This is an experiment in writing a first draft in public. It’s an exercise in not being perfect. It’s meant to be a bit of fun, an inspiration, and a way to grow.
You can find the story from the beginning here.
Sharna’s room was the opposite of her state of mind. The bedrooms in the Mansion were uniform, but the girls were encouraged to be creative and make them their own. The Doe Mothers believed it was hard enough being separated from your family, there was no reason to be militant about living conditions.
Because Sharna worried about everything, she could never choose a decor. Instead, her room was uncluttered and spare. A neatly made bed dominated the space. Her closet was all straight lines and rigid rows. The desk looked unused even though Sharna spent most of her time sitting at it studying, for all the good it seemed to do her.
The other girls had rooms painted and doodled and draped, and sometimes Sharna wished she could let go like that and walk outside the lines a bit, but it made her feel untethered. Her room normally gave her comfort, but now it only raised the stakes.
If the Doe Mothers chose, they could evict her. She could be sent back home to face her parents and her failure. Her room would gather dust until it was needed by someone more talented, more worthy.
As her tears tapered to sniffles, she tried to imagine a life beyond these walls. She’d always known she’d have to leave, but she’d hoped to graduate to White as a teacher in a small town somewhere. She knew she’d never master enough science to graduate Green or be comfortable enough with politics or surprises to go Blue for hire, but White was a respectable outcome. Now she was facing leaving in Yellow. A flunkie. She’d end up as a pancake woman on the Sands, smelling like smoke and sugar.
Why, oh why did that thief have to show up tonight of all nights? Her exhaustion finally overtook her despair, and she dreamed of facing the Doe Mothers. They were arrayed like the young moon, and Sharna couldn’t get close enough to hear what they were saying. Her legs were rooted to the ground as if she were cast in bronze. She knew they were telling her something of grave importance, and in panic she started shouting at them to speak louder. Her own voice rang like a bell. She woke to the sound of the breakfast bell, her legs tangled in her covers, and her throat sore from crying.
The dining hall was loud and chaotic. She wished the whole world would stop for a few days, just to give her some space to think and breathe. Instead, it gave her Naia.
Sharna attempted a smile. It was never good to let Naia know you were bothered by her taunts. She’d been the first of their seven to go Red and had pushed and cajoled and teased until all the others caught up with her – well, almost all of them.
“Good morning, Naia.”
“You look wilted, as usual. No sleep again?”
“Thanks. No, no sleep.” She debated telling the story of the intruder, then remembered Mistress Nora’s lesson on thinking ahead. “I did some studying.”
“Good. Maybe you’ll do better on this math test than you did on last week’s.”
Sharna slopped tea from the cup she was carrying to the table where the others were already sitting. “Today’s the math test?”
Naia rolled her eyes. “Are you serious?” She put her hand on Daria’s shoulder before she sat down between Barbetta and Mina. All the girls had similar names, it was part of making them a family. Sharna hated the whole concept. Her name had been Melody before she started at the Mansion, and she had loved it. She briefly wondered if she could go back to that name if she failed out.
“Serious about what?” asked Mina.
“Sharna forgot the math test was today. She’s been up late studying, but not math!”
Naia shook her head in disgust. “You’re never going to make Red this way.”
“I know.” They were all looking at her as they chewed. It was like six different versions of her mother’s disapproval. She felt a wave of anger. “I’m not going to make Red, ever. And, honestly, I feel like you enjoy it. Not a single one of you has offered to help me study. You all go prancing about wagging your fingers in my face, but if you cared, you’d help me.”
She stood up and felt a bit of satisfaction at their shocked faces. “I’m done with this.” She left them open-mouthed to go find Mistress Nora.
Better to quit than to be evicted, she thought. It was a clean thought, and like her room, it brought comfort.
(Thanks for coming by to read. See you next Saturday!)