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It was a hot summer day in central Florida, and the sun was starting to set over the cluster of residential homes I called home. I was standing outside, throwing a ball in the air to practice precision. Precision was a key part of our lives here, or so the adults in my community said. I supposed it was true, with all the archery, spear throwing, sewing, chopping, cutting, whittling and such we did.
From what my parents told me, it wasn’t always like this. They had different childhoods, where they attended school for six hours a day, went to a store to buy food, played with many plastics toys in their spare time and could turn on light in little glass balls at the flip of a switch when it got dark outside. Something happened, something they never told me about, and somehow they ended up here.
It didn’t really matter. All that mattered to me was that a few of these kids, 40 or so, had banned together to survive and chose this offshoot of a suburban neighborhood called Blue Creek to live in. They kept to this area at the back of the neighborhood known as Blue Creek Swamp, and were pretty much left to live alone in peace. That’s what allowed me to have the life I do, one where I could go to the open-air schoolhouse, help out Mama with the rice fields and Pops with his ink and clothes making. Also, I could aid all the community members in whatever they needed and one day grow up to be as successful as them. If I lived outside of Blue Creek Swamp my life would probably be harsher. I didn’t know for sure, as I had never been beyond the area we claimed for ourselves, but I always felt fortunate to have this lifestyle.
I did occasionally wonder what lied beyond us, but I tried not to think too much about the dreams and nightmares I built in my mind because there was no real reason to focus on such a seemingly irrelevant thing.
I kept throwing the ball, and catching it, pleasing myself with my success. At least thirty minutes went by with only two drops. One was caused when my friend Lilly walked by, and wanted to talk. We spent some time chatting with each other about how much we both loved helping the adults with clothes production and farming but hated working with the horses. The second time was when I saw a v-formation of geese flying north. I couldn’t focus on the ball when I was gazing dreamily at the flock, wondering where they would fly.
Finally, my dad came out the door and called,” Lucretia, it’s time for your dinner!”
I followed him inside, where the rest of my family was gathered for our meal. My twin siblings, Vita and Victor, were bickering with each other over who could herd the sheep faster to help Aunt Zoe. My mom was sitting there too, looking off distantly. We had a Community Council meeting tonight, and as both she and my father were members, whatever they had in store for tonight was probably on her mind.
“Lucretia’s here!” Vita shrieked.
“Thank God we can eat now!” yelled Victor.
My mom smiled, then said with a laugh, “Getting better with throwing, I see. You’re more athletic than I ever was growing up!”
My dad and I laughed too. Mama’s athleticism was nearly nonexistent. She only exercised when it was necessary, never for fun.
We sat down, said grace, then went on to eat our meal of barley, lima beans, and corn.
After dinner, we got up from the table and went to the den at the front of our house. It had a large oval mirror in it, which my mom made me sit in front of.
“I’m going to help you fix your hair,” my mom said, as she put my robin-brown locks into a braid. I looked at myself in the mirror, and saw how just that little detail made me look more serious. I still had the same freckles, thin eyebrows, curved nose, and small smile that barely showed my shiny white but partially crooked teeth. I still had my mother’s narrow shoulders and my dad’s cool icey blue eyes. But I had something else too. Maturity, or an attempt at it. I looked professional, ready for the meeting. Ready to be respected, and not just because I was the daughter of two council members.