I stretched my arms as my little sister of 8 years Iris started to move. She must have climbed into my 'bed'. It's not much of a bed, it's just a hay bale with a knitted blanket on top. Iris only does that when she's scared, nervous, or can't sleep. That's when the thought of the annual 'Forcing', as we call it in Trystlan, when they pick at least five youth girls and boys each and put them to the Center Region to train for the war, the war against the Rebels . It's today. Usually my family worry because a possible trainee in our family is Jasmine, our 16-year-old sister. It's only Jasmine, me (Calla, I'm 12), and Iris. Our Mama worked in a farm when she was little and her Papa let her have a little patch of her own flowers, and those three flowers (our names) were the first flowers she grew, and they were also her favorites. None of our family have been affected by the Trainee Annual Forcing, but it happens a lot more than it used to now that the rebels are learning the Regions Of Lillymound's battle secrets and weaknesses, or that's what the Center Region says. Mama and Jasmine always say that it's because they pick the youth, the future of our world, and today, it's the young. The poor, helpless children, because the youth have to replace the jobs of the adults who died. So there's no need to worry for Jasmine, she's safe. She's replacing an old woman's job who died over the starvation over the summer. We only just managed because we own grand- papa's farm, where mama grew up. We only had enough for us and Iris's friend, Mary, and her parents, who are our neighbors. The only one who didn't last the starvation was Radcliffe, the dog. He was getting old, but Jasmine was upset because he was her only comfort when Papa was taken away from us, where he was tortured to death for trying to stop the annual Forcing happening. Mama had to comfort Nana, Papa's Mama, because of the loss of her son, Iris was only a few days old and I was too young to understand. That was when Jasmine found Radcliffe. If the annual Forcing didn't happen, Jasmine would be happier. Me and Iris wouldn't have to worry. Papa would still be here.
I had to get up before I started to cry, and I'd make Iris's nerves worse. I walked down the wooden steps that Papa made, avoiding the cracks, and going into the kitchen, where Mama was sitting at the fire pot at the center of the room. She had her head in her hands, the way she'd do every time someone would mention Papa or whenever a annual Forcing was happening. She rubbed her eyes and then looked up at me.
"Come here, Calla." Mama said hoarsely. You could tell she hasn't been sleeping right because of the dark circles at the bottom of her eyes. I sat down on the log next to her. She tried to look at me without her bursting into tears.
"Whatever happens today, I will always be there." She said, eyes filling up with tears. "I love you, and if you get chosen, i will be there for you, always. Never forget that." She kissed my forehead. I rub my eyes and when I stop, I see Iris standing at the doorway with her teddy bear hanging behind her. She runs over to Mama and sits on her lap while Mama brushes Iris's Afro-like black hair. She is such a cutie, with her African looks, of which Grand-papa came from. I look like her but without the Afro like hair. I have hair like Jasmine; long and straight. After Mama brushes Iris's hair, she plaits mine into a long ponytail.
"Right girls, I'm off" said Jasmine, peeking through the doorway. She hugged me and Iris. "Iris, Calla, don't worry, you're safe. Persie always seem to pick the richer ones" Persie a wonderful man who had been forced to do the cruel job. He always chooses the upper class people because he feels sorry for the poor. Reassured, I went to eat breakfast, which is the same lumpy porridge made out of the oats grown in the farm. It's a horrible consistency, but you get used to it.
Mama brings through a jumpsuit that she made out of scraps for me and a knitted cardigan, and a sailor dress that Persie gave to Iris. She always looks beautiful in it. Mama gives us a hug and then we go out of the door.
It was a fairly miserable day outside, and the birds were silent. Perfect for a miserable day. Just as we are about to go out of the gate, we spot Mary. Mary was wearing the cutest little pink dress. Sweet little Mary, with her blonde hair into plaited pigtails and her small glasses. Iris ran over to speak to her as we walked down to the center of our region, Trystlan. The woods in the distance mark where the training center is for our region.
There was a stage at the center, in front of the town hall. In the center of the stage, there's a podium with a microphone, and then behind that there is five chairs to either side. For the chosen trainees. One side for the boys, another for the girls. I tried to see Persie, but he wasn't there. Instead there was a grumpy old man.
"Please can the possible trainees come to the front of the stage." Said the old man. He turned away to speak to a posh couple, who handed him money.
"Okay, boys and girls. Me and the officials have got records from the school of what you are good at, and you shall be judged because of it"
I am sure that Iris won't be chosen. I can't see her from here because we got split after the rush. I am good at javelin and that's about it. I am not that sporty, either.
The old man started to speak to the officials and handed them some folders. They were the names of the chosen. The crowd quietens down.
"As always, let's start with the girls." Said the man. "Mary Wensley, are you there?" The crowd silences as sweet, innocent little Mary makes her way to the platform. You could hear the sobs of her mother, it's one more of her children off to war. Mary had a big brother, Darren, but he died at war. He would have been eighteen this year. I could barely see Iris, but she looked devastated. Her best friend has basically been sentenced to death. I see Mary sitting down on the platform with her doll, hugging it. I start to daydream, and thats when I hear the goom of the man's voice. "Next, it is.." There is a long pause. " Calla Okeke" Next thing I know there is a path clearing. For me.