Chapter Five: Real Friends

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Waking to the smell of cooked food is something I haven't done in years. I throw myself out of bed in a hurry with a hunch climbing into my mind. Looking into Julius's room, I can see he's still asleep which confirms my worry. Still in my pajamas, I follow the smell into the kitchen where I find Mom standing over the stove making waffles. She stands their dressed in work clothes her naturally curly black hair, slowly turning grey, straightened. At couch isn't littered with empty alcohol bottles and the TV isn't playing a mindless channel

"What is going on?" I ask, startled by the sight.

Something is wrong. Mom is awake and aware. I know this should be something to celebrate but I've been here before and it never ends good. Each time she gets put together, there's a timer running and soon enough she'll turn back into a drunk.

"Apparently the evaluation," Mom states bluntly.

I stand there in shock. My mom hasn't been aware of current events in years. I had never said anything to her about the upcoming war, or the Alpha's army, or the evaluation. I just figured that when I got selected I would say something. Some excuse for me leaving. I would remind Mom that it's summer summer and we were off to spend the summer with our grandmother. Being drunk all the time, it probably wouldn't occur to her that grandma is dead.

"Did you think I wouldn't find out?" She asks.

"Yes! Yes I did!" I yell. "How did you find out?"

"Cade," She whispers.

From her tone, I can tell it wasn't an innocent meeting.

"He came by late last night to talk about your disrespectful behavior..."

"I'm sure that was his only intention," I mutter under my breath.

"He said you had the full intention to become part of the Alpha's army and leave here. What makes you think you can go without my permission?"

"It's called the Alpha's Army for a reason," I fight back, "It is the Alpha's orders. I don't need your permission or let you know about it."

"What about Julius? He's not old enough," Mom asks pulling the bacon from the pan and placing it on a plate.

Crossing my arms, I confirm her suspicions, "I signed his forms in your place. I had to do what was needed to be done to get him out of here."

Mom slams the pan down in the sink hard enough to break the handle from the base, "And why's that?"

"This isn't home anymore. It hasn't been for awhile. You're drunk or hungover every day and come home to get even more drunk. You don't notice us now! What makes you think that you would have notice when we left? Everyone here hates us and it's all your fault! You opened your legs and the sector closed us off..."

With my last comment, Mom slaps me across the face. My hand comes up and carries my check in my palm. I stare at her in disbelief. I thought I wasn't a stranger to surprise but I've been proven wrong. Something in her eyes says that she is sorry but her body language suggest that she is proud of what she did. That she has taught me a lesson. Sadly, she doesn't know that I've gone through worse abuse in the past two years.

I collect myself and look her straight in the eye.

"When I get selected, and I will, I'm taking Julius with me. Away from you. I won't let him suffer any longer," I proclaim.

Knocking her shoulder as I move, I storm upstairs and see Julius standing in the middle of the stairs listening. I can't bare to look at his face. They'll be sorrow for Mom. Guilt for me. I want to skip the conversation and the 'oh, I'm fine'. He'll know I'm lying and I need to be strong right now. Strong for him and strong for myself. I push past him and continue into my room

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