"Bye honey! Have a good day at school!" I turn and smile wholeheartedly at my mom, who's standing at the apartment door.
"I will!" I call back, before turning around to continue down the stairs and out into the open air. As my lungs fill themselves with crisp clean air, I once again remember how thankful I am for being privileged to live here. My steps are jaunty as I walk down the street, hardly even hurrying to my school, which is only a five minute walk away from my apartment.
On the way, a few people smile at me and wave, which I return. Everyone here is so friendly, always smiling and laughing, generally having a good time. No one seems angry or preoccupied, ever. That's one thing that I like about my town… No problems.
"Good morning Riley!" My teacher says as I walk through the school doors. She's standing on the steps, overseeing the kids as they come up to the building. I automatically smile back at her, and murmur a good morning. It doesn't take long at all for everyone to be in the building and in their classes, just like I am. And before I know it, school has started and we are into our lessons of arithmetic, geography, literature and science.
However, halfway through the day, there's a disturbance in the hallway. My teacher attempts to keep on talking, but has to stop when someone thrusts open the door and stomps their way in. It's a girl, the one that I usually see sitting at the back of the room. She seems to be very angry, if the look on her face has anything to say about it.
"Why, Ms. Henderson, so glad you could join us." I can tell my teacher is genuine, but Emily isn't in the best mood for it.
"Go to hell." She says, albeit a little under her breath. By this time she's nearly right beside my desk, and I can see her face. She's truly infuriated.
"That isn't a good word, Emily. You know we don't speak like that here. Take a seat." Her voice strict, my teacher stands and watches until the girl is in her seat. However, before she can start up the lesson again, Emily murmurs something else under her breath. Now it seems like it's my teacher's turn to get a little angry. "Excuse me Ms. Henderson, I didn't catch that. Repeat." She says, face stoic as she stands in front of the classroom.
"I said, Mrs. Johns, that I fucking hate this place." Emily says, with a huge smile on her face. My eyes get wide at her language, and I glance back and forth between Mrs. Johns and her. Everyone else in the room is dead silent, just like I am, and it only adds to the charged atmosphere.
"I'm going to have to ask you to leave my class this instant, Emily." Mrs. Johns says, raising her arm and pointing it towards the door. With a grunt, Emily is up and out of her seat again, stalking towards the door.
On her way out, she turns to all of us and smiles grimly. "I hope you all know that your perfect little world is fake. It isn't REAL you dimwits! Why don't you take a fucking step out of your tiny brains to see that it isn't the utopia you think it is!" Her voice gets louder with each word, until she's practically shouting. During this scene, I watch as my teacher quickly feels under one of the drawers in her desk, casually pressing the button that alerts the school authorities. Within moments they're there, pulling Emily out of the room, who is still yelling incomprehensible things.
Everyone in the room seems to sit in an unbroken state of tension for the few seconds that it takes my teacher to break the silence again. And on we go with our lesson, Emily pushed to the back of our minds so we can focus instead on furthering our minds.
Later on that night, the names of everyone kicked out of the town are displayed on the TV screens all around town, just like every other day. Just when I'm beginning to think it didn't happen, Emily's name pops up on the end, glaring at me as if asking why. Why did that have to happen to her? Why did it have to happen to any of them? But now, there's nothing I can do about it. She is in the hands of the Contaminated, and that is just how it goes.
In my bed, after lights out, I can't get the image of her name scrolling across the screen out of my head. It haunts me for the short time that it takes me to fall asleep, and I can only hope that it will be gone in the morning.
At breakfast the next day, my parents slyly bring up Emily in our conversation, asking if I knew her. I hesitate a few moments before answering yes, and they just continue to stare at me.
"You do know that dissenters aren't welcome here, right Riley?" My mom asks, a soothing tone in her voice, as if she has to make me feel better about something. All I can do is nod in response, a little bit confused as to why they're bringing her up.
Then my father decides to speak up, "and you do know that it's your duty to report anyone you believe may be going against our laws, correct?" Oh. That was their game. There's a little sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and my heart starts to beat a little faster.
"Yes, I know." I respond to both of them, hurriedly standing up and putting away my cereal bowl in the sink for my mother to wash later. They don't say anything else as I leave the apartment and head off to school.
The people in my classroom are extremely quiet when I walk in. I know they all saw what happened, how Emily was exiled. There isn't anything we could do about it, however, and I think we all knew it would happen eventually. She had always been one of the rowdy ones, and the rowdy ones usually 'disappear'.
No one is even whispering about it when Mrs. Jones walks in, and she just stares at us for a second before jumping right into our lesson. By the end of the day it's as if nothing ever happened, as if Emily never happened.