I woke to the sound of birds outside of my window. I rolled over, squeezing my eyes shut. The house was still. I let out a soft groan, and after a minute or so, ended up rolling out of bed, taking my covers with me. My mother walked in to find me in a heap on the floor.
"Time to get up." Her voice was soft, but I knew it wouldn't stay that way for long. My father was the one with the patience. I sighed and fought my way out of the cocoon I had made for myself.
My mother had short, tidy brown hair and deceivingly warm brown eyes. Once she saw I was up, she left me to change in piece. When I opened my wardrobe, the usual array of dark clothes greeted me. I threw on a black top and black jeans, and tied my long brown hair up. People told me I looked like my mother, but I didn't see it.
With a quick glance into the mirror, I was out of the door and halfway down the stairs. I could smell the bacon cooking in the kitchen. As I reached the bottom, a familiar black dog rose from a pile of blankets tucked neatly in the corner. He barked softly at me. "Hello, Archie," I crooned, bending to pat him on the head. "There's a good boy."
He followed me down the corridor and into the kitchen. My mother sat at the kitchen table with my three younger sisters. It was my father who was making the breakfast. I took my place besides Emma, the 'odd one out' in our family. My other two sisters, Mia and Alison, and I both had my mother's brown hair, as did my only brother, Caleb. My dad, his hair had already turned grey. But Emma's was curly and blonde. I felt the same spark of jealousy I always do whenever I see her.
As soon as I sat down, my father dumped a fried egg, a piece of toast, and two slices of bacon on my plate. "You're late," he reprimanded gently.
"Sorry," I mumbled around the toast I had already began stuffing in my mouth. I was always hungriest in the mornings.
"Kiara, we've been over this." My mother, who was sat opposite me, eyed my toast disapprovingly. "Now that you're eighteen, you must start to act responsibly. Your first task could come any day now."
Ah. The famous first task. I was hoping she would leave this conversation until later, but I should have known better.
"You turned eighteen two months ago. The other families have already had their eldest daughters receive their tasks. You are the only one." I glanced down glumly at my bacon. It was embarrassing to have not received the task yet. Most people were called upon within three weeks of their eighteenth birthday.
"Mother?" Alison, who was twelve, spoke up. She was the quiet one. My mother tilted her head, as she often did to show that she was listening. "I don't fully understand what these tasks are."
She nodded thoughtfully, and glanced at my father, gesturing for him to explain. He cleared his throat, and glanced around the room. The walls had been painted recently, but already some cracks were appearing.
"There are four other families like us, as you know," he began, playing with his fork. "The eldest daughter of each generation is assigned a task shortly after her eighteenth birthday. You already know that Kiara has been attending a training class since she was your age. That is because she is training to become an assassin."
Alison nodded. She already knew about the last part. It was all our lives had been for the past twelve months. Making sure I was ready for the challenges that were going to get thrown our way. "But what are the tasks like? Who assigns them?"
"The task Kiara gets assigned could be anything. She may have to track down someone who is a danger to the five families, or-"
"But why would we be in danger?" Mia, who was fifteen, asked the question.
"Don't interrupt your father." My mother's tone was sharp. Mia muttered an apology, and continued to eat her breakfast. By this time I had finished my toast and my bacon.
"Anyway, to answer your question, Alison, the head of the remaining families meet and decide on the task appropriate."
"So you help set tasks for people?" My sister asked.
"Yes, I do." My father pushed his plate away as my mother quickly ended the conversation. "Now, help your mother with the washing up.
I quickly shoved the last of my fried egg into my mouth, before handing the plate to my mother. "When do you think my task will come?" Though the question was directed at my father, the whole family stopped and looked at us both.
"Any day now." He rose to his feet and took his plate to the sink. My mother quickly gathered up the other plates and followed him. I sank back in my chair, doubts flicking across my mind. What if he was wrong? What if they decided I wasn't good enough, and didn't assign me a task?