Today is the day that I’m finally turning 18. Starting from next month, working would be one of the things I should do no matter what.
Once in 3 years, the higher castes, The Highest, or The Royal Family, The Officials and The Famous, are searching for servants and guards for their family. And, soldiers are being searched by the king to defend our country. This event called The Choosing.
Every people in the fourth caste, The Servant, in the age between 18 until 26 are required to sign themselves to The Choosing. If they don’t and get caught, they would be stripped off of their castes and be the lowest of the five caste, The Lowest. For people above the age range, they can still go to work, but not required. But most people still work for their own family.
In the palace, a lot of servant needed there, so a lot of us are chosen to work there. But, the worst thing is, if we get chosen to work at the palace we can’t go out of the palace without the king’s permission. Even though it’s just paying a visit to our family. And the king won’t give permission easily to loads of worker there; He will just give it to some people. Some lucky people. And we work there as long as the palace needs you. The shortest time I know is 3 years.
You can’t choose between working at the palace or other places; They just choose you.
The Royal family, they are the first one who get the right to choose their servants. And then, The Officials is the next caste to choose. And the last one is The Famous.
For the people who’re not chosen to be servants, guards, or even soldiers, they won't work until the next three years, unless they have other work to do outside The Choosing. And they have to submit their information again in the next Choosing.
“Anne, I’m leaving now, I’m already late!” Mom shouts from downstairs, hastiness hinting in her voice.
She must be very afraid to be late. She is already late, I afraid. She usually goes to work at six. But now, the clock already points at 6.25, meaning she’s already late for her work.
“Okay, mom.” I shout back and hurriedly descend the stairs, jog towards the room she’s in. My eyes catch her within a second. Her hands hastily shoving her stuffs into her worn out bag as she kneels on the floor. Her sandy blonde hair covers half of her face as she keeps hurrying herself, one of her stuff falling to the floor and she huffs to herself.
I walk closer to her, deciding to help her with her things. As I approach her, she's already standing on her feet, sighing.
I wish I can help her right now with the work. But, what can I do? I haven’t legally allowed to go to work. Not until next month.
“Take care of your brother and sister, okay?” She caresses my left cheek with her soft hand, staring into my eyes as her lips turn into a soft smile. A smile form on my face as I stare back at her and nod.
“Oh!" She seems shock and quickly embrace me in a tight hug. "Happy birthday, Anne.” I wrap my arms around her and smile. She takes a step back, squeezing my upper arms as she keeps smiling at me.
She lets go of me, turning around in a quick second and run towards the front door. Few seconds later, she takes a halt, turning her body around and look at me.
“Your dad is out to buy some groceries. Don’t worry about him. He’ll be back at noon.”
She gives me one last smile and disappear behind the front door.
A Famous house, that’s the place she's working at now. And she works as one of the maid there. She already work there for 3 years. The family is The Headleys, one of the musician family in my hometown. And Samantha Headley is one of the famous singer in this kingdom. Sometimes, her songs can be heard from the radio.
And now, all I can think about is mom. I’m afraid that she might get punished for getting late. Or even worst, lose her job. But my thought brought me to what she has told me before. She once said that The Headleys are one of the kindest family she has ever met. Maybe, she’s not going to be punished at all.
I climb up the stairs and go to my siblings' room. I put my hand on the handle, pushing the door open quietly as I take a peek through the gap between the door.
On their bed, figures of them sleeping peacefully can be seen as soft snores come out from their mouth, mostly Sam’s. I keep looking at the view in front of me, until my lips already curves upwards without me realizing it.
They look so cute when sleeping.
I close the door gently and go back downstairs. I make my way to the kitchen and begin to cook our breakfast.
I keep walking towards my siblings’ room. From outside the room, their muffled voice can be heard. They keep talking to each other, until they laugh and giggle with each other.
I push the door open quickly and they stop talking instantly, their head turn at my way instantly with a little shock on their morning faces. They quickly jump off of their bed and run towards me, attacking me with hugs and excited squeals.
“Happy birthday, Anne.” Luna says, her arms wrap around me tightly.
“Thank you, Luna, Sam.” We let go of each other, huge smiles lie on our faces as we stare at each other. She turns around and walk toward the wardrobe and open it, grabbing something from there. She turns around, a much more wider smile stretches on her face. I stare at her in confusion and look at her hand as she holds out something from behind her back. A little gasp comes out from me as I keep staring at the object.
A flower crown.
“Anne, I’m sorry I can’t give you anything but this.” She gives me the beautiful flower crown. I take it, my eyes still train on it, admiring every piece of flower she has chosen for this flower crown.
This is so beautiful.
“Don’t be sorry. This is beautiful. You don’t really have to give me anything.” I glance at her for a second and back at the flower, still admiring it.
“I just want to give you something." She looks down at her feet shyly. I take her hand in mine, make her look up at me, and I smile at her.
“You’re welcome, Anne.”
“Come on, let’s go eat our breakfast.” A wide grin forms quickly on my face and giggles come out from them at the mention of breakfast.
I keep on munching my own breakfast, enjoying every bite of it, when suddenly, Sam’s little mouth lets out the words that I haven’t heard in awhile.
“I miss Jake.” I avert my eyes from my breakfast, stopping myself from eating as my body freeze and the words hit a part of my heart.
I gaze at him, sadness filling my heart. My eyes catch him staring at his own breakfast, a frown is vaguely seen from where I’m sitting. Beside him, Luna’s brown eyes already fix on her lap with sadness sweeps across her face when I take a glance at her.
My heart plummets at the look of their faces. I suck in a deep breath as I press my lips together into a thin line, holding back my tears from falling down.
“I know, Sam. I miss him, too.”
When all of our breakfasts already go into our stomachs, I grab the empty dishes, washing them as both of my siblings walk upstairs to their room, heads hanging low in sadness.
I wish I can wipe off the sadness on their faces. But I can’t. Because I can’t bring Jake back from the war. He still have to do his job.
Last plate and I’m done!
After putting the plates into their places, I dry my hand with a cloth. My feet brings me out of my house. I keep walking casually, humming quietly to myself as I take step by step away from the house and towards the lake.
It’s seems so peaceful here, like there’s no war going on. Like the caste doesn’t even exist.
30 years ago, a war happen between New Europe-a unity of all the kingdom in Europe continent- and America State of Canada. It all started when America State of Canada, declared a war to New Europe, to take Greenland, the most influential region in New Europe, from us.
Now, Greenland is just a ruined land because both countries still have the war going on there. Bullets are shot to one another, grenades are thrown, and soldiers are fighting for the once great influential Greenland. But perhaps that’s not the reason the war is still going; It's because both side trying to take one another land, not just Greenland.
I make my way to a tree trunk lying lifelessly on the ground and perch down on it. I keep on watching the lake, my chin rests on my hand while the wind blows calmly at my way. Until my thoughts take me away with them.
Maybe, this month would be the last time I’m going to be here. Maybe, started from next month I’m not going to see my family again. Ever.
I blink my eyes as my vision gets blurry from the tears forming in my eyes. I shut my eyes tightly and purse my lips, trying to stop the tears from falling down even more. But what I do only make me spill a lot more tears from my eyes.
A cracking sound of branch being step on shocks me. I wipe away all the remaining tears on my cheeks hurriedly, feeling a little embarrassed by the thought of someone seeing me crying.
“I’m Connor.” He replies, and sounds strangely calm. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine! Just go away!” I shut my watery eyes, praying to god that Connor will just go away in any second from now. I can't let anyone see me like this, so vulnerable. I hate it because people will look at my way with pity in their eyes.
God, please make him leave, please.
“Don’t lie, I know you’re crying over there.” He contradicts.
Ugh, stubborn one, aren’t you?
“Just leave me alone.” He stands beside me, his height towering over me. I can feel his gaze bores into me though my eyes glue to the dirt ground underneath me.
“I’m not going to leave you alone. Why are you crying?” His eyes still fix right at me. I avoid his stare as I stay in my seat silently.
“Let me guess, The Choosing problem?”
How did he know?
“How did you know?” I stare at him with bewilderment until realization hits me and make me think of how foolish I am. My head falls and I let out a sigh, mentally face-palming myself as the previous event keep replaying itself in my head and make me feel even more stupid.
Why am I so dumb and idiotic? It’s so obvious that he knew it because he must be chosen this year too, just like me.
“This year, I’m being chosen too.” I lift my face up, looking at his eyes staring at the ground with a hint of sorrow in it.
“In the last Choosing, I didn’t get chosen. So, I have to apply to in this year Choosing.”
In all of a sudden, sadness fills my heart at the thought him felling sad. Even though I am one of the people who will get chosen too, I don’t want anyone else feel sad about it, too. Though I barely know him.
A sigh comes out from Connor as he lowers his body and take a seat next to me. “Why are you here? Alone?”
“It’s nothing. Just relaxing.” I do a little shrug and bring my eyes to stare at the lake.
“What’s your name?” He asks, breaking the silence that has stretched between us for a few minutes. I avert my gaze from the lake and look at his face, a smile on his face.
“I’m Anne.” I return his smile and keep staring at his face, taking in all of his features. His eyes are light shade of brown, his hair is short and wavy. And the thought of Jake comes into my head.
He looks a lot like Jake.
The name of the person I miss the most make me bow my head in sadness. Even just think about him makes my heart ache. It's been a long time since the first day he goes to the war, and ever since that time, he hasn't sent any letter to us which make me even more hurt.
“Are you okay? Why do you look so sad in a sudden?” I keep looking down at my hands, tears bite the corner of my eyes, threatening to fall if I blink. I feel Connor's gaze at me, and I keep avoiding it.
“It’s just- you reminded me of my brother.” I confess, intending it to come out from me loud enough, but it only come out as a whisper.
Why am I just remember?
I jump to my feet, patting my trouser to get rid of any dust and dirt on it. The thoughts of my siblings now invades my mind, making me worried of them as I curse myself at how foolish I am to left the house without even thinking about them. Even though Luna is already old enough to watch and take care of Sam by herself, she doesn't want anyone else to leave her without telling. Especially me.
“Sorry, I have to go.” I flash him a little smile and turn around and begin to jog out of the woods.
“Where are you going?” His shout cuts through the quiet woods. His sounds fills with worry. But I keep moving my feet further away from him and shout back at him.