"Dangerous. Right. Because, like, I might have to drop out of school, or I might flunk a couple of GCSEs and not end up as a lawyer or a doctor." Anna rolled her eyes and stared at them as though they were crazy. "Do you think I'm an idiot? I know what you're trying to say. You want me to say I'll be chaste and good and won't even kiss till I'm married. Well, sorry, but this isn't the middle ages."
"Just shut up," said her mum. Quiet. Tears in her eyes. "Don't you see, Anna, we're trying to protect you? Don't be so arrogant! You can't possibly understood unless you hear us out. I promise you, it's not what you're thinking."
But nothing was ever what she thought, was it? For starters there was the whole 'we don't mind who you go out with' and then she got grounded for three weeks for going out with that boy from down the road, Sam. They'd only let her out for her party and that was only a couple of hours. And now ... now they were wrecking her high by trying to talk to her about stuff, embarrassing stuff she did not want to be discussing with her parents, no way.
"So what is it then?"
Janice bit her lip and looked at her husband for support, but he just shook his head. he couldn't explain this - she would have to. "I don't suppose you've heard of a disease called cheleolite faerosa?" she said, her voice quiet and hoarse. Anna stared at her. A disease?
"No, I haven't," she said. She never listened in Biology anyway. It was a nightmare - why would anybody want to be a doctor? There was no point in passing GCSEs because she couldn't afford to go to uni anyway, not for the length of time she would need for the courses her parents wanted. Now, art was a different matter. After all, if she was going to go into fashion ... "Should I have?"
"Well, I wouldn't expect you to." Her mother frowned and passed a hand across her face. "What can I say about it that won't frighten you? It's a very rare disease. There have been about eight cases of it in this country in the last fifty years, and that's it. But every one of those eight cases died when they were sixteen years old because they didn't know."
"Didn't know what?"
"Didn't know that if they got pregnant it would kill them. You see, this disease is named 'faerosa' because they used to think it was caused by the fairies. You know, changelings and all that. The baby inside ... it's like a parasite, but it's nothing to do with the foetus itself. It's the placenta, it gets affected by the disease..."
"You get killed by a baby?"
"It takes everything. Your blood, your fuel ... more than a normal baby. More than anything else. It's caused by a faulty gene or something - that's the cheleolite bit. I don't really understand that. I'm no chemist. But the truth is, Anna, you've got it. They diagnosed it at birth and you can't get rid of it. That's why we have to tell you now ... before it's too late."