The Victim

Chapter Three: Ascent

Free rider

Uncle was pleased with what I told him about my first day. Yes, uncle, because now I’m basically part of the family. “So what have you planned next?” he asks during dinner. “I will try to meet other students” I say slowly as I look into his eyes for a sign of approval. “And try to get them to owe me favors.” He nods, pleased. “You see,” he points at my fiance with the knife he’s using, “if you had been like her when you had your chance, things would be much easier now.” My fiance says nothing, only holds his own knife tighter as he cuts his steak. His face tells me all I need to know: he hates his uncle more than anything else in the world.

Then why is he doing this? Why is he playing ball? I guess he’s been pounded into submission. Then again, what is keeping him here? I have to find out, my future depends on these lunatics. “So,” I start casually, looking at uncle. “You never told me why you moved to this city.” My fiance opens his mouth, but his uncle throws him a threatening look which is enough to shut him up. “My niece thought she could make more of a difference here… She was an idealist, you know?”

I nod in agreement. My fiance half-smiles with his mouth closed, showing his silent disagreement. “I guess she told you she and I founded tol,” uncle goes on. “It was her idea though. I thought it would both give her political momentum and help natdec. And it did. She could’ve been the youngest governor in history, but she chose not to. She ended up believing the slogans she manufactured, thinking she was saving the world. I thought it was so strange, how she changed…” His mind seems to wander off. He stares at me. “I hope you don’t make the same mistake,” he says. “I hope you are more of a… realist.” I’m not sure if it’s a warning or a threat. For a moment it seems as though he was talking to her.

We finish diner, go to sleep, wake up, I go to class. It’s cold all day. It rains all day. It’s the same day all week. One by one we meet all the teachers throughout the first week. Most are energetic and manage to capture my attention. A few are boring and tedious. Then there’s one that I can’t stand from the first day. He’s overweight, has an unshaven double chin, and speaks as though he were the maker of all laws. But what I can’t forgive, what makes me hate him, is how he looks at girls.

When a male asks him a question, he answers tiredly and reluctantly. When a girl asks, however, he slithers closer to her. He smiles and compliments her for asking a bright question. He sometimes stares at her breasts shamelessly, or licks his lips when he thinks nobody sees him. But I see him for what he is. There is one girl who asks an annoyingly high number of questions: my blonde “friend”. Our seating arrangement is this: at my right sits the brunette, and at her right, the blonde. The brunette sometimes whispers a question to the blonde or me, saying for example “If that’s so, the process for constitutional amendments must take this into account…” The blonde then usually asks a rephrasing of that same idea to the teacher.

“Are you honestly not concerned at all about her stealing all your questions?” I ask the brunette. “No,” she says with a smile. “She’s my friend.” I’m sorry but this is weird. I don’t believe she’s here letting people climb on her back. Just yesterday she told me she didn’t come from a rich family, that she’s actually here on a scholarship. A scholarship! There’s like only one or two for this place. She must be really good.

The teachers give us different projects to work on. Thankfully most are individual, and I can make sure all the work is done. Then there are other projects where the teachers assign us random teammates; the reason being, they say, “that’s how it works in a job, so we have to suck it up.” This is like being told, “Hey, in a couple of years you will be shot in the foot. But instead of running and enjoying life until then, we’re gonna shoot you now!”

As you may have guessed, I don’t enjoy forced teamwork. My experience with it has always been the same, whether working or studying. If I want something done right, I have to do it myself. People avoid as much responsibility and work as they can. I realize the teacher is staring at me. “Miss, are you ok?” It seems I drifted off again, here in my thoughts. The brunette touches my arm gently and whispers “hey.” I stand up and head over to where the rest of my recently-assigned team is standing. I never know what to say in these situations. “Hi,” a guy greets me.