Detergent

In sixteen year old Beadtris Dryer's world, society is divided into five fashions, each dedicated to a particular virtue, in an attempt to form a perfect society after a terrible fashion show. (Divergent parody)

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4. FOUR

 

I get home five minutes before I usually do, so I walk around our little section of the city to pass the time. If I get home early, my parents might make me do some washing and I am not a laundry person. The houses on our street are all the same shape, size and colour. They are blocks of concrete, painted white, with a few windows and a rounded door. To other fashions, the Abnegucci live in washing machines. The lawns are scruffy and washing lines hang overhead holding up clothes and clothes and even more clothes. I find the sight quite cleansing. But, I struggle to love this way of life. I sit on the front step and wait for Cleanleb. He doesn’t take long.

“Beadtris!” He says when he sees me, “What happened?”

“Nothing,” I mutter, “I’m fine.” He is with Sewsan and her brother Robe. They are all looking at me and I don’t blame them because if we are not allowed to look at ourselves, then we are obviously going to look at each other. Still, it’s quite uncomforting. I shrug, “I got sick. The washing liquid was funny but I’m okay now.” Cleanleb doesn’t seem convinced.

“We should get going,” says Robe, pulling Sewsan by her arm, “Our father told us we should spend some time thinking about the Clothing Ceremony. You should too.” They disappear into the house next to ours. I get up and walk inside our own, and Cleanleb follows me.

My heart pounds from the mention of the Clothing Ceremony. I walk past a bottle of detergent on the counter and jump back in fear, bumping into Cleanleb.

“Careful,” he says.

“Sorry.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” He asks. His eyebrows draw together so that a crease appears between them. God, he’s getting old and wrinkly. “Are you going to tell me the truth? About your test?”

“Yes, well the truth is,” I say. I’m freaking Detergent, I don’t say. “You’re not supposed to ask, Sniff.”

“Beadtris Dryer, did you just call me Sniff?” He retorts.

“Yes, and you actually do stink. When was the last time you washed? Seriously, for someone called Cleanleb you’re not very clean, you’re just Leb.”

His eyebrows tug together, and he bites the corner of his lip. I think I can see them quivering like he’s about to cry. But then he says, “What was your result, Beadtris?”

I narrow my eyes. “What was yours, Leb,” I joke. I hear a train in the distance, so faint it could easily be wind whistling through the windows or Cleanleb doing a silent but deadly. But I know it when I hear it and don’t smell anything foul. It sounds like the Dauntlouis, and they’re calling me to them.

“Beadtris! Cleanleb!” My fantasy is interrupted by our mother calling us for dinner.

I just want to go upstairs and lie down. But it’s my turn to cook today, which means it’s also my turn to clean the dishes. I breathe deeply and walk into the kitchen to start cooking. Cleanleb joins me soon enough. I grit my teeth and stare him down for being so selfless and helping with everything. And then, dinner is ready and the table is set.

“How did the test go?” We are asked by our father at the dinner table.

“Fine,” I say. I’m freaking Detergent, I don’t say.

“I heard something happened with one of the tests,” my mother says, as if questioning us. My mother is the most selfless person I have ever known. Most of the time, she organizes workers to help the Fashionless with food and cleanliness. I wonder if she was always Abnegucci.

I keep my head down. “Really?” says my father. A problem with the Appearance Tests is very rare. My mother just shrugs and I stay quiet whilst I shove peas down my throat, but that silence doesn’t last long when I accidentally choke on them. We have a particular way of eating in our house and fashion, that is, too pass food clockwise in the direction a washing drum would spin. My father always gives thanks to God for food and work and friends and family and cleanliness.

While we eat, my mother takes my father’s hand and moves her thumb in a small circle over his knuckles. I stare at their joined hands. They rarely show affection like this in front of us. They taught us that physical contact is powerful. I specifically remember my mother telling me one night, “Beadtris, don’t have sex or you will get pregnant and die.” I had no idea what she was talking about but I nodded to say that I understood because I don’t want to die.

“Tell me what’s bothering you,” my mother says.

I didn’t notice my father’s deep frown and slumped posture but my mother did. I have always dreamt of being in a relationship where I could read a person like my mother reads my father.

“I had a difficult day at work,” he says. “Well, it was actually Marcurtains.”

Marcurtains and my father are both political leaders. The city is ruled by Abnegucci because our fashion is regarded as incorruptible due to our selflessness.

“Didn’t that Jeans Hatthews woman release something about him?” my mother asks. Jeans Hatthews is Erodarte’s leader. I know my father does not like her very much.

“Yes,” my father says, “It was a report attacking his character.”

I am curious so I ask, “What did it say?” Cleanleb shoots me a disapproving look.

“It said Marcurtains’ violence and cruelty toward his son is the reason his son chose Dauntlouis instead of Abnegucci.” I wonder if that is true. Few people who are born into Abnegucci choose to leave it. When they do, we remember. Two years ago, Marcurtains’ son, Tiebias, left us for Dauntlouis. I never met Tiebias since he rarely attended parties or came to our house for dinner.

My father continues after swallowing some mashed potato, “The Erodarte have been attacking us for months now. And this isn’t the end.”

I shouldn’t speak again, but I can’t help myself. I blurt out, “Why are they doing this?” I get another glance from Cleanleb and stare at my peas. I am not good enough to be Abnegucci.

“They are thirsty,” my father answers. Maybe my mother should concentrate on supplying the Erodarte with food and water rather than the Fashionless.  I know I will not choose Erodarte, even though my test results said I have it in me. I am my father’s daughter and I will not be a backstabbing daughter or sis. I love my family too much to do that to them but probably not enough if I am considering leaving them.

My parents clean up after dinner and I do a little victory dance because I can’t bear the thought of washing the dishes, cleaning them with… detergent. They don’t even let Cleanleb help them because we need to think about our results and the Clothing Ceremony. My family might be able to help me choose, if I could talk about my results. But I can’t, so I’m screwed. As Cleanleb and I part to go to our separate bedrooms, he stops me.

“Beadtris,” he says, looking directly into my eyes. I assume he’s trying to look at his reflection in my pupils because I do that to him sometimes. It’s not my fault he’s boring.  “Tomorrow, we should think of the family, but we must also think of ourselves.” That is probably the most selfish thing he has ever said and I’m disgusted in him. I just say what I am supposed to say, something like “The tests don’t have to change our clothes.” But I actually mean that. For example, if I choose Dauntlouis, I’m not going to become a stripper.

I walk into my room, close the door behind me and do what I don’t want to do. I think about the Clothing Ceremony. It will require a great act of selflessness to choose Abnegucci, and a great act of courage to choose Dauntlouis. Everything else I have ruled out so I realise it is actually an easy decision. Tomorrow, those two qualities will struggle within me, and only one can win. Will I be selfless or brave? I know that I am both. I know that I am Detergent. And I think I know which fashion I will choose.

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