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I present to you, the first chapter to Is Love (Volume 1).
CHAPTER ONE“Ridley Mulligan, do you understand your crime?” the judge’s voice echoed throughout the marble hall.“No, Sir. I’m afraid that I do not.” I folded my hands in my lap, trying to appear calm. Even though I could feel the fear creeping through, trying to penetrate the false courage I presented to the council.“Ms. Mulligan.” Judge Evans removed his glasses and placed them gently on the podium. “You are here because you were found to have violated the Caiden Act, remember?” I didn’t answer. “Council, will you please present the footage that you have discovered? Maybe that will help to jog Ms. Mulligan’s memory?"Please, no. I wanted to run forward, to admit my wrong doing. To stop what was about to happen. But I didn’t. I couldn’t.“They’ll just add a Defiance Violation onto your sentence. Don’t fight them, Ridley. It isn’t worth it,” Vera Knight, my appointed defense advisor, whispered. She leaned forward, laying her hands atop mine. “You can’t dispute the evidence.”She was right. I knew that. But it didn’t help to calm me down. I watched in horror as the wall in front of me projected my worst fears. My time with Kieran was on display for the entire council to see.“With this footage as evidence, Ms. Mulligan, I hereby find you guilty of violating the Caiden Act. You will be sentenced to two years in the outer compounds, where you will serve your time as a Matron of the Order.”“Your honor, if I may?" I took to my feet. I could feel the tears rushing down my cheeks as his words processed in my mind. “Please,” I pleaded, “Can’t I remain here? I can offer my assistance to the Hall of Caiden.”“Ms. Mulligan, your sentence has been issued. You have until dawn for your goodbyes,” he leaned back in his chair. “Do not pack any belongings, the council will provide you with everything that you’ll need.”“Your Honor!” I screamed.“Mrs. Knight, please escort your client out of the Hall, or else I will be forced to add a Defiance Violation onto her sentence, prolonging her stay in the compounds.”“I’m sorry for the disturbance, your honor; we will be on our way now.” Vera grabbed a hold of my wrist, dragging me out of the hall. Once we were safely out of the Service Hall, Vera spun around and slapped me across my face. “What were you thinking, Ridley?”“I was thinking that I don’t agree with the judge’s verdict, that it isn’t right that I’m being punished for going against the Caiden Act,” I replied, rubbing my right cheek. “He’s sending me to the Outer Compounds, Vera. We both know what happens out there.”The entire city knew what happened in the Outer Compounds. It was, for the most part, a death sentence. Hardly anyone survived out there, and the few that did, when they came back, they were never the same. There was an edge to them, a sense that, at any moment, they could snap.The Outer Compounds were for criminals, and I wasn’t a criminal. Caiden Act or not, I was not a criminal. “I don’t belong there, Vera.”“You violated the Caiden Act, Ridley. The judge didn’t have any other option.” She placed her hands on her hips. “It’s not so terrible, you know.”“What do you mean it isn’t so bad?” I hissed.“The Caiden Act,” she replied. “They know what is best for us, Ridley.”But they didn’t, and I couldn’t understand why Vera was unable to see that. The government could give two craps about us. The only thing that they gave a damn about was my ability to conceive a child. My happiness, my life, it meant absolutely nothing to them. They didn’t care that I was miserable, as long as they produced their “perfect” offspring.“What is going to happen to Kieran?” I asked softly.“He’ll be sent to one of the Discipline Centers within the Outer Compounds.”Discipline Centers was the polite way of saying torture centers. He’d spend a few months there, and then they would send him back, and assign him to a proper match. They’d wipe me from his memory as if I never existed. And I’d be left to my misery, trapped in the Outer Compounds, where I would be forced to complete a two year sentence, before being sent back to the city of Caiden.That was, assuming that I survived the compounds.“I should be on my way,” I stated. “I only have a few hours to say goodbye.”Vera smiled, reaching for my hand. “Goodbye, Ridley.” I turned to walk away, but she pulled me back. She moved in so that her mouth was near my ear. “Whatever it takes to survive out there, you do it. Do you understand me?” she whispered. “I need you to promise me that you will do everything that you can to survive in the compounds.”I nodded and yanked my hand free of her hold. “Goodbye, Vera.”I could feel my heart shattering in my chest as I said goodbye to my family. Knowing that they were disappointed in me only made it worse. I let them down, and I knew that, but I couldn’t deny what I felt. I couldn’t pretend to be happy with someone else determining my life for me.I’d spent enough time around my parents to know that I didn’t want what they had.Their lives were constructed for them. They didn’t love one another, and it showed, no matter how much they tried to hide it from me and my sister. Happiness was a hard thing to fake.“You’ll be okay,” my mother cried. “You’ll be okay.”I wanted to believe her, I did, but I knew that the world outside of Caiden was much different from anything I could ever imagine.The Outer Compounds, which were also referred to as the Rings of Chaos, were not meant for the weak. And I was weak; far too weak to fight for a life I wasn’t sure was worth living anymore. What was the point when I would only be forced to succumb to the Caiden Act in the end anyway?My heart ached for Kieran, the one bit of happiness I’d allowed myself in Caiden.But I’d need to forget about him in the compounds.I’d need to forget everything that I allowed myself to feel.A guard knocked on the open door. “It’s time, Ms. Mulligan.”
Add Is Love (Volume 1) to your to-read shelf on Goodreads.
Is Love is a novelette series that questions if love is enough to keep us alive. I started writing volume one nearly two years ago, but it wasn't until mid-2012 that I really knew where Ridley's story would go. The series will be made up of three novelettes (each around 10k words), and I'm planning to release one a month beginning in January 2013. I should mention that this is not the final text, and it can very well change before it is published in late January. So consider this to be more of a teaser.
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