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Character Development Challenge

Wren Ridere, Age 15

Prompt: Describe your character’s happiest memory.

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There was no time to wipe the sweat from her brow. Fast paced fighting was the target of today’s hand to hand combat training. It was different from their usual instruction where they would work through the motions of proper defense before getting a chance to try it on each other.

It was in this that she excelled though. Predicting the next blow had begun to come as second nature and as she threw her next punch, her arm went to block. Though she could have ended the fight at least three blows ago, Wren dragged it out. Her sparring partner would look a bit more competent in fighting than he actually was if she did.

“C’mon Wren! We shared ours.” It was the pair fighting to her left that was really taking more of her attention. Austin and Matt were thorns in her side from the first time they had met. Years had gone by where she silently endured their harassment but they hadn’t really become what she would call friends until she broke Austin’s nose for calling her a chicken.

The term friend was used very loosely when it came to those two. They would just as soon throw her to the dogs as they would back her up on something. Their relationship was more of a mutual understanding than it was a real friendship.

Ducking underneath a sloppy kick, she tried to ignore their constant demands for her memories. Before they had been paired off for the sparring matches, both boys had tried to remember their happiest memories.

The game was common. In fact, it was pushed by their overseers and commanding officers. Remember those happy times; use them for they were what they were fighting for. Happy times that future generations would get to have.

What about our happiness? The thought rose unbidden in her mind and distracted her long enough for the boy in front of her to clip the edge of her mouth with his fist. It stung but it wasn’t any worse than getting a scraped knee on the ground.

“Are you okay?” People around them seemed to freeze when the question was out in the air. Her sparring partner had stopped fighting and looked like he couldn’t quite decide what to do. “I thought you were going to block it.”

Wren’s eyes darkened and she wiped the blood from her mouth. It had been her distraction, yes, but he should have pushed on. He should have used it to his advantage. By not doing so, he was practically calling her weak and not worth the effort. Had he truly believed that he was winning their spar?

“He did not just…” Austin muttered, his and Matt’s fight had stopped with the surprise. This was not the time or place to express concern. That was done in the bunks; here it was practically an insult.

“If I believed, I’d pray for him.” Matt snickered, crossing his arms. Wide spread distraction was usually immediately quelled but the overseer didn’t seem too inclined to stop.

Only once the others started making bets did the idiot realize what he just done. His weight shifted just enough to put him at a better position to defend while Wren eyed him impassively.

There was a hierarchy that was always in place. Wren had crawled her way to a higher place in that system so that she wouldn’t be victimized but this fool was going to ruin it all. If she just let his words slide, it’d be like she was a new recruit all over again.

But this issue was corrected easily enough. She strolled forward, ignoring the usual protocols for their allotted sparring time. It was a strategy of baiting to make it look like she planned on ignoring his existence. With the guys, it always worked like a charm. Before she could pass him, his hand darted out to stop her and she nearly laughed at his stupidity. He just gave her an in.

“Your defense is spotty,” she informed in the blandest tone that she could muster up as her hands wrapped around his wrist. All it took was a tug and he was stumbling into her kick. Unlike before, she didn’t bother with holding back. Twisting his arm behind his back, she pushed him down onto the floor and planted her heel on his shoulder. One twist and she could dislocate his shoulder. “Your kicks are sloppy and you’re predictable with your punches. Before you show concern for me, worry about yourself.”

“When you’re done playing with him, are you going to tell us a memory yet?” Matt interrupted her lesson, a pitying smile spared to the fool under her boot.

“I am curious as to how you grew up.” She was one of the few girls whose parents didn’t visit and the only one who had to fight her way out of an older siblings’ shadow; Austin wasn’t the only one that had been curious about her life before the camps.

Twisting the arm in her grip slightly, she mused over the harm of sharing one memory. It wasn’t like anyone in here could do anything with it. But she wasn’t letting her partner up until she got a proper whimper out of him. If it took dislocating his shoulder then so be it.

“I was about five years old,” she started, rolling her eyes when both of the boys jumped to attention. Though it was for their game that she shared, she couldn’t help but notice that others listened in as well. “I was still in that stage where I believed there were monsters under my bed and in my closet.”

“Yea, little did we know that the monsters were those we respected,” The interruption was unwarranted but Wren shot Austin a warning look at the same time Matt did. Talking bad about the officers would make his life very miserable if he wasn’t careful about whom he spoke around.

“Anyway, I was trying hard to be a big girl and stay in my own room so that I wouldn’t get another lecture. At some point, Phillipe heard me moving around.” There was no way in hell she would even admit to being in tears over the whole thing, not even in a memory. But the mention of her brother was enough to really catch peoples’ attention. “He came into my room with this old worn lion. Its name was Julius and Phillipe gave it to me to protect me from the monsters.”

“That’s…sweet.” She wasn’t quite sure who said it but she could understand the confusion in their voice. Phillipe had his own reputation in the camp and being sweet or kind wasn’t in his resume at all. But it was her happy memory.

“He’d said that he was a big boy and that all the monsters were scared of him so Julius needed a new person to guard. He tucked that lion right in next to me, told me not to worry, and then went back to his own room.”

“How is that one of your happiest memories?” Matt looked confused but the look was replaced by a grimace as she twisted the arm again. She waited until she got her pathetic whimper before letting the boy go and answering the question.

“Because it…” her answer trailed off when Matt and Austin both froze and were no longer paying attention to what she was saying. Her back stiffened immediately when she realized that they were looking at something over her shoulder and she turned slowly.

Familiar blue eyes met hers and she nearly winced. It would have been nice if her ‘friends’ could have warned her that her brother was standing right behind her. With all the sparring matches going on around her, she couldn’t very well hear someone approaching while she was talking.

“Wren,” her eyes narrowed up at her brother but she nodded her head to show she was listening. “Commander Peters wants to see you.”

When a commander called, it didn’t matter what you were doing, you went. But Wren prided herself on being difficult. “I’m in the middle of my hand to hand training Phillipe; tell him I shall report once I’m done.”

“It looks like you’ve finished for today.” Her partner was still whimpering on the floor so she wasn’t all that surprised when Phillipe just rolled his eyes and directed her in the right direction. The others parted the way for them and Wren wanted to crawl into a hole; they were going to gossip for at least a week.

Once they were out of sight though, both Ridere siblings could relax a little bit. It was rare moments like this that they could actually talk to one another freely. Phillipe nudged her with his elbow and smirked down at her; whatever was waiting for her at the end of this walk could wait. “So is there any reason in particular that you left that boy whimpering on the floor in a practice spar?”

“He needed a lesson.” It was the simplest answer she could give without giving all the details away. Though it was unlikely that he’d revert to a protective older brother, she wasn’t going to chance that he’d try anything in her name.

The silence between them after that was calm and open. There wasn’t any need to share what had happened back there and Wren wasn’t going to no matter how long he stayed silent waiting for the answer to his unasked question.

The Command Center came into view much sooner than she would have liked. She rarely got the chance to chat with her brother unsupervised and now there was so much that she’d like to talk about and not enough time.

Those words hung on the tip of her tongue but she had no idea how to start. Her training was centered on learning how to communicate and sharing information properly but she had no idea how to talk to her brother.

“Why was that your happiest memory?” With everything else to talk about, she shouldn’t have been surprised that he asked. She had been talking about him with the others after all.

A quick glance up at his face told her that he wasn’t upset about it, just curious. She was sure that he remembered what she had been talking about but she wasn’t sure how to tell him the reason behind it. With her peers, she could have made something acceptable up and clung to the last bit of the memory to herself but things were different with Phillipe.

She worked on formulating an answer all the way up until they stood before the doors into the command center. By then, she only had a few moments left to answer him or it’d have to wait months until they next had a moment.

“It was one of the few times I can remember where it was just us, a moment that I can say that our parents weren’t a part of.” She had been so young that she didn’t have many memories before he was taken. He’d given her that lion only a couple of months before he’d be taken, after that Julius had disappeared. “It was also one of the last moments that I had a family. After you left, Mom and Dad barely looked at me.”

She couldn’t figure out what the emotion in his eyes was and she didn’t particularly want to. Instead, she gave him a small smile before heading in to see what Commander Peters wanted. She knew that she wouldn’t find her brother waiting for her afterwards so she didn’t dwell on it too much.

Hours later, when she returned to her cot after being briefed and sworn to secrecy, she found a worn out lion sitting on top of her mat. Though she had only had the lion for a few months, she was intimately familiar with the little bald spots by the ears and the tail that had been sewn back on more times than she could count. She didn’t need Julius to chase away monsters but he symbolized a happier time.

If anyone was still awake to see her soft smile and emotion filled gaze as she clutched the lion to her chest, they wisely didn’t say anything.

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