I spent three days mourning.
I wandered the streets of the city I’d grown up in, cheeks sticky with long-awaited tears.
I found myself at the Sassy Kettle one night, sitting alone in an empty outdoor cafe. It was probably illegal in some way, but who was going to stop me? Cade and Tari were running the government, pretending like Elliot had, until they could ease the public into an election.
The announcement that the Council would be disbanded would be the next morning, and I didn’t intend to be here when the streets were full of chaos.
My bags were packed and sitting in the chair besides me. Two knives, two plastic vials filled with clear liquid, enough clothes for a week, and a map of the area we’d found in the bunker. The Council had preached isolationism, so maps of Justix were the only maps available to the public. The phone lines were limited too.
I was ready.
I’d taken an online course - BUS DRIVING FOR DUMMIES - and I was confident in my ability to make the eight-day trip to Faren.
I was going to meet my grandparents, if they were still alive.
I’d found their address in my father’s things the Council had confiscated, and though I knew it was somewhere in the country of Faren, I couldn’t find the street address on my vague map.
I’d do what I did best. Plan as best as I could, and make it up as I went.
I ripped my eyes away from the golden plaque with my name, and rose to say goodbye to home. I’d come back, of course, and Aspen knew I was leaving. But I wanted to explore, to find my roots.
The bus was ready for me, parked at the edge of the city. I made the thirty minute walk carefully, not stumbling once over my crutches. I’d gotten used to the rhythm.
The sun was still hours from rising when I unlocked the doors of the yellow monstrosity, pausing to take a long look at it.
I made the difficult ascension up the three steep stairs with my bag and my crutches. Reaching the top, I sat on the top stair, staring out over the sleeping city before me.
Then the lights came on, and my ears were assaulted with sound.
I struggled to my feet, taken aback, knives in hand. When I saw Aspen, I dropped my knives and hugged her, sniffling softly into her sweater. Behind Aspen stood Aaron, Tari, Julian, Ellie, Tammy, Cade, and a lot of shiny party decorations. They all wore ridiculous paper hats, the kind you saw in movies but no one ever seemed to wear.
“You turned seventeen almost a week ago,” Aspen said. I blinked. I’d completely forgotten my birthday.
I tried to have fun, I really tried.
The party didn’t last long, with Aspen, Tammy, and Cade leaving almost immediately to go to the Council building to facilitate the election announcement. The rest left slowly, one by one, wishing me happy birthday and bonne voyage.
When they’d all left, I didn’t take down the decorations. I left them up as I settled into the drivers chair, switched on the radio, and left my city behind.
Post draft, pre edit notes:
Julian needs more screen time and more character development
So does tari
The ending is rushed
Aarons glasses need more attention
CHARACTERS ARE FLAT
Editing process ideas:
First read through, making notes in “margins” in january/february
Read again, making plot changes
Third read, with small changes
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