The curfew for 15-year-olds in Greenwich was 8 p.m. That was an hour longer than what Annabel was used to. The driving curriculum wouldn’t be added to her schedule until next year. She saw no point in the extended time frame.
Her peers have already decided to use the free time to pursue their future careers. Ian was on the afternoon junior trip to the Committee of Seniors. He had been talking about getting a spot on the Committee with anyone who would listen. It was a rather tiring way to broadcast himself, but Annabella put up with his antics nonetheless. Propaganda wasn’t the right word for his actions. Annabel liked to call it “campaigning.”
It was part of the required English terms she had to memorize back in January. Though Ben discouraged any use of the word past June, Annabel still secretly used it with Ian. A strange feeling would always accompany her little act of disobedience; a rush, a skipped beat, a giddiness that she found fascinating.
But Ian wasn't here now. He was on the trip.
Annabel has been wandering around the Centre Circle three times. She glanced at the clock perched on the tower.
She had been wandering for 15 minutes.
Annabel contemplated finding Christina. She couldn't loiter in an area for more than 20, or else a bot would swoop down and detain her, and she definitely didn't want to cause unnecessary trouble.
Maybe she should just return home like yesterday. Her mother wouldn't mind extra help for the evening meal.
Annabel activated the GPS in her left ear—she always prefered the left side of her body—and studied the suggested path home on the projected screen in front of her. The translucent blue map highlighted the quickest path home, but Annabel thought otherwise.
I want to go home as late as possible.
Instantly, the image flashed in confirmation, and the green line became a rollercoaster. It definitely looked strange and unnecessary, but Annabel ignored it. She wanted to get home late, and her brain agreed.
Polythemus was especially beautiful at night. Annabella and Ian would always sneak to the Flat Hills when they were still freshmen. They are juniors now, but the starry escapades seemed like they had happened yesterday.
“Anna, can you describe what the sky looks like?”
Anna gave her friend an incredulous look.
“You’re telling me no one has ever shown the sky to you?”
He shrugged his broad shoulders--he had been an early bloomer--and faced her with his sapphire eyes.
“They have, but I’ve never actually seen it.”
“What are you saying? Those eye bots should’ve restored your sight! You even guessed the color of my hair, and I’ve never told you about them.”
His calloused hands brushed over the smooth blue eyeballs.
“But this is different. I can touch my eyes. I can adjust them. And when you try to do the same, you hurt yourself.”
Anna instinctively traced the outline of her green left eyeball. She had to undergo the same procedure Ian did five years ago, except for one eye. The bots weren’t lying when they stated replacement of one eye took more adjustment than two, but Anna and her family unit couldn’t afford two.
Her fingers traveled to the grass between her toes. It had the same texture as her synthetic eye.
“The sky is blue,” she started.
“Like the afternoon one?’
“No…” She struggled to pinpoint the appropriate word in her freshman-year vocabulary.
“It’s a much darker blue. It’s like the dark, but it isn’t scary. The sky just… ”
Anna studied the glittering white balls in wonder. Ian’s eyes picked up on the movement and peered up with her. His eyes could only process a gloomy backdrop - something he stared at for hours during his eye procedure.
“Pulls you in,” she finished. Her eyes traveled back to Ian. “Like you.”
Ian didn’t respond.
“I mean that in a nice way. I know it’s early to choose Friends, but I like talking to you. When I become a Junior, I will make you a Friend of mine. That’s a promise.”
Anna’s ears picked up the family bots finally tracing their location. She clenched tufts of grass in her hands. Walking beyond a 10-feet radius from her parents as a Freshman was an offense. A minor one sure, but bots had been sent after them.
And in the dimness of the nightfall, Anna picked up Ian’s subtle nod before a bot’s beams transported them back to their parents’ sides.
Her heart leapt. The twinkling lights always gave her that feeling again. Even now, even when she wasn’t actually breaking any rules as a Junior.
Annabel couldn’t explain it. Did Ian feel the same after that night? She never got around to ask. It became a forbidden topic to say or even think about. She shouldn’t even be reminiscing such a scandalous act in the first place.
But then again she countered herself. It is near curfew. Seniors start home to the Greenwich community and there won’t be much surveillance from the evening to night bot shifts.
Sure the night bots would most likely catch her in the act, but Annabel had a couple of minutes to spare for a wandering thought or two.
She made a left into the small space between two housing units. It wasn’t according to the map shown to her, but she didn’t want to make the longer walk around the units. A curfew is a curfew. She can be late, but no later than 8 p.m.