Tempting BrookeBy: Kristen Proby
A Big Sky Novella
One Thousand and One Dark Nights
Once upon a time, in the future…
I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.
I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and
the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast
library at my father’s home and collected thousands
of volumes of fantastic tales.
I learned all about ancient races and bygone
times. About myths and legends and dreams of all
people through the millennium. And the more I read
the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered
that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually
become part of them.
I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher
and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I
would not be telling you this tale now.
But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off
One afternoon, curious about the myth of the
Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to
see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar
(Persian: شهريار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then
sent yesterday's wife to be beheaded. It was written
and I had read, that by the time he met Scheherazade,
the vizier's daughter, he’d killed one thousand
Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived
in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged
places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had
never occurred before and that still to this day, I
Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have
taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can
protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to
protect herself and stay alive.
Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.
And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a
point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.
And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that
he might hear the rest of my dark tale.
As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new
one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before
My dad is an asshole. He’s yelled and thrown fits my whole life. Whether he tried to scare me, or was just being a massive jerk, doesn’t matter.
He’s a dick.
But last night, he hit me for the first time. Like, full-out hit me because he said I’m a man now, and I can take it.
And I fucking hate him.
I’m meeting Brooke Henderson, my neighbor, at the end of our block, just like we always do on weekdays. We walk to school together every day, and have since we were in grade school.
She’s been my friend forever. She’s small, with long dark hair and big brown eyes, and she might be the one person in this world that I’d do almost anything for.
“Hey,” she says with a big smile as I wait for her on the sidewalk. Her smile is my favorite. It reaches all the way to her eyes and lights up her whole face. “I’m not ready for Mr. Koch’s math test today. I’m just so bad at it.” She loops her arm through mine and offers me a bite of her breakfast burrito, which I happily accept. “Do you have any finals today?”
“Just English.” I pass her burrito back and cringe when we walk down a curb. It makes my ribs sing in agony.
“Are you okay?” she asks, staring up at me with worried brown eyes, and I want to tell her everything. How he screams at both my mom and me for hours. How he used to smack her around, but now he’s decided to move on to me.
But I can’t because I’m afraid she’ll never look at me the same way again, and I couldn’t stand that.
“I’m fine,” I lie. “Just didn’t sleep a lot.”
“I sleep like the dead,” she says. “I slept until noon on Sunday. Noon! That can’t be normal.”
“It’s probably normal.” I don’t think I’ve ever slept until noon. My dad would never permit it.
“We have to hurry.” She picks up the pace, and I want to moan as my ribs cry out from keeping up with her. “I want to get to class early to get some math help.”
“You know I’ll help you whenever you want.”
“Well, come on. I’ll take you up on it.”