“Accepting or declining this elite invitation will impact Sabyne’s life. Sincerely, the Decisioner.” I fold the letter into its envelope and push it over to Grams.
“Accepting or declining,” she mutters, taking the envelope with an arthritic hand. “That’s a load of donkey dung and everyone knows it.”
I pick up Kelsey’s plate of unfinished broccoli and scrape it into the trash. “Some do decline Grams.”
She looks at me, her glasses at the tip of her nose. “Well you’re not.”
The plate slips from my fingers and lands with a clank in the garbage can.
“What do you mean I’m not declining? I’m not leaving you and Kelsey here alone.”
“Sabyne, we can take care of ourselves.”
“No, you can’t.”
I don’t know how it happened or why it happened, but ever since my second birthday Grams has been in mine and Kelsey’s lives. And my parents haven’t. I’ve never asked Grams about my parents, I don’t even know if she’s my mother’s or father’s mother. I don’t know if I want to know, there are too many rumors to try to listen to. Kelsey, my older sister, is autistic. She has Aspergers, and even though she doesn’t need me twenty-four-seven, I’ve always been there twenty-four-seven. Whether it’s Grams forgetting to take her meds, or Kelsey getting into one of her moods because she hates broccoli, something bad will happen. I can’t let that happen, no matter the opportunity.
“Sabyne,” Grams says, fumbling with the letter. “Can you open this please?”
I drop the plate in the sink and reach over. “There you go,” I say, smoothing out the letter.
“Thank you dear, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Grams gives me a wry smile, pushing her reading glasses onto her nose. I turn on the water and begin scrubbing the dishes from dinner, suds threatening to overflow the small sink.
“Honey, the SDAU doesn’t invite everyone to join a squad.”
“Yes they do, they’re getting desperate. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. Covah’s getting stronger. The SDAU just needs to admit it.”
“And that’s why you’re going. Even if they don’t want you, they need you.”
I feel arms wrap around my waist.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you,” Kelsey says her voice muffled, as she burrows her face in my neck.
“No problem Kel, but the broccoli won’t kill you.”
She giggles. “I know.” Kelsey pulls away, her light blue eyes boring into mine. “You’ve got the be at the Headquarters at eight o’clock sharp.” She flashes me a quick grin.
I look at Grams, who nods. “You heard her.”
I stuff an apple in my knapsack, button it close, and sling it over my shoulders.
Grams puts down her tea and walks over to me. “I’m so proud of you Sabyne.” She grabs my hands and squeezes them. “When opportunity knocks you have to open the door.”
“I don’t even know how long I’ll be gone,” I say.
“The longer the better. You need some air, you’ve been cooped up in here for too long. I want you to do this for yourself, and so does Kelsey. We both want you to be happy.”
I sigh. “I already agreed to go.”
“I know, I just don’t want you worrying about us. Charlotte will be over more to help with Kelsey.”
“What about you?” I press.
“Your cousin Belle will check in three times a week,”
“Only three times?”
“Honey, this is also a chance for Kelsey and I to breathe”
“Sure, ok,” I say, not sure whether or not I should be hurt. “I’m going to go, tell Kelsey I love her.”
“Of course, I’ll see if we can call you later.”
I hug Grams, holding on tighter than I expected. “I love you Grams.”
“I love you too Sabyne Rose Qorals. Now go out there and make us proud.”
I pull away, and give Grams a quick kiss on her head. I turn, unlatch, the door, and step outside. Living the farthest away from the heart of the town has it’s advantages. Even though it’s considered the poorer part of town, the view makes up for it. The entire town is surrounded by water, that’s the color of patience and just the right amount of blue food dye. Surrounding the water is a ring of mountains that are often covered by fog and are so far away that they can hardly be seen. I pop my earphones into my ears, and continue down the cobblestone path that leads to the heart of the city.
It’s hard to miss the Headquarters. It sticks out like a giraffe trying to hide. The metallic black building towers over everything on this island. I get at the end of the line, people like me trying to get past the gates and into the Headquarters. I turn up my music and look around. Some of the guys are dressed in suits and ties, and the girls in elaborate dresses. I look down at my beat up sneakers, my skirt made courtesy of Grams, and my hand me down tank top from Kelsey.
“What’s you name?” The lady asks, her voice clipped.
“Sabyne Rose Qorals.”
She stamps me on my hand. “Look for the sign that has the same symbol as your stamp. Sit, mingle, and wait for the meeting to begin.”
I nod. “Thanks.”
I step inside the Headquarters. Rainbow stained windows line the halls, the light reflecting rainbows on the white tiled floor. Paintings of people that I probably learned about in history class but forgot also line the walls. The walls are painted a warm cream, and a large crystal chandelier hangs from the ceiling. I follow the crowd into a large room that’s about the size of a gymnasium. I look down at the mass of swirls, lines, and shapes on my hand and look up. My eyes land on the banner, and I take a deep breath. This is it.