Marvelina peeked between the curtain panels of the vendor's cart that she was hiding under. A large woman was walking directly toward Marvelina, focused on eating a steaming breakfast bun. Her skirt was an inch too long for her stature. The frayed ends swished the gravel as she walked. Her grey hair was braided and twisted on top of her head, and she was smiling. Marvelina wondered what she had to smile about. No one else was smiling. Someone shrieked "Lorelei!" and the large woman turned to see who was so distraught.
"Geena. Easy take it darling," she said to the woman who jostled her potato cart through the crowd to set it down just a foot away. "SSFs! They the streets in, new girls they choosing are. Princess mine took they! Always, afraid was I. It mattered not we what tried. She too beautiful was, too beautiful just! Wish I now was it STs her took, better would have been it!"
"It your fault not was, darling. Done you what could you."
"Why, Lorelei? Why a child have to heart of mine break? Why have she beautiful to be? They me told would she the life of man improve. About what life hers? About what life a mother of?"
Before Lorelei could offer Geena any words of consolation, they heard the synchronous marching of spiked boots on gravel. STs entered the market from where Marvelina had been standing just a few minutes earlier. Lorelei's long skirt swished in front of Marvelina's face as she moved to stand by her cart.
Marvelina heard carts crash to the ground, glass breaking, and cries of dismayed Outsiders. "We're looking for a girl," yelled a gruff voice through a loudspeaker in his helmet. "If anyone's caught hiding her, they will be shot!" She heard multiple pairs of spiked boots fan out through the market.
Lorelei and Geena abruptly sat down on their stools behind their carts. Lorelei's wide skirt ballooned out beneath her. Her rugged, leathery feet, wrapped in old plastic sandals, poked under the curtain, and Marvelina inched away to avoid them. She watched as a pair of spiked boots approached Geena's cart, close enough that she could have reached out and untied a bootlace. The ST took one of Geena's potatoes, lifting his visor to take a bite out of it.
"What is this shit?" he exclaimed. "This is why this shit is for Outsiders." He spit the raw mouthful to the ground and then crushed the remainder of the potato, mashing it with the spikes of his boot. "Have you seen a girl, about fifteen, with red curly hair, acting suspicious?"
"No sir," replied Geena meekly.
He knocked over her cart, sending potatoes rolling through the street. Marvelina was trembling. Desperate, she crawled under Lorelei's skirt, and crouched her head over her knees. Lorelei spread her feet a little wider and said nothing.
"Have you seen a young woman, green eyes, red hair?" said the ST brusquely, turning toward Lorelei.
"No one looking that like," said Lorelei.
The ST kicked over her cart, breaking jars and creating a vaporous scented cloud. He popped his visor back down. "If you do see her, there's a reward for turning her in," he said through his speaker. "It's a matter of interplanetary security. Anyone protecting her will be shot."
"Yes Sir. Understand I. Be I the first to you tell," replied Lorelei.
The gravel was hurting Marvelina's knees, and the stool was pushing down on the top of her head. The ST kicked up dust with his boots that got into her nose. She felt a sneeze coming on. "No red-haired snatch here, just ugly old bitches," he said, communicating with the other troopers through his helmet.
Marvelina heard him move deeper into the market with the rest of them. She squeezed her nose and covered her mouth, and sneezed, choking back the sound. When the STs had moved on, the vendors hustled to right their carts and save what they could of their merchandise. They grumbled to each other.
YOU ARE READING
Running from a sordid marriage Princess Marvelina seeks freedom but feels powerless. After escaping Square Headquarters she roams the streets and discovers that everyone is trapped within the walls of Square City, except Aristocrats like herself. A...