It didn’t matter how much I prepared for the Sorting; I was never going to be truly ready. After staring into the abyss of unfolded clothes and mismatched shoes, I came across my battle armour. It was a black dress that hung down to the floor, smothered in the green crystals that sparkled in the faintest of light. This dress was the only way that my mother had ever acknowledged my eye colour. It was only right that I wore it as the rest of the world acknowledged it too.
As I made my way into the kitchen, I came face to face with my brother. He was wearing a smart suit with a red tie and his hair brushed flat. The joy on my father’s face last year, when he had been confirmed as a Red, was something I could never live up to. My only hope was if my Sorter had red-green deficiency. I sighed heavily as he walked over, wrapped his arms around my shoulders, and pressed his nose against the top of my head.
“It’ll all be alright,” he whispered.
“I hope so,” I admitted. “Look after them for me.”
He nodded in understanding, taking a step back and looking at my dress. He opened his mouth as if to offer further encouragement and then closed it again. He knew my fate, as much as he didn’t want to admit it.
“We’d better get going,” he said, glancing at the clock. “We don’t want to be late for our own parents.”
I smiled half-heartedly and followed him outside. It wasn’t a long walk to the stage, which had been erected in the centre of town just for the Sorting. A small crowd had already gathered, shrouded by outbreaks of nervous chatter. Many were with their families. Our family, however, was gathered with most of the other Reds, on a balcony above the stage. They were the ones who would begin the proceedings. The Reds were the government and politics stream. Once the Sorting was over, they were taken to be trained in the running of the country. From there, some joined local councils, and some went on to join political parties. The Eye, the head of government, was a Red. And yet, I was a Green.
“I would like to announce that the Sorting will commence in two minutes. Please ensure all Unsorted are by the stage.” A loudspeaker rang out from the left side of the stage. A few started children scuttled out of the way, leaving those to be Sorted looking uneasy. Joseph patted my shoulder reassuringly. I glanced up at him, wondering if this would be the last time we saw each other. Suddenly, my mouth ran dry. I wasn’t ready for this moment. What was I supposed to say?
“Well, I better go now. I’ll be up on the balcony, but don’t worry, I’ll still be watching. No matter what happens, you’re still my little sister,” he said gently. There was a shaky undertone to his voice that he was failing to hide. As much as it hurt, I couldn’t cry, not in front of Joseph. I forced a smile and pulled him against me. He squeezed me tightly for less than a second before he turned and began walking away. I knew he’d never say goodbye but I hadn’t expected it to hurt like this. I stared after him as he became just another face in a crowd of departing family members, leaving just the Unsorted around the front of the stage. I wondered if I should have said something, anything, but it was too late. As a trio of Sorters took to the stage, silence fell among the Unsorted.
“Welcome to the annual Sorting,” my mother announced. I was shocked to hear her voice through the loudspeaker, conducting my own ceremony from the comfort of the balcony. She was the puppeteer, watching over the show, and controlling my every move. I felt immediately sick. This couldn’t be happening.
“As with every other year, the Unsorted will finally become colours,” this time it was my father. I was less surprised to hear him; it was his job as the mayor to be involved with such proceedings. “The first to be Sorted is Elliot Adison.”
The first boy to climb onto the stage looked nervous. He glanced back, met by a hundred pairs of Unsorted eyes, before he stood in front of the first Sorter. He held up a strand of yellow ribbon. The second and third Sorters mimicked the actions of the first, and then a yellow ribbon was tied in a bow around Elliot’s wrist. He made his way to the back of the stage, forming the first line for this year’s Sorted. He was a Yellow. His future lied in economics, where he could find himself in anything from farming to tailoring. The Yellows were responsible for making essential products.
“The second to be Sorted is Jessica Airin,” my father said.
The girl was a Brown, and would therefore have a career in public services. She was already wearing an apron from her family’s corner shop, and would presumably go on to work there. There was no disappointment on her face as the ribbon was wound around her wrist. She formed the second line.
More and more of the Unsorted took to the stage. The Purples were to study the arts, becoming performers and writers. The Blues were manual labourers. The Blacks made up the police force and the secret service. The Greens were the academics; scientists, teachers and inventors of the future. I grimaced at the thought.
“Now to be Sorted is Allegra Hartley.”
Oh no. That was me.
I stepped up onto the stage, nervously approaching the first Sorter. He had a stern expression as he studied me, and then he thrust his green ribbon into the air. I looked to the other Sorters, who instantly rose their matching ribbons. The closest snatched my wrist, yanking me towards him as he wound a piece around it. He tied it into a neat bow across my veins before letting me go. I took a glimpse up at the balcony as I joined the rest of the Greens, to see Joseph leaning over, shouting and waving. My mother and father did not show the same support; they continued to stare out straight ahead. It was as if something on the horizon had captured their attention, making them unable to look at me. It hardly mattered now anyway; I wouldn’t be seeing them again for a long time.