I look nervously at my phone as I wait, sitting on the bathroom floor. My nerves are killing me, I think I'm going to have a panic attack. At some point during the course of the day, I will receive the results of my fertility test, which means that my stomach has been queasy since dawn and it will remain so until the results come in. I know I am probably exaggerating, the chances of me getting a positive result are very remote, but someone has to be positive and that someone could be me… I shake my head to get that idea out of my mind. I must not think like that. I have to stay optimistic, my test results will come in any minute, and then I will laugh at myself for how nervous I was all week.
Never in my 19 years of life did I contemplate the possibility that I could get a positive result in my fertility test, but since I took the test a week ago I can't think of anything else. The birth rate is so low in the nation of Aequitalia that our government was forced to create a system to ensure our survival: we must all take a fertility test on our 19th birthday. People who test positive are assigned to a fertile partner for reproductive purposes. They have no vote about the partner assigned to them, the Good Regime is the one who determines that and the decision is final. Fertile women are known as Vases and are forced to abandon any other activity or interest that is not related to their reproductive role. The very thought of having to give up my dreams and ambitions makes me feel sick to my stomach. Since childhood the Good Regimen teaches us that a positive fertility test is the most wonderful thing that can happen to an Aequitalian woman, but the reality is that very few people feel that way. I personally don't know a single girl who wants to become a Vase, although of course, none of us would dare to admit that out loud, the consequences of expressing such opinions can be very serious under the Good Regime.
My phone rings, I just received a message. It’s the test result, it’s the test result, it’s the test result. My heart sinks to my stomach. I look at the screen and sigh disappointedly. It’s just a message from Kiara, my intern partner.
Kiara 08:25 am - Melissa, please, don’t forget that today we are working on our project. Be on time!
I roll my eyes, Kiara hates it when I am late and is always giving me hard time about it. Luckily, in a couple of months, we will complete the internship and our trial period to be part of the Ministry of Press and Propaganda will be over. Once that happens I am going to be able to pursue my dream: to become the most famous TV host in all of Aequitalia. Sure, that is if my fertility test result allows it. If I happen to be fertile, I will have to give up the dream of being famous and any other ambition in my life.
Somebody knocks on the door.
“Melissa, honey, you are going to be late. Come out of the bathroom,” my mom says from the other side of the door.
I stand up and open the door with a frown.
“Ten minutes of privacy, that is all I am asking for,” I complain.
“Melissa, you’ve been in there longer than ten minutes. You are going to be late for your internship, how do expect to become a famous TV host if you are always late?” She asks with a kind smile.
I’d have usually smiled back, but today I'm not in a good mood. Today my whole future depends on a simple message, there is too much at stake to laugh nonchalantly.
"Maybe I’m never going to be famous anyway…" I mutter with a shrug.
"Oh, Melissa, stop being so dramatic. Your father and I have already told you a thousand times that testing positive is not the end of the world,” she reminds me.
"Do you really think there is something worse than being a Vase?" I ask without reflecting on my words, it is not until I see the hint of pain in my mom’s eyes that I understand what I just did.
My mom is a Vase. She has dedicated her entire life to our family. Saying to her face that her way of life seems like the worst thing in the world is not only insensitive but rude. I feel a pang of guilt, sometimes I say things without thinking and I end up hurting the people I love.
“Yes, I believe there are many other things way worse than being a Vase, being a Misfit, for example, or a traitor to the regime, a Salamander… those things are worse,” she replies offended.
“Mom, I'm sorry…"
"Hurry up, Melissa, that little friend of yours is going to lose her mind if you're late again," she says coldly.
"I don't even know if it's worth showing up for the internship today, I'm not going to be able to focus until my results come in," I tell her with a grimace.
"Of course you can, you are a professional, and one day you will be a famous TV host," my mom tells me with a thin smile.
I smile back at her, grateful that she has so much faith in me. Sometimes more than I have in myself.
We go down the staircase. My dad, my grandpa, and my little brother Marshall are having breakfast together in the dining room while they stare at the morning news on the small television in the corner of the room.
"I'm sorry we didn't wait for you, we were starving," dad says with his mouth full.
Mom rolls her eyes and pokes dad's arm lovingly as she smiles at him. She hates when people talk with food in their mouths, but she loves us so much she is even affectionate when she reprimands us.