A knock on the door snaps me out of my reverie.
Mrs. Rose walks in carrying a box. There's a boy standing next to her. He looks eighteen at the oldest. He's tall, tan and muscular with short, black hair and brown eyes. I recognize him, he's the first place winner from last year's race.
Mrs. Rose holds the box forward. "This is for you, Rhi. It's…"
"It's my race suit."
She nods. "Rhi, this is Taylor. He'll be your mentor. He's going to teach you how to survive during this race."
I nod and look at Taylor. He's the kind of guy other girls swoon over. He's hot, plain and simple. But I'm not interested in romance. Not since my dad. Not since Frank. Not since my mom gave me up.
Taylor motions towards the box. "Why don't you try it on and then meet me down at the track? I'll see what you know about driving."
I catch the box as Mrs. Rose tosses it to me. "I'll go ahead and make your job easier. I know nothing about cars. I know nothing about driving. I lost all interest when I was five."
"Why?" Taylor asks.
"Because my life ended in a car."
Taylor looks at me, confused.
Mrs. Rose puts her hand on his shoulder. "Her dad was killed in a car wreck and she only lived because he pushed her out of it."
Taylor nods. "Then we have a lot of work to do."
He turns and walks out. Mrs. Rose gives me one final, sad look and then walks out behind him. After the door is closed, I open the box. A purple and black suit, like the ones from Nascar, lies all folded up. I pull out the jacket first. It's soft leather. Leather reminds me of my dad. He worked in a leather store and always smelled like it. Whenever he'd take me to work with him, I'd hide in the racks of jackets. Reluctantly, I take off my longsleeve shirt. I'm wearing a charcoal tank top underneath. I slowly put on the racing jacket. Then I trade my favorite dark jeans for the leather pants. The box has one more hidden surprise, a pair of black leather boots. I slowly pull them on. The leather suit is actually fairly easy to move in. I look out the window. Taylor's out on the track, motioning for people to bring something out. My car? A black Acura-Integra is my race car. No. I refuse to race in that. I turn and run downstairs.
When I get outside, Taylor is wiping the car with a cloth.
"What is that?"
Taylor looks up. "What is what?"
"That car." I stand with my arms crossed.
Taylor stands up. "It's the car you'll be racing in."
I shake my head. "No it isn't. That's the same car my dad was killed in. I'm not racing in that hearse."
Taylor runs his fingers through his hair. "I didn't know…the government…"
"I know. The government picks out each orphan's car. You didn't know that it would be this car. It's the government's way to mess with my head and throw me off so I'll do worse in the race. I get it. But I'm not racing."
Taylor looks from the car to me. "You have to. And this is the car you have to race in."
I shake my head and start backing up. "No. I won't."
I turn and run away.
"Rhi! Come back!" Taylor runs to catch up with me. He grabs my arm.
Taylor looks into my eyes. "Rhi, you have to race. You have no other choice. You know that."
I look at Taylor's hand on my arm. He lets go.
"Fine. But I will not race in that hearse."
Taylor shrugs. "You have to, Rhi. It's either that or you're killed by one of the king's assasins." Taylor puts his hand back on my arm, but more gently. "Rhi, either fight for your life or start planning your funeral."
I look down. Death has been the thing I've craved for years, just so I could be with my father. But if I die, then Mrs. Rose will be without me. And my mom would know I was dead. Even though she gave me up, she would still feel something, right?
I look up at Taylor. The way he's looking at me makes me think that he would care if I died.
I nod. "Alright. I'll race."
Taylor smiles. "Okay. Then let's go back to the track. We have a lot of work to do."