Pushing my long dress up and over my legs, I manage to hoist up a heavy bucket of water. The cold liquid drips down onto the dirt road in front of me, the same bland shade of my dress. Resisting the urge to put down the water and scratch the bridge of my nose, I continue to carry the bucket. It doesn’t take long though, to get tired. All of 10 minutes, a new record for slowest water carrier in my family.
I live among a large household, a household of seven. My mom, dad, oldest brother Harvey (the one the ladies are always chasing), my other brother Kenneth, Sterling (another brother), and Wright (still another brother). And of course, when my mother thought she would never have a baby girl of her own, there I was. My parents named me Lydia, meaning, “beautiful one.” But my features are anything but extraordinary. Light brown hair, dark brown eyes, fair skin, nothing special. Nothing at all. Of course though, half my brother’s inherited the special blue-green eyes and red hair of my mother, and the other half got the amethyst eyes and blonde hair of my father. So why was I so unlucky in the DNA department? I have no idea to be honest. Clueless might be a better word to describe it. But no matter how clueless I am, I of course know that having a household full of men, is a dangerous thing.
Dragging the large bucket of water now against the grass, I look across the road at the alleyway connecting outskirt houses to one another. There aren’t many houses too far out of the main villages, but I still wish that I didn’t have to be here alone. Sweat begins to drip down the back of my neck and down my back. When I reach home, I will for sure need to wash up. Trying to make my way back home while simultaneously trying not to bump into anyone I know, I stumble against a hidden rock surrounded by green blades of grass. Spilling at least half of the water I’d collected from the yellow’s community well which sits at least 2 miles from home, I try my hardest not to swear.
“Curses!” I shout instead, scrambling to save the rest of the water. My mother will surely have a fuss about my carelessness. But at least no one was around to see it as it happened…
“Lydia!” I hear a familiar voice shout to me, and I turn around to find the meanest miss you could ever imagine.
“Hello, Carolyn.” I say, turning around slowly. Proper, just like mother taught me.
“Well I didn’t know you were supposed to carry water home that way.” She smirks at me, her words cutting deep, even though it is only a petty comment on my clumsiness. I have always thought of myself as unimportant, a clumsy fool, and her words make me doubt myself further.
“What are you even doing at this well? You’re purple, and I thought Purples were too important to even look at a yellow.” I say back, smiling as her smirk disappears, just to be replaced with a snarl. So unladylike, is the only thought of which I have about her attitude. My eyes quickly catch sight of the color that marks her. Tattooed to her face, right by her temple, is a purple triangle. We all have a tattoo located somewhere on our body. All the shapes are different according to class, and the colors too of course. My own tattoo is on my leg, thank the heavens for such a small victory. However, I know almost certainly that Carolyn loves where her tattoo is positioned. It means that everyone knows she is of higher importance.
“For your information, I am only here for the drawing. The Royal family is starting this year at the Yellow’s well. And so I wanted to get down here and see it for myself. Who knows who might be chosen.” She shrugs her shoulders. She bumps past me violently, almost making me spill the bucket of water yet again. I had almost forgotten about the drawing...
Every 3 years, a select group of men, aged between 17 and 35, are chosen from each community. The Royal family usually starts the drawing from the town of the greens, and down to the lowest class (the yellows). My father is older than 35, but my brother’s are all within the age range when men suddenly qualify to be inside the competition themselves. The Royal Family chooses the contestants by randomization...mostly. But some people, stupid people for sure, sign up for the prize that they might be able to win. Or some “desperate for money″ parents, decide to sign up their son right after birth, in order to make money by automatically entering the dangerous competition. And that fact makes me shake with fear and rage at their selfishness. As if they couldn’t ration their food, or just suck up the fact that life is not going to get any better for them. Of course the child bound to the fate of the competition, could survive. Most have the brawn for sure, but not quite the brains.
Leaving the bucket full of water on the grass, I sprint in the direction of my home. It takes me about five minutes of adrenaline-filled running, to reach the house. I need to remind my family of the new’s. That the competition is mere minutes away. It is the only thought inside my head as I sprint forwards. The yellow’s village is full of unpleasant smells, sounds, and sights. With animals and people crowding the small town square, and dung flung across most of the street (human or animal? It is a mystery to us all) It makes the village, our village, the most indecent place to live. And in comparison to the pink’s luscious yards, and towers they call homes, it is a wonder that people are separated into a color that decides their fate just as this.
Every home looks exactly alike, but I have lived here all my life and I know what house my family lives in. So it only takes me one burning and panting moment, in order for me to rush inside the tiny shack my family calls home. The window’s tilt lazily to the sides, and the front door is barely even latched onto it’s hinges if I am to tell the truth of the matter. For my family of seven, there are only two room’s. Bedroom’s that is, along with a tiny kitchen only containing the bare necessities to live by. There is no living room, so my family put wooden chairs out back behind our house, and called it one. No one seems to mind it, but I guess it may seem strange.
Bursting outside, the back doors creaking open loudly, I emerge to find my family sprawled all out on the lawn. My mother seems to be harvesting apples from the tree’s surrounding the grass, and my dad and brother’s are sitting on the ground talking to each other.
“Father! Mother! The drawing is happening today!” I burst out, staring at both my parents as I tell them this. My hands begin to shake, and I tell myself to take a decent breath of air before I may pass out. Everyone stares at me as I breathe in gusts, leaving my hands on my legs as I continue to bend down low.
“Lydia, take a breath and repeat that dear.” Mother say’s simply, placing another apple gently in her carefully woven basket.
“But...I...why aren’t you at the drawing then?” I ask, taken aback by everyone’s calm behavior. This is no calm matter! And besides, isn’t anyone here afraid of what the outcome of today may be? The thought does cross my mind that maybe it was only Carolyn that scared me. And that maybe everything will turn out alright. But I push it away quickly, knowing that I cannot believe what will give me false hope.
“We still have two days before the drawing.” Kenneth say’s, his authoritative self shining brightly, just as always.
“No, they are visiting the yellow’s first this year.” I tell him quickly, brushing my bunched skirts back down my legs. And with that, everyone is up and sprinting off into the distance, with me taking up the rear as I trip over my dress over and over again.
Everything about April 23 is a mystery and a tragedy all at once. The first time the Royal family found out about an elixir to preserve life, they tried to keep it to themselves. Gosh, I wish they had. But when the people...specifically the men. When they found out about this, they were outraged, and threatened to overpower them. And so, the Royal family had to punish us all, with exactly the thing we wanted most dearly. The elixir. They set up an elaborate competition in order to punish our greed, and to show us that everything has a price. This is the elixirs.
Of course the Royal family isn’t allowed to play for it, or else they would be showing themselves just as greedy, greedy just like us. The villager’s who wanted to overtake the land, just to get our hands on a potion full of everlasting life. And so that is how the competition came to be.
The hard earth pounds against my bare feet, threatening to break skin. But I don’t slow down. I need to be sure that one of my brother’s does not get chosen for the competition, leading up to their almost certain deaths. I am staring straight down at my feet, watching as they make their way in the direction of where I know my family stands. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to see the family that brought this competition to life. And with all of these thoughts running rampant through my mind, it is no surprise that I forget to look up. And since everything has an outcome, I slam directly into something. Something hard, which at first I assume is a building made of ragged rock.
“Really?!” I shout angrily at myself. I am careless, even in the hour of such mandatory and frantic behavior. I rub my head, feeling something wet and warm slide down and against my fingers.
“Miss, what may I ask is your problem...” I hear a deep voice trail off, and I look up slowly, seeing who exactly I ran into. “You’re bleeding.” The man say’s, rushing me to where he knows that we will be shielded. Protected from the crowd quickly gathering by the well.
“Yes, I know. It’s more obvious than you may think.” I say stubbornly, peeling away a piece of fabric from my dress to clean and cover the wound with.
“Allow me.” The man say’s, but I back away from him before he can take another step closer to me. Of course though, I do not expect a thing such as a laugh to exit his lips. “You really think I am going to hurt you?” He asks, his brows furrowing with fascination. With what, I am lost at.
“Well is it just me, or are we in a dark alleyway that you pushed me into? Seem’s such an obvious murder location does it not?” I speak bold words. No less to a complete and utter stranger. My mother always taught me to be clear, composed, and most of all brave. So I try my best to be those things, even in...situations. Situations such as this that is. The young man laughs again, and again I startle at the sound. I haven’t heard laughter in such a long time, it seems just like a distant memory.
“Yes, well, I can surely see your point. But why, may I ask, would I want to murder you?” He asks, moving closer to me still. Making me back up against one side of the alleyway, until he is almost fully pressed against me. His mouth is inches away from mine, and I bite back the feeling of overwhelming warmth towards this unknown man. I don’t know him, and I surely don’t need him pressing me up against the side of an alleyway. I have no answer to his question, so I just stay silent until I can no longer stand it.
“Blood.” I squeak out, interrupting the quietness, as a trickle of blood hits the ground.
“So, are you going to let me help you now?” The strange man asks, still too close to me. But I reach out my hand, shocking even myself as I let him take the cloth. I tell myself I did this, if only to get his distracting presence far enough away from me. But that is only an excuse I made to tell myself, so that I won’t be thinking about his lips on mine.
Lightly dabbing the spot on my forehead of which I’d hit my head, and hard enough to draw blood, I bite my lip. Letting myself to trace the outline of the young man with my eyes, which I tell myself is to distract myself from the now overwhelming feelings of the upcoming competition. He’s definitely a pink. With his fine outfit, and “manicured” well groomed body I can tell that he surely has not worked a day out on a farm. Or for that matter, done any other manual labor, that’s for sure. But saying that isn’t quite as fair as I may have expected. He is very good looking, and strong too. I can see the muscles line his arms from intense, non mandatory workouts. But the one thing I can’t stop my eyes from looking at, is his eyes. Pure gold, just like the color of a pure golden crown. I can see by staring longer at him, that he probably didn’t run here. I can tell this, since his jet black hair isn’t even close to disheveled and his brown skin isn’t bedded in sweat either.
“Does it hurt?” He asks, and I can easily see that he is referring to me biting my lip. A common misconception with pain, at least with me. I suffer through it silently, along with most other yellows. We are trained to deal with pain, it is just something normal to us. But of course, pinks would think differently on that subject. Though why he cares about my answer to the question, is beyond me.
“No, I’m fine.” I tell him, not wanting to explain any of my serious thoughts to him. He wouldn’t even understand any of it if I let him into my scrambled mind. Letting my breaths slip in and out easily, I wait for him to finish cleaning my bloody wound. Moving away from me, he looks at my head. The cloth is spread out with blood, my blood I realize with a hit of surprise. Is the wound really that deep? And yet, with more shock I realize that I had felt nothing when it had been so fresh in the first place. Just a bit of throbbing here and there only when he’d been cleaning it for me.
“Be careful with that head of yours. And stay clear of the alleyways. I don’t want you running into a real murderer.” He tells me, laughing as he walks away and disappears quickly among the crowd. And yet, I don’t seem to understand what I’d just seen. Because how could someone like him, so original in his own right… how could someone like him, so quickly just become a part of the rest? One in a million, no matter what.