I HATE THURSDAYS even more than I hate early mornings.
Maybe it's because Thursday is just a generally crappy day. On Thursdays, I have Physics first hour instead of a free period, which means I actually have to get up on time. On Thursdays, Leslie has Math Club after school, so I either have to take the Tranz or walk home alone. On Thursdays, they always give us chicken for lunch.
I hate chicken.
I think early mornings would be the greater evil if it wasn't for the chicken. That, combined with the fact that we get coffee in the morning.
Coffee means I get to hide from the feeling in the pit of my stomach. Coffee means I can stay awake long enough for morning to pass over. Thursday doesn't have something like that.
I think it's dread. The feeling is imbued in both occasions: mornings and Thursdays. But—apart—I can build a bridge, and I can get across it. Then, for a week, I believe I am doing well. But when Thursday morning comes around again, I am drowning.
Leslie is like my life preserver. Or my ball and chain, depending on how you look at it. Today is no different.
"Get up, get up, get up!" she yells, stomping around my room and throwing open the forest-green curtains. Immediately, the fingerprint sensor begins to glint in yellow light. It's taunting me, and my complete lack of freedom. I think it does that on purpose.
Leslie is, as usual, totally unaware of my plight. "The world is waiting," she sings. "We have to get going!"
"No," I say, even though I have been awake since Jane woke up at five and started fumbling around in the darkness. She has classes at the University starting at seven, but she likes to get there early so she can study with her boyfriend in the library.
I stick my head under the duvet because it is Thursday and it's the morning and something awful is going to happen if I leave my bed. The pillow hits my head with a soft thud. Or, maybe it is my head that hits the pillow. Its cover soft, but for a second the interaction hurts. There's hair in my mouth and the fabric is scraping my cheek, but I don't move.
I've fallen into a world tinted green.
The covers are green. So are the sheets. And, even if they weren't, the light is bending through them to make everything green anyway. I'm green. My hand; my face; my hair.
My eyes would be green anyway, but I imagine the grayish spots turning lime, like the light. Like everything else in this room; like everything else in my tiny little corner of the world.
I hide under the covers because no, the world is not waiting. Leslie is. She may be a huge part of my world, but, as far as I am concerned, she can keep waiting or leave. I am not budging until noon murders the morning hours.
Leslie sits on my feet pulls the covers back. She is strong—stronger than me. And faster, too, since I can't stretch out my limbs on the thin bed, let alone under the tangled blankets. It's odd, since I usually have the edge. While her legs are longer, I have the leaner build and am in more control of my motions. Not to mention, Leslie is the type to get pulled out of Physical Education so she can study.
blankets fall away, my eyes fill with bright light from the now-open window. Of course Leslie would have access to open it. My parents love her: the perfect Athenian daughter. They think she's a good influence; I'm convinced that I'm a bad one.
A breeze comes in and makes the air smell of trees and sky. It rained last night, but it's all been evaporated in the sunshine or led away by the drain system.
Outside, a Tranz is moving on from its stop at the green square's library. Two green-clothed children run on, hurried, as if they are late.
"Fuck. What time is it?" I ask groggily, sitting up on the pillows. Hair sticks to the corner of my mouth. I make a face as I move it away.
The perfect Athenian daughter in me wants to jump up, get ready, and run across to the library to study while I wait for the next Tranz to come by. Every other part wants to stay in this bed and wait the morning out. Or, preferably, the whole damn day.
Every other part rarely wins when Leslie is around.
Immune to both to my winning and my profanity, she checks her (green) wristwatch, then doublechecks the time on her HandPort. Because Athena.
"Seven thirty. You have precisely fifteen minutes to get dressed and get your butt to the library before I personally drag you there," Leslie says calmly, taking a bite out of her (red) apple.
I stare at the apple for a good minute. It's only the second red item in the room, and the first is Leslie's hair. Both clash horribly with the green décor but, after fourteen years of her near-constant presence, I'm used to it.
Leslie is not like everyone else—I think that's why she still puts up with me, even after a lifetime of putting up with my shit. She's got a twist of her own.
Eventually, Leslie gives up on me getting out of bed on my own, sighing and raiding the (lime) closet for clothes. She throws a pale green shirt and a matching dark green blazer and skirt onto the bed. Following them are a forest-green tie and lime socks.
"Those are all Jane's," I say with a sigh. I can tell because the colors are all faded and the shirt is wrinkled, with a small ink stain on the sleeve. Unlike my sister, I actually care about the way I look. Most of the time, at least.
Out of the other closet, Leslie extracts my clothes. She throws them in a heap on the bed and pokes me for good measure. "I'll be downstairs," she says with a small eye-roll, taking a bite out the apple. "Six minutes!" she says around it.
"Fuck you!" I yell at her as she vaults down the stairs.
She doesn't take it seriously—yet another symptom of her prolonged exposure to me. In a second, I can no longer see her red hair.
I wonder what would happen if I just… didn't get up. Leslie would have to leave, eventually. No Athenian would be able to stay.
Which is exactly my problem, as well. Too much Athena. I feel every second tick by, reminding me of how late we are going to be if I continue to delay, until I am moaning as I get out of my bed.
I'm wearing an oversized t-shirt and jeans—decidedly not traditional pajamas—because I like to be ready to leave. Not for school, but for something worth leaving for.
I close the curtains and change into the uniform Leslie took out before attempting to find my footwear.
One of my (green) shoes is lined up next to the door; the other I find underneath my bed. They're boots—not regulation—but no one says anything because I'm the Athenian Outcast and I can't be expected to know better. Everyone is just happy they're the right color.
Once I've put the shoes on, I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash the sleep from my eyes.
The (green) hallway is short but narrow. Functional, just like everything else. I share my bedroom with my sister, Jane, and the other two bedrooms are occupied by my (remaining) brother and my parents, respectively. My parents have a bathroom attached to their bedroom, and the other is shared by us: their offspring.
Everything is somehow both painfully bare and undeniably logical.
Only in Athena.
Athenians don't believe in adornments. Just comfort. It is logical to have a pillow on your bed. It improves your quality of sleep, makes you feel a bit more refreshed when you wake up. But pictures on the wall serve no purpose. They're extra. Unnecessary.
The hallway is empty, save for the four doors. Each has a label: May & Jane, Tomas, Kathrine & Gregory, Bathroom. They are each by my mother's careful hand. Her writing is not pretty, but it's precise. Every letter always looks exactly the same as it's fellows.
The bathroom is sanitary and has enough room to move around. The (green) tiles are light and the (green) walls are dark. I don't look at myself in the mirror—starring at my reflection will only make it worse. Instead, I brush my teeth and wash my face.
My hair gets ignored; I don't have the energy to deal with it today. Or any day.
As exit the bathroom. the door slams. I take the stairs two at a time and retrieve my bag before following Leslie out of the front door.
I leave our green house and enter onto a street of identical green houses. Living in Green Square, it is all I ever see—here, at least.
Leslie is already standing on the corner a few houses down the street, nervously tapping her foot as she waits alone. All the other school-aged Athenians take the first couple Tranz out—patronage or not. We will be the last to leave Green Square today.
Leslie is a real Athenian, through and through. But, being friends with me isn't easy, good, or at all Athenian. Leslie never complains about my quirks, though. Not really.
I love her for that. Without Leslie, I'd have no one. Just like, because of me, she only has one. But she always chooses to stick around, whether it be for the sarcasm or the endless stream of profanity.
As I stand still, the Tranz barrels past me and in a second I am running.
"Almost missed it," Leslie remarks as I take the seat next to her. She looks out the window just long enough to make me worry, but then she turns back and I am fine.
(I'm not, because it's a Thursday morning and the world is about to shit on me, but I can pretend well enough).
So, I shrug, a little out of breath.
"I'll infer that means 'What else was I intended to expect?'. Well, if it were you talking it would probably be 'Well, I'm here, aren't I? And what did you think was going to happen?'. The answer, by the way, is nothing differing from the present," Leslie rattles off, her curls bobbing. She looks a little ticked off, but nothing more than normal.
"Exactly," I say. "Gonna read, now?"
Leslie removes a medium-sized textbook from her bag: Intermate Astrophysics and its Effect on Apollo-Athena Relations. She opens it up to a dog-eared page about halfway through.
"Affirmative," she says shortly as her eyes begin to skim the page.
"Okay, have fun. I'll just… look around," I mutter awkwardly.
I make my eyes roam around so I can take stock and make sure Thursday morning hasn't transported me to a parallel universe. That, or so I don't feel completely without purpose.
The Tranz has four green seats. Two on each side and separated by a narrow isle, like all the others. At the very back is Hades; at the very front is Apollo. Athena is the third to last, as we are third on the route. It's simple logic not everyone appreciates.
Of course, there are faults. We see that at the next stop, when the Hephestian students get on board. There are five of them, and only four available Hephestian seats.
Two of the brown-clothed students end up getting off: one my age, one younger, maybe ten. Both are dressed in stiff, brown uniforms that look like they've been ironed a little too much—the collars are slightly burned, but they have crisp lines. Both are black, with short haircuts. They're handsome. One has grey eyes and one has brown eyes.
One of them Leslie and I used to know.
I look at her, but she is still reading. I look back at the boys instead.
Mark gets off with the younger boy I know is not his brother. I watch them return to the machine shop where the Hephestian Tranz stop is located. The boy says something, and then Mark laughs. Then the Tranz moves forward and I look away.
We go through the ten more square areas before turning inward, towards the Rainbow. As we near school, the younger children all press their noses up to the glass, taking in all of the different colors in awe. Pre-schools and daycares are all patron-run, so they haven't had as much exposure to the Rainbow as the rest of us.
But I can't judge them. For a second, even I am caught up in the way cream mixes with Zeus blue; the way yellow so perfectly gives way to orange, and then red. White, grey, and black all fight for dominance in the midst of it all, waging a war over which will be the most unnoticed, and yet the most adored.
Then I remember it's a Thursday morning and the dread sets back in. Something awful is going to happen and I can do nothing to stop it.
Destruction chases us in the form of the future, in this case. And it seems to have finally caught up.
This becomes apparent when we reach school, near the center of the Rainbow. Just across the street are the main Tranz terminal and the City municipal building. We went there on field-trips as Fives, in the first year of education, to see how the City government operates parallel to Olympus's Council.
The school itself is green. I suppose that is because Athena means knowledge, or something along those lines. Just like Demeter means food and Apollo or Hermes mean medicine. It makes everything easier, to categorize them by patron, and therefore color. We see exactly what we are supposed to see. Or—more often—not see.
The Tranz stops just outside of the building, as it always does. But there is a woman in green standing outside. She is flanked by four soldiers, but she is unafraid. They are for protection, not punishment.
My dread makes sense, now.
"You didn't tell me it's today," I whisper to Leslie, panicked. My legs start dancing. This is the awful thing.
She shrugs, sending her red curls up a couple inches. They drop as her shoulders do. "You wouldn't have come." She is almost apologetic, but not quite.
The lady in green gets on board, followed by two soldiers in red uniforms. The other two stay outside, one facing the street and the other facing the Tranz's entrance. I see immediately that the woman is Leslie's mother—they have the same hair.
Ms. Grant smiles at us fleetingly before turning to address the whole Tranz. Her face immediately turns to stone. "Will all Fourteens get off, please?" Her voice carries over the still silence. Everyone knows an Evaluator when they see one, and they know to shut up when they start talking. Just like we know what they say are not questions, but orders.
Fumbling with the straps in my bag, I stand, along with the five other Fourteens. Altogether, there are two Athenians, one Hephestian, three Aphrodites, and one Apollite.
We form a line down the aisle and walk out. I end up behind the Hephestian, which makes me think of Mark again. I wonder when his Tranz will get here, when he will have to ponder his fate, as I do.
We are the same, him and me. That's part of why we haven't spoken to each other in three years.
The guards sort themselves so that one leads us out with Mrs. Grant while the other makes sure none of us run from behind. Once we're through the Tranz doors the other two guards each take a side and we are boxed in.
People either look away or stare as we take the school steps—it depends on how clueless they are. This is a trait that defies the odds; you can see both sides of the coin in every patron.
I get the sense that our party is not the first to be led inside in this manner. There are more guards inside, and everyone seems to have put together what they're doing. It goes off without a hitch; without a word.
We are led from the main hall into a smaller one at the back of the first floor. Then we are seated in a classroom near the end, with maybe fifteen others already seated and talking.
I scan the faces there and realize it isn't our usual, level-based organization at all. We are going to be evaluated in the order in which we came.
As I take the cold, hard (green) seat between Leslie and the Hephestian girl, I have to say it out loud. "I fucking hate Thursday mornings."
A/N: So there it was. I'd really appreciate some feedback, if you have time. Have a good day.