Esther Velez

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Category: 2010-2015 (page 3 of 3)

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The Study Club: Episode 2

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“Okay, that’s enough for today.”

Xavier closed his notebook. It had been a difficult hour and a half. They reviewed everything from Napoleon to chemical nomenclature. He wasn’t even sure if he would remember half of what Maurice taught him, but it didn’t matter. Every second he got to spend in Vicki’s presence made it worth it. As he gathered his things, he knew that this was going to be a wonderful semester.

“Hey, Vicki,” he said, glancing at her. “Do you have anything to do after this? I’m going to get something to eat with my father, and I thought it’d be nice if you came along.”

Vicki turned to him and smiled nervously. “I’m sorry, Xavier, but I’ve got other things to do. And, besides, my mother is coming to get me, and she had to drive almost an hour to get here.”

He knew she was lying, but her face shone brighter with every lie she told.

“It’s okay,” he said, standing up. “We’ll just plan for something tomorrow, all right?”

Vicki shook her head. “Xavier, I don’t want anything to do with you. We have to be in this club together, but that’s about it. We will never be friends or anything more than that.”

He felt his face turning red. He wanted to believe that she didn’t mean it, that she was just playing hard to get, or whatever that meant. He wanted to believe that he could come back to club tomorrow and she’d have changed her mind. But something in her face told him that he was wrong to hope.

Xavier watched as she turned her attention to Maurice, who was quietly packing up his stuff. So that was it. She was in love with Maurice. Xavier held back a laugh. Didn’t she know that he was their tutor? He wasn’t allowed to break the strict tutor/student relationship. Vicki was going to get her heart broken.

But as he walked out the classroom, backpack slung over his shoulder, he thought it would do her some good. Everyone needs to get their heart broken once in a while. She would survive.

Would he survive? Probably not.



Maurice quickly closed the door behind him. It was already 4:05, so that gave him fifteen minutes to get home on his bike. His sister would be back at 4:30, and he wanted to get home before her. He had heard some rumor about her that he wanted to confirm.

There’s no way I’m letting Jimmy take my sister. Not without my approval. And there’s no way he’s going to get it.

Maybe he was biased. He didn’t care. Jimmy was a bad dude, and he didn’t want his sister getting caught up in any of that.

He walked down the hall as quickly as he possibly could without running. Even though school had been over for almost two hours, the hall monitors never let up their posts. He didn’t need a detention to ruin his record.

“Hey, Maurice, how did your study club go?”

He didn’t want to stop, but he recognized the Principal’s voice and slowed down. He forced on a smile.

“It was great, Mr. Madison. We’ve got two great students who are really focused and want to bring their grades up.”

Mr. Madison smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. “Always good news to hear, Maurice. Keep up the good work.”

“Thank you, Mr. Madison,” he said, turning away. He needed to get moving. His sister was almost home and time was wasting.

It didn’t bother him to lie to Mr. Madison. The man didn’t understand anything going on in this school. For all he knew, every single student here was bound to Harvard or Stanford or whatever other Ivy League school that anyone who is anyone goes to. The reality was that no one was bound to go there, not even himself. Maurice didn’t want to break Mr. Madison’s heart with the truth of Vicki and Xavier’s lack of focus, dedication, or even brains. Mr. Madison wouldn’t be able to handle it.

But he wouldn’t have to lie for very long. By the end of the semester, he would have them fixed up. And maybe, just maybe, they’d leave with a diploma.

He laughed.

Yeah, right.



She watched as he closed the classroom door. Vicki tried not to swoon. He was even more handsome when carrying his leather briefcase. She had tried to pay attention to the things he taught them, but she couldn’t get over his perfect face. It didn’t matter what Maurice said about tutor/student relationships. She would win his heart before the semester was over.

So what do I do now?

He was already halfway down the hall. She ran to catch up with him, but slowed her run to a brisk walk when she remembered the hall monitors. She wouldn’t want them to catch her running and slap her with a detention.

“Hey, Maurice, how did your study club go?”

It was the principal. Vicki couldn’t remember his name, only that every morning he introduced himself to her and asked her how she was enjoying the ninth grade. She didn’t have the heart to tell him that she was already a junior.

“We’ve got two great students who are really focused and want to bring their grades up.”

He thinks I’m a great student? This time, Vicki was ready to swoon. She considered herself a mediocre student at best, but a great student? Maybe she didn’t have to work as hard as she thought to win his affection.

Maurice and the principal parted ways and she followed behind as closely and quietly as she could. It looked like Maurice was heading out the side of the school, where they kept the bicycle racks.

Suddenly, a idea came to her. If she stole his bike, he wouldn’t be able to get home. She could easily ask her mother to drop him off. She only lived five minutes away from the school, and her mother never had anything to do in the afternoons.

Vicki sent her mother a quick text message, asking to be picked up, then made a quick left. There were two ways to get to the bicycle racks in the back. If she hurried, she just might be able to get there before him.



Xavier tried to keep his head up as he walked down the hall to the front entrance of the school. His father was going to be there in about ten minutes, and the man didn’t like waiting. But with every step Xavier took, he realized that he was walking further and further away from Vicki.

Get over yourself, bro. She doesn’t want you. You’ll find someone else.

He felt a sob coming on. He knew there was no one else. He didn’t even have regular friends. How could he possibly expect to have a girlfriend?

Maybe you pushed too hard, he thought to himself. You should’ve toned it down and gone the friend route. Everyone knows that in movies, the girl always falls for her best friend, not the guy she’s been idolizing the whole time. Doesn’t that say something about love?

A few kids ran past him, nearly knocking him over. He hoped that the hall monitors would chase them down and give them a detention. He had heard crazy stories of hall monitors getting in to fights with students. But the craziest story was of this guy named Claudio. He went to a different school, but everyone knew that he was a crazy rebellious kid. He was known for beating up hall monitors and hanging them from the side of stairwells upside down. That’s how insane this guy was.

Xavier shivered. He was super glad this Claudio kid wasn’t in his school. He knew he’d be a quick target for any kind of bullying, and rebellious kids are always bullies. Xavier remembered the last bully he’d had in middle school.

No, don’t go there, bro. There are some things best left unremembered.

He pushed open the entrance doors and stepped into the light. The sun was still shining brightly in the sky, but a set of dark clouds loomed ominously in the distance. He hoped his father would get here before they did.


Maurice pushed open the doors to the back of the school. He’d parked his bike back here for the first time this morning because he was running late. He usually hid it in the bushes near the front of the school, but today there were too many people around and he couldn’t get to his hiding spot on time.

The sun was still bright despite it being almost 4:10. He glanced at his watch. Yep. He had time estimation down pat. Maurice looked up again and nearly had a heart attack.

His bike was gone. All the bikes were gone.

What am I going to do? I have to be home in twenty minutes. How am I going to walk that distance?

Maurice felt panic rising but willed it to stay down. There was no way he was going to panic because of a missing bike. He’d just have to go back to the principal and tell him that his bike was stolen. The school would have to replace it.

He turned around to enter the building, but rustling in the bushes caught his attention.

“Who is there?”

There was no answer, only more rustling.

“If you took my bike, I will have you know that it’s against school rules to do so.”

A snicker joined the rustling.

Maurice was getting angry. “Who is in the bush? I demand to know this instant!”

Vicki’s face appeared in the bushes.

“Really, Vicki?” He sighed. “Why are you hiding in the bushes?”

She climbed out and brushed a few leaves from her hair.

“I noticed that all the bikes were gone and I wondered if there was any way I could help.”

He eyed her suspiciously.

“Did you take them, Vicki? Because I need to get home.”

She shook her head. “I did not take them, Maurice. I don’t know anything about them. I didn’t even know there were bikes back here until I followed you out here.”

Maurice raised an eyebrow.

“Look, my mom is coming to get me in thirty seconds. I’ll ask her to take you home.” Vicki stepped closer to him. “Is that fine, Maurice?”

“Well,” he began, crossing his arms, “it is a violation of our tutor/student relationship.”

He frowned. He had no other choice. He needed to get home to talk to his sister about the terrible boy she was about to start dating. He cleared his throat.

“Since study club is over for the afternoon, we can revert to our student/student relationship and I will accept this ride from you.”

“Yay!” Vicki said, jumping up and rushing over to give him a hug.

“Pardon me, but hugging is not a feature of this relationship.”



Xavier made his way to an empty bench near the school’s front lawn. A few other kids sat on the grass, others huddled around the other bench. He recognized one of the boys from his chemistry class, but they never talked, so it would be weird to go over there and say hello. One girl sat alone by a pile of dirt, looking at the large group.

She isn’t as good looking as Vicki, he thought to himself, but she isn’t so bad.

He felt something tell him to get up and talk to her, but resisted it. He didn’t want to talk to any girls. He could barely talk to anyone, much less a girl. She made eye contact with him and smiled. He looked away, his face turning red. Now he had to go over there and talk to her, otherwise she’d think he was a creepy stalker.

“Hey,” he said, walking over to her. She stood up from the dirt and shook his hand.


“My name is Xavier. I just wanted you to know that I wasn’t a creepy stalker. I just wanted to know what you were doing in the dirt.” He felt the lie in his throat. He hoped that his face glowed brighter when he lied, but knew that was a trait reserved for Vicki.

“My name is Jenna,” she said. “And I’m taking care of my plants.”

“Your plants?” Xavier looked at the pile of dirt. He didn’t see any plants. “Did you just plant them?”

“Yep. They’re in there.” Jenna cleared her throat. “So, are you new around here?”

“Yeah, I just moved here at the start of the semester.”

“Ah, I see.” Jenna crossed her arms. “Which school did you transfer from?”

“I used to live in another state,” Xavier replied.

She smiled. “Okay. I was just making sure you weren’t from around here.”

“Why does that matter?”

Jenna rolled her eyes. “Don’t you know about that crazy kid, Claudio from Green High? They say that he was kicked out and is transferring to this school. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t him.”

“I’m not Claudio. My name is Xavier. And why does it matter if I’m him or not?” Xavier pretended to look offended.

Jenna laughed. “Well, I wouldn’t want my new friend to be a rebellious kid that ties up hall monitors and leaves them hanging upside down in stairwells. If you were him, I’d kick you to the curb.” She sat on the dirt again. “Will you join me in caring for my plants, Xavier?”

Xavier smiled and sat down.

“I’d love to.”

He hoped that, unlike the approaching rain clouds, his father would stay far away, giving him time to talk to Jenna. He had wanted a girlfriend, but he could settle for a friend.

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The Wall: S1 Episode 3

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Silence marked the long journey to the edge of town, interrupted only by the sound of Asher’s heavy breathing and an occasional unexplained snicker from Jordan. They took an alternate route to reach the Education Facility, to avoid the crowds entering the Meeting House, cutting across the housing developments along Artimas and Korimas Boulevard. Both roads received less traffic because of their proximity to the Great Forest. Asher, on the other hand, refused to allow a cluster of dark trees and a few fanciful tales to unsettle his nerves. He took Artimas and Korimas as often as he could. The quiet and extra distance gave him time to think.

The two teens passed an abandoned log cabin on their right, closest to the perimeter of the Great Forest. A strange smell emanated from the broken logs that fashioned the neglected abode. Asher’s mind raced through a dozen possibilities as he tried to place the sickly sweet aroma wafting in his direction.

“Dead animal,” Jordan coughed, shaking his head in disgust. Jordan turned from the foot path along Korimas and stood on the log cabin’s unkempt lawn. As his friend stood among the weeds and bushes of varying sizes, Asher was reminded of Jordan’s wild hair before the recent cut. It had been much like this plot of land, rejected and entirely ignored.

With a little trimming, Asher reasoned, this parcel of land could look as good as Jordan’s hair now did. Asher smiled. His friend remained standing knee deep in the grass, admiring the forsaken log cabin just beyond him.

Jordan suddenly spun around.

“Asher, my friend, we must continue,” Jordan said, stepping back onto the dirt path that was the Boulevard.

“Something the matter, Jordan?”

The older boy turned sharply to face his friend.

“Have you ever noticed that cabin before, Asher?”


“Tell me, have you?” Jordan was almost at his throat. Asher stepped back, confused by his friend’s sudden ferocity.

“No, I have not.” He leveled Jordan a curious gaze. “I rarely spend much time enjoying the nature around Korimas, simply because there is no nature to enjoy.”

Jordan stared at Asher and sighed.

“My friend, if only you had eyes to see.” He shook his head. “Hopefully, this trip will give you their eyes.” Jordan resumed his walk along the path, oblivious to Asher’s non-conformity.

Whose eyes?

“Whose eyes?” Asher asked, increasing his pace to a brisk walk to catch up with Jordan. He sucked in a huge breath, instantly regretting all the hours he spent daydreaming in his father’s field instead of training his body for physical activities.

“Whose eyes?” He repeated as he drew close to the boy in front of him. Jordan turned his head but didn’t change his pace as he answered.

“Why, the Wall Watcher’s eyes, of course.”

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The Study Club: Episode 1

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EPISODE ONE: The Study Club

“Vicki, will you please come to the front of the room?”

She hated it when her teachers put her on the spot like this. School had only just started, and already she’d been called to the front of the room for a private discussion seven times. All had been about her grades, and all had been loud enough for everyone in the class to hear.

“Yes, Mrs. T?”

She rose and stood as close to the woman’s desk as possible. The rest of the class had begun to engage in low conversation, but she knew they were listening intently.

“I want to speak to you about your grades.”

“I don’t understand,” Vicki said. “We’ve talked about this seven times in the last three months. I’ve been doing my homework.”

“Yes, you’ve been writing your name at the top of the page and handing it in,” Mrs. L said, “but you haven’t been answering any of the questions. How can I grade an empty paper?”

Vicki sighed. Didn’t Mrs. L understand that her life didn’t revolve around school? She had a thousand other things to do without having to worry about schoolwork, things like hanging out with her friends and watching reruns of Danger Girl High.

“Mrs. L, I’m sorry and I will try to not do it again.”

“No, you won’t try,” the teacher said, leaning forward. “I got a call from your father this morning. He’s not happy with your grades.”

“My father called you?”

“Yes,” she replied, nodding, “and I told him about a program we have that could help you out.”

I don’t like the sound of this.

“It’s called Study Club, and it only has three members per semester. It’s an intensive study group where you work together to forge good study habits.”

“I don’t have any study habits,” Vicki said. “How can I help anyone forge something I don’t have?”

Mrs. L laughed. “Maurice will take care of you.” She handed Vicki a yellow sheet of paper. “Here is the information. The first meeting is this afternoon.”

Vicki grabbed the paper and returned to her seat.

What had her father signed her up for? He wasn’t even involved in her life. What made him decide to start interfering now?

And who was this Maurice guy?

There were too many questions and two more hours until she’d find the answers to any of them.



Xavier knocked on the classroom door three times but no one responded. He checked the number on the door, then glanced at the number on the yellow paper in his hand again.

Room 305. Study Club. 2:30-4:00.

He was in the right place, and it was already 2:30. Why isn’t this Maurice guy here yet?

“Hey, are you here for the Study Club?”

Xavier turned around. A girl roughly his age stood behind him, holding a yellow paper in her hand.

She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

“Are you Maurice?”

He tried to open his mouth to tell her that he wasn’t, but words escaped him. He shook his head.

“Well, do you know where this guy is?”

Again, he shook his head.

Where are those words, bro? You see a cute girl and all of a sudden you can’t talk?

Xavier wasn’t really a sociable person. That’s why his father had forced him to join this Study Club. Only three people could join at a time, so his father assumed it’d give him three automatic friends for the semester. He didn’t have the heart to tell his dad that if he joined the club, he’d be the third person, leaving him with only two friends. He had doubted he’d make any friends, but at least he would get better grades.

Now, he knew that he had to make at least one friend: a girlfriend.



“Where is this Maurice character?” Vicki mumbled under her breath. It was already time to start this thing, and she didn’t want to stand out here with this creepy guy who didn’t know how to speak.

“I’m right here.”

Vicki jumped at the voice. A tall, brown haired kid maybe a year older than her pushed open the door to Room 305. He wore the standard white polo and blue dress pants that everyone was required to wear. He wore glasses that hid part of his big blue eyes. Vicki kept herself from tearing them off his face. They were the only thing standing between him and true perfection.

Two seconds in and she was already in love. She reminded herself to thank her father later.

The boy who couldn’t speak before was suddenly very angry.

“You said 2:30, and it’s—”

“Still 2:30,” Maurice said, cutting the boy off. “Let’s go inside, shall we? I only have an hour and a half to fix you two up.”

“Don’t we have the whole semester?” Vicki asked, ignoring the other boy and following Maurice. “We don’t need to get to work right away. We could spend some time getting to know each other.”

Maurice laughed. “Your name is Vicki, right?”

She felt her face turn red. He knows my name! With or without the glasses, this guy is perfect!

“Yes, I’m Vicki,” she stammered.

“Well, I’ve seen your grades, and if they’re any indication, I’ve got my work cut out for me.” Maurice pointed to two chairs in the front of the classroom. “You two will sit right here. I will begin with our first lesson in two minutes.” He paused. “You may not converse with one another.”

Vicki took a seat. “I don’t want to converse with him,” she said, sliding her desk away from the other boy’s.

“His name is Xavier, and that is good that you don’t want to converse with him, because you are not allowed to converse.” Maurice began looking through a folder on his desk.

“But that’s not fair,” the boy named Xavier said, sliding his seat closer to Vicki’s. “I want to converse with her.”

“I don’t care what you want,” Maurice said, sighing. “This isn’t a social club. You aren’t here to make friends. You’re here to learn.”

“I don’t want to converse with him,” Vicki said, sliding her desk even further away from Xavier’s. “I want to converse with you.”

Maurice raised an eyebrow. He cleared his throat.

“Vicki, I am your Study Club tutor. We will never be friends or anything more than that. We will maintain a strict tutor/student relationship. Please set aside any hopes of anything more right now.”

Vicki felt a pout coming on. It didn’t matter what Maurice said. She could make him change his mind. One day, before the end of the semester, she would get him to love her.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Xavier trying to slide his desk closer to hers again.

“Maurice,” she said, raising her hand. “What is your favorite thing to do after school?”

He did not even lift his head. “I enjoy teaching obedient Study Club members. No more talking, Vicki.”

“You said I could not converse with Xavier, but I need to converse with someone or else I will lose my mind and not be able to study. If I don’t do well in school, my father will kill me.”

She smiled in victory. Her father had always told her that she had a way with words. There was nothing Maurice could say to that. He would have to talk to her.

Maurice sighed and turned another page in his binder.

“Okay,” he said. “You may converse—”

“Thank you so much!” Vicki interrupted, jumping up in her seat. “We will first talk about what is your favorite ice cream, and then we’ll talk about your favorite TV show, and then—”

“—with Xavier.”

She felt the disgust flood her veins as she heard his words. She didn’t like Xavier. Why did she have to talk to him? Why couldn’t she talk to Maurice, who was so obviously boyfriend material? Didn’t he realize that she was in love with him? Sure, it was only 2:32 and they’d only just met, but that’s how the best love happened: at first sight.

Vicki sighed and folded her arms. She’d get Maurice to love her somehow. Maybe if she did super well in all of their Study Club sessions, he would realize how amazing she was and he’d fall in love with her.

She clapped her hands together and smiled. This is going to be perfect!

“You like to dance?” Xavier asked, clapping along with her. “Will you dance with me?”

“Of course not!” Vicki shouted. “And I’m not dancing. I’m clapping.”

He ignored her and yanked her out of her seat, pulling her into the most awkward and uncomfortable waltz she’d ever experienced.

“I don’t want to dance, Xavier,” she said, pushing him away. She glanced at Maurice, who didn’t seem to notice.

“I need to relate to human beings in order to study well,” he said, rehashing her own argument. “And I need to do well in this club or else my father will kill me.”

What could she possibly say to that? She didn’t believe a word of it, but she’d just used a form of that very argument to win some points with Maurice.

“Okay,” she said, “but no dancing.”

“But that’s how I relate—”

“Instead, we will converse.”

Vicki sighed. What had she gotten herself in to? How could she possibly survive a whole semester of this?

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The Wall: S1 Episode 2

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Asher walked slowly along the dirt path behind his mother and father, not wanting to overhear the subject matter of their conversation. It had been a full week since his mother received the news that she was having another child, and it seemed that all they could talk about was the newest edition to their family. It was as though they had forgotten that they already had a family: him. Asher wouldn’t consider himself jealous of the new child, but he certainly did not want to hear another word about him. Or was it a her? He couldn’t remember.

“Asher! Catch up, will you?” His father bellowed from several yards ahead. Asher hurried toward the man, observing his face, wondering if there were any similarities between them as everyone seemed to think. Both had sharp jaws and thin noses, but it was the brow that made all the difference. His father’s bright blue eyes were buried beneath a protruding brow, whereas Asher had nearly no brow to speak of. He had gotten his dark brown hair and eyes from his mother, but his tall and lanky frame had come from neither of them, as both were rather short and portly.

“Asher, we really should not have to wait for you,” his mother chimed in as he reached her side. She patted him lightly on the back as he caught his breath. “A boy in your condition should be able to run for longer distances than your father and I combined.”

“When Conner is born, we must be sure to enroll him in an engaging sport. Come, we must hurry, otherwise, we won’t make it there on time,” his father said, resuming his walk down the path. Asher plodded along beside them, letting his mind wander to the place where they were headed. The Meeting House. The place where the town gathered every Sunday evening in order to celebrate the Giver of Life, or something to that effect. The adults always seemed to have an answer when asked about the weekly meetings, but for Asher, it was merely a place where he could see his friends again. Even now, his eyes were peeled for any sign of Mick and Abigail, his best friends.

The three had arranged to meet at the edge of Rinkar Avenue as soon as possible. From there, they would walk to their Sunday evening class together. Mick was most likely snagging a few extra mints from the greeters at the door. The tall, blond boy loved mints, but taking them without being noticed was the real game. Abigail may have gone to inform her parents that she wouldn’t be sitting with them after class was over.

Asher didn’t have to worry about his parents. As soon as they entered the Meeting House, they found their friends and forget that he existed. When he was younger, there were days when they walked home by themselves, leaving him waiting by the front door, looking for them in the dark. They still did it on occasion, but he no longer waited for them.

“Asher!” A familiar voice broke through the crowd, shattering his thoughts. He scanned the sea of faces, pulling himself onto his toes to increase his line of sight. A few faces stood out to him: his third grade teacher Ms. Spencer, the lumberjack Mr. Tom, the man who transported their dairy to the market, but none who matched the voice.

“Asher! Over here!” The call came from his left. He swiveled his head in that direction, his eyes moving like mad. They soon found their target, focusing on a tall black haired boy standing on a bench. Jordan.

Asher grinned and pushed through the crowd to get to his new friend. The two had met earlier this year during a trip to Tarkine Falls, and Asher wondered why they had not become friends sooner.

Jordan was a year older than Asher, but he seemed so much wiser. During class on Sunday, when they discussed the Words of Life, Jordan knew all of the answers. The sixteen year old had even challenged Timothy, the secondary student’s leader, on a point the man had made about the afterlife.

“The Giver of Life clearly states that man is to live once, and then face judgment,” Jordan explained to Asher the night after the ‘doctrine battle’, as the other kids had called it. “Timothy would like to believe that man lives again and again until he makes the right choice to receive a favorable verdict.”

“But are we not alive during the judgment?” Asher had asked, confused by these ideas he had heard little of before.

Jordan had smiled and patted Asher on the shoulder as though Jordan were a father proudly instructing his son in the way of manhood.

“My friend,” Jordan replied, his words spilling slowly from his lips as though he were sharing a forbidden secret. “The afterlife is where true life begins.

Asher hadn’t understood what Jordan meant. He felt alive, he felt like he had true life. He had tried to ask his parents about the afterlife, but then the harvest came, and they grew too busy to worry about theological questioning.

As he drew closer to Jordan, Asher recalled the many discussions they had engaged in. As the weeks of friendship stretched into months, their conversation topics drifted from the theological to the personal. Jordan was growing dissatisfied with the weekly gatherings of the people of Aversano. And the more he thought about it, Asher realized that he too was dissatisfied.

“My friend! It is good to see you!” Jordan clasped him in a quick embrace.

“I see you convinced Mother Mary to lend you her shears,” Asher joked, running a hand across his friend’s now short black curls. Jordan’s wild hair had been legendarily unkempt, and Asher had threatened to cut it off himself a few times.

“It takes one beast to know another,” Jordan retorted, gesturing to Asher’s own mane. Asher smiled and pulled his brown locks across his forehead. His hair had long been a sore point with his parents. To say they disapproved would be an understatement. Many an hour had passed reciting the same arguments, neither side gaining any ground. In the end, Asher kept his hair and they kept their criticism.

Again with my parents! Asher shook his head, sending brown locks flying wildly against the side of his head. This was his afternoon to spend with friends, not one wasted reminiscing of old arguments with mother and father.

“So, are you ready to go?” Jordan asked, oblivious to his friend’s thoughts. Asher nodded quickly, and then sighed. Mick and Abigail! He had forgotten about their arrangement to meet before gathering.

“Jordan, I promised—”

“What, to meet with Mick and Abigail?” Jordan snickered and rested a firm hand on Asher’s shoulder. “My friend, when are you going to terminate your partnership with those fools?”

Asher winced, certain the older boy felt him flinch. Jordan was not a mincer of words. He spoke his mind as he saw fit, regardless of who he hurt in the process. But wasn’t that what drew Asher to him in the first place? Jordan wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion, something that was scarce in this town. Buried beneath their bright smiles and kind words were a layer of unspoken thoughts and hidden secrets. Asher knew this was only an effort to keep peace among Aversano’s growing population, but it frustrated him. It was the things you thought in the dark, when no one was watching, that showed who you really were. Everyone around him had perfected the art of the make believe, cranking out stellar performances whenever they stepped out in public.

But Jordan wasn’t like the other fakers. Jordan was real. And if Asher wanted to spend another second in reality, he’d have to leave behind whatever was holding him back, even if it meant cutting ties with Mick and Abigail.

“I am ready,” he said. Jordan nodded and turned away from the building.

“Wait. Aren’t we going inside?”

Jordan did not reply, but continued walking. Asher rushed to his side.

“Where are we going, Jordan?” Asher asked.

The older teen smiled broadly as he replied.

“To the Education Facility.”

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The Wall: S1 Episode 1

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Twelve men stood abreast in front of the strong stone wall that separated Aversano from the Hill Country, watching. Always watching. Laws prohibited the men from scaling the wall, but their object was never to climb, it was only to watch. To watch for movement, for a breach, for a defector, for anything that would give them an excuse to satisfy their curiosity and peer over the ominous stone blocks. They stood by the wall every day from mid-afternoon till the sun disappeared behind the lavender horizon, oblivious to the young eyes that watched their backs, wondering what was so important about this huge wall.

Special guards, hired by the company that commissioned the construction of the wall, patrolled the perimeter day in and day out, giving the wall watchers a reason to feel fright. They stood a foot taller than most men, with muscles bulging from massive forearms, torsos, and legs. Dressed in pure white garments, they held no weapon in their hand, as theirs was not the way of violence. Every so often, a guard would pass by the spot where the men stood, watching the wall. Seeing their plight, he drew close to the first man, and rested a firm hand on the man’s shoulder.

“Come back with me,” he said gently. “Away from the wall.” Then, with a little more urgency in his voice: “There is nothing to see here.”

The first man looked up at the guard clad in white and immediately turned away, fearing a harsh rebuke or severe punishment. The guard merely stepped aside to let him pass, and then moved on to the next man.

A hand on the man’s shoulder, the guard repeated his plea to the first man.

“Come back with me. Away from the wall. There is nothing to see here.”

One by one, at the guard’s encouragement, the men began to drift away from the wall, back to their homes deep within the town of Aversano, back to their families and careers, their curiosity quelled for the moment. They never imagined they would be back at the wall again, but the guards knew, and they would remain on patrol, waiting. Patiently waiting.

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