“It was Switching Day, the day that we switched quadrants. We would never come back to our parent’s quadrant. I didn’t know how Nat was taking it, but I cried into my pillow all last night. It wasn’t like I didn’t want to switch, I HAD to, but I would miss Mom and Dad.”
Nat and I ate our bran cereal at the table, and enjoyed our last breakfast at home. I opened the mail, and found a notice on a green piece of paper:
Today is Switching Day!
All citizens of Ellipsis Yonder Metropolis are required to attend the ceremony.
Ceremony will be held at the Meeting Place
From 10 AM until 1 PM
Lunch will be held but please arrive early to claim your table.
All work is cancelled, and no classes will be held.
Anyone not at the ceremony will be severely disciplined.
It was Switching Day, the day that we switched quadrants. We would never come back to our parent’s quadrant. I didn’t know how Nat was taking it, but I cried into my pillow all last night. It wasn’t like I didn’t want to switch, I HAD to, but I would miss Mom and Dad. Maybe Nat didn’t think of it this way, but I thought of it as almost our last day of being sisters. Tomorrow, she would be with the negatives, and I would be with the positives. Sure, we would see each other (I mean, I’m pretty sure), but we wouldn’t live together. I was scared.
“Girlies! Get dressed! Your special clothes for the ritual,” Mom hollered at us from her and Dad’s room. The ritual is where we switch, and in front of everyone. We are required to wear nice clothes, so for girls, dresses, and boys, a sports jacket and nice pants. Nat and I had picked out dresses the week before, and I was completely IN LOVE with mine.
The dress was to my knees, and turquoise blue. A thick, dark blue waistband ran around, well, my waist. It was strapless, and, from waistband down, pleated. I zipped it up in front of my mirror, satisfied. I used my curling iron to curl my hair. I got the curling iron as a present for my fifteenth birthday. We get one present every other year. Nat got a straightening iron, so when I need my hair straightened, I use it, and vise-versa.
Nat and I met in the hallway outside of our rooms.
“You look great!” she grinned, her eyes darting from my hanging earrings to my high-heeled shoes, which was really not that high, only 1 inch. She wore a pink dress, the same length as mine, and had spaghetti straps. Rhinestones decorated the edges of the dress. Her hair was straightened (not surprising), and she too was wearing high heels. She had diamond studs in her ears.
Nat and I had been looking forward to getting to dress up like this for a long time. We aren’t usually (never) allowed to wear high-heels, or earrings, apart from the gold spheres that every girl receives on their seventh birthday. We dress simply, an outfit theme chosen at the beginning of each year, from when we are 10 until 16, when you are in your permanent quadrant. Honestly, I kind of like not having to pick my own outfit. When you wear the same type of thing every day, it doesn’t take long to get dressed, which is probably why they made this rule. I have always chosen the “Casual” theme, which is jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers. Nat chose that for 10, 11, and 12, but then she decided that she liked being “pretty,” and for 13, chose the “Preppy” theme. That’s dresses and flats, and stuff like that. She’s more used to wearing fancy clothes than I am. She must feel normal for her to wear these clothes. I like it, but it’s different. Really different.
We linked arms and walked down the hallway. Mom smiled widely at us, and gestured for us to go outside.
“Dad will be ready in a minute! Wait outside for us!” Mom rushed back into the house.
“So. Are you ready?” Nat looked at me.
“I guess. Are you?” I looked down at the grassy area in front of our house.
“No. I want to stay with you, and Mom, and Dad. Why do we have to be separated?” she sounded like she was choking back tears.
“I don’t know, but it’s the way of life here. We just, just have to do it,” I held back tears as well, my voice breaking.
Nat hugged me, and we cried into each others shoulders. Suddenly, the front door banged open, Dad hurrying out.
“Come on, girls! Time to – are you two okay?” He frowned, and glanced back and forth between us. We carefully wiped tears from our eyes, and nod. Mom walks out, and ushers us into the car. As we drive to the mixed quadrant, I see Dad whispering to Mom, no doubt about the hugging/crying scene. Our family has always been against showing how you feel, but I don’t exactly agree with that, and I don’t think Nat does either.
We arrive at the main Meeting Place, the car swerving into the parking lot.
“We’ll let you two out here, and we’ll find a parking spot. We’ve reserved seats, so you can meet us there! See you soon, girls!” Mom kisses us each on the cheek, a meaningful but somewhat reluctant gesture. Nat and I get out of the car, and enter the Meeting Place.
When we pushed open the glass French doors and walked into the huge room, I felt like everyone was staring at me. Was the strapless dress a bad idea? Should I have chosen something that covered my shoulders? Were people surprised to see me in this? Did I look bad? God, how embarrassing.
We found our seats, and sat down. I felt a tap on my bare shoulder, and turned around to see Linzi grinning at me.
“Linzi! Hi!” I embrace her over the seats.
“Hey, Apryl! Is this your sister?” She holds out her hand to Nat.
“Yeah. Nat, this is my friend, Linzi, and Linzi this is my twin sister, Nat!” They shook.
“So, what blood type are you?” Linzi asked. “I’m O positive!”
A little girl walked up behind Linzi and said, “Linz, Mommy wants you at our seats. She wants to tell you something.”
“Sorry, guys! I’ve got to go! Mother calls.” She ran away, chasing the little girl, who looked to be her sister. A second later, Mom and Dad appeared behind us.
“Well, Nat and Apryl, we want to tell you that we love you very much, and even though you must switch quadrants, you will always, ALWAYS, be our baby girls. We love you.” Mom and Dad hugged us in turn. Nat and I held Moms’ hands, and reminisced about the 15 years that we spent together. Suddenly, Metropolis Superior’s voice blasted over the speakers.
“All 15-year-olds, please report to the stage. Mr. Irwin, Mr. Santos, and Mrs. Lilac will be organizing you for the switch.”
Nat and I jumped to our feet, and rushed down the aisle. I could hear Linzi’s bulky heels clumping behind us. I could sense Isaac’s eyes resting on my bare shoulders. I knew what the three 10 year olds were talking about in the front row of the Meeting Place. Everything was in perfect focus. I wasn’t sad, or scared. I wasn’t angry at my parents for not telling us that Nat and I would be separated. I was emotionless, blocking everything out, so that I could switch in peace.
Mr. Irwin placed me in between Nat and Kai Bayan. Jake was directly behind me, in a sports coat and nice pants. He leaned over my shoulder and said,
“Yes. And you’re Jake, Linzi’s boyfriend,” I smiled. Jake grimaced.
“Yep. That’s my title, I guess.” I laughed, nervously. Didn’t he like Linzi?
“So, your parents live in the O quadrant, right? My parents live in the A quadrant.”
He smiled sadly at me. “Well, they’ll hardly be our parents anymore, you know? I mean, we’ll be living separately, and since my parents are O negative, we’ll NEVER see each other,” he said, his voice a mixture of sad, and bit excited (but why? Nothing good can come from leaving our parents).
“What do you mean? In the A quadrant, we’re not separated by positive and negative.”
“You mean, they’re not separated by positive and negative. You’re going to be in the O quadrant, positive subdivision in a few minutes!” he corrected, grinning. At that same moment, Metropolis Superior stepped onto the stage, and called for attention.
“Today, we are letting go of our children. They will be citizens of Ellipsis Yonder Metropolis as of today. Obviously not productive citizens, at least until they get their jobs.” At this, the audience chuckled politely. “So, let us proceed with the ceremony. First up is Keala Aarons.” I watched intently as the tall girl stood next to Metropolis Superior, smiling. She seemed confident, and definitely not scared. The screen behind the mass of 15-year-olds lit up, and Keala Aaron’s blood information appeared on the screen. She was AB positive. Also, her job was indicated (she was to be Instructor of eight-year-olds). The people applauded her, and she left the Meeting Place. Hmm. Why was she leaving? I wondered where she went.
Many people went up to the front of the stage before me. Soon, I heard a name that caught my attention.
“Apryl Barnes? Are you there?” People in the audience were craning their necks to look for this “Apryl Barnes.” I must have been daydreaming, and I missed my name! Oh no! I half ran onto stage, making sure my dress stayed up.
“Thank goodness. I’m glad you were here! We wouldn’t want to mess up the system, would we?” Metropolis Superior smiled kindly at me, laughing, her blonde bun bobbing up and down. I looked back at her, shyly, a faint smile on my face, my cheeks a rosy red, from embarrassment.
A second later, the screen flashed, and my name appeared:
Blood Type: O positive
Job Assignment: Diplomat
I got the job I wanted! Yay! The audience applauded me, and I saw Mom and Dad grinning at me. I walked offstage, suddenly feeling confident about my dress, and ignoring the fact that I had missed my name being called. I turned around before leaving the Meeting Place, and glanced at Nat. She was running up to Metropolis Superior. I wanted to watch her, so I stayed in the room as she received her job assignment. She got Psychoanalyst, just like Mom! She grinned and ran over to where I was, near the door.
“Congratulations! You got the job you wanted!” She hugged me tightly.
“You too! You and Mom will be working together! Or at least in the same building.” I hugged her back. This might be the last time we interact with each other as siblings, so we had better make it count.
“I’ll miss you.” I said, opening the door. We start to climb the sturdy, wooden staircase, our arms linked. She nodded. We got to the top, and Nat opened it for us.
“This might just be where we get separated,” she lets go of my arm, frowning. The room is long, and has seats like the ones in the Meeting Place. There is a window in front of the room. I peered through, and I had a perfect view of the stage. I saw that the room was divided up into eight sections, one for each blood type. Large green signs indicated the groups. Nat ran to meet with one of her friends in the O negative section, while I went to O positive, and joined the three other people there, who I didn’t know. I sat alone, watching for Linzi or Jake to Isaac to go onto stage.
First, Isaac bounded up to the platform, joining Metropolis Superior. He was A negative, and he will be Engineer. A minute later he appeared in the room, and I waved at him. He waved back, grinned, and mouthed the words, Good luck! I’ll miss you. I nodded back to him, and he sat down in his respective section.
When Jake went up, he cheered as his name appeared on the screen, and ran out of the Meeting Place amid clapping and whooping. His job was Physical Trainor/Novitiate Trainor. He entered the room, and ran to sit next to me.
“Congrats! You happy with your job?” He slid into the seat next to me.
“Yeah, really happy. How about you? Satisfied?” I smiled at him, with butterflies in my stomach.
“Oh, definitely. I’m more excited about training the novitiates than being a physical trainer, though.” He laughs, and I join him. We exchanged friendly conversation until we heard Linzi’s name over the speakers.
Linzi sauntered over to Metropolis Superior. Her tight black dress shimmered in the spotlight, because of the sequins. She had chunky black heels on, and a golden necklace. Her hair was in a messy bun on top of her head.
“Wow, she looks really pretty!” I exclaimed, nudging Jake.
“Yeah, she does. You do too,” he said, taking my hand a squeezing it. I quickly pulled my hand away. No matter how much I liked him, I couldn’t betray Linzi. And anyway, didn’t he like her? I mean, they were dating. And if he liked me, what did he see in me?
I blushed anyway. Even if I couldn’t like him, it felt good. Someone thinking I was pretty, I mean. Not the hand holding.