Both of our mothers are standing at the bottom of the stairs when we approach the mild orange house with 18 painted on the side. The short, tanned woman who gave birth to me has her arms crossed, thick eyebrows blending together as she glares at me. Her brown hair is messy, piled up on the top of her head, strands falling around her face. In the heat of the mid-day, she sweats profusely, a product of both the humidity and the fact she's expecting.

It's very apparent that she rushed out to meet me when the notification came through that I'd received a strike.

Lexi's mom is a polar opposite of my own. She's tall, thin, and has pure blonde hair that lays in one long braid down her back. The look on her face isn't anger. With her hands stuck in her apron pockets, she wears a face of disappointment and sadness.

Honestly, I can't tell which one I would rather come home to.

"Look, Mom, I'm-"

Mom has me by the ear before I can even finish my statement, dragging me up the stairs without a word. Lexi cackles like a hen, stopping only when her mother smacks her in the back of the head.

"Get in the house," her mother scolds, in her whispery voice.

"Quinn Lee Austin," Mom growls, throwing me into the house. The frame shakes as she slams the door, pointing a finger at my chest. "How. Dare. You."

"Look, Mom, I'm sorry," I try to say, feeling like a pea on the floorboard under her.

"YOU'RE GOING TO BE," she screams, swatting at me with her open palm. Knowing I shouldn't but doing it anyway, I run towards the kitchen, protecting my head.

"Mom, I'm sorry," I plead, trapped by the counter, "I didn't know the guards were patrolling!"

"So you're sorry you didn't look both ways before crossing the road?" she says, laughing as her face becomes more red.

"No, no," I say, trying to catch myself before she swings again, "I'm sorry I broke the rules. I'm sorry I scaled the wall."

She settles back a few steps, her face turning a light pink instead of maroon. Just when I think I can exhale, she grabs the towel from the sink and smacks my legs with it.

"What were you thinking?"

"We do it all the time! I didn't think we would get caught."

The moment the words leave my mouth, I know I've made another mistake. Her green eyes seem to glint as she begins to furiously swat at various parts of my body with the towel. I cover my head, wincing at every impact.

"Mom, please, stop."

Silence rests between us. I risk glancing up at her, only to see her eyes the size of saucers and the towel dangling mid-air behind her.

"I'm sorry," I whisper, "It was a mistake, Mom. I promise. Please, stop."

Her face softens, but not the anger in her eyes. She still towers over me like a bear, but with every second that passes, she shrinks down.

"Why, Quinn?" she finally asks, taking a long deep breath, "You don't do anything without reason."

I let my hands drop to my side.

I can't tell her about the Repor, because I don't want to entangle her in my wild mystery. She'll say I'm being immature and letting my head drift into the clouds. Yet, I also can't give her the excuse we gave the guard; she knows I'm smart enough to know shipments don't come on Sundays.

"Answer me," she prods, rearing back the towel again.

"I just wanted to go one more time before the exam," I say, hurriedly, blocking my legs from the towel. "It's exciting, and I know I can't do it after we take the IE."

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