The Circle: Taken
By Sage Sask
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: February 2019
Abandoned at eleven with no memory of her family, Alexia yearns to learn her true identity. She embarks on a dangerous quest for the truth of her past. In the resulting battle between life and death, Alexia learns that sacrifice and revealing the gift she fought to keep hidden may be her only chance for survival.
A secret unearthed, a shocking betrayal, and a moment when lives hang in the balance leaves Alexia with only one choice. Will the decision determine her destiny or end her life?
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FIVE YEARS EARLIER
The hard fist comes at the girl from the left. She throws her arm up. The fist slams against the bone above her wrist. She bites her teeth into her lip as the bone cracks. Pain radiates from her arm to every part of her body. She swallows air to silence her cry. Any sound of agony will lead to a reprimand. She is taking a deep breath through her torn lip, preparing to respond, when the boy pivots and slams his fist into her stomach. Bile rises in her throat as oxygen rushes out of her body. She doubles over, gasping for breath. Her broken wrist hangs limply from her forearm.
“Breathe through your nose,” the instructor orders the girl. He looms over the group. His cool voice lacks sympathy. He motions for the boy to hold up both his fists in preparation. “Again.”
There is a roomful of them. They range in age from six to sixteen – friends and siblings that have been raised together. Paired with someone of the same age, they fight one another. Every day, hour after hour, they train like soldiers. They test their strength on one another. Blood drips from the cut above the girl’s mouth. The skin around her right eye colors from pink to black. She swallows a mouthful of blood, nearly gagging on the coppery-tasting liquid.
“Ready,” the girl insists. Losing is not an option. It was a lesson learned long before she could remember. “Again.”
Sure the boy will go for her face; she raises her good hand and wraps her fingers into a fist. The silver ring her mother gave her years ago digs into her skin. The boy swivels on his heel. His foot strikes the base of her spine. The girl flies forward. Her head bounces off the wall. White spots dance in front of her before a black curtain of unconsciousness starts to shield her.
“You are too weak.” The instructor shakes his head in disgust. “You will never survive,” he spits.
His words are a bucket of cold water. The girl forces open her eyelids. The instructor towers over her, his thick feet spread evenly. At over six feet, he is a giant to her eleven-year-old self. Around them the rest continue in their battle.
His disappointment cuts through her. She struggles to stand, desperate to prove him wrong. At last she finds her feet. She walks past him, toward the waiting boy. He is taller than her by a few inches, and stronger. He eyes her, curious. The girl nods once, as if in defeat, then pivots and slams her foot into the boy’s abdomen. He staggers back. The girl takes advantage and slices him across the leg with another hit. He falls to the ground. He grips his leg in pain. Sweat pours down his face.
“It’s broken,” the boy whispers.
His pain cuts through her. She winces at his agony. The girl goes to help him up, but the instructor stands between them. He glances down at the boy then back at the girl.
“Finish him,” the instructor orders.