I stared at the chalk board as Father wrote on it with angry precision. His letters were harsh just like the sound of the chalk scratching against the wall. I squinted against the sound; at least today’s history class was the last one. I sunk into my seat as I took a deep breath and smiled. I would never have to sit in this classroom again and listen to stories about how the world was and how it became what was today.
Trevor reached over my shoulder and squeezed, and I glanced over to smile at him. He was my boyfriend, but looking around the classroom, it wasn’t like I’d had many choices other than him. My sister, Sara, sat diagonal to us with her arms crossed, and her eyes tipped towards us. I watched as her grimace deepened, and her lashes fluttered before her eyes went to Father’s back. I had begun noticing the looks she was giving Trevor and me more and more frequently, but I couldn’t quite place what they meant.
Maybe she wanted him for her own. I knew my stomach should roll at the thought, but it didn’t—just like I didn’t really feel anything when he touched me. Trevor fiddled with the waves of my hair, running his pencil through them in his boredom, and I felt my lip twitch as the pencil ran up my neck. I knew he felt it was sexy, but it made my skin crawl in the exact opposite way.
“Kate, what happened in 2021?” Father’s voice snapped me out of my annoyance.
“2021?” I repeated, my eyes locking on his fierce black ones.
He blinked at me two times before his jaw clenched and he slammed the chalk onto the board, writing 2021.
I took a shaky breath as my pulse sped up. I hated it when he was mad at me, but I hated it even more when he acted like I was an idiot.
“The government fell into martial law,” I replied.
I watched as he turned back towards me, his tongue running over his teeth. “That answer is unacceptable.”
It was my turn to grit my teeth. “The recession that began in 2012 quickly spiraled into a depression and by 2016 laws were changed and the president never left office. By 2021 the government had collapsed and fallen into martial law, and then everything went to shit.”
It was blunt, and Father’s face turned red.
“Young lady!” he snapped as he narrowed eyes.
I sighed. “We’ve heard this story a thousand times, Father! It never changes, and you never really explain how we got here.”
Sara stifled a giggle, and when I saw the look on her face I knew it wasn’t because she enjoyed my talking back. She was eagerly anticipating my ass getting reamed out.
“We were prepared, that’s how we got here. That’s how we survived when the world decided to tear itself apart,” Father said with his arms crossed.
I watched him, our breathing matching one another. I looked so much like him—we even had identical eyes, but aside from features we were completely different. He always wanted me to settle for his version of the truth, for our family’s version of the truth, yet I never bought it. I always fought back and asked more questions than needed.
I felt the heat crawling up my neck and flushing my cheeks as all the eyes in the room turned to me. I needed to know more, while they were mortified of it. I yearned for the books and DVDs the elders forbade us from having but took pleasure in themselves. I wanted to see the past, but all I could see was the picture they painted for us.
Bad government go boom.
Somehow our parents knew it would happen and dragged our families out here to survive. It was all too convenient.
I let my eyes fall from Father’s. It was pointless to fight back, and I really didn’t have it left in me anymore. I had fought for years against their tyranny, asking for explanations I would never receive. I wanted to know where the plain tees and jeans came from. I wanted to know if there were other people out there. I wanted to be free, but now at eighteen, there was only thing I was certain of—I’d never be free, for the world was at constant war. The reason why—I didn’t know; I wasn’t allowed to know, but we were slaves to it. The men fought to keep the bad guys out, but I’d never even seen anyone outside of the group I’d grown up with. It didn’t seem like there was anyone to keep out. The women were taught to cook, clean and keep their mouths shut, and I was pretty sure Father thought the only thing I was good for was causing trouble.
I looked up when I saw the shadow on the floor and felt the heat of Father’s angry body at the front of my desk.
He leaned down, and I stayed rigid as his breath sent ice down my spine.
“It’s your last day of school; must you fight me on everything?” he asked.
I looked straight ahead and shook my head.
“Never Math or Science,” Sara said just loud enough for everyone to hear. “So glad I don’t have to deal with this next year.”
I bit my lip and let my eyes fall to my hands as Father moved back to the front of the room.
Sara was a year younger, and would still have one year of ‘schooling’ left. I scoffed internally at the word, it was more like indoctrination.
“Let’s wrap up this year with some biology, mhmm?” Father suggested, and no one answered.
Whatever he said went for them.