Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
(A/N: If you have questions, I will be answering within posts. I won't be doing this on other stories. If I tell you 'You'll see with the upcoming chapters" don't worry, you will. :D )
The thick window pane made the outside world a kaleidoscope. The mold and stains giving the grey of the city a glow of earth and I looked away with despair.
I had twenty-four hours to decide what to do next: pack up or flee.
The worn papyrus letter in my hands was already creased with my fingerprints. It said to pack only what would fit in a 2' by 5' box and that clothing would be provided.
How could a single box hold everything I hold dear from my home? It would only fit knick-knacks and even that would not be enough for forever. My mom knocked on the door, peering in with a solemn face.
"Do you need help choosing?"
I hesitated answering by looking back at the letter. "I don't want to."
She sat at the edge of my bed, rubbing the frayed skort she wore for housework and kept her head bowed. "Alerik..." Her voice died with too much to say and I stared at her knees where she fiddled with the hem.
In twenty-four hours I would have to leave my home and probably never return. Most times leaving home was something all eighteen-year-olds longed for, and yet I felt at peace with my parents; I attended college and worked at IHOP as a hostess on weekends. I did not yearn to leave like the rest of my youth, even if it was the law.
It had already been a week from when I had received it via Fed Ex- An envelope containing a letter and a leather braid.
The court has drawn your name to attend the POPWFP Ash program. On June 2nd, a cab will arrive at your address, clothing will be provided upon arrival, but any further necessities and etc. may be brought in a single (limit 2'x5') box.
The POPWFP Board'
I was confused when my mom had started to cry when I read the letter out loud. My dad was permanently fixed at the side bar finishing off more than half the stock of wine. He avoided looking at anything other than the wooden knots of the bar top and a metal cork screw. My brother looked at everything with blank eyes until I rephrased what my mother told me after I asked why the letter hurt her.
I knelt down before his glum body that looked ready to succumb to sleep and I spoke softly in his ear so that my mom could not overhear.
"I'm going to be gone for some time, Ben."
Ben shifted restlessly on his bed. His eyes- being the most prominent part of his face- shone in the faint light that I almost mistook them for tears. "Where are you going?"
I licked my lips in thought. "Well, I'm not sure. Mom says that it's kind of like the trip to that fort up north, where the settlers lived. Like a community."
He frowned slightly. Ben did not ask what I meant a second time. He was passive about most things, so why would he not be silent about this? He looked away, finally giving in to a pent up sigh. "How long will you be gone?"
My throat constricted as I answered. "I don't know." It wasn't a complete lie. The possibility of staying there forever made it unpredictable.
He turned the rest of his body away, as if he could not bear to see me anymore.
"Good night Ben."
I received no reply as I drifted out of the room and closed the door behind me.
Brought out of my reverie I looked out the window in the study room and felt my pulse began to race. The letter fell off my lap and my bottom lip quivered.
"Sweetie, what would you like to go in the box… your blanket?"
A grimace spread across my face at the thought of sleeping away from home or my comfort zone in general.
With a slight nod, I heard her unfold the box and look amongst my sheets for the blanket.
I shifted the weight of the box in my arms as I walked toward the cab with tears streaming down my face.
The grip my dad had on my shoulder made me weep silently, his arms flexing to slam the trunk shut.
I had spent the week informing the college and my friends about my situation.
Some of them cried, hanging up instantly. Some had congratulated me, making me cry and hang up instead.
I stepped inside the car and without a second word, my dad slammed the door behind me. I felt the taxi roar to life before I could turn to say goodbye my mom and dad who were standing at the foot of the door with my brother watching me with a bleak look. My face paled and without warning I dropped my head to my hands and cried for hours until a dreamless sleep took over me.
When the car slowed to a stop, I lifted my head and blinked at the overflowing light that streamed in as the driver opened my door. "Out." He muttered as he passed and walked to the back and popped the trunk. I rubbed my eyes, looking out. We were at the airport?
How far was this Ash program?
My box suddenly clunked on the sidewalk before me and the driver dipped his head to hiss at me to get out a second time.
I muttered my apologies and scrambled out of the backseat.
I closed the door and watched him floor it away. My shock of his speed disappeared as a man in a prim suit and a clip board walked to me with a pair of crescent moon glasses perched on his face. "What is your name young lady?"
"Alerik Johnson." I chewed the inside of my lip as he skimmed the pages of the clipboard and wrote something on it. With an effortless flick of his wrist he ripped something from a bottom sheet and held it out to me.
It was a boarding pass.
I looked at the gate and the destination.
Chicago? I was interested in the change of weather. Yet Florida would seem so far away.
"Gather with the others at the white tent near the courtyard." He said to me briefly glancing at his watch. "You should hurry, you have ten minutes. You were late."
I went to pick up my box when his clipboard tapped my shoulder impatiently. "Not to worry Ms. Johnson. This will be going straight to the plane. Go on now. I'll take care of this." He ripped something else from his clipboard and peeled a label to tape on my box then gestured to a man at hand. He glanced up at my person with haste and ushered me away.
I looked up the courtyard in the directory on committed to memory the fastest route to get there. When I arrived there was already a line of young women emptying out from under the white tent. Inside I found a woman in a tailored airline suit and approached her. "Excuse me, I was told to come he-"
"Name?" She spoke sharply while pulling out a clip board.
"Umm, Alerik Johnson." I watched her slash across the clip board with a highlighter.
"How are you feeling?" The way she asked it made her sound like someone who got sick easily and snubbed the sick.
She highlighted again and I changed my stance looking back at the disappearing line of girls.
"Do you have your pass?"
"The man in the-"
"Yes or no?"
I sighed in annoyance. "Yes."
She lowered her clipboard taking a look at me. "Follow those girls. Keep your boarding pass out and have a nice flight." My head was pounding slightly from the tears and the confusion. I followed the girls, going through a metal detector and through an accordion tunnel into a small plane.
I stumbled inside with shock; the entire plane looked like it was made for first class travelers. The other women settled into their seats and broke into low conversations. I looked down at my pass and continued down the aisle to my seat.
My seat was on the left next to a woman sitting by a window already reclined and staring outside the aircraft's small window.
I sat slowly into the soft padding and strapped myself in just as a voice coughed into the speaker, cleared and began again.
"Good morning ladies this is your pilot speaking. The weather is fine and the route is set in place. Do not hesitate to ask one of our flight attendants a thing. Dinner will be served in two hours and an in flight movie will play on the screens in front shortly. Thank you and enjoy the flight."
Two bulky men in uniform stood by both emergency exits like bodyguards that I guessed were the flight attendants.
"Are there any phones?" I asked the girl next to me.
She was unresponsive and I took that as a no. She had long black hair that curved over her shoulders and the large bosom. Her thin nose and full lips helped keep my timid self at bay. She was overpoweringly beautiful.
A flat screen attached to the back of the seat in front of me flickered on and Letters to Iwo Jima began to play.
Dinner was single sized lasagna with a side of a small Caesar salad. We were only offered water and when I asked a flight attendant with the trolley four times too small for a phone, he shook his head and continued on.
Three hours later the plane had landed.
We formed a single queue and made our way into a more decent looking tunnel, filing into the gate where two men in outfits similar to the man with glasses that had given me the boarding pass counted us.
The first one with bleached blonde hair crossed his arms. "Alright ladies, how many of you carry the bracelet on you?"
The women looked at each other in distress.
"The leather thing that came with the letter- How many of you have it?"
There were a few show of hands, one of them being mine. I carried the entire packet folded in the inner pocket of my woolen black sweater.
He sighed with the same apparent annoyance I had felt several hours ago. I looked at my watch with tired eyes. It was only eleven p.m.
"Right well, those of you who have them, put them on and follow me. The rest will follow Ried to retrieve your stuff and get it. We'll meet up later."
The blonde parted swiftly and the other man with a mustache made a movement for the girls to follow. The few of us who remained rushed to keep up with the blonde's speed and fasten on the braid.
He led us down escalators and out into the night where a shuttle bus waited with open doors for us.
The blonde sighed again and turned to the small group. "My name's Will. No Mr. or William. Stick to Will or don't refer to me at all. We're going part of ways so the trip will take a good hour. I suggest you all take a nap because the sights will get boring and I'm really not in the mood of chattering. The AC will be on and blankets will be offered. I do not like repeating myself so you all will relay the news to the others quickly and quietly."
Just as he finished the depressing speech, the rest of the group joined us with their bracelets on as well as with pale drawn faces.
We all took the blankets and almost willingly fell asleep. By coincidence it seems, I ended up sitting next that girl from the plane again.
She turned her body away and kept her eyes open until mine could no longer do so as I curled up in my blanket.
The law…What a joke.