Eliza breathed the cold night air; essentials packed, money she withdrew through the months of planning hidden in various pockets. She walked quick, Sparky barking in the house; Eliza wished he would be quiet; the noise forced her to move quicker as she saw the bedroom light. The cinema was open, a late-night showing of “Tapped for Carnage”; she watched through the glass door as Rylan chased Sparky. It was a risk to leave her hiding place, but the train would be waiting, and the manager looked displeased at her lack of cinema ticket. Rylan had her life planned, what she would do, the ideal job; she guessed her choice of partner would meet strong disapproval and opposition. A romance was way down the list of her priorities, but Eliza realised she had much in common with her Aunt Ziva. Aside from their intellect, the detailed discussions they enjoyed, Eliza knew her future would be with a female companion.
The train was quiet, the last to leave for San Myshuno; the inspector eyed her with suspicion, wondering why someone this young would travel alone. Eliza gave her practised story; a sick relative needed her to visit first thing. It sounded convincing when she thought of it; the inspector stamped her ticket with a look that queried her honesty. She had to keep her head down; by this point, her parents must know she was missing; Eliza disappeared, taking the tube she hoped no one noticed her.
She required a cheap apartment that overlooked her lack of references and accepted payment in cash. In the Arts Quarter, her one-bedroom apartment, its threadbare carpet and peeling paint were unwelcoming, the lack of natural light held no favours either, but it was hers. Eliza cringed, the bathroom stank, the former tenant moved in a hurry, leaving the furniture and a gift several days old in the toilet. The landlord cared little for their property, informing Eliza she could keep the furnishings, and since it was a bargain price, he expected her to redecorate. That was tomorrow’s problem; closing the toilet lid, Eliza took a final look at her thick black hair, scissors in hand, it fell to the floor. Her transformation had to confuse those looking for her; she reached into her bag, reading instructions, her old life bleached from existence, and her new short platinum blonde look would launch her new life.
The weeks she had filled with school were spent in her apartment, reading or talking with her elderly neighbours. Maximus lived alone; he spoke, his military days, working in Strangerville when a ship crashed carrying a beautiful purple plant with delicious fruit. Eliza had to take his stories at face value; he would claim a scientific life, inventing a serum to turn people into temporary ghosts or making dolls real called a “metamorphium”. He watched television every day which inspired him to create a varied and wonderful life; Maximus sighed, his real-life was unexciting, the grumpy lady next door interrupted his fantasy to inform Eliza, he worked in retail selling televisions and how Eliza should stop indulging these fables.
Eliza had to generate an income, staying here used most of her savings. Work followed the same rules as her apartment, with no references and cash in hand. She worked weekends, manual labour, lugging railway sleepers and soil for a gardening company. Digging and weeding, caring for plants, Eliza took the initiative with her work, utilising her creativity, a talent notice when she decided to improvise a new centrepiece. The team dropped the fish intended as the focal piece to the garden, in a panic the team rang the florist hoping to secure another, but it took a week to make. Improvising, Eliza considered the remaining aspects, the oversupply of shrubs and flowers, in combination, she designed a Swan, winding white roses together for the long neck and adding the petite yellows, whose name she forgot, as the beck. Luckily, the lady, whose garden they were reimagining, exclaimed it was beautiful, preferring it to the fish she had requested; the team received a large bonus and Eliza a promotion.