United (The United Trilogy Book 1) (4 page)

BOOK: United (The United Trilogy Book 1)
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Mr. Goldman starts to speak, “This year we are only taking one student”

Wait, huh?!  That’s got to be wrong, there are at least four of us left, and only one is being taken?   I’m sure it’s Wes, so where do the rest of us go?  There must be another career I have overlooked.  Looking at Wes’s expression he did as well.  Just as I am racking my brain to figure out what it could be I hear the name, “Stuart Phelps.”

“WHAT?!”  Both Wes and I blurt out at the same time.  Everyone turns to look at us and I’m too confused to be embarrassed and Wes just doesn’t care.

Just then the President takes center stage once again as if this can get any weirder, “Hello again,” he states like he has all the time in the world.  “I can see from your faces…and outbursts...that a few of you are a bit confused.”

“This is the understatement of the year,” bellows Wes, who I would normally shush, but the boy has a point.

The President narrows his eyes a bit at Wes and continues to speak, “It’s not common every year that the Ministry receives placements; however, people need to work there as well.”

Ah, and it all falls in place.  Of course the Ministry would need to have people, it just never crossed my mind before. But with the appearance of the President, who runs the Ministry, it is all becoming clear.  I look back at the blonde as understanding finally begins to dawn, but the look on her face is causing my heart to skip a beat.  She isn’t looking at me anymore.  Her full focus is on the President, which wouldn’t be unusual since he is the one speaking, but it’s the look of unease across her face that has me wanting to throw up.

The President pauses for a minute, looks up directly into my eyes and then transfers his focus to Wes.  “Wesley Sanders you will be placed in the Ministry along with Molly Henderson and Rosaline Thatcher.”

Wes looks down at me, both of our faces full of puzzlement.

“As for you, Rosaline Thatcher, I would like you to come up here please,” President Vaughn continued.

He’s joking.  He’s got to be joking right?   But as I look up, his face doesn’t hold even a hint of merriment.  In fact disdain is the only word I can think of.  Everyone is now turned and looking at me, the blonde is nodding at me to follow with a smile on her face.  She still has a bit of trepidation, but mostly pride is showing now.  I am literally stunned, frozen to my chair.

The President, growing more impatient by the second, stares me down raising his voice, “Rosaline, come now!”

He manages to keep a fake smile in place while being firm in speaking to me, leaving no question as to what I should do.  I stand  up, and so does Mr. Masters, the head of Ministry of Defense.  My first thought is ‘Oh great, he thinks he has to come get me,’ but he didn't head towards me, but instead is moving to take his place behind the President. As I slowly make my way to the stage, I notice two troopers make their way to the sides of the stage, keeping their eyes on the President the entire time.  Everyone else seems completely oblivious of this except for me, and maybe the blonde.  It feels like she is watching me watch them.  I can tell she knows exactly what I am seeing, so I know I'm not imagining it.  To most I'm sure it looks like the President’s security, but I see something else: they don't trust what he may do.

Oh great!  If these people don’t trust him, how am I supposed to go up there, and stand next to him and wait for what he is going to do? And he is going to do something, of that I’m sure.  I shoot the blonde a begging look to do something as I slowly climb the stairs to meet the President.  She shoots a quick look to Mr. Masters and a head nod in my direction. In a flash he is at the top of the stairs extending his hand to me.

“Allow me to help you up, Miss Thatcher.”

Just like that I can breathe again.  Less than an hour ago I was thinking that this man scared the life out of me, and now he has become my protector.  He leads me to the center of the stage but stays slightly between President Vaughn and me, for which I am very grateful.  President Vaughn’s face morphs back into the happy-go-lucky guy he was earlier, with none of the anger or contempt I had seen just moments before.

With a joy that has to be fake he addresses the audience, “It is with great pleasure that I introduce your future President of United America.”

Wait, say what?!  The whole place breaks out in a thunderous applause with shouts and whoops and hugging.  I'm frozen on the stage looking like a deer in the headlights for sure.  I look over at Blondie, who now is full-out radiating.  She is smiling from ear to ear and nodding at me, like “yes, this is actually true, and you’re not just having a mental breakdown!”  I look over at the President with a pleading look in my eyes, silently begging for him to say “GOTCHA!” but I am met with only the smile that he has plastered on his face.  After what feels like a lifetime he raises his hand for quiet.

“Quiet down everyone, thank you.  Yes, it is soon time for me to  step down.  I have had the honor and privilege for the last 22 years to serve my country as President of United America.  It is with a heavy heart I leave, but I know without a doubt, I am leaving you in very capable hands.  Everyone is chosen for their jobs with the same care; however, the President is the only one picked among thousands.  This wasn’t done lightly.  This has been a decision in the making for the last sixteen years.  We believe Rosaline was made for this job, to serve you, the people and her country.  She is honest, of utmost integrity and knows well the power in equality.  She will do a wonderful job.”

He looks right into my eyes as he says this last part, and part of me actually believes he is sincere.

“Thank you so much for this evening, and to those new career bound, thank you so much for your service.  Everyone has an envelope with your instructions on it from the head of your department.  Make sure you find them before you leave.  Molly, Wesley and Rosaline, please see Mr. Masters for your envelopes.  Everyone is dismissed, but please feel free to stay and enjoy some refreshments; good night!”

Vaughn turns and walks off the stage and out of the building without giving me another glance.  I just stay frozen to my spot, not knowing what to do. Mr. Masters turns towards me and says, “Rosaline, I know it’s a bit overwhelming right now.  It’s a lot to take in, but it will all be fine.”

He gives me what I’m sure he thought was a smile, but looked more like a grimace.  He hands me my letter and asks me to give Wes and Molly theirs as well.  I nod and take the letters, stuck in place.  I look up searching for the blonde but she had already vanished, as have the other board members. 

“Roz!  Oh my freaking great aunt, Roz!”

Leave it to Wesley to bring me back to reality.

“Wes, you know nobody says that and it’s weird.  How many times do I have to tell you it doesn’t even make sense?”

He stares at me completely dumbfounded for a second.  “Really?!  Really Roz!  You were just named President.  PRESIDENT Roz!  President of freaking United America and you are going to talk to me about sayings that don’t make sense?!  I just can’t believe it, my best friend; she is going to be President, President!!!”

I grab him by the shoulders and drag him down as close to my level as possible, “Seriously Wes, don’t!  Just don’t!  You have to stop freaking out!  I don’t care if it’s from excitement or what, but please, you need to get a grip because I’m ready to lose it here, ok?  Poor Molly can’t take care of us both!”

I look to see Molly firmly nodding in agreement.

As usual, Molly reins us in, “Well first off, congratulations Miss President! Second, what were the odds that we would all be working together huh?”

Wes’s face turns a stark white for a moment as he cries, “Oh Lord, you don’t think they are making us her servants do you?!”He’s  practically yelling at Molly.

I give him my best glare, “Get off of it Wes, we don’t even have servants anymore, and even if they did, you picked University, remember?  I don’t think they are going to have you washing my panties!”

At this I seriously think he may throw up in his mouth a little as Molly bursts out laughing!

“Well whatever it is, I’m certainly intrigued,” Molly states, seemingly perfectly at ease and in control.

“So, what do you think they are having you do?”  I ask, mostly to get the subject off of me and the “P” word.

“Well, I’m not sure exactly, but I’m thinking the fact that they picked me and the Boy Wonder here, it has something to do with you.  Maybe to help you ease into your new role, you know, something familiar.  Outside of that, we are both huge assets in research and development, so I’m sure that’s what we will be doing eventually.”  She says this with a complete calm and assurance that only Molly can pull off.

This seems to calm Wes down greatly, and at the mention of research and development his face brightens.

“Let’s hope you are right Molly girl,” he says with a grin that quickly slides off his face, “Because I definitely don’t do panties!”

Chapter Five

We eventually found our parents and made our way over to our bikes and rode home in silence.  I’m not sure who was more freaked out, me or my parents.  We walked in the door and my mom and I went directly into our living room and sat down on the couch, still not talking.  My dad came in a few minutes later holding a tray of chocolate milk and cookies, and I burst into tears. 

“Hey, hey,  there now, sugar bean, it's OK.  Everything will be alright, you’ll see,” he said this trying to comfort me, yet the irony wasn’t lost on me; my father still calls me sugar bean and brings me chocolate milk and I’m supposed to be old enough and mature enough to lead a country?!

I just sat there while my dad held me and my mom ran her fingers through my hair.  I’m not sure how long we sat there, hours maybe.

I finally look up at the two most important people in my life and the only thing I can manage to say is, “I thought I was going to be in agriculture!  I was actually freaking out over berries!”

I’m not sure if they were able to piece together what I meant, or they were just too afraid to upset the crazy, because they just nodded and listened.

“I mean really, the President!?  Are they insane?  Mom, I’m sixteen years old!  Sure I’m guessing I will have a ton of help, and the two years to train, but how can they think this is the right thing to do?”  I practically wail.

“No one knows for sure--without any doubt--that anything they do is right, my love,” my dad assures me, “but you make a calculated decision and you go on faith.  You are a lot stronger than you are giving yourself credit for.  Remember, darling, that the way things were before didn’t work and this way has been proven to work for at least the last hundred years.  We have never once had an uprising, we hardly have much conflict, or crime, and we live in a peaceful, mostly happy environment.  You’ve done your research, you know this.  We are the only country around that works as a united team.  One of the biggest reasons it has worked so well for so long is because of this choosing process.”

Leave it to my dad to appeal to the logical side of my brain.  When he didn’t feel he was getting anywhere he cast a quick “help” look over to my mom. 

“Rozie, look at me. Do you feel we have been good parents to you?  Instilled good values? Taught you to always do what’s right?”

I look at her skeptically, wondering where she is going with this, “Of course you have.”

At my reply she gave a quick nod and soft smile, “In all honesty do you feel you agree with our way of living, do you hold those same values as your own, do you value equality and fairness above all else?   Are you still the same child who always felt others' pain?   Who feels pain and joy when others feel them?   Have you or your beliefs changed at all?”

“Of course not, Mom, you know this. But I’m not following you!”

“Rozie, you have always had a sweet spirit, yet at the same time never allowed people to walk all over you.  You were born a true leader.  You were always constant and all of the things I said before.  Do you know how rare that is for someone of your age, to be that consistent throughout their life?   To continue to want what’s best for others and willing to make sacrifices for the greater good?  That’s not normal, Roz.  That makes you so special.  Most kids have a selfish streak in them, actually most people.  Some can contain it or deny it better than others, but teenagers are known for not being able to see past their own problems.  You have never been that way.”

She looked deep into my eyes and said again, “You are special.”

I truly wanted to believe everything she was saying.  I know she meant every word, yet it wasn’t all true.  I was selfish.  Didn’t I just spend the last few weeks freaking out over the Career ceremony?  Wasn’t I so caught up in my own feelings and worries to even notice how my parents were being affected?   I might be some of those things, but I’m not selfless, and I don’t feel that special.  There wasn’t anything more I could do so I took a few deep calming breaths, I told my parents how much I loved them and appreciated all their kind words and support, and I took myself to bed.  I decided I was emotionally drained and I wasn’t going to be able to figure anything out tonight.  Tonight all I could do was sleep, tomorrow I would make a game plan, but tonight I was just going to shut down.

I woke up in the morning still feeling like this couldn’t be real.  My parents were both already gone for work and it was just me in a silent house, with all the time I needed to think….great!  I went into the kitchen and on the counter was a note in my father’s messy handwriting. 

Good Morning Roz,

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

We love you! 


Ever since I can remember, whenever I am going through a hard time my dad has left me little notes with uplifting quotes from the past.  He has done it again.  Somehow, in the midst of all this confusion, he was able to bring some hope to my heart and a smile to my face.  First things first, I needed a big breakfast, a long hot bath and then I needed to open my letter.  Of course I wasn’t going to find a hearty  breakfast in this house.  Inspiring quotes? Of course. But for breakfast I had to go next door. 

I showed up on the Sanders's porch in my PJs and bed head and knocked once, then twice, then one more time before I scanned my hand and opened the door.  All houses are equipped with hand-scan recognition.  Once we realized how much we were living at each other’s houses both of our parents thought it made more sense to add Wes and me to the household scanners.  The crazy knocking, of course, was Wes’s brainchild.  As a child he was always afraid that someone might cut off one of his parent’s hands and use it to break in, so he came up with the code.  I’m pretty sure he knows that can’t happen since the scanners also sense heat, but we continue out of habit, mostly to appease Wesley.  I wasn’t even three steps into the house before Wes was calling out his good morning.

“Hey, how did you know it was me and not someone trying to kill you?”

“Haha very funny Roz, of course it’s you.  It’s 10 am on a work day and you are starving and alone.  I was expecting you.”

Even though he says this as a fact, I took it for what he really meant; he waited for me to have breakfast so that he could make sure I was OK.  I couldn’t help it; I ran up to him and gave him a huge hug!  I held on for dear life while he put his hands straight up in the air, then once he realized I wasn’t letting go until he hugged me back, he awkwardly tapped me on the head until I let go.

“Don’t make me have to file sexual harassment on you, Rosaline Thatcher.”

“Oh if I was sexually harassing you Wes, you’d know.” I started wiggling my eyebrows at him.  He got all flustered and went to the oven and pulled out our breakfast.  His mom had made us French toast with berries and cream on the side, our favorite!

As per usual, we ate in silence, and once we were both finished he looked at me and said, “Well, have you read it yet?”

I looked down and shook my head, wanting to delay the inevitable just a little bit longer, “Have you?” Knowing Wes, I assumed he tore it open the second he got home.

“No, I wanted to wait for you.”

My head shot up in surprise, “You did?!  But I thought you wouldn’t have been able to sleep until you read it?”

He raised one eyebrow at me and I chuckled, “You haven’t slept yet have you?”

This wasn’t an actual question because we both knew that he hadn’t. Not knowing what the letter said would have kept him up, all night….he waited for me!  Wes, seeing where my thoughts were taking me, jumped up and put a 10 foot distance between us.  “Roz, don’t even think about hugging me again!”

I laughed, “But sometimes you are just too irresistible Wesley dear.” I said this over my shoulder as I ran out of the house and to mine.  I was back with the letter in hand before Wes even had a chance to sit back down.

We went to his room to get his letter and decided to get it over with.  We both sat down on his bed holding our letter in our hands, “Do you think they say the same thing?” I asked.

“Hmmm, I’m not sure.  I seriously doubt it since you are so much more important than me now.” He says this completely joking, but part of me dies a little at hearing his words.  Are people going to start treating me differently now?  Is Wes?  Are they going to think I think I’m better than them?  GAH!

Pulling me out of my musings, Wes said, “Should we open them at the same time, or separately?”  Leave it to Wes to have to evaluate the entirety of the situation before coming up with a game plan; it’s a letter for goodness sake!

“Well, since you are going to go over both with a fine-toothed comb either way, we might as well open them one at a time, yours first.”  I’d like to think I was ending his misery, but really I think I was just prolonging mine.

“OK, here I go.” He opens the letter, looks at the paper for a moment, and then mutters something like “Well that was anticlimactic.” He hands his letter over to me, and without even asking permission, he picks up my letter and opens it.  Before I have the chance to protest, he scoffs, “Figures they are exactly the same and completely and utterly vague.”  He throws his head back and lies on the bed, looking up through his sky light.

I look at his letter which does appear to be a replica of mine.

Please meet at the Office of Ministry headquarters in two days’ time.  You will take the bullet train at eight in the morning.  Please make sure you are punctual and have your belongings with you.  Enclosed is a map to the train and headquarters.

Seriously?!  That’s it?!  Geez.  It doesn’t say who we are to ask for, or where to meet once we get to headquarters which I assume is massive.  “Have your belongings with you.” Does this mean that in two days, I am leaving my home forever?  I can tell Wes is going through this same thought process in his mind.  To distract me from our thoughts I pick up the enclosed map.  Every zone has a train station.  Not very many people know where it is because it is only used for Ministry work and those professions that use it for transferring food and delivering supplies to the different zones.  Only if there is an emergency can you get clearance from the Ministry to use the train.  It is a magnetic bullet train that is very fast, efficient and works perfectly for our uses.  We don’t believe in polluting the air more than we have to, so the fact that it’s run on magnetic fields saves us from having to breathe in the fumes that most trains use.

Members of the community  are all given bikes as soon as they are able to ride.  Certain professions like emergency doctors, troopers, and ministry workers all have electric scooters that can get them around a little faster.  When I was younger my father used to tell me grand stories of how Americans used to all have their very own car.  Some even had several per household.  I had a hard time trying to imagine this.  Not only did they have cars operated by gas which released harmful fumes into the air, but they also had buses, which were just huge cars that carried many people at once.  They had trains that were powered by fuel and others that were powered by coal.  So many things that made the air filthy and all those people breathing it in everyday!  And they wondered why everyone was getting sick all the time.

After the rebellion was won, the founders' first act was to sell off large portions of land.  After that they decided to sell all the remaining vehicles.  It’s never been said just how much money was made from that transaction, but I know it must have been a huge amount!  The money was then used to rebuild United America.  Once everything was slowly coming together, they realized that in order to make our country self-sufficient we would have to find a way to transport food from zone to zone.  For a while people just lived off of what their own zone could grow.  But once the scientists and engineers were able to get the magnet bullet trains up and running we were able to expand the zones and the people were able to choose where they wanted to live.  Schedules were made for food and supply deliveries and the more the population grew, the more we were able to do.

I have only seen the train in pictures, but my mother has been on one several times.  As a nurse for the dying, she is the one who takes care of them in their last months.  When the time nears that the family is needed to say good-bye, there usually isn’t much time so she has accompanied a few family members on the train.  As excited as I am that we are going to be able to go on the train, I’m also nervous that this might just be my last time home. 

I turn to Wes, who still hasn’t moved or said a word. “So are you excited about riding on the train?”

This has been on his top five list his whole life, “Of course I am.” He said flatly.  Apparently I wasn’t going to be getting much out of him today.

“Well, I guess I should head back home and start my packing then.”  He doesn’t even look at me, just nods.  “It will all be OK, Wes.  I’m going to be with you the whole time.  You will have me.  I will be your constant.”

He closes his eyes and nods his head, whispering to himself quietly, “Yes, Roz will be my constant.  I will be with Roz, just as always.”

There I go, feeling sorry for myself, freaking out again while poor Wes is having his world ripped out from under him.  Most people have that fear of something new, but also have an underlying excitement, a curious wonder of all the good things to come.  Wes has never had that underlying excitement, only dread.  His parents have slowly adapted and changed his schedule as much as he will allow to try and get him used to the fact that life changes.  You just have to move with it.  Wes is still working on the moving part…panic attack he has down cold, however!  When we were little, there was a movie we watched once from long before our time called
.  It was about a little orphan girl who was unusually optimistic.  There was a song in that movie called “Tomorrow.”  It became one of my favorite songs.  I used to sing it to Wes every time it rained, which, where we live, happens a lot.  When he would want to go outside to play or count rocks or whatever it was he had to do every day, and he couldn’t because it was raining, I would lay down next to him and sing that song.  It always seemed to make him smile.  It was a perfect reminder for him that even though it’s raining, the sun will still always come out.

BOOK: United (The United Trilogy Book 1)
3.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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