and it slowly rose in height, until the tendrils of flame swayed high above her head. It stayed complacent for a moment, and Marella almost believed she had succeeded when the fire grew, spreading up her arm and licking hungrily at her tunic. Luckily, it only took a moment for Linh to extinguish the flames, but the look on Fintan’s face made her wish she had just let the fire engulf her.
“You can’t let yourself keep messing up like this. I only have so much patience, and the last few sessions have been wearing it thin.”
“It won’t happen again, I promise.” Marella wanted to respond with a snarky comment, but held her tongue. To her surprise though, Linh spoke up.
“It’s not her fault you won’t teach her anything! All you do is sit there and complain. You never even try to help.”
“This is a session between me and Marella. It is not your place to start wasting my time with your opinions on how I should teach. This lesson is over. Come back when you’ve actually improved.”
“What? But… But…” Marella stuttered, trying to come up with something to say.
“You heard me. Leave. I don’t want to teach someone who doesn’t even want to learn.”
She cried out, “Of course I don’t want to learn! It’s pyrokinesis. The ability is banned because of what you did. You killed people! And you’re saying I’m the one with problems?” Before Fintan could say anything more, she strutted away, not wanting to stay and here his response.
As soon as she was out of Fintan’s sight, Marella felt her spirits sink. Maybe he was right. She didn’t want to practice pyrokinesis, no matter how powerful it made her feel. Especially because of how powerful it made her feel. But she was also right. Fintan was a killer, as well as a former leader of the Neverseen. It wouldn’t do her any good to listen to what he said. But she was still struggling to get her thoughts under control when Linh spoke.
“Don’t listen to him. Fintan’s just trying to get on your nerves.”
“I know. The problem is, it still works.” Marella looked away nervously. It felt weird being so open about how she felt. At Foxfire, she had never had any close friends, and even after she joined the Black Swan she had never felt super close with anyone in the group. But talking to Linh felt normal, nice even. She didn’t know what it was about the Hydrokinetic, but something about her made Marella want to keep talking and never stop. “D’you want to come over to my house?”
“Huh? You want me to go home… with you?” Linh asked, repeating the question. No wonder she was confused. Even Marella herself had no idea why she had said that, but it was too late to take it back now.
“Yeah, I have a fire pit out in the yard, and I realize that none of you have ever really spent time at my house.”
“Um, okay. Yeah, that sounds good!” She smiled and reached out, and it took a second for Marella to realize that Linh was reaching for her hand. “Oh, I just figure you would leap us to your house, since you have a home crystal and all,” she said when she saw the look on Marella’s face.
“Right, of course. You’re leaping home with me. Because I invited you. Yeah.” Marella found herself repeating phrases awkwardly as she accepted Linh’s hand. She normally felt calm and collected, but somehow her mind couldn’t stop focusing on the feel of Linh’s palm in hers. The last thing she thought before the light carried them away was that it didn’t feel weird, being this close to Linh. It felt nice.
Marella stared at the flickering light emanating from the fire pit. Curling her finger, she beckoned one of the flames forward, and it flowed towards her, looping around her hand and then disappearing in a puff of smoke. She sighed, then remembered that Linh was there, watching her.
“Sorry, I just got distracted. I don’t know why I asked you to come here.”
“It’s totally fine. I like watching you use your ability. You always look… happier whenever you do.” Linh continued, shifting in her seat. “Like some part of you is only truly alive when you're commanding the fire.”
Marella grimaced, then replied. “That makes me sound like Fintan. Obsessed with fire, never truly satisfied without it.”
“I didn’t mean it like that. You’re nothing like him. You realize how dangerous this ability is. You know your limits, and aren’t willing to push them if there’s a chance people will get hurt.”
“According to Fintan, that’s exactly the problem. That I don’t want the ability, that I’m afraid of it, that I won’t take risks. Maybe I’d be okay trying harder if I knew I could keep everyone safe, but I don’t have enough control of the flames. That’s one thing he’s right about.”
Linh frowned. “What do you mean, no control? You have more control over the power than any of the pyrokinetics I’ve heard of.”
“Says you. You’re the person who single-handedly saved Atlantis from being flooded. I’m the girl who can barely keep a flame lit.” she said. Marella knew she was just being contrary, but it was too late to back down.
“I don’t mean control over the element, though you are getting better every day. What I’m talking about is the ability to withstand and fight the hunger and urge to manipulate the elements.” She paused, and Marella wondered what Linh was going to say next. “Brant, Fintan, they all seem so powerful, but when it comes to resisting the flames, they’re weak. I’ve seen you struggle with coming to terms with the ability, but I’ve never once seen you struggle with the power of the fire. It took me years to learn how to ignore the water’s call, but that’s something you’ve never had to worry about. And I just think that you’re discrediting all the ways you’re powerful when you say you can’t control the flames. It is control, and it’s something you will always be better at than Fintan.”
Marella sat there, speechless. For once, she had no idea how to respond. Everything Linh said, it made sense. But it didn’t feel right, to believe that she was powerful. Not when her own teacher spent more time complaining about her than actually teaching. “I guess you’re right. I just wish Fintan could see it that way.”
“I know. You have no idea how awful it feels to have to stand there while he insults you. Every time he talks I want to smack him in the face with some water, but I can’t. It’s unbearable, hearing him belittle you and make you feel so insignificant and worthless. Because I know everything he’s saying is wrong.”
“Ugh, that just makes me feel worse. I don’t want these sessions to be something that makes you feel awful.”
“No, no. None of it’s your fault. It’s just…” Linh stopped to take a breath, and then continued. “I wish everyone could see you the way I do. You’re so powerful, and strong, and funny, and pretty…”
Linh froze, realizing what she had just said. Marella’s heart pounded, her stomach doing flips. When she didn’t say anything right away, Linh started to speak. “I- I’m sorry. I should go, I, I’m just… I’m gonna go now.”
“Wait!” Marella wanted to shout. “Come back here!” She didn’t care what Linh had said. She didn’t care if she had meant to say it, or it had slipped out, or something else entirely. She didn’t care. But more importantly, part of her almost wished that Linh had meant it. That those words could mean something. That they did mean something.
But by the time that realization had hit, it was too late. Linh had lept away, taking Marella’s growing hopes with her.
Chapter 2 - Linh
“Why, why, why did I have to say that?” Linh sighed, shaking her head. Everything had been going so well, and she just had to ruin it. Things between her and Marella were probably so awkward now. Of course, she had meant to talk about it sooner or later, but not this way. Not so unplanned, and out of the blue.
She still couldn’t decide what had made her say it. Maybe it was the way Marella had looked as she talked, so hopeful that someone, anyone might believe in her. Maybe it was the way she deflated any time her ability was brought up, or whenever she had to talk to Fintan. Or maybe some part of her, somewhere, knew it had to be said. Either way, it was too late to take it back now.
She didn’t really want to take it back anyway, even if part of her wanted to pretend like nothing had happened. What’s done was done, and even if Linh regretted how she had said it, she was still glad it was finally out there. All that was left to do was find out if it had been worth it.
It only took a day to find the right time, but when Linh opened up her imparter to call Marella, it felt as if they hadn’t talked in forever. And when Marella’s face showed up on the small round screen, Linh could tell she felt the same way.
“Hey…” said Marella, trailing off slowly.
“Hi,” Linh replied. She was about to say more when she noticed something in the background of the screen. “Wait. Is that—” Marella scrambled to block the view, but it was too late.
“I can’t believe you also have one of Elwin’s stuffed animals!”
“Yeah,” she admitted, grabbing the plushie and sitting it in her lap. He gave it to me after everything happened with my mom, so I’ve had Sir Splashyhugs forever.”
“That is such a cute name!”
“I know right!” They both smiled, and for a moment Linh almost forgot why she had called in the first place. But it was only for a moment, and then the weight of everything that was going on came crashing back down.
“I know we ended things weirdly yesterday, but I just wanted to talk,” she started, fidgeting nervously with her registry pendant. “And I figured you didn’t want me coming over again, so I was wondering if you wanted to come over. To my house. Tonight.”
“Oh, okay.” Marella said, as if that hadn’t been what she had expected Linh to say. “Sure. But before I come over, I just want to say, I still want to be friends. Whatever happens tonight, whatever we end up talking about, please say we can still be friends afterward. You’re the only person I’ve gotten close to in, well, forever. And I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to lose you.”
“Of course.” Linh promised. “I don’t want to lose you either.”
That night, Linh waited outside of the house, pacing back and forth as she analyzed the conversation. Marella had seemed to act normally, but was it just an act? Maybe everything would fall apart as soon as they actually talked. Or maybe it was the exact opposite. They would talk, figure things out, and go back to being friends. Just friends. But maybe, just maybe, there was a third option.
Linh’s thoughts were interrupted by a glowing figure materializing in front of her. Marella slowly appeared, and then stood there quietly.
“Hi,” she whispered, waving. Then there was quiet for a moment. Marella, normally so quick to give her opinion or share some gossip, didn’t seem to know what to say.
Linh took a deep breath, and then started, “Hey. Thanks for coming. I’m sorry I left so suddenly yesterday. I just didn’t know what to say, or do, and I didn’t want to accidentally make things worse.”
“Like I said, it’s fine,” said Marella, but something in her voice sounded off.
“Still, I wanted to make sure we got to talk. But that’s not the only reason I asked you to come over today.” Motioning for Marella to follow her, Linh started walking down a path away from the house.
After a few moments, they entered the forest that surrounded the property. The trees were sparse at first, but soon they were completely surrounded by foliage. The only light came from the stars, but it didn’t feel creepy, only safe and calming.
“This is where I come when I need to think.” Linh explained. “It’s so quiet out here, and it’s a nice place when you just want to be alone.”
“It’s so pretty,” breathed Marella, stroking one of the trees and feeling the leathery bark.
“I know. It’s always so relaxing to just spend time outside. And it helps that I can do this.” Linh flicked her wrist outward, and beads of water started lifting off of leaves and underbrush, floating up until they combined in a bubble above their heads. “It hasn’t rained in weeks, but the plants here always store so much liquid. It’s one of the best places for me to practice my ability, since there’s so much water for me to use. And unlike being near the ocean, it’s not overwhelming. It doesn’t call out to me like it normally does, so much as it waits. Ready to be used if necessary, but not clamoring for attention.”
With another motion, Linh released the water, and it burst into a cloud of mist, showering the two of them with tiny droplets. “But there’s something else I wanted to show you.” Walking further down the path, they stepped forward into a small clearing. It was lined with trees, but open and grassy in the middle, providing a perfect view of the night sky.
Earlier that day, Linh had come down and brought over some blankets and pillows, and now the two of them settled down in a warm nest, savoring the warmth that fought against the cool evening air.
“Just wait,” she said, looking up at the sky. “It’ll start any minute now.” And only seconds later, it did. Shooting stars began to fly through the sky, illuminating the already star filled space above them. From within the clearing, the stars and falling meteors looked so close you could touch them, and Linh reached out, wanting to get closer. Marella did the same, and soon the two of them were pointing out the meteors as they appeared, silently admiring the trails of light they left behind.
After the original excitement of seeing the shooting stars had worn off, Linh began to speak. “The meteor shower always comes by this time of year, and last time I found this spot to look at them. I didn’t think you could see them from your house, so I wanted to show it to you.”
“Thanks. I really like it.”
“And… I did want to talk. About what I said. I know I probably should have said something immediately. I was scared, scared that I would mess stuff up even more. But I think I’m ready to explain everything now.”
She was about to continue when Marella said, “Before you say anything else, I just wanted to let you know… thanks. I don’t know if you meant everything you said, but thank you anyway. For believing in me.”
“I did mean everything I said. Everything. You’re strong, and kind, and smart, and so, so pretty. And I like you. More than you could imagine. As more than a friend.” Linh’s stomach was full of butterflies as she shared her feelings, but most of her was just relieved it was finally out there. Whatever happened next, at least she had been honest.
Linh couldn’t tell how Marella felt from the expression on her face. She looked equal parts confused and surprised, but Linh thought maybe, just maybe, she also looked a little happy. When she didn’t say anything, Linh prepared to start talking again, but stopped when Marella reached out and took her hand.
In one swift move, Marella came forward and brought her lips to Linh’s, kissing her fiercely. Her heart felt as if it was about to beat right out of her chest, and the light and energy inside her rivaled that of the shooting stars above them. The longer they stayed together, the more the feeling grew, until she felt like her whole body was on fire. But it didn’t hurt, or feel uncomfortable. It was the exact opposite. Being with Marella always made her feel warm, but this, this was like stepping into a bonfire. And Linh loved every second of it.
When they finally broke apart, Marella looked at Linh with a smirk. “You know...” she whispered, “I think I like you too.”
Chapter 3 - Marella
Marella woke up in an unfamiliar room, but it only took her a moment to remember where she was. After spending most of the night out in the woods with Linh, the two of them had decided to just head back to the house and have Marella spend the night over.
Rolling over, Marella saw Linh, still asleep, curled up on the other side of the giant bed. Even in her sleep, she was still adorable, which made Marella’s lips tug into a smile as she thought about the night before. She had always imagined what her first kiss would be like, but in reality it was something else entirely. The feeling was hard to describe, but it made her glad she had decided to come over in the first place.
“Hey sleepyhead, wake up,” Marella said, poking Linh in the arm.
“Huh? Wha— oh, you’re here.” Linh mumbled, sitting up. “So it wasn’t all a dream?”
“Nope,” she said smiling. “It all happened.”
“Oh, wow. Wow. And you meant everything you said?”
“Of course! I don’t think I would have slept over if I hadn’t meant what I said.”
“Yeah, yeah, just checking. It still feels so surreal.” Linh scootched across the bed, leaning her head against Marella’s shoulder. “Even yesterday I could’ve never imagined this actually happening.”
Marella considered this. Part of her agreed, that until they had kissed the possibility of anything happening between them had never even crossed her mind. But another part of her remembered the way she had felt when they had held hands, and the feeling she got when Linh had started talking about her. “Yeah, I guess so. Either way, I’m glad it happened.”
“Me too,” Linh agreed, and then they sat in comfortable silence for a moment, just enjoying each other’s company.
A quick knock interrupted the quiet, and they moved apart as Tam’s voice came through the door.
“Linh? You in there?”
“Yeah, I just woke up,” she responded.
“Okay, ‘cause breakfast’s ready, and—” he poked his head through the door and paused. “Oh, Marella never left?”
“We talked, and things went well… so she decided to spend the night.”
Tam stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. “Good for you two. And to think, Marella, I almost wondered if you liked me for a while.”
“So you know about…” Marella trailed off, gesturing to her and Linh. She decided to focus on his first sentence instead of his second. If she was being honest, there had been a time when she had liked Tam, but she had given up pretty quickly. It was obvious that he hadn’t liked her back, and Marella wasn’t one to nurse hopeless crushes. And looking at where she was now, she was glad she hadn’t fallen for him any harder. If she had, who knows whether yesterday’s events would have ever happened. And they were something she wouldn’t want to risk losing for anything.
“About Linh liking you? Yeah, I’ve known for a while. Glad to see she finally got the guts to talk to you.” Tam said, answering her question. “I’m happy for you, by the way. But don’t you dare break Linh’s heart or I’m coming for you. And you really don’t want me as your enemy.”
“Tam… stop it,” Linh grabbed Marella’s hand defensively. “Don’t worry, he doesn’t mean it. You don’t mean it, do you?” she glared at her brother.
“Yeah, yeah, I was just joking,” replied Tam, but the glint in his eyes told Marella that he meant what he said. Luckily, she had no plans to ever give up what she had with Linh.
“Besides, Marella’s a great girlfriend, she wouldn’t hurt me.”
It took Marella a moment to realize what Linh had called her. Girlfriend. Not just a friend. And it took her another moment to realize she liked it.
“Well, I’m gonna go eat breakfast, but I’ll leave some food out for you two.” Tam left the room, leaving Marella and Linh alone again.
Linh continued, oblivious to the look Marella was giving her. “Well, I’m glad Tam knows now, not that I could’ve kept it a secret for very long. When you’re a twin, nothing stays hidden at all. I mean…” she trailed off. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Nothing, it’s just… you called me your girlfriend.”
“Oh, did you not want that? I thought… Well, that—” she panicked, fumbling for words.
“No, no, I liked it.” Marella assured her. “I just hadn’t thought about us that way yet. Girlfriends. It’s nice.”
“It is. And I’m sorry. I should have checked in with you before telling Tam, but I was so excited, and happy, and…”
“I don’t mind that you told him. Of course you were going to. And I’m glad he reacted so well. But not everyone is going to be so supportive.” The thought saddened her, but Marella knew she was right. The elves had never been accepting when it came to bad matches, and the two of them weren’t just a bad match. They were a match that couldn’t be made.
“I know. But we can’t just keep this a secret from everybody.” The tone of her voice made Marella regret bringing it up, but it was better to get the conversation out of the way now.
“I mean, what’s stopping us?”
“You want to keep our relationship a secret?”
“Well, not forever, but maybe for a little bit,” she said, trying to find the right words to explain, “So we could be together, without having everyone judge us. I do want to tell people, but let’s just take some time first. Just for the two of us.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Linh conceded. “I feel kinda bad about lying to people though.”
“It won’t be for too long,” she said. Even if they did have to hide for a while, they would come clean eventually. All she was asking for was a little time.
“Of course,” Marella whispered, kissing Linh softly. A sense of calm washed over her, and her thoughts felt more clear. Her worries lifted, and she couldn’t for the life of her imagine why anyone would have a problem with Linh and her being girlfriends. They weren’t harming anyone, or being bad influences. If anything, being with Linh these past few days had done nothing but help Marella. For the first time in forever, she wasn’t just trudging along in life, waiting for something to happen to her. No, not at all. Because right now? She was living.
Chapter 4 - Linh
As Linh prepared for a day of school, she thought back to yesterday. After Marella had left, she had spent the rest of the day alternating between absolute joy that they had finally gotten together, and worrying about their plan to keep it a secret. Event though she had agreed not to tell anyone for the time being, she still didn’t like it too much.
She understood why Marella had asked to do it, she really did. In a society so focused on genetics and so prejudiced against bad matches, it wasn’t too hard to imagine how people would react. And Marella was already a Pyrokinetic, Linh reminded herself. She would have to deal with double the discrimination, and it made sense why she didn’t want to deal with it right away.
And she didn’t need the validation from everyone knowing about their relationship either, however nice it would be. Linh knew perfectly well that what was going on between her and Marella was real, and she didn’t need anyone to tell her that. But after hiding her feelings for her friend for so long, part of her didn’t want to keep hiding from everyone else. She had spent her whole life hiding, hiding from her powers, from her feelings, from everything. She just wanted to be open for once. Take that risk. It didn’t matter what everyone else thought. She was done being scared.
But she had promised to keep things quiet for a little bit, so she went back to getting ready for school, hoping that she would at least get to spend time with her girlfriend. Since they couldn’t tell anyone quite yet, just seeing her would have to be enough for now.
The first half of the day’s classes crawled by at a snail’s pace. Linh couldn’t wait until she could see Marella at lunch, and though she normally enjoyed learning, she was restless and zoned out the whole morning. Finally though, the bell rang, and she leaped from her seat, joining the flow of students heading towards the lunch room.
Heaping a random assortment of food onto her tray, Linh made a beeline to her friend’s table, sitting down next to Dex and Biana. Across from her sat Marella, who looked up and smiled when she saw her girlfriend.
“Oh, hey Linh,” Tam said, waving hello to his sister. “I need your help with something. Keefe over here thinks that he takes better care of his hair than I do. Tell him he’s wrong.”
“I am not wrong!” Keefe interrupted. “I don’t care what Bangs Boy thinks, nothing can beat my hair.” He dramatically swept his hands through his hair in order to prove his point.
“Please Linh, give them an answer. They’ve been arguing about this all lunch. Make them stop.” Biana complained.
“I dunno. I mean, to be fair, you do take forever to get ready in the morning Tam” Her voice had a teasing tone, but her heart wasn’t in it. It felt weird to be joking around with her friends when she was hiding something so big from them. Only the look in Marella’s eyes kept her from breaking down and telling them all right then and there.
Nobody noticed how she felt though, so the conversation continued, leaving her time to eat and think through her emotions. She didn’t get much eating done though, as the food she had picked up turned out to be a combination of bitter fruits and soggy vegetables.
Linh was about to give up lunch completely and just go hang out in the library when she felt something tap her leg. It was gentle at first, and then more insistent. She looked up, and saw Marella mouth,
“Under the table.” She peeked beneath it, and sure enough, she saw a hand reaching from the other side of the table, holding a small note. Quickly grabbing it, she unfolded the piece of paper and read what it said.
You. Me. Date this afternoon? Meet me by the Leapmaster after school. <3
After she finished reading, Linh saw Marella staring expectantly at her. Giving a quick nod, she tucked the note into her pocket and went back to her thoughts. But this time, it was hope that filled her mind instead of doubt.
The afternoon seemed to go by even slower than the morning, but eventually Linh found herself done with school. Making her way toward the Leapmaster, she scanned the crowd, looking for Marella. She spotted her girlfriend standing off to the side of the room, away from most of the other students. Waving, Linh ran over, embracing Marella in a hug.
“Hey, I missed you!” she said.
“Missed you too,” Marella replied, disentangling herself from Linh’s embrace. “I figured since I was kinda the reason we didn’t get to talk at all today, I should make it up to you by doing something nice this afternoon. Just the two of us.”
“Awww, you know you don’t have to make anything up to me. But an afternoon together sounds really great.” They started walking to the Leapmaster, keeping up the conversation.
“Does going to Atlantis sound good to you? I thought it sounded nice, but if the water’s too much for you, then we can—”
“No, Atlantis is good. I’m a lot better at keeping the water’s calls at bay now. I’m not the same person who flooded Atlantis.” In fact, she thought, the last time she was in Atlantis she was the one who had stopped it from flooding. Funny how everything had changed so quickly.
“Good, good,” Marella said, obviously relieved. She went on to talk about places they could go, food they could get, and Linh just listened, enjoying the feeling that came with spending time with someone she cared about. As they prepared to leap away, Linh grabbed hold of her girlfriend’s hand. The last time they had held hands was before Marella had kissed her, and it had only been a day, but she already felt as if they had been together forever.
Arriving in Atlantis, Linh and Marella decided to walk around the city for a bit. Neither of them had ever spent too much time in the underwater paradise, and getting to experience it together was an added bonus.
They wandered through busy intersections and quiet side streets, pointing out interesting stores and landmarks as they came across them. They went into a few stores, but mostly just kept to the outside, enjoying the sights the city held. At one point, Marella said something particularly funny, and Linh reached over and kissed her on the cheek.
“Hey, there are people around!” she said, protesting, but the smile she gave afterwards let Linh know that she had made the right decision.
Finally, they decided to stop for some food, and ended up in a warm, cozy restaurant that was a stark contrast to the cool, blue tones of the city and the ocean outside. After eating, they walked around the city a little longer, eventually ending up in front of a stately ornate building. The tower bore the official seal of the matchmakers, and surrounding the symbol were runes spelling out four words.
Progress. Prosperity. Permanence. Proliferation.
“Does it bother you?” Marella asked, reading the runes.
“Does it bother you? The idea that we’ll be a bad match?”
Linh sighed, trying to figure out how to answer the question. “Sort of. I get that the system’s flawed, and it’s hurt so many people. I don’t like the idea of wanting to be a good match, but… I’ve spent my whole life being judged. First I was a twin, then because of my powers, and I guess part of me does want to be like everyone else for once.”
“That’s exactly the problem!” Marella said, her voice rising. “We are like everyone else. It’s not our fault that the matchmaking system doesn’t account for us. If the system doesn’t work for everyone, then that’s the system’s fault. Not ours.”
She quieted, moving to Linh’s side. “I get what you mean. Sometimes, it feels like everything would be easier if we ended up with someone who’s a good match for us. Believe me, I know. When I manifested, my first thought was that I was never going to find that perfect person, that I was going to end up a bad match. And I hated it.”
“Then why are you dating me?”
“Because I realized it didn’t matter. The matchmakers claim they care about preferences. But I know that if I went and got a list right now, it would only have boys on it. And that’s just not right.” Marella paused, taking a deep breath. “They say that the lists are meant to make sure you don’t end up dating someone you’re related to, and that part makes sense, but then they’re also supposed to help with the genetics of your child? That part’s just plain weird, and wrong. Dex’s parents were a bad match, and look how powerful he is!”
“Everything you’re saying makes perfect sense. I just dunno why one else sees things that way.” Linh admitted. Hearing Marella’s thoughts on the matter helped her, but she still wished more people agreed.
“I don’t understand why either. But it doesn’t matter, okay? It doesn’t matter. All I care about is that we’re happy together. People can have their opinions, they can be mad, or upset, or angry. I don’t care. As long as I get to be with you, it’s all okay.”
Linh didn’t bother replying, sweeping Marella into a tight hug. Even when her arms screamed at her to let go, she didn’t. Because at that moment, she didn’t care if people saw, or knew about them. All that mattered was that they were together.
Eventually though, she let go, just in time to hear a voice saying,
“Linh? Marella? What are you two doing here together?”
Chapter 5 - Marella
“Hello? Linh, Marella, didja hear me?” Biana repeated herself, walking closer. The two girls edged apart subconsciously, as if she might guess that they were together based solely off of their body language.
“Oh! Hi Biana,” Marella said, giving a small wave.
“What are you doing in Atlantis today? I mean, I wasn’t expecting to run into anybody down here.” Marella tried to come up with a plausible reason as to what she and Linh were doing together, but her mind drew a blank. She obviously couldn’t tell the truth, but she couldn’t think of any lies that made any sense. And there was the added guilt of having to lie in the first place that made it that much harder to think of anything at all.
Luckily, Linh swooped in with an explanation, holding up a bag of treats she had gotten at one of the stores they had stopped in.
“I had to get some stuff for Princess Purryfins, and Marella offered to keep me company.”
“That’s so nice. I was just looking for some stuff, and I didn’t even think about the fact that I might see anyone.” She went on to talk about her afternoon, giving Marella time to think. She tried to catch a glimpse of Linh’s expression, but she seemed to be totally focused on what Biana was saying.
“Anyway, I’m glad you two are getting to be better friends. It’s always so great when you get closer to people.”
Marella inwardly groaned, then added, “Yeah… We have become better friends recently, haven’t we?”
“Yeah, we have.” Linh’s face betrayed no emotion, but Marella could guess that her girlfriend liked lying to their friends just as much as she did. Which is to say, she hated it.
“Well, it was awesome running into you guys. See you later!” Biana said, walking away with a bounce in her step, as if even her feet could not comprehend the thought of being unhappy. Marella, on the other hand, was feeling no such joy.
She watched Biana until she was out of earshot, then spoke.
“So…” she started, but trailed off, not knowing what to say next. She tried to act positive, but could only muster a regretful half-smile.
“Please say you hated that as much as I did.”
“Yeah, it was pretty bad. I didn’t expect doing this to be so hard.”
“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” Linh said blurted out. “I know it’s only been a day, but everything about it was awful. We can’t hide this any longer.”
“I get what you mean, but—” she stopped mid sentence. She didn’t know why she felt so strongly about this, but something inside of her made the thought of telling everyone sound terrifying. But she cared about Linh more. “I do really want to tell people, I just…”
“You just what? Look, I tried to go along with this for you, but it isn’t working. I hate it, you hate it, and sooner or later everyone’s gonna notice whether we tell them or not. And I’d rather tell them now than wait for someone to figure it out.”
She tried to come up with something to say, anything, but her mind drew a blank. Once again, she couldn’t put to words how she felt, and especially not how she wanted to handle the situation. Once several moments of silence had passed, Linh spoke again.
“Y’know, I should probably be heading off soon, I don’t think Tam actually knows where I am. He’s probably freaking out right now.” She avoided looking Marella in her eyes, glancing downward instead.
“Wait!” Marella reached out, grabbing her hand. “I know this didn’t go the way we planned. But I wanna find a way to fix this.”
“There is a way,” Linh responded, her voice unusually cold and tense. “You just have to decide if you’re willing to actually go through with it .”
Without another word, she walked away, leaving Marella standing alone outside of the Registry, once again unsure what to do next.
After heading home and avoiding concerned looks from her parents, Marella found herself alone in her room, thoughts swirling around in a violent storm. She hated the way the date had ended, how one conversation had taken a nice experience and turned it sour. If they hadn’t run into Biana, it would have just been a fun, cute, time with her girlfriend, but no. Now Linh was upset, and Marella didn’t know what she could do to fix it.
But of course, none of it was Biana’s fault. She couldn’t have known the predicament that her seeing them together put them in. No, she wasn’t to blame. Marella was. If she hadn’t wanted to hide their relationship in the first place, none of this would have ever happened. She and Linh would be happy together, no matter what other people thought.
Or they wouldn’t be. Because that’s what Marella feared most. She had spent her whole life pushing people away, not letting anyone come close. She had finally found someone she could trust, someone she could just be herself around, but if they told people? Marella knew that almost nobody was going to handle it well, but what if they reacted even worse? What if she lost her chance to be with Linh forever? What if?
All of these fears and worries consumed her, countless scenarios running through her head, where she was pulled away from Linh, where they never saw each other again. Some of them seemed too extreme, illogical, but others seemed perfectly within the realm of reason. And that was terrifying.The thought that just being open about who she liked could have such consequences, that people cared so much about matchmaking and genetics that they would do such terrible things. That they would go to such lengths to destroy a relationship that was so young and innocent.
But Marella worried that the destruction had already started. Who knew how Linh felt about her right now? After the mess she had made of their first date, maybe they would be pulled apart by themselves, without needing the help of anyone else. Maybe they were doomed to fail either way, no matter what she chose to do.
“No,” Marella said aloud. “I won’t let that happen.” Even if it was inevitable, she wasn’t going to sit patiently and just let it happen. Because in her eyes, it was better to fight and be open and proud and risk the consequences than to hide and slowly fall apart by yourself. She was done being scared of what other people might say and do. All she could control were her own actions, and Marella knew what she needed to do. Now she just needed to do it.
When she pulled up Linh’s name on the Imparter, it took several minutes for her to accept. With each passing second, Marella’s heart rate sped up, until it was pounding against her ribs. She didn’t know why she was so nervous already, but she was. It was almost like she was admitting her crush on Linh again, back in the forest under the stars. Things had felt so simple and clear cut back then, but the past few days had changed everything.
Finally, Linh’s face appeared on the small circular screen.
“Hey,” she said. “I didn’t think you would call this quickly.”
“I wanted to make sure we figured things out as soon as possible. And going to school without having a plan didn’t seem like a good idea.” Marella said, and then started talking again. “Before I say anything else, I just wanna say sorry for how everything ended, and that I was the reason we even ended up in that situation.”
“I actually wanted to say sorry as well. I didn’t mean to lash out, or get upset. It’s just so frustrating, and I didn’t know what else to say.
“You don’t have to apologize. I think I needed to hear what you said. It wasn’t a good idea for us to keep our relationship a secret, and I know that now. I think I was just scared. Scared that people might not accept us, or that they might try to break us apart. But after this afternoon, I realized that if we kept hiding, we were gonna break apart by ourselves. And I don’t want that.”
After sharing, Marella took a deep breath. It had been surprisingly easy to get the words out compared to how long it had taken to come up with them. But she still had to see if they were enough.
“I don’t want that either.” Linh gave her a small smile, and Marella’s heart melted.
“So you’re not mad?”
“I was never mad, not at you. I get that the idea of telling people is scary. Honestly, it scares me too. But keeping it a secret feels even worse. We don’t have to necessarily tell everyone, but if it comes up? We should be ready to talk about it.”
“That makes sense,” she said. “I’m glad we got everything figured out.”
“Me too. So… I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then?”
“Actually, d’you wanna just, talk, for a bit? Not about anything in particular, but I dunno if we’ve really just spent time together since we got together. I guess it just sounds kinda nice,” Marella said quickly, hoping she made sense.
“Sure, that actually does sound pretty good.”
The two of them sat and talked on the Imparter for a long time, rambling and just enjoying each other’s company. They laughed, and thought of fond memories, but most importantly, they didn’t focus on anything too sad or complicated. For once, they just had a carefree evening together, filled with lots of joy. When Marella finally hung up, she looked out at the evening sky. And for a moment? She almost forgot that there were any problems in the world at all.