She woke up early that morning.
This happened every time she had something particularly stressful to face; tests, deadlines, that time they held a costume party at school and her mom spent a week sewing various pieces of felt together in the shape of a sailboat.
But this morning was a little different.
Today was Sorting day. Every ninth grade girl in Quanton went into the Sorting. It was kind of like a right of passage. Just last week They had explained that a right of passage is a ritual that one undergoes to achieve adulthood. They said every great culture had them. But she had never seen anything great come from the Sorting.
Last year, her older sister, Diane, went through it.
Diane used to crawl into Sophia's bed at night and brush her hair. Sometimes she would raid the pantry and bring back a bowl full of blueberries, even though they were on ration. They would stain the sheets blue, giggling through their closed lips.
But then Diane was Sorted. It only lasted a minute, but afterward, everything changed. She grew her hair long and braided it down her back. She stole coal from the fireplace and wore it in big circles around her eyes. Sophia sometimes even caught her pacing the perimeter of the schoolyard, eyes straight ahead. Diane didn't crawl into bed with her anymore. She didn't really do anything at all.
Weren't rights of passage supposed to be fun, anyway? Sophia had read all about these lavish parties fifteen-year-olds used to have before the Awakening. She had picked her way through the pile of salvageable books in the old, burned up library on State Street. A tired, wilted magazine had seemingly hundreds of photos of brightly colored dresses, adorning girls with smiles almost as big as their crowns. Fifteen years old was only a few months older than her. She wanted a party with a ballgown. She wanted a crown.
Now, standing in line behind a few of her classmates, she stared down at her grey, shapeless uniform and thought her life couldn't be any different than those magazine girls'. The door loomed ahead of her like a giant mouth, chomping up her classmates and shoving them out of sight.
Her hands began to sweat.
She pushed open the door and for one, long second everything was dark.
Then she heard her a familiar, though out of place, voice.
"This isn't meant for you."
In the darkness, she felt a pair of hands grip her shoulders tightly and steer her around in circles. She heard a grunt, felt a shove, and blinked into the light of the hallway.
Confused, she turned to see her classmates enter the room she was kicked out of. Their shapeless, grey uniforms looking more and more like ballgowns, the right of passage seeming grander and greater the farther away it got.
Every ninth grade girl goes to the Sorting.