Author of Young Adult Fiction
Elle Grenier is a Young Adult novelist who lives in Kelowna, Brtish Columbia with her fiancée and their cat, Juniper. She started writing stories as a kid and never stopped, now striving to write the books she would've wanted to see in her teenage years.
When she isn't writing, you can probably find Elle rewatching the same three shows online, playing Taylor Swift covers on a lyre, or lying by the nearest body of water. When she is writing, you'll likely see her downing several cups of coffee.
A Splash of Yellow
In the Republic of January, there are two kinds of people, separated from each other at birth. Azures, like their fathers, are expected to be strong and brave, the future leaders of January. Roses, on the other hand, are taught to be nurturing and soft, responsible for the youth of tomorrow.
Sam Danforth was declared an Azure before they had the chance to make that judgment on their own, but it never quite fit. When they move out to attend January University, everything Sam knows gets called into question by a group of misfits who gather in secret and live free from the oppressive Color Code that has always dictated Sam's life.Now, on top of learning to deal with the added pressures of living on their own for the first time, managing university classes, and hiding and suppressing their growing feelings for their best friend, Vincent, Sam finds themself starting to question their color and the set of norms that dictate life in January.
A SPLASH OF YELLOW: SAMPLE
The birthing rooms in the RoseMed center are one of the few things in January that are actually white. Not ice blue, not a soft pink, but a pure, almost blinding brightness devoid of any shading. Clean. Clinical. The kind of color that fades with a single speck of dust.
It’s meant to be a blank canvas, a fresh start to celebrate the arrival of a new life into this world. There’s plenty of time to color in the baby’s life later. Most parents have already organized parties by now, excited to reveal their precious child’s color-coding. After the birth, they’ll invite their friends and families to come over and visit. The second they get home from the RoseMed centre, they’ll rush to decorate their apartments with blue or pink streamers to celebrate a life that hasn’t yet started but that’s already been set in stone.
This is the kind of room I was born in. For all I know, it could be the very same room.
It’s a strange thing to consider, although I’m not sure why. Everybody was born somewhere, but this isn’t just about being born; this is the room where lives are decided. Families gather here in the birthing room and stare at a curtain that hides away the mother. We stand, solemn, and wait in perfect silence for the doctor to come out and greet us and tell us the news: This is what the baby is. This is who they’re going to be.
I wonder what kind of expectations my parents had when I was born. Dad wanted an Azure, I know that much. He’s told me enough times how glad he was to find out he had a bouncing baby blue, a son who could be strong and bold and everything he is, but more. The day I was born was the happiest day of his life—that’s what he likes to tell me whenever he’s reminded of the disappointment I turned out to be.
Mom never told me what she wanted, though. Did she want a Rose she could grow, someone she could groom into a model of her own poise and elegance? I like to think she didn’t care how I would be color-coded. All she wanted was for me to grow up happy and healthy and everything a mother wants for her child. Simpler goals, or at least more generic ones.
I hate that I’ve disappointed her, too.
She puts her hand on my shoulder and pulls me in, and the lavender smell of her perfume fills my nose. “Are you nervous? I remember the first time I saw someone be color-coded. It felt so strange.”
“I expected this to feel more normal,” I admit. Color-Coding happens daily throughout the Republic of January. It’s perfectly natural, a recognition of the essential differences between Roses and Azures from the moment of their birth. Our birth, I guess, although it’s hard to picture me in a room like this one. Something about the image doesn’t fit.
“It’s a bit formal,” Mom agrees, “but you get used to it. You can get used to anything if it happens often enough.”
I look around the room and try to distract myself from its overwhelming whiteness. Cousins and distant relatives flood our side of the divider, organized by branch of the family. To my left is Aunt Daisy and her son Joseph, who I used to play with all the time until he decided video games weren’t exciting enough for him. He stands there, stone-faced, even though it’s his first Color-Coding too. This has to be as strange to him as it is to me, but he doesn’t let it show. Joseph knows how to keep his composure.
Our unit consists of Mom, Dad, and me. We had to leave Junie home yet because she’s under sixteen, still too young to understand what’s happening here. We’re taught about the Color Code in school, but questions are always discouraged, so we really only learn the basics we’ve heard our whole lives anyway: Azures are providers, Roses are caretakers. This is how the world works. It’s a natural order, like worker bees and their queen.
Dad explained the science once before, when he got tired of me asking questions I shouldn’t need the answers to. It has something to do with the way people’s cells break down, I think. All I remember is Azure bodies tend to build more muscle mass and that’s why they were hunters at the start of humanity, while Roses stayed home and gathered plants. The Color Code descends from that early division, which is kind of cool if you think about it. It connects us to these people from thousands of years ago.
There’s more to the division than muscle mass and the way our bodies look, but I don’t understand the genetic differences Dad talks about from time to time. I’m awful at science. History is more my speed. I love thinking about wars and empires even if we haven’t had one in years. Ever since January was founded, we’ve been entirely self-sufficient; we haven’t had any sort of contact with another civilization in living memory.
Dad thinks I could be a general one day. It’s one of the few things that make him proud of me. I’m not sure how I feel about fighting, but I guess it doesn’t matter. Even to generals these days, war is more theoretical than anything else, which is a relief. I don’t think I could handle the sight of blood, never mind killing someone.
Another scream pierces through the curtain separating us from Cousin Grace. Do people get used to that, too? It’s awkward, gathering around a room and listening to a loved one scream, waiting for new life to be brought into this world. I’m not sure how anyone could feel normal doing that.
I fight back the urge to close my eyes or look away from the curtain, taking deep breaths to try and keep myself calm. Showing discomfort is improper, even amongst first-timers. It’s one of the reasons why there’s a minimum age in place to attend Color-Codings; you need to be mature enough to understand what’s happening and remain stoic no matter how you feel.
The screams and groans finally quiet down as the doctor’s encouragement grows louder. The room goes perfectly stiff, as though the cold coloring around us had frozen us, but the tension breaks with the sound of an infant wailing behind the curtain. We wait a few moments more, and then the doctor arrived, holding a barely distinguishable bundle swaddled in traditional pink cloth.
“Congratulations,” he says. “You’ve got yourselves a Rose.”
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