27. The Struggles of Children
“Zes has been arrested,” Akera declared, bursting into the room. The boy paused, bending over to catch his breath, vaguely aware of the commotion his announcement had started but too tired to really care.
He’d come sprinting as fast as he could after Neuf gave him the message, running through the halls in search of someone, anyone who would listen. The fat old man hadn’t had the energy to tell them himself, so he’d sent Akera to do his work for him. It was his job, after all.
“Where? How? When?” The questions circled back and forth, repeated by everyone inside the room. Now that he had a little air, the boy actually looked to see who it was. Ace, Deuce, Vier, Tera and his mother. Akera knew he should start thinking of her as Vijf, as he’d been instructed to, but he could barely stop thinking of himself as Ethan, let alone worry about other people.
Ace was the first to recover, rushing at him in a way that made Akera want to flinch back. “How do you know that?”
“Neuf. He said to tell you to see him.” Akera smiled, proud that he’d delivered the message successfully. He looked to his mother, ready for her to praise him, but she barely glanced his way, swiveling her head back and forth frantically.
“Ace, we have to go, now! He’s going to tell them everything! He’s going to ruin us!”
“No, shut up! Shut up Aunt Alexandra!” Vier practically screamed it, and the fact that he’d used Akera’s mother’s real name meant something was really wrong. He was really worried, otherwise he’d have never made that mistake. Akera wanted to smile. Even the adults messed up sometimes too!
He did flinch when his mother’s hand cracked across Vier’s face, sending him reeling back into the wall, knocking over a vase of plastic flowers on the way. The crash was even louder in the silence, everyone holding their breaths and watching Vier as he picked himself up off the ground.
Halfway there he collapsed again, one arm thrashing wildly, his head banging against the wall. Ace ran to his brother, but Akera couldn’t see what happened next, because a moment later his mother was pushed out into the hall with him and Deuce shut the door in her face.