‘Rosa, wake up! Come on, get up already!’
The girl quietly groaned as her eyes slowly blinked open, vision blurry as her hand clawed around her bedside unit. Broken clock, lamp, sweet wrappers… Her fingers accidentally knocked her phone onto the floor. With a sigh she dangled over the bed to grab it and switch the screen on. Her eyes squinted as they focused on the fuzzy numbers. “Rio… It’s like… Half seven.”
‘But it’s your first day of school today!’
Rosa yelped as she lost her balance and fell off her bed, her elbow slamming into the unit. Feeling the pain flare through her arm, she grinded her teeth. “Ack! Motherfu-” She cut herself off as her gaze landed on her phone again, grumbling. “It’s Sunday, Rio.”
She heard a distant giggle. ‘Sorry, I was bored.’
Resisting the urge to yell, Rosa dragged herself back onto her bed and checked her elbow. The skin was red, however fortunately the red wasn’t running. It wouldn’t have been the first time she had gotten injured because of her annoying ‘roommate’. Her nose throbbed at the memory of running face first into a door, Rio’s sharp words swiftly converting into roaring laughter.
“Times like this, I really do wish you had a body. Then I could knock you out.”
Most girls in high school like her probably worried about lessons and making friends. However, Rosa worried about losing any friends she somehow made, through her apparent arguing with herself. For no one else could hear Rio, and not even Rio herself knew how they both woke up in a single body with their memories wiped clean.
‘Cheer up! At least we’re never lonely, eh?’
On the other hand, she would gladly swallow a rusty nail if it kept Rio away for a week. Five years of dealing with this strange voice, with barely a break or even a hint at why. It was a miracle she hadn’t gone back to the therapist since she was 12.
Her body gave a shudder as it crossed her mind. Those two years had been a blur, between the medical tests, her adoption and those strange nightmares that seemed to vanish without a trace. They had been long buried by her subconscious, but all she could remember was the colour red. Red like her eyes, like those eyes she saw once but would never forget, haunting her like the soft melody that had rang in her ears.
‘Rosie? Are you okay? You feel cold all of a sudden.’ In contrast Rio’s voice brought her both irritation and peace somehow, a strange blend that would have her yelling one minute then yielding to her the next.
‘I’m fine.’ Keep her thoughts internal, she didn’t want to go back. ‘I think I had a weird dream, it’s all blurry though.’ But had it all really been a dream?
Her stomach rumbled. No time for thinking. To the kitchen.
Rosa idly watched the milk drip from her spoon and form ripples in her bowl, resting her cheek against her fist.
Rio wasn’t the only bored one. Since they moved to New Leaf City, she was at a complete loss about what to do with herself. Sure, her eyes had tricked other kids into thinking she was a witch, so she never got bullied. But that rumour combined with her… Troublesome personality… It had been a miracle she had been able to make a few casual friends, none of whom lived anywhere near her now. If only her father’s coworker had been relocated with him, then she would still be able to hang out with his daughter Kari. Kari could not speak without stammering, yet she had never treated Rosa differently because of her eyes.
She had seen people with gold, violet, and even pink eyes. Yet since waking up at ten years old, she had only seen one other person with red eyes. If it had not been a dream like that woman had told her over and over. What else could it have been? Elves couldn’t learn magic that lured humans like a moth to a beacon.
‘Awww…’ she heard Rio’s familiar drawl. ‘Is Rosie feeling a little lonely?’
‘Two words, Rio!’ How sad it was, that the only consistent company she had outside her family was a voice in her head. A voice who also had identity issues. Rosa knew she was human, she did not possess any of the species traits or innate abilities that the only known non-human humanoids elves did. Nor did she have any fancy powers like levitating glasses, like witches and wizards had. However with Rio trapped inside her, there was no way of knowing what she was. Maybe she was a ghost who decided to possess a living being instead of an ordinary object. Maybe this was why ghosts possessing humans was unheard of. However, Rio’s existence would remain a secret between them.
‘You should go out and make some new friends! You’re not going to see any of those old folk all the way out here.’ Rio snickered. ‘Shame too, Kari was always fun to laugh at.’
Rosa sighed. Whilst sometimes it was funny to see others hurt themselves, she would not loudly proclaim it like this sadist. Maybe it was a good thing that Rio was trapped within her. ‘I’m 90% sure you used to trip orphans in a past life.’
As she continued to swish her spoon in her bowl, the door slammed. With a sudden jump, half of the milk ended up on the table. Rosa growled a curse that swiftly transitioned into a screech as someone hugged her by the neck.
“Language, Rosie!” that cheerful voice chirped, and she took steady breaths as she turned her head round to see the beaming face of her little sister. Lily, 11 years old and almost as tall as her. Not because Lily was far into her growth spurt, but because Rosa’s… Development… Had delayed.
“L-Lil, I told you not to scare me while I’m eating! Or any other time!” Pulling herself free, Rosa looked at the white liquid sprayed across the dining table. Her eyes darted around the kitchen before she pinched her nose. “God damn it, where’s the kitchen roll?”
Lily giggled, hopping over to the counter before reaching behind the microwave. Their mother put things in the strangest places. But at least they would eventually be found, unlike their father’s ‘safe places’. Mainly because he constantly forgot where those safe places were. “Sorry, I couldn’t help it.”
Rosa gave her a glare. The one they both knew meant ‘you bloody well can help it’. She opened her mouth then shook her head, snatching the roll off her to start cleaning. “Don’t you have anything better to do than trying to choke people whilst they’re eating?”
“Didn’t look like you were eating to me,” her younger sister said with a shrug before frowning. “You seemed pretty out of it, actually… Bad dream again, Rosie?”
Her hand froze as the tissue soaked up the spillage. Lily was four years younger, yet she had always seemed more perceptive to other people’s emotions than Rosa. Maybe it was just because she cared more, whilst Rosa found herself inside her own head so much and not just because Rio was in there with her. She tried, at the very least, she said to herself. “I’m fine, I probably ate too much chocolate before bed again.” She swallowed hard. “Hey Lil, do you ever get the same dream over and over?”
Lily glanced up, quiet for a moment before nodding. “Kinda? I’ve seen the same person in a few dreams before, you mean like that?” She gave a nervous giggle. “Like this same dude with purple eyes keeps bullying me, but it’s not real… I don’t think it means anything, Rosie.”
“Right,” she mumbled to herself before exhaling. She cleaned up the rest of the milk before standing. “Well, I’m going back u-”
“Wait!” Lily gripped her wrist, looking up at her with pleading eyes. “Please could you get me some more yarn? I ran out last night and forgot to order it.” Rosa opened her mouth only to stop as her little sister’s lip quivered. “I’ll promise not to annoy you for the rest of the day!”
She knew that promise would be broken before dinner. Nevertheless she forced a groan as she binned the tissue. Lily loved her crafting. And Rosa loved her creations, no matter how jealous it made her that her sister was more competent than her. “Fine, I needed to get more chocolate anyway.” Maybe she brought those nightmares onto herself, but she found it was impossible not to smile looking at Lily’s grinning face.
“Wait!” Right before Rosa opened the front door, Lily ran up to her with her hand held out. “You’re forgetting something, Rosie~!” She stared at the item for a few seconds before she groaned and swiped it, feeling heat in her cheeks.
Half an hour ago, she had taken a shower. Half an hour ago, she had put her phone in plain view on the kitchen table. She had walked past it twice getting a can of coke out of the fridge. How did she forget? “T-Thanks,” she mumbled, pocketing it.
Lily giggled. “Is your memory getting better or worse, sis?”
“If you don’t shut it, I might ‘forget’ your 12th birthday!” she retorted and Lily faked a gasp.
“Wha?! How could you, after I got you such an amazing present” she said with a faux whine, prompting Rosa to snort. Accurate, even if she could never admit it out loud. Her sister had crafted her a plush cat with a set of detachable wings. Some angelic, some draconic, even fairy-like. Currently it was decked out with the angel wings, perched on the shelf over her bed.
“Guess I’ll just have to do better.” Despite her words, she had no confidence in such a thing. Her go-to gifts were always store-bought fluffy toys.
Noticing it was beginning to drizzle, she shrugged her hood on. She ruffled Lily’s chestnut hair, laughing as she started whining, bright blue eyes glaring at her. “Don’t do that! I’m not a kid anymore!”
“Lil, you’ll always be a little brat to me.” Before her younger sister could swat her, Rosa ran out.
The wind nipped at her, blowing her red hair astray. Even with a jacket on, she found herself shivering. So much for it being Summer, she wouldn’t be surprised if it started snowing.
Rio piped up. ‘You’re so sensitive, it’s just a little wind!’
‘You wouldn’t be saying that if you felt it!’
She trekked down the street, getting slowly bombarded by rain drops that seemed to become more and more solid. Each strike was like an icy miniature bullet, harsh on her tiny body. And for the twentieth time that summer, she regretted wearing a skirt.
“What is with the weather here?” Rosa thought aloud, hugging herself as her legs trembled. British weather was strange as a whole, especially in the summer. Feeling like winter one day, a heat wave the next. Yet back before they moved to New Leaf at the beginning of the month, she had never seen freak snowstorms that lasted as little as 5 minutes sometimes.
‘Maybe it’s a bored magician, there’s rain magic, remember?’ Rio chirped, and she pondered the theory. Lily loved any and all forms of magic, and Rosa had been startled when one of the street magicians back home proved himself to be the real deal. No cards, no pulling coins out from behind people’s ears, instead their parents had ended up regretting not bringing an umbrella. The sudden downpour instead brought Lily out in giggles, and for the next few days Rosa watched her little sister desperately trying to re-enact it.
By now, they knew magic existed, yet only elves and 5% of humans had been observed with the potential to use it. Very few humans could do anything more than brighten up the dark or heal a scratch wound. ‘I wonder where witches and wizards came from… Could someone learn to use magic, or do you have to be born that way?’ She flexed her hand. Amusingly, she was adopted into the ‘Caster’ family yet none of her adoptive relatives could cast spells. As much as Lily tried to prove it when she accidentally knocked glasses off tables. The only thing Rosa could cast was a bad mood.
As she continued hiking down the street, hearing Rio chatter away in her head, the back of her neck prickled. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw no one but felt a cold draft. ‘I have a weird feeling…’ Stopping to glance around, her fist clenched as her eyes scanned her environment. No one was around, just a quiet street with nothing but a bird passing her. However her mouth felt dry, as her heart beat fast in her chest.
‘What’s wrong, Rosa?’ She barely registered Rio’s voice, ears focused on the outside world. Nothing in sight, yet she could hear footsteps, getting louder with each passing second.
‘Nothing…’ Only a little further to the town plaza. Adrenaline rushing through her body, her feet battered the ground.
The sky had cleared itself by the time she left the store, harsh wind now a gentle breeze against her skin as she idly swung the bag. Thankfully her arrival at said scene had not started a scene, when she had failed to pull her brakes on the adrenaline and fell through the automatic door. Rio had laughed as Rosa picked herself up, yet an uneasy feeling had lurked until she located the chocolate section. And her eternal companion was still complaining about it.
‘It’s no fair! Why can’t I taste it?’
'Because it’s not your body,’ she responded for a tenth, twentieth, she had forgotten how many times they had this conversation. 'Guess it sucks being born when chocolate didn’t exist.’
'Low blow!’ Rio whined, although neither of them truly knew if that was the truth. Neither of them knew exactly how old she was, when they had no idea if she had even been human before she became a trapped spirit. No one knew where spirits usually passed onto, or why they lingered on Earth instead. Elves had spirits but they rarely became chained down in the 'living world’.
'Who’s laughing now, huh?’ At the thought she heard the spirit continue to sulk, rolling her eyes. 'Grow up, I know you’re older than me.’ That was the only fact they could confirm about her when not even her name was certain to them.
Rosa took her phone out and texted Lily as they continued on their way. 'They were out of purple so I got some extra blue.’
Lily’s response was instant. 'It’s alright! Should I do another cat or a bunny?’
The older sister snorted, not even having to think about it as her attention diverted solely onto the phone screen. 'Do you have to ask?’
Lily sent a laughing cat. 'What about a cat-rabbit?’
'You mean a rabbat?’ Rosa paused. 'Cabbit?’
'I think you mean a catbit, Rosie!’
Rosa idly tapped a response, raising an eyebrow but not looking up as she heard quick footsteps. Probably her mind again, she reminded herself as a chill ran down her back. 'That sounds like a watch.’
As she finally put her phone away she heard a mouse-like squeak. And looked up to collide with something decidedly larger than a mouse. Her yelp was delayed as she fell backwards onto the pavement, phone safe in her pocket but shopping bag tumbling with her and out of her grip in her attempt to break her fall.
Ankle roaring with pain and vision tinted red, her sore hands blindly fumbled for her escaped bag as her stomach became heavy. “What the hell…” Wait a second, her stomach wasn’t heavy. Something heavy was on her stomach. And as she heard a quiet groan, her eyes finally cleared to meet wine-coloured irises.
That 'something heavy’ was a boy.
They gawked at each other with wide stares.