The High Cost of Dissidence

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Maman! Papa!” A little nine-year-old girl leaped off the transport to her waiting parents and little brother. 

Peter O’Day greeted his daughter, Charlotte Lilienne, but did not return her hug. He straightened up. “We need to get out of this public place.” 

His wife, Marie Helêne, nodded. “Come along, Charlotte, Declan. We’re going to walk back to the house.” 

They strolled together from the transport station. Every time Charlotte got excited or loud or affectionate, one parent or another reeled her back in. Even Declan – a mature seven-year-old – seemed to be avoiding her exuberance. Charlotte finally asked, “Daddy, where’s the car?” 

“It was sold,” Pete said under his breath. 


“Don’t ask so many questions,” Marie Helêne cautioned. 

“Oh, well. I like to walk. I can run fast, too, see?” 

Charlotte was about to dart ahead of them when Marie Helêne took her arm. “Keep quiet. Don’t you remember what we talked about a few weeks ago, when I came and got you and we went to a little fair and our picture was taken? You got your face painted.” 

Charlotte thought for a second. “You said that I am not to make any public dis-disturbances. You said the fair might be the last fun we’d have for a while. And you said I would change schools once I came home for this break. I’m sorry, Maman.” 

“Right,” Marie Helêne said. The four of them were quiet for another hour – the remainder of the walk. 

Once they had gotten inside their little house, Pete turned to his children. “We can talk now.” 

“Good! Good!” yelled Charlotte happily. 

“Not so loud,” complained Marie Helêne. 

Charlotte looked around. “Where’s Daddy’s big chair?” 

“It was sold,” said Pete. 

“The flash cooker?” 


And so on and so forth, through any number of their more prominent or expensive possessions. Charlotte was young, but she was far from stupid and she was paying attention. “Why?” she finally asked. 

The two adults looked at each other. Marie Helêne sighed. “Your father is, he is under suspicion. The Emperor’s government has him under what’s called surveillance.” 

“I dared to say that things under the great Emperor Philip the Fourth were less than perfect,” Pete admitted. “It was right before Maman took you to that fair, Charlotte. We wanted you to have a good memory before, well, before things got bad. That careless statement was very pricey.” Charlotte looked puzzled so he explained, “I lost my job driving a transport.” 

“You will, I don’t know how we’ll afford things,” Marie Helêne said, “You will be transferred to the cheapest school we can find. We also had our A ration cards taken away. We all have D ration cards now.” 

“I can stay home with you, Papa,” Charlotte said. 

“No,” he said, “you have to go to school, and you have to finish. Even the cheap school.” 

“But why?” 

“You remember that big test you took?” asked her mother. 

“Yes! I did really good!” 

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