When They came, the story normally began, we thought They were our salvation. We thought They’d give us energy, heal our sick, solve world hunger. Instead, the story would then continue, they didn’t. This was the point where I usually stopped listening—because after hearing it one-hundred-thousand times over the past few years, it was never told any differently. The story never changed. The point was never made any clearer.
When They came, it should’ve began, They only had one thing on Their minds:
Sadly, this was the story I had to listen to on my final day in the Juvenile Education System—when, after studying a generalized curriculum for several agonizing years, I would finally be emancipated and graduate into the Adult Work Force at the age of seventeen. It wasn’t my idea of a ‘final hurrah,’ but at least it beat a test.
“Anna Mia Sophia Berrios!” the teacher said, slapping the edge of the desk I sat at with his pointer stick hard enough to jar me out of my thoughts. “Pay attention!”
I instinctively drew my hands away and set them in my lap without response. Mr. He merely nodded before turning and pulling a projecting screen from the ceiling. “Now,” he continued, making sure to catch my eye as he turned to survey the room of twenty students. “We are all aware of the events that began on September 17th, 2015—when we finally established First Contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. What we couldn’t have anticipated was the fallout that would occur thereafter.”
Mr. He rounded the stool the projector lay upon and once again trained his eyes on the class. This time, however, his eyes held a certain sadness. “It is my responsibility,” he said, “as a senior educator of the Juvenile Education System, to relate to you, one final time, the dangers that exist outside the walls of Fort Hope.”
His trembling fingers searched for the projector’s ON/OFF button as his eyes remained fixed on us.
He didn’t want to do it. That much was clear. He didn’t want to push that button and reveal to us the one thing that haunted our memories, our dreams, our every waking moment. But it didn’t matter. He had to do it. It was required—actually mandated—that we see the things that lay outside our walls. But for people like me—who’d happened to live through, survive, and still dreamed about it—I could already see it as his index finger pressed the button: lingering in the shadows, waiting for a moment to strike, watching, waiting, anticipating, breathing with only a wheeze as it lifted its hands to turn the doorknob and step right into my—
The projector came on.
I wanted to scream.
But somehow—someway—I managed to hold it in as its image filled the screen.
Limp-wristed, a slopping jaw, glowing eyes that lit the night—most wouldn’t have found the Coyotes threatening upon first glance. It was only in knowing what they could do, and their purpose, that made them truly frightening.
“Canis Alienus,” Mr. He said, “otherwise known to most as Coyotes, are the primary scouting agents employed by the extraterrestrial intelligence that currently surrounds and monitors the planet Earth. It is likely that many of you have had contact with these creatures, and for that I apologize for any traumatic memories this may cause. As you all know, I am required, by law, to show these images.”
No one said a word. Barely anyone breathed. I struggled to keep from breaking down.
“Now,” Mr. He began. “Continuing on.” He set his pointing stick on a diagram featured alongside the image and drew in a breath. “Canis Alienus is the bipedal, wolf-like organism that commonly patrols the grounds outside of Fort Hope. They were the first extraterrestrial organisms to be reported on the ground and are also the ones responsible for gathering intelligence on their surroundings. They are primary reason the civilian population is not allowed outside at night, and the primary threat our Night Watch guards against.
“I show you these photos,” Mr. He continued, “because I am aware that, as your last day as juvenile youths, many of you might be considering applying as civilian volunteers for the Night Watch. This is not a decision made lightly, nor one that should be considered without weighing the risks and benefits. We are all aware that Canis Alienus was responsible for many of the harvests that took place in the early days of the aliens’ arrival.”
My pounding heart threatened to snap my ribs and burst free of my chest. My head swam, my lungs ached, every muscle in my chest was tight. Tears swam to the surface of my eyes as memories of that first night came back—when one of them looked into the house with its glowing yellow eyes and began to jiggle the doorknob.
“Furthermore,” Mr. He continued, “I would advise everyone to consider non-militaristic options for employment, if only because—”
The way it had laughed. Smiled. Grinned. Even though they said that wasn’t possible—that it was just their natural expression: elongated and sloped.
“—several of the Night Watch report symptoms of anxiety and stress, nightmares and insomnia—”
And when it had realized that the door had never really been locked.
“—and because your safety is guaranteed within the confines of Fort Fall.”
And then when the door had creaked open.
When it had realized it could get in.
When it’d entered the house—laughing and laughing and—
The projector snapped off.
The screen whipped up.
I blinked, free of the nightmarish vision.
In its place, Mr. He looked on at us with sad yet determined eyes. “Congratulations, class of 2021,” he said. “You are now officially members of the Adult Working Force.”
Though several cheered, I wanted to cry.
Six years had passed and not a thing had changed.
And worst of all: They were still here.
Graduating students had no more than forty-eight hours to decide on a prospective future and then apply to the Advanced Learning School of their choice. During this time, many would sit, wait, reflect on everything they’d learned. I, on the other hand, was terrified that my heart was leading me in only one direction:
The Night Watch.
Most would’ve considered my leaning foolish, given the inherent physical danger and psychological trauma associated with it, but none would’ve found it surprising. Like my sister—who’d joined the Watch four years prior—I had a reason for wanting to don the uniform and climb the walls.
It had all started on September 17th, 2015, on the night They’d first appeared and the day my life had changed forever. My mother, father, sister and I had been watching a movie in our family home in San Antonio, Texas when a Coyote had approached and began to survey the house. Back then, we couldn’t have known they were simply scouting and were no real threat unless they suspected a human presence. My father, on the other hand, was convinced that we were in real danger—and in true, heroic fashion, had devised a plan to sneak out the back door and lure the creature away as we’d hid beneath the dining room table.
It’ll be all right, I remembered him saying as he’d unlocked the back door and then turned to face us. I’ll be right back.
The problem was: he never came back. He’d been Harvested—drawn up into one of their ships never to be seen again. Up until a few years ago, my mother was convinced that he could still possibly be alive. Your padre will be back, she used to say. Just you wait and see. She’d completely disregard his screams, the light we’d seen, the way the house had shook as one of the Harvesting ships had passed over, all with the belief that, someday, he would return.
She’d lost hope the day my sister, Augustina, had turned seventeen.
Not a night went by without her whispering te amo—or, I love you—to the only remaining picture we had of him before she went to bed.
On this day—where I should have been celebrating my rise to adulthood with my friends and family—I sat at the only table in our efficiency apartment and struggled to figure out how I would tell my mother she would lose yet another child to the Watch.
My sister would still be asleep, recovering from last night’s duties and the toll they would have taken on her body. If only she were awake right now. Maybe then she could advise me on what to do.
Sighing, I crossed my legs atop the chair I was seated upon and surveyed the small, one-bedroom apartment I shared with my mother and older sister. Space was limited within Fort Hope—even more if you lived with a family—but the council had done their best to make sure we were taken care of. We had three mattresses, a bath with a working drain, a couch and a dining table to call our own. It was more than most could ask for—or even dream of, considering the housing restrictions.
The sound of a key entering a lock entered my ears. A short moment later, the door opened and my mother walked in, carrying a large paper bag. “Anna Mia,” she said. “Congratulations, sweetheart.”
“Thanks, Mom,” I replied, rising and beginning to walk toward her. “Do you need any—”
She swatted my hand away as I reached out to take the bag. “No. No. This is for you. A surprise.”
“A surprise?” I frowned. “For what?”
“For your special day,” she smiled, setting the bag down and reaching forward to part my long black hair from my face. “It’s not often a mother’s little girl becomes a woman.”
“Mom,” I groaned.
Behind us, the bedroom door opened. My sister, Augustina, yawned and reached up to run a hand along her close-shorn hair. “Morning,” she said.
“Good morning,” my mother replied, though with her usual tang of disapproval. “You’re just in time to celebrate.”
“What?” Augustina frowned, then blinked, as if clearing the haze of confusion from her brain. “Oh. Oh!” She rushed forward and wrapped me in a hug, though it was awkward considering she was only five-foot-three and four inches shorter than me. “Congratulations, Mia!”
“Thanks sis,” I said, wrapping her in a hug.
She held tight for a moment—and even happened to lift me off the ground despite her size—before turning to face my mother. “Sorry I didn’t wake up early. It’s just—”
“The Watch,” my mother nodded. “I know.
Augustina pursed her lips, but didn’t reply. Instead, she reached down, took hold of my hand, and watched as my mother approached the counter and began to sift through the contents of the paper bag.
A moment later, our mother turned, revealing a steaming rotisserie chicken sprinkled with fresh herbs. “Congratulations!” she said.
“Mama!” I cried. “How did you get this?”
“I have my ways,” she said, then winked.
“It’s too much. I… are you sure you can—”
“What’s done is done,” my mother smiled. “Like I said—it isn’t often a mother’s child becomes a woman. Now sit down. We’ll want to eat before it’s cold.”
Though my stomach grumbled in anticipation, my heart fluttered with worry and unease. It wasn’t often that we ate fresh meat—much less chicken—and I couldn’t help but wonder if my mother had possibly gone behind the kitchen staff’s back in order to get it. While it was true she worked in the kitchen, removing food that was not yours was a punishable offense—one that could have you thrown outside the walls.
I opened my mouth as she began to set plates in front of us, but she pressed a finger to my lips and shook her head. “Shh,” she said.
I sealed my lips and looked down at the steaming food.
So real, so fresh, so delicately-prepared.
“Eat,” my mother said.
And we did. All of it. Complete with a side of wild peaches and a small slice of chocolate pie for desert.
By the time we were done, my stomach felt like it was ready to burst.
“Thank you,” I said, looking toward my mother.
She only nodded as she began to gather up the plates.
“Shit!” Augustina said. “I’m gonna be late!”
“Augustina Antonella!” my mother scolded.
My sister darted toward the bedroom.
“That girl,” my mother mumbled as she shook her head. “I swear.”
“About that,” I started, swallowing a lump in my throat.
My mother glanced at me out the corner of her eye.
“Mama,” I said, mustering up all the courage I could manage. “I want to join the Night Watch.”
The plate my mother was holding slipped from her hands and dropped to the floor, shattering instantly.
“Mom?” Augustina asked as she came running out of the room in full uniform. She looked at the shattered plate on the floor before looking back up at our mother. “Mama? What’s wrong?”
“Anna Mia,” she said, trembling, tears coming to her eyes and then streaming down her face. “She… she…”
“She what?” Augustina asked. “Mama?” she said, taking hold of our mother’s shoulders. “Mama? What’s wrong?”
“She wants to join the Watch!” she cried.
It didn’t take long for her to fall into Spanish, as she usually did when she was upset. The next several minutes were spent with her crying, my sister nodding, and them conversing in the language I had never learned, while I sat back and played the casual observer. Just as I thought they were done, my sister pulled me from my seat and dragged me out the front door—into the warm twilight of early evening.
“Augustina!” I cried. “What’re you—”
She slammed the door before spinning to face me. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“You couldn’t have waited until after she finished the dishes?”
“I don’t know what you’re—”
“For one, she’s freaking out because she broke one of her good dishes,” Augustina said. “And for two, she’s upset that you told her you’re joining the Watch after she risked her job by stealing that chicken for you.”
I blinked. “Ok,” I said, trying to maintain my composure. “I get that. But I don’t understand why she’s so upset.”
“You don’t understand?” She laughed. “Are you crazy, Mia? After what happened to Dad?”
“But I thought—”
“You thought what? That she’d be proud of you for joining the Watch? That she’d be happy that you knew what you wanted to do with your future?” She shook her head. “Are you kidding me?”
“No,” I said, shrugging out of her grasp. Augustina turned away from me and crossed her arms over her chest. “I just thought… that maybe it’d be different. Because of you being in the Watch.”
She snorted—a sound that never failed to make me feel stupid regardless of the situation. “Well,” she said as she turned to face me. “You thought wrong.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. So, rather than say anything, I simply hung my head and sighed.
“Look,” Augustina said. “I know this is hard for you. It’s hard for all of us. Even me. You think I want my sister putting herself in harm’s way?”
“I…” I stopped and shook my head. “No.”
“Then you can only imagine how Mom must be feeling.” Augustina placed a hand on my shoulder and tilted my chin up with the other. “Go. Try and make up with Mom. It’s not gonna be easy, I know, but if you can make her feel better even a little bit—”
“I know.” I forced a smile. “Thanks August.”
“No problem,” my sister said, wrapping me in one last hug before starting down the road, toward the armory where she would retrieve her weapons and body armor for the night’s watch. “I’ll be back in the morning. Let me know how it goes.”
“Will do,” I said.
I waited until Augustina disappeared down the road before turning to face the door. Though anything I said was unlikely to help, I knew that I had to at least try and make things right—if not for me, then for my mother. I owed her that much.
After taking a long, deep breath, I placed my hand around the doorknob and entered the apartment.
Though my mother was nowhere to be seen, it didn’t take long for me to find her. Her muffled sobs could easily be heard through the flimsy wooden door separating the bedroom from the rest of the apartment.
“Mom?” I asked, unsure how to proceed as I stepped forward. “Mama?”
I waited for a response. When none came, I knocked three times and then tried the knob, but found it locked. “Mama,” I said, knocking once more. “Please. Let me in.”
She responded in Spanish.
“Mama,” I sighed. “You know I don’t know Spanish.”
“By the Virgin Mary,” she replied as she unlocked and flung the door open. “The Night Watch? What about your agricultural studies?”
“I only did them because I wanted to be around animals,” I replied.
My mother shook her head. “Anna Mia,” she said.
“Look,” I began, wanting to sound strong but at the same time refrain from being pushy. “I know you don’t like the idea of me joining the Night Watch. I wasn’t sure about it either at first. But the more I thought about it… and the more I actually began to think about why I wanted to do it… the more I realized it was because it felt like an actual purpose.”
“They need people to help in the fields—”
“But they also need people to guard the walls,” I cut in. I took hold of her hands and forced her to look me in the eyes—a feat that was nearly impossible to obtain when she was at her most vulnerable. “There’s always going to be people in the fields. There’s always going to be people in the kitchens. There’s always going to be people who want to help build machines and repair buildings and do all those other things that keep them safely inside the walls. But like it or not, there will always be people who are afraid to keep watch. That’s why we need the few who are willing to do it.”
The shimmer of tears in her eyes had disappeared. In its place was now an understanding—or, at the very least, an acceptance—that hadn’t been there before. “You’re just like your sister,” she said, tightening her hold on my hands. “And you’re both like your father—your poor, stubborn father. Down to his nose and everything.”
“Mom!” I cried.
She laughed—a sound serene when silence had come to fill our lives.
“I’m not going to like it,” she said, her tone darkening and becoming serious once more, “but I’m not going to deny you anything you want to do. If you feel this will give you purpose… if you feel, in your heart, that this is what you’re meant to do… then yes. You have my blessing.”
I wrapped my arms around her chest and fell into her embrace.
“God help us all,” she said as she stroked my hair. “God help us all.”
I should have slept soundly that night on the small mattress next to my mother and sister. Instead, all I could think about was tomorrow and what the decision would bring.
What would happen, I wondered, when I woke up?
What would occur, I then thought, once I walked out the front door?
And what would transpire, I dared to question, the moment I stood in front of that recruitment officer and declared my intentions?
I tossed and turned for much of the night, trying desperately to sleep even though my thoughts would not allow me.
By the time the sun’s rays began to pierce through the high windows, I felt like I hadn’t slept a wink.
“Anna Mia,” my mother said. “Wake up, Anna Mia.”
I opened my eyes begrudgingly and stared at my mother, wanting nothing more than to retreat beneath the blankets and succumb to darkness. She was already dressed for her work in the kitchens—and like any good mother, would not have left without seeing me off.
“Morning, Mama,” I replied, sighing as the tightness in my chest constricted my lungs and forced the exhale from my throat.
“Are you not feeling well today, Anna Mia?”
“I just didn’t sleep well last night, Mom.”
She pressed a hand to my forehead and frowned. “No temperature,” she said.
“I’m not sick, Mom.”
“Ah,” my mother then responded. “Nerves.”
I nodded, unable to refuse her declaration or my feelings within.
She smiled and reached down to press a hand to my cheek. “Everything will be all right, Anna Mia. I promise.”
“Thank you, Mama.”
She leaned down, kissed my cheek, then rose and started for the bedroom door. “I fixed you a cheese sandwich,” she said. “You should at least get up and eat, even if you decide not to go today.”
“I will. Don’t worry.”
She smiled, bid me one final goodbye, then closed the door.
Knowing that I would be unable to sleep without feeling guilt for letting food go to waste, I rose from bed—careful not to disturb my sleeping sister, who hadn’t even bothered to change into nightclothes and instead had slept in her uniform—and made my way into the apartment.
As my mother had promised, a lone sandwich waited for me on the dining room table—complete with the crusts cut off. Just the way I liked it.
I settled down, began to eat, and sighed as I looked at the nearby clock.
At nearly eight in the morning, it wouldn’t be long before the rest of the complex rose and began their daily activities. Farmers would rise to tend the livestock, engineers would haul themselves from their beds to work on the automobiles and other weaponry, and the teachers would lug themselves into the office that had been repurposed into a school to teach, all the while knowing that today would be the last day before the graduating students would dedicate themselves to the occupation of their choice.
The idea nearly made me sick to my stomach.
Still, I ate, and once finished, I wiped the plate off with a paper towel and water before returning it to the counter. Then I made my way into the bathroom and, with a single bottle designated for washing, cleaned myself in the tub as best as I could. I spent several moments doing this before donning a pair of jeans, a plain white T-shirt, and a denim jacket before looking at myself in the mirror.
My expression was haunted—my brown eyes scarred by a sleepless night, my thin lips pulled into a worried frown. I didn’t want to be afraid. I really didn’t. But this was the biggest decision of my life. I couldn’t just look at myself in the mirror with confidence, not when so many doubts and fears were running through my brain.
After taking a moment to prepare myself for the day, I walked out of the bathroom, then leaned in to check on my sister—who, still sleeping, could care less about the world or the events taking place within it.
“Wish me luck,” I whispered, then closed the bedroom door.
Once outside the efficiency apartment, I locked up, steeled myself for what would unarguably be a stressful day, and turned to make my way toward the Night Watch’s recruitment office.
As I walked, careful to avoid the people making their way to and from work, I squinted through the intensity of the Texas sun and grimaced as I realized that the jacket may have been too much on a day when the weather was likely to rise into the seventies or eighties. Still—there was a breeze, and with it drifted the scent of wildflowers, of bluebonnets and dandelions and the juniper trees everyone was so allergic to. I sneezed—wishing, at that moment, that I had an allergy pill they reserved only for the Watch or those who suffered the most—and slid my hands into my pockets as I continued to walk past the apartment buildings.
On any other day, the weather would’ve been perfectly fine.
Today, it felt like the world was conspiring against me.
I had to keep repeating my mantra in my head.
Stay calm. Stay cool. Stay collected.
The Night Watch headquarters—located on the far southern end of the complex grounds—loomed distantly.
It wouldn’t be long before I would walk through that door and declare my life’s ambition.
Swallowing, I balled my hands into fists at my side and tried my hardest to keep my composure, but to no avail.
“Anna Mia?” someone asked.
I jumped, startled, and spun to face the speaker.
A young black woman with beautiful blue eyes, luscious full lips and high arching brows smiled as she ran to greet me.
“Asha?” I asked, smiling as she cleared the distance to take hold of my hands. “Oh my god! You shaved your head!”
“I didn’t think my hair would fit in a helmet,” the young woman named Asha Dawson replied, laughing as she tightened her hold on my hands. “Are you joining the Watch too?”
“I’m going to try.”
“Try?” she smiled. “Of course they’ll take you! I mean, your sister—”
“Is in the Watch too. I know.”
Asha smiled and pulled away, allowing me just enough room to admire her features in detail. She always looked pretty, and today wore the slightest smattering of lip gloss and teal eye shadow. I felt a bit naked in comparison, considering my mother and sister both owned a palette of makeup that I could’ve used, but no matter. It wasn’t my looks that were going to get me into the watch on a day like this. It was my determination.
“You want to walk to the headquarters together?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I replied. “Sure.”
“So… after you?”
I started forward, and smiled as she fell into place at my side, glad to have a companion on a day when I felt as though my entire world was weighing upon my shoulders. Though I didn’t know Asha very well, considering we’d always had classes at different hours of the day, I knew her well enough to know that she was a kind, easy-going girl who was willing to help others whenever they were in a tough spot. I’d often seen her in the fields, but had never really been able to talk to her. She’d always been too far away, too busy, too involved with her own work during elective hours. It was hard enough getting outside during the day to work with the animals, but actually talking with someone? That was a nightmare.
“So,” Asha said, drawing the word out to bring my attention to her. “Mr. He’s speech yesterday…”
“Was pretty scary?” I asked with a sigh. “Yeah. It was.”
“I’m sorry you had to deal with that,” Asha said. “I know that couldn’t have been easy.”
“Thank you,” I replied, looking up to face her. “It… just gives me reason to sign up, you know?”
“Is that why your sister signed up, you think?”
“August doesn’t talk about it much.”
“I don’t blame her,” Asha said.
With a sigh, I reached up and fingered the locket with our family picture inside it—trying, without success, to not show emotion in the shadow of what was unarguably my greatest adversary. A single tear slid down my face as I thought of that day all those years ago, and I grimaced when I felt Asha’s hand upon my shoulder.
“He’d be proud, you know?”
“I know,” I sighed, trying my hardest not to imagine my father being lifted into one of the Harvester ships in a beam of light. “It’s just… so clear in my mind, is all.”
“I understand.” Asha wrapped me in a one-armed hug and turned to face the Night Watch’s Headquarters. “So,” she said, looking from me, to the Night Watch armory, then back again. “Are you ready for this?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I replied.
With that said, Asha stepped forward, opened the door, and waited for me to enter.
I did so without hesitation.
As Asha walked in behind me, and as the door was closed to allow us the privacy afforded for such a monumental moment, I turned my attention to the apartment that had been converted into a small armory and tried, without success, not to falter. Cordoned off by a mesh wall, the place was as impressive as it was intimidating, with rows upon rows of guns lining the walls and shelves stacked with armor and ammunition extending from one end of the efficiency apartment to the other. The guard—who’d been stooped over the kitchen island counting bullets and loading them into a series of bandoliers—lifted his head as one of his companions grunted and stepped forward to face me and Asha from behind the mesh wall. “Ladies,” he said.
“Sir,” Asha and I both replied, as if the respect had already been ingrained within our blood.
“What can I do for you today?”
“We’re here to join the watch, sir.”
“Aaah. New recruits. I was wondering when more of you would show up.” The guard settled down at the desk opposite the mesh and flipped open an impressive booklet, which held scores of lines, signatures and apartment numbers I knew belonged to members of the Watch. “I don’t need to tell the two of you how important a task you’re signing up for.”
“No sir,” I replied, to which Asha followed with a nod. “We understand.”
“You also understand that, by signing your names on these solid lines, that you are dedicating yourself to the Watch and will not be relieved unless you are found incompetent or until your death.”
“We understand,” Asha said.
“All right then. If you would come forward and sign your names—” he riffled through the book until he came upon a different section which was filled with far fewer names “—here, then I can register you for your physicals.”
Asha was the first to step forward and take the pen that was offered. I, meanwhile, could only watch as the girl wrote her information down as carefully as possible, then as she withdrew to allow me passage to the opening in the mesh wall.
I swallowed the growing lump in my throat and stepped forward.
I could do this. I knew I could. So why was I panicking now? Was it because of the finality of the decision—because after all this time, I was finally about to dedicate myself to the one thing I’d planned on doing for the last three years?
I accepted the pen with trembling hands, then set its tip to paper. Anna Mia Sophia Berrios, I wrote, then faltered a moment as it came time to write my apartment number down.
“Miss?” the man behind the mesh wall asked.
“Sorry,” I said, scribbling the number down in but a moment’s notice. “I had a moment.”
“You’re Alexandra Berrios’ daughter, aren’t you?”
“Yes sir,” I replied. “I am.”
“You and your sister do your father’s memory proud by serving in the Watch. I hope you understand that.”
“I do,” I said, then relinquished hold of the pen.
The man nodded as he took note of the signatures and closed the book with a thud. “You’ll be required to submit to a physical in the coming days,” the man said, “as well as a psychological evaluation to ensure that you are stable enough to perform the required tasks. Should you be deemed fit, you will then begin training, which will require you to be at your peak physical condition. Do you understand what I have told you?”
“Yes sir,” I said.
“We’ll learn how to shoot,” Asha said. “Right?”
“You will,” the man replied. “Among other things. Now run along. It looks like we have another recruit.”
A young white man with chestnut hair and brown eyes I knew as Jason Parks walked in, a determined look on his handsome yet scarred face. “Anna,” he said.
“Jason,” I replied.
We exchanged glances for a few short moments before Asha beckoned me out the doorway.
As I walked out, I sighed my relief and closed my eyes.
I’d finally done what I set out to do.
My only doubts happened to lay in what came next.
“How did it go?” Augustina asked when I returned home later that morning.
“It went… fine,” I said, watching as my sister meandered about the apartment, eating a small portion of dry cereal from a bowl that couldn’t have possibly filled anyone up. “Are you sure that’s all you’re going to eat?”
“I’m fine,” she replied, which was undoubtedly keyword for: shut up and mind your own business.
Nodding, I settled down in a chair at the kitchen table and sighed as I reached up to run my hand through my long dark hair. “You think they’ll ask me to cut my hair?” I asked.
“I don’t see why they would,” my sister replied.
“It’s just… I ran into another girl who’d shaved her head because she thought her hair wouldn’t fit into her helmet.”