Chapter eleven: The plan
The next week I have a plan.
I’m not a great strategist, so I won’t say it’s a good plan, but it’s a plan nonetheless.
I sit down on the steps of the White Swan hotel.
The rich neighbourhoods are all up there so she’s gotta walk past here at some point.
And when she does.
I will say hi to her.
And that’s about all I got for this plan.
So I sit.
And I wait.
And…well you know the idea by now…
The clock tower on Sogo-street slowly ticks away.
It’s getting close to nine by now, I should head to the range.
Don’t wanna be late.
“You’re gonna be late you know?”
I shoot up into the air letting out an undignified “huwah!?”
Elizabeth cocks an eyebrow at me “You got the devil on your tail?”
“The saying? When someone acts jumpy you ask if they got the devil on their tail.”
“Never heard of that.” I scoff, dignity bruised.
She shrugs “Never mind it then, do you want to be late or not?” she asks as she pulls her bag closer over her shoulder and starts to walk.
“No, ehm, let’s go.”
The first steps happen in silence. This didn’t exactly go as planned and all the lines I’ve prepped suddenly don’t work anymore.
“So…how are you?”
“Well, I didn’t sleep enough last night so I’m primarily tired. I’m also surprised to find you here since I’m quite sure you have nothing to do in this neighbourhood.”
“I just wanted to say hi.”
“Without the others hearing, I take it?”
“What no, well, maybe? Why do you always assume the worst about people?”
She shrugs “Usually I’m right. It’s rare for me to meet people who don’t instantly hate me.”
The surprise on her face is clear as she looks at me “Yeah… it is.” She puts her hands in her pockets “Do you know why they hate me?”
“Your dad being governor Chattoway.”
“Yeah…It’s hard to make friends when your father is the enemy of the entire country you live in.”
I shrug “So your family sucks, join the club.”
“I do love him in a way…” she sighs “It’s complicated.”
“Yeah, I get that.
“How so?” She asks and I shrug.
“Let’s just say my dad did bad things as well.”
“Right.” There’s a moment of silent contemplation before she opens her mouth again “Anyway we’re almost at the range so we should probably split up again.”
“When the other kids see you with me they’ll talk.”
“Yeah so? I don’t care. They can do whatever they want amongst themselves.”
She’s taken aback at first, but then she smiles and nods.
Then we face the wolves together.
Sometimes the only way to know who your friends are is to really piss them off.
The moment we come through the door silence hits the room like a jackhammer.
Stares turn to angry grimaces and scowls.
At the end of the room, Baku and Teko are whispering to one another. Migo just scowls and shakes her head disapprovingly.
I pretend not to notice it.
Elizabeth and I apologize for the tardiness and sit down.
I notice the teacher smiling.
“All right, all right, sit down, it’s time to meditate.”
After the lesson, Elizabeth takes me to a tea shop in the rich side of town. It’s a bright, pretty place with cherry trees painted on the paper walls. A perfumed stream of water flows down the sitting area and an overwhelming amount of plants makes the whole place feel like a spring garden, despite the rain outside.
“What sort of tea do you prefer?” she asks me as we sit down on soft smooth cushions.
“I just drink what’s offered, what do you like?”
“I’m still working my way through the whole list, but I enjoyed the white tea quite a bit last time.”
“Yes, it’s soft and gentle flavoured, would you like to try it?”
It’s funny how you can know someone for weeks and yet have no idea who they are.
“I got into the habit for protection mainly. There are plenty of people out there who would like to hurt me to get to my father so if I wanted to be any part of society I had to get some assurance. But I found I quite enjoy the ritual surrounding guns. They’re a perfect mix of discipline and power.” She takes another sip of her cup and sighs contentedly “So how did you take to shooting?”
“I have enemies.”
“Because of your father?” She asks and I almost jump off my chair in shock.
“I’m sorry, was that unrelated? I just remembered you mentioned him this morning.” She looks truly apologetic as she swirls her cup.
Looks like I’ll have to mind my tongue around her.
“You’re sharp.” I give her “But I don’t really like to talk about it.”
“That’s okay. Only tell things if you’re comfortable telling them.” She then pulls a pretty pocket watch from her dress and checks the time “I should go back.” She gets up and produces a silk bag that has red flowers embroidered all over it. “I’ll go pay.”
“Are you sure? We can split the check.”
She smiles “Don’t worry I can spare the money.” She then curtsies and says “I’ve had a lot of fun Hui, thank you.”
“Thank you for the tea.”
“I’ll see you next week at practice.”
“Yes, see you next week.”
She strides off and as I watch her I notice something.
Himowa always reminds me of a butterfly, fluttery and light, however, Elizabeth has the tread of a cat, elegant but with that hint of superiority.
I roll my eyes
I collect my stuff and we wave to one another as we go our separate ways.
I head back home.
There’s not much else out here.
Once home I head to the cupboard for some food.
Then realize too late I didn’t lock the door behind me as a familiar voice speaks in my ear making me grit my teeth.
“So where did you score a date with the governor’s daughter?”
“You know, I was hoping you’d have better things to do by now.”
“You’re playing with fire Hui, I figured even you know you can’t trust a Chattoway.” Takeyo sits down on the chair and the amount of silk and gold embroidery on his coat pisses me off.
“I can’t trust a Go either so why should I believe you?”
“Because I genuinely want what’s best for our country, our city, our family, you included I might add.” His eyes grow soft and the scowl on his face melts away “You don’t have to play the hero Hui. I don’t know what you’re planning with the governor’s daughter but whatever it is just stop. It can’t end well for you.”
Wait they think I’m planning on using Elizabeth against the Kashuya?
“Can’t be worse than joining you filth.”
His brow furrows in anger, and the soft edge to his voice vanishes “We’re a necessary evil Hui, we keep our people in line. If we were to go away the crime rate would skyrocket trust me on that.”
Takeyo lets out a grunt “I don’t understand you.”
“Likewise, I don’t understand you accepting this fate, no questions asked. Not even thinking for yourself.”
“Thinking for yourself could get you killed. Especially if you hang around the wrong people.”
I shrug “I’d like to see them try.” I take my gun out of the holster under my robes “I think this is the part where you get out of my house.”
His eyes grow wide “You’d point a gun at your own sibling?”
“I’ll point a gun at whoever stands between me and my freedom.”
He shakes his head, but doesn’t fight “Don’t forget I tried to warn you.”
“I appreciate the gesture.” I wave my gun to the door as if to say ‘out you go’
“Asshole.” He spits, gets up and vanishes back into the darkness he came from. Leaving me to strengthen my resolve as the anger builds inside me.