WHOOPSIES! I totally forgot to post this yesterday. My Bad! So, this short story was actually supposed to be a scene from a book that I’m writing but I think I’ve decided not to include it in the final draft. (Well, I don’t really know yet). Anyways, it still needs to be heavily edited before I can place it into the draft, but I thought I’d post it here anyway in case any one has ANY feedback. Thanks for reading.
The morning of the Harvest Festival was filled with worry for Beckett James. Even though he knew that his father wanted him to find a career in government, all Beckett ever wanted was to experience new things and explore new territories. The thought of going somewhere no one had ever gone before made Beckett wish he could volunteer for the honor of joining The Exploration, but that was no longer an option. He’d thought about it a lot since he’d become eligible for the draft and even came up with a few ideas on how to make sure his name was called, but he’d never act on any of them. There was no honor in cheating the system.
“How did you sleep?” Mrs. James was usually all smiles, but this morningwas a ball of nerves.
“Fine.” Beckett was too nervous to carry on a conversation. He just wanted to get this over with. He would either get chosen or not but he couldn’t stand the waiting part of it all.
Everyone stayed silent during breakfast, knowing what it would mean for all of them if Beckett did get chosen. Mr. James thought about his son missing out on a great career opportunity in the main government building. Mrs. James’ eyes were welling up with tears as she let the thought of her only child being taken away from her sink in. Beckett wanted to be thinking about the idea of his name being called at the draft, but instead, his mind only let him think about the dream of a memory he’d had the night before; he was seven years old again and he could overhear his father talking on the phone to some woman about a child they had together. If his name did get called, he’d have to tell his mother everything he knew, but there was no way he could break her heart.
Nothing but private thoughts filled the room until Mr. James finally spoke up. “I think we should head down to the prairie soon. We don’t want to be late.”
As the entire population gathered in the prairie for the reaping, Beckett watched as the government officials drove up in black vans and set up for the ceremony. As the officials got everything in order, the colony’s elected leader took the stage and gave a brief introduction, which included the history behind the reaping, in a monotone voice. Beckett had heard this same history lesson many times before but never grew tired of it. He wanted so badly to be one of the ten explorers that would venture out into this exciting new land. He got really excited at the thought of finally becoming one until he really started to think about it. He took into consideration the statistical probability and realized that his chances were extremely slim. He barely had any chance at all of becoming an explorer and this was his last year to hold out hope.
After the introduction, the United World Leader graced the colony with his presence, as he does at every reaping ceremony, and began to call the names of the potential explorers. After calling out the first ten names, he called out the alternates. These were the people that would step in if someone refused the honor of the explorer title.
“The first alternate is Cressida Bancroft.”
Mr. James let out a small sigh. He was very relieved that it wasn’t Beckett’s name called, but he knew that there was still one alternate left.
“The second alternate is…”
Beckett drew in a deep breath and held it, hoping and praying that it would be his name called. His entire life was spent dreaming about this.
Beckett was in shock. He didn’t know how to react. He’d just heard his name called as an alternate for the exploration. Mr. James was upset and disappointed, but he wouldn’t let it show out of respect for the exploration. Mrs. James began to sob over the fact that her son would be leaving her and might never return, but Mr. James pulled her close so that others might not see her unhappy tears. She was getting a lot of attention until the colony leader began to speak in his monotone voice.
“This concludes the Reaping Ceremony. At this time, we need all explorers and alternates to make their way to the van where you will say goodbye to your families and embark on this new journey that awaits you.”
Beckett and his family made their way to the van as instructed along with the other eleven families. Beckett turned to his mother and said, “Mom, don’t cry for me and don’t worry. I’ll make you proud.”
After a moment of his mom hugging him tightly and not wanting to let go, Beckett released his mother and hugged his dad. “Dad, I know you’re disappointed at this and I’m sorry, but I’ll find a new way to bring our family honor.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that, son. The government job will be waiting for you when you get back.”
His father’s words irritated Beckett, but he didn’t want to fight in front of his mother. He just wanted to get in the van and go. That’s what he did.
At the training facility, all twelve initiates were forced to sit through warning videos that examined the possible extremes one might encounter while exploring uncharted territories. The video was so gory that one person refused the honor and accepted a career with no honor, instead.
After watching the video, the commander of the training facility came in to transition the team into their new training and living quarters.
“Each one of you will be issued a standard uniform that you will wear at each training event. You will a welcome binder next to your bed which includes the training facility rules. You may retire to your pods at this time to read the welcome Binder. Your training will commence tomorrow morning at 0600 hours.”
As Beckett read the welcome binder, he felt proud of himself for getting this close to becoming an explorer. He decided it was time to celebrate.
Beckett knocked on everyone’s door to invite them to their last night of fun but only one person agreed. That didn’t matter to Beckett because he was sitting on cloud nine being so close to becoming an explorer, so he made do with that one person, Cressida.
“Are parties allowed here? It seems so strict,” Cressida asked.
“The welcome binder doesn’t say no to, so I think we’re good.” This got a laugh from Cressida but Beckett could tell she was still worried about it a little.
“So, are you an only child?”
“No,” Cressida answered as sadness filled her face, “I have a younger brother.” She sat for a moment remembering her brother and then asked, “are you?”
“Yea, well, kind of.” Beckett shrugged.
“What do you mean, ‘kind of’? You either are or you aren’t.”
“Well, it’s complicated.”
Beckett hesitated to answer because he didn’t want to the world to know his secret, but he felt as though he could trust her. It was like he’d known her all his life; they just clicked.
“Okay,” Beckett said as he let out a quick sigh. “When I was about seven, I overheard my dad talking with a woman about a child that he had to take care of.”
“He went on to say that my mother could never know and that the woman on the other end of that call should never tell her husband.”
“Yeah. So, I’m an only child, but I know that somewhere out there I have a half-brother or sister.”
As the night went on, Beckett and Cressida continued to talk about their families, Cressida’s brother, and their expectations of training. Halfway through the night, they realized the time, went to their pods, and crashed before their first day of training.
After the first day of training, Beckett called his parents to inform them about a family day at the end of the Six-week aining period.
“Sure honey, we’d love to come visit you,” Mrs. James exclaimed over the phone, loud enough for the other initiates to hear.
“Okay, mom. I gotta go. Love you.”
Beckett felt a little down after talking to his mom and decided to clear his mind in one of the quiet zones meant for meditation. Walking down the hall and rounding the corner, he saw Cressida nestled into a corner near a large window overlooking a pond. He noticed she looked a little down, too.
“Want some company?”
Cressida wiped her eyes as she looked up at him. She’d definitely been crying. “Sure,” she responded.
“Is something wrong?”
“It’s just, I miss my family, especially my brother. He’s dying, you know.”
“No, I didn’t know.”
“He was diagnosed a few weeks ago and has been deteriorating quickly ever since.”
“Can’t the medics treat him?”
“No. He’s terminal. None of the medics will waste their meds on a dying patient.”
“I’m so sorry.” Beckett pulled Cressida in for a hug, held her tightly for a second, and then let her go.
For a few moments, they both just sat there quietly, trying to figure out what to say to each other. Beckett could sense the awkwardness filling the room and wondered if he should have hugged her or just left her alone. Cressida felt relieved that he hugged her; she felt comfortable around him. Finally, they both decided to get some rest and said goodnight.
As the weeks went on, Beckett and Cressida grew close to one another. They shared a deep friendship that had blossomed over the past 6 weeks, especially since Beckett had become an official member of the exploration team after a girl got badly injured during a training exercise. They had both planned to introduce their parents on family day so that their parents could find comfort in each other while the two of them were out on their mission.
When Family day finally arrived, Beckett stood at the oversized window, watching for the black vans to pull up carrying all the families. He watched impatiently as he searched each group of people for his mother and father. Once he saw his dad exiting a van towards the end of the convoy, he ran to the gates to greet his family.
“Dad!” Beckett yelled above the crowd as he waved both arms in the air.
“Son! How are you?”
“I’m fine. Where’s mom?”
“She couldn’t make it. She’s pretty sick.”
“Is she gonna be alright?”
“Oh, yes. She’s going to be fine. She’s very upset that she’s missing this but she’ll be okay.” Mr. James could see the disappointment in Beckett’s face and decided to try to change the subject. “So, tell me how training’s been going. You ready for the nice, cushy, government job yet?”
“HA, No. It’s been going great. There’s actually someone I’d like you to meet.”
“Look, son, I really need to talk to you before I go meetin’ anybody. Is there some place a little more private we could go?”
“Sure, dad. Is everything alright with you?”
“It will be. Let’s just talk first.”
Beckett led his father up to the meditation zone and right to the window where he had sat with Cressida so many times over the past few weeks. He sat down and waited for his father to begin.
“Son, I need to tell you something and I’m not entirely sure how to say it.”
“Dad, what it is it? Just tell me”
“Alright. You see, when you were younger, I made a mistake.”
“What kind of mistake?”
Just then, Cressida and her mother walked in, interrupting Mr. James’ confession.
“Dad, this is Cressida. Cressida, this is my dad, Ray James.”
“Hi. Nice to meet you,” Cressida said as she held out her hand.
“You, too.” Mr. James gave Beckett a sideways glance before reaching out to shake her hand.
After Cressida introduced everyone to her mother, Beckett noticed his dad acting a bit strange. Mr. James wouldn’t make eye contact and tried to stay the farthest away from Cressida’s mom. It was weird, really. After a while, Mr. James excused himself and went to get some fresh air. A few moments later, Cressida’s mom followed behind him.
While they were away, Beckett and Cressida wondered what was up with their parents. Beckett thought his dad had been holding in his disappointment and it was finally becoming too much for him. He decided to go and check on his father himself.
After Beckett walked outside, he spotted his father and began walking his direction. The closer he got to his father, the more he could overhear of the conversation with Mrs. Bancroft.
“We can’t let them find out,” said Mr. James.
“Don’t you think I know that?” Mrs. Bancroft snapped back.
“Well, what you do suggest we do?”
“We pretend like nothing happened.”
“What happened,” interrupted Beckett.
Mr. James and Mrs. Bancroft look shocked as they tried to figure out what to tell Beckett.
“Well, umm, your father and I knew each other a long time ago.”
“Oh, yeah? How long ago?”
“Son, that’s not important.”
“What’s the big deal? How long ago did you know my dad?”
Mrs. Bancroft didn’t answer.
“Wait,” Beckett said as he began to figure it all out. “You’re not….No…..You can’t be.”
“I’m not who?” Mrs. Bancroft said.
“You’re not the woman that my father had another child with, are you?” Beckett felt a little foolish for saying it out loud, but he needed to know and his father was uncharacteristically quiet during all of this.
“How do you know about that?”
“When I was younger, I heard him talking to you on the phone. I heard him tell you not to tell anyone. I heard it all.” Tears began to stream down Beckett’s face.
“Son, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t you dare tell me what I’m talking about. It’s her isn’t it. She’s the one you cheated on mom with.” Everyone was staring now.
Mr. James dropped his head and said, “Yes. And I’m sorry for that, but you can’t tell your mother. It will devastate her.”
“Don’t worry, dad. I’m not going to be the one to break Mom’s heart. She’ll get enough of that from you.”
“I think we should go inside,” Mrs. Bancroft suggested.
As they all turned to head back into the building, Cressida stood at the doorway. A state of shock filled her face as she thought about the life of a life she’d lived. She turned and went to her pod, refusing to speak to her mother for the duration of the day.
When the departure began, Beckett told his father goodbye and watched as the black vans drove towards the thick tree line. Cressida walked up behind him, and said, “Hey.”
“They finally gone?”
“Look, Cressida, I know this must be hard for you, but I’d really like to be your brother.”
“I know, but my little brother is dying and I can’t try to replace him.”
“I’m not asking you to.”
“Well, that’s what it feels like I’d be doing. Accepting you means that I accept what she did to our family. I could never betray my brother and father like that.”
“Please, don’t shut me out.”
“Don’t ask me to betray my family.”
“Okay. If you don’t want to be my sister, then fine, but please, don’t refuse to be my friend, too. Please?”
“I’m sorry, Beckett. I don’t want to lose you, but this just feels too wrong.” Cressida turned and walked to her pod leaving Beckett to regret the events of the day. As tears streamed down his face, Beckett thought of all the loneliness he felt as a child with no siblings to play with and how nothing had changed.
Keeping Secrets. Digital Image. N.p, n.d. 8 April 2017.