A girl sat on a windowsill, reveling in the silence.
"Mattia, come on! We don't want to be late! This may just be your last chance to get Adopted!"
"Don't worry, Mother, I'm coming." She stood up slowly, then moved toward the stairs, her hand brushing lightly against the frigid stone wall. Shoulders rising, she steeled herself against the cold.
"Why must it always be so cold in here, Mother? Why don't we have fires like everyone else?" She fingered her light dress, mandatory for Adoption, and allowed herself to shiver. With her other hand, she tucked a strand of her thin hair behind her ear.
"What are you talking about? The air in here is perfectly warm." She pulled her thick coat tighter around her body. "Now come, Mattia, we must get going. We can't be late- wouldn't look good."
"Excuse me, is this the entrance into the Adoption chamber?" Mattia turned toward the man standing in front of her.
"Yes, miss. Were you requested for Adoption this stage?" His breath stank of elderberries.
"I was. My name is Mattia Schaefer. That's S-C-H-A-E-F-E-R," she informed the guard, who had pulled out a large, many-sided shape out of a satchel and was turning it over in his large hands.
"Yes, here you are." He looked back up at her after tapping her name twice. "Will you be needing an escort?"
"No, thank you. Unless the Adoption chamber has moved?" He shook his head. "Then I'll be on my way."
The man opened the timeworn gate, and Mattia Schaefer walked inside.