Name: Tina Brockett
Genre: Young Adult
Title: My Lullaby
Mother said my visions were a gift from the devil. I tried to ignore them, and because I had, I was at risk of losing the most important person in my life. My dad. The father I’d not seen for over a year.
Dad lived in the L.A. Zone. Mother, my step-father Carlos, my sister Gabby and I, had moved to Henderson, a sub-division of the Vegas Zone, three years ago. When Daddy’s drinking got so bad that he stopped sending child support, Mother wouldn’t let me visit him anymore. I got it or tried to at least. With the alcohol and his anti-Twelver beliefs, he was a bad influence, but he was also my father.
I exited the border 15 freeway, which also served as a barrier wall to keep the Rebels out. We, the civilized, lived on one side. They, the murderers and lawbreakers, were kept on the outside where they couldn’t harm us.
I tapped the steering wheel. Of course, it had to be the lunch hour, the streets packed with hungry workers. The boulevard, for miles either way, had office buildings, lavish temples and standard issue apartments. They used to be high-end casinos and hotels, but Twelver Law made it illegal to gamble within the Zones.
I slammed on my breaks to keep from hitting the idiot in front of me, who’d stopped at the green light, for no apparent reason.
I don’t have time for this. MOVE.
Then I heard the sirens. An ambulance sped by with flashing lights, and it took me back to Welita’s call that morning. Grandma had sounded so worried, her broken English harder to understand than usual, as she told me my dad had fallen and was in critical condition. She said to come right away.
Daddy, please hold on. I’m coming.
My fingers did another dance on the steering wheel. I had less than twenty minutes to get to the depot, make it through security checks, and board the train. The Express to L.A. ran every hour, but I didn’t have that kind of time.
Ten minutes later I crossed Las Vegas Blvd to hit a side street with little traffic that time of day. East of Vegas Blvd., blocks deep, were greenhouses for those who lived in apartments to grow fruits and vegetables. Law said everyone in the Zone must grow food to help sustain their family, and every resident of age had to volunteer in the community. We prided ourselves on the efficiency of the Zones.
“Oh crap, oh no.” I gripped the roll bar of the Jeep with one hand as I took the corner, a little too fast, just missing a patrol car parked at the side of the road.
I eased on the brakes, waved with an apologetic smile, and kept going. In the rearview mirror I saw him smile, and tip his hat.
“Great way to fly under the radar, Kati,” I grumbled, chastising myself for my stupidity. If he’d pulled me over, he’d have called Mother, and I’d be caught.
They all knew Mother. Lady Prime Ramirez, Secretary of Defense, was their boss.
I stayed under forty the rest of the way. When I pulled into the parking lot, I went to the far side, and pulled into a corner space next to a large truck. If Mother saw the Jeep, she’d know what I’d done.
I didn’t disobey Mother, ever. I served as family maid. Got straight A’s and fulfilled all of my obligations as Prime daughter. Yes, my step-father, Carlos, and Mother are Primes. One of the six couples who serve on the committee of Twelve that govern Henderson’s part of the Zone.
I glanced at the clock as I climbed out of the Jeep. Seven minutes to get through security, and board the train. I had to make the Express to L.A. It was the only way to get there. No one, not even the Zone idiot, would dare drive across the Rebel territories.
I ran to the front. The hot August day, already well over a hundred degrees, had me out of breath and dripping sweat by the time I reached the entrance and a line about ten people deep. I really missed those cool summer days by the beach that I’d enjoyed while growing up in the L.A. Zone.
I removed my shoes then passed through the first metal detector tunnel. Nothing beeped. I stepped onto the traveling belt that transported me to the first check-in station. I searched the arrival/departure screen to see what time the Express left for L.A. Five minutes until departure. I rested my arm on the counter, as I gave my resident card to the guard, to hide the tremble in my hand.
After a cursory glance at my ID, his eyes rose to mine, and the smile instantly disappeared. When his brows slammed into a V, I felt for my crowning cloth. Had I forgotten it in my rush to leave the house?
Nope. The large crème colored triangle with twelve diamond-shaped gems was right where it should be, properly placed to cover half of the forehead then wrapped around the back to conceal my long hair. All Twelver daughters wore them. Mine had an insignia, also, to establish my status as a Prime daughter.
I lowered my hands from my head, and stood up as straight as I could. “Good-day, Sir.”
I hated the gold curly-cue positioned in the middle of the cloth at my forehead. It told people I was better than them. They had to show me an added bit of respect. I didn’t feel better than anyone. As a matter of fact, I felt less than most. I don’t know if it’s because I had a non-Twelver alcoholic dad, or because at home they treated me like a slave rather than part of the family. Maybe it was because I only wore the first cloth I’d ever earned, the crème colored one I had received on my twelfth birthday that all Twelver girls were required to wear. Most girls cherished the new one they earned each year, but not me. I liked my tattered original.
“What do you have on your eyes? Is that the new fashion statement kids are wearing these days?”
The guard shook his head. “Colored eyes, what’s next?”
Crap, crap, crap. How could I have forgotten to put them in? Shoot. What do I say?
“Yeah, they’re the coolest, aren’t they?”
Maybe the strange green eyes and red hair I had, that Mother insisted I hide with brown contacts and hair dyed the same color, so I looked like everyone else that made me feel different.
The guard laughed, “If you say so. Where’s your mother, or are you traveling with your father today?”
I hated it when people referred to Carlos as my dad, but when we’d moved, I stopped correcting everyone. It made it easier. In L.A. some parents wouldn’t let me play with their kids because of who my father was. In Henderson only a few people knew the truth, and the others never asked. Even though I had the surname Callaghan, while the rest of my happy little family went by Ramirez, no one seemed to make the connection that Carlos wasn’t my real dad.
“Neither. I’m traveling alone today.”
The guard raised an eyebrow, and shook his head.
“I’m fifteen, and I have my driving permit. You can’t stop me.”