The Academy:The Other Side of Envy(10)

By: C. L. Stone

Mr. Blackbourne moved himself around the car, and opened the passenger door for me. Excitement ignited my insides. They all did this, and while I was getting used to it, it seemed awkward still from Mr. Blackbourne. Rather, I felt awkward because he was perfection in leather shoes.

I settled into the seat, slipping a little against the gray leather. While Mr. Blackbourne walked around to the driver’s side, I did a short finger wave to the others.

Luke and Victor waved enthusiastically. Dr. Green gave me a wink, but there was something a little off in it. I wondered if he was disappointed I couldn’t join him at the hospital.

Soon, once he was settled behind the wheel, Mr. Blackbourne took off amid the downtown streets of Charleston, and the barrier the other boys provided stripped away. I watched white strips of clouds amid morning blue sky just to avoid looking at him.

It wasn’t that I was nervous with him, but the topic I had to tell him about was difficult to start, and I wasn’t sure what else to talk about. How could someone like me convince the others to allow me to join the Academy with them? Was I even allowed to ask?

Would the Academy even want someone like me? A girl with a dead mother, a stepmother that didn’t want her, and a father who had run away to a new family? I had my own family now, though I was always uncertain of my place in it. As much as I wanted to believe, I also didn’t want to assume too much of what exactly I was supposed to do.

“From what Mr. Morgan told me,” Mr. Blackbourne said, “you did well today.”

I tried to smile, though it felt like a grimace. How much had he heard? “The boys did most of the work,” I said quietly.

“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” Mr. Blackbourne said. “Although there wasn’t much to be done in this situation. Either they took a chance on listening to us or they ran, in which case, we could either try again or use alternate methods of reaching out to them.”

“What will happen to them?” I asked.

“More than likely, their parents will be found,” he said. “They probably don’t have jobs, so they sent their kids to the states to hopefully become part of the system.” He turned the car down a road in Charleston where there were shops on either side. While I was distracted looking at storefronts and people walking by, he continued. “In any case, we’ll find a better life for them than living on the streets or being separated into foster homes.”

I smiled now, glad to have been a small part of helping others get involved with the Academy. I trusted them to take care of the kids and find them suitable homes, no matter what had happened to them. I was curious as to where they might go and how it might work out, but I understood with the Academy, it might not always be possible to follow every step of the process. You simply had to trust.

A couple more miles and Mr. Blackbourne pulled up along the street to park. We were in a part of downtown Charleston, in front of a restaurant that sat on a corner. The other three corners were bank buildings. There weren’t many people out on a Sunday morning, but the restaurant, simply named Toast, had a couple sitting on the bench out front, gazing up and down the street, looking fresh-faced and excited about the day. Other than that, the restaurant itself appeared as if it hadn’t opened yet.

“Is this place suitable?” Mr. Blackbourne asked.

I was gazing at the windowed doors, seeking out signs of life inside. I nodded quietly. Toast. I guessed it was a place that had great toast? It was a curious little corner restaurant with green wooden wall boxes on either side of the door. Each green box had a front window, and inside each window, a menu was displayed.

So people could look at the menus before they went inside? It wasn’t something I’d heard about before, but then I hadn’t gone to many restaurants.

Mr. Blackbourne parked and opened his door to step out, walking quickly around to open my door before I’d managed to get the seatbelt off fully. He presented his hand and I took it. It was a process I was starting to get used to with the boys, and with some of them, the hand up was occasional, but Mr. Blackbourne did it every time.

Once I was standing on the sidewalk, I opened my hand to let go. Mr. Blackbourne squeezed my fingers gently, holding on while he closed the car door. His cool skin warmed itself against mine.

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