When Tila finally stopped marching, her fury had lessened to become merely a righteous anger.
‘What is wrong with these people? Why do they think I’m going to attack them? What sort of planet is this, anyway? Back home I can shout at someone without being attacked. Why are they so scared?’
Ellie sheepishly poked Malachi rather than say anything. You tell her, said her finger.
Malachi scratched his head as he searched for a diplomatic answer.
‘I guess things are different here, Tila.’
‘Oh, you think!?’
‘Maybe we should try doing things differently,’ Ellie suggested.
‘Like what, Ellie?’ said Tila, turning on her friend. ‘What should we do? Do you have anything you can do to help? Anything at all? Or are you just going to dance around and look at the sky and keep reminding us how amazing and magical everything looks? Well, we know, okay? If you want a vacation you’re in the wrong place.’
‘Tila-‘ Malachi began but Ellie shouted over him.
‘You know what, Tila? I don’t know what to do! I never said I did. But your plans are not working. Or did I miss the part where someone cared and listened to you. Oh, that’s right, they didn’t. The only people who care enough to listen are right here, but you’re too busy trying to make things happen. You can’t force people to hear what you want to say, and trying to fight everyone all the time is not going to work!’
‘Ellie, acting like a princess is not going to work either.’
‘Tila…’ Malachi repeated. This was getting out of hand.
‘A princess!?’ Ellie was almost speechless. Tila had never spoken to her like this before.
‘Yeah, a princess. Someone who floats around expecting everyone else to look after her.’
‘But… I don’t… I’ve never…’
‘Well, you’re not doing anything useful, are you?’
Ellie just stared at the ground.
‘Or did I miss the part where you swoop in and save the day?’
‘Fine,’ said Ellie through gritted teeth. ‘You don’t need me getting in your way then, do you?’ Without waiting for an answer Ellie turned and started walking. She raised one hand to her face and wiped it on her leg.
What is going on here, thought Malachi.
‘What are you doing?’ he hissed at Tila. ‘You can’t let her walk away in a strange city.’
Tila folded her arms and refused to look at Ellie. ‘She’ll be back.’
‘No, she won’t. You know why? Because she is as stubborn as you.’
‘She’ll be back. She needs us.’
‘But you just convinced her you don’t need her!’ Tila said nothing. Malachi sighed, ‘You know, sometimes you hit too hard, and not with your fists. But Ellie’s right, not everything is a fight. Now, are you coming to help me find her, or do you want to do the rest of this on your own?’
Malachi jogged to catch up with Ellie. Tila followed.
Ellie had no destination in mind when she stormed off. She was only interested in putting some distance, and ideally some buildings, between herself and Tila as fast as possible.
She turned at the first corner and found herself in shadow. Full sunlight graced the other side of the street but here the tall buildings blocked out the direct sunlight. Ellie backed out of the way of the pedestrians crowding the sidewalk until her shoulders rubbed against the cool, stone wall behind her.
Despite the shadowed alleyway, the sun was higher now, approaching noon, and the streets were filling once again with hungry workers and shoppers. Ellie didn’t know which way to go, but decided it didn’t matter. As long as she kept moving forward she would be further away from Tila, and that was the most important thing. And if Tila did come looking for her and couldn’t find her? Well, that was Tila’s problem.
Ellie set out again. First, she crossed the street to walk in the sunlight instead of the shadow. The buildings shaded both the heat of the sun as well as the light, and the warmth of the sunlight flooded over her and made her shiver, just once, as she stepped into the brightness.
Ellie wandered further along the street, past bevelled stone foundations and sheets of perfect glass. The street ahead curved to the right where the changing angles allowed the sunshine to fill both sidewalks. But as tempting as it was to feel the warmth of the sun on her skin, it was another of her senses that sprang to life.
From an alleyway on her right drifted the most incredible smells. She followed her nose and stomach and emerged in a courtyard, hidden between skyscrapers, and filled with a sea of stalls covered in white and green canopies which shaded market traders and food offerings from the sun.
Only a few days earlier, Ellie had wandered the New Haven market where the only light was artificial and the walls bare metal. There, the terraces climbed until they met the cold walls and ceiling of the repurposed spaceship. Everything on the Juggernaut had a ceiling.
But here, the wind – a natural wind formed from rising air, not ancient and corroded ventilation systems – tugged against the stall canopies, and the heights of the surrounding buildings led her eyes upward, not to a roof, but to an open sky.
Even though the city surrounded her on all sides, Ellie could sense the hugeness of the world here as much as she did in the open fields through which they had walked early that morning. The glimpses of the sky above and the buildings stretching up to them showed her a world in which there was room to breathe and move and grow. The Juggernaut contained people. It trapped them. But this place – this place set them free.
Fresh smells demanded her attention once more, and Ellie lowered her eyes and realised how hungry she was. When had she last eaten? Not since they had landed, she knew that much. There had been too much happening, too much newness all around her, for Ellie to remember that her body needed feeding as much as her soul.
She plunged into the market, thrilled at this secret place that she had discovered all on her own.
The sights and smells of dozens of foods delightfully assaulted her senses. Everyone here was involved in food in one way or another. If they weren’t cooking or selling it, they were queuing, buying, eating, or looking for somewhere to sit.
A server carrying a tray of unknown delights approached her and passed by on her right. Ellie’s eyes were glued to it. She turned on the spot to follow it, and kept turning until she had completed a full circle. Her tummy rumbled and her mouth watered.
If only she had some money.