Maybe be could even keep him, Lily suggested sweetly, trying to look innocent. The look was fake, Jonas knew; they all knew.
Lily, Mother reminded her, smiling, you know the rules.
Two children one male, one female to each family unit. It was written very clearly in the rules.
Lily giggled. Well, she said, I thought maybe just this once.
Next, Mother, who held a prominent position at the Department of Justice, talked about her feelings. Today a repeat offender had been brought before her, someone who had broken the rules before. Someone who she hoped had been adequately and fairly punished, and who had been restored to his place: to his job, his home, his family unit. To see him brought before her a second time caused her overwhelming feeling of frustration and anger. And even guilt, that she hadnt made a difference in his life.
I feel frightened, too, for him, she confessed. You know that theres no third chance. The rules say that if theres a third transgression, he simply has to be released. Jonas shivered. He knew it happened. There was even a boy in has group of Elevens whose father had been released years before. No one ever mentioned it; the disgrace was unspeakable. It was hard to imagine.
Lily stood up and went to her mother. She stroked her mothers hair.
From his place at the table, Father reached over and took her hand. Jonas reached for the other.
One by one, they comforted her. Soon she smiled, thanked them, and murmured that she felt soothed.
The ritual continued. Jonas? Father asked. Youre last, tonight.
Jonas sighed. This evening he almost would have preferred to keep his feelings hidden. But it was, of course, against the rules.
Im feeling apprehensive, he confessed, glad the appropriate descriptive word had finally come to him.
Why is that, son? His father looked concerned.
I know theres really nothing to worry about, Jonas explained, and that every adult has been through it. I know you have, Father, and you too, Mother. But its the Ceremony that Im apprehensive about. Its almost December.
Lily looked up, her eyes wide. The Ceremony of Twelve, she whispered in an awed voice. Even the smallest children Lilys age and younger -knew that it lay in the future for each of them.
Im glad you told us of your feelings, Father said.
Lily, Mother said, beckoning to the little girl, go on now and get into your nightclothes. Father and I are going to stay here and talk to Jonas for a while.
Lily sighed, but obediently she got down from her chair. Privately? she asked.
Mother nodded. Yes, she said, this talk will be a private one with Jonas.
Excerpted from The Giver. Copyright (c) 1993 Lois Lowry. All rights reserved.
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