Friday, January 15, 2010

Chapter 5 Mitchell

“I was a stray too.”

Mitchell's smile is so warm and inviting that it comforts me after witnessing what is probably going to turn into a murder. My eyes sting a bit, and I don't really have the energy to tell him that I doubt I could be called a "stray." I didn't spend any time wandering around in this world like he probably did seeing things like what just happened down below us or being threatened like he probably had been.

"So you're Neutral?" He asks while quietly ignoring my struggle.

"I was." I dab at my eyes with the palm of my hand.

"Sorry. It takes a lot of getting used to." Mitchell looks around nervously over his shoulder, but in a casual manner that could almost go unnnoticed by someone not standing next to him. "I grew up in a village myself. My mom died when I was 14 though, and no one wanted to take me in. So they kicked me out."

What in the world do you say to that? "What did you do?"

"I got lucky." He smiles at me again, a little awkwardly like any one of the dorkier boys at school talking to any other girl. "Angel saved me. I didn't really spend that much time out there being a stray. That was luck. But then," Mitchell looks down at the people below us, "I've always felt a little guilty about that to be honest."

I'm about to ask him for more detail when I hear another ruckus down below us. Afraid of what it could be, I step back this time, almost ready to cling to Mitchell in solidarity and support. There's a lot of screaming, some laughs, and angry yelling that jumbles up so that it's impossible to know exactly what I'm hearing.

Mitchell keeps looking over the side intently watching what's going on in a way that makes me wonder about his own guilt he confessed to a moment before. "It's Brandon."

"Brandon?" It's like a magic word. Anything Brandon's involved in can't be as bad as what happened earlier.

I quickly step to the railing and look down to see the girl and Brandon walking away. She looks all right; Brandon must have gotten there just in time. Then the guy who fought for her earlier comes after them, but Brandon turns around then. There's some large spots of blood on Brandon's tank, but they aren't from the girl. He moves quickly, so that I hardly see him hit the guy, knocking him to the ground with one punch. The guy has blood on his face, pouring from his nose I'd guess where Brandon probably hit him more than once. It's probably his blood on Brandon's tank.

The guy struggles to get up, but it's clear that the fight is over. Brandon walks the girl away.

I glance up at Mitchell who's smiling now like someone told a good joke.

"I know the guy deserved it. Brandon doesn't do stuff like that without reason. Angel says he gets a lot of shit for it from Jimmy and Mr. Smith."

"For saving people?"

"Yeah. But he does it anyway." Mitchell puts his hands on his hips, his smile fading slightly but still present. "So why'd the Neutrals kick you out?"

I'm shaking a bit like I've just been on a roller coaster ride. Mitchell is so calm about it that it's surreal. In any other circumstance it might be calming for me to have someone near by to distract me, but here in this strange place, it's unnerving. I can hardly believe what I've seen. "Uh..." Should I even tell him my story as short as it is and as many holes as I still feel it has?

"Sorry," Mitchell says looking a little guiltily at me. "You don't have to tell me. I mean we just met and I'm all being nosey and digging into your past. I forget that it's not an easy thing to share. Know any good jokes?"

My hands hold onto the railing helping me to hold steady because my other instinct is to give Mitchell a great big hug. He's so normal in a way that even Brandon doesn't seem to be. Brandon's friendly, but those flashes of maturity worry me. Like he's dealing with more than I know. It's nice to stand next to someone who is probably going to be the closest to understanding exactly what I am going through. An equal. Someone who could easily become a good friend.

I smile gratefully at him. We stand still trading jokes that neither one of us can fully appreaciate, but still laughing anyway just because we need to.

“Well, lunch is soon," He finally says. "I’ve got to make lunch for Angel. I'm thinking maybe some salad today. What're you gonna make Brandon? He's gonna be hungry when he gets back.”

"Uh, I don't know. So far he's done all the cooking." I try to laugh a little, even as odd as it feels with all my nerves tingling and numb at he same time. "I guess he's worried that I might break something."

Mitchell looks at me blankly. “He makes you food?” The way he says it makes it sound unheard of and almost criminal.

“Is that weird?”

“Well, um, yeah. To be honest. But I’d better go. Maybe next time I can share lunch with you. If Angel says its okay.” He waves with a small smile before he walks back to his apartment.

When Brandon comes home, I'm on the couch reading one of his few books as slowly as possible, savouring each word and taking my time to imagine every detail the author takes effort in creating.

He doesn't have his shirt on. "Hey." There's a somberness to his greeting that makes me sit up as he walks past me into the bedroom.

It's then I see the tattoo fully. So far it's been covered up by his shirts, though if I think about it, I remember seeing it peeking through his tank this morning. It's large and intricate. I've noticed the other tattoos without fully paying attention. Everyone has them on their backs in some way or another. Some have just the skulls, some have the skulls with designs around them, but I've seen very few as large and intricate as Brandon's. Except that man in the car with my father and me.

He comes out of the bedroom with another shirt on. "So what would you like for lunch?"

I move from the sofa to the chair at the table, following him into the kitchen. "Anything." As Brandon starts making food, I can't help wondering if I should help.

Brandon glances up at me, one corner of his mouth twitching slightly. "You're wondering if you should help, right? No. You might break something. I can tell."

I laugh in shock. Are we that much alike we make the same jokes or do I really look like that much of a hazard? "Is it weird that you cook for us? Shouldn't I start doing that for you? I mean, if you're going to be training everyday it only seems fair."

Brandon hands me a plate with a sandwich and sits down with me at the small table. "You're my sister. What Mitchell and Angel have is something completely different."

That worries me. Mitchell seemed so nice, very gentle and a little awkward. Like any boy I might have met at school. "How?"

"Angel keeps Mitchell around for more reasons than one, if you know what I mean." I sit there blankly waiting for something to magically enlighten me. "They have something of a... relationship."

Then it clicks. Like a concubine that cooks and cleans. Mitchell said he got lucky. That's lucky? It disheartens me that being someone's slave, in more ways than one, is considered lucky. Suddenly I am absolutely exhausted, and I don't want to ask the other questions on my mind for fear of the answers I'll get.

"So did you hear about the no legged dog?" I ask suddenly, needing to lighten the mood.

"What?" It's Brandon's turn to look at me blankly.

"He doesn't come when you call, but he stays like nobody's business."

Brandon laughs, a small laugh that really does sound like music today. "You're weird, kid."

"Hey, Mom always said, don't be afraid to be who you are."

Next Chapter -->


  1. MITCHEEEELL. He's so sweet and I just want to give him a big hug...even if I don't trust him. I don't even trust Brandon fully yet.

    I must say this chapter has made me 10x more curious about Brandon's past. He seems like a sweet guy, but there's just something really mysterious about him.

    Aw, I hope Paula and Mitchell become friends. She really needs another ally in this situation.

    Amazing chapter as always. I always look forward to your updates.

  2. "Know any good jokes!" lol!

    This chapter was both shocking and refreshing at the same time. I loved it! It's amazing how these people can live with and see such inhumane things, and yet still manage to crack a joke when it's over. I guess you'd probably have to though, to keep from going dead inside.

    I'm still very curious about Brandon's sporadic mind-reading habit, lol!

    And poor Mitchell with how he was "saved". Have we met Angel before?

  3. I wondered if there was more to that aspect of being a slave than simply keeping the house like Edith did. It makes sense and I would think a slave/master relationship would also have more benefits; for one, they would be treated much better - despite the "tags", there is always a possibility that the Master actually really cares for the slave.

    I found Paula's innocence refreshing about that. She really didn't understand the consequences of being a slave.

    Riveting as always.

  4. What an intriguing chapter! I can't wait to meet Angel. And I still want to know who the guy in the car with the tattoo was. Brandon didn't like whatever he said to him when he brought Paula. I wonder if it's Jimmy? Did we already know that?

    Brandon has a good streak, then. I'm half in love with him already! Poor guy...he's like Edith--trapped in a world that has little patience for people who are good. And like Laura, I think he has some mind-reading ability...

    So good!

  5. Nicole, LOL! I love your reaction. I can see Mitchell getting a hug and then pulling away to wave a warning finger at him, "But I still don't trust you!"

    OOH, I'm so glad about that.

    And she does need another ally. Though she could take a lesson from you. She shouldn't be so trusting!

    Thank you for reading and commenting as always Nicole!

    Laura, yeah, I imagine you'd have to learn how to switch off after a while and refocus on things that probably mean nothing in the bigger picture.

    What sporadic mind reading habit? Maybe Paula's face is easy to read.

    No, we have not met Angel. (Though I think Angel might be in the background of one of the pictures... I think.)

    Carnaxa, once again you see the picture. Not everyone has a slave/pet, but of those that do there is a wide range of relationships, some probably harmful, some beneficial, and some that might even be real. (And of course within each of those there are complications, it's so delicious for me to explore those connections, I must admit.)

    Yeah, poor Paula. Her own moral code and what she's learned through her life has not prepared her for this.

    Thanks, Rachel. I have not said anything about the man in the car with Henri and Paula yet. But I like speculations. You all can feel free to start taking bets. XD

    Yay! Yeah, he's different. And, LOL! What mind reading ability? Paula probably projects.

  6. I'm taking the opening comment and going with it.

    "I'm a stray too."

    Not she isn't. She knows it. Mitchell doesn't know it. Brandon knows it. But Mitchell got it when the issue of making food came up.

    So some of livestock are higher class than the rest of them. And Brandon has the full brand on his back.

    what is so fantastically weird is the jokes.

    And the last sentence. Might be wrong here, she didn't say, "Dad always said...".

    I am always trying to pull the smallest clues out of this! HOOKED!

  7. S.B., I so LOVE that you're trying to pull out the smallest clues. There's a lot said that's unintentional on my part. Just me assuming because I am too familiar with the story and the world.

    And once again you're on it. Dead on as well.

    Mitchell must have picked up a clue there. Though as you can see, Brandon is special, and I think Mitchell probably admires him in a way so he might think that it's just a case of Brandon being unique...

    As for the levels of pets, dead on. Really. Doesn't usually have to do with the human though.

    And the last sentence, oh, good clue there. Paula hasn't said much about her home life, has she, though she's probably hinted at plenty.

  8. When Mitchell expressed surprise that Brandon makes food for Paula and not the other way around, I guessed at the kind of relationship he and Angel must have. I don't think me guessing correctly made it have any less of an impact though. I still don't trust Mitchell (or Brandon, completely) but I'm feeling a lot of sympathy for him at the same time.

    I love the fact that Paula, Mitchell and Brandon are still able to laugh in the midst of all this...horror. That's the only word for it. I guess in a situation like this, humour might be all you have.

    I had a little weird moment when Paula mentioned boys at school. I sometimes forget that her life before must have been quite different to what it is now.

  9. Another good chapter, well done ;)

  10. You too, Carla? But Brandon just saved someone! XD Seriously, I do think Paula needs lessons from those of you who are more suspicious.

    As for Paula's life before, Neutrals live very much like we do. Where she was from she's not even an adult yet.

    Thank you Poida.

  11. I love this story! It's full of great characters and plot. I love Brandon and Mitchell and Paula.

    I can't wait to read more about this odd civilization.

  12. Thank you very much, Amelia, and welcome!

  13. I sit there blankly waiting for something to magically enlighten me.

    LOL! Me too, Paula. I didn't get it until Paula got it. XD Omgosh, I'm so glad Mitchell turns out not to be bad, though as many others seem to be, I think I should be on my guard too. Like, what if Angel tries to take advantage of Paula through Mitchell or something? 8|

    It kind of makes me sad that Brandon saving people actually angers his elders. It's like they don't appreciate him having a good soul, nor does the lives of the strays have any importance at all.

  14. LOL! You're so cute!

    Although I will say you're onto something.

    And you have a point. I get the feeling that Mitchell feels the same way; that's probably why he admires Brandon who will do stuff because it's right even if Mr. Smith doesn't approve. Mr. Smith sees it in another way of course.

  15. Sorry it took me awhile to get here, out of commission a few days.
    Fascinating look into the complicated 'relationships' that exist. I am still so intrigued by the tattoos, can't get my mind off them. Almost like the more intricate and larger the designs, the higher up in the food chain you are, or maybe, it means the number of kills. That could just be my bloodthirsty thoughts lately, LOL!
    At this stage of the game, I am trusting no one, not even Paula.
    Mitchell seems sweet, maybe too much so. My, my, so much to absorb, fascinating!!

  16. Don't worry drew. I'm glad you're reading at all. ^___^

    Oh, the tattoos. *keeps mouth shut* But I really enjoy speculation. REonan's doing a number on you, eh? XD

    Well, you shouldn't ever trust my first person narrators anyway, lol.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  17. Hi Lunar,

    Lovely read as usual... and it makes me think and ask questions... as usual. LOL!

    I'm amazed that Mitchell simply assumes Paula is a stray... and Brandon's stray at that. He obviously has no clue... but he seems to know she is a Neutral. Interesting that!

    Yay for Brandon! That fully explains his reaction to the fight. I'm glad he cares.

    Joke trading... you know I start to think that Mitchell is maybe a little 'simple'. It's so clever to build in that they not fully understand each other's jokes. That often is the case between people from different cultural and sociological systems.
    (Yet Brandon seems to understand her joke... and thinks she is weird. I laughed aloud then.)

    Amazing that Brandon knows what Mitchell and Paula have been talking about... Not so much about helping to make food, but explaining why he cooks for Paula without her asking it... and then extrapolating about Angel and Mitchell.
    I must admit, that feels a bit like mind-reading to me too...

    I really enjoyed this chapter. I particularly like how Paula is so much more at ease generally and especially with Brandon. As she recovers from the intial trauma, her character becomes more defined... and I like what I see. :)

  18. It's wonderful to hear from you Moondaisy. I love your qeustions. They let me know when I've been too vague.

    I imagine that Neutrals probably stick out like a sore thumb, but probably only once you've started talking to them. Then it probably becomes clear they aren't from the Wildlands.

    I have to admit, that shot of Brandon fighting has to be one of my favorites so far. It's the capability for good.

    And I figure that most of the jokes Mitchell and Paula were trading, they wouldn't have necessarily understood, but Paula's no legged dog joke is one that can translate through different cultures and backgrounds. She might have heard it from Mitchell...

    Oh the Angel an Mitchell thing, he just knows them. So he wasn't really extrapolating there, he just knows of the situation. And you also now know he wouldn't put up with someone being tortured, so hopefully you can assume that Mitchell isn't exactly mistreated or else Brandon might have stepped in. (That doesn't mean Mitchells in a great situation, but oh well that's for some day maybe later.)

    Thank you very much Moondaisy. I feel her character becoming more defined as I go along too. As we find out more about her, we'll probably understand why that is.

  19. Poor Paula, bandied from one guardian to another, not even aware of the culture she is in let alone how to handle her father or her brother or a protected stray. I loved the interaction between Mitchell and her, with Mitchell not able to grasp her position in this part of the world any more than she could understand his, yet they still kept each other company even through the cultural barrier.

  20. I think Mitchell is very important in this chapter for her. She needed to connect with someone normal, and Mitchell is pretty close to what she'd consider normal and on the level with her.