Greta helps me put on my translucent. It falls over my body, hiding my curves and swells with the purity and flatness of white.
“It fits you well, sister.”
This is a new translucent as I have grown over Summer. The last one was beginning to show my skin around my ankles, and the skin upon my wrists.
Greta’s translucent is also white, so white it is almost blinding. Only her hands and face are revealed, but I know she is a woman with hidden curves like mine.
She has me sit on a stool, and carefully shaves my head, then I do the same for her. I wonder what her hair will be like when she intertwines with someone. Will it be golden, like Mama’s? Or the mahogany of Papa’s? It is hard to tell from the little specks of growth my razor cuts through.
We inspect each other. There should be no area of temptation. We are pure of mind, and of soul. We hold hands, and I look into my sister’s eyes. There is something there that I haven’t seen before and I wonder what it is.
“Lord, be with us, deliver us from evil,” we recite, and then we break apart. It is time to go.
As we walk to the teaching pod, we keep our minds free from troubling thoughts that would betray us. It is hard, but I have learnt that if I count then I think of nothing and no-one. I try not to look at the other faces as I go by. 52, 53, 54. I see Cara as she walks past, her translucent is white as always. 76, 77, 78. We pass Andrea, her translucent is a muddy brown, she is tired, and I can see that on her face. 103, 104, 105. Then there is Matthew, his translucent is bright red. So red, it’s almost beautiful. He stands out amongst all the white. I am so stunned, that for a second I stop counting, and just stare at him. It is not only his translucent that is red, but his cheeks burn with fire. It has been a while since I have seen true anger.
“Come on Ana.” There is a pull on my arm. It is Greta, but it is too late, my new translucent picks up on my feelings and starts to change. It is a lovely shade of blue, like the colour of the deepest ocean. I stroke it, reverently, and it shimmers. Blue is the colour of compassion. Yes, it makes sense I should feel this for Matthew. He looks at me in awe. It is not the first time our eyes have met, but it is the first time we have seen each other. He smiles, and I find the edges of my lips rising up to meet his. The red from his translucent fades away to be replaced by an emerald green. I inwardly gasp. That colour is contraband.
“Ana…” my sister whispers beside me. I look down in mounting horror as my own translucent mirrors that of Matthew’s.
It is not long before we are pulled away, both separately. The female sentries take me, and the male sentries take Matthew. I try to cast one look back at Matthew, but my head is harshly twisted back. “Do not look,” a sentry warns.
My translucent is awash with colours now, black, yellow, greens, blues. It is so much I feel I might break it. Then I begin to count again. 1, 2, 3. And think of nothing and no-one. 4, 5, 6. And my world returns to order, to the blandness of white.
The sentries bring me to my tutor who is not pleased with me. He is an elder who has been mated, and he does not need to wear a translucent, but I can clearly see his feelings on his face.
“Ana 5413. I understand you have been lustful?”
Have I? I’m really not sure, but my translucent would never lie. “I… I think so,” I stammer.
“Do you have feelings for this boy… Matthew 192?”
Feelings? My words fall out of me in my haste to be rid of them. “I must have. I remember thinking that the red was so beautiful, and then I was feeling sorry for him, and then…” then he smiled at me, I want to say, but I don’t in case my translucent betrays me again.
My tutor sighs. “Green is the colour of lustful thoughts. There can be no lust among our young unless you want decadence and evil to fall upon us. Is that what you want Ana?” he arches one eyebrow.
I feel as if the fate of our carefully ordered world rests upon me. I shake my head. “Of course not.”
“You are only fourteen, that’s two years before your intertwining. Up to now you’ve had an unblemished record. Tell me, have you met with this boy?”
“No. Never. I only see him sometimes when we walk to the teaching pod.” My translucent remains white protesting my innocence for me.
My tutor’s eyes remain upon me, waiting for my translucent to shift hues, but it remains firm.
“Very well then, consider this a warning. But I’ll be moving Matthew 192 to a different teaching pod. Remember Ana, you must be pure of mind and of thought.”
“Yes.” I bow my head low, and take my leave. My parents will be displeased. A blemish upon my record will affect the candidates for my intertwining. This will bring shame upon our family, and the taint of lust will be upon me.
That evening at home my translucent is black, it is a terrible colour, and it drowns me further in its depressing torment. My sister’s translucent is still white, I do not understand how she feels nothing for me. Mama and Papa wear their sadness and disappointment on their faces.
“Do not worry Ana, you will still intertwine. It was nothing but a smile between a boy and a girl,” says Greta, as she strokes my back.
“Were you counting?” asks Mama.
I nod. “Yes, but then the colour red, it distracted me. I haven’t seen red in so long. I wonder why he was angry?”
“It doesn’t concern us what he was feeling, our concern is with you.” It is Papa. He speaks so harshly. His words offer no comfort, no warmth, and I can see my Mama bristle. “Greta’s intertwining is days away. She has been able to remain pure without any incidents. You should be more like your sister.”
His words cut me. Little, sharp incisions and I feel I am bleeding. My translucent grows even blacker, threatening to swallow me into its darkness. I escape to my room where I let my tears flow freely. I do not want to hear their truths.
Soon there are soft footfalls and my sister is beside me. My pure sister, so white, she still feels nothing. “Don’t let their words hurt you sister. I know you have done no wrong.” She smiles at me, and then holds me to her. I feel all her curves against me, even though I don’t see them. We hold for a long time, and it feels good. As we pull away her translucent is still pure white, but the black of mine is fading to grey, as if it has been touched by her goodness.
It is the day of my sister’s intertwining. Only the purest are allowed the privilege to couple and to bear fruit for our world. My sister is a saint, now seemingly unblemished by emotion of any kind. It was not always this way. I remember not so long ago seeing her translucent struggle to reflect a rainbow of colours as she grappled with many emotions all at once, but now the only colour it ever shows is white.
She smiles at me, as she stands in line, waiting for her turn to behold her partner in life. This is the final test. It is especially important not to show any other emotion other than the pink of happiness. I hope for her it is a good match, and someone is chosen who matches the purity in her soul. I also hope, (and it is a little sinful of me to think this), that her partner is someone who is easy to look upon and to lay with. I am careful to have these thoughts quickly and banish them away before my translucent decides to show me again for the unworthy that I am.
The line moves up and then it is my sister’s turn. She smiles, gleaming white, and then her partner is announced. Tomas 547. He looks fine enough as he stands awkwardly next to my sister. After a while, his translucent starts to shift to a pale pink. I wait for the pinkness of my sister’s translucent, but it still remains white, unbudging, unyielding. She is still smiling, but the smile doesn’t reach her eyes, nor her translucent.
Afterwards they leave holding hands. She is coupled now, intertwined with a partner for life. They will mate later. Her hair will grow long, she will have babies, and she won’t have to wear her translucent anymore.
“Are you happy?” I ask her later, when we are alone in the new quarters she has been assigned with Tomas.
“Yes, very,” she says, but she doesn’t look at me when she says this. Her voice sounds strange, strangled almost. “He is a good man.”
I pull her face towards mine. She is crying. Are these tears of happiness? But then why is her translucent still white?
She looks at me with my questions. My own translucent is orange, ripe with confusion.
“It’s been broken for a while, Ana. If you feel too much you can break it. Swarm it with emotions and it overloads.” She pulls her translucent off, and stands naked in front of me. It has been a while since I have seen my sister naked and she has grown, her breasts seem heavier, her hips slightly fuller, and her belly now has a small bulge.
“I am with child, and it is not Tomas’.”
My sister, the saint, is a sinner. “He will never know,” I whisper, and I feel wicked in my complicity.
“He can never know,” my sister agrees.
“Just three months.”
“He will think it is his, children are born early all the time.”
“That is what I was hoping for, after we mate tonight.”
“We must be honest with how we feel, but it doesn’t mean we have to be honest.” The words of sin fall from me, but my translucent is full of compassion.
“I love someone else.”
Her heart is broken. I have nothing I can offer her, other than my embrace. I hold her like she held me not so long ago. “All will be well,” I whisper, and I silently pray it will be.
It is one year gone and the baby is doing well. My sister has named him Jackson and I remember a boy called Jackson 212 with freckles and smiling eyes who used to walk our way. Tomas is none the wiser and a doting father. He is a good man, and a good match for my sister.
My sister has long blonde hair now, past her shoulders, and Tomas’ hair is a chestnut brown. Jackson’s hair was a fire red colour, but it is all shaved now, as is the way.
My own coupling is a year away, and there have been no more transgressions which has pleased Papa greatly. He tells me that my sister’s intertwining ceremony has helped me to turn over a new leaf, to be in control of my emotions. I nod, and I say nothing, for fear I will burst out in laughter.
In truth I now wear my sister’s translucent, and so I am forever white and pure despite the feelings and emotions surging within. My sister smiles at me. It is our secret. In time we will pass this translucent on to all our children should they need it.
“Lord, be with us, deliver us from evil,” our family recites in prayer, but I am busy thinking of Matthew 192. I located him a month ago, and we will meet up today, in secret. My cheeks flush pale pink at the thought, but my translucent as always glows only the purest of white.
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Great use of the prompt, and very dystopian. Even flirts with horror :) I like the twist with the broken translucent. I say twist, because I didn't see it coming at all. I thought that here, we had two sisters with very different outlooks - one who feels too much, and the other who is completely numb inside. But this twist is great, because it opens the door for conspiracy and future adventures. I now wonder how many other people are running around with perma-white ones, and if there's an entire sub-culture of youths who trade them as ne...
Hi Michal, it was first time sharing anything on Reedsy. Thanks for stopping by and reading. I'm glad you liked it.