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I open the wardrobe and look through the clothes. There are lots of button up shirts all coloured either brown, yellow or green. Not my first choice of colours. What’s wrong with blue, black or even pink? There are white t-shirts and singlets hanging after the coloured shirts, and folded up on the bottom are shorts in colours matching the button up shirts.
Laura opens one of the two draws beneath the wardrobe. Inside are white socks and white underwear. Great, just what a girl needs when they’ve got their period. There is also a set of plain blue pyjamas. At least they aren’t brown. I grab some underwear, a bra and pair of socks.
Laura opens the next draw and there are two pairs of hiking boots inside. “I’ll take you to see Jas and Jeza later so they can measure you.”
I raise an eyebrow at her. “For what?”
“Clothes, silly.” She rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “They are only the best fashion designers in this place, well, they are the only fashion designers, but still, their work is swick. They’ll make you a few outfits to wear on Friday nights.”
“What happens on Friday nights?”
“It’s party night.” She pulls out a pair of boots and shuts the draw. “And I’ll get Ant to make you some swick heels. He’s a shoe maker.”
“So there’s a shoe maker and fashion designers here?”
Laura nods. “We have all types here. Really talented people, but not Talented, you know. I guess other talent doesn’t count as much to them.”
She grabs a brown shirt, a white singlet and matching shorts, bumping the doors shut with her hip.
“Don’t be alarmed by the silver band, we all have them,” she says as she hands the clothes to me.
My eyes widen. “What silver band?”
She lifts the sleeve of her shirt and shows me the silver band wrapped around her upper arm. It’s unadorned and a bit less than an inch thick.
I toss the clothes on the bed and whip off my shirt, not caring Laura is here – there’s a swath of grey cloth covering my breasts anyway.
My eyes land on the band wrapped around my upper arm and I gulp.
“What’s it for?” I ask, my voice small.
Laura shrugs. “Monitoring us, we guess? But who knows for sure?”
I want to groan at the nonchalance with which she says it. I run my finger over it, looking for where it joins together. It’s seamless. I try to get my fingernails behind the edge but it’s tight against my skin.
“There’s no way to get it off,” Laura says. “One girl tried to cut it off once and she almost killed herself with blood loss.”
I look at Laura through the mirror. “What happened to her?”
“She went into the med room and never came back.”
“There’s a med room?”
“There are lots of things here. I’ll show you them all, don’t worry.” She turns toward the door. “I’ll leave you to get dressed.”
Once I’m alone, I stare at the band for a few beats. I hate that’s it there, that I don’t know exactly what is does, or what it’s for. I try to pull at it once more and then sigh. I quickly get dressed and meet Laura in the hallway.
“So with you there’s now six people living here, making this a full house.”
I nod. “How many people are there altogether?”
“156 with you.” A lot less than with the Talented. “There’s enough room for 200 people all up. You’re the first we’ve had in six weeks, since me. They must be getting better.”
I look at her with confusion. “At what?”
A shiver runs down my spine and I shake it out. Laura gives me a tight lipped smile.
I gaze around as we descend the stairs. The living room is large and has a dark brown three seater sofa, a matching two seater and a recliner facing a fireplace inbuilt into a grey stone wall. The wall is bare; I half expected to see a giant moose head or something sitting there with the hunting lodge vibe this place has going on. A large green and brown rug spreads out from under a wooden coffee table, completing the furniture.
“Through there is the dining room and kitchen, and beyond that is the laundry and second bathroom,” Laura explains, pointing ahead. “Boys shower downstairs, girls up. Most people will use the downstairs toilet during the day, but only women use the upstairs.”
I nod, trying to take everything in.
She pauses at the bottom of the stairs. “Ready to meet everyone?”
I’m not, but I nod because what choice do I have? And I’d rather just get it over and done with anyway.
Laughter drifts in from the next room. I follow Laura through the doorway and three sets of eyes turn to me.
A voluptuous woman in her mid-thirties stands. She has dark hair, dark eyes and a big smile.
She tsks as she takes me in. “Another skinny thing.” She points to the seat beside her. “Come eat.”
Laura nudges me forward and I pull out the chair, sitting. They’ve given me a plate of eggs and toast, a bowl of fruit salad and a tall glass of orange juice.
“I’m Maria,” she says. “I’m the cook here.”
“More like gourmet chef,” says a tall, curly haired man sitting across from me. He has a hooked nose and crooked bottom teeth. I’m guessing he’s in his late twenties. “I’m John,” he says with a smile. “Nice to meet you.”
I give him a small smile. “Amberly.”
The boy next to him has shaggy hair that covers his eyes and a splattering of pimples on his chin. He couldn’t be older than 14.
“Blake,” he mumbles through a mouthful of eggs.
Laura sits next to me, grabbing a plate and piling it with eggs from a large bowl in the middle of the table. “Cullum couldn’t even stick around to meet the newbie?”
“You know what he’s like,” Maria says, and I gaze from Laura to her. “First one out, last one in.”
“I guess you’ll meet him tonight,” Laura says. “Or if we see him on the field.”
“He’s reserved,” Maria tells me. “The quiet, thinking type.”
“But totally lava,” Laura adds, and Blake screws up his nose.
“So he’s our age?” I ask.
“A little older. Nineteen.”
“Eat,” Maria urges, and I start on the eggs. I don’t realise how hungry I am until there is food in my mouth and then I start shovelling it down.
Maria smiles. “Good girl, that’s what I like to see.”
The guys finish up and push their plates aside. Both wipe their mouths on a napkin.
“Well, we’re heading out,” John says. “We’ll see you tonight.”
They both pick up their plates and go and rinse them in the kitchen. “Thank you boys,” Maria practically sings, and they smile at her before they leave. I’m guessing she’s the one running this house.
“Everyone does their part here,” Maria says. “Not like up there.” She the tilts her head up.
“I don’t mind helping out,” I tell her.
She pats my hand. “That’s great to hear.”
Both Laura and I have now finished so she stands, picking up her plate. I copy her.
“Come on, let’s rinse these and then I’ll show you around, explain how things work here on The Farm.”
My stomach clenches as butterflies kick in.
Maria puts her hand on my shoulder. “It’ll be all right,” she says with a reassuring smile. “It’s hard, I know, but things aren’t that bad here. For now, this is my family and we take care of each other. You’ll come to think of us as family too.”
I nod. I don’t know if I’ll come to think of these people as family or not. I just want to go home, to remember my real family, to not have to get used to all these people and this new place. To see Lyssa and Tamara and Oliver again. I realise going outside is going to be good; it’s time to start planning.
©Rochelle Sharpe, 2015.