Levi sat in the grass, the cold air making his breath steam. His Survey Corps jacket was pulled tightly around him, his eyes dark as he watched cars pass by him, not bothering to look twice. He sat a vigil of some sort, next to the colorful flowers, candles, which had long been snuffed out by the wind, and wooden crosses with names etched into them. Gunther, Eld, Oluo, Farlan, Isabel, Petra. Times like this made Levi wonder why there wasn’t a cross with the name Levi on it. Why he had somehow angered a God enough to make this life barely livable.
First win against the Titans… first win… this is what I get? They worked so hard, too hard to deserve a death like this. Levi felt his lip quiver. Was he really going to cry? That wasn’t like him. He never cried, rarely showed emotion, he couldn’t cry now.
“Hey. Levi.” He looked up to see Hanje with her car door rolled down. “Get in. It’s too cold to be out.”
Levi’s eyes widened. “I can’t leave them.” he almost laughed at how much he probably sounded like a lost child. Hanje sighed, raising her eyebrows.
“Levi, we all have to learn to let go.”
He was silent. I don’t want to let go… I can never let go… but Levi pushed himself up, walking over to Hanje’s car and threw the door open, climbing in.
She smiled softly, and began driving. “Letting go is easier than being afraid your whole life.” Hanje looked over at Levi, was looking out the window. “I had two dogs once, Sawney and Bean. They were my family, my best friends. Two beautiful German Shepards, brothers from a litter my friend’s dog had. I spent a long time with them, bonding and playing. Then one day, Sawney and Bean were outside and a girl, maybe about a few years younger than you, walked down the street. My dogs jumped on her, not intending harm, but giving her an open invitation to play. When she obviously seemed distressed, I came outside and called Sawney and Bean to me. She was angry, and stormed off. I never thought twice. The next day when Sawney and Bean were outside, she came back. With a loaded 10.22 shotgun.”
Levi turned on Hanje in anger. “My friends aren’t-weren’t dogs!”
She shook your head. “You missed the point of the story, Levi.” she paused. “You know, I’ll always be on your side. As a teacher at RHS, it is my duty to look after the students.”
“I don’t need looking after.” he mumbled.
“I beg to differ.”
Hanje pulled into a driveway. She lived in a small house in the country, right on the inside of Trost. There were many strange and exotic looking plants growing on the porch, Levi knowing better than to ask about them.
You just don’t ask Hanje about her experiments.
“Now, Levi. You are getting out of my car and following me inside. I will make some tea, you’ll sit down with me, and you’ll tell me what’s going on.” Hanje replied with a serious voice, her brown eyes locked with Levi’s blue. “I know how hard it is to go through loss.”
Levi followed Hanje into the house, sitting at a wooden table as Hanje began boiling water. Levi turned to the science teacher/cheer coach, confusion suddenly flooding his mind.
“I know how hard it is to go through loss.”
“Hanje, why are you doing all this?” Levi asked. The brunette froze, then turned to Levi with a sad smile.
“Because in a situation years ago, I was like you.” She moved over to the table, sitting down. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, before lacing her fingers together and looking at the student in front of her. “Years ago, before I worked at RHS, I was on an expedition with a squad of scientists, into a vast desert. It was extremely hot, and not any buildings in sight. I had training before, so I knew what to do. I was leading a squad, we were on our way back. One got selfish, and hoarded water. Soon, everyone was thirsty, and luckily I knew we could get water from cacti. We were a day in on coming back, and suddenly a sand storm blew in. I was wearing prescription goggles, so I wasn’t blinded. But there was too much sand around me, and I couldn’t see anything but sand. It didn’t take me long to realize I had lost my squad. So I laid down on the ground and waited for the sand storm to end. When it did, I continued onward, alone, the only one who came back. I beat myself up over it, thinking, “I could’ve done something. Anything. They didn’t have to die.”, but it was useless and a waste of energy. I decided I could move on, become a stronger person. So here I am, with a Phd, a science class, and a cheer squad.” Hanje stood up, grabbing the two mugs of the hot liquid. She placed hers in front of her chair on the table. She turned to Levi, handing him the mug.
“Who will you be? The boy lost in the desert, or the strong person who overcame it?”
Levi took the mug from her, clicking his tongue. Somehow, Hanje’s story… cheered him up? Made him feel courage and confidence he rarely felt.
Hanje leaned down to his level, smiling. Levi could see tears brimming her eyes. “You know, Shorty? I think you are one of the strongest kids I’ve ever met. One day,” she said, going off to get some sugar, “I think you could be Humanity’s Strongest.”
Levi rolled his eyes, sipping the tea.