Issa grumbled and rolled over. He’d been awake since first light, but had been pretending to sleep. Hoping to shut out the daylight. It was bad enough that he’d been waking with the sunrise for the last week, but this was the first day of the Sun Festival. It was all anyone talked about for the last month. Even in school, they’d been instructed to make decorations and prepare presentations or.. ugh.. plays. Insufferable.
“Ben! Up you get, or you’ll miss your first class!”
He shut his eyes tighter. Why did she have to call him that? He’d been ‘Issa Darkflame’ for a whole month. It wasn’t the name he’d been born with, but it suited him better than ‘Benjamin Carpenter’ ever would. And it wasn’t that hard to remember.
“Come on, sleepy head,” his mother called again. “I made eggs for breakfast, but your father will eat them all if you don’t hurry!”
“I’m awake,” Issa muttered, listening to her leave. He sighed deeply and pushed himself up. Heavy curtains blocked out the daylight, except for a single sliver sneaking in to illuminate a line of dark-carpeted floor. Avoiding that ray of light like the plague, Issa moved to his clothes cabinet. An array of neatly hung or folded dark-colored shirts and pants greeted him. The more colorful clothing his parents insisted he wear on “special occasions” were all in their own boxes, at the back of his cabinet. Also neatly folded, but out of sight.
It took time to prepare for the day, but that was fine. He’d rather not leave the house this week, much less go to classes where everyone else would be celebrating light and all its virtues. The best thing light did, if you asked Issa, was create shadows. He smirked at that thought, buttoning his shirt. Nearly finished, he went to the small mirror on his wall and ran his fingers through his hair. It was long and dark, though not the rich midnight black he wished it were. Oh well, he could try staining it again later. A small pot of ashes and grease he’d mixed himself sat on top of his clothes cabinet, along with a small brush from one of his father’s old woodworking kits, and some silver jewelry. Time for the finishing touches.
Ten minutes of fussing later, Issa looked at his reflection once more to make sure everything was right. One silver spiral hung on a dark cord from his neck, another from a braid in his hair, beaded with green and amber stones. He had no fur to shave in intricate patterns, like the sira did, but he did have his dark grease-paint. Small black flames graced his wrists, just hidden under dark, fingerless gloves, and a spiral was drawn onto his collar bone, right where his shirt collar would cover it. Delicate dark lines traced his eyes, making them stand out and look more angular and darker than they actually were. Only the marks on his face would be visible to the general public, which was how he liked it.
By the time he made it down to breakfast, the eggs were cold, but his plate sat untouched. Apparently the threat of his father eating all the food had been an empty one. The man wasn’t even in sight. Probably left for work early.
His mother turned from where she was washing the dishes in a basin at the far end of the kitchen. “Finally,” she said, then raised an eyebrow. “Really, Benjamin? Black clothes for the first day of the Sun Festival?”
Issa sat down and stared at his plate, answering dispassionately. “It’s Issa now, Mother, and I wear what makes me comfortable.” He continued to stare at his plate until his mother took notice and peered over to see what the matter was.
She grinned. “Sunny side up.” It was apparently her mission in life to remind him constantly of the impending doom that awaited him in town.
Issa rolled his eyes, but stabbed the pair of ‘suns’ on his plate and began to eat. Eggs were a good way to start the day, usually. Somehow, today it just felt wrong.