Wait! Don't get mad. This isn't a new story I've decided to do instead of updating Broken Piece! lol. No, this is actually something I've been looking for for a long time and finally I found it. Give it a chance. Seriously, I'm not writing this instead of updating my other stuff. lol
They say, momma can't have anymore kids and that it's because of me. They said I came out fighting, wanted out so bad that I tore her all up inside and almost took her life. That was alright though, because all anybody wants around here these days is for their children to be born fighters, and that I was. I was born to fight. Hell, I was bred too, like everybody else born on this side of the canyon. Fighting equaled money and money equaled food, but most important, the green stuff equaled that liquid clear stuff, water. So momma doesn't blame me for not being able to have a boy because I'm better than most boys.
We only have one dress in our house. It was always hidden in the back of momma's closet, wrapped up in dusty plastic and hung behind rows and rows of my daddy's stitched work shirts on a out of place pink hanger. On Selection days, we're all suppose to look dapper and whatnot, girls in dresses and boys in suits. It's the last week in October, so it is Owners' week, but its also my first Selection day, so I have to look my best.
I sit on the stool and my mother stands behind me with a comb, racking it through my messy, short, black curls. She grumbles under her breath, something about me not combing my hair in so long. I grimace when she sprays water from an old spray bottle on my head - just to sprays. The water's cloudy and has been sitting in that bottle half full for as long as I could remember. Like I said, water's hard to come by.
When she finishes, she grabs a brush and gathers my hair into her hands and pulls it into a tight puff on the top of my head. I grimace and scowl at her in the mirror hung on the wall right next to the dress that was no longer was hanging in momma and daddy's closet. I had been staring at her for the last ten minutes. She taps my narrow shoulder with the back of the wooden brush swiftly, but her facial expression doesn't change as she finished up her work. She's calm, cool, and collected as always.
I roll my eyes, my gaze lowering from my momma's face to my own. I don't actually look at myself often, not because I have anything as counterproductive as low self-esteemed, but because I'm not the type of girl who worries about her appearance and whatnot. I mean, why bother? No one on this side of the canyon is judged by what they look like. Its all about how they fight, the length of your arms and legs, how fit you are. Being able to take a man twice your size down with just one punch is what fellas find attractive around here... I think so anyway... Not that I have a lot of experience in the fella category, but that doesn't matter yet.
My reflection, without all my hair in my face, I see what my momma calls a 'heart-shaped' face, high cheek-bones, wide, almond shaped eyes, a thin nose, and skin the color of the sweet rarity known as chocolate. I look pretty young, but in reality I'm old enough for Selection, seventeen and a half to be exact. It was a big deal to everyone around here when I turned Selection age, everyone in our town, and especially everyone in my clan, all have high expectations for me. In our town. I'm one of the first persons to show any promise at all of actually being good enough for Selection in a long time.
"Damn, near broke my comb," she says as she tightens the ban around my hair. Mamma is always full of jokes. I ignore them usually because they're never that funny anyways. Her eyes catch mine in the mirror. Its to late to look away and to pretend I wasn't studying my own reflection. I groan quietly as momma bends down so our faces are level. She smiles and I frown.
"We look a lot a like," she says. That's not a lie. Momma and me look exactly a like, except for her having skin so light brown it wasn't really brown at all, in my opinion anyway. Damn near everybody had some shade of brown skin on this side of the Canyon, not everyone, but damn near everyone. Momma's original clan is small and resides on the edge of town - a bunch of very, very light brown people, most of them anyway, with almond shaped eyes. Sometimes they even speak in gibberish, or another language rather, excuse me, though it sounds like nothing but gibberish to me. Momma only ever speaks it when one of her sisters comes around, she never bothered to teach me. Her and daddy only came together because they both came closest to being Selected when they were seventeen. The town thought any child they had would surely be Selected. And I would be, no one had any doubts. Well, except for me, but you wouldn't hear me saying that a loud. "So today is the day," she says a second later.
"Hmm." I reply.
"Words, Amelia, words, please." I cringe at the use of that name, everyone else calls me Scrappy but momma and official people who have no idea how much I hate that name. "Are you nervous?"
I stare at the scar running down the corner of my mouth, I smile and watch it stretch. I got that particular scar from fighting Peter Adams from De Rosa four years ago in the Junior Tournament spring finals – which I won, like all of the tournaments I participate in – I am very proud of that one. He had been bigger and stronger but I had taken him down anyway. Like daddy says, fighting isn't always only about strength.
Today is the day of the Selection Tournament which would televised all over, even reaching some places overseas. And tomorrow, at the Selections Ceremony, I will be chosen; the honor and future of my town and clan will be safe and upheld; I will be a real fighter, one like the ones I watch on the Tale-Screen.
"No way," I say. "I got this in the bag."
"Oh, of course." She smiles. "You won't be winning nothing without a little fuel. Let's go eat breakfast."
"What about the dress?" I ask, shooting the dull pink, frilly, nightmare a scathing look. I hated that thing, even before I had any idea I would have to wear it one day. It was my mother's back when she was old enough for Selection, so she was fond of it for whatever reason.
"With the way you eat, Amelia? I don't think so. We'll get you into it after you eat." She runs her hands over the smoothed edges of my hair.
She kisses the side of my head and plucks the dress from the wall and heads down the hall. Although our faces are identical, our bodies couldn't be any more different. Her body is thin and long underneath her brown work blouse and pants now after years and years of bookkeeping and being a mother. I have muscles from training and constants fights and I'm a few inches shorter then my mother.
I shoot one last glance at myself before I get to my feet. I catch up to my mother and we both enter the kitchen together. Like every morning daddy makes breakfast for us all – pork and grits – and plops a large spoonfuls onto my plate and kisses both me and momma on the top of our heads as he hums some old song even he had forgotten the actual words too – its mornings like this that I wonder if leaving it all behind for a life on the other side of the canyon was really what I wanted.
* * *
Someone must have run out of 'bathing' water because the bus stinks to hell like onions. Worse of all, its as hot as usual on this side of the canyon and the air shooting in from the lowered windows is just as hot if their wasn't a breeze at all. All it was doing was steering up more of the funk and beating the crap out of my puff and helping my rebellious curls escape their tight prison.
The driver is new and can't drive worth a damn, so he's hitting every pot hole he can find, sending my body into a side to side wobble and right into the fat folds of my seat partner Agnes Baker, who in turns keeps shooting unfriendly glances at me. She won't say nothing though, she better not anyway. If she does have a lapse in judgment and does I have no problem reminding her of who exactly I am.
My only friend, Leaf, sits in the seat across from mine smiling big, obviously amused and waiting on the fireworks. His feet are planted firmly on the floor of the bus and he's not even moving at all. His long arms are folded behind his head as he watches. Leaf belongs to that La Especial clan, so he don't resemble me even a little. He has dark hair he usually wears slicked back like one of those Italian 'gangsters' we saw in an old movie that played a couple of times on the Tale-Screen when we were eight. He had a pretty big nose, long not wide, and some rare dark green eyes and dimples in his cheeks. I assume his name is Leaf because of his eyes. Besides me, Leaf was the only other person in town who an actual shot of be chosen for the Selections. That was why when we were eight our father's introduced us, if we weren't Selected, we would be married and expected to have Selection worthy children. I didn't think about that part to much, Leaf is only my friend, my best-friend, we compliment each other well my mom says. Ying-Yang and what-not, whatever that means. But there isn't anything romantic about us. I'm convinced he's going with me to the other side of the canyon. He'll impress one of those rich people too. He's smug and self-centered, but he's strong. My dad calls him smart, but I'm not too sure about that. Around everyone except for a few people Leaf is pretty quiet, so not a lot of people get to hear the amount of stupid stuff he says but I do, and most of it is really stupid.
Leaf's wearing black suit and a black tie, the way his pants are too short and how the jacket droops over his shoulders tells me its his father's. The fact that he looks so uncomfortable in it helped with my own embarrassment about being in this dress. Neither of us mentioned the others state of dress, realizing we couldn't clown on each other, looking how we're looking and whatnot.
The flat straight road out in front of the bus curved narrowly as it began to incline up and a jagged mountain springs up on our left and a flat valley spreads out on our right. I eye the steep drop and say a quick prayer under my breath, with this driver we would need it. Everyone becomes quiet, as uncertain as I am, than again, maybe it was the fact that we were drawing nearer to Spring City is what has everyone quiet and fidgety. After all, it is today. Our futures are going to be decided today.
It was only fifteen minutes later that buildings begin to sprout up, sparse at first before the space between the buildings disappeared altogether. This wasn't my first time to Spring City, not at all. All of the tournaments were held in the city, we get our fitness reports done here, when I was younger I went to school here, and my mom works in one of the big towers for a Betting corporation as a cafeteria lady. Spring City was very different from our dusty little town.
The NOFE HQ building emerges from behind a couple of other buildings, dark and narrow, looming over the buildings closest to it. The bus turns onto a narrow one-lane road which wraps around the wide building. The driver slows his speed because of the construction work going outside of the bus. Men worked tirelessly under the boiling sun, all of them drenched in sweat. Although I was aware of the fact that my father was at home, out of work because of his back again, I still search the faces of the brownest men working, for him. He's not there, so I turn away and focus my gaze onto Leaf.
Leaf is looking forward, his body swaying a little with the bus's movements, his arms still bent behind his head. His face is blank and his emotions hidden. I can tell he isn't day-dreaming about food nor about his long-time crush Octavia Southern. I find his expression odd actually, its so unlike him. It was too... thoughtful. He tugs at his tie with one long finger, green eyes darting from one side of the bus to the other.
The bus stops in front of NOFE HQ and I get up, and slid out of the seat as quickly as I can. I grab Leaf and yank him onto his feet before leading us both towards the exit before anyone else can even think of moving. My movements are quick and smooth, graceful and purposeful, its how I move. Daddy always says, never waste a move, always have a plan, and a purpose for your actions.
My purpose in this moment? Getting the heck off this funky bus.
I've never been to this building before, but I pretend I have when I step off the bus and onto the dark pavement. As my daddy says, 'sometimes you just have to fake it.' Even if you think you're going to lose, no even when you're sure, don't make it obvious. He says sometimes a fight can be more psychological and less about the physical. Never show your fear to a wolf because that's exactly when they'll pounce... something like that.
The building is made of dark glass and steel, giving it a rather foreboding look. Still, I waltz right up to doors and they slid open for us, and I step into the cool, air-conditioned lobby.
"You ready for this?" I ask Leaf, letting go of his hand as we stand just inside the doors and wait on everyone else. Leaf towers over me in a quite unfair way.
"I was born ready, Scrappy." He shrugs and looks behind him as the other Selection Aged make their way inside, all of them dressed in their most formal wear, looking as awkward and uncomfortable as damp jeans. I ignore Leaf's very cliché line because the building is so painfully quiet, why break something that is so organic.
It had been stuffy and irritating atmosphere on the bus, but now with all of us standing in this fancy lobby it is down right tense. I guess reality is settling down on everybody and whatnot. Without one of us being Selected, it was very unlikely that our poor little town would be able to make it another year. There is a lot riding on us to do something, if no one is Selected maybe someone could interest a sponsor – some rich person who saw a potential pairing between to contestants and wanted to see it play out. Our town depended on it.