(In Mezzy/Symphonia’s ‘Mother’s perspective)
“No, we can’t.” He firmly states. I squeeze my eyes shut and let out a sigh. How can I possibly change his mind?
“Darling, I can’t bear to send one off to be killed. We signed up for a child, don’t you still want this? I’ll admit that we might not be able to keep the secret forever, but they are so innocent. How could we ever murder an innocent child? I know it is illegal to have two children, but could we completely ruin a child’s life? Are we monsters?” I ask. He looks down to the ground and rubs the back of his neck.
“I know we signed up for a child, but I wasn’t expecting to be assigned to a Birth Giver who is bearing twins. I wasn’t expecting that we’d have to choose what child we want to kill. We have to be logical, dear. If you want me to consider, you’ll have to answer some essential questions. If we don’t have a plan, there’s no point.” He looks up at me, biting at his lip.
I can remember the time that we had no worries, nothing but that moment to think about. The hope we had when we got married. How madly in love we were. Did we still love each other, or are we just lying to ourselves so we can get through this.
Have we grown apart because of the children we have been bestowed? I can still remember the day we applied for a child, we were so thrilled once we got the acceptance letter. It is funny to think of how much worse it had gotten. We never planned on being assigned a Birth Giver who is bearing twins.
Since we found out 4 months ago, we still haven’t made the decision. We have waited too long. The children are going to be here any minute and we still haven’t chosen.
We are ordered to send away one of the identical twins, for other people, this may just seem like a simple decision. Being ‘sent away’ doesn’t seem as harsh as what it is. As a Caregiver, I know what is means. I’ve done it before. The one twin that they choose to ‘send away’ are killed with a lethal shot by a Caregiver.
We have to choose what twin we want to ‘send away’ or we can go against The Order and take both. If we were to take both twins, we would have to do it secretly, risk going to The Forsaken.
“Ok.” I quietly respond, looking around the room to double check that there aren't any cameras watching us.
“We would take one of the twins back as our legal child, but how would we get the other twin to the Residency?”
“I could go in and be the Caregiver to ‘send away’ the other twin. I would bring a basket and put the other one in it and say I had done it. I-I had killed her.” I answer simply.
“They wouldn’t expect it?”
“No, I am a trusted Caregiver, they wouldn’t expect this from me. “
“Where would the other twin stay? How would we educate her? How would we feed her?”
“We would split up the meals, we could sneak some textbooks, and we could keep her under one of the loose floorboards.”
“You’ve really thought this out haven’t you?”
“I have.” I admit to him, knowing that he is finally realizing the importance of this to me.
“You realize that by giving one girl a life, we are binding ourselves to The Forsaken.” He looks straight into my eyes and try to look away from his gaze. I feel the warmth of his hand cupping my chin and lifting my head so I will look at him.
His pale blue eyes are hypnotizing, and his hair is swept in a clean streak up off of his face. He is so perfect. I imagine what he must be looking at, a disheveled girl with messy hair, dull eyes, and containing a whole lot of trouble. What does he see in me? Haven’t I done enough to scare him off already?
“Adalyn.” I wince as he says my name. “I love you. I know this has been crazy, but I haven’t lost hope for our future. When I look into your eyes, I see this wild spark of light, and I can’t help but love it. I can’t help loving you and every part of you. Please don’t ever think that I think less of you, because I don’t. I want you to be happy. If keeping both twins pleases you, then I’ll do it. I love you, Adalyn, and no matter what you do or say, I always will.”
Somewhere in the middle of his elongated profession, tears slip away from the corners of my eyes. “I love you, too” I whisper, embracing him. I tightly hold onto him, not wanting to let go, not wanting him to slip away.
(16 Years Later, Mezzy's perspective)
I suck in my breath. No, no, I scream in my head. Why do I always get so nervous when they come? I have experienced this many times before, why is this any different? Breath, you are not there, you are an inanimate board, I hear my dad's voice calming me in my head. I am an inanimate board, nothing more, nothing less.
"Good evening, Ma'am" a booming male voice rings through the room. My body tenses at the intimidating voice. The guards are here.
I uncomfortably squirm around in my hiding spot. Boards press against me and I am forced to cross my arms over my body.
"Good evening, come in, please." Mother responds calmly. How could she ever be so calm when I am freaking out? Loud footsteps echo from the guard's thick boots entering our Residency.
"We're here for the daily routine. May we go about?" One of the guards asks. I almost laugh at the guard even asking that question. Everyone knew that guards could do almost whatever they pleased, including searching a Residency without any permission.
The guard's footsteps follow. I can imagine Mother's, sharp blue eyes and dark black hair smoothed back into a tight bun, staring calm and respectfully at the guards. She always seems so put together and calm. I have always admired her self-control. As for me, even the smallest issue can put me into all sorts of stress.
It isn't all my fault that I do, I haven't been raised like her. I haven't been able to express my feelings as much and be as social. In fact, I’d be being social is my weakness.
The only choices I have in this life is to seclude myself from the outside world and shove myself beneath the floorboards or give myself up to The Forsaken. No one really knows where or what The Forsaken is, just that you don't want to mess up to that extent to go there. Rumors say it is hell, just renamed. When someone is sentenced to The Forsaken, you can plan on never seeing that person again. Being sentenced to The Forsaken brings shame to your family, friends, Lane, and your whole entire Sector. No one willingly goes to The Forsaken, that is if it is a place.
Like all other people, I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to give myself up to The Forsaken. Not that I have the choice. My family knows that no one can keep it down. Our dirty little secret, will find it's way to The Forsaken and they'll be dragged there, too. We were all bound to The Forsaken the moment I was born. I am the disgrace to this family.
I hear the loud footsteps of the guards getting closer and closer. My body tenses and I suck my breath back in. One movement, Mezzy, I think, and you'll have a one way ticket to The Forsaken. I hear their footsteps stop right on top of me. All I can think of is the guard finding the crack of the hidden door in the floorboards and opening it up to find me squeezed inside.
I release a softs sigh when the guard moves away from where I'm hidden.
"How are you today, Sir?" I hear Mother trail behind them, obviously relieved the guards are making their way to the kitchen.
"I am grateful for the honor of being a trusted guard of this Sector, Ma'am" The guard answers, sounding like he's quoting from a book.
"Very well, then, would you like anything to drink?" Mother responds, sounding distant from in the kitchen.
"Ma'am, I am not to take anything from the people."
"I see." She answers, sounding disappointed from his rejection.
The guard continues the daily evaluation, I know he must be high on the ranks. He doesn't ask any questions, continues his rounds in correct order: Main Room, Kitchen, Bathroom, Left Bedroom, Right Bedroom, and then leaves to examine the other Residency's on our lane. The guard just leaves doesn't spare time to chat and doesn't hint on the sucessfulness of the examination, as many guards do.
It seems like forever before the guard makes his designated rounds around our Lane. I can't come out until he is gone from the Lane so he won't catch any glimpses of me through the gigantic windows set in all the Residency's, even if the curtains are closed (which they always are).
After what seems like an infinity of waiting shoved beneath the floorboards in the dark, I hear my mother slowly executing the combinations of knocks telling me I can finally come out.
I push open the secret hatch slowly. Bright light seeps between the cracks, searing my eyes. I squint and use my elbow to shield the bright light away from my face.e I pull myself up from the hole and wait for my eyes to adjust. I never really realize how dark it is in there until I come out.
Once my eyes adjust, I am greeted by the welcoming Residency I've known all my life. The Residency's aren't what many would like to call 'warm' and 'cozy'. With thick concrete walls, dark wooden floors, and limited furniture, 'warm' and 'cozy' are not descriptions of Residency's. But none the less, they do have emotional value, Residency's are like an old friend, where so many memories took place.
For me, I had more memories than others in my Sector of their Residency, mostly because I've never left the Residency and probably never will.
As soon as I close the secret hatch, the front door starts to crack open. Who could possibly be home? Symphonia shouldn't be home for a while and Dad shouldn't be home until 6. My heart starts beating a million miles an hour. I won't have enough time to get back into my hiding spot.
I quickly run into a the kitchen to hide myself from the guest. I frantically look around for something to hide behind if they come into the kitchen. I silently curse under my breath and duck under the table. The sound of the door closing followed by the soft footsteps of the intruder echo throughout our Residency. I suck in my breath as the person enters the kitchen.
"Mezzy," A familiar feminine voice says. "you need to work on your hiding skills." I look up to see Symphonia grinning at me and crouching down to look at me under the table. I let out a relieved sigh. I look over to the clock, she is on time, I must've been in my hole for longer than I thought.
A wide smile crosses her face. She must have had a good day.
"I'd like to see you do any better." I challenge, getting up from under the table. Simphonia is standing with an assortment of textbooks in her arms.
"I brought you something." She sings, her brilliant blue eyes shining brightly. She motions to the textbooks.
Symphonia often brings me home various textbooks for me to study. I always love learning something new. I will never be able to go to school, so Symphonia's textbooks are the closest thing to an education I'll get. Of course she is taking a risk bringing them home for me, no one is allowed to take the books from school. Anyway, we are all breaking more rules from just me being here.
"Awesome! What'd you get this time?" I ask, extremely excited.
"Well, let's see." She beams. "History, mathematics, and language." She places all the books on the table.
"All yours." She smiles proudly. I flash her a grateful smile and excitedly flip open the top book and read a short paragraph.
In 2462, World War X, also known as 'The Impoverished War', demolished most of civilization and societies. After continuous oppression and poverty, the lower classes from around the world fought against the high classes and the government.
"Hi, honey." Mother strides in. "How was your day?" I look up to see if she is talking to me. Unsurprisingly, she's staring directly at Symphonia, only able to tell us apart by our hairstyle.
"Very good, thank you, Mother." Symphonia pipes.
"Nightly meal and Father should be arriving soon." Mother says, with some sort of tension in her voice. As if on cue, Father walks through the door.
"Hello, ladies." He chirps. Mother lets out a smile, but I can still sense the stress in her smile.
"Just on time, please sit. There is some news." Mother tells, swiftly moving to the little chute where the trays of food would be waiting. I wonder what news Mother could have for us? Nothing comes to mind, so I just remove the textbooks from the table and sit down.
The triangular table only has three chairs, so I have to share one with Symphonia. It is a tight squeeze and only half of my body gets to sit, but we make it work. Mother returns with three trays full of steaming baked chicken, peas mixed with corn, bread with a small sliver of butter, an apple, and a tall glass of water.
Mother places them on the dinner table and takes 1/4 of every tray to give to me. Since the Order doesn't know I'm alive, I don't get my own tray, so we distribute it so everyone gets 3/4 of a meal.
Once everyone has their meal, we sit there in excruciating silence.
"Okay." Mother finally sighs. "Tonight, there will be a Broadcast." Everyone stops chewing. What did she just say? There would be a Broadcast?
Broadcast's are only sent out when something big had happened, or something big is going happen. Usually, Broadcast's are only sent out once a year, at most, and when they do, it is a big deal.
"I think you might know what this means." Mother breaks the silence, staring at me and Symphonia. I have a sickening feeling I know what it means. "I think it may be the Matching Ceremony." As she says those words, I almost puke.
I swallow the bit of chicken too quickly and almost choke. Did I hear her right? I look around the table, Symphonia’s mouth is wide open, her jaw hanging slack. Father looks ghostly pale and his hand resides on his chin and mouth, a stressed habit of his. I had heard her right.
The Matching Ceremony is an annual celebration for the eligible 16 year olds. The males ask a female for their hand in marriage.
The ceremony starts out with The Meeting, all the males and females have to pair up, run a Residency together for one whole day, take care of an infant, pass daily examinations, and work an assigned Occupancy.
Then, the next day, they switch partners. After that, they switch partners again, continuing the cycle until all the males and females have been with each other. The Meeting is the longest part of The Matching Ceremony, it can take up to 3 grueling months.
Next, comes The Choosing, the males ask for a female’s hand. If the female’s hand is asked for by more than one male, she must choose her match. If a female is not picked or a male has no one to choose, they are sent away to the Forsaken.
After the end of The Matching Ceremony, the couples are bound together by the rope on their wrists for one day. In that day, they can still relinquish their vows of marriage and join The Forsaken, or trade partners with another couple. Once that day is over, they have no choice to switch, only to join The Forsaken or be married to their partner.
After that time period, The Marriage Ceremony, one of the most important ceremonies, begins.
The problem is, Symphonia and I are 16 this year. This obviously doesn’t matter for me, because I don’t go to any ceremonies or initiations, only Symphonia.
Not that me not being to participate in The Matching Ceremony doesn’t affect me. When Symphonia gets married, she’ll move to a Wed Residency and Father and Mother will be separated and move into the Elder Complex. Leaving me no where to go, no place to live.
“You don’t understand!” Symphonia grumbles as we get ready for bed.
“I do, you just don’t understand that it is going to affect me more than it will affect you.” I remind her, coming up behind her in a white night gown.
Symphonia stands in front of a small mirror above the bathroom sink. She brushes out her long brown hair and scowls at my comment.
“You will never understand, you don’t know what it’s like out there. You never will! I am the one is going to be forced to get married!” She shoots. It comes out like a slap to the face. Sure I’ve never left the Residency, but I know more than she thinks.
“I know more than you think! I am sacrificing more than you because of The Matching Ceremony! It doesn’t mean I’m not affected!” I argue, trying not to let tears slip out.
“What, you think, that after they find out that you’ve been living under this roof illegally for 16 years that they’re just going to let us stay? Remember ‘One child per Residency’? Yeah, it isn’t really your fault that Mother and Father took you in! They’ll be sentenced for worse than you. All you’ve done is be alive, you’re just going to be sentenced because they can’t keep you here. I didn’t turn you in and kept Mother and Father’s weakness, I’ll be sentenced just as badly as Mother and Father. You get the best of the deal, we are the ones who get the harsher sentence! You are not the only one who will be finishing your life as The Forsaken! You’re not the only one who will have consequences! You are so selfish! Sometimes I wish that I hadn’t been a twin, that you were never born, maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess.” She explodes. I stand there in shock for a few seconds. She turns around to face me, her mouth open like she’s about to apologize.
It feels as if she’s taken a dagger to my heart, opened up an old wound. It had felt as if I‘d belonged in this family, but I’ve been lying to myself, I am the mistake, the flaw of the family. She’s right, I am the one who got them in this tangled mess.
“I’m sorry you feel that way.” I state, sad and hurt. I turn away from her apologetic face and walk out of the room.
“Mezzy, I didn’t mean it that way…” She stammers out after me.
“I think you did.” I interrupt, choking back tears.