This year my New Year's Resolution is to finish writing and to publish my newest literary child! It remains currently untitled, but you will not want to miss this one!
I could see Mom’s lips moving, but it was impossible to focus on what she was saying. Her voice was direct and almost melodic, it was the same voice that read to me before I fell asleep as a child.
Starting today I was not a child anymore. If I could prove myself, I would no longer be forced to spend long hours with Trena in the Knowledge Hall, consuming massive amounts of history and information. I would be assigned a Guide, and I would study a map of the Outside. Today, I would begin the most important journey of my life; I would begin my official training to become a guardian of The City and the citizens who reside here. To be a Protector of the Pure Ones-
I jumped dramatically as the sound of my name shocked me out of my trance.
“Could you at least feign interest in the Battle of Blood Valley?” Implored Trena.
“I am interested, Mom.” I yawned unconvincingly, and stretched in my hard wooden chair.
Trena stiffened at the mention of the word ‘mom’. Her full pink lips drew into a thin line and her thick, dark eyebrows scrunched together in irritation. It had always made her uncomfortable when I acknowledged her as my mother.
The City is all about choices.
My Father chose to be a single parent, and my mother, Trena, claims to have been humbled and honored when he came to her to make the Conception Agreement. Father was convinced that he was the only person who could raise the perfect Protectors to keep peace in The City for years to come. According to the Agreement, he and Trena would have sexual intercourse 3 times. The first time everything went as planned, and Trena provided him with my perfect oldest brother, Jax. The following birth, she delivered twin boys. It was a rare unexpected surprise; Father had his three Protectors, but since the Agreement had been signed, they had sexual intercourse once more, and Trena gave birth to me.
I was the disappointment.
Trena said that she never had any desire to be a mother; her dream was to become Master of the Knowledge Hall. How could she achieve that with children to take care of?
But Father was displeased that I was a girl. Girls could not be Protectors. He had made that law himself.
“I apologize, Tutor. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” I stated honestly.
Trena had been responsible for taking care of us until we were four years old; some days, Father came to play with us, but we lived with and were taught by her. She warned us never to call her mom, especially not in front of Father.
He took my brothers to live with him at the appointed time, but he left me with Mom until I was seven. After leaving her tender care, the only contact we were to have with her was during our mandatory Education Hours in the morning, then the boys would leave for the rest of the day to the Junior Training Facility, and I would not see them again until meal time. I was not allowed to enter the Junior Training Facility under any circumstances, so Father assigned me extended Education Hours with my tutor, like most of the girls my age. The other girls loved it and often studied together, but I found it difficult to identify with them; I had always wanted more, while they were content with being invisible bookworms. Trena had come to mean everything to me because I spent most of my time with her. On day, shortly after I had gone to live with him and my brothers, Father came personally to test me on the recent knowledge I learned. His presence made me nervous. The exam went well, I passed flawlessly and I ran over to Trena to celebrate, I remember calling out to her loudly saying, “Mom,” instead of Tutor. The look on Father’s face transformed in to outrage. The slap he delivered to my cheek sent me crashing to the floor; I spat out my lose tooth. I touched the spot where he had struck me, instinctively, feeling the sting, but I didn’t cry in front of Trena. I did not want her to see me cry.
“Never mind that. Plagner is sending a Knowledge Bearer to test you on this information tomorrow and you will not be ready if you do not try harder.” She insisted. “Now, pay attention.”
Trena closed the book in front of us and pulled an even larger book from one of the many stacks surrounding us on the desk. She began to spit out more facts about a battle in which thousands of people were killed in the name of preserving peace.
It didn’t seem to make a difference to her that today was my 19th birthday.
Why would it?
For a girl, this was just like any other day. Maybe I would get a special dessert tonight with my evening meal. Maybe Mom had a special surprise art lesson planned for later; she knows how much I love to paint.
But it I were a boy, today I would be preparing for a demonstration of my physical abilities and a test of the skills I acquired in training. They Board of Select would decide if I would be given a Guide, or if I would be dismissed from any further training, free to live life as I choose. If I were to be given a Guide, I would then begin to prepare for my journey on the Outside. In order to complete their training, every Junior Protector had to leave the City with a Guide from the Outside, and return with a Shiner.
The sooner they came back, the more impressive it was to the Board, and to Father. Jax returned in only three days, a record unheard of since Father’s. Poniah, the eldest of the twins, returned in a week; but Ponesh took three weeks before he finally returned with a Shiner.
Ponesh was the only one who knew how important today would turn out to be for me, for the both of us.
“Mea!” Barked Trena, desperate for my attention.
I jumped again, startled. “You scared me Tutor.” I complained, “There is no reason to shout.” I took a deep breath and closed the book before me.
“I think that I know everything I need to know about the Battle of Blood Valley, Tutor, and it happens to be my birthday.” I smiled up at Mom sweetly, and batted my thick eyelashes.
“Yes, I know. What do you want?” She probed staring at me suspiciously.
“I was wondering if I could take the rest of the day off to finish a book that I just can’t seem to tear myself out of. You understand, don’t you?”
Trena smiled slightly. I assumed she was picturing me curled up in some tree reading the ancient collection of short stories she had given me as a little girl.
“I understand.” She nodded. “A young woman has every right to celebrate a special day. Do not let your father find out.”
I flashed her a grateful grin and dashed towards the door before she could rethink such a “careless decision”.
To Trena any moment not spent acquiring knowledge was a moment wasted.
To me, it was a chance to prepare for my destiny.