Word Count: 34,648 / 50,000
The lamp’s globe almost slips from my grip for the fourth time this afternoon. Aunt Kelly draws in her breath sharply as I catch it with the ends of my fingers.
“Lyddie, please, focus.”
“I am,” I say, frustrated. That’s the worst part – I’m trying so hard to get this right and am getting nowhere.
“Well, just… try a little harder, okay?” I can hear my aunt’s aggravation, which doesn’t help my state of mind, or the headache throbbing at my temples. “You need to remove the globes carefully and clean every bit of soot off of them. We can’t have any traces of black.”
I am in no mood to do this chore. This isn’t a job, it’s housework. Besides, jobs pay. What do I get for this? Nothing! In fact, less than what I started with. I hate this stupid job with its stupid requirements; Aunt Kelly first had me scour the lamps’ bases to make sure they were perfectly clean, resulting in the beginnings of my headache. Now I can’t even clean a freaking globe right, I can’t even go to college so I might as well just drop out of high school-
I place the globe a little too hard on the table. “I need a break.”
“We’ve only been working for forty – five minutes.”
“Well, I still need a break, okay?
“Don’t give me attitude, Lyddie.”
“I just need five minutes to take some aspirin, okay? Being thrown into this when I had a million other things to do is kind of stressing me out.”
Aunt Kelly retrieves the globe I abandoned, concentrating a little too hard on wiping it clean. “You really need to focus on this, Lyddie. It’s the most important thing right now. You’re having to catch up on years’ worth of training, and it’s going to take all of your concentration.”
“I know that,” I reply, irritated. “But I do have homework and piano and life and stuff.”
“Lyddie, right now, none of that other stuff matters. At least not until you’ve finished your training.”
“And then I start the job, so all of that will be gone for good.”
“That’s not necessarily true. I’m still talking to Dr. Philips about when a good time for me to step down. You may have a few years.”
“So then I can go to school.”
“But I could do both! Things are different now. Insane multi-tasking is part of the high school curriculum these days.”
“I haven’t been lantern keeper for that long.”
“Yes, but even twenty years ago, you could get by without a college degree. Now… you can’t do anything without one.”
“You can’t! Not for what I want to do. It can’t happen.”
Aunt Kelly looks pained. “Lyddie, I can’t believe – I don’t know how to explain it more clearly. You don’t need to go to college now that you’re lantern keeper because… you have no use for it. You’ll never – you can’t… be a publisher. It would be too much. I know you, Lyddie, and I know that you can do anything you put your mind to, but you can’t do this.” She sees the look on my face and hurries to clarify. “It’s not that you can’t. No one can. It’s not advisable. I know what you want, Lyddie, but you’re going to have to switch gears now. Your future has been decided for you.”
“That’s not fair! You don’t understand what a disaster this is for me-”
Aunt Kelly’s mouth falls open. “I don’t understand?!” Her voice has lost all its sympathy. “Do you think this is what I planned for myself? My entire life I watched your mother be prepped for service and I was so grateful it wasn’t me. Then, just after I had gotten a good, steady job, I heard that Leah was gone. Do you think I wanted to leave my job to take over something I never wanted in the first place? No. But your father needed me and you girls needed me. You are in the exact same position as I was, Lyddie, except you have the benefit of being warned before you could start an outside life. You should be grateful.”
I’m feeling a lot of things right now, but I can’t safely say that grateful is not one of them.