Avoidables 5(2)

By: Rachel Medhurst

‘Layla, it’s okay. William is just trying to shake your hand in greeting.’

‘Why?’ I burst out, not thinking before I spoke.

‘It’s a way to be polite, do you not have hand shaking in Lower Side?’ William said.

‘I don’t know. I’ve never lived in Lower Side. I grew up in the rebel camps,’ I replied. My stomach clenched, waiting for the judgement.

Nothing came.

William looked at me and nodded his head, his face completely clear. I swallowed as he smiled suddenly and spun away. ‘Let me introduce you to Amya,’ he said, gesturing for us to follow.

The buildings around us were well made with white walls and red roofs. I noticed greenery through a gap and decided that I had to take a look. Purple had told me he’d seen grass and trees here when he’d come for the trial. I forgot the others as I walked through the gap in the buildings and stood on the edge of the green grass. It was a bit like hair but vivid in colour. The trees were tall and skinny, like a Perfect’s figure. I stepped forward and felt the earth spring under my feet. My shoes were thin soled but strong. I was surprised at how soft the ground was under me. I was used to hard dusty earth in the desert. Jason had told me the grey hard ground we’d driven on in Upper Side was concrete. I didn’t like the feel or look of it, but I really wanted to sink my toes into the lush grass I now stood on.

‘Hello…’ came a tentative voice behind me.

I looked up and glanced over my shoulder to see a small group of people watching me. There were two men and one woman. Each one of them were stunning and I glanced down at my shabby clothes. The men were wearing suits and the woman was wearing a smart black dress.

‘Since when was it common for Avoidables to be walking around the compound?’ the female said, rolling her eyes.

I noticed how they all stared at the birthmark that crept up my chin, over my jaw and onto my cheek.

‘Don’t say that,’ one of the men said, glancing at me and then looking away.

‘I’m Henry,’ the other man said, coming forward and offering his hand.

The woman gasped and walked away, grabbing hold of the other man and pulling him along with her. I was still looking at Henry’s hand. It was such a strange greeting and I really didn’t understand why everyone wanted to touch me. Was it a novelty because they’d never seen any Avoidables?

‘I promise I won’t hurt you,’ he said softly.

I turned to him fully and reached out my hand. I noticed how his eyes travelled over the birthmark which started on my middle finger and made its way up my arm. I thought he would pull away, but he didn’t. He took my limply offered hand and shook it. I almost jumped out of shock - a Perfect was shaking my hand.

‘What’s your name?’ he asked, letting go.

I studied him then and noticed his dark brown eyes. They were the same colour as mine. He wasn’t too much taller than me, but he was quite broad. I still had to look up to make eye contact with him. His hair was cut shorter at the sides and longer at the top, similar to Jason’s hair-style. In fact, most of the men I’d seen walking the streets had a similar cut. His skin was darker than mine. He looked Indian.

‘Layla,’ I muttered when he raised an eyebrow. I was staring at him. I couldn’t help it. Jason was the only Perfect male I’d seen up close and he was more like us now anyway.

‘Are you here to see Amya? I’ve seen she’s a bit of a fighter and won’t let anyone near her.’

He spoke very well and I stared at him, wondering why he was taking the time to speak to me. Was he even allowed to be communicating with me? Had the rules become lax overnight?

‘Henry!’ a stern voice shouted from across the grass. I looked over to see an older blonde female with short hair.

‘Catherine,’ he said to me, gesturing with his eyes.

I’d heard of Jason’s mother and hoped she wouldn’t come over.

‘Don’t worry about her, she’s crazy,’ he said looking me up and down.

When he’d finished his appraisal of me he shrugged and walked away. I shook my head. For a minute there I thought he was being nice, but reality soon reasserted itself when I watched him join his friends and start laughing with them.

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