I wake up with a pounding in my head. The last time I felt like this was when Nathaniel and I snuck into the liquor cabinet on my 16th birthday.
"Come on, Katie. Just a sip." Nathaniel holds an aged malt whisky in his hand. I shake my head. He's handsome tonight. We've been friends since he started working here at age 11. Father always liked him, and sometimes he joined us for tutoring. At first I didn't like him. He spoke to much, and seemed to think I was the stupid one. But then, as my father's anger grew, so did Nath's kindness.
On my birthday he stole some liquor for me.
"Why do you take things. Don't you know what'll happen if you get caught?" I ask. He laughs.
"I'll die," Nath says, deadpanned. I nod. I can't take losing someone else. "I rather die than not live at all."
I wished I was like that, brave, rebellius. I took the bottle from his hand, and chugged it, 1..2...3. "Woah, slow down there, tiger." He pulls the bottle from my hand, tackling me to the floor. We wrestle, his body caught in my long skirt. Finally we collapse on the grass laughing.
"Nath?" I start, he turns to me, his eyes gleaming.
"I want to live, too." I bring my lips to his.
A women in a silver uniform stands over me, her blonde hair is pulled back in a rigid bun. She puts two fingers on my wrist, than scrolls something on a blank pad.
"Katelyn?" She asks, her voice like melted chocolate. I do nothing. The woman takes out a small needle full of a thick silver liquid.
"What is that?" I ask. She doesn't answer. Her hand moves so fast I barely have time to register what is happening, before the smooth metal is embedded into my bare arm.
"It's a tracking device," she answers. I am now property.
"Your appraiser will be here immediately. We have a selling in an hour." My mind races. I thought I would have more time. The reality of my situation crashes over me like a tidal wave. "They told me you were a runner. Let's not do that anymore, shall we."
I sit alone, for about a half hour. Letting my thoughts run free.
"Katelyn?" My mother braids my hair. We're sitting in front of the fire. Her thin fingers work delicately, sending tingles down my scalp. I giggle. "How would you feel about having a brother?" I turn, and place my hand on her stomach, there's a small bump, round and firm. Like a ball.
"I know youre used to being an only child, but I know you'll love him, like we already do." I nod. I'm only six, too young to understand anything, but I feel her love, radiating through her fingers, curling around my hair.
I was also too young to understand the screams coming from her room a month later, the rush of the attendants, all the blood. All I can remember is my father's liquor slowly dissapearing. Cup after cup. Glass shattered against the wall, and my Mom's thick grip.
"They said we can't try again, Kates. You're all I have left, my love."
"I can work with this." A man stands over me, "Get up." I try to compose myself. I didn't even hear him come in.
"Who are you?" I ask, but he doesn't respond. His hair is silver, but his face thin, like a rat.
"I brought you some clothes.," he says, "Take yours off." My breath catches in my throat.
"No." I will not undress. Not in front of this man.
"I suggest you do as I say." He holds another needle, longer and duller, with a green liquid bubbling to the surface.
"What is that?" I ask. Silence.
I lift my gown over my head and feel a sense of reliefs as the constrictive fabric floats to the floor. All I have is a corset and a thin pair of white tights. My mind is numb. I try to feel something, shame, disgust. It's as if all my feelings having fallen away.
"This," he throws a dress on the floor. It's tiny and gold. A whores outfit. I shake my head.
"Try it on," This time, it's an order. Feeling brazen, I tell him no. The first bit of hope I have felt since last night bubbles up inside of me. Until his hand comes now hard on my face.
"You are no longer, Katelyn. You are a ward of the Market, and you will be auctioned off to a man or woman much meaner then I am. You have to learn how to play your cards right. Feel lucky that I didn't want to harm the merchandise. But I know ways to discipline that won't leave scars. Trust me." Disgusted, I take the dress, and put it on, feeling his eyes scan my body. It's too tight, and looks forced, I barely recognize myself.
"No." He hands me another. This one is nicer. Even though it still shows to much, the silky ice blue fabric clings to me perfectly. I look at the girl in the mirror. Ratted hair, red eyes, and a slutty dress. I could be from the streets. I feel a giggle rise to the surface. How fast the mighty have fallen.
He pulls my hair and puts rouge on my cheeks. A thin beige liquid is spread across my skin. As if that will make any difference.
"It's time for you to be sold."