“Are you scared?”
I glanced over at Brea, who wore a teasing grin. Brea was all sunshine and air, floaty, dreamy, and gorgeous. We’ve been friends since we were babies.
“No,” I smiled. “I’m excited.”
“You should be, honey.” Mom leaned over the table and placed her hand on top of mine. “You look stunning.”
We were sitting with our families, everyone around the longest table I’ve seen. Brea and I were next to each other, of course, but the rest of the graduates were scattered alongside the table.
I picked at my dress. It was rosy pink, with a glowing undertone of gold. It tied behind my neck in a halter and stopped just above my knees. It was the first time I’ve ever worn it, and probably the last. The only other ceremony I would have to attend that was as important as this would be my own wedding and I would be wearing white there.
Plates slowly moved down the table, connected to a slit in the wood that rotated. First came the salads, and we all reluctantly filled our plates full. The main courses arrived shortly after and I heard the murmurs of excitement that passed through the room.
We were all pretty stuffed by the time dessert came, but no one was going to pass that up. We didn’t have to monitor our calories tonight.
As we were enjoying our ice cream and cakes, a lady stepped up to the stage. She tapped the microphone, and static vibrated throughout the room.
“Ah, yes.” She smiled widely. “I am Elodie Emerson, your graduating administer.”
Brea turned to look at me. “I’ve never heard of a Emerson before, have you?”
I shook my head. She must have a higher rank then, to have a name only for herself.
“And I would like to personally welcome you to your graduating ceremony!”
Claps and cheers followed that, even though I rolled my eyes a little and saw that others did too. We all knew that the most important part of this ceremony was not of the actual graduation, but more of finding out who our assigned spouses.
Our last exam at school was for that sole purpose alone. We had to answer thousands of questions, from our favorite colors to how we tie our shoelaces. Those were considered essential, to match us with someone who complemented our interests.
There were some restrictions to our spouses themselves, however. The results were only analyzed with people our age, and your medical information was also considered in the matching. People with disabilities weren’t allowed to take the exam, and they could only submit a form for a spouse with another person that also had a disability. It goes without saying that they would not be able to have children.
For everyone else, the exam was required by law. By many laws, actually. The only way out of it was to join the military and you still have to take it ten years later, provided you’re alive.
The room dimmed, before screens began to light up all over the walls. Images of different people, sitting in the same rooms and at the same table as us showed on the tiny screens. I glanced around, drinking everything in. All the sixteen year old graduates in the whole country were linked for this ceremony.
Brea reached her hand out and I grasped it. I looked to my left, at Ina and Easton. They were holding hands too, but out of love, not comfort. Everyone was sure that they would be matched. I was too. They were perfect.
I reached my hand out for Ina to grab as well. The four of us were inseparable, but we all knew that would change soon. We had four weeks of courting our new partners before we had to move in together with them. It would be a couple weeks before we were able to get together again, and by then it would be different for all of us.
Our certificates were given out to us the night before, and all that was left was finding our matches. The government was very proud of this system. At least, that’s what it seemed like. We spend our childhood unburdened by love or worries, and as we transition to adulthood, we are given a partner that is perfect for us.
“We would like to begin the matching ceremony now,” Elodie Emerson chirped.
Names were called in alphabetical order. We were only doing half of the graduates tonight, or as many as possible. The rest would adjourn here tomorrow. Lights flashed green everywhere; in the room and on various screens around. There was one wall where your spouse would be shown on a screen if they were somewhere else, which they usually were.
“Brea Samson,” Brea gave us a confident smile, before standing and making her way towards the stage. I knew better, though. Her hand had clutched mine tightly before she was called, sweaty and terrified.
She stood there, shining in buttery yellow fabric that looked dyed from the sun itself, with dark curls around her shoulders and a weak smile. The lights shone suddenly, turning green. One screen grew larger, blocking out the rest of the wall. A mousy, timid looking boy was standing on the screen.
He lit up when he saw Brea. I wasn’t surprised. Who wouldn’t? She smiled back, and was handed a packet from the enthusiastic Elodie Emerson before she was ushered off the stage, bolting towards us.
“He looks nice!” I squeezed her hand. She clutched her packet to her chest, a permanent grin on seemingly etched on her face.
“I know,” She whispered back.
Camari was soon after that, surprisingly partnered with a boy in our own class. We didn’t have any D’s and the E’s rushed by fast.
Ina and Brea gave me one last reassuring hug before I found myself on the stage. The lights were blinding and I started to worry about my makeup and my dress. It seemed like I had been standing up there too long, but no one looked worried.
The lights flickered, before I was bathed in green. Elodie Emerson flumbled for her microphone, looking slightly surprised.
“Two in one night!” She exclaimed. “Let’s see... Easton Clark!”