Chapter Three

Chapter Three

A Chapter by Eleah Ruffin

"Listen up! Vnimaniye!" Thirty tiny heads quieted and turned at attention, wide-eyed. "This is your new student, Kira Pajari." The little girl stood tall, scanning each body in the room. Her brown lips frowned as her cheeks burned. She didn't like having so many eyes directed at her.

"Treat her with proper respect and honor." The instructor's square head boiled like a tomato. Kira pictured steam escaping from his nostrils. He looks like a pig. "I will have cooperation and order, understood?"

The class erupted in unison. "Yes, sir."

"Yes, what?" He raised a hand to his ear.

The class tried again, much louder this time. "Yes Mr. Barkov, sir!"

He grunted, clearly satisfied. With a firm nudge, he led the girl to her seat. "In your seat, Pajari." She did as she was told, the cold plastic seeping through her black cargo pants. She adjusted the tight collar of her light blue button-down. I hate sitting.

The white cement walls were decorated with posters condemning figures. Scrawled in print were symbols Kira recognized as Korean. Mr. Barkov retreated to his desk in the far-right corner, reaching to switch on a bulky radio. He adjusted the signal and volume, and a loud, nasally voice echoed through the classroom. The funny man's enthusiastic tone contrasted the grave news about some people dying in a local attack. He stated that the mayor or authorities had yet to say anything about it. As she looked around, however, no other students seemed bothered or interested in what the funny man had to say.

Kira instead focused on a girl who sat on the opposite side of their circular table, staring at her. The instructor's mumbles at the radio faded into the background as Kira turned to stare right back. What does she want? Her big eyes averted back to the chalkboard, a rosy tint coloring her milky cheeks. Kira scratched her head. Weird girl.

The instructor handed out colorful worksheets. All the students had to practice their counting and recognizing numbers. Kira hated it. Numbers were dumb.

She worked silently, brow furrowed in deep concentration. One, two, three, four... weird upside-down hook? She forgot that one, chewing on her pencil.

"That's a five." The boy next to her leaned too close for comfort. His tousled black hair nearly touched her forehead.

Kira briskly scooted away. "I know what it is!"

"Then why didn't you write it?"

"Because I was thinking of something else." She pouted.

He smirked, his eyes like warm coffee. "Yeah, sure."

"Leave her alone Sunny." The big-eyed girl chimed in softly. "You're the same way with shapes anyway."

He lifted his arms in defense. "Hey, squares and rectangles look basically the same!"

"Sure, they do." Kira laughed. "Don't listen to him Kira, he's a big weirdo."

"Not as weird as you, Yvie."

She scrunched her pink nose while tucking away a free strand of dark brown hair. "My mom says I'm special, thank you very much."

"I'm pretty sure all parents are supposed to say that." He turned to Kira. "What do your parents say?"

Kira had continued working on her assignment, absently answering. "My papa says I'm special sometimes." She paused. "He's not always around though."

"What about your mom?"

"She died." Silence. "My papa fostered me because my birth parents didn't want me. That's what I was told at least. The mom died before I came." She hastily erased an error she made.

"That stinks not having a mom." Yvie pouted, eyes shimmering as if they would break into tears.

"Why do I need a mom? My papa can do just as much."

Her newfound friends sat in contemplation. Finally, Sunny shrugged. "Parents are weird."

Another classmate to the far-right poked her head up. "Can you three please shush? Some of us are trying to work." She didn't wait for a response and buried herself once more.

The three of them looked at one another. Then they laughed heartily, avoiding the instructor's harsh gaze.

----- ♠️ -----

"�'а́ры деру́тся - у холо́по�™ чубы́ треща́т." Kira lay on her bed, one arm tucked underneath her head. Far above on the ceiling was a black and white poster, with two intimidating figures dressed in formal military attire. Their large black fingers were cast downward, their faces completely dark and unreadable. Almost judging her for not doing her part in the war. When the rich make war it's the poor that die. An old Russian proverb.

She pursed her lips, turning to grab her journal on the nightstand. She snatched her pen and began to add on to her entry from earlier that day: 01 June 2119.

War happens. People die. It can't really be helped, that's how humans are. Nothing really shocks me at this point. Everyone has a job to do.

But what happens when the poor make war? Would it be the same? Wars are usually fought by the selfish and elite. Everyone's greedy, fueled by pride and greed and gluttony. Deadly sins.

But the poor can be selfish in ways that the elite can't. Everyone has a little bit of darkness inside them. Some might not even know it's there. Or perhaps they do, but they ignore it because they're terrified. Terrified that they don't have the strength to control it, that if they make a mistake, it could spiral into ugly chaos. So, people choose to pretend it doesn't exist, quarantine and lock that part of themselves away so it does no damage.

War never changes. "Kira?"

She turned. Yvie stood at the entrance to the barracks, scrunching her nose as she adjusted the collar of her white button-down. She always hated the uniforms.

Kira shut her journal and placed it back on the stand. "Something wrong Yvie?"

"Just wanted to see what you were up to."

Kira sat up straight, adjusting the ice pack on her ankle. She'd come back to rest per Sunny's request after getting checked at the infirmary. She had showered and changed into an old gray t-shirt and sweatpants. It wasn't as if she was missing anything. Her watch indicated it was 17:30 pm, free time.

"I'm just resting my ankle for a bit."

"You, resting?" Yvie smirked, sitting at the edge of the bed.

"Sunny wouldn't leave me alone until I agreed to do so."

"That definitely sounds like him." Kira smiled. "He is right though."

"Yeah, yeah, I get the message." Yvie poked her leg, muscles tensing on instinct. "You know I don't like the poking."

"I know." Yvie continued to poke, sticking her tongue out playfully.

Kira cocked her eyebrow. "Luckily I'm too lazy to stop you." She lay back down, her fluffy pillow enveloping her head. "You headed off somewhere?"

Her usual fairy-like tone darkened. "Patrol duty."

"Why do you say it like that?"

"You haven't heard?"

"Heard what?" Kira sat up once more, ears perked.

"About the gang activity." Yvie was close enough that Kira could see her distant golden eyes, lost in thought. "It's been happening for a while now."

Kira's heart jumped. "Gangs?"

"Yeah. In the city, there's a group of rebels. There've been some reports of activity past curfew, late meetings that have been spotted. They've been attacking any soldiers or personnel that interferes with them."

"That must be why Lieutenant was distracted during Formation."

"They're getting out of control. Only two came back from the last patrol. The team got ambushed, three Cadets died."

Kira was silent. Anger boiled in her stomach as her fist balled tightly. "When did this happen? How did you find out?" Why wasn't I informed?

"The attack happened yesterday. I overheard today by some higher rank soldiers passing by. They were talking about protocol since they're coming with the Cadets."

"D****t." She took a breath. "These rebels need to be taught discipline. We can't have people breaking the rules whenever they want. People will get too confident, too comfortable. Next thing you know we have an uprising on our hands."

"Well, you wouldn't be the only one who thinks that. The Major General of Nevada Republic Army is sending more of his Warrant Officers and Sergeants over to maintain order."

"My papa? General Andrei Pajari?"

"Yeah."

She sat and processed. It was a little overwhelming. She wasn't surprised that her dad hadn't mentioned anything, not even in a letter. He must be swarmed with work.

The warmth of Yvie's hand in hers calmed her a bit, the slowly rising fury dying down. "I know that look, Kira. Relax, I'm sure they'll get everything under control. They always do."

"That's not what concerns me."

"What do you mean?" Kira averted her gaze, her cheeks burning. Yvie's innocent eyes bore into her. "Are you worried about me?"

"Why wouldn't I be? You just said that three cadets died on the last patrol."

"I'll be fine. I can handle myself."

"But you just said people died, Yvie! Why are you so okay with it?

"I'm not. I'm terrified because I don't know what will happen." Yvie's voice trembled. "But being afraid and worry won't change anything. I still have a job to do."

"Am I not allowed to be concerned for my friend's safety?"

"It's not your job to worry."

"As both your Corporal and your friend, yes, it is."

"Well stop worrying. I'll be okay. Like I said, they're sending Warrant Officers with us to ensure that nothing goes wrong. They're highly trained, they know what they're doing."

"That's not the point!" Kira's temper was growing out of control. Breathe. Yvie wasn't fazed as Kira took deep breaths. The girl made herself comfortable on the bed, side by side.

Yvie wrapped an arm around Kira's shoulder, squeezing her tightly. She always gave really nice hugs.

"You can't keep doing this Kira."

"Maybe I can talk to them, convince them to let me come with."

"Why? What good would that do?

"I don't know! I just�""

"Kira what could you possibly do that a Warrant Officer can't?"

"I don't care. I... I'll..." Words caught in her throat, choked up from frustration.

"Why are you worrying yourself over something that hasn't even happened?" Yvie rubbed her shoulder gently. "And maybe trust me a little, huh? I've been doing this just as long as you. We've been friends for years."

"When do you leave?"

"We head out at 19:00. We'll be back before 24:00, they don't want any cadets doing overnight patrol for now."

Kira grumbled, shifting her leg so the ice pack fell to the side. "So help me, Myung... Be smart, stay vigilant and be safe."

Yvie smirked. "Tell me something I don't know." She embraced her deeply, milky cheeks dusted a faint pink. "I appreciate your concern sestra."

Sister huh? Sister couldn't even begin to scratch the surface of how much the two of them have been through. Sneaking out of the barracks to an empty warehouse that isn't being used for all their late-night conversations since they were in junior high. Tag teaming during PT and humiliating Isa. Pranking Sunny into believing he had slept in a whole day and skipped out on all his duties.

Kira would never be able to forgive herself if anything happened to her. She'll come back. Quit worrying. Funny how people will burden themselves over things completely out of their control. She hated it.

Kira awkwardly pat the girl's head. Physical affection didn't come naturally to her. "Wanna grab a snack from the mess hall? I'm hungry."

Yvie chuckled, pulling away. "When was the last time you ate?"

She thought for a moment. "Maybe early afternoon? I don't remember."

"Oh my god, Kira." She stood up. "You really are hopeless."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Kira snatched her ankle brace from the nightstand to her right and strapped up before standing.

"Really? The smart, athletic, attractive Kira Pajari, top of her class, can't even manage to take care of her most basic needs?"

"Oh, cut off." She playfully smacked Yvie's shoulder as they exited the bunker with stomachs growling

----- ♠️ -----

"And how was your first day, little kotenok?"

"It was good. I made two friends." Kira sat in her purple pajamas, swinging her small legs back and forth in the old dining room chair. The polished brown table groaned from the dishes her papa placed on top. Fluffy loaves of bread with fresh strawberry perseveres. Sizzling roasted sausage soaked in gravy with potatoes and vegetables. He finished placing the pickled cabbage and tvorog. She didn't understand why he made so much, he was the only one who liked that smelly cottage cheese stuff so much.

"Oh? You made two already? See, I told you there was nothing to worry about kotenok." The chandelier above was motionless, the lights inside bouncing on the striped green walls in a broken rainbow. Shelves surrounded the edge of the room with pretty china that her papa hardly ever used. If the shelves were opened, she knew to be expecting company, and to be on her best behavior. Papa says he uses it to impress his superiors for military stuff. She didn't know the details. Whenever she asked, he would stroke her hair, saying Not to worry kotenok, my little kitten. It's just silly adult stuff.

He always said that. Just silly adult stuff. "Yeah, you were right papa." She continued to swing her legs, eagers to start eating. Papa was a good cook, her mouth salivated just at the thought of tasting that sweet sausage.

"Sit still kotenok, we'll eat very soon." She ceased with her legs, still clearly jittery and ready to dig in. The creases of his tan forehead showed his concern. He clearly hadn't brushed up, his unruly salt and pepper hair kept tickling his face. Kira chuckled at papa's frustration with pushing it back. He'll most likely get a haircut soon.

Crinkles formed around his stormy gray eyes as he gazed at her, smirking. "You are very excited, no?"

"I'm hungry."

"Yes, I see." He finished adjusting the plates and silverware. "What would you like to drink?"

"Is there anymore ryazhenka?"

"No, kotenok. I'll need to get some more. You finished the last bit of it, remember?" Kira pouted. She loved the taste of the sweet milk. "We have some kompot if you'd like that?"

"Okay." Papa circled around the table, stroking the thick hair on her head before walking through the archway into the kitchen. He was a big fan of stripes, much to Kira's dismay. The white and gray with intertwining diamonds demonstrated his high sense of glamour and taste. His feet clicked on the white tile floor, stopping in front of their tall refrigerator. Out of it, he pulled a glass pitcher filled with a bright red juice. Kompot wasn't fermented milk, but the sweetness of the berries would be enough to satiate her eager taste buds.

Papa approached the table with his usual charm. Those dimples could cause any woman to swoon over him. They always did. He poured Kira's glass. "You only get one glass tonight. After that, you drink water."

"Papa..." She crossed her arms in frustration.

"No 'papa' me. It's no good for children to have too much sugar. You have too much energy as is."

"Humph."

He laughed, circling back to his seat next to hers. Just as he was about to sit down, the telephone rang.

"Ugh. Always with the phone calls. Can never catch a break." Papa shook his head, flashing a wink at his daughter. "Don't worry my kitten, I'll be back in one minute. Go ahead, start counting." He stood up, racing through the archway around the corner for the phone.

Kira pouted. How many numbers is a minute? She took a sip of her drink. I'll just count until he gets back.

"Hello? Yes?"

One, two, three... "Why, what do you want?"

His usually soothing tone was replaced with a much gruffer, huskier one. It must be military things. Just silly adult stuff.

Four... uh, five? Six, seven... "She's with me. What of it?"

It's eight, right? Uh, nine, ten, eleven, twelve... "She's happy here. There's no need to."

What comes after that? One-three? Kira slumped in her seat, twiddling her fingers on the ebony table. Counting is hard.

Papa's voice was getting louder. "No, you listen to me. She is my daughter; she stays with me. I don't care what General Petrov says." He paused. "Insubordination? Oh please." He started throwing out slurs and cursing in Russian, failing to keep his tone down.

Kira began to squirm, her stomach grumbling ferociously. At this rate, her stomach would start eating itself.

What number was I on? Papa told her to count, but she lost her place. "She's fine here. I'm not sending her away. I am taking care of her. There's no need to send her to that place."

Send me where? Was Kira leaving? She didn't want to leave. "Papa?"

He paused, speaking in a hushed tone. She finally heard the click of the phone, her father reappearing with his usual smile. There were no crinkles around his eyes though.

"I'm so sorry kotenok. How long was I? I bet it was under a minute."

She looked down in shame. "I lost count. I'm sorry papa."

He stopped. Instead of taking his place at the table, he came to her side and knelt down. "It's okay kotenok."

"Counting is hard."

"I know, I know. We can work on it together, yes?" He held her chin gently. "Don't look so sad my kotenok. Counting takes practice, and one day you'll be excellent at it."

"Am I going somewhere?"

"Huh?"

"On the telephone. Am I going somewhere? Do I have to leave?" Papa sighed, stroking her head in comfort. His green sweater was fading, the red polka dots now appearing more pinkish. "I don't want to leave papa. Please."

"You're not leaving my little kotenok. Not ever." He firmly clasped her shoulders, desperate to hold onto her. "You will stay here, with me. For however long you like."

"Forever?"

He smiled. The crinkles were back. Warmth radiated from those stormy eyes. Complete silence enveloped them, nothing but the distant ticking of a clock. The whirs of the refrigerator hummed far away. It was just the two of them in this big, empty house. But it wasn't lonely. It was home.

Papa rubbed her back softly. "If you wish, then forever it shall be." Kira swiftly leaned forward, wrapping her tiny arms around his neck. His hair tickled her face, but she didn't care. "My little kotenok, sweet little kitten."

The growling of her stomach startled both of them. He laughed heartily. "You are starving, eh?"

"The food's probably cold by now."

"Bah! We can reheat in oven. Then it will be fresh."

"It's not fresh if it's reheating."

"That's where you're wrong." He poked her nose. "Come, you can help me." Papa picked her up to hold her in the crook of his left arm. He grabbed the sausage with his right, singing old hymns and bellowing from the pit of his stomach. It was just the two of them in the corner the kitchen, Kira wanting to fiddle with the stove and Papa frantically pulling her away. Just the two of them.

Forever and ever.

----- ♠️ -----



© 2019 Eleah Ruffin


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Added on July 17, 2019
Last Updated on July 17, 2019
Tags: Fiction, Novella, Dystopia, Young Adult


Author

Eleah Ruffin
Eleah Ruffin

About
My name's Eleah. I'm an Undergraduate student majoring in Psychology and hoping to minor in Creative Writing. I have loved writing since I was in middle school. Unfortunately, as a college student I o.. more..

Writing
Chapter One Chapter One

A Chapter by Eleah Ruffin


Chapter Two Chapter Two

A Chapter by Eleah Ruffin