Olive and Lachlan
Olive’s grandmother used to tell her the story of how her grandparents met. They were in a crowded room. He was in a band and she was dancing to one of their songs. They locked eyes and the rest was history. But, Olive never really believed her; It was a fairy tale, a story to entertain bored children. For some reason, the elders liked to create magic in a time when everything was based on algorithms and duty. Love wasn’t real, and the world relied on everyone playing their part in the society they were privileged to live in. Without the socially constructed systems in place, violence would become the standard again, and humanity would cease to exist. Olive and everyone else were lucky to be alive, and lucky live in a utopia.
Society had managed to survive the last war, because a global government was established, and emotions like love and hate, were abolished. They told them it was the greatest accomplishment science had ever made, higher than the cure for cancer, which Olive was terrified of because it seemed like it must have been a horribly destructive disease. In school they were taught that passion and love were the only reason why hate existed. With love came death. That’s just how it was, and it was how generations had been raised. With emotional blockers inserted at birth, people didn’t need to worry about the recklessness of the unpredictable.
They say that they still have freedom. They can like family members and friends, enter marriages that are mutually beneficial with another person they enjoy, and they can feel happiness and sadness, there were just limitations. Cities didn’t have people living on the streets, the world no longer revolved around money, and succumbing to illness didn’t exist anymore. Well, with one exception – the mutation. See, it wasn’t a perfect science, and sometimes people broke. It was rare, and when it happened they were carted away before they could do any real damage.
Even though it was against the law to question all of this, Olive had never really thought that there wasn’t benefits from taking passion away, but humans weren’t as creative now. They were content, sure, but were they really living? Having never known any different, she couldn’t tell if she was daydreaming about something that had never existed in the first place.
Olive grew up in a small town in the Canadian Rockies. Her life was normal. She went to parties in high school, had relationships with boys and girls, but she was always searching for something more that this place, not that she ever let anybody see that part of her. Her family was assigned there until she was twenty-five. In five years, she could leave this beautiful but stagnant town.
Have you ever felt like you could leave everyone you’ve ever known? Just drop everything, jump on a train and become a new person? The universe hadn’t dealt you a bad hand, but you imagined starting a completely different life. One with no expectations on who you were supposed to be. You could breathe without worrying about being watched all the time, make your own decisions, have new friends, change your style, and sell all your belongings.
Well, Olive used to dream about it, and longed of a day when people wouldn’t know who she was. She yearned for a time when she could start over, have a clean slate, and maybe, just maybe, experience all the things her ancestors had, because surely, even with all that bad, the good was worth it. It wasn’t even like she didn’t like her life in the Rockies, or that she wanted to lead some exciting, adventurous life. All Olive wanted was something different. Sometimes people don’t get what they want, and sometimes, the universe has other plans for you.
Around here, Olive was known by literally everyone. She was the daughter of the Chancellor, the leader for this district. It meant that her life was pre-written, more than the rest of the world. Cruelly, not only did she represent her family name, but the love cure. Once, a few years ago, Olive innocently asked a question about what love felt like, and she nearly got committed but she played it out as a joke that she couldn’t believe they fell for.
Since then, Olive had kept her interests in all things love a secret. Out under the mountains by a lake, she has a box hidden with paints, pencils, charcoal, and several books she has filled with art and stories about star-crossed souls travelling through time. Today, she went there, to watch the water and paint the sunset, but when she walked the familiar path, there was a man reading one of her books. The smart thing might’ve been to disappear before he saw her, but instead, Olive flicked her long raven hair off her shoulders as she straightened them.
Keeping a few feet between them, Olive cleared her throat, and with sass that surprised herself, she said, “Excuse me, but who gave you the right to read that?”
The man turned, his piercing green eyes were mesmerising. He must’ve been at least twenty-five, with wavy brown locks falling carelessly around his face. When his hand flipped his hair out of the way, it revealed a scar on one of his eyebrows, but it was his smirk that both annoyed and excited Olive.
“Well?” She pressured, arms crossed defiantly.
He started laughing at her tenacity, it was cute. Taking a step towards her, he said, “My name is Lachlan, and to answer your question, how could anyone resist these. You have quite a talent.”
Olive didn’t even register the compliment, she walked over and grabbed it out of Lachlan’s hands, before placing it back in the box where it belonged, “Yeah, well, they’re personal, so maybe ask the next time you find someone else’s belongings.”
When she turned back to him, Lachlan moved close to her. Olive could feel his breath and had to control hers. A smile crept over his face, “I mean it, your writings are just as beautiful as you.”
With that, Lachlan slowly stepped back and then ran into the woods. Utterly speechless, Olive was confused why her insides were doing cartwheels, and why there was a pang in her heart at the thought that she might never see Lachlan again.
A few months went by which were accompanied by sleepless nights. She hadn’t seen Lachlan again, but she had a feeling he visited a few times after a lily was left on her box. But, Olive kept on living her life, becoming more and more despondent about everything around her. She felt consumed by a need to break free from the shackles holding her back.
There was one night a year that she looked forward to, the annual ball celebrating the anniversary of the emotional cure. Not that she was a true fan of the cause, but because it was a carefully arranged spectacle with rehearsed dances, banquets and fireworks. Tonight, was that night, and the anticipation in her stomach was something she hadn’t felt before.
When Olive arrived, she was wearing a red gown. Like always with these types of events, she would be announced after her parents, and would be partnered with someone for the first dance. As her name was proclaimed, all eyes were on her, and she offered a curtsey to the room. A hand extended to take Olive’s, and when she lifted her head, her heart stopped for a moment…It was Lachlan. In a tuxedo, her mystery man from the lake led her to their position for the first dance. Lachlan guided her free hand to his shoulder, and when the music began, he placed his in the small of her back and pulled her in close. Olive’s breath caught, and she was thankful that he was leading because her brain wasn’t functioning.
He leant down and whispered sweetly and deeply, “Take a breath. I don’t want you fainting on me. At least not when you look this stunning.”
Olive could hear the smile in his voice and couldn’t help but smile as she exhaled, and said, “Saying things like that, really isn’t helping with the whole breathing situation.”
Lachlan smiled as he pulled away enough to read her eyes as he asked her a question, “What do you think about the Revolt?” Olive looked instinctually at her father and then back to Lachlan as she processed that he was asking her about the underground movement who believed the cure did more harm than good.
She watched him watching her, and decided to tell the truth for the first time in her life, “I think they have every right to fight for what they believe in.”
Olive fell into his kind eyes as he studied hers. Twirling her, Lachlan pulled her back, and asked sincerely, “What would you do, if I told you I was in the Revolt?”
She wasn’t sure what to say, because, honestly, she felt elated by the idea, and that was against everything she had been raised to believe in, but again, she spoke truthfully, “I’d say that my head and my heart are telling me two different things, but the longer I’m with you, the harder it’s becoming to follow my head.”
Breaking eye contact for a moment, Lachlan gathered his thoughts, and when he came back to Olive, they were riddled with conflict, “One last question. A crazy one this time. On a scale of ‘I’m in’ to ‘hell on’, how likely would you be to leave this place with me tonight?”
Even though the question seemed to be from left field, Olive knew the answer as soon as he finished speaking, “I’m in.”
Lachlan lifted his hand and stroked her cheek, lighting her up for the first time. The dance was about to end and if this was going to work, they had to move now. Leading her towards the exit, he told her the plan. The Revolt had prepared an elaborate, but ultimately harmless stunt as a distraction for gaining entry into their mainframe. At the end of the waltz, heart confetti, balloons and banners would release on the ballroom. The only catch, there needed a second commotion to get the important people into the security room. Lachlan was going to simply yell something and run, but Olive suggested that if they wanted to ensure people followed, they should pretend to kidnap her.
Chuckling, Lachlan was impressed. He pulled on an emoji mask as the first dance ended. People screamed as the confetti and everything else was released. Olive nodded, and Lachlan feigned pulling her into the hallway. She grabbed the doorframe and screamed for her father. Lachlan had a fake gun to seal the deal, and the it was game on. It worked, maybe a little too well, but they managed to reach the storage closet before anyone saw.
A woman stood waiting in the room and looked horrified at the sight of Olive, “Really? You kidnapped the chancellor’s daughter? What were you thinking?”
Olive was trying to catch her breath, but then clarified, “Technically, I’m not here under duress.”
The woman smiled and then looked down at the dress and frowned. Olive was confused for a moment, but then realised she thought the gown would get in the way. Luckily, her gown was also a pant suit. She unclipped the skirt and dropped it to the floor. Lachlan laughed while shaking his head in disbelief, and said, “God, you’re perfect.”
The three of them climbed into the air ducts and made their way to the control centre. Moments after they arrived, their perch from inside the ceiling allowed them to see Olive’s father and mother, other leaders and security. Her mother was manic, and her father was seething. He was screaming, while she was sobbing uncontrollably. Their emotions weren’t muted, and her father, well, he was downright spiteful. It was all a lie. Olive felt shattered and liberated at the same time.
The woman with Olive and Lachlan signalled that the connection had been successfully made, and they quietly made their escape. They reached the boundary beyond the mountains and Lachlan asked the woman to bring the car.
Olive was still processing that her life had been a lie, and she was sure there was more to uncover. This felt like the beginning of something much more sinister. Lachlan could see her mind working. He squeezed her hand and Olive looked at this man she trusted with every part of herself. Nothing had ever felt as right as being with him.
Lachlan guided a piece of her hair away from her face, his fingers sending tingles through her. He was drawn to her like nothing he had ever experienced. All his heart wanted was to be hers and he couldn’t fight it any longer. Lachlan leaned in and kissed her. The world fell away, and their hearts excitedly found each other’s rhythms.
As their lips parted, her heart ached in an impossible way. The thing was, after love being nothing more than a fairy tale, Olive knew resolutely, she was in love with him. They had found magic in a world that was belligerently trying to erase it.