This story is written in no particular order.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Nneka sat in the wall of her cage with her arms and legs hanging out. Her forehead rested on one of the wooden planks that made up the wall, causing it to snag on her thick cloud of black and teal hair.
“The thing I hate the most about it is the way Dianna’s customers treat us: like little, poseable dolls; like voice-activated puppets with no feelings and no wants of our own.” She sounded cheerful as she spoke. She always did. “They don’t care about what we might want or how we feel. They don’t even care to know if we can want or feel at all.”
Nneka flashed a smile in Amnon’s direction without looking at him directly, then averted her attention back to her feet. She was digging little valleys in the dirt with them.
Amnon took a second to observe his new friend. The twelve year old was covered in peach colored cream from head to toe, and bright red lipstick was smeared all over her mouth - an attempt by his mother, Dianna, and some of her other employees to make Nneka look more normal. Instead she looked like a mannequin; a mannequin with sad eyes and a weak smile.
Amnon suddenly felt guilty for asking her about her work. His mother had always warned him about his mouth…
“But there are good things about working here. No one’s trying to snatch me up and run experiments on me, and there’re no more bloody fingers,” Nneka said as she drove her heels into the red dust.
Amnon had overheard Dianna talking about such things with one of The Girls who worked with Nneka. Dianna bought her thinking that her customers would think she was exotic looking, but was disappointed when they ignored her completely. She was a rarity. Most children who were born from women who were exposed to the Great Haze, while pregnant died by the age of five. Whatever it was that made their skin and hair transparent, also made it disintegrate, but Nneka’s skin and hair was only transparent in certain places, and these areas were getting smaller over time. However, it turned an unnatural, teal color wherever her skin had once been see-through. He understood why there might be people trying to experiment on her, but…
“What are ‘bloody fingers’?” he asked before he thought to stop himself.
“That meant I worked hard enough to sleep inside, when I lived with the doctor’s wife.”
“So you guys had a code type of thing?”
Nneka looked puzzled for a moment, then laughed. Hard. It was an ugly laugh. Amnon didn’t like it.
“What do you like about working for my mom?” he blurted, desperate to change the subject then immediately regretted it. Hadn’t he just decided that it was bad to ask her about work?
“What do I like?” she repeated playfully, leaning so that she was eyelevel with Amnon, who was squatting next to her. Her charcoal eyes looked flat and out of placed next to the peach cream she was wearing. He wanted to tackle her and wipe all that crap off her face. Dianna’s customers might think she looked like a blue cow, but he thought she was-
He felt something press his forehead lightly: Nneka’s index finger. And for some reason, his heart was suddenly pounding in his chest. He looked up at her again to see her smile, and thought that this must have been the first time he ever saw her smile genuinely. Then she pulled herself all the way back into her cage.
“Hey!” Amnon said, almost franticly. “You leaving?”
“I need to get cleaned up, and you need to get back to Ms. Dianna before you get in trouble,” she answered. She was right, but he wasn’t ready to go back yet.
“But you never answered my question,” he said.
“Yes I did.”
Amnon must have looked confused, because she started laughing at him again. But this laugh wasn’t ugly.
Nneka put her finger on his forehead again and said “You.”
“What are you talking about?” said Amnon, sounding more irritable than he meant to.
“I like… you.”
This is the one I speifically wrote for a romance writing challenge. When I did challenges back then, I mostly focsed on fluff and romance because those were the areas I am weakest in. I still can't produce fluff, but I've come to terms with that.
Next we'll learn a little bit about the Great Haze, and meet Dianna and The Girls.