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Zakiya

 

My mother and I don't have much in common, except the fire.

She once told me her life started with fire. It was her earliest memory. Mine too, I said, but she said I couldn't possibly remember that; I was just a baby. But I remember.

The flames I remember came from the Saurians. They ransacked the old Lair and everyone fled into hiding. I don't remember anything else about that time, except for being cold a lot, and hungry. Those flames were the start of my life, too, because from that point on, everything was different: I didn't have a mother. She lived through the flames of the Old Brotherhood only to be taken from me by the leadership of the New.

After that, it was Duke. And after that, the twins. And there was never time for me.

Well, fine. I'm "exceptionally mature", so they say. I understand. Duty calls, and all that.

I told Rain I was thinking of running away, and not only did she look all shocked, but she asked why! I told her to forget it, and walked off. It was stupid of me to think Rain would understand. Pretty Rain, perfect Rain, always kind and considerate. No wonder she doesn't understand. The only reason we were ever friends at all was because we were the same age. I mean, look at her. Look at ME. The odd-looking too-tall half-hooky with the scary mom and the dummy brother. I'm as not-normal as I can be. They broke the mold when they made me.

I can't get any privacy at home. I just want to be left alone, but on those rare days when Duke isn't reminding me to be nice to my brother, Mom is telling me I should be more godsdamn sociable. And she swears like a sailor! My entire family is an embarrassment.

They won't miss me when I'm gone. They like the twins better anyhow, because when they look at the twins, they don't have to see Falcone.

They're not the only ones who've noticed. Guess I got a good ol' wallop of the Stormcrow genes after all; it just took puberty to bring them out of hiding. Every time I look in the mirror lately, I see him behind my eyes.

That's where I'm going - to find my Dad. I don't know how yet. I don't even know what he looks like, besides an old photo I found in a shoebox in Mom's wardrobe that one time I was looking for birthday presents. It's probably crazy to go looking for him with just a photo, but I haven't been able to find out anything else about him! I mean, when I just want to be left alone, people won't shut up about the things he did, but when you actually want to find something out about the man, everyone in this damn lair turns muter than Tam!

I wouldn't dare ask Mom anything about him. I know if I did that she'd answer my questions, but it's like when a parent tries to talk to you about sex. You can tell they're completely out of their league and they just don't want to be there.

Godsdamn adults. I hate knowing how weak and avian they really are. I hate even more that they still pretend to have some sort of authority when they're all just as lost as us "kids". Sometimes I hate the fact that they're kind of scared of me. Other times, I like it.

Sometimes I feel sorry for Dad. He may have caused a lot of it himself, but there's no denying one thing: he lost everything he had to his worst enemy. Me, Mom, the Brotherhood... Duke ended up with all of it. There's no way I'm gonna ask him a thing about my Dad.

I decided to try Aunt 'Stelle, but that was a total disaster. I honestly thought she'd understand. We always got along well. Yet, the second I mentioned his name, she clammed up. You should have seen her face; I don't ever want to see that face on anyone again. It scared me. Her eyes went hard, like marbles, and then she made some stiff, lame excuse and sent me off home.

Fine. If I need to do this alone, I will, because out there somewhere I have a father who was willing to walk into a den of thieves for me. I don't know if everything else they say about him is true, but I know that that one thing is more than anyone else has ever done for me. I think he deserves the chance to explain himself to me.

The material of my knapsack is soft and worn beneath my fingers. I have $52.35 in my purse and another $300 in the bank, which I have to withdraw right away, because once I've been missing a day or two they'll have Cutter checking my cash withdrawl records for my location.

I left a note under Tasmin's hairbrush. Knowing her, it'll be a few days before it's found.

Maybe you think I'm crazy, a kid going out into the world all alone. But I'm not a kid; I'm sixteen years old... and I'm used to being alone.

So long, Brotherhood. Here's to the fire.

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