I pull into my sister's middle school and there she is slumped against the chain linked fence. Alone. Always alone.
She hears my clanking car before she sees it, and pushing off the fence, she slings her backpack over her shoulder.
All the other kids are saying goodbye to each other for the day and no one spares her a glance or a word as she shuffles across the parking lot toward me.
Lena's the mini version of me. Short. Dark features. In my hand-me-down clothes, it's like looking in a mirror.
She creaks open the door, tosses her pack in, and slides into the torn seat. "Hey," she says.
"Hey, Lil' Bit." I put the car in gear and putter off. "Good day?"
She shrugs a skinny shoulder. "Made an A on that algebra test."
"An A!" I grin over at her. "That's awesome."
She shrugs that indifferent shoulder again and tries to hide a proud smile. God, she reminds me so much of myself.
"You want it bald?" an old lady asks, and I blink from my memory.
I'm now sitting just outside the women's bathing area. There's an old lady here and she's cutting our hair. She just did the other women who were bought today, and now she's doing mine.
"Bald?" she impatiently prompts.
I shrug as I glance down at all my dark hair on the floor. I didn't think I had a choice.
She pats my head that now has inch long choppy hair. "This is the longest Dominus allows. We'll leave it. If you decide you want bald, just let me know."
The old lady gives me a shove, and I get up off the wood bench and walk into the bathing area.
Sera is here along with the other women warriors. Camille, too, and those who came in on our cart. Ten of us females in all. I assume the men are in their own bathing area.
Some of the women are in the large stone bath cleaning themselves. Others sit on wood benches, meticulously shaving their legs, underarms, and pubes.
Dominus wasn't kidding when he said he doesn't like hair.
I watch those who are shaving as they scrape the arched blades over their skin. I'm going to kill myself with that medieval looking thing. Or use it to escape...
One of the warriors looks up at me, catches me staring, and barks, "You like to watch? I'll give you something to watch."
Gritting my teeth so I don't bark back, I turn to the bath. Camille's already in there, shooting me a warning look. Her blond hair is cut just like mine instead of bald.
I return her warning look with one of my own that I hope conveys I'll be good. Hers softens then to a sad relieved smile and she ducks her head to give me privacy.
I strip and walk right in the hot water. I've never minded being naked. I'm not self-conscious. I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and just soak the heat into my exhausted body.
Without a word, I grab a bar of soap, lather a rag, and viciously scrub my skin. I want the filth of this place off of me.
Naked, Sera proudly strolls across the bathing room straight toward the woman who had to go first on the auctioning block. The one whose breasts were too large for the white band they gave us all to wear.
"What's your name?" Sera demands.
"F-F-Felicia. That's what they named me." She grips the towel in front of her naked body, much like she had her tunic when she was up on the block.
"F-F-Felicia," Sera parrots and the warrior women all laugh.
I clench my jaw.
"Don't get involved," Camille cautions me.
Sera yanks away Felicia's towel and throws it across the room.
"Leave me alone," Felicia whimpers.
Sera rakes her intimidating gaze down the length of Felicia's shaking, naked body. "You're fat."
There was a big girl back home in our neighborhood who used to bully and terrorize some of the kids. I caught her picking on my sister once and punched her in the eye. "Leave her alone," I grit out.
With one hand, Sera shoves Felicia and she stumbles back.
I shoot up out of the water, fueled by everything. Sera's harassment. My meeting with Dominus. My sister. This whole place. "I said leave her alone."
Slowly, Sera pivots and pins me with her dark gaze. "You are nothing." She stretches out one long muscular leg. "This is bigger than your whole body. You think just because Dominus paid some stupid money for you that you're special?"
She points to a large S shaped scar on the back of her shoulder. "This is the mark of a true champion. Only those who win in the fights get to bare it."
"I could care less about some stupid branded S on your shoulder."
Sera comes right at me, and I step completely out of the bath to meet her. I don't care that she's enormous. I've had enough.
She towers above me, her eyes too wide, her lips curled back like a snarling dog. Logic tells me I can't beat her, but I sure will give it my best if that's what this comes to.
She opens her mouth, like she's going to take a bite out of me, and instead unrolls her unnaturally long tongue. She waggles it at me and makes some weird satanic sound.
"Is that why you're called 'Sera the serpent?'"
Alexior steps into the bath room. "Stop." He looks straight in Sera's face, then into mine, not even glancing down at our naked bodies. "You'll settle this on the training ground, not in here. Now be done. Dinner's out and ready."
Sera and I glare at each other. This is one score far from settled.
Chapter 6 coming next week!
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VANQUISHEDMystery / Thriller
A SECRET ISLAND. A SADISTIC SOCIETY. AND THE WOMAN WHO DEFIES ALL ODDS TO BRING IT DOWN. Yesterday, Valoria's worst problem was getting her sister to school on time. Today, she's a slave in a perverse world. And an even worse fate awaits her sister...