Ever since she was little, Jean always knew what was expected of her.
She was cute and blonde. That automatically made her stupid. At least, according to her father, that was what she was destined to be.
So she perfected the art of being ‘stupid’.
She took to ‘Valley-girl’ speak, always maintained a very extensive wardrobe, and hung out with the ‘cool’ people. She always handed her father a straight ‘C’ report card.
At least, that was what he thought. The report cards were always doctored. Her teachers were always informed the first week of class that just because she was blonde did not mean that she was an idiot. She needed two different grade cards: one with straight ‘C’s and the other with her actual grades.
They suspected that her home life was not the best, but - as long as she maintained her grade point average - they were willing to go along with her scheme.
It was not until her mother divorced her father, that she was allowed to drop her mask, and by that time it was so settled into place that she just maintained it because it was familiar. She had dropped the extra ‘report card,’ but maintained everything else.
So, when her mother stated that they were moving, secretly she was thrilled. She, however, was still so deep into her mask, that the ingrained fit followed the news immediately.
The community that they moved into was nice, quiet, and very suburban. She liked it there. It was close to the mall, and she made friends very quickly.
The whole thing with David and the Chosen allowed her to lose even more of her mask. She was still forced, even among others like her, to don her mask.
Sarah, she was the worst of them. Jean always wondered if it was because she, too, was blonde. Sarah was always trying to force her to break away from her mask. It just was not as easy as Sarah made it sound. Jean had lived with it nearly as soon as she understood what was expected of her.
Jean understood that they all had masks. Soon, they would all have to be rid of them. Just so that they could show the Council that they were strong.
Julia, she was starting to crumble. Her brave face truly made it hard to see that her mask was failing. It was noticeable in little things now, though, and she would disappear for hours on end. Disappear to a place that none of them could ever find. She very effectively would fade away into the background. It was an ability as ingrained as Jean’s speech.
The others’ masks were not as blatant, but they were resorting to other things to keep them in place.
Bobby was focusing more on non-reality. Mikayla was now smoking. Tanna made everyone else her business, refusing to focus on her own problems. Ray was buying things just for the sake of having them. Adam was falling further into politics. Karen refused to acknowledge anyone, even her soulmate. Erik always had a book in front of his face, now. Sarah was now instigating fights with nearly anyone. And Sean?
Sean was actually very straight forward with his mask. Wherever he lived before arriving at the Palace, they had deemed him homosexual, and so he accepted that as a mask. Jean had snorted when he informed her of that. He never seemed interested in anything like kissing, handholding, or anything else a couple should. He did, however, like to talk. He liked to talk about anything and everything. He was a true romantic, but focused on the setting and the occasion more than what would happen afterward.
She was proud of him. That he was the first to break away from the mask that he was forced to wear. Secretly, she wished that she had his strength.
Jean startled when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up and smiled brightly at her soulmate.
“What were you so deep in thought about,” Sean asked, plopping on the couch next to her. “I called your name three times.”
Jean smiled faintly and flipped through the magazine she had previously been looking through.
“About masks,” she said faintly. “And, like, about how we’re going to have to, like, lose them. The council, you know, is likely to notice, like, soon that we are, like, not the children they first, like, bullied into becoming the Chosen. I, like, know that I can’t, like, be as strong as you, like, are.”
Sean shook his head, reaching over to pull the now mangled magazine from her nervous hands.
“Jean, you are strong. All of us just need a push into the right direction. The others will realize that they cannot hide any more. It’s not just a matter of time, it’s a matter of survival,” Sean stated, grasping her hands and pulling her from the couch. “I think that Erik and Adam are going to be the first to figure it out besides us, of course.” He chuckled. “I think that they already have. Adam has called a meeting for the thirteen of us, tomorrow. He said that Erik had found something in the old tomes he’s been reading.”
Jean looked confused. “But, like, Erik’s been reading books. Like, small paperbacks. They, like, looking nothing like the tomes that Adam found.”
Sean flicked her in the forehead, smirking at her glare. “And I assume that Adam has been reading only political references, then?”
Jean nodded, and then frowned. “Oh.”
“Yep. Hiding their work in plain sight, they were.” He turned her toward the hallway door. “Let’s head to dinner. You’ve had enough time to brood.”
“You are, like, so mean to me,” Jean stated, pouting.
“Right and you are just as mean to me,” Sean laughed, pushing her toward the door. “Last one to the dining hall has to endure whatever movie the winner decides on.”
The two tore past half of the group, leaving their laughter as the only indication they had been in the hallway.