For once the classroom wasn't full of exotic smells on a day we were seeing the boys. The usual excited chatter was gone as well. Yesterday's lesson still hung heavily over us. This was going to be the awkwardest meeting ever. I wondered if they'd had the lesson yesterday as well. If they were having all these lessons to prepare for union. Maybe if everything worked to plan, I'd be able to find out.
Ai and I whispered the whole way to the park, going over everything one more time. About halfway there, the fear hit.
“Ai, what if they don't feel the same?” Ai didn't have an answer for that. We were silent the rest of the way to the park. Once there, we lined up in our lines. The looks on the boys faces were all somber. That was all the proof I needed to know that they'd had the lesson as well. Anwell and Niyol came over. Gave us both half smiles. My stomach was in knots. The four of us automatically walked over to the rock, not saying a word. When we were all sitting on the rock, no legs were close to touching. Everyone stayed in their own little area. No one else was around us. The silence was deafening.
“Alright. Renata and I have something to tell you,” Ai said breaking the silence. Then she nodded at me, wanting me to continue. That wasn't how we'd originally planned this. We'd barely got here and we were already deviating from our plan. I gulped and looked around, just to make sure that no one could hear us.
“I don't know exactly how to say this. So I'm just going to come out and say it. We want to switch partners.” There. I'd said it. Anwell and Niyol just stared at me for a second. I knew the exact second they registered what I'd just said. Their foreheads scrunched up. They glanced at each other, sharing confused looks. Then they looked at the both of us like we were crazy.
“What do you think?” I asked. Them not saying anything was killing me.
“What are we supposed to think?” Niyol asked.
“Is this a joke?” Anwell asked.
“No. We're serious,” Ai said coming to my defense.
“You can't be though. They assign partners for a reason. If everyone just up and switched all the time, then there would be no point.”
“Yeah, what he said,” Niyol agreed. I'd thought they'd be hesitant but not straight out opposed. The Anwell from my dream wouldn't have been. Luckily Ai spoke up.
“Boys, honestly. Think about it. Anwell, do you honestly want to spend the rest of your life with me and all that comes with that, when you could be with Renata the girl you grew up with? The two of us can barely have a conversation without me giggling every five seconds to fill in the awkward pauses.”
“Niyol, do you want to be with me? We don't even bother filling in the awkward pauses in our conversations,” I pointed out. The boys were silent to these, but they were listening. A thought popped into my head right then, and I just said it before thinking it out. Might as well say everything.
“I'm assuming from the looks on your faces that you had the same lesson we did yesterday. Remember what they talked about in the video? Attraction? Well, I'm sorry Niyol, but I just don't feel that for you.” I cut my sentence off there, letting them infer the rest. My face reddened a bit.
“Yeah, and Anwell, sorry but I don't feel that for you either.” Both boys exchanged glances.
“Say that we felt the same way. I'm not saying we do, but say we did. This is crazy talk. That's going completely against the rules. Going against the rules resulted in the fall. Do you guys want to be like those people?” Anwell said. I stared back at him. He was right. People disobeying the rules had caused chaos before the fall. Once some started disobeying, everyone did. They did whatever they wanted. They were violent. They hurt people. Some even their own children. And then it got so bad that almost everyone was wiped out. Humanity had had to start over again. And that's how the communities had started up again and all that came with them. Including assigned union partners.
I knew all this. Yet, I still felt so uneasy. I didn't want Niyol. I wanted to be with Anwell. The feeling was so intense. If Niyol was truly my perfect partner, shouldn't I feel this way about him? Not Anwell? Our numbers were so close together. What if a mistake had been made? There had to be some mistake. This feeling was so real.