The auto rumbled loudly, releasing a trail of toxic fumes into the air. Eleanor felt guilty just for riding in it. Through the window to her right, she could almost see the smoke left behind them, though her mask hindered her vision enough to keep her from watching it dissipate. She craned her neck to get a better look, knocking the nose of her bird-like plague mask against the window.
"Honestly, Eleanor, stay still. Keep your mask on." Her mother scolded, voice slightly muffled by her own mask. Even with her face covered, her elegance showed through. Her dark wavy hair fell luxuriously over her shoulder, around her fair skinned neck. Eleanor's own hair mimicked the style, more in an effort to hide her purple bruises than to look stylish.
Eleanor sighed and shifted back, facing the front of the auto. Her face itched inside the mask. She stared at the auto driver's unmasked face, envying him. Technically, her mother didn't need to wear the mask either, since Violet Fever only affected children. Her mother made their whole family wear the masks since Eleanor had been diagnosed, determined not to let the disease spread to either of her sons.
"We'll be there in about ten minutes," the driver said in a gruff voice.
"Do you need me to come with you Eleanor?" asked her mother.
Eleanor shook her head. "I'm sure I can manage. You'll visit, right?"
"Of course! This isn't a punishment, Eleanor. I just want to make sure the boys don't catch it too."
"I know," Eleanor sighed. There was a moment of silence before her mother spoke again.
"I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself. They said they would provide everything you need. And they're on the edge of a breakthrough with the medications."
"There are lots of children your age there. You can make lots of friends."
No matter how much her mother tried to warm her up to the idea of living at the Research Center, it never seemed to be enjoyable. The only foreseeable upside was that it was out of the city, away from all the noise.
"We're here, ladies," the driver said, pulling up to a large stone building.
"Are you sure you don't want me to come with you?" asked her mother.
"I can check in myself. I'm smart."
"I know you are," her mother said, pulling her into a hug, resulting in the near loss of their masks. "I'll miss you at home."
"I'll miss you too," Eleanor said. She turned and opened the door next to her. She stepped out and stared up at the building.
"Oh, Eleanor, your hat," her mother called from the auto. "Your glasses too."
Eleanor turned back to her mother. "Oh!" She reached out and grabbed her round framed glasses and favorite sunhat. "Thank you!"
"Goodbye, I'll see you soon! Good luck." The auto's door closed, and Eleanor waved as it drove away, leaving a trail of black smoke behind it. She turned back to the building looming over her and let out a breath.
"Here goes nothing," she mumbled, moving up to the front door of the Research Center and pushing it open.