Chapter One (Edited)

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Mother looked at me with tears in her eyes as she fixed my hair for my new job. Her fingers tremble as they tuck away the flying pieces behind my ear, tenderly. I can tell that this new job is probably hurting her much more than it is hurting me.

At the age of seventeen, everyone in the Kingdom of Ostium undergoes a test in which will figure out the best suited job that one must work at until the day he or she dies. I took that test a week ago and got my results back yesterday.

I will be working at the palace as a maid and must start tomorrow. Which means a day trip in travelling to the palace.

Of course, the job doesn't sound as bad as the others that I could have had. Being a maid I will probably just be cleaning and helping prepare the royal family for whatever is going on in the day. But, I would rather be a seamstress, a trader, or even the barn cleaner than have to ever step foot in that palace.

Our rulers are vicious. Only caring about the wealth of themselves, while putting the rest of us in danger of being under attack and starvation. They think lowly of anyone who has to live off the successes of them and treats them as if they were dirt. It makes me sick that I will have to be the one to polish their shoes, when most of the people in my area can barely afford food to put on the table.

Mother silently clips the emblem of the palace on my cotton, button down, then steps back to observe me. I see her tears filled eyes scan me up and down, knowing that appearance is everything, so I can't have one hair out of place.

"You look uniformed," she says with her lips quivering.

She turns away to gaze at the small bag that holds my sleep attire and any other essentials I need. I can tell she is trying to be strong, but I see right through her visage.

I look around my room one last time, before I have to go. I see the chipping paint. I see the hole in my ceiling. And I see the wonderfully woven blanket Mother made me last Christmas. The feeling that erupts in my chest is indescribable as I come to the realization that I am officially leaving my childhood home.

"Mother, I will come to visit at any opportunity I can. I don't want to leave you. I'm so sorry that I got stuck with this. I know it's all my fault," I say as the tears start to pool their way into my eyes. I duck my head low, trying to hide the fear and disappointed look that must be showing on my face right now.

Mother turns abruptly and holds my head lightly in her calloused hands, looking me deep in the eyes. "Don't you dare say this is your fault. It's those damn people in the high chairs fault. It's their fault for making you feel like this. For making me feel like this. For what happened to your father and sister." She stops for a moment as the words get caught in her throat. The subject of my sister and father always being a sore subject.

She coughs and then looks me in the eyes, fear laced in them. "Please lay low Sera. Don't bring any attention to yourself that could put your life at risk. Remember, 'Yes, Sir/Ma'am' and 'No, Sir/Ma'am.'"

"I know, Mother. I promise to return to you in one piece. You and I won't have to be alone long, I promise," I say, hoping to ease some of her pain.

She smiles and shakes her head, "You are never alone. You will always have me, your father, and Dev right here." She places her hand on my heart gives me a smile that gives me the hope that I may not be alone, after all.

She gently wipes the tears from my face and then wipes her own, trying to look strong for me. So we won't have to say goodbye with too much pain. "You best be off now, sweetheart. Please write me whenever possible."

"Of course, I will," I grab my bag and walk to the rotten doorway, touching it like I have done many times before. I try to tell myself that I will be back soon to visit, but it won't ever be the same as living here.

Mother walks me outside, so that we are standing at the edge of our yard. I look down the broken street that I will have to follow to go to the train station. "I love you," Mother whispers into my ear, giving me a hug goodbye.

"I love you too," I say, returning the hug, taking in this moment as much as I can, before I have to let go. I reach down for my bag and walk away from the life I was accustomed too and walk into hell's fire.

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