The Trials

{{NaNoWriMo '14}} [cover by @crspencer] Ember lives in the last human city on earth, Haven. Divided into sections the last of humanity struggles to rebuild their once great world. The brightest and best are sent to the trials to be trained to be the next world leaders but as secrets come to light and her old life comes to haunt her Ember realises that her life is all a lie and she is more important than she could ever imagined.

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1. The Letter

“I got in” I whisper to myself as the paper before me shakes in my trembling hand. “I have done it” a huge grin spreads across my face and I start laughing. I am going to the trials. I look around my room, my tiny bed with its worn out checkered blankets, my desk with old school books littering its surface, waiting to be tided, the big old wardrobe it the corner that used to terrify me as child.  I will leave it all soon. The thought causes my heart to flutter. I am going to miss this room. It may not hold the happiest memories but it is the only home I have ever known. I push the negative thoughts aside and force and smile to curve up on my face. No negatives, you made it. You got into the Trials. I smile suddenly excited again. “Mum!” I call out running down the small wooden staircase as fast as my legs will carry me. She is standing by the cooker, her hair tied up in her usual tight bun. I sigh as I inhale the familiar smell of my mothers homemade bread.

  “Yes?" my mum turns away from the cooker her eyebrows raised at my disheveled apperance   "What’s got you so excited?”

“I have something to tell you,” I say the grin spreading further across my face, I can't wait to tell her.

“Yes?” she says

“I got in” I look at her waiting for a reaction. The silence is almost deafening, you could hear a pin drop.

My mums eyes widen and she looks into my eyes, checking to see that I am telling the truth, “you mean you got into the trials?” I nod once then start to speak as my mum suddenly pulls me into her thin arms in a hug “I just opened the letter. I have to leave in the morning.” I mumble into her body. She pushes me out gently holding me by the shoulders “Oh darling, I can’t say how proud I am of you, the trials!” she exclaims. I look down, embarrassed by the praise. “I am so proud of you Ember” she tells me smiling and I can’t help but smile back. My mum is beautiful when she smiles; all the worry leaves her face and she looks like the woman she used to be before the... No I don't want to think about that now. She steps back and sits on the old wooden table “you will be amazing” she tells me her face lighting up with hope.

I smile and go to walk upstairs “I should pack now” I tell her.

She looks at me and her eyes glisten “Ok, darling, don’t take too long” her voice cracking as I walk back up the stairs to my room.

 

What should I take? I stare at the contents of my bedroom a frown lining my face. I have never had to pack before and for some reason I am finding it hard. I should be happy, excited like I was when I first read the letter but now all I am left with is a sense of dread and a feeling that things will never be the same again. I hate that I have to leave my mother behind. Have to leave her with him. I shake the thought away, she was the one how wanted me to do this. I smile as I spot my violin case in the corner of the room. Its one of the few truly valuable items I have, my mum brought it for me as a birthday present. My dad wasn’t too happy. He wanted the money for himself. He never sold the instrument though, although I presume that’s because he forgot all about it. I love music. I love the way it can transport you too another world and make you forget reality. Reality does have a habit of coming back though. I sigh putting the violin by the door so I don’t leave it behind. I look around thinking about what I need to take with me. I hastily shove two plain t-shirts, two pairs of trousers and my favorite comfy black pajamas into my old rucksack; I choose some of my more fancy clothes, a smart t-shirt and a pair of jeans: then pick up some of my stationary and my diary. Is that all? I look around and hesitate as I spot the old and worn teddy bear that sits in the corner of the room. I shake my head. No Ember you can't take it. . Instead I put in two of my dog-eared second hand books my mum got me for my last birthday. I still have a bit of room in my bag. I glance back at the teddy and smile and I squish it in. You never know I might need it. I zip up the bag, picking up my violin case and walk down the stairs slinging it over my shoulder. “Hey” I say to my mum as I walk past “need any help?”

She smiles pouring out the soup into three bowls “no, all done now. Thanks for offering though.” 

“Is dad home?” I ask, regretting the words as soon as I see my mums face cloud over and the familiar worry returning to her face.

“He is in the living room. Can you bring him his food?” She asks putting the steaming hot bowls on the table. “Its just he is angry at me about something, I am sorry darling I wouldn’t make you do it I didn’t have too”

“Its ok” I tell her nervously, even though it isn’t. I have always been terrified of my father and his mood swings but if I didn’t do it then she would have too. I grab a steaming hot bowl of the table as I give a quick smile to mum, shutting the door behind me. I drop off my bag and violin at the front door as I go into the living room. Its always dark in here and a thick layer of dust cover the furniture like a wooly carpet. My brother, Tom, used to call it dad’s hovel. That name really suits this dark and dingy space. “Hey dad” I say to the slumped figure in the armchair in the corner. “You got the food?” he asks grumpily, not bothering to look up. I push back my disgust and an angry retort, if I do lash out it will only hurt my mother. I hope I am not that selfish.

“Yes. I will put it on the table” I tell him, my wobbly voice showing my fear.

He stares at me as I walk over to the low coffee table, his greedy gaze following my every move. My hand shakes as I put the bowl down.

 

“I heard you were leaving” he says, turning to look at me through his beady eyes.

I nod slightly, not trusting my voice.

"What makes you think you have the right to leave us like that, your worse than your brother, running away like he did with no respect for his poor old father."

I grit my teeth, as much as I hate my brother for leaving us I honestly can't blame him. I am kind of dong the same thing by going to the trials. I don’t trust myself not to loose it, shouting at dad would only make things worse for mum, so I just storm out of the room, not bothering to reply.

 

I look at my mother her pale face taunt with years of worry. I remember when I was younger my mother was happier; my father had not started on the drink then. I remember her singing to me, she had a beautiful voice and I wonder if she still does. In Haven, Most marriages are arranged, the father choosing whom their son or daughter marries. My mother came from a very poor family even for sector 8 so my father was the only option. I guess I am lucky I will never have to be married now; I am going to the trials. I stare down looking at my now empty bowl “Mum?” I ask hesitantly. She looks up her face worried; she knows that tone of voice “Should I go?”

She looks at me confused “Of course you should go, are you worried?”

I look at her “A bit” I admit “but I can’t just leave you here with dad”

She sighs and looks me in the eyes “Ember we have already been through this, you are going, you will live your life and enjoy it. This is my life. It shouldn’t be yours.”

She stands up picking up the bowls and putting them in the sink ready to be washed up.

“I know mum,” I reply “I just feel like I am running away”

She smiles at me her eyes glinting with tears that threaten to run down her face “I couldn’t live with myself if you stayed.”

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