Pearl's Number

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THIS IS MY RESIGNATION from my chair on the Council." Evalene spoke into the microphone. The cameras recorded her every word. All of Eden was watching. But also, for the first time since the revolution six months ago, the rest of the world would be allowed to see this broadcast.

In the first half of her speech, she described that fateful day to their new viewers. In terms that made Eden look good, of course. How beneficial it was for their country that the Number system had finally been abolished. That part was extremely true. The other side of the coin, which they did not include in her speech, was how much people struggled with the change, how many small uprisings still happened on occasion. But the Council had decided Eden was finally stable enough to reveal the truth to other countries.

The second half of the speech was designed to explain the new government: the Council of Eden. And Evalene had stuck to the script right up until a few seconds ago.

She kept her gaze on the round, black eyes of the cameras surrounding her at the front of the large conference room, even as Luc stepped forward reflexively and Olive's hands flew to her mouth. Murmurs rose among the camera crew and the rest of the room, barely holding back their questions until the end of her speech.

Her chair on the Council could be filled. The only reason she'd been thrust into the role in the first place was because of her speech that day, six months ago. She was the girl in the purple. The one who didn't quite fit in. The one the citizens of Eden listened to because she could identify with both high Numbers and low—this girl made people feel safe. Represented. This girl had been almost unanimously voted onto the Council, despite her age and lack of experience. It hadn't even mattered if that was what she wanted.

Evalene ignored the gasps and muttered conversations. She leaned into the microphone and enunciated so there could be no mistake. "Now that we have a system in place, we've decided it's appropriate to begin holding elections immediately."

Saying "we" was a bit of a stretch. She hadn't asked permission. She hadn't even told anyone until right now.

But her time on the Council had taught her a few things. This broadcast would determine how the rest of the world viewed their country, her home. The last thing she wanted was to make Eden look weak. So, she smiled, pretending they were a united front, while Luc scowled in the back.

"Thank you for your encouragement to myself and the rest of the Council, as we've navigated hard situations," whoever wrote this part had meant it to be a segue, not a goodbye, but it would work, "removing the Number system and creating something better for you over the last six months." She cleared her throat, looking at the wide-eyed reporters, microphones at the ready, on the edge of their toes as if to give chase. Picking up her notecards, she took a step back. "No questions please."

The ending of her speech was intentionally abrupt. She swiveled to the exit on her right, moving quickly. Chaos burst out in the room as the reporters immediately began shouting questions, despite her request, begging her to come back and tell them more. All of Eden watched her practically flee the room on live television. No, she reminded herself, cringing as she ran toward the door: the whole world watched now.

The Council would be stunned. But she'd needed it to be a secret. Luc was too good at talking her out of things, or into them, depending on what he believed was necessary. And she couldn't let anyone talk her out of this. Not now.

Evalene pictured her mother's face. Pearl's clear, blue eyes, just like Evalene's own. Her matching brown hair. The rest of the details were fuzzy. She couldn't quite remember her mother's smile anymore. Or her laugh. Would she recognize Pearl Vandereth if she saw her on the street?

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