Rose lay awake into the wee hours of the night, trying to reconcile how Lily and Ana could be criminals. She understood the reason GRIM existed now. She understood the laws were for the good of the people. And yet …
She got up early, hoping to ask Malinda about it before going to school. Perhaps the teacher had gone overboard. Surely Malinda would agree that the Seed Savers were simply a well-meaning group of people interested in healthy, nutritious food. Agree that even now they weren’t a threat to democracy; misguided, perhaps, but not criminals. In the light of morning, the idea seemed absurd.
“You’re up early, Rosebud.”
“I wanted to ask you something.”
“Sure,” Malinda said, pouring some coffee.
“So, the Seed Savers. My instructor mentioned them in class last night. They’re not really bad guys, right? I mean, you and Murdoch eat real food. That’s all they want … wanted, right?”
Malinda stood still where she was. Rose couldn’t see her face. She turned slowly and sat down. She cupped her free hand over Rose’s. “Those people are dangerous, Rose. It’s why we stepped in for your sake. They would have you believe that all the scientific breakthroughs in the last century were bad. Have us all living hand to mouth, fighting a fallen world.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Rose. “I thought it was fun growing food.”
“You grew food?” Malinda asked, eyebrows raised in a stark V shape. Her hand tightened around Rose’s, and Rose drew it away.
“Uh, no, not exactly,” Rose said. “I learned that tea can be made from the flowers and leaves of certain plants. I thought it seemed useful. A good skill.” She smiled weakly.
Malinda stood and walked around the table, behind Rose. She placed her hands on Rose’s shoulders. “Yes, very quaint. Important, I guess, if you follow the train of thought that you need to reinvent the wheel. Why go to the trouble when you can buy a box or get the powdered kind and add water?”
Rose shrugged. She was embarrassed to say that it cost money to do that. Everyone she was surrounded by now had enough money for everything. Making tea from leaves had been fun. And it had felt like useful knowledge, in spite of Malinda’s attempt to downplay it.
“I just think the ability to grow food sounds like a good idea,” said Rose, turning to face Malinda, Malinda’s hands sliding off her shoulders.
Malinda’s eyes flashed. Her voice lost its sweetness.
“It’s a fairy tale, Rose. Believe me, I’ve tried it. It’s not like they say. There is no romance in gardening. Nostalgia is nothing but sugar-coated memories—it’s NOT REAL. You plant the seeds in great hope, you backbreakingly clean up your garden beds in spring. But come summer, fall, all the weeds are back. The bugs, the worms. Everything needing watered all the time.”
Rose jumped up from the chair, but Malinda shoved her back down.
“Is that how you want to spend every waking moment of your life, a slave to food? Never go on vacation? Come home after a long day at work and go to work again, just to eat? We’ve come farther than that — why go back? Look around. Aren’t people okay here? Is there something wrong with a life free from the burden of feeding yourself?”
She had begun pacing as she spoke, her voice getting louder the way thunder does as it moves closer. Now she towered over Rose, challenging her to answer.
“N-no,” Rose stammered. She grabbed her backpack. “I gotta go. I didn’t mean to upset you.” She dashed toward the door.
“Where are you going?”
“I have a ride,” Rose said, running out of the house.
S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on Twitter. Sign up for the newsletter!