The glare of the morning sun hit her face. Zurie groaned pulling her pillow over her head to hide from the day. With a gasp she sat up. Today was the day. The small tattoo that would define her life, would have appeared on her arm.
Last night she and Edwin had talked until her father shooed him away. They had been friends since childhood. If he spoke the right words when they met again, her life would be perfect.
Males walked through life waiting for a female to gasp when he spoke to her and show the tattoo as proof of their compatibility. Females woke on their eighteenth birthday with a tattoo of words and waited for a male to say the words to her.
Taking a deep breath she looked down at her left arm. She blinked and looked again. The tattoo, in beautiful cursive, read, Move it, sweetheart. Some of us work every day.
Both phrases indicated someone from the working class. The first, a male addressing a female he didn’t know by name. It was too familiar a phrase to be used by the ruling class. The second, an unkind phrase used by the working class to address a member of the ruling class.
Zurie’s mother led the ruling council and her father was the most revered healer in the realm. Excluding servants and sales persons, she had never spoken to a member of the working class. She wasn’t a snob. At least she didn’t think she was. She simply didn’t know anyone of that ilk.
Following custom, she put on a long sleeve shirt. From now until she heard the words, she would be escorted by two guards to protect her from elitist hoping to claim her for political gain. Breakfast was silent as the family made a point of not asking about the tattoo. She left with her guards in tow.
“It’s a beautiful day, is it not?” Lakota, with a guard of her own, caught up with Zurie as they entered the school. They were best friends and shared everything, even the same birthday.
Zurie grinned, “It will be an interesting day.”
Lakota opened her mouth to reply but her comment was lost as males spoke to them. Neither heard the words they were waiting for.
By lunch time, Zurie no longer cared about her soul mate. She wanted to escape. Edwin wasn’t her soul mate. He was Lakota’s. She had smiled and said all that was proper, but she was heartbroken. She had been so sure she would be with Edwin. Even after the tattoo appeared, she expected him to say those words as a joke.
After school, Zurie walked to the cliffs overlooking the port. She watched a ship set sail and sighed. She loved watching the ships. Had she been born to a working class family she would have earned her living on the sea. She frowned at the romantic fantasy. It wasn’t real life.
She plopped down on the ground in the middle of a seldom used trail between the city and the port.
“Move it, sweetheart. Some of us work every day.”
Zurie jumped up and turned to face her mate. Well, he certainly looked good. Tall, impressive muscles, with a cultured voice that didn’t match his words or clothes.
“You moving or gawking? This bag’s heavy.” He shifted the bag to one shoulder as if to belie his comment.
“Don’t be. But next time have pity on those with jobs. Sit off the trail. G’day.”
She jumped in his way again. “Not sorry for being in your way. Sorry for this.” She rolled up her sleeve and held out her arm.
The sailor looked at the arm and the guards. The guards eyed the sailor and bowed. He cursed before throwing down the bag. He looked her over in disgust, “How did you find me?”
“Find you? I wasn’t looking for you. If you must know, I was here feeling sorry for myself because the male I was sure would be mine is the soul mate of my best friend. Now, I find myself mated to you.”
By her tone it was obvious that she was no happier than he. If he wasn’t so irritated, he would laugh. “Now—“
Zurie held up her hand. “Just answer me this, do I get to sail with you? I’ve always wanted to and I can learn to be a sailor’s wife. Well, maybe, if you teach me?”
He raised an incredulous eye. “You aren’t going to fight this?”
“Fight what? Neither of us can have children if we don’t mate. I want children. Don’t you?”
“I’ve spent so long running I didn’t consider that.” He cocked his head to one side as if he were now considering the possibility.
“Hey, Dav, you’re holding up the works. Leave the sweetheart—“
“Silence,” Dav’s voice cut through the air. “You will not address my mate so.”
“Your mate?” The other sailor walked over and looked at Zurie. “Er, Dav, she’s the council leader’s daughter.”
“When you present yourself to her parents they will know you.”
“How will they know you?” Zurie eyed the sailor.
“I’m Davlon.” He turned and headed toward the city, leaving both his mate and the bag behind.
Zurie gasped. In the whole of the realm, only one person carried that name. It couldn’t be him.
The other sailor bowed to Zurie. “Allow me to escort you. I’m Ralmond, the king’s personal guard, my queen.”
“Queen?” she squeaked as he grabbed her arm and followed Davlon. Her personal guards stayed close on her heels.