How to live in a society that doesn't accept you for who you are, and, were they to discover the truth, would kill you for tainting the family's history with the unspeakable disease - falling in love with someone of the same sex?


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Living, to me, was pretty much hell.

I'm told that life for those like me was never easy, even back in the days before they invented the Family Law. Now, life isn't hard - it's simply impossible.

Of course, no one knew about me. If anyone ever found out, I'd be terminated. They couldn't have a malfunction within the family; especially not my family, one who had one of the best records of illness in the country, maybe even the world.

“Leeta!” my mom called from the bottom of the stairs. “He’s here!”

“Coming, mom!” I call back and turn to the mirror, studying my reflection. Shockingly red hair, a sprinkle of freckles, water-green eyes and milky white skin stares back at me, mocking me. Sighing, I get up and walk down the stairs to meet my cousin Alistair – my fiancé.

We learned in History that years ago, when my great grandparents were still alive, the world was a very different place – people were allowed out of the family’s estate. Now, the only ones allowed out are the merchants and other kinds of servants, all of which come from tainted and disgraced families, working for minimal wages, barely enough to support their families. And the other families, the respectable ones like mine… well, the society prohibited us from marrying or even having affairs with anyone from outside the family, for fear of an outburst of disease, thus keeping any potential disease isolated in the family, preventing epidemics from happening.

“Leeta,” Alistair said as I came to his side. He took my hand in his, and kissed it tenderly. I tried not to grimace and look at Yule who stood to one side, cleaning the old fireplace.

Yule was our family’s maid, looking after the houses of all the ramifications of the Everbrown family. One week younger than me, she and I’d used to sneak out when we were kids, to play with each other, having been the only two girls our age around. Only what had once been sincere – if forbidden – friendship, had later turned into something more, and the already-complicated situation I’d been in, got worse tenfold.

Falling in love for another girl was considered an incurable disease, and the only cure was death.

“Hello, Ali,” I said to my cousin, my voice warm and welcoming, the product of many years of practice.

“What do you say of a picnic, Lee?” Alistair asked me eagerly, his hand snaking around my waist. I noticed my mom’s eyes spot his arm and shine with pride, and repressed the urge to step away from Alistair. I really like Alistair, but I knew, deep down in my heart, that I could never love a man that way.

“Today?” I asked, leading him out of the room, and out to the vast gardens of our family’s estate.

“It’s a beautiful day, don’t you think?”

I looked up at the clear blue morning sky. “I guess it is,” I agreed.

“Are you okay, Lee?”

“I’m fine, Ali. Just nervous.”

 “About your birthday?”

“Turning eighteen always seemed so far away. And now it’s tomorrow… I don’t know what to do.”

“It will be fine, you’ll see. And then we’ll marry soon after that.”

“You’re right. Now, did I hear you say something about a picnic?”

He laughed. “Of course! Let me go get the basket. I left it in your kitchen. I’ll be back in a minute.”

“I’ll wait for you inside,” I told him and he nodded. The second he was out of view, I grabbed a pencil and a piece of paper. On it, I scribbled a short note, rushed down the dim hallway leading to the back door, and stuffed the note under a threshold.

When Alistair came back for me, he found me sitting in the living room, listening to a song on my iPod. Smiling, I got up from the couch, and, hand in hand with him, walked back outside into the sun, playing the part of the perfect wife.

But my mind was on the note I’d left Yule. Just a few hasty words, but words I knew she’d understand, and hoped she’d follow.

I’m leaving at dawn. Meet me at the side gate at four.

My ticket to freedom; my obituary; my dream; my imprisonment. I didn’t care anymore; all I knew was that I couldn’t and wouldn’t live an entire life lying to everyone around me. I had to get away.


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