𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝟗 𝐊𝐨𝐭𝐋𝐂 𝐅𝐚𝐧𝐟𝐢𝐜, 𝐀𝐥𝐥 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬 (𝐄𝐱𝐜𝐞𝐩𝐭 𝐈𝐬𝐚𝐛𝐞𝐥) 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐒𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐧 𝐌𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫
𝐖𝐚𝐫 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐬𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐤𝐞𝐝. 𝐍𝐨𝐰, 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐒𝐨𝐩𝐡𝐢𝐞 𝐛𝐮𝐬𝐲 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐍𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐧, 𝐅𝐢𝐭𝐳 𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐟𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐝, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐛𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐡𝐢𝐦 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐬 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐞𝐥𝐬𝐞 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐝...
𝐈𝐬𝐚𝐛𝐞𝐥 𝐀𝐧𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐞 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐤𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐟𝐢𝐞𝐫𝐲, 𝐨𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐡𝐮𝐦𝐚𝐧. 𝐒𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐞𝐞𝐧𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐫 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐚𝐰𝐚𝐲- 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐩 𝐡𝐢𝐦. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐬 𝐡𝐞 𝐤𝐞𝐞𝐩𝐬 𝐩𝐮𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐰𝐚𝐲, 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐬 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐰𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐢𝐦.
𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐅𝐢𝐭𝐳. 𝐀𝐬 𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐥𝐲 𝐟𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐈𝐬𝐚𝐛𝐞𝐥, 𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐳𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝 𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐤 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐝𝐞𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 𝐢𝐭...
𝐈 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰𝐬- 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐩 𝐦𝐞 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐨𝐧, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐩 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠. 𝐌𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰, 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐭 𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐬 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐟𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐚𝐬 𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞! 𝐓𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐤𝐬 :)
"This is pure art [...]Get away Shakespeare, bow down to the master."
"I like how her personality corresponded to her hobby [Isabel]. She is a photographer and an author for newspapers, so it feels natural that she would be so attentive."
I’m pretty sure my brain short-circuited.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐁𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐔𝐬
𝑾𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒏 𝒃𝒚 𝑲𝒚𝒍𝒂 𝑨. 𝑹𝒂𝒆 (𝑴𝒊𝒅𝒏𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕𝑴𝒐𝒐𝒏𝒍𝒂𝒓𝒌)
"Love...Keefe," Sophie finishes, tears coming to her eyes. Fitz stood there, in shock. He couldn't figure out what he should feel.
Angry? Sad? Worried? Fitz settled for a blend of the three.
"Sophie.." Fitz starts, then closes his mouth, knowing he likely would make the situation worse by stating his opinion. Personally, he knew Keefe wasn't a priority, as much as he hated it.
"Sophie, you can't go after him," Fitz says.
She turned towards him, "What? You can't tell me what to do!" she said, after deciphering what he had said.
"You know you can't. It just won't work. You started a war here, and you have to finish it." Fitz tells her.
"What is with you guys and the war thing? I didn't start a war-"
Fitz sighs, rubbing his temples, "I'm not saying you did, but everyone seems to think that is the case."
"Including you?" Sophie questioned.
"Sort of," Fitz said, wincing as Sophie turned away again. Which brought him back to the letter..and the ending.
"Love, Keefe," He muttered. Love, Keefe. He had always suspected, but...
"Fitz?" He looked up to Sophie. Her brown eyes were worried, "I don't think it's what it sounds like."
"I do think that's what it sounds like, Sophie," Fitz said.
"I..." Sophie started.
Fitz stopped her, "No, Sophie. It doesn't matter. There are many more important things to think about,"
"Right," Sophie says, but her voice is shaky and uncertain.
She probably expected me to get angry, Fitz thought, sighing as he did so.
"So..what are we going to do?" Sophie asked.
Looking out the window, Fitz considered her question, wondering if there even was anything they could do.
"I honestly have no clue," he admitted.
"I meant about Keefe," Sophie clarified.
Fitz replied, "I know,"
Sophie's hand went to her eye, and she tugged out an eyelash, twirling it in her fingers. Watching her, Fitz realized something.
"But...no one said that you were the only one capable of finding Keefe. You will be busy with the Black Swan and the Council but on the other hand, I won't."
"Where are you going with this?" Sophie asked, nervously.
"Sophie, I can find Keefe. I can. You can stay behind and do what you need to, and I will find Keefe." Fitz focused his teal eyes on her warm brown ones, willing her to understand that he needed her to agree, and needed her to know that he could help her.
Sophie looked confused, scared even. Like she didn't know how to feel. Like she knew how she should feel about this.
"Are you sure?" Sophie asked Fitz.
"One-Hundred Percent," Fitz assured her.
Sophie blinked, chewing on her lip, before she answered, "Okay. I'll hail Mr. Forkle, then?"
"Yes, you do that Sophie...I have to talk to my dad." Fitz had a feeling his father wouldn't agree with his logic..at all.
"And you won't leave without saying goodbye?" She asked as Fitz turned to leave.
"Never," Fitz said, looking over his shoulder at Sophie.
"Thank you," Sophie whispers.
"Be rational, Fitz. You can't go find Keefe." Alden said, rubbing his temples. Fitz's suggestion had clearly distressed him. No reason to worry? Well, there was a reason to worry.
"I am being rational. I'm making sure Sophie doesn't run away, trying to find Keefe," Fitz argued, trying to figure out why his father just didn't understand.
"But you'll be the one running away, trying to find Keefe!" Alden exclaimed.
I won't be running away. And it's better me than Sophie. Fitz transmitted to Alden, not wanting to disturb Biana or Della.
I- That's true son, but I'll be worried about you. Alden transmitted back. His voice sounded strained in Fitz's head.
You shouldn't be. After all, you sent me alone to the forbidden cities when I was way younger and inexperienced.
Fitz couldn't help but feel a bit bitter about that. Alden had basically ruined his first years at Foxfire- it wasn't easy being the boy who was always gone, always missing. The only reason he did it was to make Alden proud.
Okay, Fitz, Alden's transmission brought him back to their conversation.
"You're going to let me go?" Fitz said it out loud.
"Yes, you can go," Alden looked like he was going to regret his decision sooner or later.
"Thanks, dad. I promise I'll find him, bring him back, no complications at all," Fitz assured him.
"There are some rules though," Alden warned, "Number One: No human contact. Number Two: You can never stay overnight in the Forbidden Cities. You must come home every night. And the final rule: Please, stay safe." There was a silent plea in Alden's teal eyes.
"Okay," Fitz took a deep breath, "I agree with the rules."
Little did he know he was going to be breaking every single one.
𝑯𝒐𝒕 𝑮𝒖𝒚𝒔 & 𝑩𝒖𝒃𝒃𝒍𝒆 𝑻𝒆𝒂
The last place you would look for a young teenage girl is at the park, with a camera and bubble tea. And yet that is exactly where Isabel Annalise Marke was.
She sipped on her mango flavoured bubble tea, every few minutes snapping a pic of something that caught her eyes.
Snap! A monarch butterfly.
Snap! An orange leaf.
Snap! A frog.
Everything intrigued her. Which was exactly what got her caught in this tangled web of lies, love, and truth.
And that was exactly why she noticed Fitz Vacker.
He looked so out of place, she almost laughed. Instead, she silently watched as he picked up something from a bench. A slip of paper, she realized. As he opened it, she saw what it actually was: A newspaper. Her newspaper, Isabel realized. That gave her enough courage to go up to the boy.
The boy jumped slightly, and then looked at her, "I-" He started, then muttered something to himself that sounded a lot like, 'Alden's gonna kill me. I can't believe she can see me. Why the heck can she see me?'
Isabel frowned. There was definitely something off about this guy. She just didn't know what. So she tried a different reproach.
"What are you reading?"
This time the boy answered, "I just found this on the bench..." he looked nervous, and Isabel analyzed him for the first time. He was very handsome, and his eyes were such a beautiful colour.
"...and I really should be getting back to my house," The boy finishes, and Isabel figured he had probably been talking to her the entire time.
Silently cursing herself, she asked, "Do you have a name?"
"Oh, yes. Yeah." the guy said.
"What is it?" Isabel questioned. She truly was curious, and besides, he didn't look like he was the type to kidnap her.
"Fitz. Fitz Vacker." The boy-Fitz-said.
"Fitz Vacker..like, Ritz Cracker?" Isabel had to prevent herself from laughing, "You're kidding, right?"
"No.." Fitz said slowly, then added, "Who is Ritz Cracker?"
Isabel giggled nervously. Maybe he was going to kidnap her, and this was just his method of doing it. Suddenly her phone buzzed, and she reached for it, knowing it was probably her mom
𝙼𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛: 𝙸𝚣𝚣𝚢, 𝙸'𝚟𝚎 𝚐𝚝𝚐 𝚐𝚎𝚝 𝙸𝚟𝚊𝚗, 𝚠𝚘𝚗'𝚝 𝚋 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝟾.
Isabel winced slightly. She wasn't even supposed to be here, but she had snuck away after school.
𝙸𝚜𝚊𝚋𝚎𝚕: 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝'𝚜 𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚖𝚘𝚖.
"What is that?" Fitz asked suddenly, staring at Isabel's bubble tea.
"What is what?" Isabel replied, pushing a strand of her auburn hair out of her face, "Oh..my bubble tea?"
Fitz looked a bit..embarrassed? Isabel had by now made a list about him:
𝟷. 𝙷𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚑𝚘𝚝.
𝟸. 𝙷𝚎 𝚎𝚒𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚒𝚜 𝚘𝚛 𝚒𝚜𝚗'𝚝 𝚊 𝚔𝚒𝚍𝚗𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚎𝚛.
𝟹. 𝙷𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚜 𝚗𝚘 𝚌𝚕𝚞𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚋𝚘𝚋𝚊 𝚒𝚜.
𝟺. 𝙷𝚎'𝚜 𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚊 𝚗𝚒𝚌𝚎.
𝟻. 𝙷𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚎𝚜𝚗'𝚝 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚊𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚗𝚍 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎.
"We could go get some if you want." Isabel blurted out.
"I mean- sure," Fitz said, and he honestly looked scared. Like she was the suspicious/might-be-a-kidnapper one.
"I know a great place nearby- And Esme always gives me a free sample!" Isabel said excitedly, smiling at him.
Isabel checked the time on her phone and says, "But, we have only, like, an hour before I have to leave,"
"Same with me," Fitz admits.
"Okay," Isabel says, suddenly feeling very shy. And regretting the fact she basically invited a total stranger to hang out with her.
But, then again, hot guys and bubble tea always seemed to mess up her head.
𝑩𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒊𝒓𝒔𝒕 𝑹𝒖𝒍𝒆
"This is amazing, What flavour is it?" Fitz stated, staring with disbelief at the bubble tea.
Isabel rolled her eyes, smiling, "Papaya. My personal favourite,"
"Papaya?" Fitz asked.
Isabel raised an eyebrow, "You know, the fruit?"
Fitz blushed. Obviously, he should have known that it was a human fruit. "Right. Papaya."
"So.." Isabel started, "Where do you come from?"
Fitz frantically searched his mind for a believable enough lie, "I'm on vacation..with my parents."
"In the middle of the school year?" Isabel asked, sipping her bubble tea.
"Yes," Fitz said, hoping that he didn't sound as awkward as he feared.
"That's interesting," Isabel commented, her green eyes examining him. She was pretty, Fitz had to admit, In a cute little sister kind of way. Her hair was red, she had lots of freckles scattered across her face, her eyes were emerald green, and her expression seemed curious.
"Mhmm," Fitz agreed, not certain of what else he should say.
"You have any siblings?" Isabel asked. She swirled the straw around in the cup of boba.
"Yeah." Fitz says, "One- I mean..Two."
"That's..interesting," Isabel commented. Fitz was saved from answering by a tall woman with light brown hair that faded to lime green and cinnamon coloured skin. Her name tag read 'Esmerelda'.
"Is, who might this be?" she raised an eyebrow.
Isabel rolled her eyes and smiled, "Fitz. Fitz Vacker. And no you don't need to have one of your..talks with him, Esme,"
"I better not," Esme eyes me before saying, "He looks nice enough,"
"Gosh, Esme, you're like an overprotective mother or something," Isabel complained, but there was a hint of a smile in there.
"That's because I am. And...speaking of that, Naomi will be wondering where I am- you know how she hates Nancy," Esme said.
"Bye, Esme- and make sure to tell Naomi hi for me!" Esme pulled Isabel into a quick hug and then she was off.
Fitz turned to Isabel, "She seemed nice," was the lame response he came up with.
"She's a friend of my mom's. I really wonder how she does it all- she's a single mother, you know." Isabel said.
Fitz was still pondering the meaning of 'Single Mother' when Isabel pulled out a larger version of that I-pod thing Sophie had and said,
"Gitta go, Fitz. Will..will we be seeing each other again?" she said the last part a bit shyly.
Fitz knew the right thing to do was not get her hopes up- he was busy looking for another friend...but something in the farthest reaches of his mind told him that she could help. She's a human.
"Actually...I think we will be. I.." He scrambled to think up a story, "I'm actually not here on a vacation. I'm here to find a runaway friend of mine."
Isabel stopped, searching his eyes as if trying to find out if he's lying or not.
"You think I can help?" Isabel asked, lowering her voice to a whisper.
"Yes. Yes, I think you can," Fitz said.
Isabel tilted her head to the side slightly, "Can I have your number? You know, in case I find a clue or something. This is actually really exciting. It's like, I'm Nancy Drew or something. I even have the hair!" she laughed lightly.
Fitz nodded, not sure what he was agreeing with- then he remembered the first part of her question. His number?
"I- no, don't have a number," Fitz answered.
Isabel gaped at him, "You don't have a phone?"
"Wow..your parents must be strict. Oh, well. Here's my number. You can use it at a pay-phone if you can find one." Isabel grabbed a sticky note out of her bag, (What kind of bag is that?, Fitz wondered) and wrote a few numbers down, handing the note to Fitz.
"Thanks?" Fitz said, but it sounded like more of a question.
"And since you don't have a phone, how about we meet here tomorrow at 5?" Isabel smiled.
"Sure," Fitz nodded. The voice in the back of his head reminded him what he was doing- he was breaking the first rule.
But he couldn't care less.
𝑪𝒉𝒂𝒑𝒕𝒆𝒓 𝑭𝒐𝒖𝒓~ 𝑰𝒔𝒂𝒃𝒆𝒍
"𝑾𝒂𝒌𝒆 𝒖𝒑𝒑𝒑𝒑𝒑 𝑰𝒛𝒛𝒛𝒊𝒆𝒆𝒆𝒆!!!!!!!!!!!!" Ivan's cheerful voice shouted.
"Agh. What time is it?" Isabel asked, sitting up and opening her eyes slightly.
"Time forrr school!!!!!!!!!" Ivan said.
Isabel groaned and pulled off her blanket, releasing her grip on Mallow the Bear, and checked the time. Ivan was correct.
Then she remembered the events of yesterday. Isabel had met Fitz, like they had for the last few weeks, at the cafe. But then he had disappeared. Quite literally.
"Oh great," Isabel grumbled, "I've gone insane,"
"You juusstttt realized that?" Ivan asked.
"Oh, just shut up," Isabel said. Ivan made a pouty-face, but left, cheerfully bouncing. When Ivan had left, Isabel pulled off her pyjamas and grabbed a teeshirt (that stated 'Save The Planet' in big green and blue letters) and some jeans, pulling them on.
Isabel grabbed her glasses, shoving them on her face before pushing open the door and heading downstairs.
"Is! Good morning!" Calli says, looking up from her newspaper when she sees me. Isabel finds herself smiling. Her mom always said the same thing to her, every morning.
"Morning, Mom. Where's Maria?" She asked, referring to Calli's wife, and her other adoptive mother.
"Out in the gardens," Calli said, putting down her newspaper.
"Okay. I won't disturb her then," Isabel said, planting a kiss on her mother's head. She hurried to the kitchen, grabbing her bookbag.
Time to start another normal day.
"Class, this is our new student. I've been taking care of him the past few days, and it seems he is mute. Which means you will be treating him with respect. Got that?" Miss Farrows said it loudly- loud enough for Isabel to wince.
"You may call him Leon." Miss Farrows finishes, looking around the classroom. The new student has mussed blond hair and stunning ice-blue eyes. But there's a sadness in his eyes, a sadness Isabel has seen before. Shockingly, in Fitz's perfect teal eyes.
Leon waves shyly, before turning to Miss Farrows. She frowns, and says, "Also- do we have any volunteers to show him around?"
A lot of girls shoved their hands up, quite quickly, along with a few guys at the back of the room. Isabel's hand remains by her side. It's not like she wants to have more to worry about.
But, of course, Miss Farrows sees, "How about you, Isabel?"
She glances around, "Me?"
"Okay.." Isabel sighs. Less time to work on her secret 'project' with Fitz. It was hard to believe that had been almost two weeks ago when she'd first met him.
Leon keeps his gaze down as he sits beside, Isabel, and she stops herself from sighing again.
"Hello," Isabel says quietly.
He tilts his head at her, just slightly, and smiles a bit.
She smiles back, a bit hesitantly.
The rest of the lesson goes quickly. Leon attentively listens to Miss Farrows, writing incredibly quickly.
Isabel couldn't help but sigh with relief when the math lesson was over. It was her least favourite subject. And besides, History was next. Isabel loved History class.
"You coming?" Isabel asked Leon, who was hovering near his locker, fumbling with the lock.
He nods, just slightly, giving up on locking his locker. Isabel gestured for him to follow her to class, avoiding the glares she was getting from all directions.
"Isabel!" Isabel whirled around and smiled at her blonde-haired best friend.
"Winnie! Thank goodness you're here," Isabel said, giving her a hug.
"Who is this?" Winnie asked, eyeing Leon.
"New kid. His name is Leon." Isabel explained.
"Hey, Leon!" Winnie grins, her blue eyes sparkling.
Leon grins back, and makes a signal that looks like 'Hi'.
"He's mute," Isabel tells Winnie. Winnie nods with understanding.
"Hey, Is, mind if I show him around a bit? While you're in your special history class?" Winnie asks.
Isabel nods, "Sure. See ya in a while, Leon."
When they both had left, Isabel couldn't help but feel a bit relieved.
So much for a normal day, though.