As Berries age their colors fade. Bright hues dim to pastels until they succumb to the grayish white that broadcasts their infertility. Survival of our race was the number one priority in Berry. Anyone who couldn’t contribute to our survival, our reproduction, was considered a burden. By the time a Berry faded they would have a family of their own and had earned their keep. Berries that were born faded were a different story. Unable to contribute to society, the Faded were put down like strays.
My stomach churned as I placed the thick tome down on my bed. Why would my parents thrust me into such a world? The culture they dragooned me to embrace was twisted and hateful, and just when I thought the ground beneath me was sturdy, I found myself in freefall instead.
I dialed my parent’s number for the sixth time that night and for the sixth time the reorder tone greeted me. The question weighed heavily on my chest. It stifled any hope of sleep.
Each day was met with the same monotone beeping and each night sunk me deeper into a hole I never meant to fall into. It dawned on me that I would not speak to my parents anytime soon. Perhaps, ever again.
I should have known. When Mom and Pops dropped me off at the private airport, they said their goodbyes. And while I had mentioned visiting during vacations and speaking to them on weekends, their smiles had turned tight-lipped. They knew. As I stepped into that private jet, they knew it would be the last time they spoke to me. They knew and they hadn’t bothered to tell me. My eyes stung. I swallowed the lump in my throat. For the first time in my life I felt truly alone.
I knew the voice belonged to Cream long before I located her. I’d recognize that silvery voice anywhere.
“Do you live here?” She asked, eyes roaming up the three-story condo building. The unit had belonged to my parents before they left for Simtopia. I thought it strange they had held onto the property for eighteen years but everything was beginning to fall into place. My parents had always intended to ship me here.
“I do,” I answered, forcing a smile, “Wanna see it?”
“I’d love to but I’m going to be late to biology if I do. Next time?”
I nodded and joined her.
We had been bumping into each other more often the past couple of days and the more I learned the more I enjoyed her company. She was a sweet girl; the type whose worst transgression was the day she forgot to do her chemistry homework. The kind of girl who prayed for those who hurt her. She was my solid ground among the cave-ins.
I knew better than to stare at her too long now – her life had been hard enough – but that didn’t stop the burning in the pit of my stomach when I caught a glimpse of her. It couldn’t quell the delicious tingles that ran down my spine when her fingertips accidentally brushed against mine.
Cream says that we are attracted to the richest and brightest colored Berries instinctively. That on a biological level we know these are the mates that will provide us with the healthiest offspring. I must be defective because in a world full of color she is still the prettiest thing I have ever seen.
“Welcome to my lovely abode,” I said, stepping aside to let Cream squeeze in.
The condo was just under 600 square feet but had enough space for a full-sized kitchen. A lumpy sofa was tucked away in the corner and a run-down television was situated in front of it. Around the half wall was my bedroom.
“It’s more… yellow than I expected,” Cream said.
I laughed but only because it was true. If it was up to me the entire apartment would be shades of black and red, “Can I get you anything, Madam?”
I sat beside Cream, handing her the remote and drink. She leaned away from me as she began flipping through the channels. The bridge of her nose was tinted pink, the color slowly bleeding into her cheeks. I let my knee press lightly into her own and her face deepened from medium well to rare.
“Are you okay?” I asked. I was no stranger to social anxiety but I did not want to draw more attention than necessary to her. I had been in her shoes before, and the embarrassment that followed often plagued my mind on sleepless nights.
“Yes…” She fiddled with the remote, unsure where to put her hands, “I’ve just never been alone with a boy before.”
Cream was too innocent for this world. Sliding onto the floor, I leaned back into the sofa and stretched out my legs, “Do you like horror movies?”
Neither of us spoke about what I had done, but the tension in Cream’s body relaxed and she curled her legs underneath her body. The sound of chainsaws lulled me to sleep. It was the best sleep I’d had in awhile.