Chapter 1. The Morning Of…
At one point, it probably looked like the average restroom, not now, though; it had a toilet, which leaked, and a small rusted tub with no running water piped to it. I kept two buckets: one in the tub for sponge-bathing, the second, on the busted sink top, was for rinsing my face. I was provided with fresh water for my buckets every three days, so I typically tried to stay clean in order to preserve it.
I was washing the sleep from my eyes when the door burst open, “Do you have any idea how late it is? We should have been on our way ten minutes ago! But nooo, you had to get your beauty sleep.” My foster mother carped, giving the back of my head a wallop with her palm. I dried my face with an old rag and looked up at her.
She was about 5’6, skinny, blonde from too much box dye. She wore a black pencil skirt with a bright red blouse and exuded the stench of perfume and cigarettes. Breathing mud would be easier, I thought to myself. *Mhmm* she cleared her throat. I lower my head, focusing my eyes on the floor, particularly her cheap high hills, “I’m sorry mother! I forgot what day it was.”
“Stupid little bitch.” She muttered as she exited the room. I rushed out behind her, throwing on my usual jeans and T-shirt that were still dirty from yesterday’s work.
Walking out onto the stoop, I stopped, taking in the morning air. It wasn’t often that I could enjoy tiny pleasures like this. In the town of Stonewood, girls don’t just get to go outside or venture freely; this is an old town with old rules: never changing.
Most men of the town are laborers either working in the field of construction or doing odd jobs that nobody else will take. If you’re a man and haven’t fallen into these categories, you’re probably in the medical profession: having shown some God-given talent that the council has deemed worthy of a different position.
One rule is certain, and applies to everyone: No one is to leave town under any circumstance. Rumor has it that there are creatures beyond the Town; creatures that could swallow a human whole. Previously, men were drafted as hunters, venturing out beyond the towns’ limits looking for game. Most never come back, so they stopped sending them…
I was looking up at the overcast sky when a hand of bony fingers wrapped around my arm. “I swear,” Tris griped, proceeding to drag me down the walkway. “Such a stupid little bitch! I swear to God if you make us late or make me look bad, I will beat you senseless.”
We were on our way to the town hall so that she could enlist me into this years’ ‘Harvest Pageant,’ which she hasn’t been looking forward to on account of the fact that people would now see me and could associate me with her. It would be bad for her image. She doesn’t get a choice in the matter though, it’s mandatory that all girls enlist to participate in the pageant when they come of age, and I turned 23 last week.
This is the age when we are considered eligible for marriage, so the ‘pageant’ is sort of like a coming-out party for us to meet and talk to people. The town has other shindigs which females are permitted to attend, once of age, but this one is kind of odd; it’s held out near the old church on Mr. Larson’s’ farm. There is supposed to be dinner, dancing after, then the harvest pageant.
We arrived on time to find a slew of girls, with their mothers, standing in a line that stretched all the way down the concrete steps. “I didn’t know there were so many in our town.”, I observed, and they were all so pretty, their hair tidy, clothes pressed, like something from a magazine. I couldn’t compare.
We worked our way closer to the doors as the line grew shorter. I daydreamed about what it would be like to be one of those girls. The ones who just spoke to anyone around and so easily seemed to make friends.