Hold: Hold & Hide Book 1
Copyright © 2015 by Marilyn Grey
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This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
You have been so supportive since the first day and through these books we have grown to become such great friends. I have no doubt that we will grow closer over the years, just need to hang out in person too! Soon, my friend, soon! I love who you are and who you are becoming each day. I truly believe that we never stop growing and morphing into better people. This book series has a lot to do with self-discovery and learning to be who you are in a world that tries to steal your very self from you at every turn. My biggest hope for you is that you continue to unravel the many beautiful pieces of yourself and that you delight in who you are, living this life to your fullest potential with a smile on your face and peace in your heart.
Thank you for your friendship. I am so blessed to know you!
My sister would do better than me. She always did. She looked better, lived better, overall had this magnetic draw to her that made her irresistible and unapproachable all at the same time. Sometimes I even forgot we were identical twins.
I grabbed my boots and sat down on the edge of my bed. My parents doted over Audrey while I watched through the crack between the door and the wall.
“You’ll do perfectly well,” Mother assured her while silently assuring me that I’d fail. “This is the moment we have been waiting for.”
I shoved my foot into the same pair of boots I owned since tenth grade while Father whispered something to Audrey, then kissed the top of her head, something I longed to experience since preschool, but gave up on by middle school. I finished getting dressed and stepped into the hallway as the three of them dispersed as though caught in a devious act. Audrey stood in front of the mirror in the hallway, admiring her glittery new shoes and smooth legs. She turned to me as though I were a shadow of her very self and said, “What do you think?” with her eyes. I nodded and walked toward the kitchen. Her heels clacked behind me until eventually she sat next to me at the kitchen table, her elbow touching mine.
“You nervous?” I said as I picked up my fork.
“No.” She shook her head. “Are you?”
Mother entered the kitchen and flopped a meager portion of scrambled eggs on Audrey’s plate, while giving me three times as many and two slices of toast. I pushed the food around as my stomach pleaded with me not to eat or else....
Audrey ate quietly and quickly with polite gracefulness. Mother peered down at me with stern eyes and pursed lips. I avoided her, but she stepped closer and moved my plate toward me. “Eat,” she said. “You need the energy.”
The gooey mountain of eggs taunted me. I couldn’t do it, but if I didn’t obey the consequences would be worse. I knew that. Mother knew that as she pushed the plate as close to me as possible without tipping it over the edge of the table. I dipped my fork, brought the eggs to my tongue, and closed my eyes.
“If you can’t eat an egg how will you survive this year?” Father said, entering the room from behind me.
I finished chewing and forced myself to swallow. “Survive?”
“We don’t know what it entails, Claire. No one does.” He poured a cup of coffee and held the cup to his chest. “Best to assume the worst.”
I thought I already had, but apparently not. Death never crossed my mind as a possible outcome. Not that I’d mind death, but dying scared me. The process, the pain—what would they do to us?
“How many twins are there?” Audrey said as she washed her plate.
“One girl and one boy set from each province.” Father smoothed her hair and took the plate from her, dried it, and set it back into the cabinet. “It’s nearly a thousand twins total.”
“They will explain more to us when we arrive,” Mother said. “The only information we were provided was when we conceived you and you know as much as we know.”
“But,” I said, swallowing another bit of undercooked egg. “Why you? How did they choose who would have twins?”
Father smiled ever so slightly at Mother. “They said they chose the most promising couples from each province. We consider it an honor to be chosen and to serve our province in this way. You should too.”
“An honor to send your only children to an experiment you know nothing about?” I was leaving. What would the truth hurt now? “We don’t even know what we’ve been given the honor to do.”
I stood and brought my plate to the sink.
“Could you finish all of those dishes from breakfast?” Mother said, leaving the room with Audrey.
“And meet us at the front door in ten minutes. Don’t want to be late.” Father tapped the table, then walked to the dining room entryway. “And yes, we trust that this experiment, whatever it is. We know it is for the betterment of our world. We are honored.”
I wasn’t honored and wondered if Blake was. Hadn’t seen him since summer began. Their parents decided to keep them inside all summer for an “intensive program,” as they called it. I thought about him often. Hoped it wasn’t too intensive. Hoped he was as nervous as me and that we would travel together to wherever we were going. I missed him. The only real friend I had since elementary school and likewise.
An image of Kendall’s body popped into my mind.
I finished the dishes, dried my hands, and sighed. Would I ever call this home again? Would I ever wash dishes in the sink again? Why did I care anyway?
I met everyone at the front door as requested and we walked to the car as the sun peeked over the houses. Other kids stumbled out of their houses and walked to the corner bus stop, where I should’ve been going. Instead I climbed into the back of Father’s car and watched Audrey admire herself in the reflection of the window. The way they all acted I was beginning to wonder if I was about to lose a beauty pageant that ended in death.
Wide-eyed neighbors watched from the sidewalk as our car drove by them. Mother, Father, and Audrey waved with glowing smiles as I attempted to make my frown a little less obvious.
We turned the corner and passed Blake’s house. Their empty driveway sent a shiver down my back. I wanted to see him one last time. I needed to.
Tons of people stared at us as we drove to our destination and finally, we parked at the Center of Initiation for Testing. The historic building was two-hundred years old. Brick painted white, black trim, and red doors. It always appealed to me, whether I feared the inside or not.
We stepped out into the light of the fully awake sun and I scanned the parking lot for Blake’s family car, spotting it, empty, a few yards away. Mother and Father linked arms with Audrey, the three of them strutting into the building as I followed behind. An overwhelming scent of chlorine filled the air inside the entryway as Father scanned his wrist with the detector by the door. A few seconds later, the door slid into the wall and we walked inside.
The chlorine scent vanished, replaced by fresh pine. I inhaled, remembering summers of adventures in the woods. Sometimes alone, mostly with Blake. We built tree houses from scratch until we were sixteen and imagined sneaking out after curfew to watch the stars together. Yet, not once did a romance spark between us. It’s not that I didn’t find him attractive or wonderful in so many ways. I guess I just never wanted to ruin the one friendship I had by complicating it with unnecessary emotion.
Audrey and I sat down in a small waiting area as Mother and Father signed papers at a desk that looked similar to the banks I’d seen in old photographs, places people used to keep their money. I never saw a real bank. They were no longer needed since the chips in our wrists began to keep track of our money, but this place appeared to be an old converted bank of some kind.
Audrey said she wasn’t nervous, but I watched her shake her foot as she crossed her legs and she knew I knew. When you grow from the same Petri dish you know the person better than they want you to. She avoided me as Mother and Father walked back to sit with us. She always avoided me when I saw through her masks.
A loud crash interrupted the quiet room and a door flung open, revealing a wailing woman escorted by two men in all orange clothing. “No,” she screamed over and over, then I made eye contact with her and realized....
I stood, my heart propelling toward my throat. Shaking, I stepped toward her as she passed, but Father grabbed my arm and held me back.
“What happened to him?” I yelled.
“You can’t do this. I didn’t agree to this.” She thrashed her body as they dragged her toward the exit. “I didn’t want this. Those are my babies. Do you hear me? I hate him! I hate him!”
I jerked my arm from Father’s grip and jumped toward her. Another hand held me back. I turned quickly.
“You’ll regret it,” a young guard said. “Stay quiet and don’t make a scene.”
I walked backwards, watching Mrs. Doyle collapse in the parking lot as the two men let go of her arms. I wilted into the waiting room chairs and refused to look at my family. They ignored me too, until the two men appeared again, walked to the counter, then called, “Audrey and Claire Connelly.”
We stood, our hands just touching. Mother and Father hugged Audrey. Father kissed her forehead and said, “You’re going to do great,” then looked at me, his arms awkwardly dangling by his sides as Audrey’s fell back against mine.
“Good luck, kid,” Father said to the ground by my feet.
I nodded. I didn’t crave physical affection, which most would assume given my lack of it. I didn’t need it though. One person hugged me. Just one in my entire lifetime. And he was enough … because it was real.
I walked toward the doors, hoping I’d see him. One man eyed a screen as a laser beam scanned his eyes. The doors opened and the two of them led all four of us inside a dimmed hallway. Behind us Mother and Father were quietly taken to the first room, while we continued walking to the end of the hall. We turned the corner and the hallway opened to a large open room where dozens of twins sat, separated by different color t-shirts.
“Thank you,” an old woman said to the men. She stood from behind a table and handed Audrey an orange t-shirt. “Put this on, dear.” And me, a black one. “And yours, dear.”
“How fitting,” I mumbled.
“We select the colors based on certain specifications, yes,” the woman said. “But it should fit rather loose, if you’re worried about that.”
I pulled the t-shirt over my head and over my other shirt, while Audrey reluctantly did the same. It did clash a bit with her sparkly dress and shoes, but I kind of enjoyed seeing her in something normal for once.
“Take a seat anywhere on the black side,” the woman said to me. “And you, dear, on the orange.”
I scanned the room for Blake and spotted him on the black side, far right, amidst a sea of other guys and girls our age donned in black t-shirts. I caught an empty seat behind Blake, two seats down, and made my way there just as someone else snatched the spot. Sighing, I searched the area and couldn’t find any seats close to him, so I sat in the second to last row in the seat closest to the aisle so that I could catch him before he disappeared.
He sat in silence, his hands clasped in his lap and his head barely moving. He cut his hair. For the last year he had been growing it out to look like an old guitar player we read about in a history book. Big, fluffy afro. That’s what he wanted to do, but now it was shaved down like it always had been before. Others whispered around him, but he remained silent the entire time. I did too, until a girl asked if she could sit next to me. I leaned back as she scooted into the row and sat down.