Red Mason was seventeen when he realized he wanted children. He always hated the idea of bringing children into the world they lived in and spending so much time worrying about his babies being picked for the games. All that changed when he held that tiny girl from the village in his arms.
Red walked down the street back toward his parents’ home after his shift at work. His ax thrown across his shoulders, arms looped around it, the black and grey flannel half unbuttoned. He smiled as he passed neighbors down the street, he couldn’t be happier with his life; he would finish school in a week and be promoted to manager at the tree farm, then after one more reaping he would be eighteen and never have to fear his name being called again. That’s when he noticed something odd, the smell of fire. The district was under a strict no fire law currently, due to the lack of rain they had received in the last month; that’s when he heard it, the scream that pierced the air and made his heart skip a beat. Barely a few houses down from his own was Mabel Ore, the local florist and widow to Jack Ore who died four months ago in a mill accident. Red could make out the screams as he ran toward her. Jacqueline, her three month old daughter was stuck inside the burning home.
“Where is she May?” Red yelled grabbing her by the shoulders.
“Upstairs in the nursery.” The woman cried, Red looked back at the house as the flames continued to engulf it. Without a second thought he charged into the home. The houses in this neighborhood were thankfully all the same, Red took the stairs two at a time. When he reached the second floor he saw the fire had worked up the walls and was rolling across the ceiling. The heat was unbearable, and the smoke so thick it started causing him to struggle to breathe. Red quickly shouldered through the door to the nursery and found Jacqueline crying in her crib. Red scooped the child up, tucking her into the protection of his flannel shirt and raced back to the stairs. Quickly as he could without risking a fall he took the stairs down and ran back out the front door, falling to his knees as he hit the dirt road. By now a crowd had gathered around the home, all watching as Red lowered his arms from around himself to stare down at a smiling three month old girl. He smiled back at the child, soot covering both of them head to toe, he started to laugh as he sat down in the dirt still holding her. Soon Mabel walked up to him thanking him.
“May, I’m not the kind of guy to sit back and do nothing.” He smiled at the woman handing the child over. “I couldn’t let this bundle of happiness be taken from our world that soon.” He said playing with the child’s feet, making her coo. May just stared at Red like he had somehow lost his mind inside the burning home.
“Go on home now Red, get cleaned up. Eat something.” She instructed, Red nodded, picked up his ax and started off back toward home, like nothing had stopped him in the first place. That night he went out and bought the ring he had been looking at everyday for a year, he was going to propose to his girlfriend of five years the day they walked away from the last reaping they would have to be in, together.