The Academy:The Other Side of Envy(8)

By: C. L. Stone



The girl stepped forward, taking the bottles from me. She passed them to the kids, who spilled out from behind her to grab for the bottles.

“We’ve got more,” I said, taking the other bottles from Silas and opening one.

Silas knelt, and the kids came up, each taking their own from him. I helped the smaller ones open the bottles. Inside the bags were white crackers and granola bars. I imagined someone had these in their car and thought to provide them as a peace offering.

The older girl kept an eye on us, listening as Nathan and the boy talked.

I leaned into Silas. “I think we did it,” I whispered.

“Good job, Pookie,” Dr. Green said in my ear.

The satisfaction settled in. We did it. Yes, I definitely wanted into the Academy. If this was a job, and the boys were participating in helping other people, this was what I wanted to do.





BREAKFAST WITH MR. BLACKBOURNE





Things moved quickly then. Nathan told the kids we were there to help and how we could do so. Once we proved we weren’t with Border Patrol and we weren’t there to ship them home, it made things easier.

I empathized with their reluctance to return home. I wondered what must have happened to them to run from their parents as they had. If I’d run off instead of meeting Kota, would I have ended up in a rundown building like this?

Kota had us escort the group of kids to the front doors. Nathan explained they wanted to make sure they were healthy, and they would take them to the hospital. When the boy didn’t want to, the girl overrode his decision and said they’d go. It seemed one of the younger boys had allergic reactions to the sheets, either from bedbugs or fleas, and was getting a rash on his leg.

Kota pulled up near the entrance with a black box van. Dr. Green met us at the door.

The boy yelled and pointed at the van.

“No,” Nathan said to him. “No, not taking you back.” He repeated himself in Spanish. He continued to repeat anything he said in both English and Spanish.

Kota remained quiet, as did the others. Nathan did all the talking, which made me nervous at first, but then I understood Nathan was developing a rapport with them. He’d be the one to stay with them until they settled somewhere safe.

“This is just so we can take everyone in the same car,” Nathan said. “Unless you’d like to split up into different cars. We just thought you’d like to stay together.” He repeated this in Spanish and then added, “It’s up to you.”

The boy started to talk, but the girl spoke over him, nodding her head. “Yes,” she said. “Si.” She continued to talk in Spanish and then moved toward the van. The little ones followed. Dr. Green opened up the door, and they piled in.

They all went into the van, with some of the smaller ones sitting in laps. None reached for a seatbelt. Kota turned his head, started to say something, but Dr. Green sliced his hand through the air, silently telling him to let go. “Just drive carefully for now,” Dr. Green said. “We’re not far from the hospital. Let’s just get them there.”

Kota pursed his lips, still slightly frowning but nodded. He only wanted them to be safe. I did, too.

Nathan climbed into the passenger seat next to Kota and then they were off.

I stood aside with Silas and Dr. Green on the sidewalk, watching the others drive off.

Luke materialized beside us. His blond hair was tied back in a black elastic to make a ponytail and his T-shirt was a little big on him, which made me think at first it might be North’s, but it was blue, so perhaps it was someone else’s. His clothes were covered in dirt and grime and his face was smeared with dust. Cobwebs hung from his hair.

He stood quietly beside us, looking up the road after the van. “I didn’t get the chance to ask them what their tacos taste like in Mexico.”

Dr. Green turned toward him, breaking into a smile. “I imagine they taste like tacos here, only more...Mexican.”

“I wonder what Mexican taste like,” Luke said. He grinned and then patted at his clothes. “All I’m going to get now is drive-through breakfast. Maybe a Denny’s will let me in.”

“We’re not far from my house,” Victor said, strolling up from around the corner. His sleeves were still rolled up, and hanging from his shoulder was a leather messenger bag. He smiled at me quickly and then looked to Luke. “We’ve got a new cook.”

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