Good toes, naughty toes. Good toes, naughty toes. Good toes, naughty toes . . .
I watch my feet as they extend into a perfect point, then flex them, feeling the pull of my calf muscles and enjoying the breeze on my skin as I sit with my legs dangling over the Drop.
I love it here. Outside. Basking in the warmth of the sun. Heights don’t bother me, which is a good thing: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t live above the clouds in the sanctuary they built for me in which I sleep, eat, learn, and grow. Everything I could ever need is here, within the vast half-bubble of the Dome, where the glass lets the beauty of outside in. Sunbeams bounce off every surface.
Up here in my home above the clouds, I can’t be seen, or see, thanks to the white cloud lying between us. A constant veil hides the world and me from each other. Occasionally I’m sure I can see shapes from the city below, but that might be my imagination.
Still, I need to be closer to it. I need to experience it. That’s why I love sitting on the Drop. This is my spot, my place to escape to at the end of a walkway to nowhere. It is the perfect quiet space in which to mull over the day and my future.
“There you are,” Holly says, walking through the glass doors several meters behind me, as though there’s anywhere else I’d be.
I’m rarely completely alone out here. Or, rather, I’m never out here for long before she shows up. Without tearing my eyes from the beautiful view, I raise a welcoming hand. It’s not her fault she interrupts my quiet time. She’s only doing as she’s told. They want to hear my thoughts--especially now, ahead of tomorrow. So they send her to find me. Holly. My best friend. My constant companion. My anchor. I was in class with her a few minutes ago discussing William Shakespeare’s ability to turn tragedy into near comedy. She had some interesting thoughts, which I found intriguing and insightful--sometimes I learn as much from her as I do from whoever is teaching.
Holly is different now, though. She’s less studious and more . . . accessible.
“Nice shoes,” I say, spotting the orange slip-ons as she sits beside me. Her honey-blond hair is unmoving in the wind, yet she pulls her denim jacket a little tighter, as though she feels a chill.
It amuses me that they don’t keep her in the same outfit all the time. They select what she wears each day or at each session. Why bother? Perhaps it’s to show what’s expected of me, or to inspire my own fashion sense, because it’s not as though I can learn from others like me. I am the only girl.
I’m never directly told what to wear. I can choose from any of the items they’ve placed in my wardrobe: mostly vintage garments collected from decades past--geometric prints, bell-bottom pants, shoulder-padded jackets, or pretty shirtdresses.
Yes, I still have the freedom of choice. Take today. This morning I opted for a floaty turquoise summer dress with a dainty white floral pattern. It falls below my knees, exposing an inch or two of naked flesh above the lace-up brown boots I’ve teamed it with. I’ve seen photos of similar dresses worn with a wedged heel, sandals, or espadrilles, but my footwear must always be laced and tied when I’m out on the Drop. No slip-ons for me. Not here.
It isn’t the same for Holly, which irritates me, although only in the sense that it’s a sloppy move on their part. Why implement a regulation, give her to me, then leave a murky area where we aren’t tied to the same rules? It makes a mockery of her, and I don’t like that.
I try not to sigh too heavily, and avert my eyes. I weave my fingers through the ends of my long brown hair, which has become tangled in the breeze.
The Mothers used to style it for me when I was younger. Their designs were too intricate for me to grasp back then, but now I have hours to play with my hair and I’ve become quite the expert. I can twist, knot, braid, pin . . . The possibilities are endless. For which I’m thankful. It gives me something to do. I used to be allowed to experiment with makeup, but now I wear it on special occasions to ensure it’s not wasted. As the demand for these products isn’t what it once was, there are no new supplies. What I have has to last me.
“So, tomorrow,” Holly starts, breaking the silence.
“Wow, straight in there.” I half laugh, turning to see her pale green eyes twinkling as she stares straight ahead. Sometimes she tiptoes around these subjects, leaving me on edge and defensive, as I’m unsure where she’s leading the conversation. Other times, like in class, all focus is on the work. I prefer it when it’s like this. I like her more. It feels more genuine. Almost real.
“It’s a big day,” she states, shrugging her slender shoulders.
“Biggest of my life.” I nod in agreement, my expression serious now. I want her to think she’s pulled me in and that I’m ready for a deep and meaningful chat. “Well, apart from my birth--that was monumental.”
Copyright © 2019 by Giovanna Fletcher. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.