As soon as I’ve stepped through the front door and kicked off my shoes, the light from outside vanishes- the Sky Screen fades abruptly from its daytime baby blue to a deep navy colour. In the darkness, I fumble for a light switch and wait for the whirring generator to give the house some power. I can hear soft humming in the kitchen.
“Cassie, sweetie, we thought you’d miss the curfew!” Mum calls out, as she hears me walk down the hallway. I fall into a chair set next to the wooden table and begin eating, quickly. It’s complicated, but it’s hard to eat with mum. It used to be okay, with the three of us, but…
“How was today, sweetie?” Mum beams. Her chestnut hair bounces around her shoulders in neat, glistening waves, framing a perfect face. Mum looks young for a middle aged woman- but you can tell she’s her age from the slight, small wrinkles around her lips and eyes. Her smile looks plastered on, as always. I love her, but she’s been trying too hard, been forcing conversations, ever since… well, The Incident, as it was dubbed in hushed conversations by people I passed.
“Alright.” I murmur, shovelling the last few crumbs of a pie in, to avoid having to talk. It pains me to avoid talking to my mum… but at the same time, it’s a good thing. Any long conversations we tend to have nowadays always start to lean towards Dad and Cal. And then it gets awkward, and emotional, and one of us ends up crying, setting the other one off. I’ve managed to steer away from any heart-to-hearts for about a month now. It’s like walking on eggshells- but I can’t bear to discuss what happened. No way.
“Great. How was school? You had your Aptitude test today, if I’m right, before the recreational time?”
“Yep.” I reply. “I think I did okay, I’ve probably done well enough to go into something in agriculture which is okay.” I regret what I’ve said as soon as the words leave my lips. Dad worked in agriculture. And Cal had just passed his Aptitude test for a job in the same vein, a week before The Incident.
“I’m so proud of you, sweetie, following in your father’s-”
I stand up, too quickly, and jolt the table, sending a plate sliding off the edge. I steady myself and grab it before it smashes, causing my chair to scrape across the floor, making a deafening screech.
“Mum, I feel a bit tired. The Aptitude test, then climbing trees for the last hour… I think I’ll go lay down. Get some more sleep tonight.”
Mum’s facial expression switches from sadness to shock as I hastily rinse my plate and back out of the room. I dart forward and give her a quick kiss on the forehead. I said- I do love her. She just brings up Dad and Cal too much and I can’t bear it. I can already feel my own eyes stinging.
“Night, mum.” I call out to her as I climb the stairs.