My best, softest, most-loved chair was a concession to Sylvia that there simply must be comfortable places to sit on my farm. Must be. Sylvia of course meant new and beautiful chairs, but she’s grown wise enough to use the word comfortable. So I relented, because she was right.
I had jokingly told her I wanted the chair to be royal blue velvet, because the hot color right now was orange, and the hot fabric was a chiffon, light and airy. I figured it would keep her busy for a while. But in my year and a half on the farm I had forgotten how New City was good at designing, building and delivering things that are new and absolutely lovely. The chairs (because Sylvia, in her exuberance, had ordered two from Jonathon, her favorite designer) were deep blue velvet and overstuffed. The legs and arms had wooden carvings of vines running up them, and the vines turned into intricate beading along the edges. In days gone by it would have meant they were lovingly hand-crafted, but today, in New City, it meant that we had invented ways to make things beautiful. It was almost all we ever did.
So I woke up on the farm one day, and there was a truck delivering two beautiful chairs. William and I faced them toward each other, in the dirt at the edge of the kitchen garden, near our living space, yet sort of in a field, and fell into them. Sylvia said, “They’re meant to go indoors!” She was incredulous and indignant, but we just laughed and promised to take them inside when it rained. We propped our feet into each other’s seat and settled in. William and I loved those chairs.
William was my friend, my best friend, my boyfriend.
He was not the young man who had been chosen for me—instead the Governmental Oversee chose Jack Maranville. Jack was normal and steady and handsome, yet aware of it. Jack was powerful and important and not the kind of guy that should be thrown over by a girl, but I had done that. It was a testament to his obstinacy that he still came around sometimes. To visit. Or to check in. Or probably more likely to check on.
Jack was chosen for me, but William I chose for myself. William was handsome, yet brooding. Prone to dramatic flourishes and cloudy moments. He was a poet and unaware of how hot and powerful he was. He wasn’t what you would call steady, but he fit me and I knew he loved me and he wasn’t ever going anywhere. I knew that, because he had told me. And when he saw me the clouds parted and his mood was as open as the sky. Maybe I chose him because I had that power over him. A power that I didn’t have to wield. He made me feel like I could do anything, which was good because I was trying to save the world.
A few weeks later William and I were in those chairs. The light was dimming because evening was upon us. I was leaned back, comfy. My feet rested on the edge of William’s thigh. I had a book propped on my stomach. A good book. A favorite, about a young woman who thought a man was arrogant and later finds out he’s not, or at least not that much. And not when it comes down to her. Come to find out he loves her in the end, though this reading I was still in the middle, where she doesn’t know it yet. The book is dense, thick, difficult to read. The first time I read it I didn’t notice how funny it was. Now I realized that it really is.
I sneaked a peek at William over the top of the page. He was writing. His brown hair was shoulder-length, a white shirt opened at the chest. He looked like I imagined the man in the book looked...dashing, that’s the word. Even relaxed, slouched. William had an intensity when he was writing that knit his brows and set his jaw. He was handsome all the time, but when he was writing he was really really really handsome. There had to be a better word, the author of my book would have been able to come up with a better word. I smiled to myself—these chairs were such a good idea, the blue set off his eyes.
William moaned. I raised my brows. I didn’t want to interrupt him if he was in the middle of a thought. He moaned again, dramatically. He was stuck.
I asked, “What are you working on?”
“Nothing, I mean, I don’t want to interrupt your reading.”
“You’re not, I was thinking about something else.”
“You know how I’ve wanted to write about the medications? I’m trying to frame it in a way that will inspire New City citizens to question what they’re taking, but I can’t find the right way to say it. Like, I can make the case that they should stop taking Vulon, the love drug, but the opposing opinion would be, “But the Oversee picked my spouse, I need, I want, to feel love for that person.”
I said, “It’s a quality of life issue, maybe you could talk about what love feels like versus manufactured love.”
“Yes, but I would have had to experience both and, as you know, I haven’t. We also didn’t quit taking all our meds, we’re still on the one that keeps you from getting pregnant, so that’s a mixed message. I’m not sure I can persuade anyone to make big changes with a mixed message, especially if they’re content with the love they have.”
“Thoreau said, ‘There is no remedy for love, but to love more.’ I don’t know if it applies—”
“Whoa, are you quoting love stuff? You are so hot.” He pulled the arm of my chair, bringing me closer to his orbit.
“I can see why you’re having trouble, you’re too easily distracted.” I stuck out my tongue. “I decided on my big plan and had already changed the way I saw the world before I gave up Vulon and the other meds that I didn’t need.”
“That’s why I keep putting this essay off. I want to write it. I think it will one of the most important things I write, but I’m not able to. Definitely the citizens of New City aren’t ready to hear it.”
“They need something to happen that changes their mind about it first.” While I was talking his hand dropped to my shin and rested there, relaxed, but sending an electrical charge through my body that sped up my heart’s beat.
He continued, unaware of the zing between his hand and my leg, or maybe able to override it, “It’s easier to write about the barter system on our farms, and the farmer’s market we started, and that everyone should be free. Writing about freedom is the easiest thing in the world. I talk to people, they get it. They like reading it, and they agree, in principle. But while they’re telling me how much they agree, they’re standing in front of me in their brand new New City clothes, with their make-up and their hairdos, and smiling their small blank smiles. It’s unsettling.”
“Have you seen how big the new hairdos are? The pile is two feet above their heads and they’re adding those flouncing poofs of pink netting sticking out of the pile. It looks like fireworks exploded from their hair. I can’t imagine how long it takes them to get ready in the morning. All those hours wasted...” I trailed off, remembering when I used to wear big piles of curly updos and how long my beauty regimen took.
I didn’t have to dress in the garb of the day anymore. I had dropped out, ceased to play along, given up the fancy clothes for a life on a farm. I was right now clothed in a pair of linen pants gathered at the waist and a loose shirt. I had taken a shower and put on something I could sleep in, because the work of the day was over, and I didn’t want to get another outfit dirty before bed.
Laundry here on the farm was a hassle. William and I walked our bags of clothes over to Glom Farm, the Conglom sponsored, government-approved farm that Terran ran, to do it there, and I had to come up with something to wear while I did that. When I lived in New City I never thought about laundry. My clothes had always been impeccable, sent out, and returned clean and perfect, but here was a dichotomy, I sort of missed dressing up in beautiful things. I had been good at looking beautiful. Now I was lazy and wrapped my uncombed blonde hair into a bun on top of my head. With a little bit hanging by the side of my face. To twirl while I was thinking. William told me I was beautiful. He said one of the best things about me was that I wasn’t fussy about beauty, but I missed it sometimes, being fussy, and New City-style beautiful. I missed people thinking, wow. I missed jealous stares as I walked into a room. Though I hated to admit it.
I shook my head, setting my hair loose and my thoughts swinging away, to continue the conversation. “Freedom and farming are easy to write about because it isn’t personal. When you talk about the big issues they don’t feel like you’ve singled them out. They can think like you do, in increments, and then maybe they’ll give up the meds on their own. You’re winning them over, just keep writing about the big picture.”
William nodded and sat for a beat looking at me before he said, “The chair really sets off your eyes. I’m glad Sylvia forced us to have them.”
Heat crept up my face. “Everyone will come to see things your way eventually, listen to you, you have a way with words.”
William smiled and said, “Okay, I’m putting away the meds essay and writing poetry to you instead. What rhymes with adore?”
I batted my eyes and said, “Big bore? Now you are interrupting me. I want to get back to reading about Mr. Darcy.” I stuck out my tongue, and William smiled.
Not Very Surprised
There were a few things I had learned living on my farm, the biggest was feeling fulfilled. Who am I kidding, finally understanding the word fulfilled. It was an archaic sentiment, full-fill—satiated, complete—a word that was rarely, if ever, used in my world. We, the people of New City, were never full-filled. We kept a constant state of longing, incomplete, and desirous of things. We wanted more, better, stronger, newer—almost all of us, except me. I was different now (except for my occasional bouts of longing that were like echoes of the girl I once was) I was full of excitement and satisfaction, filled with wonder and joy. And love. I had my farm and my friends and my family and work and the stars. I had everything I could possibly want. We the people of Old Town on the edge of New City were learning to be happy with what we had, to feel satisfied. It was good, all good.
Another thing I learned was that there is a whole lot about food I knew nothing about. In the eight months since my permit to farm was acquired, I had grown, harvested, prepared, seasoned, mixed, chopped, and created meals. Meals from the bounty of my land. Trouble was, come to find out, I really wasn’t all that interested in real food. It tasted fine, sometimes rather good, but after a long day of harvesting, I wanted food that was easy, convenient, sweet, comfortable. What I had been used to in my life before.
Yet, here I was, this evening, expecting family for dinner and attempting to turn a big basket of root vegetables, green clippings, and herbs and vinegar into something delicious, when really all I could think about was how great some nacho cheese sauce would taste on it. MJ, my farming guru from the land to the West called the Beyonds, would be so disappointed, though probably not very surprised.
I noticed the time; William was probably headed home by now. I tossed the knife and the last clean dishrag on the counter, missing the edge and witnessing its descent to the dirt floor, and raced to the end of the path in the northwest quadrant of the farm. Scanning in the direction of his farm land, I couldn’t see him yet. Perfect. This game was my favorite: I pulled two big rocks off the low perimeter wall, and laid down, putting one rock on my stomach and one on top of my thighs, and waited pretending to be a part of the rock wall. A poorly disguised rock wall. A few minutes later, from the direction of the Old Stadium, I heard his happy whistle. He must have had a good day. I stifled a laugh and tried to get perfectly still.
William passed me by ten paces, before he wailed, “Es-telle! Where are you Estelle?” and then added, “As long as you’re not here I think I’ll just sit on this low rock wall and wait.”
He was a second away from sitting on my head before I announced, “I’m the wall!”
“Oh, wow, I didn’t see you there,” he said, “and I mean that honestly. I’m not just pretending.”
He dropped to his knees right by my head and kissed me on the lips. “How was your day?”
“Wonderful, I got my whole list done, and still had time to chase some chicks around and read your latest pamphlet. I think you might be onto something with your thoughts on local monies. Hey, did you know there’s a baby turtle in the pond?”
William kissed me, and said, “Good.” He kissed me again, and said, “I missed you,” and then he kissed me again and asked, “how long were you waiting for me, pretending to be a rock?”
“About ten minutes, but I planned it in my mind for most of the day.”
“Well, a disguise that masterful should take all day to plan.”
I asked, “Did you get a lot done?”
William rolled off his knees into a sitting position in the dirt, while I rose to a sitting position on the wall. “I did. I checked in on the West Farm. Cameron and Katie are preparing for a big delivery of trees. They’ve been digging all day. You’ll see tomorrow when you come. Then we went to see Terran on Glom Farm. They’re plowing and building. When was the last time you were there?”
“It’s been a few days since I went and helped with the coops.”
“I can’t believe how many chickens they plan to have. Terran said he’ll be here in about an hour. He just has to wait for Angela to get ready.
“I’m glad she’s coming, I keep thinking I need to get to know her, yet she’s so quiet.”
“Speaking of dinner, is this elaborate wall-guise a distraction, so you don’t have to make it?”
I leaned forward and kissed him. “I just thought if we ran out of time we could serve dinner bars on a bed of greens. With sprinkles. Everybody loves sprinkles, right? Not so sure about arugula.”
“So your plan is?”
I laid my plan out, “To pretend to be a wall, until the guests arrive and make their own dinner and eat it, then I walk over and say, ‘oh, is there nothing left? Oh well, I’ll just have a dinner bar, can you please pass the flavorings tray from the way-back of the cupboard?’”
“So you’re okay with Terran making dinner? You’ve tasted his concoctions, right?”
I acted horrified.
He added, “And then Angela will take over.”
His warning got me moving. “Her food is twice as healthy and half as delicious as a salad, and that’s not saying much. We need to work fast.” We headed toward our waiting kitchen.
Appraising what I had already accomplished, William said, “Look at all these greens! We’re going to eat like kings!”
I pretended to be dour. “Hand me a knife. Let’s get chopping.”
The salad, bountiful and delicious, contained spring greens, goat cheese, hard boiled eggs, vinaigrette, onions, and some dried fruits and nuts that were gifts from MJ’s mother. Easy enough to make and plenty for everyone to feel fulfilled. “Anybody home?” called my brother, Terran, from across the fields.
“We’re in the kitchen!” William and I were excited whenever Terran came to Star Farm. He hadn’t lived with us in months, sleeping instead at the farm where he worked for the Congloms. But Star Farm was his home—we built it together, and home wasn’t quite the same without him there.
When Terran and his girlfriend Angela entered our open kitchen area, he threw his arms wide. “I miss this place!” He dragged his fingers along the old beaten up counters. Their surfaces long ago ruined by our chopping. “I miss these counters.” He leaned against the lone wall and said, “I miss this wall. Estelle do you remember when we met this wall?”
“Remember? I was speaking to it just the other night. Reminding it of our first day together, when you and I smashed everything all around, yet left it standing. It’s grateful we spared it.”
William asked, “Not only are you pretending to be walls, but you also talk to them?”
Terran said, “So glad you’re keeping Wall company in my absence.” He quickly changed to another exuberant thought. “I brought home-baked bread from the Glom Farm test kitchen!” He waved it overhead like a prize.
Terran was blonde like me. We were the same height, which made me seem tall and made him seem stocky. His body was built to haul and load and dig and happy to do it as well. He was handsome, in a boy next door kind of way, and had an easy smile that lit up a room. A ready joke always on his lips. He was full of effort, yet effortless to be around, the perfect partner for someone like me, full of ideas and airy thoughts. He kept me grounded and reasonable. I couldn’t live without him, not in any conceivable way. Even I didn’t have the imagination for that.
“Did you really carry bread under your arm while walking through the fields?” I asked.
“Totally, and sang like this, ‘O so low MeeeeOOOOO.’”
Angela said, “He’s not kidding, he did that the whole way here.” She pretended to clean out her ear with her finger. Angela was pretty, with brown hair and deep dark eyes. She was petite, perky, not really built for farm labor, but she loved the fruits of the farm, the herbs and spices and vegetables. She loved cooking and was always inventing things in the kitchen.
Angela was wonderful. Everyone agreed. And I probably should have adored her. I mean she loved Terran, she was practically a sister, a part of the family. But somehow I just couldn’t get past her perfect wonderfulness. It was like I had built my world, and she had moved in and somehow lived within it better than me. I was still covered in dirt and debris, while she baked bread and invented salads and called us her family and—kind of drove me crazy.
Terran hugged William a hearty hello, placed the bread on the counter, and then hugged me and said into my ear, but loud enough for everyone to hear, “Haven’t seen you in a few days! Now that you have such a bountiful harvest are you staying here eating greens all day? Hoarding them, keeping them all to yourself?” While he had me in his clutches, he slipped something into my back pocket. He stepped away and said, “Me and Angela are going to walk the farm and see what’s sprouting.”
“I’ll meet you in a few minutes by the pond. I have something really cool to show you,” I said.
As Terran and Angela walked away I pulled his ‘gift’ from my pocket. It was a luxurious chocolate dessert bar. The best the Nutrolo Conglom had to offer and my favorite. I smiled happily.
“Terran’s got your back, huh?”
“Always.” After walking through the fields, all of us enjoying the time together and talking over the work to be done and the plans yet to be made, I saw Frederick trudge across the fields from the direction of New City. He had changed out of his Scientist-at-the-Institute clothes, and had instead donned his version of Relaxed-Dad-Visiting-His-Kids-on-a-Farm clothes. He had helped us build this farm, and then like the logical person he is, decided to move back to New City and visit us on weekends. I had hoped that everyone who met my farm would want to live there forever. Dad was proof that people could live in both worlds and integrate.
We all yelled, “Hello, Dad!”
He waved exuberantly, and then ran his fingers through his styled hair so it came undone and stood straight up on end.
I called, “You look like a mad scientist, and where’s Sylvia?”
“She’s coming in just a few minutes. We had to bring two cars because she has your clothes for the benefit concert tomorrow.”
“My clothes!” I clasped my hands over my mouth. William laughed.
Terran said, “Stelley, you aren’t supposed to be quite so excited to shirk off farm clothes.”
“I never ever want to wear anything but my farm clothes, ever, but I also can’t wait to put on my new, fancy, benefit-concert, designer clothes. I’m a dichotomy.”
William, with a cheeky grin, said, “One of the things we have to put up with I suppose.” I slugged him on the shoulder. He added, “It’s your most endearing quality!”
Sylvia struggled across the field with a big, long, bulky bundle over her shoulder. We rushed to relieve her, but she warned, “Don’t let them touch the ground, there’s dirt everywhere. Oh, it’s going to get dirty!” She grumbled and fussed so that we had trouble pulling them off her shoulder. Once we had managed to take over, she followed saying, “Look Estelle, it’s dragging. If you get this dress in the dirt, I’m going to make you wear it in that state,” and then rethinking the punishment, added, “just don’t get it in the dirt, please.”
We put the clothes up on hooks. Sylvia somehow, after carrying the load of clothes and traipsing across the field, looked exactly the way she had that morning when she first dressed for the day. Her skirt was stiff and straight, a pink that seemed electrified, hot. Her jacket was a warmer pink, toned down, dignified, short and heavily tailored. The jacket was formfitting, if Sylvia’s form was actually prism-shaped. Her stiff collar resembled a dinner plate. Sylvia’s makeup was pale, and she had a few, understated filigrees at her temples, but her hair had grown since I saw her last. Up. Tight curls towering twenty inches above her head. If that was Government-Official hair, my hair would have to reach up to at least twenty-four inches to be dramatic enough for a benefit concert tomorrow night. Sylvia asked, “Do you want to see?” She brimmed with excitement.
Terran said, “Not really, we can wait until—”
“We will not wait!”
Frederick rescued us all, “Terran meant they want to see the clothes right now.”
We formed an audience, so Sylvia could unzip the hanging clothes bags with a flourish.
First, Terran’s, a full suit of bright pink with dark magenta accents. The coat had tails. The crisp white shirt collar was high, the front flat and pleated. Sylvia gushed, “I was so worried that you would talk Jonathon into making everything Dingy Brown.”
Terran attempted to look shocked, though at the fitting he had tried to do exactly that. Jonathon hadn’t agreed and outranked him.
“You’ll stand out of course, since the shirts of today are so generous with their frills.” Sylvia smoothed the front, and tilted her head to appraise it from another view. “Jonathon did that purposefully. He knew farmers wouldn’t want flounces. See, I told you he would be adaptable. He’s really very excited about designing for all of you.”
She ran the zipper around William’s bag and exposed his suit, a deep, vibrant sparkling pink. We had seen the colors and the fabric swatches during the fitting the week before, but all together it was kind of dizzying. The coat was long and dramatic, the white shirt had flounces at the neckline.
I smirked at William and asked, “I suppose because you’re a writer, you get to be puffy?”
William glanced at Sylvia before responding, “Oh, I love puffy. I wish there was more puffy!” He liked to agree with Sylvia, having decided long ago that because of her love for government and New City, and her ability to put up with our farms, she was the best kind of person, adaptable. And courageous. And necessary.
Next came my dress. Sylvia opened the bag, which was twice the size of the others, and pulled and pulled from the bottom to reveal my dress. It was velvet, black as night, the top covered in sparkling silver stars. In constellations, not random at all. It took my breath away. “Oh my.”
Sylvia grumbled, “There is not a bit of pink on this dress. You’ll stand out, absolutely and peculiarly, what was he thinking?”
Frederick said, “I think that was exactly what he was thinking. Come here and stand back and take a look.”
Sylvia stepped back, and we looked at the three outfits. I couldn’t wait to get dressed tomorrow. We would look so great, beautiful. Sylvia said, “You’ve got to admit Jonathon knows how to design for farm kids.”
I looked again. The designs were beautiful, sure. I couldn’t wait to play dress-up, to go somewhere and be beautiful, but what made them farm-like? I couldn’t see it. Sylvia saw the look of disbelief on my face, and said, “Back me up William. Doesn’t Jonathon understand how to design for your needs?”
William said, “My mother’s designer wouldn’t even try to design for us, and that’s a fact. And if he did, definitely not as farm-y as this.”
“See, Estelle, Jonathon is forward thinking. Here’s the shoes.” In my hand she laid shoes that had a heel that could only be described as teetering. Under a skirt that trailed, I would have to wear excruciating shoes.
At the look on her face, I said, “Perfect.”
We all turned toward our table for dinner. William and I had liberated this long dinner table from the Used Products Piles just before it was headed to the big dump in the Beyonds. The man in charge of the Piles had asked repeatedly if we were sure we wanted it, and why, and couldn’t two kids like us afford a table? He was sure we should ask our parents to buy us one. That reusing a used table just wasn’t done. But we had taken it anyway and found four chairs that matched and then two more that didn’t match, but were close enough. Sylvia would never sit in the non-matching ones, even if they were the only ones left. She would make one of us move first. She was that committed to the idea of new.
Dad said, “Sylvia sit here. She’s been tired lately.”
Angela said, “I have a remedy for tiredness, I could get them.” She started to stand. “Of course you’d have to wean off the sleep and wake pills.”
“Well, that is a problem, because I’m not weaning off of anything. I’ve been with my doctor since forever, and I need them.” At the look on Angela’s face, Sylvia added, “Thank you for the offer,” and then changing the subject, “I almost forgot, these are for Terran and William.” She gave them each an envelope, and said, “I saw your mother William, in New City, and she asked how you were. I told her that you were doing really well and urged her to come visit. So maybe...”
“That would be great. I’d love to show her the farm, but I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Terran ripped into his envelope and read silently and reported, “Apparently, I’ve been assigned to my career, and my current employers have pulled some strings.”
Dear Terran Wells,
As you have come of age, we here at the office of Behavioral Management have chosen your future career through a series of Aptitude tests.
Your score on the Technological Advancement test was a 92%
Your Score on the Current Trends test was a 63%
Your score on the Achievement of New and Improved Goals was a 72%
Your score on Competitive Social Outcomes test was a 57%
We have taken into account your scores, your interviews, your own stated future goals and met with your current employers and have assigned you to:
Managing Director of Conglom Farm and Market
Your post is contingent on your contract with the Congloms of New City, and will be renegotiated in 16 months from this date.
Head of Conglom Career Placement
Angela said, “Nice, Terran, only sixteen months to go!”
“Yep, but then what?”
Frederick said, “Well, we just have to make the farm and market system such a big part of New City life, that when your time is up you can tell the Congloms what you want to do next.”
“So I only have to sell New City inhabitants on the idea that they can’t live without salads?”
Angela said, “Oh that’ll be easy, everyone loves a salad, they just don’t know it yet.”
I chewed a big bite of salad and said, “Yum.”
William tore into his letter and looked it over.
He stood up, cleared his throat, and read:
As you have come of age, it is time for the office of Behavioral Management to choose your future career through a series of Aptitude tests. As of the date of this letter you have missed three scheduled meetings with our office, as well as your testing date, and your make-up test date. We have therefore given you grades based on non-assessment.
Your score on the Technological Advancement test was a 0%
Your Score on the Current Trends test was a 0%
Your score on the Achievement of New and Improved Goals was a 0%
Your score on Competitive Social Outcomes test was an 0%
Your scores are nonexistent.
You lack interviews, and your current status is unemployed.
We have marked your career path: unassigned.
Your status is: unlabeled.
Your citizenship level is: revoked.
Your future: undetermined.
I am sure you will understand the grave nature of these labels.
Hearings to discuss reinstatement of your citizenship are held on the fourth Thursday of the month. Appointments must be made two weeks in advance.
Head of Conglom Career Placement
“That sounds ominous, huh?” William smiled around at the small gathered circle. “Unassigned, unlabeled, revoked.” He sat back in his chair.
Hearing the labels, a heavy stone descend to the bottom of my stomach. I tried not to vocalize, but—Ugh. Any talk of the Office and our assignments brought all the memories back. The fear and uncertainty of having them control our lives. Prison. There was no way I could return William’s merry smile. “It does sound ominous. Sylvia, what does unassigned mean?”
“It means that William needs to make an appointment to have his citizenship reinstated, immediately.”
Frederick said, “It just means that you don’t have a career path and you’re unemployed. Not necessarily a bad thing if your idea of employment and the Conglom’s idea of employment are so vastly different, but I’m afraid it’s not so simple. Unassigned means no job, no money, no credit, no connection at all to New City.”
William shrugged his shoulders.
Frederick continued, “I know, I know, you don’t mind severing your ties, but you also don’t have any protection. Unassigned means you aren’t a citizen. You don’t have ties, but you also don’t have rights. I don’t know William, you’re very close to New City living here. I think you’ll have to be very careful.”
Angela said, “You could go to the hearing and ask to be assigned to Terran’s farm. Terran did it for all our farmhands. He’ll vouch for you.”
Terran said, “Definitely, I will in a second.”
I studied William’s face. He had chosen not to go to the meetings and the tests. His decision was calculated. I was sure he wasn’t going to change course now.
William said, “Thanks, but I would rather not ask the Congloms and Government to decide my fate. I prefer being the master of my own demise, thank you very much.” He folded the letter and put it back in the envelope, shoving it into his back pocket. “I’ll put it in the Star Farm Scrapbook for posterity.”
Frederick said, “I just want you to know that if you need me and Sylvia to do anything for you, we will. You’re family, just ask.”
“I know that, but thank you for saying it.” Then he looked around, “But why the glum faces? So I skipped a test or three. I’m going to be fine. The Congloms and the Oversee won’t make trouble for any of us, not after Estelle’s captivity. They know better, don’t worry.”
Frederick said, “I hope you’re right. The Oversee and the Congloms are notorious for their short memories.” Sylvia adjusted her napkin, not looking at any of us. It was a lot of pressure being a part of the government during the day and sharing meals at night with teenagers who refused to be governed.