Sitting on my uneven mattress now, the dark pattern marring my pale skin, all I could think about was that poor girl. She had wanted to Evade so badly she took her own life. What did she know about the Centre that I did not? What really happened to those girls who were marked? Surely, if the truth was a beautiful as Mrs Campbell had made it out, girls would be begging for the makrs, not slicing them from their skin.
I did not want to cry. I was the eldest, the strongest, the glue holding the Turner clan together. I would not fall apart because of this. These marks were not a death sentence, I could Evade. I would Evade.
The faint mumbling of conversation floated from our downstairs kitchen. People in this town talked. They talked a lot. My mother may believe that spreading the rumour that I was ill would work, I on the other hand was much more sceptical.
I was never ill. Never had I missed collecting the girls from Academy, the boys from Placement, never missed dinner, or feeding Macy. Nobody was going to believe I was suddenly too ill to show my face at dinner in my own house.
However, the markings on my hand were too obvious, not much could hide them. Gloves appeared to be my only option, but could I lie well enough to pull them off?
The dilapidated basket my mother had abandoned on my bed called me to it. The few items within varied from woollen tights to rough pyjamas. My mother owned two pairs of gloves in total; a long black pair with intricate lace woven into the opening and a pair that used to be a pale ivory, now tarnished to resemble a dull cream.
My mother could never be considered a sentimental person, however these two pairs of gloves resembled only that. The black pair my mother had worn to both her parents’ funerals. The white pair, she had worn to her wedding.
Nothing in this house was kept unless it had an almost daily usage. These gloves however, had not been worn in almost two years.
You see Moons in South were harsh, if only because not a soul within these boundaries ever seems to have enough clothes to wear. Yet, we never need to remain outdoors for long. The girls in Academy are in doors throughout their lessons. The boys in Placement can learn skills in doors during the Moon months. So in truth, we were never outdoors long enough to feel the sharp Moon air.
The gloves were a risk, they would immediately warrant questions from anyone who saw them. But they were my only option. I was not about to allow some inanimate marking to derail my role in life. My family needed me, and these marks were not going to force me into hiding.
It wasn’t like some red light flashed and a siren blared in the Centre whenever a girl developed the marks. So they wouldn’t know. They would never know.
We were told that the moment the marks developed you were to report yourself to South officials. If you didn’t, and your marks were seen by another member of South, no matter who they were, friend, sister, lover, you were required by law to report them.
If it was discovered that a girl had developed the marks and had deliberately withheld the information from the officials, the girl would be immediately taken to the Centre and dealt with there. The girl’s family and friends also faced persecution if it was discovered that they had assisted the girl in Evading.
That was the part that scared me the most. Not the punishment I would undeniably face in the Centre, but the repercussions my family would face if they were discovered.
As of now, only Lily and my mother knew. If it travelled any further, if I told Peony or Jenny they would be in danger too.
Now my thoughts were trained on Lily. My poor, sweet, naive Lily. She had forever been tarred by the image of that girl. The markings stopped being beautiful to her, she saw them as signs of doom. Her reaction to the black design on my hand showed how unprepared she was.
I couldn’t leave her here, to become the head of a household who’s matriarch was too important elsewhere. She would become responsible for them all. For caring for Macy, to ensuring the boys didn’t get into any trouble with the neighbours, to keeping mother fed and healthy, because she sure as hell didn’t do that herself.
Lily was a child, although she was but three years my junior, I had been forced to mature at a much faster rate than most children in South. When mother had been appointed principal of Academy, she took on the entirety of South as her family. In doing so, her own family became less important.
I never blamed my mother for putting us after South. I knew she was only doing what was right. South had been falling apart, poverty tearing our base in half. We needed a leader, someone we could come to for help, although there were Centre officials appointed to do such a job, nobody from the bases trusted the officials. They were the police, there to keep us in line and watch for
My role as eldest quickly became vital to the Turner family. Luckily enough, I was mature for my age and understood why I had to take care of my younger siblings.
As time went by, mother became less involved at home and more involved with South. To be honest, it worked out well for us all. South became happier, healthier. Fewer families were on the streets as mother convinced the officials to allow the older boys to build small houses along the outskirts of South.
Our own family worked like a well oiled machine. Everyone had a job to do, whether it be cleaning, running errands or crying and pooping all day long. The Turner family were the epitome of order. And although she wasn’t around as often as most mothers were, our mother loved us. We all loved each other.
So how could I leave them? How could I abandon the family I loved so much, that depended on me for so much? They were all I had in this world and all I ever wanted. My mind wandered to an image of a dark haired boy, his brown eyes glistening with laughter. I shut it down; forcing the image to leave my mind. No. Not now.
The jumper I was wearing was the warmest I owned. The sleeves came to just past my wrists, covering the first trails of my new markings; but the majority of the pattern was on my hand and the only way to cover it was with gloves.
Then it hit me. There was another way. A way that would ensure no questions asked and would cover my entire hand with ease.
I flung the soft curtain or my door behind me as I ran towards the small bathroom opposite my mother’s bedroom. This was one door we had managed to keep. I closed to door behind me and looked into the mirror resting above the sink.
My face was pale, paler than usual. My grey eyes shining with tears I hadn’t allowed to fall. My brown curls were pulled high into a loose bun atop my head. From this view, I didn’t look any different.
A quick glance towards my left hand shattered that illusion. Everything about me was different now.
I shook myself from my despairing thoughts and opening the mirror cabinet. Various ointments and creams and jars for all sorts of ailments greeted me. I dug behind the bottles, searching for the one thing that could hide me.
The soft roll of bandages revealed itself behind a jar of burn cream. I had to work quickly if I was to attend dinner without suspicion. So I unravelled the rough material and began winding it around my fingers. As my index finger had been marked, the bandages needed to cover it as well.
I continued winding until my wrist was covered by the bandage. I found a pairs of scissors in the cabinet and cut the bandage from its origin. A small clip secured the end of the bandage to the inside of my wrist and I was finished.
As I cleaned regularly, it was easy to assume bleach could had spilt on my hand and caused a burn. No one had seen me since lunch time, so nobody would have the grounds to question my story. This would work.