Aris turned to Calix and worked her hands around his waist until she held him tightly.
“Tell me again,” she said. “Your father’s friend, the one who works with the Council. He
said you’ll be Health, right?”
“Right.” He dipped to press a gentle kiss to her forehead. “There’s no need to worry. I’ll
be Selected for Health and tonight we’ll Promise, like we planned. This is it. This is when it
all begins.” No fear clouded his gaze. He smiled down at her with excitement, clearly
believing their lives would proceed just as they expected.
She wanted to tell him about Tress. No, she wanted to forget Tress. She leaned her head
against Calix’s chest and listened to the steady, slow beat of his heart.
“Nothing could change how I feel about you,” he said. “You know that.”
She tightened her arms around him, pressing closer: as if this one embrace could
somehow cleave them to their hopes, to each other, and bind them to the path of their
shared future. “I know.”
But her hands kept shaking.
When her number was called, Calix walked her to the massive white door of the Selection
Room. Once seated within, she was washed in sunlight from the floor-to-ceiling windows.
She tried to pay attention as the Council spoke of her family history and the high scores
she’d received in agricultural science, but it was impossible not to think about Calix sitting in
this chair. Calix being Selected.
“And your flying; really, it’s quite impressive,” one of the two Councilwomen said. “In
the trials last fall, you received the highest marks of any in your class, indeed higher than
we’ve seen in many years.”
Attention caught, Aris studied the councilwoman’s face. Would she reiterate Tress’s
offer? He’d told her not to tell anyone, but if his “opportunity” was sanctioned by the
dominion, wouldn’t they talk to her about it now?
But the woman said nothing more. Instead, the ruddy-cheeked Councilman in the center
stood and held out his hand. Aris stood too, reaching out to complete the traditional
handshake. Hopefully he wouldn’t notice her palms were sweating. He opened his mouth.
Say Commerce, say Commerce. The thought was sudden and overwhelming. She’d always wanted
Enviro before, but now—if he says Commerce that means Tress lied.
“We hereby select you for Environment, Aris Haan.”
Her heart froze.
“The Council feels you will be an important and productive addition to the sector, and it
wishes you much luck and good will in pursuing your career.”
She managed a shaky smile and a small nod. Of course you were Selected for Enviro. It doesn’t
The third member of the Council, a short, youngish woman with pinkish-blonde hair,
explained that Aris could now apply to any Environment job for which she was qualified.
No mention of Tress or Dianthe.
There will be little to keep you here
Tress’s words twisted through her mind, more ominous with each repetition. What would
she do if Calix were Selected for Military?
The Councilman stamped her arm with the seal of the Environment Sector, a twisting
black vine that would now forever curl along her wrist and forearm. Aris had always thought the brand would hurt, like getting a tattoo. But she felt nothing.
Soon it would be Calix’s turn.
~*~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~*~
Tracy E. Banghart is a cheesy movie–loving, fantasy football–playing (go Ravens!), globe-trotting Army wife who began “practicing” her craft at the age of five, when she wrote her first story. She loves visiting the international friends she met while pursuing her MA in Publishing and spends a portion of every summer at her family’s cabin in Canada, where she finds inspiration and lots of time to relax on the dock. She lives with her husband, son, two lazy dogs and one ornery cat. When not writing or spending time with her family, she is on a mission to bake the perfect cupcake.
By Blood series
What the Sea Wants