A short-story written for my Creative Writing class.

How could you? The words were muttered with such sorrow, it was ten times worse than if Alex had shouted at her. The words resonated in her ears hours after he spoke them. Hours after he left, storming out of her house, probably for the last time. How could she, indeed. Yesterday was her birthday, her most important birthday, even more important than the actual day of her birth. Yesterday was also Alex's' birthday. It was the first birthday they hadn't celebrated together since they'd known each other. In part because of the meeting that they both had to attend, the meeting everyone was required to attend when they turned eighteen. It was also because of the outcome of the meeting; their lives would forever be different because of it.

Alex and Dianne had a plan for years. The plan was meant for two people, specifically each other. They would watch each other's backs. It was them against the Watchers and everyone else for that matter.

The Watchers were the government officials who made sure the town of Aglough ran smoothly. No disruptions, no chaos, and no surprises were allowed, unless it was planned, or if the Sacrifices were the cause of the mischief. The Sacrifices were the town's pride and joy, and because of it, they got away with a lot.

Alex and Dianne would always snicker in distaste when the Sacrifices made a show of themselves. Both came from the lower class families, the families who were purely Workers. There was not a Sacrifice in either of their family lines. That was until yesterday. Yesterday, Dianne became a Sacrifice while, in the next room, Alex signed on as a Worker. Alex followed their plan while Dianne signed her life away.

"Dianne! What are you doing?" Dianne's mother, Tammie, yelled at her daughter.

Tammie snatched her young daughter's hand away from the cake noticing that the cheerful letters, "Happy Birthday" were in the same condition she left them in, but now the name following the exclamation was smeared.

Tammie looked down at her young daughter, "Why did you take your name off the cake?"

"I wanted to make room for Alex's name too. He doesn't have a cake, and he's turning eight too."

"But who is Alex?"

"His mom died, so he lives next door now, but nobody made him a cake. Can't I share my cake? We're going to be best friends forever."

They were supposed to live together, Alex and Dianne. They were going to be partners in life; they were even going to die on the same day. It would only make sense since they were born on the same day. They were going to die when they turned 65, not as long as others, but long enough to classify as Workers and not Sacrifices. Sacrifices live until they are 30, and that's the very oldest of the group.

Dianne's family had been Workers for generations. Sacrifices were a joke to her family. They were the weak and shallow; nothing like their names implied. Her family was a proud family, with many accomplishments in their town. To be a Sacrifice or to Work had been a choice ever since the planet's population had exceeded Earth's resources. Since the choice was available, to either Sacrifice yourself and die young, but live rich, or to be a Worker and live long, but work hard, her family has always chosen Work. The same is for Alex's family. All except one, but that cousin was very distant, and disowned as part of the family the moment she chose her date of death. Seven years after her 18th birthday, she chose. She'd been really wealthy.

If someone chooses to be a Sacrifice, they could choose exactly how long until they died. The shorter time, the more money they got at their disposal. The longer life they chose, the less amount of money they would receive. To Work is to choose a career, be it studious or manual labor, and stick with it until the day you die. This was not menial work, but hard-work that would exhaust them, everyday. Workers have the choice between living their lives until their bodies give out, or to set a day to die, and get paid a much lower sum than the Sacrifices get.

When someone makes their Choice, their personality usually shows. Workers are generally more family-oriented while Sacrifices are assumed to thrive on adrenaline and parties. Dianne had always assumed she'd go into Work, just like her tight-knit group of family and friends in her neighborhood. No one would have guessed that she'd be the one to choose to die 5 years later: an incredibly short amount of time for an incredibly large amount of money.

But Dianne has never been materialistic. She doesn't care about possessions or drugs or parties or anything associated with money. Dianne cares about her family, her friends, and takes pride in her ability to put others first. Alex is furious with her now though, and that hurts her. How could he not understand?

She was positive she made the right choice. It doesn't matter that she won't get to have kids, live with Alex, or continue her education with a long life. All that mattered was that Bryan live. Bryan- Sweet, sweet Bryan, was such a caring, smart, genuine, but sickly brother. It wasn't his fault he was born into this world sick, nor was it his fault his sister loved him so much to Sacrifice her future and relationships for the chance for him to grow up. A true Sacrifice, Dianne is.

"Annie! Annie! Look! Look at me, Annie!"

Dianne looked around for her brother, a smile already forming on her face from the excited tone in her younger sibling's voice.

She saw his little legs swinging back and forth, making him soar on the rusty swing set. But with him in the seat, the rust didn't even matter; it looked perfect because of the smiling boy on it. Something others would consider gross or unusable, Bryan made it the most popular object around. Already kids were leaving the grassy area, for running and tag, to race to the swing set, just to wait in line so they could swing after Bryan. Well, some were waiting in line. Others were heckling Bryan to hurry up; it was their turn they said.

Dianne bit her lip watching the larger boys sneer at her younger brother. She left the sidewalk and went to the school's 'playground'.

Because of his disease he was much smaller than the other kids his age, and Dianne worried for his health. Bryan looked to be in danger, both from the rotting swing and the impatient glares from his peers.

"Come on Bry, let's go on home. I'm sure Mom is wondering where you are." Dianne encouraged her brother to come with her, reaching her hand out to him.

"She said I could come and play," Bryan weakly protested as he obeyed his sister and grabbed her hand.

If Alex didn't understand, she would have to make him. She did everything she could think of before she resorted to this. She studied with the Workers whose jobs were to help people, mostly Sacrifices. It was every one's responsibility to ensure the comfort of Sacrifices. For that reason, the Workers who were looking for a cure didn't have the resources to spend much time on Bryan's disease. For that reason, she had to get the money. She just had to. They feared Bryan wouldn't live to be eighteen. Bryan didn't have enough time for Dianne to choose a long life. If she didn't succeed in five years, it would be too late anyway. And without him, Dianne's existence would be pointless.

Workers are only allowed to have two children in their entire lives, a benefit as the Sacrifices are prohibited from having any children. To lose a child is the worst kind of loss. Shame and pity are thrust upon the families, equal to that of those who choose to be Sacrifices; except it's so much worse because it is the whole family who is shamed and not the single disappointment. That's why Dianne signed her life away. If she finds a cure then at least her brother can live on, and her family name can stay dignified through him. If she fails, then her family will at least have the comfort money can bring while their family line ends with her and her brother.

So, what'd you think? Send some love if you'd like more. Or if you'd like to help me by correcting my mistakes or collaborating with me on this story.