Brooke stared at the faded white and blue curtains from her bed. A slither of light had escaped through a small crack between them and was shining across her bedsheets in a brilliant yellow streak. Brooke preferred the nighttime, when she could keep the curtains closed. It was like she could create a temporary barrier between her and the rest of the world. She wished she could keep the curtains shut forever. But normal people didn’t want to shut out the world. Normal people opened their curtains during the day and closed them at night. So that’s exactly what Brooke did.
She glanced at the small alarm clock next to her. It was nearly seven. She’d been awake for hours, but she had resisted getting up. Brooke was used to early hours and it felt strange to know that if she wanted, she could spend the remainder of her days sleeping in. Brooke didn’t want to do that though. She didn’t want to live off the Donee wage. She wanted to do something with her life, but most of all, she didn’t want others knowing she was an expired Donee. Although she despised her work, she thanked the stars she had got herself a job. If it weren’t for that, people would have started to suspect.
When she had told her Triple S advisor, Barry, she was looking for work, he had thought her crazy.”You do realise you will already have enough money to support both yourself and a family, should you wish to start one,” he had said, rubbing a meaty finger across his temple. “You could do anything, Brooke! Buy yourself a nice apartment in Central. Travel. Eat out every day if you want!”
“I know, it’s just…important to me that I do this.” She had wanted to tell Barry she was scared. She’d read about expired Donees in the news. Not that there were many of them. Hardly any of them made it to twenty-one. The articles she had read though were all the same.
Expired Donees Are Stealing Our Taxes.
Expired Donees Driven Out Of Region.
Expired Donees Truly Expired In Brutal Attack.
Privileged and Wasteful – Expired Donees Give Nothing Back.
Barry had offered to help her find something, but she didn’t want that. It was too risky. Brooke was smart though. She knew she could do this.
She had brought a small apartment in a rougher part of the Region in order to sway attention from her. It was battered, brown wallpaper tearing at the sides, no electricity or hot water, thin walls and certainly no furnishings. She slept on a futon for a few months, promising herself that she would fix the place up as soon as she got herself a job. As soon as it wasn’t obvious she already had money. It took a while, but she managed to secure a job at a small, but well established cafe on Crooks Corner. The journey was a little long, but she didn’t mind, it was a job after all.
She had gone to the interview with sweat dripping down her palms and back. She must have looked a state, but her boss – “call me Nigel” – took a liking to her anyway. He had asked her tricky questions about her life, why she aspired to work in Cafe Crooks, where she saw herself in five years’ time and even to give an example of how she would deal with a complaint. Brooke hadn’t lied really. She just took things that had happened to her in ‘The Home’ and adapted them.
Call me Nigel had smiled at her throughout the entire process and she knew she had done well, but then he had asked her something she had been dreading. “May I see your CV?”
Brooke had been born and raised in The Home and didn’t have anything to show him. She had thought about this though and made one. It was all lies of course. Well, all lies webbed from the truth. She was very good at Yoga, but she didn’t exactly teach it. You couldn’t teach in The Home. But she was good enough to teach it and she’d watched her teacher for so many years. It didn’t seem that hard.
There was the part about her catering job as well. That was made up. But if anyone asked her about the best forms of nutrients or vitamins, she could tell them. Triple S were very keen on keeping their Donees healthy and Brooke had a good memory. Cooking wise, she wasn’t exactly brilliant, well actually, she was pretty useless, but she’d been learning. They hadn’t needed to cook in The Home.
Brooke had considered everything carefully, but the one thing she didn’t have were referees. She could have used Barry of course, but then her secret would have been outed. So she had left it blank. Call me Nigel had picked up on it, obviously. “I see you haven’t given any references? Am I able to get one from you now?”
“No!” She had replied a little too hastily. “Uhm…I-I can’t I’m afraid.” Her mind was whizzing, different excuses flittering in and out of her mind like little working bees. “I uhm…I’ve always been self-employed.”
She could tell she was losing him. She didn’t know what to do. What else she could say. This was the first job she’d actually managed to make it to the interview to and she knew she had messed it up. But then something unexpected happened…call me Nigel smiled.
At first Brooke had felt relieved, but then as she watched him, his smile grew more and more sinister. Like something had hatched in his mind. A thought. A nasty one.
“Well, from what I can gather you seem like a lovely girl,” he had said, standing from his chair. “I’m sure we can come to some sort of arrangement.”
Brooke felt uneasy, she wasn’t sure what he had meant, but who was she to say no? She had taken his outstretched hand quickly before he could change his mind and with a shake, it was confirmed.
“You start Saturday,” he told her with the same sick smile, his hand going to her back. “We’ll have a uniform for you here.” He hesitated and stared at her, his beady eyes looking her up and down. She didn’t like the way he was looking. It was like he was eyeing a piece of meat.
“For your uniform.”
“Oh – er, ten, Sir.”
“Nigel, remember.” He led her towards the door, his hand still on her back. “Shift starts at eight am – I normally get here around half seven…I suggest you do the same.”
“I look forward to it, Sir – er…Nigel.”
He smiled at her again, his hand reaching down onto her bottom. “So do I.”
She had wanted to slap him then. To scream at him. How dare he touch her. But there was something in his eyes, something gleaming behind his dark hazel irides.
He knew what she was.