~Chapter 2A- Eugenio Jr~
We adjusted to a life without dad and with my new brother Eugenio. Or Junior, as Raul called him. Eugenio Jr. looked more like mom, but still had me and dad’s brown hair over her black hair.
After a few months I could tell Mom was antsy to get back to work at the bakery with her brothers. I offered to take care of Eugenio whenever I could so she could return to work.
When I wasn’t in school, I took care of little Eugenio with some frequent help from Melissa and Arturo. One day Eugenio wouldn’t stop crying and we couldn’t get him to stop. It wasn’t until Eugenio got into Arturo’s arms that he fell fast asleep.
Arturo spent a lot of time with us after that, which Raul wasn’t particularly happy about. The black haired boy taught me how to play the Damin Strategy game. I still didn’t like it that much, but it was fun to play with him. He enjoyed having a new opponent.
The game’s map mirrored our country of Rhivera, matching the landmarks pretty accurately. Mount Rhive was located to the east, the Jungles to the south, and those sand dunes dad and I always wanted to visit were up North in Norino. The bridges connecting the northern regions of the country to the south were omitted though. The game was supposed to be based off a war that happened sixty years ago. Arturo tried explaining the history of it all, but I couldn’t follow him with how frantic he was.
In June of 2011, I wanted to see if I could get Eugenio to stand on his own. He hadn’t started crawling yet, but when I was a baby I skipped right over crawling to walking. He was my brother so I figured he could too. I held him up next to a short table and slowly stopped supporting him to see if he’d stand on his own, but his legs kept giving out.
“His legs are skinny aren’t they?” Arturo stated. I didn’t realize it before but they were abnormally thin.
Nothing seemed to change as months passed. He didn’t crawl or stand on his own. We assured ourselves that he was just a late bloomer. But as time passed we became less sure.
“He still isn’t crawling?” Raul asked during a visit to our house.
“I’m sure he will soon.” Mom deflected.
Raul was determined to see Eugenio crawl, but his legs wouldn’t support themselves. He picked at his beard in deep thought. All of us were silent as we looked down at Eugenio on the floor, unable to move around.
Something was wrong with Eugenio. We didn’t know what, and were scared to take Eugenio to a doctor. “If it’s something that can’t be fixed, Population Control will take him.” Raul said, his face buried in his palms. Mom had this terrified look on her face.
“I thought Population Control didn’t take kids.” Mom tried to rationalize.
“If they’re born with some sort of ailment they will.” Yolanda, Melissa’s mom responded solemnly. Yolanda had worked within the Population Control Council for a few years before she started working at a secretary position in the military under Raul. She had a firm understanding of who they would take and why.
It was once her job to sift through the records of the population and move adjust their position up or down on the PCC’s list, passing it along to others for further evaluation. Eventually, an individual’s files would reach the Emperor, and he would make the final decision on what should be done.
The Population Control Council had simple ways of gathering information on people to add to their records. Purchases at most businesses, employment at jobs, attendance at school were all recorded. These little things accumulated to portray the condition of the person at present day. The PCC’s records would show which days of school I missed, but not necessarily why I was absent or where I was instead.
Depending on the economy and resources the PCC sets a population limit and whenever it is passed, those deemed least useful to the country on the PCC’s list would be eliminated. In cases like with my dad, they wouldn’t wait for the population to drop before taking him.
“There is nothing wrong with him Raul!” Mom barked at Raul, clutching little Eugenio in her arms.
“He’s a year-old Maria. You can’t act like this isn’t a problem anymore.” Raul reasoned.
Mom held Eugenio tightly, “I’m not losing him! I can’t!” She said with tears forming in her eyes.
Raul sighed, “Maria. I’m sorry. There’s nothing we can-”
“Yes there is!” Mom interrupted him, “With your rank in the military, you could do something to save him, couldn’t you?”
Raul was about to respond when he realized we were watching. He took my mom into another room to talk. They tried to be quiet, but we heard every word.
“Do you have any idea what would happen if we tried something like that and were caught? I would lose everything I’ve worked so hard to earn!” Raul said in a tone that was supposed to be hushed.
“So you admit you could save him if you wanted?” Mom said, reading between his words.
“He’d only be safe for as long as he was secret a Maria. We might be able to pass off that he died and have the PCC’s records show that, but the moment someone finds out, then its over. They’ll take him, and I’ll lose all credibility I’ve earned so far. I’m not doing that Maria!”
“If Eugenio dies, I die.” Mom said simply. I didn’t realize it then, but she was threatening to kill herself.
“Maria... you can’t be that selfish. Think about Juaquin!”
For a few minutes no words were spoken between the two of them. As far as we could tell.
Raul stepped out of the room and came over to the two of us. “Listen, I need help from both of you. You’re going to have to tell a lie with us to help protect Eugenio.”
Raul began to explain that in a few months, we were going to tell people that Eugenio died. The story would be that he became terribly ill and we didn’t get him to a doctor in time. We would have to corroborate the lie, and tell all of our friends that was what happened. Eugenio would have to be hidden indoors to keep him secret, and none of our friends would be allowed to come by the house.
“You can’t tell anyone understand? Not even that Montoya boy. If anyone finds out a lot of bad things will happen?” Raul said sternly, with a twinge of fear in his voice.
Melissa and I nodded, “Understood.”
We immediately planned to tell Arturo.