The old building of the school Gebether Semeter seemed as if it was about to fall apart at any second. The whorehouse down the street seemed more stable than whatever was in front of Ellis’s eyes.

Ellis entered the so-called classroom, it was definitely different than the Sunday school. The classroom got filled quickly, but Ellis managed to catch one of the seats in the back.

He decided to do so to have the greatest sight. Also, to understand how the class or having class works.

As soon as Ellis saw the man who is going to teach him in the upcoming year, he knew how bad it was going to be.

The man who appeared as a teacher next to the blackboard was named Alexandar Brodgfid. He seemed like a strict, uncooperative teacher, in his late forties visibly washed up from work. He rightfully seemed as if he had given up on life.

So, he proceeded to intimidate the students whenever he could. At least that is how it made sense in Ellis’ mind.

Ellis caught Danail taking the painkillers in the corner of his eye. Seeing that almost pulled out Ellis a smirk on his face. Especially since the class was about to start.

“You there! New kid!” yelled the teacher Brodgfid, “Come to the board and solve this.”

Ellis quickly stood up and walked up to the blackboard. Without much struggle, he managed to solve the issue quickly.

The teacher didn’t seem pleased, but he still said, “Alright. Now, wipe that stupid smirk off your face or I’ll slap it out of you!”

Ellis tried his hardest to compose himself. The teacher yelled out, “Danail!”

On the way to his seat, Ellis’ eyes met Danail’s. Despite it being a second long, the terror on Danail’s face froze up in Ellis’ mind. As soon as Danail grabbed the clack there was already a problem.

“Left hand again, huh?” spoke the teacher in a harsh tone,

“Didn’t we get over this a million times?”

Danail held his breath as he simply put the clack to his right hand and clumsily started writing on the board.

As soon as he was done with the task, the teacher took one look at it and yelled, “Wrong!”

Even Ellis jumped in his seat in surprise. Jericho is right, this place truly is scary.

The Main Source of Pain

The punishment for Danail was getting hit on the palm of his left hand five times. It doesn’t seem like much at first, however, the teacher’s hits were brutally harsh.

Not only that, but Danail had to count.

Ellis watched the scene happen in front of his eyes, part of him almost remained speechless. Soon enough, Danail returned to his seat while holding his left arm. He tried his hardest to hold back from any showings of his pain.

Lunchtime quickly approached. Ellis has learned that they all had an hour of free time before the afternoon classes started. He also found out how children that lived in Mr Stewart’s Orphan Asylum had shorter classes, so they weren’t expected to return in the afternoon.

The classes soon came to an end. Ellis was sweating profusely by the end of it. It was one of the most stressful organized messes he has ever witnessed. He couldn’t wait to exit the classroom to catch some fresh air. The gossip between the pupils didn’t escape his earshot.

One of them said in cracked laughter, “The fucking idiot should’ve already learned how to write with the right arm!”

It didn’t take a second for Ellis to realize who they were talking about. Danail looked more than upset because he quickly disappeared into darker corners of the school while holding onto his left arm. Ellis followed him while holding onto the basket he was given this morning. The sounds of others became quieter to Ellis’ ears. Ellis noticed how one of the classrooms was slightly open, so he proceeded to enter it.

He found Danail crawling up in the corner of the room rocking back and forth. Ellis put on a gentle smile as he approached his peer.

When he was close enough, he crouched next to him and said in a warm tone, “Hey, fluffy hair! Why are you hiding in here?”

Danail stopped his rocking and looked up at Ellis with teary eyes. After a deep moment of silence, Danail barely spoke in a shattered voice, “I can’t deal with it anymore!”

“With what?” questioned Ellis, keeping up the warm tone.

Danail took a shaky breath before carefully saying, “All this pain…”

“You don’t like pain?”

“Who does?”

Ellis was silent for a moment. As the silence filled the room, he questioned, “Would you like to get rid of it?”

“You mean,” whispered Danail hopefully, “To get rid of… all of it?”

“Yes,” confirmed Ellis, even if his face seemed way too cold for what he was saying, “If you wish so. Think of what’s the main source of your suffering?”

Danail looked down at the palm of his left arm. It seemed as though his eyes reached some sort of conclusion.

“If you found the source…” continued Ellis, “You will only need to make it disappear!”

“Make it disappear…” repeated Danail, still shaking with his entire body, “As if…”

“Eliminate!” clarified Ellis, “The source needs to disappear! Then, your pain will also.” There was another wave of silence. It seemed as if Danail was carefully considering the words of his peer.

He managed to make out a question, “Ellis… Can you help with it?”

“Yes, of course,” responded Ellis while slowly nodding.

Before agreeing on anything else, Danail had one more question to make something clear.

He asked with a steady voice, “And… Can you keep it a secret?”

“Of course, I can. I owe you, after all… right?” said Ellis, his tone remaining warm and approachable.

Extracurricular group activities

Before returning ‘home’, Ellis decided to take a walk around the town, just to experience a new environment better. Shortly said, he wasn’t impressed.

It was not surprising to Ellis when he found out most of his peers prefer drinking in the streets to dealing with this town’s public schooling. Especially at first when he saw the ruined building which represented his new way of life.

“Join us, you bitch…” said Danail, visibly tipsy.

Ellis was surprised to see Danail hanging out with the same guys who badmouthed him just a couple of hours ago. Trying not to roll his eyes, Ellis reluctantly joined them. He was given a bottle of what he smelled like some powerful liquor.

He passed it to the next person without taking a sip. He had to be in sound mind if he wanted the chance of this situation.

Others didn’t seem too bothered with it, until one of the guys said, “Cole… I didn’t know you were into crazy chicks!”

“What do you mean?” questioned Ellis, trying his hardest to sound relaxed, but it ended up sounding threatening.

The guy didn’t seem to mind, he just pointed out in a cracked laughter, “You and Maie…”

Danail took a deep breath before commenting out loud, “Those two were made for each other.”

“So, Cole… spill the beans…” another boy wondered, “What’s she like in bed?”

“We slept on the floor,” said Ellis deadly cold, “And what makes you think my standards are so low?”

Almost all of them burst into laughter, on the other hand, Ellis didn’t find anything funny. Neither did Danail, who just drank up more. He seemed too preoccupied with his inner thoughts.

Ellis sat closer to him and simply wondered, “Why are you drinking?”

Danail misheard the question, so he looked at the bottle of liquor trying to read what it said.

His eyes and vision started to betray him, so he relayed on the taste in his mouth when he assumed, “Some shitty copycat whiskey.”

“I asked why,” clarified Ellis, this time louder, “Not what.”

“To forget…” whispered Danail, his tone sounding defeated, “The pain.”

“Cowards!” exclaimed Ellis, “Only cowards would do such things.”

“Shut the fuck up, Cole!” said Danail.

Ellis looked at the bottle on the side and placed handwritten prices.

He had no intention of drinking any, but he couldn’t help but ask the rest of the crew, “Which one of these would Jericho like?”

“Jericho?” asked one of the boys, “That fool?”

“A fool,” repeated Ellis, taken back for a moment, “Why?”

“He hangs around animals more than people,” another guy explained, “God knows what sort of diseases he might have.”

“Oh, speak of the Devil!” yelled Danail while looking in front of himself. It seemed as though his vision only worked on long distances.

Ellis’ mask starts to slip

Ellis looked in the same direction and there was Jericho, on the corner of the street. Ellis quickly ran up to him as soon as he realized what Jericho wanted to do. He wanted to pet a dog which clearly and visibly had rabies.

Before Jericho could do anything, Ellis grabbed him.

“Move away from it!”

“But! It looks so sad!” pointed out Jericho in desperation, “Maybe it needs a hug!”

Ellis didn’t stop dragging Jericho away until the dog’s barking quieted down. Jericho was confused by Ellis’ actions, so he wondered, “Where are we going? What are you doing?”

“Ugh!” exclaimed Ellis, he pointed out, “Don’t do this sort of thing! Don’t approach sick animals, you could get sick yourself!”

“So what?” asked Jericho, his voice turning from confused to unusually cold.

“So what!?” repeated Ellis worryingly, “If you get sick and die, who’s going to take care of Ralf?”

Jericho went quiet. He didn’t expect such a tone and sentence to come out of Ellis’ mouth. He put his one leg up and started to think for a moment. On the other hand, Ellis was taking deep breaths and trying to calm down. He didn’t like showing this side of himself to anyone.

“You’re right,” said Jericho seemingly out of nowhere, “That was very stupid of me. I’m sorry for worrying you.”

“You didn’t worry me!” babbled Ellis without thinking. He bit his tongue as soon as Jericho laughed out loud at his words.

“Oh, perfect timing!” said a familiar voice. It belonged to Maie who was with Edythe on a walk. It seemed as though they just returned from a bakery. Maie had two huge baskets with bread in her arms, while Edythe had a list of groceries. Most of the things on the list were crossed out.

Almost all of them greeted each other. Edythe wasted no time as she faced Jericho and told him, “Jericho! I found another snail in the garden!”

“Another one!” yelled Jericho in excitement, he turned to others and gave them a quick goodbye.

Edythe and Jericho were gone in a snap of a finger. Ellis only faced Maie, asking her for an explanation just with his expression.

Maie gave him one of the baskets and started clarifying, “Oh, Jericho sometimes collects snails… or any living thing we find in the garden. Most of the time, the two of them just admire the small creatures…”

Ellis nodded and accepted the given basket.

Maie grabbed him by his free hand and said, “Ellis, we need to talk for a second. Let’s go somewhere more private.”

Deal covered up with lies

And just like that, Maie and Ellis found themselves in a laundry room. At this time none ever uses it, besides that, none could be able to hear them. Ellis only took a second to analyse the new location, while Maie started pacing back and forth collecting her thoughts.

“What do you want?” he questioned.

Maie stopped pacing and turned, fully facing him.

“Ellis…” she said, intentionally repeating his name while making a pleading face, “I have a huge favour to ask you!”

“What is it?” he asked, having a cold expression.

“I met one man six months ago…” she started slowly explaining, “The good, hardworking man…  and now he wishes to marry me.”

There was a pause of silence, Ellis felt something itchy in his heart when he added, “So?”

“I didn’t tell him I live here… and if I do, the chances of being with him are then impossible. You know what the outside world thinks of this place.”

“And… so?”

“I lied to him,” she said, almost too passionately, “I told him my parents are sales travellers. And how… I only have an older brother who takes care of me.”

At this point, Ellis was beyond confused. Looking at her puffy face, he asked, “What?”

“And yes!” she confirmed as if she could clearly read his thoughts, “I did think of you when I told him about my brother.”

Ellis’ mouth remained open for a full second. He took a deep breath, looked around and sarcastically said in a low breath, “Ah, that is just… fantastic!”

“Oh, is it really?” she wondered, showing off her invisible hope.

“Fuck no!” yelled Ellis, concealing his frustration, “Why are you dragging me into this!?”

“Please Ellis!” she said while grabbing his hand. Her desperation was heard in her voice and was wearing it on her face, “This might be my only way out!”

Ellis was more than annoyed.  He shook off her hand, but deep inside he decided to go along with her idea.

As her eyes lost all hope, he told her coldly, “Alright, keep him busy for a month. I want to take care of something beforehand.”

“D-did you just say ‘yes’!?” she asked, wanting to confirm. Her hands were placed in a sign of prayer, all she needed was Ellis’ confirmation.

Ellis looked at her, this time more relaxed. He warmed up his voice and told her, “Yes of course. Just keep him busy like I said.”

Maie jumped in excitement. Her face showed pure joy at first, but as soon as she processed his words, she wondered, “And how do I do that?”

“I don’t know, Maie…” said Ellis, sounding less warm and more annoyed, “The same way you’ve been doing it for all this time?”

She nodded, taking a better look at the boy in front of her. He looked like he was about to leave.

Therefore, she collected more courage to say, “Also before you go-”

“Yes?” he said and turned back to her. He didn’t seem annoyed, just indifferent. Perhaps, he expected to hear some additional information from her.

“Ellis,” she said and started to pick her words carefully, “You don’t have to tell me anything about your past… just tell me… have you ever… killed anyone?”

Ellis let out a low breath, creating a distant silence between them. He was stuck in his thoughts for a second, while Maie was on the edge, waiting for an answer.

He looked at the exit of the door and in full honesty told her, “I… I don’t know.”

To be continued…

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