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We Don't Belong

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Kaimi gazed up at the grey expanse overhead they called the sky. The low hanging clouds veiled the sun just like the four walls surrounding her concealed what lay beyond her. If only she could know what was past her drab surroundings. If only she could see the wonders she knew were out there. If only she could fly far above these walls and escape these chains of bondage. If only...

“Kaimi!” Her young friend’s squeal brought her back to reality. “Guess what Sheridan gave me for my birthday!” Sheehan sprinted across the grey concrete, his hands cupped together in front of him. Kaimi laughed as Sheehan screeched to a stop just before plowing into her. “I haven’t a clue,” she lied. She had known for weeks what her friend was going to give Sheehan.

“He gave me a little carved horse! It looks just like the one in my Literature book.” Sheehan opened his hands to show her the rugged wooden figure of the majestic, four-legged creature. Sheehan was fascinated with these mythical creatures and Kaimi had known he would love Sheridan’s gift.

“Well, that’s quite a gift for an 8-year-old. Do you think you’re old enough to handle it?” she teased.

“Hey, I’m only 8 years younger than you. Soon, I’m going to catch up with you and Sheridan.” Sheehan looked past Kaimi, and his face lit up. “I’m going to show Micah my horse.”

“OK, just make sure Mr. Rafferty doesn’t see it. You know he doesn’t like when we talk about fairy tales.”

Sheehan nodded and raced off to his friend. Kaimi smiled. Life in the Rafferty House had once been all fun and games to her, just as it was to Sheehan. But now that she was older, she was beginning to question her teachers. They said the Rafferty House was the whole world. Nothing was beyond the four stone walls. Either succeed academically and be appointed a teacher or be “disposed of.” That’s what happened to those who were here one day and the next, gone.

It was frightening.

Fortunately, rumors were flying that Kaimi was to be appointed the new Science teacher. Ms. Loretta was getting old and would soon be disposed of.

Kaimi’s best friend, Clarissa, found her in her ponderings. “Having another ‘what’s-beyond-the-walls’ musings, Kaimi?” she said, smiling.

“You know how I feel, Clarissa.”

“To be honest, I’m beginning to think you could be right. Everything in the Rafferty House is so dull and lifeless. The walls, the concrete, even the books in the library. Then, you see all the students. Your deep blue eyes, Cecilia’s soft blonde hair, Sheehan’s vibrant smile, Jethe’s crazy red hair. It’s almost as if... we don’t belong.”

The harsh dinner bell interrupted their conversation. The students filed into the dining hall, one of the many rooms built against the stone walls that surrounded their world.

“I’ll be along in a minute,” Kaimi told Clarissa. “I want to grab my History book for after lunch.”

Kaimi walked quickly down the hallway and entered the empty girl’s dorm room, uneasy. Something felt different. She sifted through her stack of school books, peering in the dim light, until she found the one labeled “History of the Rafferty House.” She stopped, unable to turn around. Someone was watching her.
“Hello, Kaimi.” She jumped and whirled around, eyes wide. He was leaning calmly against the door frame. His dark black eyes, barely visible in the dim light, seemed to pierce the walls of her mind.
She had never seen him before.
But how was that possible? She knew everyone in the Rafferty House, and she was sure she had never seen him. “Wh-who are you?” she said nervously.
“My name is Lukas. You’ve never seen me before, because I live in a village outside your little Rafferty House world. And I’ve chosen you to be the first to discover what is beyond these four walls.”
Kaimi blinked. Twice. This had to be a dream.
“I know you’ve been doubting the knowledge of your teachers. Now you can find out for yourself.” Lukas pulled a piece of paper from his jacket pocket. “This letter explains it a little further and gives you directions on how to escape this prison.” His eyes became wet as he handed her the letter. “I pray that you will consider my words.” He turned and walked out. Kaimi rushed to the door, letter in hand, and looked up and down the hall.
“Lukas?”
But he was gone.
*******
“I have the craziest story for you guys,” Kaimi said as she plunked her small tray of food on the table. Clarissa had saved her a seat with their friends: Sheridan, Cecilia, and Marshall.
“Craziest story?” asked Clarissa. “You only went to get your book. What happened?”

“A man gave me...” Kaimi pulled the letter from her pocket “...this.”

Silently, they read the first line: “To those who long to be free.”

Sheridan looked sharply at Kaimi. “Who gave this to you?”

“A man named Lukas.”

“That’s not any of the teacher’s names.”

“He’s not from the Rafferty House. He’s from a village outside the walls.”

A moment of silence.

“B-but that’s not possible, Kaimi,” stammered Cecilia.

“Yes it is. They’ve all deceived us, trying to get us to believe that the Rafferty House is the only thing out there. It’s not. That’s what this letter is saying. Read it!” Kaimi set the letter in the middle of the table, and their four heads bent together.

Suddenly, Clarissa’s head popped up. “Whoa, freaky!”

“What’s the matter?” asked Marshall. “Except that this goes against everything we ever learned,” he said, glaring at Kaimi.

“Kaimi, look. This is almost exactly what I was saying just before lunch.” Clarissa set her finger next to a new paragraph.

“You were not born in the Rafferty House, as your teachers have taught to believe. You were born far away, in a different land, and were taken from your families. The Rafferty House is not your real home. You do not belong.”

Kaimi could still hear Clarissa’s voice in her mind. “It’s almost as if... we don’t belong.”

“See? You were exactly right even though you didn’t know the truth,” Kaimi said triumphantly. Clarissa nodded thoughtfully, reading the rest of the letter.

“It says that the door to get to the outside world is in Mr. Rafferty’s office,” said Clarissa. “No wonder he doesn’t let us go in his office.”

“I don’t know,” Cecilia said slowly. “This-this is huge.”

“You can’t just expect us to believe this right off the bat,” Marshall said.

Downhearted, Kaimi didn’t know what to say. Only Clarissa seemed to agree with her.

“Well, it’s two for and two against,” said Clarissa. “What do you think, Sheridan?”

Sheridan sighed heavily. “I-I’m sorry, Kaimi. I wish I could believe this, but... I can’t. Not yet.”

A low blow. Out of all her friends, Kaimi had most hoped that Sheridan would understand. Sheridan worked hard at his studies, but it still looked as if he would not be chosen to stay. Soon, Mr. Rafferty would come for him, without warning, and then he would be gone. Forever.

“But Sheridan-”

“May I have your attention, please?” Mr. Rafferty’s booming voice interrupted any and all conversation in the room. “Would these people please step into my office?” As Mr. Rafferty proceeded to list off various names, people reluctantly got up from their seats. Sheridan stiffened when his name was called. There were few reasons one was called to Mr. Rafferty’s office and most were not good.

“Don’t worry,” Sheridan said. “Probably just some lecture about behaving. I think I was talking in Psychology class yesterday.” His words gave Kaimi no comfort. Sheridan turned his back and walked away, perhaps for the last time.
*******

“Relax, Kaimi. Like he said, it’s probably for some other reason. Sheridan’s not old enough for them to get rid of.”

“Sixteen is plenty old enough, and you know it, Clarissa,” Kaimi said bitterly.

“We can only hope.” Clarissa sighed sadly. “C’mon, let’s get to class.”

Kaimi nodded. “I’ll be along in a minute. I left my History book in the dining room. Tell Mr. Apler that I’ll be late for class.”


Clarissa nodded and entered the class room. Kaimi continued toward the dining room. Hopefully the cook had left the door open. One lone figure walked down the hall, and she was the last person Kaimi wanted to see at that moment. Letisha.

“Guess who’s going to get in trouble?” she said in a sing-songy voice.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Kaimi said sourly. She just had to rub it in, didn’t she?

“Oh, I’m not talking about your friend. I’m talking about you, little Kaimi.”

“What could you possibly have against me?” Kaimi said dryly.

Letisha pretended to think for a minute. “Let’s just say this. I would be careful how loudly I talk about fairy tails at the lunch table,” she said smugly, walking away toward Mr. Rafferty’s office. “Someone might tell on you.”

Kaimi didn’t care. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. In one day, her whole world had fallen apart. Her only hope left was to leave the Rafferty House with Clarissa and somehow start over. If that was possible.

“Kaimi!” someone whispered. It sounded like it was coming from... the supplies closet?

The door to the closet was open, and when she looked inside, she was never so relieved to see anyone, even if he was hiding behind a mop.

“Sheridan! You have no clue how worr-”

“Shhh!” His darting eyes and tense face drained her of her relief. “It’s not like you think. They’re taking me away, just like we feared.”

Kaimi fought the lump that had suddenly risen in her throat. “But then how are you-”

“Let me finish. Mr. Rafferty explained everything to us. They don’t actually kill us; they get us to do their dirty work, taking children away from their families. It’s just like you said, Kaimi. It’s all true.”

Kaimi’s face lit up. “You-you believe?” she asked, eyes sparkling.

“Every word,” Sheridan said, cracking a smile.

Kaimi threw her arms around his neck, overjoyed. “I knew you would eventually!” She stepped back, a question on her face. “How did you get away from Mr. Rafferty?”

“He’s never had any problem with students running away before, because he brainwashes them into believing that what the Rafferty House does to children is right. Except it didn’t work for me since I had read the letter and knew about the truth. I managed to escape from the group when no one was watching. He’s probably noticed that I’m gone by now.”

“So now we just need to find Clarissa and somehow get to the door without getting caught.” Kaimi sighed. Easier said than done.

Footsteps echoed down the hallway, and Kaimi and Sheridan pushed themselves further into the darkness of the closet. But they relaxed when they saw Clarissa.

“Psst! Clarissa!” Sheridan whispered.

Clarissa spun around and laughed with relief when she saw them, but her relief was short-lived. “Thank goodness I found you two. We need to get out of here. Like, all the way out. Mr. Rafferty knows you know, Kaimi.”

“I know; Letisha told him.”

“She would,” Sheridan muttered under his breath.

“That’s not all. He came into History class, looking for you, and he expects you to report to him immediately.”
“Alright. Let’s go.”

Clarissa examined the closet as they walked out, and picked up a shovel.

“Why are you bringing that?” asked Kaimi.

“Why not? It might come in handy.”
*******

Kaimi took a deep breath and entered Mr. Rafferty’s office. “Mr. Apler said you wanted me?”

Mr. Rafferty, sitting at his desk, looked up at her with fierce eyes. “So you think you know everything, do you? Well, when a student noses in other people’s affairs, there must be repercussions. You know it as ‘disposal.’”

Suddenly Kaimi felt Sheridan standing beside her.

“What are you going to do, Mr. Rafferty? Brainwash her like all the others you’re getting rid of? Well it didn’t work on me, and it certainly won’t work on her. Because we know the truth, and the truth releases us from your lies.”

Mr. Rafferty chuckled harshly. “So that’s where you got to. Thought you were smart by running away, didn’t you?” he taunted, getting up from his desk and circling the two teens, cutting off their escape to the door. “Well we’ll see who’s smart once I use you two as examples to show what happens,” Mr. Rafferty’s face reddened with fury “when students defy my rul-”

Mr. Rafferty’s voice fell and his body slumped to the floor, motionless. Clarissa stepped gingerly over the large body, shovel in hand.

“I knew this would be useful for something,” she said cheerfully.

The three of them started inspecting the back wall of Mr. Rafferty’s office. “We gotta find the door and get out of here before he wakes up,” said Sheridan.

An unusual pattern in the stones caught Kaimi’s attention. They formed the shape of a lower case “t,” and were a shade darker than the surrounding wall. She laid her hand against the cool stones, where her fingers found a small groove. She thought she felt the stone shift a little. Kaimi’s heart jumped.

“I found it.”

Sheridan and Clarissa stopped examining the bookshelf and huddled around her. She showed them the loose stone.

“I think we’re supposed to remove the stones.”

One by one, they removed enough of the free stones to create a large enough opening to walk through. They peered into the darkness beyond the wall, where another door, this one wooden, stood. Kaimi laid her hand on the latch, but stopped.

“This is the last time we’ll see the inside of the Rafferty House,” she said solemnly. “All our friends- Cecilia, Marshall, Sheehan...”

“We can only hope that one day they’ll come too and, maybe, bring some others,” Clarissa sighed. “But there’s nothing else we can do.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Sheridan said. “Open the door!”

Kaimi’s excitement took over once more and an uncontainable smile crossed her face. She pressed down the latch of the door and pushed.

And with that one push, she cast away every lie, every bondage, every condemnation that had been hurled upon her in her former life to embrace a life of freedom, joy, and purity.

She could barely take it all in. The towering mountains, the sparkling brooks, the budding trees. Flowers bobbed their heads in the soft, cool breeze. And the sun! Oh, the sun! Look at it- shining brighter than any star in the heavens!


And for one moment, there was nothing else in the world for Kaimi but the warmth of the sun upon her closed eyes and outstretched arms. She was Home.

*******


Sheehan fingered the little wooden figure in his palm. The tiny horse had received 7 years of wear and was covered in grit and grime, yet, still, he treasured it. Even now, he could remember the day he received it: his eighth birthday and the day three of his closest friends had vanished, never to be seen again. Or so he thought.

Sheehan heard footsteps approaching the boys’ dorm room. Sheehan looked up at the lone figure standing in the doorway. His dark eyes seemed to penetrate Sheehan’s mind. Who was this?

“My name is Lukas. And I have something to tell you that will change your life forever.”



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