Copyright © 2016 by Alice Rachel
Book cover made by Alice Rachel
Editing done by Krista Venero from Mountains Wanted Publishing
All rights reserved. No part of this short story may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any way or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods without written permission by the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, or incidents resembling events, locales, or persons, living or dead, are coincidental. They originated from the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.
Chi’s short story starts two years before he meets Thia. Back then, he was seventeen years old and the authorities had just raided his house to take his family away.
When I crawl out of the closet, the house is silent and my legs are killing me. I was stuck in that space for hours. I listen, but there’s no sound to be heard. I walk to my bedroom door as discreetly as I can, but when I open it, the hinges creak. Shit! I stop and wait. No sound. So I open the door completely and stick my head out. It’s dark; I can’t see anything, but I can’t turn the lights on. There might still be some officers lurking around.
I head downstairs and find the front door is wide open. And when I look around the living room, I see a pool of blood has dried on the hardwood floor. My mom’s been shot; she screamed when it happened.
My heart squeezes while I grit my teeth and clench my fists. Ces salops paieront pour ce qu’ils ont fait à ma famille. Those assholes will pay for what they did to my family.
I swallow hard and walk around the house—into the kitchen across the hall from the living room, and then into the bathroom next to the kitchen. My parents are gone. I know that. I’m just stalling, still hoping. My heart’s racing even though I knew I wouldn’t find them here. I’m scared; I don’t know what the officers might do to them.
This is all my fault. The officers were here for me, but I’m a coward. I just let the authorities take my parents away while I hid in the closet, like a child. I’m disgusted with myself and I punch the wall, my fist breaking right through the sheetrock. My hand throbs on impact and my knuckles start bleeding. Idiot! The blood mixes with the dust covering my skin, but I won’t take care of the wounds. I deserve the pain.
Though I go back upstairs and pass in front of my room, I don’t stop. I open the door to Stephen’s bedroom instead and call his name while walking straight to his closet. I look for the entrance to the hidden space. But when I pat the wall, I find absolutely nothing.
Where’s the hidden space in Stephen’s closet?
“Stephen, get out. I can’t find the way in.”
I stop and listen, but no one answers, and I punch the wall again. Ouch! Idiot! My knuckles burn from the shock. I grab one of Stephen’s shirts and wrap it around my hand to stop the bleeding.
“Stephen, get the hell out!” I exclaim, but I already know he’s not in there.
Why doesn’t he have a hidden space in his closet? Where is he hiding instead?
I look into my parents’ room next, before going back downstairs. I still can’t see anything in the dark, but I keep calling his name over and over again.
Where’s my brother, damn it?
The authorities can’t have my brother!
If anything happens to him because of me, I’ll never forgive myself. He should have been an only child. I never should have been born. This is all my fault.
I step out of the house cautiously. If the officers are still around, I’m dead. But I need to find him. I have to find him. I run straight to the barn behind our house, but when I get in, I can tell right away he’s not there.
Sheer terror rips through me. They have him! They have my brother! The officers didn’t just take my parents away, they took Stephen as well.
He will die. He will die, and it will be my fault. I close my eyes. I need out of here. I need out now! I turn around and run without looking back.
I run. I run for a very long time. When I see the Arch, I slow down and walk at a normal pace. My face is hidden under the hood of my jacket, my hair covering my eyes, obstructing half my face from view.
When I get to the Wilcoxes’ house, I ring the doorbell a few times. More than a few times, actually. I’ve been freaking out for hours now, and I’m losing my mind. I can hardly breathe; my hands are shaking, and I’m really close to fainting right here on the Wilcoxes’ front porch.
The door opens. Mrs. Wilcox comes to stand in the light.
“Chi?” she asks while blinking.
“Oh no. What happened?”
She pulls me into her house, closes the door behind me, and takes me to her kitchen, where she points at a stool. The moment I sit my ass down, the tears pour out of my eyes.
I’ve just killed my whole family. They will all die because of me. Because I never should have been born. Because I’m an anomaly, an aberration. And a coward!
Mrs. Wilcox stands up, to pull me into a hug and hold me tight against her chest. I don’t deserve her comfort, but I still welcome it. I clutch her nightgown and cry into her arms.
“Shhh, it’s okay, Chi. We’ll find them. Everything will be fine.”
When Jane drives me to my new school, she tells me I’m no longer allowed to call her Mrs. Wilcox. It makes her feel old. I’ve been living at her place for two months now. Two months of going crazy, worried about my family.
I’m anxious; I’ve never been to a real school before. I’ve always stayed at home with Mom. Jane says going to a regular school will help me learn how to socialize. I don’t want to socialize. I just want to find my family.
Jane and her husband Neil are part of the Underground, just like my parents. Jane said she’d introduce me to some of the rebels very soon and that I could train with them until the time comes to get my parents. She said my parents were probably taken to a camp of forced labor—if they’re lucky. I didn’t even know such a place existed. It disgusts me. I wanna set this whole state on fire. I want to burn it to the ground and see a new state, a new system finally rise and thrive.
“You need to be careful, Chi. You can’t just say things like that at school,” Jane says while shifting lanes. There’s hardly anyone on the road. Most people take trains.
“Why not?” I don’t mean to be difficult. I’m just sick of hiding.
“Most people don’t share your beliefs. The members of the upper-class, especially, don’t like change or challenge.”
I cross my arms and shake my head. Jane extends her arm and strokes my hand with her fingertips.
“I know you want to change the system, dear. But certain things require time, practice, and focus.”
“My parents will be dead by then,” I huff in anger. I don’t wanna wait. I just want to find the guys who took my family and kill those bastards.
Jane sighs. “Your parents know how the system works. They’ll know to be careful and do as they’re told in order to stay alive. Just trust me on this.” She gives me a quick glance. “At school, you will hear things, terrible things you won’t agree with. Don’t react; don’t respond. Observe your classmates and try to fit in. The number one rule of the Underground is to fit into society. It’s the best way to take it apart from the inside out. Can I trust you to do that?”
I understand the consequences if I act crazy. I’ve grown and learned. Not like that time I was dumb enough to join Stephen in our backyard, and our family had to move because I was so damn stupid. If I make a mistake, Jane and Neil will pay for it. I know that.
I nod again to let Jane know I’ll be careful. She parks the car in front of the school, leans toward me, and kisses my cheek.
“Have a nice day, dear. Try and make some friends.”
Right. That’s unlikely.
I’ve been going to this school for three months now. It’s tough. Not the curriculum; any moron could learn that stuff. Stephen was right. He once said his school program was total nonsense. He was right. It’s brainwashing at its best, but I just try to fit in like Jane asked me to.
I haven’t made any friends since I got here though. What’s the point? Most of those guys are misogynistic sycophants. I can’t speak my mind when I’m at school. I just bite my tongue each time my classmates open their foul mouths—like now. William Fox is standing in front of the class, giving a presentation. He’s such an idiot. I can’t believe the other guys are actually listening to this shit he’s trying to sell us.
The bell rings, and I shove all my books into my backpack as quickly as I can. But when I head out, someone grabs my shoulder.
“Eh, Wilcox.” Fox is right behind me. “What did you think of my presentation?”
J’ai pensé qu’t‘es qu’un pauvre abruti, et j’sais pas si j’ai envie d’me marrer ou d’chialer. I thought you sounded like a moron, and I don’t know if I want to laugh or cry.
“Yeah, it was good,” I reply and walk away.
He follows me. “Which part did you like?”
Why does he care what I think?
I stop and turn around. The idiot wants an answer; I’ll give him one. “You know, that part where you said women are too stupid to think for themselves. I agree that a lot of people don’t have the brains to see through the lies. They just eat and swallow what society feeds them, and then they brag about how smart they supposedly are.” People like you!
I look him straight in the eyes as I say it, but the guy’s too dumb to hear the insult behind my compliment.
“I know, right?!” He pauses for a second and scratches his head as if he’s only just realized what I truly meant. “So what’s your presentation going to be about?” he asks.
Nope, false alarm; he didn’t get it. This guy really is something else. I chuckle right in his face. I’ve crafted the perfect presentation: the ultimate insult disguised as a praise.
“I’m gonna talk about the Unwanted.”
He looks at me and blinks. “And?”
“You’ll see,” I reply.
“Aw, come on, Wilcox, what is it about?”
I smile ironically. “It’s about how good the authorities are at tracking the Unwanted, and you know, making sure we don’t get overpopulated, and all that. I did a lot of research. You can’t even imagine how effective the system is. No one’s passing through, you know. Which is good. I mean, can you imagine if unregulated people could just walk among us without us realizing it?” I feign a shudder.
Fox looks at me like I’m some sort of weirdo. “Wow, you sound like you’ve spent hours on this. Honestly, the whole presentation is easy homework. You didn’t have to study so hard for it.”
I brush him off with a motion of my hand. “I just wanted to make sure New York State is doing a good job. We can’t have any nasty children born over the number allowed. We don’t need to share our resources with those pests. I’m really satisfied with my research. Now, I feel safe for sure.”
Fox smiles at me. “Damn right. We don’t need those leeches sucking on our system.” He slaps me on the back. “You know, I like you, Wilcox. We should hang out sometime.”
J’préfèrerais brûler vif! I’d rather burn alive!
Every day after school, Jane drops me at Taylor’s house. I’ve only known him for a week. The guy’s pretty cool. I like him—not like those jerks at my school.
I’m standing in his training room. I don’t know that the word “mansion” could even describe his house. The place is huge. I’ve never seen such a big residence before. And it’s just him and Kayla living here, too. Crazy! Taylor told me he chose this location on purpose. This way, when the members of the Underground meet here, they see how much the authorities are wasting on their employees while the rest of us are struggling to survive.
“First thing you need to learn is how to fight and how to shoot,” Taylor tells me. “Chase and Kayla will teach you.” He points at the guy standing next to me.
Chase is heavier than me—all muscles. I’m six feet tall; he’s probably six feet three. And his arms are twice as big as mine. He’s gonna kick my ass. He shoots me a lopsided smile and raises his eyebrow at me. Great! He’s gonna kick my ass, and he knows it too. Just awesome!
Of course, Taylor’s asked Kayla to be here as well. Just great! The two of them are staring at me now. I can’t focus. I face Chase, and he doesn’t wait. He swings his leg and hits me hard in the calves. I fall on the mats covering the floor.
“Dude, you’re not even trying,” Chase says with a chuckle.
“I wasn’t ready. And you didn’t even give me any instructions. What kind of a self-defense class is this?”
“Come on, Chi,” Kayla cheers and claps her hands high in the air. “You can beat him!” she shouts with excitement.
Chase holds his hand out to me. I take it. He helps me stand up, grabs my shoulders before I can even move, and hurls me to the ground. I fall face-first this time. The guy’s starting to piss me off.
“What the hell, man!”
“Never trust your opponent,” Chase says. He bears his arms crossed over his chest and a mocking smile on his face.
I stand up again. This isn’t a class; this is him showing me how weak I am. Fine, I can play that game too. Stephen taught me how to fight—street fight. I can do this. I lunge forward and slam my shoulder right under Chase’s ribs. He loses his breath, and I ram him to the ground. I take a step back to let him stand up.
“Dude, the goal isn’t to injure me for real. This is just practice,” he groans while holding his ribcage.
“Sorry,” I smirk. He deserved it.
“Yeah, sure. Next time say it like you mean it.”
The door opens just then, and a tiny blonde girl steps in. She stands at the entrance and stares at me with her mouth open. What did I do now? Do I have toothpaste on my chin? Spinach in my teeth? What?
Chase tilts his head toward her. “This is Tina. Tina, this is Chi.”
She stands there for a few seconds before she finally snaps out of it, walks to me, and holds out her hand.
“Hi, Chi.” Her entire face turns red.
Everyone is staring at us with their eyes shifting from Tina to me. I clear my throat and give her a handshake.
Her cheeks flush hard as if she’s truly flustered, and she turns her eyes away quickly. She smiles at Chase, who’s standing behind me. “It’s time to go.”
“Sure.” Chase taps me on the shoulder. “Looking forward to kicking your ass again, Chi.”
He laughs. I roll my eyes, and he winks at me before he leaves with Tina, who gives me one last glance.
“Well, that went great,” Taylor exclaims sarcastically. “To be fair, no one can beat Chase except me, so don’t be too hard on yourself.”
He pulls Kayla against his side and drops a kiss on her temple. “Let’s show Chi our arsenal, babe.”
“Yes! My favorite part,” she replies with a fist-pump. “I’ve been waiting all day for this.”
They take me to another room. This is the sixth room I’ve walked into so far. How freaking big can this house be? Kayla spends two hours showing me all her guns ranging from pistols to rifles. She shows me how to take them apart, how to clean them, how to put them back together, and how to load them. By the time we’re done, I still haven’t learned how to shoot.
“Tomorrow, we get to play with these babies,” Kayla tells me while wriggling her eyebrows and petting one of the guns as if it were some beloved puppy.
I nod. Once I know how to shoot, I can take down the assholes who took my parents away.
This month’s been such a pain. I’m sick of school. When I told Jane I wanted to drop out, she said, “Absolutely not.” I tried to argue my point—school isn’t gonna help me rescue my family—but I don’t want to be a problem to Jane and Neil, so I ended up complying with their rules.
Our school is hosting a football game today. I didn’t want to go, but attending isn’t optional; it’s a requirement. All students have to be there and cheer for their team, or they’ll get detention. It’s ridiculous, but everything about this school is just moronic. So I dragged myself to the stadium—like I care who wins—and I’m just sitting here, bored out of my mind.
I grab my book. I don’t care if it’s rude or against the rules to read during the game. Sports just aren’t my thing. I’ve hidden the book under a different cover. The title reads The State of New York and the New Empire. Snore! The book inside though is intriguing: Nana by Emile Zola, French edition. Jane told me not to bring it here, but I didn’t listen. Reading a controversial book in public is the most fun I’ve had in a while. A guy’s gotta get his rush somehow.
I’ve read this book twice already. I just keep rereading the few books I managed to grab from my parents’ house. My mom loved this story. I know what’s gonna happen next in the plot, so I raise my head and study the crowd. That’s when I see her—a girl carrying so much sadness on her face that my heart aches.
She’s wearing a blue dress; she’s promised to someone.
Her skin is pale against the raven darkness of her incredibly wild hair; it’s like a real mane surrounding her face. I love it. She’s beautiful.
I’m staring now. What a creep! I can’t stop myself though. I gape at her for some time before she even realizes someone’s observing her. She lifts her eyes and catches me gawking at her. Her cheeks redden—a deep pink against her fair skin.
I can’t look away. Damn, she’s gorgeous. I’m gonna freak her out for sure, staring like an idiot.
She won’t stop looking at me either. The red on her cheeks spreads to her entire face. I smile at her, and she looks away. Good job, man, now you’ve managed to creep her out!
Her eyes rise again. She watches me, and I smile, but she looks away to focus on the game.
Cette fille n’est pas pour toi, mec. Laisse tomber! This girl isn’t for you, man. Just let it go!
I glance at her every so often, but she makes a point of avoiding my eyes. She must be promised to one of the players, to someone from my school. Just my luck! I bet he’s a major asshole, too. All the guys here are complete jerks.
When the game’s over, I make sure not to lose her. She glances around a few times as if she’s looking for someone. I’m behind some huge guy walking along with the rest of the crowd. There’s no way she can see me while standing with her parents at the bottom of the stairs. When I stop in my tracks, people walk around me, some of them shouldering me while cursing. But I can’t move. Someone is approaching her—a blonde woman and her husband. And then, he appears—William Fox. He comes to stand right by her side. I swallow hard, and my heart skips a beat. She’s promised to William Fox—the biggest asshole at my school.
Taylor’s invited me to his house for practice again. I’ve been coming here for two years now. It’s just Chase and me in the training room today.
“I’m sorry I kicked your ass that first day we met, Chi,” he says. “You needed to understand how any officer could use your weaknesses to take you down.”
“No problem, man.”
“You’re a much better fighter now,” Chase adds before giving me a crooked smile. “Still not as good as me though.” He raises an eyebrow.
“Always so modest!”
Tina walks into the room just then. “I have an errand to run for Taylor. I’ll be right back,” she tells Chase while giving me a glance and blushing.
Chase has made it pretty clear Tina has a crush on me. She’s smart, kind, and all that, but I’m not interested.
When she exits the room, Chase slaps me on the back. “Ready?”
We train for over an hour before he asks me if I want anything to drink. I nod, and he leaves. But he doesn’t come back; Tina does. She hands me a glass of water and sits by my side on the mat. This feels like a set-up, and I curse Chase silently.
Tina clears her throat. Her neck and her face are red.
“Do you know Chase’s story?” she asks out of the blue.
I take a sip and shake my head.
“The officers killed his entire family during the riots that followed the Sterilization Law,” she explains with profound sadness.
I blink at her. No wonder the guy hates the authorities so much that he’s turned himself into a killing machine. Chase could probably take any man down with his bare hands.
“All of them?” I ask.
“Every single one of them, yes.” Tina chokes on the words as if the subject is painful to her as well.
“Did you know them?” I ask.
She nods and moves a bit closer to me. I don’t know what to say. I open my mouth to speak, but she cuts me off.
“How are you holding up?” she asks. “I mean, with your parents gone and everything.”
“I don’t think they’re dead, if that’s what you mean.” I shrug. I don’t feel like talking about them right now.
She clears her throat again. “Uh, Chi?”
“I think I know where your parents are,” she says really quickly before adding, “Well, actually, I do know where they are.”
I turn to her in an instant. “Where?”
“How do you know?” I ask. “Did you see them? How do you know it was them?”
“I just know. Your father looks a lot like you.” She averts her eyes. She’s not telling me everything.
“Are they okay?” I ask.
She nods. “They’re fine, just working hard, you know.”
“Have you seen Stephen, my brother? Is he with them?”
“No, I haven’t seen him.” She won’t look at me. She’s lying. I don’t know why, but she’s lying.
“Is he still alive?”
“I haven’t seen him, Chi,” she reiterates.
“I need to know that he’s okay, Tina.” Why is she lying? What’s going on with Stephen that she won’t talk about him?
“I don’t know,” she insists.
Fine! Don’t tell me anything. I’ll find out on my own.
She scoots a bit closer and turns her head to me. Then she leans forward, but I pull back before her lips touch mine.
“Uh, what are you doing?”
She flushes and stutters, “I…I just thought…”
“Tina…” I shake my head. “I can’t get involved with anyone right now.”
I’m lying. I think about the girl I saw at the football game—the one with the curly black hair—and I know I’d get involved with that girl in a second if she weren’t engaged to William Fox. I’m just not interested in Tina. I can’t force myself to like her that way.
Tina gives me a sideways glance like I’ve just broken her heart or something. Her crush on me can’t be that bad, right? I hope not! I feel like shit now.
“I’m sorry, Tina,” I repeat. “I just want to find my parents. That’s my only goal right now. I can’t get distracted. I’m sorry.”
Dude, stop saying you’re freaking sorry!
She looks at me again and nods. Then she stands up and leaves the room without saying another word. The door opens a few minutes after she leaves, and Chase comes in.
“Dude, what did you say to her?” he asks.
I sigh. “I can’t get involved with her, Chase. And thanks for setting me up, by the way. I feel like a real asshole now.”
He scratches his head, messing up his hair. “So, you don’t like her? That’s too bad, man. She’s truly awesome, I swear.”
I study him for a few minutes. “Are you interested in her?” I ask.
He shakes his head. “No, she’s just a friend. Believe me, she doesn’t want a guy like me.”
Right! Chase has a reputation. The funny thing is that girls still swarm around him in spite of everything they’ve heard. I guess status isn’t everything in this world after all ‘cause those girls sure don’t care what social class Chase comes from.
He gives me one of his signature smiles—the kind with teeth so white they could blind the hell out of someone.
“Dude, let’s go shoot some targets,” he exclaims. “Kayla told me she got some new toys.”
School is finally out and I’m so damn late. Thia and I have been meeting for two months now. I don’t know how I got so lucky as to end up with a girl like her. I finally gathered enough courage to kiss her. I really thought she was going to push me away, but she didn’t.
I’m supposed to meet her in twenty minutes, so I try to hurry, but Lawrence comes to stand in my way.
“Hey, Fox, come over here,” he calls out to William, who turns his head and raises his chin.
“What do you want, Lawrence?” he asks and walks to us.
Great! I can’t stand the guy. I don’t need him standing right in my face.
I can barely tolerate Lawrence either, but he’s always sticking to me like some leech I can’t pry off. Juste un imbécile de plus qui m’insupporte. Just another idiot getting on my nerves.
“What’s up with that chick of yours?” Lawrence asks.
My body stiffens. I close my eyes.
Ferme-la, William, ferme-la! Keep your mouth shut, William. Just keep it shut.
“Her name is Thia,” William interjects.
I feel sick when her name rolls off his tongue. He doesn’t deserve to say the word.
“Yes, Thia. Whatever. I saw you two together last week-end at that charity event in downtown Eboracum.”
William squints his eyes. “Really? I didn’t see you.”
“Right. I didn’t want to interfere. You two were busy, if you know what I mean.” Lawrence winks at William, and my stomach churns.
My mind goes wild with images of William kissing and touching Thia, and my knuckles clench with a sudden need to hit him.
William smirks smugly, and I could just punch his mouth for it.
“Have you banged her yet?” Lawrence asks.
The blood in my veins pumps in response. It rockets straight to my head, giving a damn headache.
“No, but soon.” William wiggles his eyebrows, and I close my eyes to shut him out.
Réagis pas, Chi! Réagis pas! Don’t react, Chi! Don’t react!
Lawrence laughs really loud at that. “Didn’t fancy you for a virgin, Fox,” he adds, and William’s smile drops.
“I never said I was a virgin, you moron!”
Lawrence snorts. “Seeing girls on the side, then?”
My body tenses up.
Dis rien, Chi! Réagis pas! Don’t say anything, Chi! Don’t react!
William arches his eyebrow suggestively. I just want to destroy his face. I want to break him one bone at a time.
“I could invite you to one of my father’s parties sometime. You too, Wilcox.”
He looks at me, and I feign a smile while choking on the bile pushing behind my gritted teeth.
J’préfèrerais crever qu’d‘aller à une de tes soirées, connard. I’d rather die than go to one of your parties, asshole.
“My father always brings girls over,” he adds, and my nose wrinkles in disgust.
“What kind of girls?” Lawrence asks.
William snickers. “The easy kind.”
Prostitutes. My blood turns cold. My nails dig deep into the skin of my palm.
“Nice! When’s your next party?” Lawrence won’t shut up.
“In a couple of weeks. We’re meeting Thia’s family for lunch first. The party is later in the evening.”
Lawrence hoots so loud the sound could shatter my skull. I’m so pissed off I’m getting really close to bursting a freaking blood vessel. I rack my brain for a way out of this stupid conversation. When I come up with zilch, I just turn around to leave.
William calls out to me. “How about you, Wilcox? Want to join the party?”
J’préfèrerais sauter d’une falaise. I’d rather jump off a cliff.
“No, I’ve got things to do that weekend.” Comme convaincre ta fiancée qu’elle mérite mieux qu’un pauvre connard comme toi. Like convince your fiancée that she deserves better than some sick bastard like you.
“Gotta go.” I need out of here now.
I want to hear what Thia has to say about Hugo’s poems. I haven’t seen her in a week. I miss her so damn much. It sickens me to know she’s spending so much time with William every weekend. It makes me want to shove him against the wall and break his damned jaw.
“Got a girl to meet?” William asks while giving me a crooked smile.
Ouais, la tienne. Yep, yours.
I smirk at him and shrug.
“I doubt it. Wilcox’s a virgin,” Lawrence interrupts. “He doesn’t care about meeting girls. Believe me, I’ve tried to talk him into it for months.”
“Really?” William looks at me like I’m some strange specimen he’d like to dissect.
“Yeah, I don’t have time for all that,” I reply, trying to cut the conversation short.
“You don’t have time for sex?” William’s eyes open wide in shock. And that’s the guy Thia’s parents chose for her when she was only thirteen years old. Wonderful! I roll my eyes.
Those idiots just gave me a migraine, and I’m gonna be late. I never told Lawrence about Willow. It’s none of his business whom I may or may not have slept with. It would raise too many questions I can’t afford to answer. I couldn’t care less what those jerks think about me anyway.
“Wow, I feel sorry for you. You’re sure you’re not interested in the party?” William snickers.
My jaw tightens. Connard.
“Yeah, whatever.” I don’t care to hide my irritation anymore. The guy’s got a peanut for a brain, and he’s wasting my time. His cheating on Thia just makes me want to drive a knife up his spine.
The only girl I’m interested in is taken by some major jackass. She’s beautiful, smart, and overly coy. I’ve got no desire to rush into anything physical with her or to take advantage of her. And if William touches her like that, I will break him and make him pay for it in ways he can’t even imagine.
Thia loved the book. She’s everything I’ve ever wanted. I love how she hates this society we live in. I love her poetry. I love how smart she is.
I fell in love with her so quickly it freaked me out. I don’t even know if she feels the same, and not knowing just terrifies me. I don’t want to lose her. I don’t want to share her with anyone—especially not with someone like Fox.
This weekend, there’s a gala at my school, and I can’t even invite her to it. I want to take her there with me. I want to see her wear something other than those stupid blue dresses the authorities force on promised girls like some damn trademark. Why don’t they use a hot branding iron while they’re at it? Granted, Thia looks beautiful in anything she wears, but those dresses are just revolting. Thia’s probably going to the gala with William. It might be best if I don’t go at all. I don’t know that I can watch while he touches her. But attending is mandatory unless you’ve contracted polio or something.
“How was school?” I ask Thia like I do each time we meet.
She looks at me and rolls her eyes. I shoot her a tiny smile and kiss her hair.
“Did you know I’m not allowed to vote in the next elections? Well, of course, I knew that already,” she says. “After all, women are too ignorant to participate in such important matters as politics. Well, I’m not of age to vote, mind you, but that’s beside the point. The point is that I’m considered too dumb to make choices for myself or have any say in my own future. And you can’t vote either since you’re an Unwanted.”
She keeps on talking for about fifteen minutes, ranting about how lame the system is. I don’t interrupt her; I just listen. I pull her to me and kiss her cheeks first, then her nose, then both her eyelids, then her earlobes. I close my eyes.
“Thia,” I whisper, “you are smart and your opinion matters. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”
I love you. I love you so damn much. I can’t stand to watch while other people treat you so badly. I love you. I love you.
“I…” I open my eyes.
She looks at me. I can’t tell her how much I love her. Not yet. She has to choose me first. She has to say the words.
I clear my throat. “Someday, a woman will be governor of this state. Women will have the right to vote, just like they did before the war. Everyone will have the right to live and prosper.”
She smiles at me. “Just like in my poems?”
“Exactly like in your poems,” I reassure her.
“You’re a bad liar, but thank you for making me feel better.”
She smiles, but her words wound me. I wasn’t lying. I truly meant it. I can only breathe if I believe we stand a chance at a brighter future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alice Rachel grew up in France before moving to the Unites States to live with her husband. When she doesn’t write, Alice teaches French to students of all ages.
She also spends hours reading books of all kinds (Young Adult, New Adult, Mystery, Horror, Romance, History, Graphic Novels…There probably isn’t a genre that she doesn’t like). She also enjoys going to the movies, visiting museums with her hubby, taking care of her guinea pigs, and drawing.
Alice loves to interact with her readers (and so do her characters). You can find her on Twitter under @AliceRachelWrit. She also likes to chat through her website at www.alicerachelwrites.com as well as on Instagram, GoodReads, and Facebook.