My world turned upside down when I went to the bathroom on class break. The giggles and high-pitched conversation of my friends penetrated the gray plastic walls of my stall. I could barely hear them over the buzzing in my brain. I couldn’t even move as I looked down at my white cotton underwear and saw the stain of tell-tale blood. My lips stretched into a huge smile.
But then, as all the implications hammered home, I stopped breathing for a powerful second. Maybe I was seeing things. Perhaps it was a cruel joke designed to raise my hopes to epic levels only to bring me crashing down to the mortal plane. The red on my panties could be magic marker. Or I sat in ketchup in the cafeteria. Except we hadn’t had lunch yet. We were supposed to be headed there next.
Scuffed work boots shuffled by the crack beneath my bathroom stall door and the cracked tile floor. They disappeared from my view along with laughter punctuated by shouts. One person remained in the bathroom.
“Jane?” My best friend, Nili, was waiting for me. Usually that’d be a good thing. That’s what best friends were for, right? Today, I wanted a few minutes alone to process the stunning news. I wanted to dance and sing. I didn’t want to face my best friend and tell her I was destined for greatness, while she would be left behind.
“Jane, are you okay?”
I swallowed and finished my business, taking care to wrap toilet paper in a thick wad and put it in my panties. It felt strange and delicious having the unfamiliar padding. I clicked my ankles together then spread them apart, testing the strange sensation. Slowly I pushed open the stall door and exited.
“Oh, my God. What’s wrong?” Nili stepped forward, her jaw open a little, staring at my reflection in the mirror.
I looked too. My normally pale skin was practically green and covered in beads of sweat. Quickly, I turned the sink to wash my hands and splash some water over my face.
“Jane.” Nili’s voice was urgent, concerned. “What’s wrong?”
I turned to her and said in a whisper, “Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s right. I got my period.”
Supposedly in olden times when all girls got their period it was NBD. No big deal. Now, it was a big deal. Huge. When only one in five thousand women got their period and with it the ability to have a baby, getting your period, was a really freaking big deal.
Obviously scientists had solved the whole reproduction and procreation of the species thing. I mean, Nili and I existed and we didn’t have moms. I’d never met anyone with a mom before. I’d heard there was one man who had one in the next town over, but he was old, like in his forties, and I’d never seen him in real life.
Nili’s eyes widened to the point of being comical. “That’s amazing.” She jumped on me to wrap me up in a huge hug. “Why aren’t you happy? It’s great news,” she asked, stepping back to stare.
“I am happy. I’m stunned. I never dreamed I’d be a Breeder.” My arms wrapped around my flat-for-now chest. I’d probably be getting boobs next, either because they developed naturally or the government gave them to me surgically.
“You’re gonna be a Breeder,” Nili whispered happily. “You’re going to be famous.”
Tears dampened my eyeballs, but I was smiling wildly at the same time. “I’m scared. I wanted to finish school with you then work. In this town. If they find out I got my period, I’ll have to go to Windy City.”
My friend’s expression fell, as if she’d forgotten that girls with the potential to be Breeders were shunted off to major metropolises to be trained and groomed for their future role. “Not for a long time. You’ll still live with us.”
“I know, but everything will be different once people find out.” My hand braced against the low sink counter that ran across one wall of the bathroom.
“I know,” she said, smiling and stroking my hair. “It’s going to be amazing. I can’t believe you’re going to be a Breeder,” she repeated.
I had a few days, a week at most to say goodbye to life as I knew it. Once I revealed my news, camera crews would descend, and I didn’t even know what else. As excited as I was, I was also terrified. Never in my dreams for the future had I pictured a life in the public eye. It was happening too fast. The minute I walked out of this bathroom, life as I knew it was gone. I needed more time. The idea started blossoming through me. No one would have to know. It wasn’t like it was a hundred years ago when every woman got checked weekly.
Now it was sporadic. Maybe once a year. There’d never been a girl from our school unit to develop into a Breeder. I think they’d given up on us.
“Oh no,” Nili said, obviously sensing something in my expression. Our eyes met in the mirror.
“What?” My voice was sharp.
“You’re not going to tell, are you?”
My lips parted to say exactly that. “Of course I’m going to tell. Tomorrow. Today I need time to get used to the idea.”
She threw me a doubtful look. “What’s different about tomorrow? Besides you could get in big trouble for hiding it.”
I hadn’t thought of that. She was right. Women nowadays never went through puberty. They remained in their ten-year-old bodies forever. No boobs, no hips, no hair under their arms. My body, if I were going to be a Breeder, was going to change. A part of me realized I’d already known something was up. My chest had felt tender lately, and I’d had a hard time pulling my school issued pants over my butt. “Shit,” I whispered.
Want to read what happens to Jane as an adult? Reader THE BREEDER