Flawed (Flawed, #1)(5)

Written By: Cecelia Ahern

Juniper averts her eyes.

And the tension is back.

“No, it’s not funny, comical, but it’s funny, peculiar,” I say, feeling slapped.

“Thank you, Thesaurus,” Juniper says under her breath. It’s what she and Ewan always call me when I get bogged down by definitions.

Bosco ignores me and continues to direct his gaze at my sister. “Did Angelina teach you, too, Juniper?”

Juniper looks him square in the eye. “Yes, she did. Best teacher I ever had.”

There’s a silence.

Mom enters the room. Perfect timing. “I must say, I was very fond of Angelina. I considered her a friend. I’m … shocked by this … event.”

“I did, too, Summer, and believe me no one feels more pain than I do in this moment, seeing as I am the one who will have to tell her the verdict.”

“You won’t just tell her, though, will you?” Juniper says quietly. “It will be your verdict. Your decision.”

I’m afraid of Juniper’s tone. This is not the correct moment for one of her soapbox airings. I don’t want her to annoy Bosco. He’s someone who should be treated with respect. Juniper’s language feels dangerous. I’ve never seen anyone speak to Bosco in this way.

“You just never know what those among us, whom we consider friends, are really like,” Bosco says, eyes on Juniper. “What lurks beneath those you consider your equals. I see it every day.”

“What did Angelina do?” I ask again.

“As you may well know, Angelina traveled outside this country with her mother a few months ago to perform euthanasia, which is illegal here.”

“But she accompanied her mother on her mother’s wishes, to another country where it was legal,” Juniper says. “She didn’t do anything illegal.”

“Nor is the Guild a legal courtroom, merely an inquisition into her character, and we feel that in her doing so, making the decision to travel to another country to carry out the act, she is deemed to have a Flawed character. Had the government known her plans to carry this out, it would have had a case to stop her.”

There’s silence at the table while we take this in. I knew that Angelina’s mother had been terribly sick for years; she had been suffering with a debilitating disease. I had not known how she had met the end of her days, but we had all been at the funeral.

“The Guild doesn’t take any religious views into account, of course,” he continues, perhaps sensing our doubts on his judgment. “We merely assess the character of a person. The Guild must observe the accepted teaching about the sanctity of life. In allowing Angelina Tinder to return to this country having done what she did and continuing on as she had, the Guild would be ignoring the teachings and instead would be sanctioning anguish and pain. Whether it was in a different country and whether it was legal are beside the point. It is her character that we must look at.”

Juniper just snorts in response.

What is it with her? I hate this about my sister. In everybody else’s opinion, we are identical. Though she is eleven months older than I am, we really could pass for twins. However, if you knew us, we would never get away with it, because Juniper gives herself away as soon as she opens her mouth. Like my granddad, she doesn’t know when to shut up.

“Did you know that Angelina Tinder was planning on traveling to kill her mother?” Bosco asks, leaning forward, elbows on the table, focusing on Juniper.

“Of course she didn’t know,” Mom says, her voice coming out as a whisper, and I know that by her doing this, she wanted to shout.

Juniper stares down at her untouched starter, and I silently beg her to keep quiet. This isn’t fun. A room full of people I love, and my heart is pounding as if something dangerous is happening.

“Will Angelina be branded?” I ask, still in shock that I could actually know a Flawed person, have one live right on this street.

“If found guilty on Naming Day, yes, she will be branded,” Bosco says, then to Mom, “I’ll do everything to keep it out of the press for Bob’s sake, of course, which won’t be difficult, as the Jimmy Child case is taking over all the airwaves. Nobody cares about a Flawed piano teacher right now.”

Jimmy Child is a soccer hero who was caught cheating on his wife with her sister for the past ten years and faces a Flawed verdict, which would be disastrous, as it would mean he couldn’t travel overseas for matches. Among many of the punishments the Flawed face, they must give up their passports.

“I’m sure Bob will appreciate your discretion,” Mom says, and it sounds so smooth and easy to her that I know she really feels awkward and it’s stilted in her mind.

“I hope so,” Bosco says, nodding. “I certainly hope so.”

“Where will she be branded?” I ask, obsessed with this. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around it and can’t understand why nobody else is asking questions. Apart from Juniper, of course, but hers are more accusing than anything else.

“Celestine,” Mom says harshly, “I don’t think we need to discuss—”

“Her right hand,” Bosco says.

“Theft from society,” I say.

“Indeed. And every hand she goes to shake from now on will know just what she is.”

“If she’s found Flawed. Innocent until proved guilty,” Juniper says, like she’s reminding him.

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