Jezebel, you must not laugh.
My caretaker had warned me about this day. Of course, I didn’t believe her at the time.
Jezebel, don’t let them see your tears.
I hadn’t cried for years, and even when I was a child, it was in the dark haven of my bedroom. My heart beat harder with each second that passed while I waited for Sol to come into the classroom. The other students were already scrolling through the previous day’s assignments on their desk consoles, oblivious to the warmth that had spread to my cheeks as I waited. Their pale faces, dull eyes, and blue and gray clothing matched the endless rain outside. We were all the same inside as well—at least we were supposed to be.
Since I first started to understand her words, my caretaker told me I was different.
Jezebel, you must not show any emotion. Ever. They will find out who you really are.
The door slid open with a whoosh, and I felt Sol’s presence before I actually saw him. My heartbeat changed to match the rhythm of his step. No one else looked up or even seemed to notice Sol as he walked across the room and took his seat next to mine. Lately I noticed everything about him.
His hair was a black mess today, which might explain why he walked in later than usual. He must have overslept. And he must have crossed the schoolyard with no umbrella, since water droplets trickled from his hair. I didn’t dare meet his eyes because I knew they’d be on me, and it was getting harder to suppress the instinct to touch him. He’d passed so close to my desk that I imagined the brush of his hand on my arm. It was all that I was allowed. Imagining.
Jezebel, you are the Carrier, but no one can ever know.
I tugged my gaze from Sol, feeling the heat creeping through my body, knowing that if anyone in this room could read my thoughts, they’d report me to the school director. If anyone knew I was protected, I would be imprisoned, or worse.
Sol settled in the desk next to mine and leaned over. I caught his earthy scent, a mixture of rain and leaves.
“Jez,” he whispered.
I had to meet his eyes now. The way he looked at me made me feel like he could read my soul. His eyes were murky gray, just as the sky outside had been early this morning. You have no idea what you’re doing to me, Sol, I wanted to say. Instead, I said, “What?”
“Sit by me at assembly?”
How did he know there was an assembly today? I didn’t need to attract any attention from the other students by asking him questions, so I said, “Sure.” I wanted to smile at him, but I didn’t. I’d save that reaction for later in my dorm room while remembering our conversation.
When Sol was moved up to our sixteen-year old A Level class a few months ago, I immediately knew he was different. He was younger than the rest of us, barely sixteen, but that wasn’t why I noticed him. Sol wasn’t different like me, or he wouldn’t be here—but he was different from the other students. He somehow knew things about the world Before . . . before the rain started and before the world started to die. Before America and Europe and Africa started to slip into the ocean.
By the third year of non-stop rain, the US government sadly announced that surviving in the weather conditions was far beyond their technological expertise. That’s when the fortifications began, the constitution turned over to martial law, and every able child trained in science and technology.
If we wanted the next generation to survive, and the one after that, we had to create a world in which we could live in despite the rain. We were now in the thirty-seventh year of the rain, cut off from any other civilization that might exist outside of Sawatch—a former mountain range in a place named Colorado. Now it was only five hundred feet above the ocean.
The countdown to the beginning of class flashed on our desktop screens 4-3-2-1-start. I pressed my hand against the upper right corner of the transparent desktop, and my ID transferred. I was logged in. I popped in wireless earbuds just as the male-female voice said, “An assembly has been called. Please exit in an orderly fashion to the assembly hall.”
I glanced over at Sol, and his eyes met mine, as if to ask me if I was surprised. It was hard not to smile at him, or laugh, but I’d been trained well. I gave him the barest of nods and saw the satisfaction in his gaze.
How he knew the things he did was a mystery. Never mind that he was the new class genius, his brilliance seemingly effortless. Before he’d advanced, I had been the top of the class, but now I felt that I was scrambling to keep up with him.
It took everything I had not to tell him how I felt inside. About him.
I stood from my console; half the students had already filed out of the room.
My roommate, Chalice, stepped in front of me, her hand lifted in greeting before she turned and headed for the door. She wore her hair ‘Chalice-style.’ Instead of a long ponytail or braid, her cropped hair was as black as night, never tamed, with silver streaks throughout—looking like carefully arranged chaos. Chalice was smart too, usually second only to me and Sol in her scores. She would definitely make it to the University.
The oval room in the too-large auditorium felt cold as usual, and I suppressed a shiver as I took a seat next to Sol. About thirty students made up the A Level, and we spread out among the seats. It had once been a government building.
The lights dimmed, save for one spotlighting the stage. With plenty of rain, we had no shortage of electricity due to water-powered generators. The director, Dr. Wells, stepped onto the stage, his freckled-face muted into a dull pink from where I sat near the back.
No one spoke, but the tension practically crackled in the room. An assembly more than once a month was unusual. On my right, Sol whispered, “He must have a big announcement.”
I stared ahead, although I sensed every part of Sol next to me.
“Repeat the Covenants with me,” the director said.
The Covenants had replaced the US constitution because as the cities were cut off from each other, the amendments needed modifying.
We all stood, and Sol’s voice washed over me as we spoke together:
We unite together to honor the Legislature and respect all judgments. It is our duty to preserve our resources and work toward a secure future. We will sacrifice as one with the single goal in mind . . .
Sol’s arm brushed mine, and the heat crept along my skin. He probably didn’t even notice the contact.
When the Covenants recitation ended, Dr. Wells held up his hand. “With the Separation in one week, we have been asked to do some recruiting among our numbers. You are the elite class of 2067. The A Level courses groom our future scientists and leaders.”
I looked forward to the Separation of boys and girls at the University—I wouldn’t have to constantly battle my emotions around Sol. Then again I dreaded not being around Sol. I would miss him. I planned to bury myself in a science lab somewhere, not working on new flavors of processed foods, or developing cement that wouldn’t crack in cold temperatures. That could be left to other students. I already knew what I had to do—my caretaker had made sure of that.
You will infiltrate the science commission and become one of them. So when the time comes, you’ll have all the security clearances.
Joining the A Level had been the first step in the process. A Level students were meant for greater things than raising families. It was a small sacrifice that would result in finding ways to save humanity. As long as I avoided any profession that had to do with the Legislature, I’d be able to hide my Carrier identity.
Civilization cannot last much longer in this rain, Jezebel. We can’t wait for another generation. It must happen through you.
It had been raining for thirty-seven years. Naomi hadn’t even achieved A Level, so she passed the Carrier onto me.
Wells’ voice echoed through the auditorium, his face taking on a red tinge. “Members of the Legislature are here to begin the recruiting process.”
If all the lights had been on, it would have been impossible to conceal the dread on my face.
Do not let the Legislature know who you really are. Avoid them at all costs.
Naomi’s words seemed through my head until I wanted to scream. They must never know you’re a carrier. Every baby was surgically given a Harmony implant in their right shoulder—in order to suppress emotions that would lead to a rebellion—which could result in the end of our carefully constructed program to save our civilization.
When I had my implant, Naomi removed the stitches and added another implant into my shoulder. A small chip—a key—that I could use to start the generators. These generators had been built in the second year of the rains. Naomi told me that once activated, civilization would be given a second chance. But there were a great deal of risks, and that was my job, to find out those risks, and what, exactly, the generators would do.
I realized that Sol was speaking to me—whispering. “They haven’t done this in a long time. It’s been at least ten years since the Legislature recruited anyone.”
Words tried to form around my dry mouth. “What does Wells mean by recruiting?” I asked the question, but it was easy enough to guess.
“Specialized training at the University,” Sol said. “You’ll be separated from the rest and undergo rigorous testing. If you pass, you’re recruited.” His gray eyes held mine, and his breath brushed my face.
All I knew was that I absolutely could not go through any testing. I wanted to touch him, but wasn’t sure if my heart was pounding so hard because I was so close to him or because the room was about to become filled with recruiters. Naomi was Taken soon after I reached A Level, but she had warned me plenty about recruiting.
From your first class, you must make your intentions clear. You must score the highest points in your science courses so that they’ll see you’re naturally suited for that vocation.
If there were any other carriers, she didn’t know them. Naomi’s caretaker had passed it to her before giving up her own life.
Doors slid open behind us, and the recruiters entered the room, their steps almost silent as they walked. They didn’t look any different than other government officials—they all wore the sun badge—sign of the Solstice. But that made them seem all the more frightening. What looked ordinary on the outside was anything but on the inside.
Sol’s fingers wrapped around mine, and I flinched. He must have noticed me shaking—something I should have never allowed. His gaze was curious, burning through me.
“I—I must be cold,” I said. I could never let him know that it was fear.
“It’s a great honor to be recruited,” he whispered.
I nodded, as if I couldn’t agree more, but my eyes stung. As I tried to follow what one of the men was saying about privileges and training, I wondered if this would be the last time Sol and I could sit in a dark auditorium and hold hands.
His fingers were strong and steady around my cold trembling. I closed my eyes, grateful for the dimness so that no one would know I wasn’t paying attention. I’d rather think about Sol’s warm hand and the sound of his breathing and the way his leg nearly touched mine. Nearly.
Then I realized he was whispering to me. “Solstice is only a few days away. Your hands will be plenty warm then.” The next Solstice was one day before the Separation. We only had two Solstice days a year, one during the warm rains, and the other during the cold rains.
My lips wanted to curve into a smile as I thought about the sun on my skin, but I kept them straight. Seeing and feeling the sun was unequal to anything else—the heat more powerful than anything I’d ever felt. The entire city stopped all activity during the Solstice so everyone could bask in the rare sunlight. The closer Solstice grew, the more my skin seemed to desire it.
Dr. Wells was speaking again—droning on about something.
“Tell me about the Before,” I whispered to Sol.
His breath puffed. “You want me sent to Detention again?”
“No . . . I’m not asking you to tell me about a religious cult or a rebellion.”
He squeezed my hand, and I could almost imagine him smiling at me, but when I opened my eyes, his expression was as serious as ever. Top two ways to earn Banishment from our city was:
Join a religious cult
Create a rebellion against the Legislature
“In the Before, the sun shone nearly every day.” Sol’s voice pulsed through me. “It was called summer.”
“Sum-mer,” I repeated. “How long did it last?” I wanted to talk about anything other than what was being said up on stage. Naomi had warned me about asking too questions, but the more I knew about the Before, the more I could find out about the generators. That was the difference between Naomi and me. She was too afraid to seek out knowledge. Her fear was stronger than her courage.
“Summer was four months of a year,” Sol said.
Months of sun. Nearly impossible to comprehend.
The world had been completely different back then, at least from what I could piece together. It was hard to imagine a time before Harmony implants were used and people governed their own emotions. A time when kids didn’t have to worry about student informers.
Sol had a theory of who might be informers . . . those with the smallest eyes. I laughed at his reasoning—well, laughed inside—and said he was ridiculous. But we became very careful. And when he’d tell me things, it was never above a whisper and usually in the school yard where an instructor or other student couldn’t hear us over the rain.
In front of us, Chalice turned. She’d heard the whispering. Although Chalice was my roommate, I wasn’t entirely sure if she was an informer. Something glinted on her hand. She wore a metal ring. Seeing my gaze, Chalice twisted it against her palm before anyone else could see.
But I had noticed. On the ring was some sort of religious symbol.
Coldness rushed through me. She’d worn the same ring a few days before. I made her leave it in the dorm when she tried to wear it to class. I glanced at Sol, but he was listening to the recruiter’s speech.
“Chalice,” I whispered. Sol’s attention was back on me. I didn’t want to get her into trouble, and I didn’t want to draw Sol’s attention to it either.
I shook my head slightly, sending her my disapproval, which really masked my growing fear. She turned back around, shutting out my warning.
I was about to tap her shoulder when the lights flooded the auditorium. The metal doors automatically locked behind us, and a voice came over the speakers, overpowering whatever the recruiter was saying.
Inspection in progress. Please remain seated.
Inspection at an assembly?
Sol’s hand slipped away from mine, and we all sat rigid in our seats.
Stand and walk to the aisle. Put your backs against the wall and face outward.
I stood, hands clenched my side, and looked over at Sol. He met my gaze, his eyes calm and steady. Somehow it made me feel better.
Then I looked at Chalice. Her hands were balled into fists as she walked to the aisle. Had someone seen the ring and turned her in? She went toward one side of the room, and Sol and I went to the other side.
My gaze traveled to the other students who were taking their places, and I tried to see if any of them looked triumphant. I had grown adept at picking out the slightest nuance of emotion—even in the most stoic. I looked for subtle physical signs. The shaking leg, clenched fingers, eyes too wide. Inspections happened once a month, but never in an assembly.
Even the recruiters seemed at a loss. They stood on the stage with the director, simply watching and waiting. When the doors slid open seconds later, everyone’s heads turned. Two inspectors entered, carrying agitators. My stomach knotted as I glimpsed into the corridor where several more inspectors had lined up.
Chalice’s gaze met mine from across the room. Her hands were clasped in front of her, her ring turned around, exposed. There was no mistaking now. My mouth went dry, and I tried to think of some excuse I could offer for Chalice. Nothing came.
Before the inspectors reached her, she held out her wrists.
My stomach clenched with anger at Chalice for breaking the rules. Then at whoever had turned her in. “No,” I croaked out. At the same moment, I felt Sol’s hand on my arm, as if he’d anticipated my movement.
I wanted to jump to my feet, defend Chalice, but it would only get me into trouble. Despite the sharp anger building inside me, I knew it was futile to resist the inspectors, especially with the recruiters watching everything. They’d know instantly that I was different.
As an inspector clamped cuffs on Chalice’s thin wrists, I wanted to shout, It’s only a ring. Or scream. But mostly I was disgusted with myself. Why hadn’t I stopped Chalice moments before when I had the chance? I should have told her to take it off and hide it.
The pressure of Sol’s hand increased on my arm, and not even his nearness could distract me from watching Chalice. But I managed to keep my mouth shut.
Chalice’s narrow shoulders sagged as if a large weight had just been piled on top of her. The inspectors escorted her out of the room into the pristine hallway.
“What will happen to her?” I whispered.
“Detention.” The word brushed against my hair. “Hopefully.”
“Hopefully?” I had never been to Detention since I avoided it at all costs. I couldn’t afford to miss lessons, which for me would result in failing tests.
“It’s better than Demotion.”
Demotion meant she’d be kicked out of A Level, and her chance at a University education, and subsequent career, lost forever. Sol’s hand had dropped from my arm. I glanced at him—his eyes were trained on the metal door that had closed after Chalice. And I could still feel the touch of his fingers. It meant nothing to him, I knew, to touch me, but I had felt it all the way to my heart.
Dr. Wells told us to retake our seats. My entire body trembled now, and I worried that Sol would see my fear. In fact, the recruiters could probably see it from the stage.
But it was too late to sit apart from him. Sol followed and sat right next to me as the lights dimmed around us again.
The head recruiter spoke loudly, causing me to jump in my seat. “You will now return to your schedules, and in the next two days, you’ll be interviewed individually.”
Cold flushed through me like I had fallen into a deep pond. Before I knew it, we were all shuffling out of the auditorium, through the echoing hall, and just as we reached our classrooms, the intercom came on again.
My heart rate slowed a notch as I turned toward the school yard. I had no appetite for boiled sweet potatoes, and I was only too thankful to be away from the recruiters’ eyes. I needed time to process that fact that my roommate had just been sent to Detention and tomorrow I might be facing recruitment testing.
For once, I regretted being at the top of my class.
I walked into the cement yard, which was basically a broad pad of sloping concrete that kept the rain running off. A high iron fence surrounded the area, more intended to keep others out rather than to keep us in. The rain had picked up from its morning drizzle. I hadn’t brought my umbrella. I might be cold and wet, but thoughts of Chalice suffering in Detention chased away those thoughts.
I should have known Sol would follow me. That was just how he was. Which made me want to hide in my room so that I wouldn’t have to fight against my emotions so hard. When he came to a stand next to me, the rain stopped pattering on my head. I didn’t have to look to see the umbrella Sol held over me. We had to stand close to fit under the umbrella—both a good thing and a not-so-good thing.
“Jez,” he said, his voice low. “Where did Chalice get that ring?”
“She won’t tell me.” I couldn’t look at him now; I must wait until his voice stopped vibrating through me. “But I think she carves the metal herself.”
“How did she learn to make those symbols?”
I forced my breath out. He had seen the ring clearly, then. “We saw them in the museum a year ago; before the exhibit was removed.”
Sol went quiet, and even though I felt upset about Chalice, having Sol next to me was comforting. Don’t focus on that, I told myself. Don’t listen to his breathing or look at the way his hand curves around the umbrella.
Sol grasped my hand and pulled it toward him. “Are you wearing one of those rings?”
My breath fled again. “Of course not.” I knew I should pull my hand away, but his hand was so warm.
“You’re still freezing,” he whispered, slowly rubbing my hand.
A shiver shot through me. A shiver of warmth. My hand tightened around his for a second, then I reluctantly pulled away. I didn’t want him to sense anything; as it was, my face felt much too hot for having such cold hands.
But he was watching me closely, and I wished I knew exactly what he was thinking . . . about me. I’d never had a friend like him—one I couldn’t stop thinking about even when we weren’t together. One that I had to close my eyes and bury my face into a pillow to shut out all thoughts of him so that I could fall asleep.
Thinking about the Separation made my chest hurt.
“Promise me you won’t do something stupid,” Sol said.
Another focused breath, and I dared to look at him. His longish hair looked almost black in the backdrop of gray, matching his murky eyes.
“When have I ever done anything stupid?” I asked.
“I guess that’s a yes?” he said.
My eyes flitted away, and I hid a smile. “Correct.”
A few kids came into the courtyard. They hardly looked our direction, but moved on past toward the tree line. They had a couple of umbrellas between them and huddled in a group, most likely talking about Chalice.
“This may not be the best place to talk,” Sol was saying, pulling my attention from the other kids.
“About what?” Curiosity pushed away thoughts of Chalice shivering in some cold Detention room.
“We don’t have much time left together now,” he said. “I want to tell you some things.”
My chest constricted again, if that were even possible, making it hurt more. I shoved my hands into the pockets of my royal-blue jacket as I peered up at him through the gloomy afternoon rain. He was nearly a head taller than me, something that made me feel safe when I was near him.
“What things?” I asked.
His voice dropped to a whisper. “About the past.”
Normally I would have been excited to hear something new—about the Before or the Burning. But not right now, not after what had just happened with Chalice. “No,” I said, perhaps too quickly. His eyes flickered with something I couldn’t quite describe. Disappointment? Did he . . . I wondered . . . did he feel something too?
I broke our gazes. If I could read any emotion in his eyes, he could read far more in mine. I looked around at the other kids in the school yard, standing in their groups, clustered together. They were still too far away to hear anything we said, yet I worried. This could get us into trouble—especially after what just happened with Chalice.
“Please.” Sol leaned toward me, his voice just audible.
I wanted to close my eyes and lean against him, let my cheek rest against his chest—just once. Instead, I pulled away so that I was barely beneath his umbrella, also keeping my voice low. “Why?”
“If something happens to me, my memories will go with me.” His gray eyes absorbed me, and I felt my resistance weakening. “I need to pass them onto someone.”
Nothing will happen to you, I wanted to say, but didn’t. His memories weren’t really his own—that was impossible. I was definitely curious. “All right,” I whispered back, my pulse racing at what I’d just consented to.
He seemed to relax, and his body bent toward mine. It took all my resistance not to move forward and touch him.
“My caretaker had a book with pictures,” he said. “I found it before he was Taken.”
“Pictures?” Pictures were images of people and places from the Before. Now, pictures could only be seen on the WorldNet. “Real ones?”
I thought about having an image—a picture—to carry around. Would I have kept it in a book? “Do you still have any?”
“I destroyed them when my caretaker left. I didn’t want his name to be blotted out from society records, and I didn’t want to get cited.”
I nodded, understanding his actions. The forbidden “pictures” might be destroyed, and that was a relief, but my heart hammered to think of what could happen if our instructors, or even worse, the Legislature discovered what Sol had seen, and how he hadn’t turned in his caretaker for breaking rules.
I knew I should shut him up now—before it was too late—before his memories became my memories. I fought against the curiosity bubbling up. Naomi’s words echoed in my mind: Jezebel, don’t ask so many questions. I had almost conquered the pressing questions when Sol said, “My grandfather had pictures of flowers that blossomed in the sun.”
Thirty-seven years of rain had put a stop to all blossoming. “Tell me about what they looked like.” I had seen images of flowers on the WorldNet, but I wanted to hear Sol’s version.
He hesitated, and the color of his face warmed. I watched him closely. Was he fighting an emotion?
“Are you sure you want to hear this?” he finally said.
I did. But it made me more nervous to see his hesitation. I realized that I did want to know more—so that when we were separated, I had something to remember Sol by. The time left between us was sliding away with each moment. “Whisper in my ear,” I said.
Sol’s eyes clouded as if he were seeing something from long ago. Another bead of water dropped onto his face, and I clenched my hands to keep from brushing it away, to keep from touching him.
He leaned closer, his breath soft against my skin. “The flowers had had bright colors, like red and pink. Some were white or yellow.”
Inside, I smiled. “Like the sun.”
He nodded. “They weren’t grown for food, like our plants, but for beauty. Some of them grew wild beneath the sun and blue skies—fields and fields of them.”
Naomi had told me much of this, but I couldn’t admit it. It would be incredible to see an entire field of flowers. I wondered how long it had been since Sol saw his pictures. “How old were you when your caretaker was Taken?” I asked.
“Ten.” His voice sounded odd, and I looked up at him. His eyes looked moist, as if he were actually sad. I wanted to stroke his face, to comfort him, but there was no way he could feel sad like me. Being Taken was simply the cycle of life.
“And you still remember the pictures?” I asked, digging myself deeper. I glanced around, checking to make sure none of the other kids had moved closer to us. I couldn’t afford Detention so close to the Separation. I wasn’t like Sol, or even Chalice. I had to stay at the top of my class—I had to get chosen for the science program.
Sol bent close enough that his breath warmed my cheek. I ignored my racing heart as he spoke. “They were impossible to forget because they were so beautiful. But the pictures were old and had to be handled carefully. My caretaker was given pictures by his own caretaker . . . who he called ‘grandfather.’ He was over 60.”
Now I was surprised. 60-year-old people only existed in the O Level society. Others, like Naomi, were Taken when their duties were accomplished.
The rain came down harder now, and Sol’s voice penetrated the din. “He told me the sky was blue almost every day, not just at Solstice. In the summer it stayed blue from dawn to dusk.” His dark gray eyes traveled from my face to my shoulders. “Blue like your jacket.”
I hunched my shoulders as if to pull the jacket closer and tried to imagine the color splashed across the sky, replacing the low gray clouds and the ever-present rain. I remembered Sol talking about summer in assembly. I leaned closer to him, stealing some of his warmth. Even during the day of Solstice, the clouds remained, parting just enough to allow the brilliant sunlight through.
“A year was divided into four seasons of weather patterns,” he continued.
“Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.” A hint of a smile touched his lips. But it was gone so quickly, I decided I imagined it. “It rained a lot in the Spring.”
I shuddered. I knew rain.
“In Summer, the sun shone from early morning to late evening,” he said.
How would it feel to have several days of sunshine in a row—even weeks? Did they cancel school and work so everyone could stay outside and feel the sun all day?
“In the Fall,” Sol continued, “the rain came back, but the sun still shone most days.”
“So it was gradual . . . a cycle.” I continued the questions, some of the answers I knew from pestering Naomi, but I didn’t want Sol to stop talking.
“Exactly,” he said.
“And the fourth season? Winter?”
“That’s when it snowed.”
I’d heard about snow—in whispered corners from other students who were no longer with us—some who’d been Demoted for breaking serious rules. Those Demoted never returned to school. They were imprisoned or reassigned to C Level to do menial tasks the remainder of their life cycles.
“Were there pictures of snow?”
“No.” Sol shifted the umbrella; his hand brushed against my back.
His touch warmed me. As hot as the sun. I breathed out, slowly, letting the heat subside. Thinking about the cold snow helped. “Tell me about the snow.”
“My caretaker’s grandfather said the snow was as cold as ice. It made you shiver all over.” He made a noise that was almost a laugh. But I couldn’t meet his gaze. Not now. I kept thinking about the snow.
And then he grasped my hand. I almost shouted at him to stop, but I didn’t. I just watched him pull it toward him and cover it completely with his own. “You’re still freezing—this is probably what snow feels like.”
“Tell me about the summer,” I said. Could he feel the pulse in my hand throbbing like mad?
“In the summer, the sun became so hot that whole forests dried up and sometimes caught fire.” He kept his voice soft and his head close to mine so I could hear his words.
I casually pulled my hand away as I tried to imagine a fire so big that it covered a whole forest. “Is that what started . . .” my voice dropped to a whisper “. . . the Burning?”
“No, Jez.” The side of his mouth lifted, and his eyes were holding my gaze. I could still feel his hand holding mine even though it wasn’t.
I had to get back into the school. Standing in the yard with Sol wasn’t helping me suppress anything. If he could read my mind . . . my heart pounded at the thought.
“Do you want to talk about the Burning too?” He was teasing me now. We were taught to focus on the world now, and how the Legislature restored civilization to a world of order. The civilization that came before—they’d destroyed our world by poor choices. Not the rain.