The Academy:The Other Side of Envy(7)

By: C. L. Stone

I stood quietly, thinking it best to move slowly so they could size me up. “Are you all okay?” I asked quietly. “Do any of you speak English?”

Again they stared at me. I wasn’t sure if they weren’t willing to talk because I was a stranger or they didn’t understand.

I held my hand out slowly, in an I-won’t-hurt-you motion, then I pointed to myself. “Sang,” I said. “My name is Sang.”

Again, no reply.

I looked back at Silas and Nathan who were still out of sight in the hallway.

The two moved together, slowly. I looked back at the kids, who were easing over, looking at the door and then at me.

Nathan appeared first. The girl started to back up, eyes wide, and she turned, gripping one of the smaller kids who had been hiding behind her. The child looked to be barely a year old. The boy started to open the door.

It caught. There was something blocking it behind.

“Wait,” I said quietly. “We won’t hurt you.”

“No te haremos daño,” Nathan said.

The boy stopped, putting his back to the door frame. He made fists. “Vete. Nosotros no queremos aquí. ¿Cómo se enteró de nosotros?”

I didn’t need Nathan to interpret to tell me the boy was warning us to back off and go away.

“We won’t hurt you,” Nathan said. He said something in Spanish and I understood he was repeating himself in their language. He said something else, too, longer and then finished in English. “We want to help.”

The boy started to talk. The girl talked over him, both of them speaking in Spanish.

Silas started to retreat behind us. Where was he going? He was tapping at his head, tilting it and listening. He returned to the front.

I turned my attention to the group. Now that the two older ones had moved, I realized what I’d thought was shadow before was actually the other kids. I counted all seven: four boys, three girls. The two oldest ones looked to be our age, and the rest ranged all the way down to the one year old. Seven wide-eyed dirty faces looked at us, the youngest waiting for the older ones to tell them what to do.

My heart tugged at the sight of the smaller ones who looked terrified. If only they knew. We’d help if they’d let us.

Nathan started talking then. He rattled on in Spanish, without looking at me, completely focused on the kids. He addressed the boy, then the girl. The boy interrupted him, sounding defensive and then made a shooing motion, warning us to go away. Nathan held up his hands, spoke again, motioned to me and then continued talking.

I’d never heard Nathan use Spanish. I wasn’t even sure I had known he could speak the language. I learned new things about the boys all the time; that one more new thing cropped up didn’t surprise me, I was just in awe of his ability.

I stepped closer, trying to look unthreatening.

One of the kids looked out from behind the others, staring right at me. I smiled, or tried to. I was mostly trying not to hide behind Nathan and feel so nervous, like one false move could send them all scattering.

Footsteps returned behind us. I turned to see Silas was back, carrying bottles of water, and on top were a couple of plastic bags.

The moment Silas stepped into view, the boy and the girl immediately pulled back. The boy jammed his shoulder into the door. The girl barked at the little ones. I imagined she was telling them to get ready to run.

“Wait!” I cried, holding up my hands.

“¡Espera!” Nathan said. “Please, don’t run.”

The boy stopped for a moment, but kept his grip on the doorknob.

I stepped back slowly, taking some of the bottles of water from Silas. I thought it’d be better if I did it.

I tucked one under an arm, opened the other and then brought them both forward, holding them out to the girl.

The girl stared at me.

“Trajimos agua,” Nathan said, in a calmer voice. “Water. We brought water. Agua.”

Silas suddenly stepped forward. “Agua,” he said quietly slightly accented.

They seemed to relax at this, studying the two of them.

“Pensamos que estabas sediento. Podemos hablar?” Nathan said.

“Podemos hablar?” Silas repeated.

How brilliant! My heart leapt. Silas may not know the language, but he could appear to be just like them if he repeated Nathan a bit. I was happy to let them talk. I held out the bottles again, stepping forward once more.

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