Nearly shoulder to shoulder, the angel and the phoenix march down a path with several peaks and valleys flanked by clay walls. Tyra neglects to pay the sunrise any attention, her eyes glued to the ground. She isn’t even sure if Nuria is looking at her, patiently waiting to exchange blows. She doesn’t even know why they bothered to bring their binders and cameras, as if they plan to actually work once this is over, if they’re even in any condition to attempt completing the exercise. Tyra lifts her head and gazes over the clay walls to the thick forest on both sides.
They ask that if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear, does it make a sound. Not that I plan to hit Nuria with a tree…even though I probably could. Tyra shakes her head vehemently. Stop it, Tyra. Just throw the fight as planned.
“Cooking up a strategy over there or what?” Nuria asks jokingly, her shaky voice betraying her concern.
“Because I’m sure even just one punch puts me in the hospital.”
“Then we should call it off.” Tyra will take any opening to end this harmlessly. She doesn’t see any point to escalate things physically.
The phoenix shakes her head, her braid twists loosening more and more. “No. We’re getting this over with! In fact…” Nuria stops abruptly, turning perpendicular to the river up ahead. “We’re far enough away, so…put ‘em up.” She raises her fists on wobbly arms, and now that they’re face to face again since leaving camp, Tyra has a full view of the tears streaming down her face. “Let’s go!” Nuria shouts.
The next ten seconds move slowly for Tyra as she hopes to convince Nuria the fight isn’t worth it. She takes the stance Aranda taught her; hands up, knees fluid but firm, and head turned down at an angle. She slides close when Nuria charges and throws a punch square to her face, the angel volunteering to lower her guard at the last moment. The following ten seconds revolve around Tyra falling onto her back, wiping her bloody lip and nose, and rising to her feet once more.
“Was that good enough or do you need another freebie?” Tyra accosts, employing the same gaze she’s accustomed to receiving from her mother, identifying the panic and regret in Nuria’s countenance. She’s not shocked when the phoenix meets the gaze with a defiant glare.
Of course, it doesn’t work on Nuria. I haven’t met a single adult that’s managed to make her cower.
“Take this seriously, Tyra!” Nuria shouts. “I’m tired of you ignoring my feelings! You fight back right now!”
“No,” Tyra says defiantly.
“Then why did you come here? I’m not wasting my time if this isn’t gonna solve anything! I wasted a whole five months and some change waiting on you! We told each other we were looking forward to this year! That didn’t mean only during school!” Nuria pulls out her cellphone and throws it at Tyra, and with the force she uses she hoped it would be caught by the angel’s face.
Tyra’s stalwart expression cracks as she skims the undeleted messages that only stopped the day before school started.
Cream 5, 1:09 P.M.
Did you just wake up, too? My back still hurts from dancing.
Dia 21, 2:26 A.M.
Ignoring me got old THREE WEEKS AGO!
Keal 11, 6:18 P.M.
What the hell, Tyra?
Hilami 3, 11:17 P.M.
Anything to say @ all?
Metis 20, 5:43 P.M.
At least tell me if you’ll be @ FHA or not…
Cylle 8, 10:47 P.M.
Are you gonna be there???
“I texted you every day over the spring and you didn’t spare me a single thought! I thought we were…” Nuria inhales sharply. “I broke almost every rule I was given when it came to you! I told my mother as soon as I was home again, and you know what, she supported me! Too bad it didn’t matter anymore! It probably doesn’t matter now! I hit you for nothing! I–”
“I failed!” Tyra shouts. She sees an opening to try and repair their connection now, and just like before, she will not hesitate to take advantage.
Tyra moves to the edge of the river, not wanting to accidentally aim her furious mood at the wrong party. She reflects it at herself off the water’s glassy surface. “I failed,” she repeats when Nuria’s reflection stands beside hers.
“I let my mother dictate too much of a relationship she never should’ve had power over. She cut my phone off the second I was home. But I should’ve anticipated such a move. I told you it might happen on Founder’s Day. Memorizing your number should’ve been my first move once I woke up and saw your message. But I want you to know, I fought like hell to get back here to you, effectively blackmailing my mother to do so. I was disgusted that I’d gone so far, so when she told me I couldn’t tell you it was her who made it impossible for us to communicate, I felt I had to oblige.”
“Then why tell me now?” Nuria’s reflection queries.
The ripples of the water obscure when Tyra’s demeanor shifts from ashamed to resolute. “Because I’m done adhering to rules that aren’t my own. My first rule says I place my trust in the intent of the actions of others, rather than the action itself. My second rule says to ignore fear in the face of desire, duty, or desire. The third rule that I came up with over the break says to never let the vine die if one of the fruits is rotten.”
“The vine is my love. The fruits are the people connected to my love. Whether I like it or not, my mother is one of my fruits. I came here to make certain you wouldn’t rot on me. I’m not so sure you haven’t. Have you?”
Tyra seeks the answer from the vacuum, the color negative reflections of the young ladies no longer impacted by the river’s ripples. Tyra can sense her love on the verge of rage, her orb going from hot pink to crimson and back again. Nuria’s orb becomes fiery, but the embers that detach are bright pink. Soon, the fireball itself shines just the same. Before Tyra can even choke up, she feels the honesty of her Primal Sense in Nuria’s embrace.
“I love you, too,” Nuria says, burying her face in Tyra’s shoulder.
Tyra doesn’t say anything, just embraces her best friend back as fiercely as she can. “Let me know if I’m squeezing you too hard.”
“Squeeze hard as you like. Call it even for giving you a bloody nose.”
“What should I give her?”
The young ladies sever their embrace and turn warily to a woman wading into the river from the other side. Her dark red ponytail swishes just above the water’s surface, her sleeveless violet shirt reflecting the water’s light refraction.
“Nuria, we need to go,” Tyra urges.
“Who the hell are you?” Nuria asks, feistily narrowing her eyes at the intruder.
“Oh, you don’t remember? I knocked you unconscious before, so I suppose it makes sense.”
“What?” Nuria asks, and even nervous as she is, she refuses to step back.
“Nuria, we need to go now!” Tyra says sternly.
“However,” the intruder says as her expression frosts, “I have to repay you for the pain and shame you caused me.”
Tyra was hoping to get Nuria to safety before she could put the pieces together. She could tell the phoenix wasn’t getting it off the appearance, but she definitely knows the identity of their unwelcome guest now.
“Ah,” Nuria says with a bizarre satisfaction. “So, you’re Liamria? I’ve been dying to meet you.” Nuria takes a step forward.
“My sentiments exactly. And I need your help. My dear daughter’s gone missing. I require your help to find her.”
Tyra flinches when Nuria suddenly charges, expecting her to retort with some smart-ass line again. She shouts, “Nuria, come back!” However, she knows better than anyone that Nuria will defend Stark to the last. Her panic over the undesirable results of that battle only grows once the river water starts to churn unnaturally.