I can’t say I hate him. Hate is too strong of a word. Hate is a nasty, whip-lashing, dark, death-wishing word. But loath would work. I loath him. Yes, it works quite well. Or I despise him. That works too. I find him repugnant, appalling, insulting, obnoxious, infuriating. I honestly wish that Samuel Brakborn lived anywhere else in the whole galaxy besides Sigma-082, not like I can do anything about that mind you.
It didn’t begin like that, you know. When I first met him as soon as I stepped off the transport ship, he seemed respectful. He stood straight in his navy blue uniform with bright silver buttons, tall, handsome, with dark flashing eyes and a boyish smile. He shook my hand and welcomed me to Sigma-082, said how thankful he was that I came, and that he hoped I enjoyed it here.
Bah! He knew the moment I stepped off that ship that I would not enjoy it. Why? Because he lied–that’s why. He blatantly lied about what he expected of me; he lied about what Sigma was like; he lied about what kind of work I would be doing; he lied about everything.
Whenever I mentioned something contrary to what he said when we first talked about this job, he just shook it off with a smile and said something like, “It’s all in the advertising, Micha. You have to just learn to read the advertising.”
Oh, how I hate him!
No. Don’t use hate. Use loath. How I loath his very existence.
He knows I don’t like it here. He knows that I find the drabness depressing and the isolation overwhelming. He knows that I long for grass and space and sky again. Any colony planet would do. He knows but does not care. So I have to do something.
I have to leave.
But for some reason I can’t stop pacing. I find myself nervously fidgeting at my shirt or twisting my hair. Even with it pulled back, I can still find some to twist. The children have all avoided me since I let school out, knowing full well that I am not to be pestered while this agitated.
I must talk to him though. I stop and stare down the hall. It’s only three doors down, at the very end. That’s where Samuel does his office work. That’s where I know he is, because I know that he had a call at one and I’ve been here since, pacing, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
I sigh again and take another deep breath. I can do this. I’ve talked with him hundreds of times, lectured him, yelled at him, chided him, joked with him.
I can do this.
Forcing myself to put one foot in front of the other, I take one step, then another, then another. I consciously must keep my head high, since I normal walk a little slumped, the result of bad weight distribution, bad walking habits and long treks from my room, to the classroom and back every day.
There’s another thing. How can Sigma even survive without elevators? Four flights of stairs from living quarters to commons and no assistance. And he knew that!
He didn’t know that the Storms cost me my foot. Nor would he know that even the best prosthetic still causes discomfort–and I could not afford that kind of technology in a million years.
I pause outside his door. The big imposing, gray door. I take another breath and ring the bell.
I push it open and walk inside. He sits as his desk, in his normal rumpled plaid shirt–yellow and gray today–oddly out out of place with his neatly combed hair. He looks at me and smiles.
“Micha! What can I do for you?”
My arguments vanish instantaneously, like he just opened an air lock and–whoosh! I stare at him, unsure what to say or how to say it. I meant to give him a small speech, explain why I had to leave, explain why he could not convince me to stay, and then just leave. But I couldn’t even remember the reasons. I couldn’t remmeber anything.
I hat–loath–Samuel Brakborn.
“I’m leaving,” I say pathetically.
He blinks. “For how long?”
I pause and lick my lips. “Because–because you lied!”
“I never lied, Micha.”
“How can you say that you didn’t? You offered a job teaching a few children of about the same grade level. I walk in here and I find that not only do I have to teach all grade levels, I am teaching nearly fifty orphans. Moreover, you do not provide me with the supplies I need, with enough resources and books that I need, with the time that I need, with the support that is needed to maintain a classroom of fifty children, nor anything else that I have asked from you time and time and time again.” There. I said it–more or less. My original speech was more elegant, if I remember correctly.
He pauses and frowns at me. “Is that all?”
“Is that all? Samuel, that’s a lot! That’s a lot for even a colony girl who was hoping to get away from that little hellhole and into civilization. I don’t even think that Sigma is recognized as a school.”
“No. It’s not.”
“Then how can you even say that this was a good job to start out a teaching career? Which you did say. Don’t tell me you didn’t.”
“Because once they find out what we are doing–or have done–here, they will admire those who did it.”
“The only thing I can see that we’re doing here is giving homes to fifty orphans whose parents died in the Radiation Storms. I don’t see anything in this miserable little outpost that will cause anyone to look at us twice.”
“Not yet, no, but soon enough. In a few years.”
I pause and stare at him, then put my hands on my hips. “What are you doing here, Samuel Brakborn?”
He smiles, almost slyly, like a fox having a chicken cornered and just letting the chicken wait until it bites the head off. “I don’t think, Micha, that I ever explained to you why I hired you out of everyone else who applied.”
“Don’t do that now. It’s not going to work.”
He ignores me–as always. “It’s not because I was impressed by that little letter of recommendation. It doesn’t tell me a whole lot to be quite honest. No. I hired you because of your aptitude tests.”
“I told you to stop it already.” I do not want to listen to compliments right now, especially those from Samuel. There’s one thing I learned in the last three years of living here: Samuel Brakborn could give very suave compliments and with those compliments he could have people do anything.
“See, those tests told me you could teach without supplies. You could teach these children to think–really think–unlike what all the other schools are doing. You were innovative and you would bring out the best in these children. Few people score as highly as you did on those tests.”
I stare at him. “Are you–what are you saying?”
Samuel taps his fingers against his desk. “We’re undergoing an experiment here, Micha. We’re trying to see what happens when we teach children how to think–without any other, negative, influence. Evidence–vast amount of evidence–say that these children will grow up to be some of the most powerful leaders of our day–because of what we do here. Because of how you teach them.
“That is why I ignored your requests. I ignored them because I do not want the children influenced by other thinkers and philosophers. I want them to be fresh, clean slates, not just another child indoctrinated since birth to the supposed correct way of thinking for the time.”
“You, more than anyone, should know I can’t indoctrinate anyone. I don’t know enough. I just speak my mind and toss around ideas.”
“And you do it very well. But all books are bias. It’s necessary that you stay–because you are the singular most qualified person to teach them, and not just because you came from a colony or lived through those storms. You are able to because of how smart you are. I cannot think of another person who requested to take this job that I would trust like I do you.”
I frown at him. “Perhaps you should have told me this earlier.”
“Why did I need to? You taught perfectly well with what I gave you.”
“Nonsense! The children are desperately starving for thoughts larger and more vast than anything else I can give them. They need the books. They need to be able to read and know what others thing to be able to really think themselves.”
“I can’t do that.”
“We must.” I glance around his office desperately for inspiration. “You said that you want to raise these children to be some of the smartest leaders. If you want to do that, they need to know the mistakes that others have made.”
“Mistakes are too hard for them to know. They’ve already been through a lot.”
“No. They haven’t. Not really. Not something like what will happen if the mistakes are repeated. They must hear them, even if they think they’re just stories. It’ll start conversation. It’ll start reasoning. It’ll start debates and even more thinking. Letting them read books and the past is the best thing that we can do for these children–not the worst.”
Samuel rubs his chin thoughtfully. “I don’t know, Micha. You’re talking about changing everything.”
“They want to learn. There is only so much thought that I can encourage them to do by themselves. Yes, they’ll be able to reason, but what good will that do if they repeat of all the past mistakes?”
“People repeat the mistakes anyway. History is littered with the same mistakes being made time and time and time again.”
“Which is why we teach them to not to do those mistakes! That is why we let them know what has happened, from the beginning until the end, and then let them explore what each theory results in.”
He stands and looks out his window, his back to me. “I’ll have to think about that, Micha. It’s dangerous.”
“You have to decide quickly, because I cannot teach these children anything more without it. I only learned so much. The children deserve better.”
I turn to leave; he catches my arm. “Micha,” he says softly, so gently.
I refuse to look at him.
“Micha, don’t go.”
I stare at the door. “I have no choice, Samuel. I have to.”
“You always have a choice.”
“I told you what I need. I need you to change your opinion. That is my choice. Please let me go.”
He hesitates but releases his grip. “Give me two days. Please.”
I nod slightly. I never have been able to resist him when he asked for something. That is my weakness. I always want to please everyone and I always want everyone to like me.
I slip away quickly, unable to say anything more. I do not expect anything from him. I’ve told him time and time again that I needed these things and he always ignores my requests, saying he either forgot about them or misplace them or even that he never saw them. I could not stay here. I had to be firm in what I said about waiting two days. He probably just wanted me to forget about it all and to have my anger defuse until there was nothing left in it and I stayed in spite of my better judgment. He had done that before.
I hated him.
I know that the children only pretended that they heard nothing; they always knew about our arguments. In many ways, Samuel had set it up Sigma-082 so that he was the father figure and I–however much I disliked it–was the mother figure. So, like children in a family, they always seemed to know when “mother” and “father” fought.
Even if Samuel claims that his office was soundproof.
I wipe my hands in the cloth and take the marker again to draw another picture for the next day. We almost finished all of the sciences. I’m just taking random shots in the dark on what I should teach them from day to day and hope that I don’t repeat anything. This isn’t what a teacher should do though. A teacher should not feel like every day is a challenge to plan, because her students absorb everything so rapdily.
I pause in the middle of my drawing at the sound of Samuel’s voice, then continue.
“Micha, I know you heard me.”
“So what if I did?”
“You’re not curious as to why I came down here.”
“I’m sure there is some reason as to why you did and I’m sure that you’ll tell me in due time.”
He pauses. “With how you treat me, I don’t even know sometimes why I even want you to stay around.”
I turn. “With how I treat you? I would think with how you treat me, the last thing you would want is for me to stay.”
“What are you talking about? I treat you perfectly fine.”
“Except for your impulse to lie constantly to me.”
“That isn’t lying.”
“Then what do you call it? And don’t tell me advertising.”
“It’s–” He glances at the ceiling like it might give him answers.
“It’s lying,” I say.
“That’s not what I came here to talk to you about it.”
“Then what did you?”
“You can have your books.”
I feel like he just slapped me. “What?”
He nods slightly, not looking at me. “You’re probably right. It won’t do any good to have them all make the same mistakes. Some of the people who we say made mistakes are also possibility some of the brightest people of all time.”
“I–I almost can’t believe you’re letting me have them.”
“I don’t think that we can lose you.”
I lower myself into my chair and stare at the wall. He’s acting different and I’m not sure quite why. One thing I know: I don’t like it.
“You know, burn it! I can’t lose you.”
I look up sharply and almost felt myself chuckle. “You can’t lose me?”
“No.” He looks at me like he’s searching for something, something that I don’t even know, his gray eyes shining intensely. I look away.
“I think I’m crazy, Micha.”
“Because–because since when does a city boy trust a colony girl for advice?”
“When the city boy has an IQ of about two.” I smile, hoping he understands it’s a joke and stops staring at me so. It makes something squirm in my chest, like I should know something and yet don’t.
“That’s foolishness. I have one at least of four.”
“You might want to reconsider before doubling it.”
“Probably. It might make you look even smarter than you are.”
“I’m actually surprised you’re going along with me for so long.”
He smiles faintly and stands. “Yeah, well, maybe there’s a reason for it.”
He just smiles broader and slips off my desk. “I’ll see you at dinner.”
I nod and he walks away, his arms swinging casually at his sides and his long strides crossing in seconds what takes me almost a minute.
In spite of all our teasing though, I know he’s much smarter than I could ever be. He’s much richer than I could ever dream about being too. I looked him up once when I was really mad at him and was hoping to find him that he was from some horrid family or wanted for some horrible crime, only to discover that he was probably worth close to a half a billion, being the only child of the inventor, Stonewall Brakborn. Me, I’m worth as much as the next pay check. Never have been good at saving anything.
I still hate him. No, not hate him. Hate is too strong. Hate is what you mean when you want to kill someone and I most certainly do not want to kill him. I don’t hate him; I just loath him. I find him infuriating and frustrating and difficult. He doesn’t even fully say what’s on his mind. He was thinking something–I’m sure of it–and he kept it from me intentionally, like dangling a treat just out of my reach.
I begin to pace again, even though I landed wrong coming down the ladder and each step sends little needles jabs up my leg. He listened to me–yes–and he did not force me to follow through on what I threatened for the first time. He did not hope that I would forget and instead agreed with me–completely.
I really hadn’t wanted to give up everything that I had been working for during the past three years. I hadn’t want to leave behind my children or my work. I hadn’t wanted to leave Sigma permanently. I just wanted to let them read and the only way I could do that was to leave. Only then would he understand that when I say I need something, I meant it. I’m not a spoiled city girl who thinks she needed everything in each shop window. I know how to survive with very little actually.
I turn again and my bad leg buckles. I fall smack on my bottom and gasp. I still haven’t fully healed from the last time this happened. Nasua wells up in my stomach and I lean over, just in case.
I hate him. I hate how me ties me up in knots and makes me think that I know everything when, in truth, he knows that he knows everything and that I am just a little nothing. I hate how he teases me it to the point that all I want to do is smack him hard. And his laughter, that sounds like he finds me cute, not the tough, determined person I strive to be. And his smile, how he seems to be looking down at me even when he’s looking up. And the way he talks with me, like he has to explain everything in simple words, like he would to a child. I’m not a child anymore. I’ve never really been a child.
I pound my hand on the floor in frustration and tears spring into my eyes. I hate him. No. Hate isn’t the right word. I loath him. I wish that I never met him. I distrust him. I find him intolerable. No–none of those work. He’s worse than all that. He’s–he’s something else entirely. He–I–I….
I love him. That’s it. That was why hate never fit. Because for some crazy, insane reason, I love Samuel Brakborn.