“It’s merely a game,” Mother said calmly, trying not to show her impatience. “Why must you get so upset?”
“It’s cruel!” I said loudly, causing the women around us to glance away from the man getting his limbs torn off by an anorexic lion. “They capture the poor beasts and force them to fight. They don’t even allow them to eat what they’ve killed.”
“Eos!” Mother whispered harshly. “Now is not the time. Now sit quietly and enjoy the game.” She turned back to the fight, straightening the huge black curls she had managed to pile on the top of her head. She had tried to do the same to me, but my short, straight hair wouldn’t allow it.
The lion pounced, it’s sharp claws extended. The man hurled himself out of the way, causing the lion to stumble. The man took this opportunity to thrust his weapon into the beast’s shoulder. I looked away. The lion roared, and so did the crowd. They cheered, standing, throwing rings and necklaces to the victor. The warrior received his spoils, and the now-deceased lion was dragged out of the arena. I turned back to my mother.
“May I leave now?” I asked quietly. Mother nodded. I stood quickly, wanting to get out as soon as I could. I pushed my way through the crowd, muttering the occasional “excuse me” and “pardon.” When I finally broke through, I started walking home. The streets were pretty clear; everyone had left their shops and homes to watch the game.
I spotted a bowl of bread laying sideways on a booth, a few of the loaves in the dirt. I picked them up, brushed them off, and tucked them under my arm. I tossed a few coins on the booth in their place, but I doubted anyone would notice they were missing.
I jogged through the streets, the path home embedded in my mind. When I reached my small estate, I wasn’t surprised to see a small brown head pop up from behind a tree.
“Eos!” Lucia said. “I’m surprised to see you back so soon! Couldn’t stand to see the carnage?” Lucia jogged up to me, swinging her arm around my shoulder before I could respond. “Y’know what’d make you feel better? Helping me chop wood. You love chopping wood! I’ll get the axe.” She bounded away, her long brown waves flowing out behind her. By the time I got to the stump, Lucia had already gathered between twenty and thirty hunks of wood. She handed me the hatchet while simultaneously placing a piece of wood on the stump. She leaned against the tree, crossing her arms across her chest. I set the loaves on the ground. I tightened my grip on the hatchet, raising it above my head. I swung it down on the wood, splitting it perfectly at the center.
“So,” I said, reaching for another hunk of wood. “What’d you come to tell me?” Lucia thought for a moment, then shrugged.
“Nothing Important really. Y’know, just standard stuff. Who wins the next game. What the weather’s gonna be like.” She held up her wrist. The bulky bracelet was black, and covered in buttons and knobs. “Ever since Willa gave this to me, nothing really drastic has happened.” She looked down. I turned back to the wood. “Yet,” she said quietly, just as I swung the hatchet.
“What was that?” I asked. Lucia shrugged again.
“Nothin’.” She smiled. I grabbed another piece of wood.
“Who is Willa? I mean, I know she’s from the future, like you. And that she gave you the bracelet, but why? Where did she get it?” I asked, looking over, but Lucia wasn’t paying attention. She was staring at Vesuvius, the huge mountain in the distance. Smoke was pouring out of the top.
“How long has it been doing that?” she asked urgently, still watching the mountain. I looked back.
“I dunno, a week maybe? Why?” Lucia’s head snapped toward me.
“A week?! That long?” she asked, fear in her eyes. I nodded.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, putting the hatchet down. Lucia ran her fingers through her hair, blowing air out of her nose.
“Hey, uh, why don’t you and your family get outta here for a while? You know, go visit Britannia or something.” She tried to smile again, but it looked more like a grimace.
“Lucinda, what’s the matter?” I asked, calling her by her real name instead of her nickname. “What’s going to happen to Pompeii?” Lucia inhaled, rubbing the back of her neck.
“A lot of stuff,” she said quietly. Fear panged in my chest.
“What do you mean, ‘a lot of stuff?’ Lucia, answer me!” I yelled. Lucia flinched.
“I will, I promise. Just…not now. You won’t believe me yet. I need to get something first. I’ll see you in a little bit.” She started twisting the knobs on her bracelet.
“Lucia, you can’t leave yet, you haven’t-” I was cut off by a blinding light and rush of air. I turned my head, holding my arm in front of my eyes. When I looked back, Lucia was gone.