Amy’s Note: this scene was once part of the second chapter of the book, designed to show just how strict The Academie system was as well as Allie’s confusion at living in a world of values very different from her own. Ultimately, it has quite a bit of ranting in it and the severity of the system could have been illustrated elsewhere in the book, so even if I hadn’t decided to start the story after Allie entered The Academie (a year after this scene took place), there’s a really good chance it still would have been cut.
I awoke early despite how late I fell asleep and the fact that I woke up a few short hours later to turn off the TV. Matt, however, slept in. Thankfully, he didn’t need to report in The Academie until after noon. This fact, unfortunately, did not keep my mom from hounding me.
“I told you not to stay up too late! Now how’s he supposed to make in there on time?”
“Mom, Matt’s never been late for anything. I seriously doubt he could be late for this! He’s been looking forward to it for months!” She appeared angry and genuinely concerned, but it seemed it might also be a cover for her fear and sadness that he was going away.
The reality and panic of losing my brother was setting in for me too. I started to wonder if there was any possibility to pull him out for a week or two this summer so that we could take a family vacation together like we always have. What about Christmas? Had I unknowingly experienced the last of our holidays together for the next three years?
“Mom, will Matt be able to come home for holidays?”
“I don’t think so. They have some kind of a thing there for them.”
“Not even Christmas?”
“You heard the announcements on T.V. They don’t want the students to leave the school. The success of the system is based on the students staying there until they complete their education.”
If it weren’t for the sorrowful constriction in her voice, she’d have sounded like an Academie commercial. It bothered me that she seemed okay with it. She was going to miss him, it was clear, but she supported the system nonetheless.
Already short-tempered from lack of sleep, it took all I had to keep myself from losing it. “What about for an emergency? What if Grandma dies? Does he get to come home for the funeral?”
“I heard somewhere that you can get students out for an emergency if you give at least a day’s notice. But it has to be an emergency. If Grandma dies, I don’t know. I’m not sure if we’d pull him out for that. If it happens, we’ll have to decide then.”
“What? Are you crazy?” My attempt to control myself was unraveling. “Don’t you think that he’d be ticked if you didn’t let him go the funeral?”
“Allie, I don’t know. We’ll worry about it when the time comes.”
I’d had enough. I stormed upstairs to finish getting ready to go. The whole idea of time away from school impeding the learning process fit perfectly my theory that the true purpose of our educational system was to prepare us all for cubical jobs. It was the perfect way to get us ready for a nice, little, climate-controlled environment with a boss or two or three looking over our shoulder, reminding us that our ideas were not as good as management’s and that the best way to move up was to keep your mouth shut and do as you are told. So heaven forbid we’d like to take a student away from this carefully controlled environment for any reason—they might get ideas! Perhaps they’d realize that there was a colorful, sweet-smelling world out there, filled with changing seasons and bustling with adventure and excitement. Certainly, we couldn’t have that! Capitalism might just fall apart if people decided not to hide themselves away in offices for a couple bucks a week—if they decided they’d rather have time and freedom to do things, explore, and simply live their lives—even if it meant that they may not be able to go out and buy the latest and greatest new thing the moment it hits the market.
I stewed about it as I tied up my hair and prepared to go. Why didn’t my parents care? How could they have bought into this so completely? How was Matt okay with the idea of not coming home again for years?