The Academy:The Other Side of Envy(6)

By: C. L. Stone

“Haven’t seen you much outside of school lately,” he said.

“I thought you were working.”

“I should bring you to work with me.”

“Okay,” I said, wanting to say something more, but we were approaching the door.

“I’ll hold you to that,” he said.

“Are we ready?” Nathan asked as he put his hand on the door.

Silas nodded. I stood behind him, waiting.

Nathan twisted the handle and opened the door slowly. How did Luke manage to get inside without the kids in there knowing about it? I didn’t see a way in from the roof, and the windows were boarded up.

I’d seen a few Academy jobs. Some I didn’t know the full reason for. This was one of the first ones where I’d been invited along and sort of understood the purpose. There were kids, runaways perhaps, inside this building and they wanted to take them to a safe place and figure out what to do with them. It seemed like something the police might handle. It made me wonder how the Academy chose to do certain things, like the job at school. What drove them?

Nathan stuck his head in through the doorway, checked out the inside quickly, and then stepped back. He motioned to me. “You should go in first,” he said.

My eyes widened. “I said I would be behind Silas.”

“If they see you first, they may not bolt,” Nathan said. “I was just thinking. I mean, it’s a cultural thing I learned in a language class I was taking at the university. Silas might look the part, but he’s still intimidating. We need them to listen. If we push them too hard, they’ll just run. That’s how it is when they cross the border illegally. They’ll run and scatter.”

“Do I say anything?”

“Say hola.”

I repeated it. “Just say that?” I asked. “One word?”

“I’ll take care of the rest.”

I glanced back at Silas who nodded, looking concerned, but still urged me inside with a wave of his hand.

Kota wouldn’t like the change of plans. I wondered why Nathan was doing this now. Was it because we were out of earshot of Kota that he felt more comfortable in taking this risk? I wanted to get it over with and hoped Kota wouldn’t be upset if it went okay. At least I had the boys covering me.

I stepped inside. The room was littered with fast food wrappers, beer and soda cans. The smell was horrifying. It was a cool November day, but the dampness from outside seeped in, so it was chill in the shadows. There was wall shelving, half torn down. Some shelves held old cans of paint, the labels faded and peeling.

I cringed, making myself as small as possible. There was so much to look at that it was hard to focus in front of me so I didn’t step into something. I checked back with Nathan, who pointed forward.

“You’re doing great, sweetheart,” Dr. Green said quietly in my ear.

I wanted to say something back but stopped myself.

Ahead were a couple of doors. Nathan pointed to one. I opened it and there was a small hallway. It wound around to the back.

“Say it,” Nathan whispered.

“Hola?” I called out softly.

There was a small stirring, but nothing more.

Nathan shooed me into the hallway. Silas followed, my shadow. Nathan covered the door. He circled his hand, encouraging me to keep going.

“Hola?” I said again, trying to say it a little louder.

“Si?” came a voice.

“Shhh,” another one said.

I stepped closer, pausing in the doorway at the end of the hallway and looking in.

Inside, I could only see two kids. They were taller than me. A boy and a girl. The stood with hands clutched together, eyes wild. Near the walls closer to me were worn blankets and sheets on top of newspapers piled up together. There were clothes on the floor, and containers of old food. They’d been staying here for at least a few days, if not longer.

From behind the boy and girl came another voice. This one spoke in Spanish, too fast for me to even try to catch up with. It made me realize there were more behind the two, just in the shadow. Being protected.

“Shhh,” said the girl in front.

“Hola,” I said quietly.

The girl looked at me, her eyebrows going together. The boy tilted his head. They wore jeans and T-shirts, their clothes dirty and ill-fitting.

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