I couldn’t wait to get out of my no-name, god-forsaken, bug-infested marsh of a town. The whole thing was slowly sinking; the buildings into the soupy land, the population as all the old people died, and even my parents. They all had been going downhill so steadily for years that there was no saving them. I was on the boat as soon as I turned seventeen, waving goodbye for as long as I could see my watery-eyed parents, and then looking the hell away. Once I was across the lake I’d be in Vardia, where my life would be so different that I couldn’t even imagine it yet.
There were only five other seventeen year olds with me on the boat, and I didn’t think any of us would be in the same division in Vardia. We talked and laughed the whole boat ride though, clinging onto the last bits of home that were in each other. “Come on Karina,” a girl named Malee said to me, not really surprised. “You won‘t be homesick at all?”
“Why should I be?” I asked, laughing. “Did anyone actually like that awful town or anyone in it?”
“Hey, I like my parents,” she protested. Malee and I had been in the same grade our whole lives and she still wasn’t used to how blunt I was. “You could care a little.”
“Sure,” I said with a shrug and grin. “But really, can’t you learn to recognize sarcasm?”
“Oh Karina,” Rinna cut in, throwing her arm dramatically across my shoulders. “Don’t terrorize the innocents on our last day together, please.”
“You know I’m only joking,” I said, turning to smirk at Rinna. She raised one eyebrow, managing to look serious for one second before ruining it by laughing. “Why do you have to be going into culinary arts and not my profession?” I begged her again as Liam dragged Malee away from us.
“Because I cannot throw a punch to save my life,” she told me sadly, sighing like it really was a life goal of hers.
“No, you can’t,” I agreed, and she made a face at me. There was no helping it. Vardia was as big as a city, and in our two completely different divisions we’d probably never run into each other. I’d be fine I knew, it’s not like we were that close, but she was the only person from my town that I’d be really sad to part ways with.
“Hey you two!” Liam called to us, from where he was leaning over the railing so far that he would topple if I poked him. “Come look, I can see Vardia!”
I was next to him in an instant, squinting to see the horizon. It was starting to look prickly, and I grinned. I’d heard so many stories of Vardia from my teachers-- some of them idiotic, “The place that turns you into an adult!” “The place where you find out who you truly are!” and some of them more practical-- “You choose what you want to do, you work at it, and you stick with it, for the rest of your life,” one teacher determined to make an impression on us whimsical sixteen years old had told us sternly. That made it sound like the kind of place I would like. And as for choosing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, well I’d known that for years.