Layla “Run Away” Walker
The wind rushed through Layla’s hair as she darted through the penitentiary. Twenty guards were chasing her through the aisles of cells as she tried to escape the Talon Palace. The prisoners in each cell rooted for Layla as she passed by. They resumed throwing garbage when they spotted the guards. Layla neared the double doors that led out of the building. She dove for them and they swung wide open when she hit them. She flew out onto the front yard of the palace. Grass was ripped out of the ground and Layla was lathered in dirt. She stood and looked back at the double doors. They’d closed and locked behind her before the guards got through. She knew she had to leave because the guards most likely had keys to un-lock the doors. She ran across the yard to the road. There was a humongous crowd of passer-by so Layla could squeeze through and fit in like a regular Max. She slowly squeezed in between two men who didn’t seem to notice her. They were so tall and buff that they covered her completely. Layla easily blended in and followed other people in the crowd. Everyone seemed to be headed in the same direction which meant that something important was going to happen. Layla was being pushed around from all directions and it confused her. She was like a small ant in a sea of beetles. Suddenly, someone tugged on her leg, and she toppled to the ground. The crowd didn’t even notice her and stepped all over her. A woman’s heel collided with Layla’s cheek. Someone grabbed her by the arm and helped her up. Layla couldn’t see who it was while they dragged her throw the crowd. She tried to dig her heels into the dirt and yank her hand free but she wasn’t strong enough. They reached the edge of the crowd and flew out of the chaos. Layla fell flat on her stomach and cleared the hair out of her face. She looked up and saw the impossible. Sean was standing in front of her, panting and had dirt blotches on his clothes. He reached down and grabbed Layla’s hand. He said something but the sound of the crowd and the commotion made his voice difficult to hear. Before Layla could ask him to repeat himself, he hauled her to her feet and ran for his life. Layla was dragged after him. She tried hard to keep her feet from slipping under her and the eventually, her speed increased. She and Sean ran through the street and hid in some bushes on the other side. Sean put his hand on Layla’s cheek, turned her head, and kissed her. When he pulled away, Layla slapped him across the face.
“How did you get here?!” she asked.
“I got on my bunk and crawled through an air duct.” Sean replied, while rubbing his cheek.
“Why? Don’t you know how much trouble you could get into? We just broke out of jail!”
“I know we could get into serious trouble. The thing is… I don’t care. I’m not letting you go through this alone. I’m going to be with you every step of the way. Wherever you are, I’ll be standing right next to you.” Layla slapped him.
“Snap out of it, man! Now isn’t the time for love. Now is the time to run for it!” she shouted. Sean looked annoyed.
“Well,” he said to himself, “this is what I get for dating a city girl.” Layla slapped him again.
"There ain't anything wrong with being a city girl." she said.
Sean rubbed his cheek again. Layla was stronger than she appeared. When he looked over at her, he realized that she was freaking out. She was turning her head in every possible direction and her hands were shaking like Chihuahuas. Sean grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the bushes.
"If we're going to run for it," he said, "we need to start now."
Layla nodded and they ran for their lives. They made a series of turns and twists but kept running. They ran around a corner and suddenly stopped. Layla's jaw dropped while Sean dropped altogether. He toppled down to the pavement. Layla stared in astonishment and horror at the boy on the ground with an arrow in his shoulder. She quickly looked around and bent over. She put Sean’s arm around her neck and picked up his legs. She ran as fast as she could to his farm. Layla ran past the horse stables, the chicken coops, and the cattle, to the small house in the fields. She burst through the door, slammed it shut behind her, and ran to the round table at the end of the foyer. She slowly placed Sean on the table and inspected his shoulder. The arrow was standing straight upward and had a large note attached. Layla snatched the note and looked at it closely.
"Layla," she read, "it’s me, Katlyn. You need to leave the boy behind. You're better off on your own. The arrow should keep him asleep for at least an hour so you have time to find a place to leave him.”
Layla hesitated and tucked the note away in her jacket pocket. She didn't want to throw it away and regret it later. She looked at Sean and he flinched. He was still in a deep sleep. Layla didn't know what to do. She didn't want to leave him, but she also couldn't wait an hour before he woke up. She decided to leave him a note containing a location and a time. They’d meet each other there. First, she had to find a place to put him. It wasn’t going to be long before the palace guards tore the farm apart. The only place Layla could think of leaving him that no one would even bother looking in was the warehouse. She grimaced at the memory of the disassembled rat parts. She didn’t want to leave Sean in such a distasteful place, but it was her only choice and the best way to keep him hidden. Layla snatched a pad of paper off of the floor and took a pen from the kitchen counter. She remembered a place when she was being dragged through the town in chains. She’d passed a library on a corner. Then it struck her. Could that have been the library from her dream? She wasn’t quite sure but she knew there was a huge possibility. She scribbled down the street name and “Max Library” on the note. Layla glanced at the clock. It was 4:37 p.m. She wrote down “5:40” on the note next to “Max Library”. Layla knew she had an hour, but she still wanted to move as quickly as possible. She stuck the note on Sean’s forehead and picked him up off the table. Layla ran through the foyer and out the front door. She looked both ways and dashed out of the farm. She ran down the street to the warehouse. It was as appalling as ever. She slowly placed one foot inside and a shiver ran up her spine. She bent down and placed Sean underneath the door that had been blown off of its hinges. To make sure that he was fully covered, Layla took off her jacket, threw it on the ground and rubbed it in mud to give it an abandoned look, and spread it over him. She placed the door back on top and stepped back to get a better view. It looked perfect. Not one part of Sean’s body was visible from any angle. Layla was impressed with her skills. Though, she never knew that she’d ever have to use them in any situation at all, especially not this situation. This was a new level of trouble. This was personal. This was endangerment. This was sacrifice. This was war…
The Local Library
Sean awoke with a sharp pain in his shoulder and a large amount of pressure on his stomach. He slowly pulled a messy jacket off of his arm. He then pushed upward and a large door was lifted from his chest. He sat up and looked around. He was in a warehouse. It was a very dirty one, in fact. There was something flapping in front of his eyes. Sean looked up. It was a note stuck to his forehead. He ripped it off and studied it. There was neat hand writing on the front.
“Meet me at the Max Library around the block. Be there at 5:40.” He read.
Sean assumed it was Layla who’d left it for him. He got to his feet and brushed some dust off of his shirt. He took a few steps and stopped when he spotted a rat tail. He shivered and stepped around it, trying not to throw-up. When he was out of the warehouse, he took a deep breath and stretched. All he had to do was meet up with Layla, find out what happened to him, and continue running from the cops. It couldn’t get any simpler than that. Sean looked around and started to walk along the sidewalk. He smiled at other pedestrians and acted like he was just out for a stroll. Whenever he was sure he wasn’t being watched, he ran. He slowed and turned around corners to make sure he didn’t run into people around them. He then spotted the library. This time he didn’t care about the surprised citizens. He sprinted to the main steps leading up to the bronze double doors. Sean jogged up to a lady whose back was turned to him. The hood of her black coat was up and covered the back of her head. Sean could see a slip of blonde hair blowing in the wind.
“Miss?” he asked, “Have you seen a brunette around here with a white jacket and jeans on?”
The blonde slowly turned around. Sean’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened. The blonde lady in front of him was no blonde lady. She was a former brown-haired girl.
“Whoa! You’re blonde!” Sean exclaimed.
“I know! Isn’t it grand?!” Layla said while hugging him.
She pulled away and stared at him. He soon shook his head and snapped out of his trance.
“Okay, I’m here. What happened to me?” he asked.
“Well… Katlyn shot you with an arrow because she thinks that I’m better off on my own at this point.”
“Layla… You didn’t agree with her did you?”
“Of course not!” she blurted out.
Sean squinted, but said nothing more. Layla clutched the note in her pocket. She hated lying to Sean this way, but she had to. She still wasn’t sure if he could help her 100% on her mission to get help. Sean leaned in and gave Layla a quick kiss. Her heart skipped a beat and she felt even guiltier about keeping the note. But, she knew she couldn’t let her emotions get the best of her and paid no attention to the urge to rip the note to shreds. She took Sean by the hand and they started walking again. They turned around a corner to the back of a drug store. The ground was covered in debris.
Sean and Layla stopped in mid-step.
“Halt!” a strong voice said from behind.
The person jogged up to the couple.
“Turn around and put your hands in the air.”
Both Layla and Sean slowly turned to face the person. Rats. It was a palace guard. Sean was the first to turn and dash. Layla looked around and followed. The guard grabbed her by the hood before she could go any farther. He took out his hand cuffs and chained Layla to a fire hydrant. Layla looked around frantically while the guard ran after Sean. Layla could see him in the distance. He ran over tops of cars and jumped in and out of dumpsters. The guard did no such thing. He just ran and blew his whistle. Layla slumped down against the hydrant and sighed heavily. There wasn’t anything she could do at that point. She knew the guard would most likely leave her there to age and rot instead of bringing her to the palace for proper execution. But then she thought about it. Maybe the guard didn’t know who she was. Maybe dying her hair wasn’t a waste of time after all. She suddenly felt better. Then an idea sparked in her mind. The needle. She still had her emergency sewing needle. Her left hand was free and was just long enough to reach around her waist to get the needle from her right back-pocket. She slipped her thumb and index finger inside the pocket and searched for the small, thin needle. Her thumb found it and she closed her fingers around it. Layla pulled it out slowly and carefully. When she had it out, she bent her wrist and stuck it in the key hole on the lock. She twisted it for a few seconds and something clicked. The cuffs released Layla’s wrist and fell to the ground. She rubbed her wrist and stood. When she heard the shouts and the gun shot, she ran.
Layla ran around the corner to see who’d been shot and bumped into another crowd. Everyone was on their toes, trying to see the problem. Layla dove into the crowd and started to push people out of the way. She shoved a woman to the side and she slapped her across the face. Layla growled, slapped her back, and kept plowing through the crowd. When she got to the front of the crowd, someone pushed her out. She landed on all fours with her hair looking an absolute mess. She looked up and saw the guard sprawled on the ground and a girl around Layla’s age pointing his gun straight at her. Sean was being held back by a tall woman who looked like the girl’s mother.
“Layla!” Sean said relieved.
“Sweetie, put the gun down.” the woman said.
The girl lowered the gun and threw it on top of the guard’s body. Layla stood up and ran to Sean. The woman let him go and he hugged Layla. She broke the hug and kissed him on the cheek.
“I heard the gun shot and came running. Who are these people?”
“That girl is Pamela. This lady is her mom. They saw my situation and Pamela shot the guard with his own gun. I’ve never been so thankful in my life!” Sean replied while trying to catch his breath.
The color drained from Pamela’s face. Layla walked over to her and gave her a hug.
“Thank-you.” She said.
Pamela didn’t say anything in return. She walked right past Layla, hugged Sean, and said “You’re welcome.” Layla was confused. Had she done something wrong? Layla looked at Pamela sadly. Pamela rolled her eyes and walked back into the crowd. Her mother ran after her. Sean looked at Layla, then at the crowd. After a couple moments, he dashed into the crowd after the woman. Layla went after him. She emerged from the crowd and found Sean talking with Pamela. She stepped a little closer and listened to the conversation. She couldn’t believe her ears. Sean was inviting that 11 year-old jerk into their dash for freedom. Layla didn’t say anything even though she really wanted to. If Sean wanted Pamela to come, she could come. It was important that Layla kept Sean happy. She feared that if he was unhappy, he’d leave. He and Pamela walked over to her and announced that Pamela would be accompanying them the rest of the way. Apparently, Layla’s fighting skills and Sean’s “escape” skills weren’t enough and that they needed Pamela’s lack of hesitation when something goes wrong. Sean claimed the addition would make everything easier for everyone. Layla didn’t want to, but she agreed with the plan. Pamela waved goodbye to her mother as the trio jogged through the alley. Layla saw the way Pamela looked at Sean, and she didn’t like it at all. What she really hated was the way Sean looked back at her. She started to wonder if something was going on. There was something familiar about Pamela. Layla wondered if any similarities between them were causing her to be somewhat attractive to Sean. It was a sudden and crazy thought, but it was also a possibility. Hopefully, it very small possibility. The three took a turn and slowed down to rest. They stumbled upon a park full of children. Sean slumped down on a park bench.
“Hey, Sean,” Layla asked, “do you mind if I go relax by the swings?”
“I’ll be at the swings too.” Pamela said.
The girls walked across the park and tried to avoid a group of teenagers (the only one there). They were all around 17 years old and were pushing around some local geeks. One of the girl teens spotted Layla and Pamela, and threw a small rock in their direction. It tapped Layla on the shoulder and she stopped. She and Pamela turned to the group. The girl stepped towards them. They took a small step back.
"Well, slap my back!" the girl said, "Looks like we've got ourselves a couple more youngsters!"
Pamela shook Layla's arm and turned back to the swing's direction. The teen jumped in front of her before she could go anywhere. Pamela shoved the girl away but she jumped in front of her again. Pamela's anger was starting to get out of hand and she swung her fist. The teen dodged and kneed Pamela in the gut. Layla ran in between the two and kicked the teen's foot from under her. The other teens in the group started to wander off. One of them said goodbye to the girl and called her by her name, Gretchen. Pamela was recovered by then and went to help Layla. Gretchen was on the ground and yanked Layla's foot, bringing her down to the black-top. Pamela reached down to help her up, but Gretchen grabbed her other hand. Layla bit Gretchen's thumb and was instantly released. She quickly got up and watched Gretchen howl in pain. Pamela nudged Layla and they headed back to Sean who was fast asleep on the park bench. Two little boys were busy giggling and drawing on his face with markers. The girls shooed the boys away and woke up Sean. They told him about Gretchen and suggested that they leave. Sean stood and stretched while the girls tried not to laugh at the doodle of a giraffe on his forehead. The trio exited the park and walked along the streets. Even though it was an alien town, Layla already knew what most the people that lived there were like. Most of the people were lazy, especially the guards of the Talon Palace. Two prisoners had escaped and only one cop was sent to arrest them. They didn’t even bother finding a new cop, either. The group saw what they’d expected to see. The new “Wanted” posters were taped to every building and every lamppost. Both Layla and Sean knew that the palace wasn’t putting up much of a fight at the moment, but also knew never to underestimate their enemies. Pamela ripped a poster off of a lamppost and inspected it.
“The palace can get stronger as we go along.” She said.
“That’s true. We need to destroy their current attempt to find us, which means making sure we don’t look the same as we did in these photos. Layla already has it covered with her new blonde hair. The palace doesn’t know that you’re with us, Pamela. The only thing left is my appearance.” Sean explained.
Layla reached into her knapsack and pulled out a bottle of red hair dye. She also bought a series of dye colors with the blonde just in case. Sean saw the look in Pamela and Layla’s eyes. He slowly shook his head back and forth while walking backwards. The girls slowly walked towards him. Layla was shaking the bottle up and down. They kept backing up until Sean turned and ran. Pamela and Layla cackled as he collided with the lamppost and toppled to the ground.
“Pamela, can you fetch me that hose over there?” Layla said, and pointed to a hose connected to a small townhouse.
Pamela reached down and turned a nozzle. Water sprayed out of the hose and formed a small puddle in a dent in the sidewalk. Layla pulled the unconscious boy over to the puddle, dunk the top of his head in, and squirted in some red dye. She got down on her knees and scrubbed Sean’s hair thoroughly. Layla wasn’t the slightest surprised that there was even a different and easier way of dying hair in this town. The passer-by looked at her like she was crazy. Pamela drove them away with the help of the hose. Whoever stared was sprayed. She was pretty comfortable being naturally rude. It was very amusing. Layla tried to ignore Pamela who was shouting at a couple that refused to leave them “youngsters” alone with hair dye and a hose.
“What’re you looking at, eh?! Get outta here!” Pamela said.
The woman looked at her husband in disbelief. Pamela didn’t hesitate and turned the nozzle on the hose. The couple screamed as they were squirted with ice-cold water. Layla chuckled, but things became serious when the man reached for the hose. Pamela slapped his hand away. He was furious now and pushed his wife out of the way as he dove at Pamela. They dropped to the pavement and wrestled while the man’s wife screamed like an idiot. Layla crouched down and tried to pry Pamela off of the terrified man pressed onto the cement. Layla wasn’t surprised that Pamela had ended up on top. Her arms were all muscle. Pamela finally stood up and crossed her arms. Layla didn’t even bother helping the cowardly man.
Hey, She Had It Coming!
The streets filled with the chimes of bells and chants that represented one’s envy for another. The carriage was pulled along the cobblestone streets by two white horses. A crowd formed along the side walk and waved flags in the air. Palace guards walked in front of the horses, blowing their whistles to warn people to clear the path as Queen Clarabelle took a ride through town to search for Layla, the first person to make it onto Talon Palace’s “Wanted” list. There were many young teenagers among the crowd but none had Layla’s vile dressing skills. Each and every one of them was wearing appropriate apparel. The queen scanned the crowd over and over but couldn’t spot the vulgar girl with the dirty brown hair or the plantation boy with the stingy blonde hair. The carriage slowly turned and came to a stop outside of the plantation itself. Burning down the farm was the only option the queen liked. She wished so hard that is was Layla’s home she was about to burn down, but the farm was the closest place she could find. The destruction of the farm and the little house that sat in the center would draw the boy back to it. He’d bemoan and mourn while Layla would try to comfort him. The guards would swoop in with their swords and slash that girl apart! Clarabelle didn’t mind seeing slashing from time to time. She lit her match and tossed it out of the carriage window. The match landed on a tree branch and set it ablaze. The fire spread quickly from leaf to leaf, branch to branch, tree to tree. The fire spread across the ground and turned the luscious field into a red, scorching, flaming ocean. Clarabelle hadn’t noticed when the little house had caught on fire. She was busy watching the flowers burn and crumble. The house finally collapsed and became a large pile of piping hot wood. Everything was just perfect. Or, at least it was perfect until the horses in front of the carriage collapsed. Smoke filled the air, and the guards fled the scene without stopping to save the queen. Clarabelle coughed and sputtered in the back seat. She tried to crouch down low for clean air but she was still a short distance away from the ground and only breathed in more smoke. Her lungs felt like they were full of soot and burned greatly. The air was full of fog and Clarabelle’s surroundings were no longer visible. It didn’t take her long to notice that the bottom of her dress had caught on fire and was scorching her ankles. She stomped on it and patted it but nothing worked. The fire rose and made her eyes water. She refused to let herself know that’s she was crying. Queens didn’t cry. She didn’t understand why this was happening to her. She’d been a good lady. She hadn’t done anything wrong, unforgivable, or un-called for. The fire was up to her knees at this point. Excruciating pain shot through Clarabelle and she shrieked. She looked down to see the impossible. Her legs, up to the knee caps, were burnt. The skin was charred, shriveled, and flaky. The queen let out another cry that was incredibly high-pitched. The fire was up to her waist now, and was melting her insides. Clarabelle watched the slideshow in her head as her life flashed before her eyes.
The air was cold. The streetlamps flickered on and off in a town that seemed abandoned. Only three teenagers were awake at this hour. They wandered around, looking for a place to stay. They’d been rejected by what seemed like a million people. They were so desperate that they asked a homeless man if they could sleep in his cardboard box for the night. He also rejected them and pelted them with rocks. There didn’t seem to be any other option than living between two buildings, in an alley.
Layla and Sean sat against the Max Bank. Layla had Sean’s coat draped around her shoulders. Pamela was fine with her thick purple sweater. She was also fast asleep. She used her shoulder bag as a pillow. Layla had some time to think while they were in the alley. She turned to Sean.
“When did you first find out that you were a Max?” she asked.
Sean sighed. “I was six years old. I didn’t understand much about it. I was also thrown off track. I lost my mind that day.”
“Oh. Did you also have a dream?”
“Actually, I found the description in a little bit more of a… complicated situation.”
“How was it complicated?”
“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.” Sean put an arm around Layla’s shoulder and kissed her forehead. He looked up at the sky and started counting the stars in the sky that stayed dark 24/7.
Layla woke. She put her hand to her head and realized that she’d been sweating all night. There was a boy next to her who was still in a deep sleep. To her right was a girl who was very much awake and appeared to be sweating also. They looked at each other.
“Bad dream?” Pamela asked.
“Yeah, and this one isn’t good.” Layla replied.
“Let’s discuss it with Mr. Sleepy Head over there.”
“Maybe he actually had good thoughts last night.”
“I doubt it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nobody has good thoughts at a time like this. He was most likely scared to death last night. He certainly was when I shot that goose of a guard in front of him. Poor boy can’t stand the sight of death.”
Sean stirred. The sound of the conversation woke him up. He sat up and stretched his arms. Pamela got up from her corner near the dumpster.
“All right, weaklings. Let’s get this show on the road. My pa moved faster than this, and he lost to a turtle in a race when he was still fresh and young at age 21. Move it, move it, and, I almost forgot, move it!” she shouted.
Sean and Layla followed her command and drowsily got to their feet.
“Where are we going, anyway?” Layla asked.
Pamela shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“How about we go back to the farm?” Sean suggested.
Layla raised her eyebrows. “You’re right. Maybe the palace knows that we’re too smart to go back. Maybe they’re done looking there.”
Pamela didn’t know what farm they were talking about, but joined in anyway. “Okay. Let’s go find ourselves a farm!”
The trio stood at the front of the farm with their mouths wide open. They scanned the shriveled remains of Sean’s property with horror. The thing that struck them the most was the skull wearing a crown that said “Clarabelle” in diamonds that was wedged into the dirt. A few feet away were the bones of large and strong horses. Off in the distance, the pile of wood that use to be Sean’s house was well in the kids’ range of sight. Now it was serious. Now it was personal. The palace had gone too far. Layla was glad that Clarabelle died in the incident. She had it coming. Nothing could be done now. The farm was gone and the alley was too uncomfortable and unsafe. Pamela, Sean, and Layla had no other place to go but the Talon Palace to surrender. They all knew that wasn’t happening so they continued down the road.
Suddenly, a young palace guard pulled Pamela aside and placed shackles on her wrists. He looked around eleven. He was most definitely a Talon Palace guard in training.
“What’s going on?” Pamela asked.
“You’re under arrest, Pamela Max. The palace got a call from some whiny couple. They say you attacked the husband.” The guard replied. Pamela laughed at this.
“You have no proof!”
“Don’t I?” The guard stepped to the side to reveal the cowardly man and his idiotically annoying wife. Layla and Sean quickly put their hoods up and faced the guard. Pamela and the idiotic wife had a silent show-down in their minds. They stared at each other with eyes full of hatred. Pamela was aching to let her best and funniest jibes fly out of her mouth and strike her opponent in the face. Her husband stood behind her, quivering and sniffling. He seemed to be aggressively showing his babyish side. He actually showed it a bit too often. Watching people get arrested isn’t something that an average person would be scared about. It was a dog-eat-dog world and he needed to accept it. His wife turned around and glared at him. He sniffled one more time before starting to actually try to be a man for once in his life. Pamela grunted as the guard tightened the cuffs around her wrists.
“I haven’t seen you around so I’m going to have the palace do a DNA test. It’s not really our business to know what you’re first identity was, but it’s also good to have additional information.” The guard said. Pamela’s eyes started to widen as he said this.
“Wait… You mean you can just do a DNA test and find out who I am, just like that?” Pamela asked, eagerly. She couldn’t see him, but she felt the guard nod.
He walked her over to his van while Sean and Layla followed. The cowardly man ran away, screaming. His wife shrugged and chased him down the street. The guard shoved Pamela into the back seat while Sean and Layla got in beside her. The guard got in the front and turned around.
“My name is Edward. I’m eleven. I am a guard in training for the Talon Palace. And don’t worry! I’m not driving this truck.” Edward whistled and an adult guard jumped into the van and started the engine. Edward hadn’t turned back around yet. He and Pamela were staring at each other until…
“Quit staring at me, you pig!” Pamela spat the words into Edward’s face and he immediately turned around.
Layla chuckled. She’d been expecting Pamela to say something like that. In fact, she was waiting for it to happen. She watched the town fly by her window. Now that she had the time, she thought about her life. Right now she was off to a bad start as a Max. She didn’t fit in. Her other life was all she knew and all she would focus on. She was still Layla Ann Walker. Never did she want to change her name to Max. She wasn’t cut out for this new life and she didn’t, even the slightest bit, want to be. She knew Sean wanted her to get used to it, but she was just going to have to let him down this one time. She didn’t want to be a Max. Even if she did want to be a Max, she wouldn’t be able to. It just didn’t feel like her. Layla’s thoughts were interrupted when the van came to a stop outside of the Talon Palace. Sean and Layla exchanged looks and made sure that their identities were well hidden. Edward slid out of the van and opened the door on Layla’s side. She got out first, Pamela got out second, and Sean came out third. Edward escorted them into the palace’s main lobby and into the DNA testing area. He took the cuffs off of Pamela’s wrists and quickly, with no warning, stuck a needle in one of her veins. She sat down on a dentist chair and stared at a large screen in front of her. There was a tube at the end of the needle in her wrist that was connected to a monitor. A few intense seconds went by before a picture of Pamela after she was born appeared on the screen. Next to the picture was information like Pamela’s birthdate, blood type, and her parents’ names. Above this extra information were her two names. The first name listed was Pamela Max and the second name listed was surprising, especially to Sean. In fact, he seemed traumatized. On the screen was the name “Connie Myers” in big, bold letters. Pamela looked in bewilderment.
“I remember now…” she whispered. She slowly turned to Sean and he looked back at her. “Sean… It’s you.”
Sean nodded while Layla stared at him. “What’s going on? Did you guys know each other or something?” she asked.
Sean gulped. “My old name was Sean Myers. This is one of my long-lost sisters, Connie.” He croaked.
A heavy silence filled the room. Layla looked back and forth at Sean and Pamela… or… Connie.
Layla was completely confused. “Sean, you need to explain. Now.”
Sean closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Okay. I was the middle child in the family at six years old. Connie was the youngest. She was five. Our mom died during a robbery. The robber tied up the whole family except for Connie. She must’ve been hiding. Anyway, the robber got away with the rest of the family, our dad and older sister, Taylor. This all happened right after I’d found the description so I left my house to go find some information about it. I think Connie saw me leave and followed me until she eventually ended up in town with me. I never noticed that she’d followed me so we went separate ways. I’m guessing that’s how she became a Max. Oh, and Connie, you must be twelve, right?” Connie’s face lit up as her memories flooded back to her. She jumped off of her chair and hugged Sean.
“How’ve you been, bro?” she exclaimed. Sean didn’t answer. He was still shocked.
Layla was relieved that her relationship with Sean wasn’t in jeopardy. Jeopardy. She then remembered something from the night before. She had another dream. All of their lives were in danger. One of them was going to die as a prisoner of war.
“Guys,” Layla pulled Sean and Connie to the side. “I think we should go now.”
Connie stared at her blankly. “But… My DNA…”
Sean turned to her. “That’s not important right now. Layla, I think we can make it a few more moments without being recognized.”
Edward overheard the conversation and strolled over. “You! You’re Layla Walker!”
Layla’s eyes widened as Gamma burst through the double doors and spotted her. He lunged at her, but she dove out of the way. Connie pushed Sean back and kicked Gamma square in the jaw. He grunted as he hit the marble floor. Layla was standing again and had room to run but was grabbed by the ankle. She tumbled down to the floor and felt the cold handcuffs close around her wrist. She was hauled up from the ground. Gamma was breathing heavily and was sweating rapidly. Suddenly, Queen Clarabelle delicately opened the double doors with a smirk on her face.
Layla’s tongue was tied. “I… I thought you were… you were…”
“Dead?” Clarabelle cut her off. “Oh, my darling, I’m most certainly not dead. Queens get ten lives here!”
Layla snarled. “Let me go.”
“Not until you fight as ‘The One’, my dear.”
“Never. I’m not going to be traded over to the bad side and you know it.”
“Oh, but you will. It’s either the war… or execution. What’ll it be?”
Layla looked over at Sean and Connie. For the first time, Layla had to make this decision on her own.
Layla poured more anger into her words. “You can’t just kill me for not fighting in your little precious war.”
Clarabelle’s smile widened. “I make the rules here and I say you either fight or die.”
There was a thick silence. “Okay.” Layla surrendered. Sean stared at her. Connie kept a blank expression on her face. Gamma laughed as he escorted Layla out of the DNA testing room. Her two acquaintances quickly followed. They rushed down the corridors and hurried around corners. Layla’s stomach felt twisted. She never thought that things would end this way. It didn’t feel good to give up. Not after everything she’d been through. Iris and Katlyn tried to get her to fight the right way and to stay on their side, but now she was going to be traded over to the Karma Clan once her duties with The Max Clan were through. While they were jogging through the halls, Sean put a hand on Layla’s shoulder the same way he had when they first met on the farm. It wasn’t as comforting as it could’ve been. Layla felt ashamed of herself for giving up on him. A small tear trickled down her cheek. Queen Clarabelle led Gamma to the short, plump man who sat at his desk, blocking off the hallway that winded all the way down to the penitentiary. The queen cleared her throat and caught everyone’s attention, especially the Penitentiary Assistance Manager’s.
“Open this gate, you weasel of a man.” She commanded. The assistance manager whimpered and unlocked the small gate in front of his desk. He handed Clarabelle a key to cell 28 as she quickly passed.
Layla didn’t have to look. She knew he was disappointed in her. The group ran through the hallway and entered the penitentiary. They faced hundreds of rows of cells. A majority of them contained delinquents. Gamma dragged Layla to cell 28, which was murky, vacant, and just waiting to be occupied. Clarabelle pushed Layla in, and she fell on the cold floor, flat on her face. Connie and Sean were shoved in after her. Gamma shut the bar door and placed a humungous lock in it.
“Alright,” Clarabelle said, “You’ll be staying here for a while until your services are actually needed. Ciao!”
Connie gripped the medal bars. “Well… I knew I’d be back here sometime. It’s great to be back in twenty-eight!”
Sean stared at a blood stain on the ceiling above the bunk bed. “Do they have those in every cell?” Connie shrugged.
Layla stood up and brushed some dust off of her shirt. She reached into her knapsack and checked her watch. It wouldn’t be long before the war started. It’d be in about a month or so. Layla sighed and stared at the redhead across the room. He was still gawking at that blasted stain. Connie was also still sifting through her memories of the good old days in prison. It would be an awfully boring month but Layla would manage.