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 color 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 Kenneth (the one the ladies are after, and yet my best friend and caretaker since I was little), my other brother Harvey, 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 came. My parent’s 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 I got so unlucky in my looks? I have no idea. Of course, having a household full of men, is a dangerous thing here, where the competition is held.
Dragging the large bucket of water now against the grass, I look across the road at the alleyway’s 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 strands of grass, spilling at least half of the water I’d collected from the yellow’s community well, sitting at least 2 miles from home.
“Curses!” I shout, scrambling to save the rest of the water. My mother would surely have a fuss about my carelessness. But at least no one was around to see...
“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 that is how you are supposed to carry water home from the well.” 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 just make me doubt myself even further.
“What are you even doing at this well? Your a purple, and I thought Purples were too important to even look at a yellow.” I say back, smiling as her smirk disappears, only to be replaced by a snarl. So unladylike. 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. Mine is on my leg, thank the heavens. However, I know that Carolyn loves where her tattoo is. It means 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 know’s who might be chosen. Besides, you know just as well as I, that whoever is chosen will most certainly die.” She shrugs her shoulders, bumping past me violently, almost making me spill my bucket of water yet again. I had almost forgotten about the drawing.
Every 3 year’s, four men, age’s between 17 and 35 are chosen from the Green, Orange, and Yellow communities, (the poorest classes of the kingdom) that surround the palace. The Royal family usually start’s the drawing from (The Greens) down to the lowest class, (the Yellows). My father is older than 35, but my brother’s are all within the age range where men suddenly qualify to be in the competition. The Royal Family chooses the contestants by about 95% randomization.
But some people, stupid people for sure, sign up for the prize that they might be able to win, or some poor parents decide to sign up their son right after birth, in order to make money off of their child automatically entering the dangerous competition. And that makes me shake with fear and rage. Of course they could survive. They 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, taking about 5 minutes of adrenaline filled running to reach my house. I need to remind my family of the new’s, is the only thought inside my head. 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 the most indecent place to live, and in compare 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.
Every home looks exactly alike, but I have lived here all my life, I know what house is my families, and so it only takes me one heat filled moment in order to rush into the tiny shack I call home. The window’s tilt lazily to the sides, and the front door is barely even latched on to it’s hinges. For my family of 7, there are only 2 room’s, bedroom’s that is, along with a tiny kitchen, only containing the necessities to live by. There is no living room, so my family put wooden chairs out back behind our house, and called it a win.
Bursting outside, I emerge to find my family sprawled 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.
“Father! Mother! The drawing is happening today!” I burst out, and everyone stares at me.
“Yes, we know.” Mother say’s simply, placing another apple gently in her woven basket.
“But...I...why aren’t you at the drawing?” I ask, taken aback by everyone’s calm behavior.
“We still have four day’s before the drawing.” Kenneth say’s, his authoritative, yet brotherly self, shining bright, just as always.
“No, they are visiting the yellow’s first this year.” I tell him quickly, 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, the men, found out about it, they were outraged, and threatened to overpower them, and so they had to punish us with exactly the thing we wanted most dearly.
They set up an elaborate competition, in order to punish our greed, and separated everyone into groups based on the colors of the rainbow, Pink being the highest class of citizens (the Royal families loyal followers since the start, even during the elixir incident), and all the way down to the lowest class, (the Yellow's, who were the one's to come up with, and start the rebellion against the Royal family after learning about the elixir). They did this to show us, especially the lower classes, 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 hand’s 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 doesn’t get chosen for the competition leading up to their almost certain deaths. Staring down at my feet, as they make their way in the direction of my family, I forget to look up and I slam right into something hard.
“Gods!” I shout angrily at myself. I am careless, even in the time of such mandatory frantic behavior. I rub my head, feeling something sticky and warm slide against my fingers.
“Miss, what may I ask is your prob....” I hear a deep voice say, and I look up slowly, seeing who exactly I ran into. “Your bleeding.” The man say’s, rushing me to where we will be shielded from the crowd gathering by the well.
“Yeah, I know.” I say stubbornly, peeling away a piece of fabric from my dress to clean 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.
“Well is it just me, or are we in a dark alleyway that you pushed me into? Seems such an obvious murder spot doesn’t it?” I say boldly. 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. The young man laughs again, and again I startle at the sound. I haven’t heard laughter in such a long time, it seem’s just like a distant memory.
“Yes, well, I can surely see your point.” He say’s, 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 sir. I don’t know him, and I surely don’t need him pressing me up against the side of an alleyway.
“Blood.” I say, interrupting the silence, as a trickle of blood hit’s the ground.
“So, are you going to let me help now?” The strange man say’s, still so close to me. And I reach out my hand, letting him take the cloth I’d made out of a piece of my dress, if only to get his distracting presence far enough away from me, 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, hard enough to draw blood, I bite my lip, tracing the outline of the young man with my eyes. He’s definitely a pink, with his fine outfit, and manicured, well groomed body, he’s surely not worked a day out on a farm, or done any other manual labor, that’s for sure. But saying that isn’t fair. He is very good looking, and strong. Muscles line his arms from intense, non mandatory workout’s. But the one thing I can’t stop my eyes from looking at, is his eyes. Pure gold, just like a crown. I can see by staring longer at him that he probably didn’t run here as his jet black hair isn’t disheveled and his brown skin isn’t bedded in sweat either.
“Does it hurt?” He asks, and I can 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 a norm to us. But of course, pinks would think differently.
“No, I’m fine.” I tell him, letting my breaths slip in and out easily, as I wait for him to finish cleaning my bloody forehead. Moving away from me, he looks at my head. The cloth is spread out with blood, my blood. Was the blood spread really that deep, and yet, I still feel nothing? Just a bit of throbbing here and there.
“Be careful with that head of your’s. I don’t want you running into a murderer.” He say’s, laughing as he walk’s away.
Disappearing quickly among the crowd.