The Extent of a Beautiful Mind
Bonnie didn't want to be pretty. She was sitting there, on a park bench, with no one by her side and only a periwinkle umbrella to protect her dark hair from the downpour of rain. Yet the only thing she wished for is the opposite of beauty. Bonnie wanted to be smart. Or no, Bonnie didn't want to be smart- she already was. Bonnie wanted to be considered smart.
"Miss. Cavell, we must be on our way," Mr. Darvis' dull, droning voice broke through Bonnie's train of thought. "We wouldn't want your hair to get frizzy, Miss. Cavell."
"No, Mr. Darvis, we wouldn't." Bonnie spoke faintly. Withholding a great and very unlady-like sigh, Bonnie stood and the motion shook many droplets of water off of her umbrella, adding to the rain.
Mr. Darvis held open the back door to the 1940 Chevrolet for Bonnie. She slid in gracefully, like her mother needlessly taught her. "Are you ready for the Culling, Miss. Cavell?" Mr. Darvis questioned her from his place in the driver's seat. He shifted the stick into gear and pulled onto the empty street. "I hear the Judges are tough this year." Bonnie refrained a snort. The Judges were always tough. Bonnie wasn't worried. She had heard enough horror stories from her mother and her mother's friends to know what to avoid. Crying for example. Bonnie didn't say any of this to Mr. Darvis. Rule no.47: Ladies must not be overconfident or too self-conscious.
"Mother tells me I'm prepared Mr. Darvis." He seemed satisfied with her answer and removed his eyes from the rearview mirror in which he had looked at to see her.
Bonnie's fingers itched for one of her father's books. Ever since she was ten Bonnie had snuck into his study and grabbed a random book from his shelves. Women are not allowed to read beyond the set materials required for their basic education. Bonnie's painted red lips turned down ever so slightly as she remembered the day they discussed career paths in third grade English class.
Bonnie's hair was clipped back with a yellow barrette, but her curls were struggling to get free. Bonnie smacked it away from her face, annoyed at the distraction and impatient for her turn to share. Elijah told the class he would like to be a scientist. He hadn't quite grown into his large ears, so he wasn't very handsome. The teacher graced him with a smile. Next was Charlotte, already a beautiful girl, she wanted to be a model. The teacher smiled and clapped. "Now this is a girl destined for greatness," the teacher said.
Finally, Bonnie thought. My turn. "I would like to be a history teacher!" Bonnie told the quite plain looking teacher. Mrs. Avery's face turned sour. "Now, why would a pretty girl like you want that?" The class stared at Bonnie. No, Bonnie wasn't smart enough to be a teacher. She was much too pretty. Bonnie's young throat grew tight, and she struggled to maintain her composure as her mother taught her.
When Bonnie got home, her mother confronted her. "The principal called." Bonnie's mother looked panicked for a reason Bonnie didn't understand at the time. Her mother grasped Bonnie's face, urgently and gently. "Bonnie, dear, you mustn't tell anyone you want to be a teacher. Tell them you aspire to be an actress. Rule number 1, honey..."
Bonnie and her mother spoke together. "'A lady must take a position according to her intellect.'"
"You're too beautiful Bonnie. You can't be a teacher."
The rest of the year, no one spoke to Bonnie unless necessary.
"We've arrived, Miss. Carvell."
Bonnie waited in the car while Mr. Darvis took his time getting to her door. She resisted tapping her foot to expel nervous energy. Once the Culling was over she would get to go home, hide in her room, and unwind. Then, and only then, can Bonnie truly be herself. Mr. Darvis, finally, opened her door. "What a day for rain, Mr. Darvis."
"What a day indeed, Miss. Carvell." Mr. Darvis offered her his arm.
Bonnie headed up the slippery pathway in her heels, only keeping her balance because of Mr. Darvis' forearm. They slowly made their way up to the marble building and Mr. Darvis pulled open the door for her. Bonnie took a deep breath and stepped inside. Mr. Darvis came inside after her, closing the umbrella and shaking water off of it. A positively atrocious looking woman rushed up to them and, without a word, took Bonnie by the shoulders and led her to a dressing room filled with about ten other girls. Before the door closed, however, Bonnie quickly snuck a rebellious peek over her shoulder and saw a boy open the door to the room across from the one she was entering. She saw the boys getting ready for their Culling, which included some of them not having their shirts on. Bonnie's cheeks flushed fiery red at the alien image before the door closed, obscuring her view. The woman led her over to her designated seat.
"So," started a blond girl next to Bonnie. "How was it?" When she saw Bonnie's confused look, she began again. "How was the view into the boy's room? Don't think about lying, I know you saw. It seems everyone here has except me."
A smile spread its way across Bonnie's lips at the girl's disappointed face. She decided to answer honestly. "Strange," Bonnie said. It was obvious the girl wanted more details. "In a good way, I suppose."
"Yes," the blond sighed. "That's what everyone has been saying. Although," she winked at Bonnie. "When our husbands are Chosen we'll see plenty of that." Bonnie's cheeks once again turned red.
"Ahem-" A very pointed sound came Bonnie and the girl's way. The woman and another came over to the girls and led them to separate areas of the room. Bonnie to the hair station, and Ashley, whose name Bonnie discovered by the girl tossing her head over her shoulder and mouthing her name, to the make-up station. Bonnie in turn did the same. Ashley grinned at Bonnie's odd name, but Bonnie wasn't embarrassed. Rule no.45: A lady never gets flustered. Her mother had drilled it into her brain.
Bonnie's hair was lathered with product. It was curled and recurled. Her hair was sprayed with hairspray and inspected to make sure you couldn't tell that product and hairspray were on Bonnie's hair. Next, she was directed to the make-up station were her face was powdered and her lips were re-painted a dark, cherry red. Finally, she slipped into a dress, periwinkle, the seemingly reoccurring color.
Bonnie's stylists stepped back and sighed in satisfaction. "You'll be the one Picked, I just know it." Bonnie turned around and saw her mother smiling proudly. Remembering Rule no.47, Bonnie nodded her head slightly in response. She took her mother's arm and followed her to the line of girls already waiting for the Culling to begin. More and more girls came out into the hallway until the line drifted back so far, Bonnie couldn't see the end of it. The boys, she was informed, were in their own line on the other side of the building.
Girls, one by one, each stepped into the Main Room to be questioned and examined. Every girl went in for a different amount of time. Bonnie couldn't tell whether it was better or worse to have a quick questioning. The girls that were done exited from a separate door than the one they entered in. It wouldn't have made a difference anyway, Bonnie thought. You wouldn't be able to tell whether they wanted to be smart or pretty. After what seemed to be an eternity of waiting, it was Bonnie's turn.
Bonnie stepped out into the room and couldn't see anyone past the bright lights. "State your name and age," came an unknown voice. Resisting the urge to clear her throat, Bonnie gathered her courage.
"Bonnie Carvell, age 17."