I was almost asleep. Through a crack in the velvet curtains I could see the sliver of the sky through which the planes would fly. I loved the planes. I grew up with them flying over the city. Their gentle rumble was soothing and their search lights twinkled like stars in the night sky. I knew they were there to keep us safe. It was a soothing thought to know that, no matter what, someone was always there, watching you, making sure no one did wrong.
I was tired. I wanted to close my eyes and surrender to the night, but the next plane would pass by soon, and I wanted to see it, to hear it, before I fell asleep.
The plane would pass over the house in a minute.
No plane. Sometimes they come late.
That’s when I started to panic. The aerial guard was never late by more than a minute. I couldn’t have been the only one who was afraid. Riots had been more common of late, but I had never thought they were any danger. But now, here we were, in the dark with no planes searching, watching over us.
Still no plane. Something was wrong.
I got up. The floor was cold. And I went downstairs. I found my parents in the library, discussing in hushed, frenetic tones. My mother was holding a letter in her hands, looking furious.
“Three days ago! Calonne sent that letter three days ago and you — ”
They froze when they saw me. None of us said anything for a moment, we just watched each other.
There was still no plane.
It was my mother who spoke first. “Antoinette, wake your sister. We need to go.”
I knew then how serious it must have been. In the privacy of the Manor I had never been called anything but Nettie except under the gravest of circumstances.
I flew up the stairs. Christianne’s room was dark, and I could only just make out her sleeping figure.
“Christianne!” I shook her gently. “Christianne!”
“What is it, Nettie?”
“We need to go. Now.”
She was too young to understand the riots. Even I hardly understood why they would want to break from the Nobleman’s Regime — our regime. But understanding was hardly important now. I thanked heaven that Christianne was an obedient child. She didn’t question, she just got up and said
“Can I get my coat first, Nettie?”
I nodded and told her to meet us downstairs.
10:37 and there was still no plane.
I grabbed my own coat from my room before going downstairs. My mother was in the dining room, hastily shoving ancient heirlooms from the credenza into a suitcase. My father was nowhere to be seen.
I went into the library. I wanted to see every room of the Manor one last time before we left. I had intended to pass through quickly, but a leaf of paper on the floor caught my eye. The letter.
Glancing around to make sure no one would see me, I picked it up and began to read.
No doubt you have seen the riots, either in person or on television, and even if you have not — which I doubt highly — you must know of their wishes to overthrow our Regime. They oppose the planes most of all. They call it spying. No doubt you have recognized that all is not well.
But the purpose of this letter is not to tell you things you already know, but to inform you of things you should.
Guillaume, their anti-aristocracy, anti-protection sentiments are taking root in the common people. I am afraid they may soon take hold of the hangars — when the planes stop flying, when the search lights no longer gleam behind your curtains at night, know that they have taken over.
I fear this may happen sooner than not. For the sake of your name and your family, leave now while you still have time.
There was a rustle behind me and I turned. Christianne was holding her favourite doll in one hand and one of her fur coats in the other. There were tears in her eyes, waiting to fall.
In the hallway I could hear footsteps, and a moment later my father’s voice sounded.
“Girls, come. We don’t have much time.” Terse. Afraid.
Even then I thought I could hear the sound of the rioters storming through the streets of the city and shouting their joy from the rooftops. I knew what they would be saying. I’d heard it before, on television when I should have been sleeping.
“The common people will not be oppressed by the aristocracy!”
Christianne took my hand as I left the library.
“We will not be spied on!”
“Nettie,” she whispered.
“We live for freedom!”
“What’s going to happen to us?”
“We are not lesser because we have less!”
Christianne seemed so small. “I don’t know.”
There were still no planes.
Elizabeth Perfect is a first year university student in Canada. She’s interested in glamour and things that sparkle, much like a magpie. Though on most occasions she hopes to look more human than bird.