We’ve all heard the stories of how it began, but no one really knows the truth because no one ever owned up and took the blame. Anyone who was there when it all started is long dead and all that remains is their awful legacy. All I know that is real, true, is that the world wasn’t always like this. It used to be green and thriving, but all of that changed.
I suppose the awareness of a looming crisis began simply, perhaps with a faucet that ran dry or maybe a water restriction where there had never been one. Whatever it may have been, there was a turning point and from that moment on the United States of the past disappeared under a burning sky.
What they know but never told me…
The voice and face of the country changed during a tumultuous upheaval of legislation that left environmental protections stripped from public policy in support of the fossil fuel industry. Swiftly repealed laws, that protected everything from watersheds to endangered species, were replaced with a gluttony of efforts to access multiple fossil fuels regardless of what land they rested under nor how much carbon they released when burned. Under this onslaught, the earth’s temperature continued to rise while precipitation began to decline. The results were devastating and tipped the natural balance of the earth irrevocably.
Drought slowly crept across the nation and the globe, silent and ruinous.
In the early years, the hardest hit areas of the world were underdeveloped countries. An endless series of news broadcasts showed starving children or withered remains of cattle splashed across the screens in the living rooms of U.S. citizens who, though saddened by the images, remained ambivalent. Most people viewed what was happening on the other side of the world with a sense of detachment as citizens saw the water restrictions as nuisances rather than portents of worsening problems. This perception would not last.
It was a global drought of unprecedented proportions that cared nothing for which hemisphere you lived on nor how much money you held in your bank account. While measures to curb the effects to the US were taken once it became apparent that human interactions were indeed the root of the problem, those efforts were too little and came far too late. The aquifers, which provided water for the breadbasket of the country, dried up, the backlash of which was felt across the globe. The land itself began to wither and no part of the country, nor the world for that matter, was left untouched by an unrelenting scarcity of water.
As decades passed and the global climate grew hotter and drier, the last of the ice caps melted filling the ocean with too much fresh water, creating a chain of unfathomable and merciless events.
The fragile ecosystems of fish and sea mammals, which had already been spoiled by plastic pollutants releasing toxins into the ocean, were irrevocably affected by the addition of fresh water. The desalination of the water combined with high levels of acidity and rising ocean temperatures took affect, killing off the microorganisms first, and then quickly causing a deadly chain reaction. Beached whale species from dolphins to orcas became a common site. Their bodies emaciated and rotting along the shores of every continent. Coral reefs died on a global scale, looking like bleached, underwater graveyards. Fishing communities went bankrupt and prices for seafood skyrocketed until only the very wealthy could afford it. The imbalance further poisoned the already toxic oceans, making even the technology to convert salt water to fresh water for human consumption impossible.
The influx of fresh water from the ice caps not only affected the ocean life, but also the weather as ocean currents and temperatures changed rapidly. Newscasts showed violent hurricanes in Asia that swept through coastal areas destroying whole cities and washing away thousands of people who had been unprepared for the force of the waves. States along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts saw category 5 hurricanes on a yearly basis, until some areas that were repeatedly hit became uninhabitable. Then there were the worldwide locations at or below sea level, which all but disappeared under the rising sea.
Tornados ripped through areas in Europe and Asia that had never experienced the phenomenon in their recorded history while ‘tornado alley’ became a misnomer as more states experienced the destructive vortex. And as the rain lessened, the dust increased bringing huge swaths of dust storms that swept through towns and cities, choking the air and causing havoc for those stuck in its midst. While in the western half of the country the frequency and severity of wildfires displaced thousands and destroyed huge swaths of land to smoldering cinders.
The sixth mass extinction event in earth’s history commenced. Species from insects to mammals died off at unprecedented rates, unable to acclimate to changes that occurred in years as opposed to centuries. The few remaining rainforests of the world saw these extinction events on a massive scale and those species unlucky enough to need polar climates were gone after a few years.
But the worst of it was neither the weather nor the loss of inestimable species. It was the human factor. The land dried up and with it the crops. Food shortages became common and soon starvation and civil unrest were rampant. Those starving children and dying cattle were no longer relegated to the problems of ‘other countries’. This brought out the ugliness in human nature that you only see in times of desperation.
Those people who were in areas that were hit the hardest by the initial drought began a wave of mass migrations that didn’t end until country and state borders were closed. A militarized presence soon became the norm as the public became more desperate. It didn’t take long before the country become unrecognizable. Cities developed manageable borders and built barriers with checkpoints to keep the influx of destitute people from pouring in and overtaxing an already untenable situation. Towns followed suit as entire communities were abandoned. Soon it became apparent that to live outside a border meant death. Survivalist factions arose, opposing the new restrictions that inevitably followed. Those in power had little tolerance for these groups and dealt with them swiftly and severely. And by the time a new political power was fully entrenched, the drought had taken the lives of millions worldwide and changed the face of the country forever.
I live in the aftermath.
My memories of childhood are plagued by water, or rather the lack of water. Laundry sitting in a dry wash tub or covered in dust on the floor. Food containers we have to scrape and wipe down with a towel so they never really get clean. Dirt that never leaves the underside of my finger nails because washing my hands is not always an option. Dust storms that roll through and leave behind a coating of grime on every surface, even the inside of my nostrils. And then there are the nightly, televised announcements of civil wars, border violence, and rationing. These are the images and realities of my life at seventeen years of age because by the time I was born, water was the global currency.
There is a part of me that just doesn’t want to be alone. The nightmares come in the day when I’m alone.
I need a quiet place to think. I must consider the various outcomes of any decision I make regarding how I use the information that I have found. I sit in the center of the floor and let my mind spin through the memories I have suppressed. The benevolent face of the DMC hides an ugly truth. Whatever they are creating in the bowels of Renascence is a secret they are working hard to keep hidden.
I can’t help feeling like the fates aligned in just the right way to enable me to make my discovery. Through unforeseen circumstance, I found a chink in the underbelly of this monstrosity and I am going to exploit it. But first, I need to look at all of the pieces to this puzzle. I need to find the common thread. Once I do, I feel certain I will know my next step.
To get to that point, I must begin at the beginning.
Life, as it is…
The siren blares loudly. It is six o’clock in the morning. No one should have to wake up to the scream of a siren at this hour. But it’s Tuesday and they always go off at this time on Tuesday. I groan and roll to my side, pulling my pillow over my ears. As if I could forget what Tuesday means. As if anyone in this town could. I sigh after the siren stops and flop onto my back. There is no use trying to get any more sleep. I need to get up in thirty minutes anyway.
Tuesday. Tuesday means no water. No flushing toilet. No washing hands or hair or anything, for that matter. It means hand-sanitizing lotion that chaps my skin and gives me a rash. It means I have to brush my teeth with a dry toothbrush and let the spit sit in the sink. It means piles of dirty dishes because we can’t wash plates and silverware. It means I better use my leftover water ration wisely.
I stretch and face the inevitable task of getting up and starting the day. The relentless sun is already beginning to shine through the cracks in the shades, causing the temperature to begin its daily climb to a point where light films of sweat will pool on my skin, triggering my body to lose water that it can’t afford. I walk to my metal dresser and pull out a pair of standard issue, threadbare shorts and a shirt that has only a few stains. I dress and sit on the edge of my bed to plait my hair, the best style when my hair is not quite as clean as it should be.
In the bathroom I lean into the mirror, under the blinking of the harsh bulb that has never quite worked right, and check my face for any pimples or gunk stuck in the corners of my eyes. Finished with the inspection I gaze at my reflection for a moment, taking in the dirty blond hair, pale blue eyes, and smattering of freckles peppered across the bridge of my nose and cheek bones. I will never be considered a beauty. My eyes are too startling, my face too narrow. I sigh and head to the kitchen.
Our modular always feels claustrophobic in the morning. Like my bedroom, the shades are kept closed as much as possible to block the sun and keep the house cool, though by late afternoon it feels stifling regardless. My dad is sitting at the table, the only seating area in the home, cradling a mug of stale, synthetic coffee while his mind is elsewhere. Like all adults that I know, his skin is thin and wrinkled from too much sun and not enough moisture, and painfully dry and cracked along his knuckles where he grips the mug. His hair, once a dark blond, is peppered with gray and thinning on the top so that I can see the pink of his scalp through the sparseness. I wave my hand in front of his face.
“Hey, Dad. You in there?”
I often find my parents in this state. It has gotten worse as I have grown older and at times I worry that one day their eyes won’t flicker back to life.
“I’m sorry, sweetie, I was wool-gathering. Want some?” he asks as he holds up his cure for morning fatigue.
I shake my head. I’ve tried the stuff but it tastes like crap and doesn’t give me any energy anyway. Instead, I go to the pantry, grab the last breakfast ration, heat it up, and join my dad at the table. We sit in silence for a few minutes, the scrape of my fork the only sound, until he seems to shake off his stupor.
“Only a few weeks left, right Enora?” He’s referring to my graduation from high school.
“Yeah, just a few weeks.”
I don’t bother adding anything more to the conversation. Graduation is not something I like to think about. It is this inevitable milestone that is coming closer to becoming a reality that I am afraid to face. My dad doesn’t seem to notice my lack of response. He is back wherever he had been when I found him.
Soon my mom shuffles in, her feet making a sound like sandpaper rubbing against a plank of wood. She is dressed in a uniform of slacks and a matching, unflattering shirt; both are pale blue as opposed to the darker shade of my father’s clothing. Like my father, my mom’s age is evident in every line etched into her sour face. I think that she must have been pretty once. Perhaps her blue eyes sparkled with youth years ago or maybe she smiled often, lighting up her face. Now though, she is dried up and resentful. She mumbles a hello, grabs a mug, pours herself a cup of the lukewarm coffee, and plunks herself down at the table, which tilts precariously on its uneven legs before I grab the edge and right it. Mornings are quiet in my house.
I am an only child. That is all that is allowed with population control restrictions. Couples that wish to have a child must apply for a license and after passing a series of genetic tests are given permission to become parents. Every now and then you hear rumors of those people who have bucked the system and had a second child. These stories never end well.
We sit in a companionable silence until a low rumbling permeates the house as a shuttle pulls up to the end of our street. This is followed by a message that flashes on the wall screen alerting my parents that it is time to board the shuttle. At this point my parents lift themselves from their chairs, give me a perfunctory kiss on the cheek, and head to work. Knowing they’ll be working gives me some relief, at least they’ll earn some credits and, looking at the nearly empty cupboard, we need any credits they can earn today.
My parents are paid in water. Not literally of course. Rather they are paid in water credits. It is not just us either. The entire world uses water credits as currency. It has become the gold of the century that I live in. Of course it is highly regulated and portioned throughout the country and there never seems to be enough. It is all about control, from the wall screen to the water credits. Everything is regulated and nothing goes unnoticed.
As I sit alone in the kitchen, I stare down at the numbers and lines staining my skin. This is their form of regulation in its strictest sense. Etched into my skin with a laser at birth and my key to survival in the community. Everyone has a barcode on the inside of their left wrist. It is our identification, our tracking device, and so much more. Anytime we need to buy something we slide our arm into the reader, which scans our code, and credits are debited from our family account. The opposite happens when my parents work. For each day of work, credits are put onto the account. Our barcode isn’t only used for our water credits though. When I get on the school shuttle, arrive at the school or even pick up my lunch portion in the cafeteria, I am scanned.
The Company’s database regulates everything as we are scanned throughout the day. That’s what we call them, The Company. It’s really the Drought Mitigation Corporation or DMC. They have been in charge since before I was born. Of course no one knew about them back in the early days of the drought, or so my dad once told me. People found out later and by then the Company had control of all of the water in the country. Now they have stations outside every town and systems that regulate water rations, usage, and credits.
Everyone is on water rationing in addition to our water credits. To regulate water usage, each housing unit is monitored and when the threshold is reached, the water is shut off remotely. Most families have rain water drums outside their homes on the off chance that rain will come. But those days are so rare that the drums are dry as a bone most of the year. Inside we conserve as much water as possible. We even have a small pan under the bathroom and kitchen faucet to catch any drips that may fall because, you never know, there may be enough for something as mundane as rinsing your hands.
On Tuesday, there is no water. Every town has a day when the Company shuts off the water to help conserve it. This has always been. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier. I feel bad for families with a young child. It must be hard to listen to the cries when the water runs dry and the ration is used up. In my housing section, it’s not so bad. I think we have all gone to each other at one time or another for a bit of water. I can’t say the same for other housing sections or other towns.
Like most people, we can rarely afford to buy our full water ration, always enough to sustain our bodies but never enough for the many other uses that require it. Most of our credits go toward food although the credits don’t go far. Meat is the most expensive, which means we rarely eat it. Instead, we usually buy the meat substitute. I’m not entirely sure what it’s made of and, honestly, I don’t really want to know.
In addition to control over the water, the Company grows and supplies all of the food. They have farms, greenhouses, and processing plants across the country, which produce everything we eat. Their greenhouses are huge buildings with the typical solar panels that we all have, lots of glass windows, and a special system. They have stockyards and fields of crops too. Of course, these compounds are heavily guarded. My parents have told me stories of earlier years when these locations were often raided and food was stolen. That doesn’t happen much anymore, thankfully. I’ve only had to watch one broadcast of the execution of one of these ‘enemies of nation’ and I have no desire to ever see another.
I sit on the ground just outside my empty house, waiting for the sound of my shuttle and once again contemplate how we got to this point. Not just me. Everyone. The whole world is affected by a drought that really should be called something different because it has been going on for about 100 years, globally.
I feel the heat on my skin and look up hoping to see a bank of dark clouds rolling in, but as usual the sky is clear. No rain for me. In school they tell us that during the wet cycle of the earth this part of the country is a lush landscape of green where the trees are healthy and a clear day is a rarity. I wish I could see that. I’m taught that the earth is in a dry cycle, as has happened throughout the history of the planet, and that in the near future the wet cycle will return. I think they’re full of crap but I keep my mouth shut.
In Prineville, the forests hardly resemble anything even remotely green. With the drought, most of the trees dried up long ago and then bugs moved in to finish them off. The only trees that are left are scraggly, drought resistant things that dot the land around town, in small clusters. In the footprint of the old forest on the outskirts of town, there is now just a graveyard of trees lying on the ground, like dead soldiers in a war with no enemy.
I don’t like to visit what remains of the forest. It’s too quiet. I find myself wondering where the animals went. Did they die too? Are their bones buried deep within the cracked earth, their spirits screaming in retribution?
I find it hard to breathe sometimes, everyone does. It’s like the air is somehow depleted or has gone so bad that my body tries to reject it. Most days it doesn’t bother me, but there are times when I begin to wonder if my lungs are working too hard and will up and quit. It must be the lack of trees or the dust in the air or maybe something noxious they don’t tell us about.
Classes on our local history have taught me that a century ago this area was a large lumber community, which I find hard to fathom. I do know that the town was much larger and sprawling than it is now, you can see the proof of that beyond the fence where the old buildings sit vacant. Those parts of Prineville look like ghost towns, eerie in their emptiness. I just find it hard to imagine this place as some thriving environment where the forests were so lush that trees could be culled and sold for wood. It’s so different now, and now is all I know.
Due to the loss of the timber industry, wood is unaffordable and, as a result, the few remaining original houses in Prineville are worn down, old things with sagging roofs and peeling paint. No one can even live in them anymore and I wonder why they don’t tear them down. Nearly all of us live in modular homes. They look like cubes when viewed from the outside. Square windows with rounded edges are the only things that break up the bland structure aside from the front door. Each residence is made out of a synthetic material that wears better under the blistering heat than an organic material ever would. Still, most of our homes look like they have seen better days, having become faded and covered with dust over years of living.
Every neighborhood is set in an organized grid with a specific type of dwelling. There are eight neighborhoods in my town, Sections A-H. Most families are located in sections E-H, mine being section G. A family unit has two bedrooms while single or married housing has only one. The only part of Prineville that could be considered nice is near the town square where you’d find the families of the Company employees living in sections A and B. These modulars are larger and newer with the latest interactive screen systems and furniture made with cloth rather than the hard, synthetic material the rest of us are stuck with. But I’d rather live in my section. At least here I can be myself.
A few streets over I hear the faint whining of my parent’s shuttle as it picks up more passengers. It always makes me shudder when I hear it. Like most families, my parents work just outside of Prineville’s border in the textile mill. Many of the residents of Prineville end up working in the mill, as jobs are scarce in town. Kids get such glamorous choices as: working one of the menial jobs in public utilities, working at the textile mill, getting shipped off to a larger manufacturing facility with housing, or getting recruited. The scarcity of employment options can be laid at the feet of the Company. The DMC brings in all of the goods we need, making local craftsman nearly obsolete. Combine that with the fact that only Company employees may work in food facilities and local repositories, and you have an utter scarcity of work alternatives. Our mill produces the synthetic cloth that is used for uniforms for the Company and is the primary employer. I don’t want to end up at the mill. I don’t want to come home with an aching back, chapped hands, and the dull look that I see so often in my parents’ eyes.
If I lived in the past, I could have moved to a different town or even a different country, but not now. The drought caused so many mass migrations of people that all of the states closed their borders, and when that wasn’t enough, cities barricaded their populations behind cement walls and larger towns absorbed the smaller ones putting up fences to build their own borders. You would assume the populations in these refuges would be untenable, but viruses and scarcity took their toll. Now we are stuck. The only time you can leave is for work at the mill or if you are recruited by the Company.
The barbed wire fence surrounding my town is patrolled 24 hours a day. I have been close to the fence a couple of times with my friends, when we’ve talked jokingly about running away, about sneaking through the border and getting out, finding a place where water flows, clean and free. But the guards carry large guns, and besides, it’s just talk anyway.
I know it could be worse. On the evening announcements, they always show how awful it is in the big cities, like Brigford, all of the violence and food shortages, viral outbreaks and choking air. We are told that it is like this in every large city across the country, though it must be beyond imagining in places like Chicago where overcrowding is the norm and violence is rampant. My parents say that it is better we live in a small town.
The shuttle to school arrives. It is an ugly thing; a relic from bygone days, with wire mesh embedded into the windows and hard, plastic benches that my legs stick to as I sweat through the seat of my shorts. To me, it has always seemed like some kind of transportation for criminals, although anyone ever caught by the Company has always been forced into vehicles much newer than this one. Still, it feels oppressive and considering where it takes me each day, I guess that’s appropriate. Reluctantly, I hop on and scan my arm before finding a seat. The trip to school is short, as I am the last stop. It’s an old, two-story building with cracks in the brown walls and broken tiles on the floors. Very little new construction can be found in town and fixing up the school is not a priority.
As a twelfth year student, in just a few short weeks I will turn 18, graduate, and begin working, beginning my so-called contribution to the community. I try not to think too much about this but it is always there, at the back of my mind. Sometimes I feel like school is such a waste of time since I know there are few real choices for where I will end up. My teachers would argue that by getting my education I am better prepared for the work force, but I hardly see how deconstructing a sentence is going to help me work the loom at the mill or drive the truck that picks up refuse and recycling from residences. I almost wish that we were not given any options, simply placed in our early years in the track to which we will be assigned for the duration of our adult lives. If everything were predestined like that, then I would never have to go through this uncertainty. Of course, that idea sounds great now, but in reality I’d probably hate it even more. But being thankful for my limited choices isn’t how I’m feeling as I travel closer to the school.
I suppose the dynamics at Prineville High are typical of any high school. There are popular kids, we call them drones, who live in the newer section of town. All of these kids have family members who work for the Company. They have newer clothes and are better fed than the rest of us. I don’t trust these kids. They are too perfect, like they are all cut from the same genetic material. It creeps my friends and me out, hence their nickname.
The remainder of the student body is pretty normal. Most of us are on the hungry side wearing our standard issue clothes that have patches or holes because there aren’t enough water credits to buy new. I only have a couple friends. Well actually, just one now, who is the sole person I can be honest with. I guess you could say that I’m not really the social type. The idea of entering a room full of people I don’t know is about the worst thing I can think of. If I could sit outside in the shade with an actual book and not have to talk to anyone, I’d be in my own version of utopia.
As the shuttle pulls into the lot, I see my friend, Safa, standing outside the school entrance looking for me. Safa and I always head into the building together, though our schedules allow us to share only two classes. She is the one bright spot in an otherwise dreary day filled with people I equally loathe and avoid. We greet each other and she begins to chatter about her latest project. Safa always has some crazy project she is working on.
As she begins a verbose explanation of her current obsession, my mind starts to flip through the many ‘projects’ she’s designed in the past. I smile to myself when I get to her biggest debacle. We were ten years old and Safa’s fixation at that time was pottery. We had just learned about ancient people and had been shown different artifacts, like shards from clay pots and utensils made from bone, from those cultures. Safa decided she wanted to create a vase out of clay that future people would find, thereby learning about our time in history. Of course, clay was not something that family credits could be wasted on even if we could have found any at the supply depot. So, Safa decided she would make some clay herself.
The biggest problem with making clay was having any water to mix with the hard, packed dirt in her yard. This challenge was mulled over for a couple of days until Safa decided that water could be substituted with her parent’s synthetic coffee. To back up the use of such a liquid, she had determined that the ingredients she used to make the clay would be additional information for future people to interpret.
I can remember that afternoon like it was yesterday. Safa gathered up her dirt and coffee and placed it into a pot on the stove so that it could ‘cook’ which would make it a more durable material for the vase she planned to make. Looking back on it now, I suppose I should have stopped her from putting the airtight lid on the pot. The noise it made when the pressure built to an explosive force was enough to make us scream and run into her bedroom, slamming the door behind us. When we finally gathered up enough courage to open the door and creep into the kitchen, the mess splattered on every surface was truly astounding. Not having any spare water with which to clean it, we scrambled to find old cloths to wipe away the most obvious blobs before they hardened. Needless to say, if you look closely at the cracks between the cabinets and those in the floor, you can still find remnants of it to this day.
While I have been reminiscing and half listening to the hum of Safa’s voice, I stop midstride when I hear the word garden come from her lips.
“Are you crazy?” I nearly shout.
“Sh,” she says and looks around to see if anyone is listening.
Safa pulls my arm and hauls me into an alcove in the hall. “Don’t talk so loud. I don’t want one of the drones to hear you!”
I lower my voice, “What is wrong with you? Don’t you know what can happen if you get caught?”
She rolls her eyes, “Look, I’m not waving it in front of everyone’s face like those idiot neighbors of yours did. I’m being careful.”
Planting our own garden is strictly forbidden. The rationale that we are told is that planting our own food wastes water resources, but I think it’s more than that. The Company regulates this law with frequent sweeps through town. My neighbors were caught a couple of years ago with a tiny garden hidden in an old rain drum beside their residence. They had planted some tomatoes or something. I remember being jarred awake in the middle of the night by a loud noise. I looked out the window and saw guards from The Company hauling my neighbors out of their house and into a van. Their residence was empty by the end of the week and a new family moved in. We don’t try to grow our own food.
“Safa, they didn’t flaunt it either. It was hidden in a rain drum and they still found out. “ I can feel the speed of my heart ratcheting up a notch.
“You worry too much,” she says and swats my arm. “Look, you have to come over and check it out.”
I shake my head. Inside I’m selfishly thinking, what if I get caught?
“Come on,” she whines. “Please?”
And then she gives me the eyes, the ones that translate into: If you were really my friend you would do this for me.
So I cave, “Fine. But I swear if anyone finds out…” I don’t finish the thought because, really, the answer to that is not something I want to explore.
“It’ll be fine. See ya after school.”
She gives me a quick hug and jogs to class. I stand in the alcove for a few more minutes, telling myself to calm down and stop worrying. After all, we’re just kids anyway and it’s not like they are going to do anything to a kid.
I pass the hours of the school day listening to a monotonous parade of monotone voices lecturing from the front of the room or from the headphones that are becoming more common in each class. I loathe the headphones. The sound invades my senses and is inescapable. But I have a suspicion that the headphones are not going away any time soon. After all, with the Company talking in my ears, teachers can’t tell you something they shouldn’t.
The only time I really surface from that inner place I go when in class, is during lunch. I walk through the lunch line, pick up my ration, place my arm in the scanner, and then survey the room looking for Safa. She is seated at a table in the corner of the cafeteria and waves me over. As I make my way through the maze of students, I notice that Safa is not alone at the table, which unfortunately means we will have to censor our conversation when all I really want to do is grill her about this idiotic and dangerous garden idea. Lunch passes too quickly and too soon I find myself with headphones on and the Company droning in my ears again.
By the end of the school day, my anxiety over the garden has returned. I skip taking the shuttle home, meet Safa in the back of the school, and we begin the long walk to her neighborhood in section E of town. She is positively glowing, bouncing around and telling me about how she thinks she’s discovered this new way to cultivate food with very little water. So little, she says, that everyone could have a garden and wouldn’t it be nice if we could all grow some of our own food? I listen to her prattle on but inside I am a ball of worry. The Company doesn’t want us to grow our own food and they enforce that regulation strictly. All I can think of is what will happen to my friend if they find out.
We arrive at the house and she hauls me through the front door, not where I had anticipated going, and into her room. Like most family modulars, there are two utilitarian bedrooms, one bathroom, and a small kitchen with room for a table. Like mine, the space is cramped but livable and it’s nice to have a small pocket of the house to ourselves. Safa’s parents are still at the mill and won’t return for another hour so there is no need to keep our voices down or be discreet.