Dawn of Rebellion
History is going to be the death of me. My chin tilts down as my mind wanders off in an attempt to stay awake. Mr. Giles has been wittering on for the past half hour and I can’t remember anything he’s said. My eyes droop as weariness washes over me. I’m so tired. Tired of this class. Tired of this school. This entire life.
It used to be easier for me, but I don’t like to dwell on the past – hence my disdain for history.
England sucks. It has sucked for a long time. That is our history. But don’t say it or they’ll come for you. A sigh escaped my lips and the boy in the row next to me gives me a curious look. I shake my head and look down at my desk.
“The Colonies,” Mr. Giles says. “Represent the worst that can happen to a modern society.”
My slowly closing eyes snap open. Year ten is the first chance we get to learn about the mythical colonies. Suddenly wide awake, I lean forward and rest my elbows on my desk. We’ve all heard the stories since we were kids. The truth is hidden in those tales somewhere. But now we get the whole picture.
Mr. Giles continues. “They are proof that in the midst of disaster, the strong countries will survive and the weak will perish. An entire nation was destroyed. Let us never forget the mistakes that led to their demise.”
I am listening so intently that the bell signaling the end of the day makes me jump out of my chair. “Your homework for tonight is to choose one of the many reasons the colonies were destroyed and write a one-page paper. Use your textbooks. You're dismissed. We'll pick this up on Monday.”
I look around in a daze and barely notice my classmates packing their books. Everyone is chatting and smiling as they leave the room, no doubt excited for the weekend. I slowly move around my desk, grab my rucksack, and head for the door. Everything I pass is a blur as I make my way to the exit. Excited chatter fills the hall as students hurry by.
In the distance, I hear my name. This snaps me out of my stupor and I almost trip on my own two feet as someone taps me on the shoulder.
“Dawn.” My older sister Gabby is annoyed as usual. “I've been calling you from the other end of the hall.”
“Sorry, I'm just really tired.” I scrub a hand across my face.
Gabby plants her hands on her hips, looking me over in that scrutinizing way of hers. If they didn’t already know, no one would ever guess we're sisters. Gabby is tall and fit, with long strawberry blonde hair that falls over her shoulders in waves. Her eyes are emerald green and stand out against her tanned skin. Gabby has the kind of smile that gets what she wants and she knows how to use it. I, on the other hand, am built differently, short and thin. My hair is dishwater brown and cropped short, because why bother? My appearance suits me. It lets me go unnoticed and I'm okay with that, really. I swear. Okay, sometimes I’m okay with it.
“Dawn. Dawn.” Gabby is snapping her fingers in front of my face. I hate when she does that. “What is wrong with you today? You're acting like a proper nutter. It's like you're here, but you're not.”
“Yeah, cuz that makes a lot of sense, sis.”
She scowls at me and I look away.
“Sorry, s'been a long day,” I finally say. “Let's just go home, OK?”
“That's what I came to tell you. Drew is taking me for a ride in his new car. I'll find a way home later.”
“Can't he just drive you home?” Before I even finish that sentence, I know the answer.
“No way, do you want me to blow it? I need to go find him.” I can see Gabby's mood turning sour so I just say goodbye and continue on my way. I think about turning back to remind her not to miss curfew, but she knows when that is so I keep moving. Since I was a kid there has been a strict curfew enforced by the government. No one is supposed to leave their houses after nine at night. Gabby doesn't always make it back in time, but she hasn't been caught - yet.
As I'm walking towards the end of the hall, I hear something coming from a classroom on my left and freeze. Turning towards the sound, I suddenly wish I’d minded my own business.
A girl I recognize from my sister’s track team is pressed up against the chalkboard by a boy I don’t remember ever seeing before. She giggles but it’s cut off as he attaches himself to her lips. I’m such a creeper, but I can’t look away. He must be a senior. His shirt is stretched tight across his back across well-defined muscles.
She pushes her hands into his dark hair and a blush creeps up my neck. I have to get out of here. I break away from the scene unfolding before me and hoof it down the hall. Pushing through the double doors to the outside, I groan as I watch my bus pulling away from the curb.
I run towards it, but I’m too late. Perfect. “Shite.” I look around considering my options. Most people have already left the school grounds. We're not allowed to hang around once school lets out. As soon as the bell rings, rankers start showing up. The military uses the area for training. Actually, they use pretty much all of London for training. I need to get out of here so I guess I'll have to take the tube. Sighing, I set off towards the station.
I walk slowly, in no hurry to get home. People go around me as they rush on their seemingly important tasks.
The streets are teeming with squaddies carrying large guns as if they would ever have to use them here. This part of London is where the rich people live. Their streets are lined with department stores that most people could never hope to shop in. I don't belong here and I’m not the only one who seems to notice. Men and women in suits cast suspicious glances my way as they push past me.
I’ve only had to take the tube home from school a few times before and I wouldn't even have to come into the city for school if they hadn't shut down the East End Academy. They called it a breeding ground for the rebel movement. I can’t say they were wrong. Rebels are dangerous. A society works better when all citizens follow the law. That’s how England still prospers in a world that saw many fall. At least, that’s what we’ve always been taught.
Sometimes I question it. I question them, our government. I’m not blind. I see what they do to us. But no good can come of rebellion so I shut it down when it enters my mind. It isn’t in me to fight.
It takes me the better part of an hour to reach the tube station. I take the escalator down to the platform and swipe my card. I don't know how Gabs managed to nick these tube cards for us, but I learned to stop asking questions of her a long time ago.
I'm always amazed at how beautiful this platform is. There is a large mural painted in bright colors on one wall and adverts everywhere. I don't think there is a cleaner platform in all of London.
I watch the people around me, instantly categorizing them into the three categories in society based on their dress: The upper class, middle-class, and the rest of us. The government decides where you belong. During your senior year of high school, you get a placement. If you're really smart or really rich, you go to university and eventually end up assigned to a great job making a lot of money. If you have an ounce of athletic ability, you'll be a ranker. Gabby already has her military assignment. The military makes up pretty much all of the middle-class. The third possibility is for people with no smarts and limited skill. They work for little pay in public service jobs. I’m hoping to be sent to uni, but I still have a few years.
I squeeze through the crowd to get to the front. The tube pulls up and I board the nearest car. It's packed with people so I stand and hold onto one of the railings along the walls. It is about ten stops before we reach the east end of London and by the time we do, there are only a few people left. Not many people live out here in the dodgy parts of the city; well, not many people that can afford to take the tube.
I exit the car and the contrast to this station would be shocking if I wasn't used to it already. The paint on the walls is peeling and trash litters the ground from the upended dustbins. The only art present here is graffiti. I barely notice the state of things around here anymore.
And, of course, the escalator is broken. Once I climb the stairs from the platform - did I mention Gabby is the athlete in the family? - I've got about 10 streets to go until I reach my flat. As I walk, my mind drifts and I'm back in history class. The mythical colonies. Before my father died, he would tell us stories that were meant to scare us into being good. Today, the colonies are home to England's prisons. Criminals are sent off and never come back. Our government is saved the cost of courts and our society gets rid of its troublemakers. I always wanted to know more but never had the courage to ask. I want to learn about the people that lived there before the prisons were built, but some things are forbidden.
There are so many things I could choose to write my paper about. We haven't gone over much in class yet, but I've read my course book cover to cover. I think I'll choose the disease. It was the final nail in the coffin that wiped out much of the population. I'm sure most of my mates will write on the war, but that was only a result of everything else so I don't think it's as important.
“Out of my way.” I’m stunned as someone pushes me aside and legs it down the street. My shoulder slams into the brick front of a building and I start to regain my footing on the sidewalk when five, no six, soldiers rush past. They don't give me a second glance as they chase the gaffer down and tackle him to the ground. I don't dare move as a squaddie pulls out his gun and shoots the man in the head. He collapses and is left there, in the middle of the road. As soon as the soldiers are out of sight I start walking again, not looking at the dead man as I go by. Things like this happen around here all the time. The rest of us just have to keep our heads down and our mouths shut.
Even so, my hands shake at my sides. Some things you never get used to.
The rebels operate out of East End and sometimes it seems like a war zone. I keep my eyes trained on the ground and keep moving.
By the time I reach my flat, the light begins to fade. I’m zonked. I don't like nights when Gabby is out late. You don’t want to be caught up in the nighttime events of this neighborhood. I enter my building and climb the stairs, careful not to touch any railings or walls. This place can be pretty grotty. I pass many other flats, each with their worn doors standing wide open. As I walk by, people wave to me or just smile. We all know each other here and look after one another. Technically, our building is abandoned and scheduled for demolition, so we're all just squatting here, but we do have rooms all to ourselves, even if they have been deemed unsafe.
As soon as I get to my room, I pull out the tattered course book Mr. Giles has given me and start on my homework, waiting for Gabby to get home.
The wind whips through my hair as we speed down the road in Drew’s brand-new convertible.
“Drew, baby this is brilliant”. I can’t remember the last time I felt so free. Pushing my sunglasses up my nose, I look sideways at him. Exhilaration shoots through my veins. The air has a biting chill, but it's not enough to make us stop.
“I'm glad you like it.” Drew smiles as he ramps up the speed.
“Now you're just showing off.” I have to shout to be heard over the wind.
“Yep. I can stop if you want.”
“Well, you should pull over, but that doesn't mean it's not working for me.” I reach over and start running my hands through his hair the way I know he likes it. I smile when a small groan escapes him. He slows down the car and pulls to the side of the road.
As soon as we're stopped, Drew reaches over and pulls me towards him. His mouth slams against mine like a starving man at a feast. A car honks at us as it passes our spot.
I break away with a laugh. “Probably our cue to get moving. I need to be getting home soon.”
“But things are just getting started here,” Drew says in his low sexy voice, trying to draw me back in. Any normal day that may have worked, but not today.
“I have to go find a present for my little sister's birthday. It’s tomorrow. Then my parents want me home early.” I cringe as I mention my parents. It's a lie that hurts every time I speak it, but he can't know the truth. I watch his face and see how easy it is for him to accept. Proper teenagers do have rules and parents that enforce them. I was ten when my father was killed and my mother couldn't handle it so she abandoned us. Most people will never have to live with that kind of pain.
“Well, where do you want to go? I'll take you.”
“I'm just going over to Fenwick's. I can get there myself.” My defenses start to come up. I don't need anyone's help. I can take care of myself. I've sure been doing it long enough. “Just take me to the tube station.” He shrugs and starts the car.
I got lucky with this one. He doesn’t ask many questions. Plus, there’s the whole sexy as hell angle. As he drives, I reach over and push my fingers into his dark hair. He flashes me a smoldering wink with his deep blue eyes. I melt right there in his car. God, I’m a sucker for a man with a footballers build. So what if he's the district commander's son, and so what if he's a player. I think I can hold onto him; as long as he never learns that my life is rubbish.
I look up and notice we're nowhere near the station. This git just doesn't listen. As we pull up outside the department store, my anger is seething. “What do you think you're doing? I told you I don't need anyone's help. I wish you'd just listen to me.” I get out of the car and slam the door without giving Drew a chance to respond.
Entering Fenwick's reminds me of everything I could never afford; Designer clothing, purses, jewelry, and accessories of incredible colors and styles. I'm usually able to get by on what I can lift but I've never tried that here. It's a dangerous hobby and most people would think I'm a right nutter for even trying. It carries the same sentence as any other crime. You're shipped off to the colonies and I don't even know what happens there. I don't worry about the consequences though. I know I'm good. I have to believe it'll work. Nerves are usually what get people caught.
I pass by a heavily armed guard near the doorway. That’s something the usual east end stores do not have. But, then again, they don't have much merchandise either. I can still do this.