The jagged rock pierced her brown fingers, mushing tender muscle and flesh between bone and stone. Heavy climbing gear was strapped to her waist, legs, and back. A sling filled with white chalk hung at her tailbone. The powder was the only thing able to dry her moist palms and fingers. Days of hiking and climbing had worn her out, but she clung to the rock regardless because that was what Timon said to do.
"Take your time, Scar," said Timon from a ledge just below.
Pressing her cheek to the sharp stone, she peered down into two blue-green eyes set in a dirty, brown face. Timon smiled back - something he did often - and revealed the gap between his two front teeth. From her position above, she could see a forehead littered with old acne scars.
Scarlett had problematic skin too. Unlike Timon, her acne was concentrated on her cheeks rather than her forehead and had yet to heal. The sweat she had worked up over the days of hiking and climbing Mount Phryne had only served to enrage her skin. That was all right. In her family, having rough skin was as ordinary as having freckles.
She called down to her brother, taking care not to breathe in too much dust. "How do I look?"
Timon's answer crawled up the rocks. "Like a bug our dear sister squashed against the wall."
Mumbling into the mountainside, Scarlett quietly agreed. "She does hate bugs." Nibbling her bottom lip as she prepared to continue, she tightened the tendons in her hands and bent her fingers. A strained groan escaped her as she pulled both herself and the extra weight of gear up.
Celia was already waiting at the top. She sat on the edge of the cliff, watching Scarlett and Timon like a falcon. Her skin was dark and her hair was a curly copper halo that usually framed her face. For the climb, she had it plaited.
Both Timon and Celia were students at the University of Argus. Their focus of study was on medicine. Scarlett hadn't heard the whole story of how the two met but knew they connected because of a love for all things outdoors.
Climbing as though she were made entirely of dead weight for most of the way up, Scarlett began to feel lighter the closer she came to the top. Her legs ached, but not in the painful way they had before, and she could no longer feel the sharp edges of the rocks nor the sand and dust that fell into her eyes. When she swung half her body over the edge of the mountaintop, Celia grabbed the climbing pack and pulled her to safety.
Used as he was to a quicker pace, Timon climbed fast, and by the time Scarlett had stopped panting, he was standing on the peak of Mount Phryne with his arm around Celia's narrow hips.
"Spectacular," said Celia as she admired the scenery. To Scarlett, she asked, "So? What did you think of your first major climb? Have you become as addicted to it as your brother and I have?"
Timon laughed. "Oh, Scar didn't tag along for the experience."
The space between Celia's eyebrows dented. "She didn't?"
Slipping off her gear, Scarlett said, "No," and began to unpack her equipment. Out came rope, picks, and straps. With those bulky things removed and set aside, she was able to pull out her most treasured possession. Aunt Cleo had given her the flasher after discovering Scarlett's talent at taking captions.
"Shame, Scarlett Burn!" exclaimed Celia. "That is an awfully heavy flasher to carry on a climb!"
Scarlett grabbed a set of folded metal rods, pulled the three legs until they clicked into position, and attached her flasher to the tri-stand. "Timon always tries to describe his climbs, but words are one thing. Captions are another. Hardly anyone gets to see this view."
The dent between Celia's brows became a chasm. "Are you telling me that you climbed the most arduous mountain in our province solely for the opportunity to take a caption?" With hair fit to burst from her braid, she put her hands on her hips and chastised Timon. "I thought you were training her to climb because she had an interest in it. What were you thinking? She's only fifteen!"
Grinning adoringly and with the gap in his teeth on full display, Timon shrugged. "My sister would go to the moon if she could, if for no other reason than to caption it."
That reasoning alone was why Scarlett favored her brother over everyone else in their family. Timon understood her, knew why she went to the lengths she did in order to get a single caption and respected her enough to let her do it. Even in her darkest moments, he was there to shield her from their overbearing elder sister and sometimes suffocating parents. Now was her chance to be there for Timon.
Celia pointed a calloused finger at Timon. "Indulging her hobby is one thing, Tim. Making this trek for a caption is simply reckless."
With her flasher set right and the lens adjusted just so, Scarlett was as ready as she was ever going to be. "Let me test these settings. Can you two stand there for me? I want to make sure I get the ridgeline."
Celia sighed, still upset with Timon, but stood where Scarlett directed. After an initial burst of light exploded from the flasher, Celia blinked the residual specks away. She rubbed her eyes. When she opened them again, it was to see Timon holding a ring.
"Tim?" Celia blinked at the gold band. "What's this?"
Another flash of light went off, but neither Timon nor Celia seemed to notice.
"Scar wanted to caption the view," replied Timon, "but I asked her to come along to caption this moment. I wanted to remember exactly how it was."
"Shame on you both," said Celia. Her eyes were glistening, her skin glowing. "I'm all dirty."
Thank you for reading Explorations of Scarlett Burn!
This novelette is written almost like diary increments, with 'scenes' dropping you in and out of important events in our dear Scarlett's life. She was originally a character I developed for my novel, The Lost City of Al-Kimiya, in which Scarlett is a character who goes missing and the MC joins the dangerous search and rescue mission to find out what happened to her.
Obviously, I had enough backstory to develop a novelette out of Scarlett's life. I plan to make several more novelettes with her adventures leading up to the point she goes missing, so if you're interested in reading more about her, I encourage you to follow me for future updates!
Don't forget to comment, leave a star, or pass along this story to your friends/followers. Shout outs are like big virtual hugs and I wholeheartedly approve of them and so does Scarlett!