“‘Well, of course we do,’ said Gabby, giving Jackie a look. ‘We’re just in shock, that’s all. But yes, we are very happy for you. Just one question: is he moving here, or are we moving to that big house we saw.'”
“What!” said Jackie. “You’re getting remarried?”
It was Saturday afternoon, and the family was having afternoon tea.
“Well, don’t you want me to be happy?” said Jackie’s mom, sipping her tea.
“Well, of course we do,” said Gabby, giving Jackie a look. “We’re just in shock, that’s all. But yes, we are very happy for you. Just one question: is he moving here, or are we moving to that big house we saw.”
Oh, please make him move here, thought Jackie. Or say that you think this is actually going too fast for you. Please say it’s the second one.
“Well, about that… ” said Jackie’s mom. “Remember the other house that only Gabriela and I saw? Well, we’re moving there.”
“What?!” Jackie screamed, spilling tea all over the table and jumping up. “I’m not moving!”
“Well, you have to,” her mom said.
“No,” said Jackie. “I’m running away.”
Two years later…
“Do any of them know what ‘on time’ means?” asked Will, cleaning an apple from the dirt on it. “They’re usually not this late.”
Jack and Will were sitting down near the pastry shop, waiting for the rest of their gang.
“They have the poet guy with them, right?” asked Jack, pacing back and forth. “I hope the poet guy won’t forget he’s the oldest out of all of them.”
“Well, how can he forget if he keeps reminding us about it,” said Will, snorting. “But really, if they got caught I’ll kill them before the police get to.”
“Hey!” said Jack suddenly. “It’s the poet guy!”
“Finally!” said Will as the poet guy got closer. “What took so long, Alan?”
“Captured,” said Alan, breathing heavily. “I just ran away from some policemen. They’re going to find us any minute. So move it!”
“I don’t know if this is the right time to point this out, but we have a small problem,” said Jack, looking past Alan and Will.
“You think I haven’t seen that before, British guy?” asked Alan. “I know that all of our group is gone except for me, German guy, and you.”
“No,” said Jack with a worried voice. “There are, like, ten policemen and a really tall guy coming toward us with guns.”
“We could try and run,” said Will. “But whatever happens, Jack, keep your mouth shut. We all know how they hate British people.”
“We can’t run,” said Alan, leaning against the wall and taking a huge bite of the apple Will gave him. “Time to join our friends.”
“Shutting mouth,” said Jack. “Now!”
“What did you want to do with them sir?” asked one of the policemen to the tall man. “You want to take them to your school?”
“Yes, that’s right,” said the man. “And if you don’t mind, I would like to give them a proper hello.”
“Whatever you’d like sir,” said the same policeman.
The tall man came closer to the three of them and then crouched down, so he’d be face to face with them.
“I don’t think I introduced myself,” he said. “My name is Vincent. I am a director of a school for people like you. Your friends are also going to that school, so you won’t be very lonely there. Now may you please introduce yourselves?”
“Yeah sure, whatever,” Alan and Will mumbled. Jack still kept his mouth shut and didn’t dare look up.
“My name is Will,” mumbled Will, also not looking up. “I’m seventeen.”
“Nice to meet you, Will,” said Vincent. “I think that people at the school will call you German guy. Have you ever been called that before?”
Will nodded but still kept his head down.
“My name is Alan, and I’m the oldest of the group. I’m eighteen,” said Alan, picking his head up and looking Vincent straight in the eye. “People call me poet guy.”
“Well nice to meet you too, Alan,” said Vincent. “You like poetry?”
“Well, then we’ll get along,” said Vincent. “And what’s your name? You haven’t spoken at all.”
“That’s Jack,” said Alan quickly. “He’s a little shy sometimes.”
“I don’t think he’s shy,” said Vincent. “Say your name, or I’ll tell the policemen to take you away.”
“My name is Jack,” said Jack, trying to hide his British accent. “I’m sixteen.”
“Well, I guess people call you the British one.”
“No,” said Jack quickly. “We only call people ‘one’ if they are very important. They call me British guy.”
“Well, then,” said Vincent. “Poet guy, German guy, and British guy, I hope you’ll like your new school.”
One hour later, Jack, Will, and Alan found themselves walking up to a big building.
All the way they were walking, none of them dared to speak.
Will was too shy to speak. He never liked talking to people he just met. It was different with their gang members.
Alan was too sad to speak. Vincent told them that their other friends refused to go and were now in jail.
And Jack was too scared to speak. The same thought kept running through his head. Her head, actually.
I just agreed to die. I’m a her. Not a he. Why did I agree to this. My foster parents wouldn’t kill me. Wait, thought Jack, I went through like two years without them, and I was perfectly fine. Whoever said I have to stop pretending.
They finally came to a tall building with heads sticking out of the windows.
“The other students like to give new students warm welcomes,” said Vincent. “I hope you’ll like it here.”
The three of them were still mute. None of them even paid attention to what he was saying. They all just kept their eyes forward.
When they got inside the building, they all gasped. Vincent smiled and said, “Welcome to your new home.”
The ceiling was at least ten feet tall, the walls were covered in amazing wallpaper. There was a sofa that took up a quarter of the room, a piano that took up half, and some chairs that took up the last quarter.
“Time to meet your classmates,” said Vincent. “You’ll be with them a lot, so try to be nice. If they try to kill you, either tell me or fight back. It happens here a lot.”
They walked down a long hallway to a room where there were two long tables.“This is where you’ll eat,” said Vincent. “You really don’t have to know where it is because everyone else will be rushing there every morning, afternoon, and night. You’ll memorize this whole place at some point. Now I really must show you were you’ll sleep.”
They walked down the hallway a couple of more minutes (it was really long) until they came to a door where loud sounds were coming from.
Vincent opened the door, and everyone got quiet.
“Students,” he said. “We have three new students today. Their names are Alan who is eighteen, Will who is seventeen, and Jack who is sixteen.”
Everyone was still quiet.
“I’ll leave you to say hello,” said Vincent. Then, he left the room, closing the door behind him.
“You guys have nicknames?” one of the boys asked. “Or should we give you guys one?”
“We have,” said Alan. “Mine’s poet guy.”
“Cool,” said another boy. “What about you?”
“Mine’s German guy,” said Will.
“What about the one that hasn’t spoken yet?” said the boy that first spoke. “What’s your nickname?”
“British guy,” said Jack
“Look at that!” said the boy. Jack saw he had a French accent, and the other boy that also laughed looked like a Romani. “We have a British guy in our room!”
“Well, what are you?” said Jack, not offended at all (he heard that before). “French guy and gypsy guy?”
The two boys looked at him blankly.
Then, the door opened, and Vincent came in.
“From now on, you shall call me by my last name: Mr. Rander,” he said. “Now all of you off to bed. What’s wrong with you guys? Michael? Alex? Hurry up!”
When everyone was in bed, Vincent put out the small candle on the windowsill. Then, he left the room.
The fire was still burning, so you could still see some things.
“Hey,” said the French guy. “British guy? We’re in France! What were your parents thinking of bringing you here after the war?!”
“I don’t have parents,” said Jack. “Besides, it’s easier to just keep your mouth shut and not talk about all the other things you stole if you get caught.”
Someone gave a small laugh.
“Well, in the morning you’ll really see how this room looks,” said the French guy. “It’s not the best room you ever saw.”
“I saw a bed,” said Jack. “That’s the most comfortable thing I ever saw!”
“How about your foster parents?” asked the French guy.
“Made me sleep outside,” said Jack, remembering the memory of him sleeping on the cold ground. “They really didn’t care if I died.”
“Well, now you’re here,” said the French guy. “You ever been to school?”
“Yeah,” Jack said. “I got kicked out all the time for stealing.”
“Well, this is a normal school,” said the French guy.
And that was their first day at that school.
Three weeks later…
The bell rang, like usual, early in the morning.
“Today is telling secrets day!” said Mr. Rander. “We have this day every year. And no lies. So after classes, I want to hear your deepest secret! Now off you go!”
Jack’s eyes grew wide. His deepest secret? It’s that he’s a girl!
Time to die, thought Jack as he went to his first class of the day. Why did I ever agree to do this?
The morning classes got his mind off of things.
“German class is very important to everyone I hope,” said their teacher for German that morning. “And I know that you’re going to tell your secrets today, but you still have to pay attention!
That last part was for the kids in the back who always talked. Jack, Will, and Alan were one of those boys.
“Deutsche Geschichte,” said the German teacher. “Will! Translate that!”
Will stood up and said, “German history. And also, are the teachers going to share their secrets? Mrs. Ahif?”
“Nein!” said Mrs. Ahif. “Jetzt lese deutsche Geschichte in deinen Lehrbuchern!”
Everyone looked at Will for him to translate. He was the only one that could speak German fluently in the class, aside from Mrs. Ahif.
German class went on, and soon the bell rang which meant it was time for French class.
“French guy!” called Jack. “You better translate!”
“Yeah,” the French guy said as he sat next to Alan. “You owe me one.”
“No,” said Will. “I translated for German class, only fair if you translate in French class.”
“Fine,” said the French guy. “And you can call me Alex if you want.”
“Bonjour!” said Mr. Aubin coming into the room. “C’est le jour de l’histoire de France!”
“Today is French history day,” translated Alex. “I’m not helping you with anything else. Only what he’s saying, not what’s in the textbooks!”
“Sure,” said Jack. “The textbooks are in English. I think we all know English.”
“You’re supposed to know French!” said Alex angrily. “You’re in France! Not in America!”
“Is there something wrong in the back, boys?” asked Mr. Aubin.
“Non,” said Alex. “Nous allons travailler maintenant.”
“Good,” said Mr. Aubin and turned back to the boy he was helping
“You’re good at lying to teachers,” whispered Jack. “You said that we’re going to go and work now.”
“Well, I am,” Alex said and opened his book.
Half an hour later, the bell rang, and everyone ran out of the classrooms. Everyone couldn’t wait to hear the secrets of all the boys.
At least those were the only two classes of the day, thought Jack. Now I can live peacefully in a grave once they find out I’m a girl. Even if I don’t say I’m a girl, they’ll find out anyway at some point.
As everyone took their seats at lunch, Mr. Rander stood up and said, “We’ll go by tables, and then everyone will say their deepest secrets! No lying!”
“Last year this started,” said Alex. “I never lie to Mr. Rander. If you do, somehow he’ll find out and kick you out.”
“No lying it is,” said Alan.
Jack saw that Alan, Will, and Alex were also scared. It made Jack feel a tiny bit better.
Mr. Rander starting naming tables, and the boys went around and told their deepest secrets.
At least I’m going last, thought Jack, as a boy told everyone he’s not actually French. I can enjoy life for five more minutes!
Then, it was time for their table.
“Alex,” said Mr. Renard. “Your secret.”
Alex stood up like all the other boys did and said, “My deepest secret is that I almost killed my dad.”
Everyone was quiet, and then Mr. Renard broke the silence.
“Well, I guess something in common with your friend Will over here,” said Mr. Renard. “I’m sure we all saw some anger in you when someone mentioned parents. Will, stand up.”
Will stood up and said, “My deepest secret is the same as Alex. I almost killed my dad.”
Mr. Renard said, “Well, we all get angry at our parents at some point. Alan your turn.”
Alan stood up and said, “I wrote ten poems, and they all were in a newspaper.”
“Well, that’s amazing!” said Mr. Renard. “Jack, your turn.”
Jack stood up slowly and said, “My deepest secret is that my name is actually Jackie, and um… I’m sort of like a girl really, and I’ve been pretending to be a boy for the past two years.”
It was deadly quiet in the room.
The whole room was looking at her with their mouths open.
Then, Will said, “You’re a girl?!”
“Yeah,” said Jackie. “But I can explain.”
So, Jackie told the whole story from beginning to the end.
“Forever this name will be with you… ” said Will. “The British One.”