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As Soon As Sixteen

By @NevrSarcastic

Chapter 1

I smile at my little sister, Layla, as she plays with her Barbie dolls, watching a new show called Jeanie’s Playhouse. I take a deep, shaky breath; usually this would be a happy day – my birthday. But today, my older brother and parents have sober attitudes with me. Layla thinks nothing is wrong; she’s too young to understand, and no one has told her that I’ll be going away in less than a month. My mom is in the kitchen, making my favorite dinner, which is chicken cheese casserole. The smell is amazing, and I can’t resist walking to the kitchen and hugging my mom, who leaning against the counter. She smiles, but it is thin and strained, and I can tell she’s struggling not to cry.  

“When are we gonna eat?” I ask her, trying to keep her mind off my impending forced emancipation.  

“If Roger gets home soon, we’ll eat then. But if he doesn’t get here in thirty minutes, we’ll start without him,” she says, turning back to the oven, opening it to check on the casserole. As she does this, I set the table with our mismatched plates, silverware, and glasses. Being C-class citizens, my family and I are the last for everything – the last to get paid (For very little pay), last to get hired, last to call dibs on things in stores and reduced to C-class stores. The only things we’re first at is getting blamed for ridiculous things, prejudice, getting fired, and getting spit on. Therefore, only lucky C-class families are able to get matching dishes, furniture, and shoes.  

My older brother, Tray, appears next to me after stomping across the house the way he always does (You can always tell when he’s on the way.) and takes the silverware I’m holding and setting it out neatly, just like Momma showed us. She always said that just because we have the money of C-classes, we don’t have to act like C-classes.  

Suddenly, Dad’s home, and I hear Layla squeal and run toward him, bombarding him and needing attention, even though he’s barely set foot in our bland stucco house. It needs a powerwash desperately, but the C-class cleaners only clean A-class and B-class homes and streets. Because of this, many C-class houses are in desperate need of repairs, and some have even collapsed. The government is supposed to take care of these, but they seldom do. Who cares about Cs, am I right? Not rich politicians, that’s for sure.

After Dad has shaken Layla off, he enters the kitchen. He’s tired, I know. The thing about Dad is that he always comes in with a wide grin on his face to hide his exhaustion and stress, and it always worked until I hit fourteen, and started noticing the lines around his face and how his smile never reached his eyes. Tray noticed, too, but before me, and my mom always knew. She has the same lines. I know that when my brother grows older, he will, too.  

Dad envelops the three of us in hugs individually, those spine popping hugs that remind you just how much you matter. He then hovers over the dish of chicken cheese casserole and takes a nice, long, inhale. “Mmm, Beth, this smells amazing, as usual. Are we ready to eat?”

Mom smiles. “Yep. Layla, wash and come sit at the table to eat!” 

Layla provides a chipper “Okay!” and runs to the bathroom, washing in record time and plopping down at the table, on a lumpy red chair.  The rest of us sit down and join hands, Mom saying grace.

“Lord, please, help us through these troubling times. Be with little Layla as she grows and matures, be with Tray as he works at the plant, be with Roger at the office, and please, be with May during her trials to come. In Your Holy name, Amen.”

The rest of us murmur ‘Amen’ and start scooping food onto our plates, not acknowledging the elephant in the room. My Assignment.

That’s what they call it. C-class girls are taken to a warehouse and washed, dressed, and lined up. Then they are chosen by masters and mistresses.  They will work as a maid; or, they’re supposed to. Usually the masters or mistresses choose them as something else, a slave sometimes. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. That’s why everyone is so worried. Except for Layla. She doesn’t even know that I’ll be going.  And she definitely doesn’t know that I might never come back.  

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  1. Zoë Amber

    Sep 9, 2021

    This gives me Divergent meets The Handmaid’s Tale vibes. Great work!

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    0 Replies Sep 9, 2021
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