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Beholden Beauty
by KJ Hannah Greenberg


Kimberly was it; in fact, she was the only girl for miles around. Her mother, like herself, was a genetic oddity. Her father was the principal of the high school that Jeremy attended.

Getting up close and personal with Leroy was unappealing. Dorming elsewhere, in some private school that might, at best, have a student body of hundreds of fellows and one or two girls wasn’t worth the additional effort. Simply, Jeremy had to get Kimberly to notice him.

Problem was, the rest of the high school, except for couples like Ted and Lawrence, also wanted her attention. How awful the Lords of Science had been in implementing their plan for reducing the size of the global population! For the most part, men, who were lacking money, charm, or frightening amounts of testosterone, would never be given the opportunity to breed.

Jeremy wondered why Kimberly’s dad had settled for running a high school. He didn’t seem the sort to want to get friendly with youngsters in bathrooms or in locker rooms. Yet he could have demanded and received nearly any social position as soon as he became possessed of a wife.

If he loved education so much, he would have been smart to insist upon the title of college president, or of lead researcher in a lab. Why a married man settled for a secondary education post remained a mystery to Jeremy. Nonetheless, if Kimberly’s dad hadn’t moved his kin to Hillsboro, Jeremy would never have laid eyes on the exquisite creature whom was his daughter.

Women, even young ones, were rare, odd commodities. They were round in places where men were angular, and were moody during times when men saw no reason to increase or decrease their affective responses to stimuli. Although females wore the same garments as did men, and, in Kimberly’s case, enrolled in the same classes as did youths, albeit always in the company of at least two bodyguards, there was something about Kimberly that was distinctly different from Jeremy’s other friends.

One winter day, Jeremy was able to discover what made men and women so distinct from each other and why government agencies had stymied the rate at which women were born. That revealing event occurred during a rainy span when Kimberly sprouted foot fungus.

She tried to sooth her itch with potions and salves, which she felt predisposed to applying during algebra and during creative writing. Nevertheless, Kimberly took no comfort from those unctures. Resourceful Jeremy became so distracted by her distress that he temporarily forgot about her rare gender and reached into his pack to share some of the comfrey/calendula ointment, which his house father always insisted that he carry.

Jeremy’s care provider was an ace herbalist and, as such, his boys were the least scratchy, fastest healing, and most cleanly complexioned of their school’s adolescents. To boot, those half dozen teens could be relied upon to supply bits and things that were good for healing or for calming to the rest of the student population.

One of Kimberly’s chaperones intercepted the proffered tin. Kimberly slathered the goop on her soles, caring little that the entire class, her teacher included, was caught up in watching her.

Jeremy poked around his backpack a little more, certain that he not yet run out of vessels that might help his indisposed classmate. His hunt was rewarded; beyond a musty gym sock, a few granola bar wrappers, many pencil shavings, and three entwined sets of IPhone earbuds, he found a small tube of homemade, beeswax-based, lip balm.

He handed that valuable cylinder over to another of Kimberly’s escorts, whom, in turn, passed it to Kimberly. The young woman sniffed at the medicine and smiled.

Jeremy felt as though he had already achieved a betrothal. His school’s three hundred pound splendor was his for mating. Though keeping her in chocolates would necessitate him picking some high falutin job in a corporation or in government, neither of which option would dovetail with his dream of working as a sculptor who wrote beat poetry on the side, such a sacrifice would be worth gaining the chance to procreate.

He could be the one in one thousand guys who got to kiss a pimply face every evening and who got to try his luck at making daughters. The genetic engineering that had made women a rare commodity had likewise increased their scarcity with each subsequent generation. Only the best of the best got to marry.

Sighing, he watched Kimberly run a finger along the top of the chapstick. She smiled at him for a second time.

Jeremy moaned. Fortunately, the government paid for the nuptials of any juvenile blessed to claim a wife. The boy weighed whether he should buck class and go directly to the principal to ask for Kimberly’s hand in marriage or merely make an origami animal of the love note he had been penning to her instead of taking notes.

As he weighed his routes, Jeremy gushed and blushed. That sublime girl, the one who was sitting a scant few rows away from him, was rolling his lip balm on her foul-smelling feet.

While he cogitated, Stanley, who sat two rows in front of Jeremy, passed a few tissues to their school’s maiden. Kimberly smiled wildly at Stanley, bent to layer those absorbent bits on her feet, paused, reconsidered, sat up straight, and then wove those paper expressions of softness into her hair.

Stanley turned the color of harvest beets. Shortly thereafter, one of Kimberly’s burleys beckoned to Stanley. After he whispered something into Stanley’s ear, Stanley smiled like a monkey. He left the classroom.

Jeremy watched, saliva dripping from a corner of his mouth. He didn’t break into actual tears, though, until the principal and Stanley entered the room arm-in-arm. The administrator patted Stanley on his back and announced that a weeklong vacation had been added to the school’s calendar, effective immediately.

The class understood what had happened. As they gathered their books, many of the boys tried to take cellphone photos of the couple. Kimberly’s guards confiscated all such electronics.

Last to leave was Jeremy. As he passed Kimberly’s desk, she stood, smiled, and returned his medicines to him. In the process, she lightly touched the edge of his palm and then softly kissed the top of his head.

Jeremy was enthralled. Stanley might be marrying their school’s rare specimen of loveliness, but he, Jeremy, who had yet to take biology, was going to have Kimberly’s baby.



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