Lockdown sucks, I decide. I know I mostly spend my time in the camp anyway, but it’s the fact knowing I can’t go out that makes it worse. The claustrophobia is slowly choking me.
We’re on day five now and it’s only now that people are starting to freak out. They started rationing the food two days ago, meaning we could only eat twice a day thanks to the amount of people. The workers, who continue expanding the cavern, get more which is understandable. Because everyone’s not allowed out, the amount of men working has increased. I’m not totally sure whether that’s a good thing or bad.
I’m sitting in the tent with Alice who’s holding a book up to her nose as she reads, eyes scanning the page. The title’s faded and the book is worn, but she clings to it with dear life. We don’t have many books back the Chocolate Society since they were mostly thrown out, but it seems someone has been collecting them. When I ask Alice where she got it from, she just shakes her head.
“Ssh. I’m reading.”
Sighing, I flip onto my stomach and close my eyes, hoping for a quick nap to pass the time. I’ve already down my exercising and martial arts for the day so there’s no issue there.
“What? I thought you were reading?”
She ignores my side comment and asks,
“What’s the date?”
“Umm... I don’t know. June the fifth maybe?”
I hear her intake of breath and quickly open my eyes to see her excited face.
“Have you seriously forgotten? It’s my birthday in five days!”
She squeals and I feel my face split into a grin.
In the Chocolate Society, we don’t really celebrate birthdays which kind of sucks. Still, each year, Alice and I would do something special with each other. Whether it’s going to a café to order an extra large slice of cake or having a sleepover. We don’t get to buy gifts, but sometimes, having fun is a gift in itself.
“I can’t believe I forgot! Alice, you’re going to be nineteen!”
She giggles again and wraps her arms around her legs.
“It’s hilarious that I’m older than you. Most say I’m the youngest.”
“Ugh,” I roll my eyes. “You certainly don’t act older.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she slaps my arm and I shove her away one handed.
“Maturity wise, I’m definitely older.”
“I swear I’m smarter.”
“Dude, you don’t even pay attention at school. Tell me, who led Germany in World War Two?”
She frowns thoughtfully.
“Seriously? Every knows the answer to that!”
“I don’t like history,” she shrugs. “What’s the point of focusing on the past when we’re building the future?”
“To build a future, you have to know the past.”
“Whatever,” she grins. “I still get to say I’m older.”
“We’ll have to celebrate somehow.”
“Hopefully we’ll be free from lockdown by then,” she frowns. “Have you heard any news?”
“Jackson told me a few stakeouts found a man or two wandering around.”
“Why are they looking for us?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they do this for every case.”
“Maybe,” she bites her lip. “Let’s just hope they leave us be.”
Part of me wants the officials to find us so I can go home to my family, but a bigger part doesn’t. The whole idea of the rebel camp is amazing. I still haven’t been told what their actual goal is, but just seeing everyone work together is quite inspiring. It makes me hunger for a better life than the one the Chocolate Society gives, where we’re free to be different. Sure, the system is safer since no one is elevated, but that’s the thing... No one has to try and living isn’t living without trials.
On day eight, we’re finally clear to go out shopping and around the tunnels. Not one official has been seen for two days and Jackson personally gave his all clear. The cheer that ricocheted around was loud enough to make me cover my ears with my hand. I was immediately summoned along with Amelia to go to the store room.
While Amelia is sent out to get more supplies, I set up a workbench with Beth at the ready for the first arrival of food. As we’re preparing boxes to hand out, Toby wanders over.
“Hi,” I nod back. “What are you doing here? I thought they sent everyone to get supplies.”
“Not me,” he shrugs. “I’m working with Collin on that new snitch.”
“Oh,” I don’t even have to pretend to be impressed. “Are you close to finishing it?”
“There’s still a few flaws, but we’re working on it.”
I bend down to unfold another box, expecting him to leave, but when I stand up again. He’s still standing there.
“Okay, Toby. Spit it out.”
“I heard it was Alice’s birthday in two days.”
“Yup,” I grin. “Nineteen years and strong.”
“I have a question.”
I stare at him thoughtfully. He doesn’t seem snide or uncomfortable. He seems…. Shy, almost.
“Do you mind if I steal Alice for her birthday?”
“Excuse me?” Not what I was expecting…
“You see, I’ve promised her a surprise, but I haven’t gotten around to showing her yet. When she told me about her birthday yesterday, I realised it was a good opportunity.”
“I see no issue,” I shrug. “You don’t have to ask my permission.”
“I know. I just thought I’d check...”
“Tell me what times you’ll need her.”
“I don’t know,” he shrugs. “Night time is probably best.”
Now I start to frown.
“Where will this surprise take place?”
“Toby,” I cross my arms angrily and glare at him. “I am so not going to let you take her virginity on her birthday. If you pressure her, so help me, I’ll kill you. She took an abstinence oath so if you want to sleep with her, marry her first.”
Toby looks utterly horrified.
“NO! You don’t understand!”
“Well, start explaining because there’s no way I’m letting her go with you.”
He seems to have a mental battle with himself before finally meeting my eyes.
“Do you promise not to tell her?”
“Of course I wouldn’t,” I roll my eyes and shove the box along. There’s more than enough at the ready now, but I bend down for another anyway.
Looking both ways, he leans forward to whisper in my ear.
I listen to his proposal and don’t bother to hide my grin.