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Rain. Again. Sheets of the stuff poured down my wall-sized window, the inside of a waterfall. My forehead pressed against the cold glass, I recalled a haiku about rain that I had recently read.
Many raindrops fall
Payment for our grievous sins
Mother Nature weeps
I snorted, a small puff of fog appearing before my face, and looked upwards at the relentless, swollen clouds. If they were really Mother Nature’s tears, then she had some serious mood issues. No one below cloud level had seen even a sliver of sunlight for decades. But then again, maybe we deserved it. With the endless ways we’d messed up the world, this was nature’s method of washing away man’s contamination.
The giant screen on the west wall of my bedroom suddenly flashed black and white, impossible to escape attention. Text flashed in opposite colors: SCHOOL! SCHOOL! YOU’RE LATE!
I cursed myself for sitting here like an idiot and leapt up from my chair, grabbing a packed lunch and my personal computer. As I swept up the notebook-sized laptop its projection broke, leaving my wall screen a blank expanse of stone.
“I heated up a Toast ’n’ Butter Pack for you,” my mother, Angela, announced casually. “Don’t forget to take your Vitamin D as well.” She barely looked up from the news as her daughter clomped down the stairs three at a time. I stuffed a piece of preheated toast into my mouth and simultaneously forced my arms through a rain jacket.
“By the way, Cousin Jake is arriving this afternoon to stay for a few days. He’ll share your room.”
I groaned through a mouthful of bread. “You mean Fake Jake?” Share my room?!
“Don’t be like that!” Angela snapped. “He is an extremely accomplished young man who deserves some respect. He works for the government at age twenty-two! Could you do something like that? No, you couldn’t, because of your constant surly attitude.”
I shot a black stare at my mother’s head, which was bent downwards to read the daily news displayed on the breakfast table. Angela would never understand how insufferable Fake Jake was. She probably worshipped his perfect, hard-working presence.
I muttered a good-bye to my mom and flew out of the house, slamming the door a little harder than necessary. The school bus was parked right in front. I briefly met eyes with the driver (if looks could kill) and clambered inside.
“Morning, Iris!” Aron called cheerfully. She didn’t seem to register my crabby glare as I plodded through the rows of seats. Various students were catching up on homework on their personal computers, playing games, or both.
I hated deflating Aron’s constant bubbliness, so I arranged my facial muscles into a cheerful smile. It didn’t seem to achieve the desired effect, however.
“Something you ate?” Aron asked sympathetically. She shut the lid of her computer, which was decorated with hearts and rainbows, to gaze at me with concern.
“No,” I sighed. “This rain depresses me. And I was just told that Cousin Jake is visiting for a few days, and he’s going to sleep in my room.”
“Jake?” Aron giggled. “You mean the cute guy who came last year?”
“Um, yeah. But seeing as he’s my cousin, he’s kind of out of bounds.”
“Well, cheer up! Come over to my flat later. We can discuss what to wear for the class party at Wanda’s!”
I neglected to mention that the prospect of a party was half the reason for my depression. People got drunk and did stupid things like trying to cut out their identity chip. My thumb automatically moved to the slight bulge at my wrist, the tiny implant that every human received these days.
“… and fourteen-inch platforms are so Foxx right now, I think we ought to get some. Do you have enough credits for that? I do, because I recently got an A for a history report. What about you, Iris?”
“Oh,” I reluctantly diverted my focus to the mundane subject of fashion. “I don’t think I fancy platforms much. Aren’t the boys just going to shrink away from a super-tall girl?”
“But it’s totally Foxx!” Aron objected. “You just have to listen to the most influential woman in the world, the total queen of fashion!” She glanced at my hair. “You might want to dye your hair blonde for the party. Black is so not Foxx right now.”
“My hair’s red, Aron.”
“Yeah, whatever. Lighter hair is in. That’s my point.”
My tresses had always been a topic of dispute. They looked raven black until you shone it up to the light, where it blazed a fiery red. I was quite proud of its unusual color, and not inclined to change it for a short-lived look.
“Well, doesn’t the trend change every week?”
“It’s all the more reason to earn a bunch of credits! Only the smart ones can afford to look current.”
I stared at my friend, who wore an unconsciously self-satisfied expression, and surmised that Aron considered herself one of those people. After all these years, my pal’s innocent egotism never ceased to amaze.