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The Beginning (Exerpt from Control)

The bright, white soul star is low in the sky while loose tendrils of hair fall from my pigtails and stick to my sweaty face and neck. Blackbirds fly above me, and I tip my head back to see them. My arms are stretched out like wings as I run in circles below the fowl, pretending I can fly as my dress clings to my legs.

I follow the birds until I am dizzy, then shake the bright spots from my eyes as my hair whips me in the face. Taking a pigtail in hand, I hold it in front of my eyes to see its strands of red and purple glisten in the light. I frown at the colors and, once again, pull the hair away from my face, recalling how my sister says my locks are ugly, making me wish I had yellow hair, like hers.


I turn toward my nanny. She throws a big white sheet over a line, brushing wrinkles from the fabric. She looks from her work to me, and a hand waves me closer. 

“Come closer so I can keep an eye on you.” 

Not wishing to comply, I look up at the birds again, turning my head side to side. I hold my hand out to the back wall of the courtyard, which is close enough to touch and allow the stone to scratch my fingertips. 

“Now, Ella,” Maria yells. 

I hang my head and kick at the ground as I move closer. I want to be older. Then I can chase birds anywhere I want. 

As I approach Maria, I see other servants coming into the yard. I stop. Maria greets them, and three boys begin walking toward me. 

I grin, waving a hand. One of the boys is my friend, Seth. The other two are Gopi and Ty. They are mean to Seth and me, but Maria says their nanny must bring them with her. She says even though they are mean, that I should be nice to them. Someday I will be queen, and this is good practice for me to learn how to treat others. 

“Hey, Ell,” Seth says. 

Gopi pushes Seth. “You’ve got a crush on her.” 

Seth turns red. “N-no,” he stammers. “No, I don’t.” He crosses his arms, and his frizzy brown curls fall into his face as he stares at the ground.

Gopi pushes Seth again, causing him to tip over. His arms wave in the air as he falls into the dirt.

“Gopi!” his nanny Sara yells across the yard. “You apologize to Seth this instant!” 

As she turns back to the other servants and brushes a sheet smooth, I glare at Gopi. “You have to apologize.” 

Gopi laughs. “No, I don’t.” He steps to Seth as he gets up from the ground and shoves him back down. 

“You’re so puny,” Gopi snickers. “You won’t ever have a title like me an’ Ty. Maybe that’s why you’re so small, ‘cause you’ll never be nothin’.”

I look over to see if Sara has noticed, but she is busy chatting with the others and doesn’t see. My face gets hot. I don’t know why she isn’t paying attention, it is her duty, after all.

“That’s not nice,” I say. “And it isn’t true!”

Gopi laughs in response. He’s the tallest of the boys with black hair and dark gray eyes. His eyes are kind of like Seth’s, although Seth’s are brighter. I don’t know what Gopi and Seth are; some kind of elemental, I assume, but I don’t know what class. They look like Ty and me, but I know fae do not have gray eyes.

Seth gets to his feet and rubs at the dirt stains on his pants. Ty stands behind Gopi with a mean look, whispers something, and they snicker. “Seth is small and weak,” Ty says with a sneer. He isn’t even like his brother, and my brother can beat up his.”

He is taunting Seth, prompting me to ball my hands into fists. “Stop it,” I tell him. “Stop saying those things.”

A tinge of red stains Seth’s face, and my eyes begin to burn as anger boils inside me. Again, Gopi shoves Seth, and he falls to the ground. I don’t think he even tries to stay on his feet. 

“You two are so stupid,” Gopi says with a laugh. 

“Yeah,” Ty agrees.

“The only reason anyone likes you is ‘cause you’re a princess, and everyone still likes your sister better.”

“No,” I tell him, but those words hurt. 

“You’re crying like a baby.” Ty laughs from behind Gopi.

“You two are friends ‘cause you’re both stupid babies!”

They laugh while my eyes blur. I look down at Seth, kneeling in the dirt. He wipes at his nose, and I wipe at my tears. Gopi reaches out to push Seth over again, so I run at Gopi. 

Gopi needs to go away, I think to myself. He needs to leave me and Seth alone

Another thought whispers through my mind as I stop in front of Gopi. Why not make him go away?

“Go away!” I shout as he reaches out with both hands and shoves me. 

I fall on my butt in the dirt and whimper. The boys high-five each other and laugh. An embarrassed warmth stings my cheeks, and anger boils in my belly. I wish Gopi would go away.

You can make Gopi go away. He can go away forever. I hear the whisper in the back of my mind, and the thought burns white-hot as Gopi continues to laugh. I look over at Seth, still sitting in the dirt. His round face is all blotchy and red, which makes me mad enough to stand up and I punch Gopi in the face. He stumbles, and Ty steps back too. 

“You stupid baby!” Gopi yells, putting a hand to his bleeding nose. 

His blood glistens red in the light, and my heartbeat speeds up at the sight of it. I want to hit him again, but he punches me first. I hit the ground, and the side of my face is hot and begins to throb. 

“I’m a shade. You can’t fight me!” he screams. “I’ll win!”

I see a broken piece of line, and that whisper in my mind returns. I look from the line to Gopi, who spits at me. There’s a physical snap in my chest, and my blood is like boiling water.

I push myself off the ground with the line in my hand. I barely hear the whisper over my pounding heart. Do it! Make him go away.

I clench my fists, and lunge at Gopi. We fall to the ground, but I squirm on top of him. I punch him in the face again and again. He is bleeding, and I realize that I like seeing him bleed. Someone is yelling my name, but it is far away. 

I grab the line in both hands. It is thin and bites like metal into my skin, but I grip it harder. I feel Seth pulling at my shirt while Gopi flails on the ground, and I push the line into his neck, pushing so hard that it cuts into his skin. Blood makes the line slick, so I tighten my hold.

When arms wrap around me to pull me away, Gopi is no longer flailing his arms. I don’t fight back as the line is shaken from my bloody hands. Gopi’s dark eyes are hazy and someone starts to scream. 

Gopi isn’t coming back, the whisper tells me.

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