Any trace of happiness that my family had when they first saw me had long evaporated. A dark cloud had sucked out all the excitement in the house “What the hell was that about?” My mother’s eyes were slits and I could see her wine glass hand trembling. “Answer me, Myra, what did Enforcer Crowley say to you?” She took a big gulp of red wine as if she needed the red elixir to live rather than the air around her. Jaya poured more of the sweet drink into her glass.
“I don’t know. I was just minding my own business and he showed up.” I sat down at the middle of the table. A plate of chicken scaloppini with a side of fire-roasted tomatoes was waiting for me at my place. Just as I reached over to pick up my fork, my mother snatched it out of my hand. “Mother!”
“You don’t know? That’s not an answer. You do know. You wouldn’t be a Pure if you didn’t know.” The screeching sound of metal scraping against marble filled the room as my mother stood up to pace the room. My father hadn’t said a word but when I looked at him, he silently urged me to speak or else we would all be victims of my mother’s wrath.
“Okay, let me tell you about my day because Crowley showed up to my laboratory sector, along with Chancellor Andrew Blightnik from the Magistrate.” My mother dropped her wine glass, the blood-red liquid sprayed all over the floor.
“What?” Her hand clamped over her heart and her face scrunched up into a painful expression. But before I could move, Jaya lead my mother to her chair and forced her to sit down. Jaya moved much faster than any elderly woman could, she put a glass of water in front of my mother and a few colorful pills to help calm her down. My father and grandmother were both gaping at me like goldfish. My mother gulped down the pills with her water and then looked at me with urgent eyes. “Speak,” I told them about the Magistrate men coming to take Andrew Stewart away and how Crowley had been there. I couldn’t meet my mother’s eyes when I confessed how sick I had become after the incident. With great reluctance, I told them what Crowley whispered to me in the street. I could still feel his touch trailing over my arms and I was overcome with another wave of nausea.
My mother tapped her long nails against her new glass of wine but said nothing to me and neither did my father. My grandmother rose from her chair across from me and handed me my fork. Then she pulled me into her chest and held me.
“That’s enough.” I pulled away from my grandmother’s warm embrace and locked eyes with my mother. “Mother, leave us.” My grandmother hesitated for only a moment before she left the kitchen. I wanted desperately to call to her and tell her to stay with me, but I knew it was useless. She never wanted to be around my mother when she was about to explode. Even Jaya wasn’t in the kitchen. I was about to be the lone victim. “You are so weak.” I was so caught off guard by my mother’s statement that I dropped my fork. She was glaring at me. Her face was flushed red and her mouth twitched with rage.
“M-mother.” I felt the tears prickling my eyes. I looked at my father expecting him to interject, but he just sat there with his hands fastened together and his eyes glued to my mother. Tiny crystals rolled off my face and fell onto the polished oak table.
“You know very well you cannot show them any weakness and yet you folded the second someone was taken by the Magistrate for insufficient work. People talk Myra, and soon enough they will hunt you down for your weakness. If the Magistrate can rattle you so much from something so small, they will dig their claws into you and use you as a chew toy.” My mother rose from her chair and loomed over me. “If we do not appease them, then they will tear us down. This woman, Reena, she didn’t get sick over this. No one else did either. So why should you? Why should it affect you?” Her diamond ring dug into my bony shoulder as she pulled me closer to her. “Do not value a stranger’s life over your own.” She shook her head and cupped my face. “You need to be a predator Myra, not prey. Those animals will circle us until they find a weakness and then they will strike. All these people would like nothing more than to see us fail. All you need to focus on is Uniting with someone that will bring value to this family. Someone that is the same caliber as us.” Her dark eyes bore into my father. She beckoned for him to join her. “We will be in the living room for evening announcements. Eat your dinner, then come join us.” They left me alone in the kitchen with a cold plate of food and wet tears on my cheeks.
I laid my head on the cool table and tried to stop my legs from trembling. No one else cared about Evan Steward. They only cared that it wasn’t them that was being dragged away. So should you I told myself. But I couldn’t stomach the idea. I heard the theme music for the nightly announcements echo through the mansion. With a deep sigh, I made my way to the den where my mother and father were sitting on their favorite brown couch inlaid with golden patterns. At the apex of the twenty-foot ceiling hung a chandelier dripping in diamonds. The crystal prisms shown rainbows of light throughout the room. Three pillars of white marble stood in the right corner of the room. I stood behind the couch, not bothering to sit down. I knew after the broadcast my father would retire to his study and my mother would continue to drink. The chandelier lights automatically dimmed and I could see through the glass of the other houses, their lights were dimmed as well. Across the street, I could see the Bordeaux’s sitting on their pearl, white couch. I caught the eyes of their young daughter Jacqueline who waved at me. I lifted my hand to her and smiled. Jacqueline was ten years old and was going through the learning pod, so I only ever saw her at major events. Technicolor light exploded to life in front of us. The colors weaved together to form the projection of our Monarch. Her long, lithe body was dressed in an all-white pant suit. Her chocolate eyes popped against the snowy outfit. Her black hair was pulled back out of her face, so attention was drawn to her dazzling smile. Behind her, to her right, was The Chancellor. He stood with his hands pasted together in the same navy-blue suite from this morning. Behind them hung our county’s flag with a single, enormous golden star woven in the fabric.
“Good evening citizens!” She raised her spindly arms as if reaching out to embrace us. “As you all know, today was the First Day and I am pleased to congratulate all of you for becoming valuable members in our great nation.” I could see her chocolate eyes swiveling back and forth as she read from an invisible prompter. “I am happy to report that on this day we continue to be free of crime, disease and any imperfections that may hinder the journey to our superior selves.” I felt like the Chancellor was staring right at me. It was as if he was about to walk out of the projection into my living room. He looked like he was chiseled out of white marble; he remained stoic as the Monarch gave her nightly address. The Monarchs words buzzed in my head. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the way her smooth words drew me in like a Venus fly trap. “Please continue to blossom as Pure citizens, so that we can drive out any deficiencies in our midst. Goodnight citizens.” She flashed another winning smile before the projection fizzled out and the chandelier’s brilliant light filled the grand room. There was no report of Evan Steward at all, nor of the other two citizens who were on the Chancellor’s list. I turned to make my way up our grand oak staircase.
“Myra.” I stopped at the sound of my mother’s voice. “Make sure you put on your best face tomorrow, you fell a little flat today.” She didn’t turn around, but I saw the silhouette of her thin arm raising a glass to her lips.