'I'm a star.'
With a sharp intake, James snapped awake, bolting into a sitting position. From his spot next to Jessica, he quickly breathed. Only shallow breaths came to him.
Jessica stared up at him. Between being wary of the city dwellers, and sleeping in a single small bed together, she woke up as soon as he bolted upright. "James." She whispered, just so she wouldn't startle him. "What happened? Nightmare?"
James slowly turned to look at Jessica. He blinked, wiping his hair out of his brow. "Jess? Is that you?" He squinted. It was hard to tell in the dark of Jessica's shed, but... His friend looked so strange and foreign.
Jessica frowned and sat upright, the sheets falling off of her. "...Yeah, yeah it's me." She extended a hand, grasping James' shoulder. She strained to see in the dark, tried to find his barely less dark eyes. "Are you okay? You're starting to scare me."
James flicked his eyes toward where Jessica's soft hand held his shoulder. He looked back to her, and noticing the familiar curves of her face, and the volume of her hair, smiled. He nodded a little, pulling up the bed sheet. "Yeah." He let out a sigh. It felt like relief, but he didn't know why. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just had some kind of nightmare."
Jessica stared at him for a moment before removing her hand. "Wanna talk about it?"
James furrowed his brow and looked off into space. What was it about?
James must have been staring for too long, because Jessica suddenly gave him a good firm poke to the side. He flinched and looked to her.
She just offered a smile that his dark adjusted eyes easily made out (her smile was pearly white). She lessened the grin and asked, "Well? What was it about?"
James shrugged. "I don't know. I forgot." He furrowed his brow, not happy with the answer.
Jessica frowned. She stared at him for a moment, as if to gauge whether or not he was letting her on. When she didn't see any of the usual signs of him lying, she laid back down. "Well... Regardless, try to get some more sleep. Tomorrow is seven day. Gotta meet Marc again."
James laid down with Jessica. He looked at her for a brief moment. Eyes closed, faint smile, curled up. She looked so comfortable, like sleeping on half a bed was all she'd ever known.
James looked back up the ceiling of the shed and blinked a few times. That dream bothered him. What did being a star meant?
Stars are gods, or big balls of fire, or even specks leftover from an overuse of magic, long ago.
Magic? He didn't know how he knew that, but he did. It was weird, but he felt like he knew.
His eyes drooped with the thought. He knew from some other time, when he did... Something.
Sleep took him again.
"The sun is shining!"
James grunted, and wrapped his arms around his stomach. Jessica always knocked the wind out of him on a seven day. She always woke up as soon as the sun rose on a seven day. She was always the most energetic on a seven day.
He rolled up and stretched, smoothing out the blacks and whites of his mantle thing. Someone called it a mantle once. It stuck with him.
Jessica was busy packing supplies into his and her backpacks for the seven day. She was so energetic.
James scooted out of bed and scratched at his back. "What are we getting today?"
"Whatever they have!" Jessica exclaimed, waving a spatula. She tossed a (stale) donut at him. It landed in his yawning mouth.
He took a bite and stood next to her, watching her movements as he tried to wake up.
As he ate, he started to doze again, standing up.
Jessica slapped his backpack into his chest, startling him awake. He winced.
"Come on, time to go." She held one strap over her shoulder and marched right out the door.
James proceeded in first gulping down the doughy breakfast and then in following after her.
James had learned very quickly just how large the City was. It spanned fifteen day's walking, from sunrise to sunset, not including sleeping in between. It was also during these past few weeks that he learned that in addition to being his best friend, Jessica was also his only means of getting along in the city.
For some reason, he couldn't memorize anything about the grey buildings, dingy vacant lots, or black streets. He had brought it up with Jessica, but she couldn't give him a definitive answer why he couldn't grasp the City. So, without any real hang ups, James just decided it would be for the best if he stuck around with Jessica until he got his bearings, if that ever happened.
"No! This is worth at least fifteen bottles!" Jessica shouted as she slammed a fist down onto a wooden counter.
In his haze of the morning, James wondered how easy it would be to learn the City. Being lost would be less embarrassing than the scene Jessica causes every seven day.
Regardless of her methods, she did get results. Seven days, and Jessica's skills in trading, were maybe the only reason they survived at all. Eating trash isn't even remotely healthy; its the stale pastries and sub par fruits and vegetables Jessica gets that keep them sustained.
James blinked, and yawned as he followed Jessica, who was now wearing a backpack full of apples and oranges.
"Ready to haggle with Marc?" She grinned back at him.
When he let out a croaking sound as a response, she only giggled as retort. "You know, you may be the only guy he's ever gone a good ten minutes without cussing out!"
He just smacked his lips, still asleep. "I think its cause I'm not really talking to him at all."
That made Jessica chuckle. "Naw, I think he likes you." She snorted. "Not the way he likes me, but still." The sarcasm was thick on her breath, James could smell it.
They continued down the street and on into the living areas. The places Jessica told him that people who had 'money' and worked in the City lived.
It was a difficult concept to grasp, but the results spoke for themselves. The living areas were all like super sized sheds, and could very well fit twenty people if they slept and lived the way he and Jessica did.
They stopped at a particular living area, the same one they do every seven day. The one with the overgrown grass, the rusted bike in the grass, the piles of mail stuck into the box in the front, and the boarded up windows that matched the peeling paint.
"Marc's house." James fluttered his eyes, trying to get the sleep out. By this point of the seven day, he was totally awake. Or at least when he stepped into Marc's house.
"Mhm!" Jessica chirped, marching across the grassy pathway to Marc's front door. James stayed at her heel, lugging he forgot whatever was in his backpack with him. She clacked the large brass knocker on the front. "Marc, open up!"
The door swung open, Marc standing at the threshold. He crossed his arms across his chest. "You're early. Bring a bunch of stupid shit again, or something useful?"
Jessica visibly cringed. "No, no stupid stuff, Marc."
James nodded, eyeing the surrounding living areas. Its weird that there was never anyone else around Marc's living area.
Marc shrugged and signaled for them to follow him as he retreated into his abode. Jessica and James followed him, as they had time before, into his dining room, which was somewhat barren, except for the basic fixtures.
Jessica gave a sound of intrigue as she sat down at her usual spot. "What happened to all the dirty plates and take out cartons?"
James, as per his own wont, took a random spot at the table, setting his backpack next to him.
Their host sat across from Jessica, grunting, eyeing her. "I finally got someone to help me clean." He sniffed. "Smells better. Makes me less agitated." It was something he was known for, and James thought maybe there was something else keeping him from flying off as usual.
"What did you bring me?"
"Well," Jessica countered, grinning the grin of a predator, "What do you have?"
Marc grunted. "Weapons."
"P-" Jessica stopped and grabbed her own chin, humming. "New ones?"
Marc shrugged. "New to you. Relatively new to me. Still old things."
James rubbed his rumbling stomach and watched the negotiations. Before he could ask, Marc cut him off with a "Yes, you know where the food is, no you can't have anymore than a handful of bottom shelf." James nodded and wandered to the kitchen, leaving them to argue.
Grabbing a handful of drumstick, he tossed the fridge closed. The kitchen looked cleaner, so his appetite wasn't leaving anytime soon.
It was while he was appreciating the decor of Marc's kitchen that he noticed something laying against the counter, in the corner. It was long, and wrapped in a leather sack. He grabbed it and came back to the others.
He interrupted their argument and presented it. "What's this?"
They both looked at him. Marc shrugged. "Yours. Its an old brittle sword. It was part of a bundle trade and I was going to throw it out."
James bobbed his head and looked inside the cylindrical sack. "Wow, thanks Marc."
Marc grunted and went back to his debate with Jessica. They just sounded like they wanted to argue about something. it wasn't even related to the trades anymore.
James removed the sword to look at it better. It was smooth and shiny, and so reflective he could see himself in it.
He grinned at himself.
'You're a star.'
James flinched and almost dropped the half sheathed sword.
He jumped and looked to Marc, expecting to be yelled at about some offense. But Marc only gently shook his head, his usual scowl and glare gone. He bobbed his head toward Jessica.
James slowly looked to Jessica. He paled to match her expression. "What is it Jess?"
She pointed to him. "Your forehead. Something on it is glowing. Really bright."
James furrowed his brow. "Glowing?" He looked up at his forehead, and then at the sword, to see his reflection.
What looked like beams of light were just then fading away from his forehead. He blinked and cleared away his hair. The lights left behind black lines in zig zags and lines.
He looked to Jessica, pointing to his forehead. "What is this symbol?"
Jessica shook her head, confused. "...I think its a crown."