Today I’m participating in the blog blitz of The Only Boy by Jordan Locke. It just so happens that this story is a about a boy who has to hide his gender from the world, a theme, which ties in rather nicely with A-Z Challenge discussion so far…
Mary is stuck in Section One, living with three hundred women in a crumbling hospital. She wonders what life was like two centuries ago, before the Cleansing wiped out all the men. But the rules—the Matriarch’s senseless rules—prevent her from exploring the vacant city to find out.
Taylor’s got a dangerous secret: he’s a boy. His compound’s been destroyed, and he’s been relocated to Section One. Living under the Matriarch means giving up possessions, eating canned food and avoiding all physical contact. Baggy clothes hide his flat chest and skinny legs, but if anyone discovers what lies beneath, he’ll be exiled. Maybe even executed.
Mary’s never seen a boy—the Matriarch cut the pictures of men from the textbooks—and she doesn’t suspect Taylor’s secret. If she knew, she might understand the need to stop the girls from teasing him. If she knew, she might realize why she breaks the rules, just to be near him. Then again, she might be frightened to death of him.
Taylor should go. The Matriarch is watching his every move. But running means leaving Mary—and braving the land beyond the compound’s boundaries.
Excerpt: From Taylor’s Point of View
The pit is dark and musty. Dirt walls line two sides, and bars surround the rest. Every so often, footsteps tap overhead, but other than that, silence.
No one told me how long I’ll be here. I think the rulebook says three weeks for fighting, but the Matriarch might have added destroying property. I touch my chin, and stubble prickles my fingers. Before long, the beard will be impossible to hide.
I should never have come to Section One. I could have run—disappeared—after the Earthers bombed my compound. Even when the Matriarch sent a carrier pigeon, I didn’t leave. I waited for someone to come. My hair was long, and I figured I could pass for a girl.
I should have realized it was a mistake.
I have no idea how long I’m here—maybe hours, maybe days—before a shaft of light shines across the room. Footsteps approach, hinges squeak, and metal slams shut. Someone is breathing in the cell next to mine. I imagine Katherine sitting inside. It could be weeks of only her and me. I’ll go insane. I crawl away, push my back against the cold wall.
A calm clear voice says, “Taylor?”
I let myself smile. It’s Mary.