Eight years ago, SILVIA WOOD's father died in an industrial accident. After suffering through years of Psychotherapy Services and Mandated Medications for depression and multiple suicide attempts, she longs to work in Botanical Sciences. When the Occupation Exam determines she must work in Mortuary Sciences instead, she wonders if the New Order assigned her to the morgue to push her over the edge. To appease her disappointed mother, Silvia enters the Race for Citizen Glory, in an attempt to stand out in the crowd of Equals. After she begins training with "golden boy" LIAM HARMAN, she discovers he also lost his father in the same accident that ruined her childhood. Then Silvia meets and falls for Liam's older cousin, whose paranoid intensity makes her question what really happened to her father. As the race nears, Silvia realizes that she's not only running for glory, she's running for her life.
My to-do list dictates that I attempt to cram forty-eight hours of living into a day instead of the usual twenty-four. I’ve chosen a life filled with animals. I train for marathons with my dog, then go to work as a small animal veterinarian, and finish the day by tripping over my pets as I attempt to convince my two unruly children that YES, it really IS time for bed. But I can’t wait until the house is quiet to write; I have to steal moments throughout the day. Ten minutes here, a half hour there, I live within my imagination. Like all busy American mothers, I multi-task. I work out plot holes during runs. Instead of meditating, I type madly during yoga stretches. I find inspiration in everyday things: a beautiful smile, a heartbreaking song, or a newspaper article on a political theory. For example, a long drive in the dark listening to an NPR program on the SMILEY FACE MURDERS theory made me ask so many questions that I wrote HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS to answer them to my satisfaction. I’d love to have more time to write (and run, read, and sleep), but until I find Hermione Granger’s time turner, I will juggle real life with the half-written stories in my head. Main characters and plot lines intertwine in my cranium, and I need to let my writing weave the tales on paper so I can find out what happens next.
INSPIRED BY GUS'S LIFELONG LOVE OF MUSIC, EACH CHAPTER TITLE COMES FROM A SONG: 1- HAPPY BIRTHDAY 2- WISH YOU WERE HERE by Pink Floyd 3- IT'S STILL ROCK AND ROLL TO ME by Billy Joel 4- ROAD TO NOWHERE by Talking Heads 5- STAY UP LATE by Talking Heads 6- GREAT BALLS OF FIRE by Jerry Lee Lewis 7- (PLEASE) DON'T LEAVE ME by Pink 8- THE STRANGER by Billy Joel 9- I WILL REMEMBER YOU by Sarah McLachlan 10- I WANT TO RIDE MY BICYCLE by Queen 11- HOT FOR TEACHER by Van Halen 12- (HE) BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE by Thomas Dolby 13- STOP MAKING SENSE by Talking Heads 14- HURTS SO GOOD by John Mellencamp 15- WHO'S THAT GIRL by The Eurythmics 16- UNTIL I FALL AWAY by Gin Blossoms 17- (MY) LIPS ARE SEALED by The Go-Go's 18- DR. FEELGOOD by Motley Crue 19- UNDERGROUND by David Bowie 20- PRESSURE by Billy Joel 21- EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE by The Police 22- FIREWORK by Katy Perry 23- KILLER QUEEN by Queen 24- DANGEROUS by Michael Jackson 25- THE LADY IN RED by Chris de Burgh 26- WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE by Guns N' Roses 27- COLD AS ICE by Foreigner 28- LIKE A VIRGIN by Madonna 29- CLOSE MY EYES FOREVER by Lita Ford & Ozzy Osborne 30- TRY NOT TO BREATHE by R.E.M. 31- EVERYBODY HURTS by R.E.M. 32- LET'S GET PHYSICAL by Olivia Newton-John 33- STAND BY ME by Ben E. King 34- WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS by Queen 35- STAND BY YOUR MAN by Tammy Wynette 36- BITTERSWEET SYMPHONY by The Verve and The Rolling Stones 37- LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD by Pat Benatar 38- DON'T FEAR THE REAPER by Blue Oyster Cult 39- LIGHT MY FIRE by The Doors
CHAPTER -- HAPPY BIRTHDAY
My tenth birthday was the worst day of my life. Dad had to work late because his replacement didn't show up on time. Mom and I waited for him to come home.
Eight years later, we're still waiting.
Most kids would've requested a Vacation Pass for their eighteenth birthday, but not me. I'd rather forget the whole thing and help Gus prepare the chilled bodies in the hospital mortuary. Dragging myself out of bed and pulling on teal scrubs, I fumble for socks and shoes, as a ray of early sunlight glints off my dad's picture hanging on the gray wall across the tiny room. Once again, his blue eyes capture mine as if he needs to tell me something important. On the floor, beneath the photo, sits a memory trunk full of how things used to be. But I won't open it today. I just can't.
Dishes clink in the kitchen. Mom calls out, "Hurry up, Silvia. I've got a surprise for you." She sounds happy, but I can't tell if it's real.
Since Dad's death, both of us have done a lot of pretending. So far this year, we've been able to avoid Psychotherapy Services and Mandated Medications, but sometimes I wonder if I was sent down to Mortuary Sciences to push me over the edge. Fortunately, I find autopsies intriguing, not depressing. And since I never got to see Dad's body after the accident, caring for other people's dead soothes the empty ache inside.
My boss, Gus, is an excellent teacher and the closest thing I have to a best friend. He always knows what to say to me and what not to say.
Too bad Mom doesn't have a clue.
Mom glances up from her green tea as I enter the copper-colored, modular kitchen. "I planned a big surprise for your birthday."
I tense. "What is it?"
Mom slides over a bowl of organic oatmeal topped with raspberries, normally my favorite. "I got us Park and Art passes today."
"I'm not hungry." I shake my head. "And Gus is expecting me."
"No, he's not. He knows all about it. I told him weeks ago."
"Really?" I cross my arms, not sure if I believe her. "He must be good at keeping secrets. Gus didn't even mention my birthday yesterday."
Which proves he knows me better than Mom does.
She frowns. "At least eat the raspberries, even if you're not hungry. I had to barter for them. And if it makes you feel better, we can pretend it isn't your birthday. It's just some other day instead."
I want to protest more, but there's a determined gleam in Mom's brown eyes¾one that hasn't been there for a long time. And I don't want to be the one to snuff it out.
I half-heartedly take a few bites of breakfast, swallow my eight prescribed supplements, and then return to my bedroom to change into jeans and a long-sleeved, green T-shirt. All my clothes are soft and plain, without decoration, made by hands like my father's. Only Dad proved himself to be Gifted, so he didn't make Basic Worker Level clothes for long. Instead, he got promoted to Government Level clothing production¾a promotion which cost him his life.
"Hurry up!" Mom calls from the front door of our small apartment.
We clamber down six flights of whitewashed cement steps, the stairwell so brightly lit with safety lights that one almost needs sunglasses. Once we arrive on the main floor, we push out into the swarms of people flooding the streets. Dashing across the busy bike path and two empty car lanes, we reach the closest walkway heading toward the park.
Traffic is orderly today. No bikers stray across the wide, white painted lines separating their lanes from ours. Men and women wearing blue scrubs of various shades hurry toward the hospitals and medical facilities. Those in green coveralls rush toward the monorail station to speed off to one of the numerous Plant and Protein Production Facilities.
I glance back at a beautiful, dark-skinned woman, trying not to feel envious of her green uniform. Normally, I don't mind my job. In fact, I feel more at home in Mortuary Sciences than anywhere else. But part of me still longs to spend all day surrounded by plants. Nothing can be done about it now. The Occupation Exam is over, and I've been placed where I'm most effective.
The streets are crowded this time of day. People whoosh past us on bikes as those on foot press constantly forward. Only the car lanes remain vacant. Flapping flags in the New Order colors of red, white, and blue crack overhead. I shiver a little in the cool morning breeze.
We march past rows of tall silver-gray buildings¾offices on the first two floors and apartments up above. We make good time until we hit the Citizen Family Planning and Reproductive Services Building. Traffic stalls. A tall man ahead of us shifts from side to side, waiting.
"What's going on?" Mom cranes her neck and rises on her toes. "Can you see?"
Indistinct voices argue up ahead. Strangers murmur but avoid making eye contact. After a long pause, the people in front of us begin to shuffle past the building. A few cast furtive glances over their shoulders. Everyone's in a hurry to get somewhere. Now I see who is causing the fuss—a red-haired girl, who looks to be about my age, shoves an orderly away. The crowd behind us pushes forward. Tears stream down the girl's pale face. She backs away from the building and turns as if to run before doubling over. She cries out in pain and clutches her swollen belly, breathing hard.
In her moment of weakness, the Suits surround and restrain her.
"I won't do it! I won't do it!" the pregnant girl screams as they drag her away.