Black Ink Guilt
Black Ink Guilt
Albernathy Central, a boarding school in Connecticut, is hosting a summer program for individuals who got accepted into an Ivy League school in the fall. This program serves as a transitional step before students enter the real world; however, there’s rumors circulating on campus that extend far beyond the Tri-State area. The Dean’s son, Declan, has been missing for a month. No one knows for certain what has happened to him, but everyone seems to be suspicious of the four families, a collective group of elitist friends, who were with him before he disappeared. In her desperate, yet naïve attempt to break away from her small town south of nowhere, protagonist Aimee Scranton has agreed to attend the program and take on a $250,000 bribe from her math tutor, Derek who used to live up north with the four families and has some deep-rooted secrets of his own.6
Coming-of-age / Young adult fiction
Sarah Kee (United States)
“Fifty grand in cash,” Derek made it sound like a simple transaction made between two Wall Street Brokers.
I reached for the sealed envelope with trembling hands.
“You can count it if you want,” he took a sip from his cappuccino and grabbed a napkin to wipe off the excess foam forming around his lips. “I’ll wait.”
“I trust you,” I smiled politely.
“You shouldn’t trust anyone,” he shook his head in disagreement. “Count it.”
I used my index finger to rip apart the seal that was holding together my entire future. I peaked inside shyly and saw Benjamin Franklin’s face five hundred times. Then, I counted it again, just to make sure and saw his face another five hundred times. It was all there. I was holding fifty grand in my dry, callused hands. The only time I ever laid eyes on money like this was when my Great Aunt had passed away and the family dug up her secret stash in-between the books in her downstairs library. Even that looked like pocket change compared to this.
“Your train leaves in a couple days,” he checked his agenda twice, actually three times, just to be certain. “Recite the plan to me one more time.”
I took a deep breath in, but I didn’t exhale right away.
“Aimee?” He tapped the wooden table as his emerald green eyes began to pierce their way right through my soul and into my conscious. “What’s the plan?”
“I’m going to Connecticut,” I struggled to find the right words to say, but I continued on. “I’m going to get on a train that is going to take me to Albernathy Central, a private boarding school outside of Greenwich, that opened up its facilities from June to August to any student who was accepted into an Ivy League school in the fall. Albernathy Centeral will serve as a learning experience to help young men and women transition into his or her first year of college. But for me, I will spend the time during the summer program to find out the truth about what had occurred a month before.”
“And what happened a month ago?” He questioned in an aggressive tone.
“The Dean’s son, Declan, never returned after he took a weekend trip to Cape Cod with some of his friends. No one knows exactly what had happened to him, whether he’s alive, dead, or if it was a suicide attempt. The body was never found and traces of any hard evidence are very low. So far, the Parnell’s, the Waldon’s, the Bazarotti’s, and the Vertressio’s, also referred to as the four families, are all suspects of the Dean’s son’s investigation. They were there the night he went missing and the cops claim that if anyone knows what happened that night, it’s one of them. So, I’m supposed to…”
“You’re supposed to make nice and befriend the four families,” he cut me off and continued with the conversation. “These people are the cream of the crop. They all come from very powerful, elite families who can make the impossible, possible. It’s not really about what you know. It’s more about who you know and what they know. The truth is going to come out sooner or later. You have precisely three months to figure it out. And if you succeed, the fifty grand is all yours. So, do we have a deal?”
His words hummed their way into my mind like a delicate butterfly taking flight for the first time. Here’s fifty grand in cash but, only if you rearrange your whole life and find a missing person who has been gone for a month. Here’s fifty grand in cash if you move to Connecticut for the summer. Here’s fifty grand in cash if you find out what happened to the Dean’s son. Here’s fifty grand in cash and my mom and dad can finally make some mortgage payments after several months of not paying a dime. Here’s fifty grand in cash and the credit card companies will stop calling during dinnertime. Here’s fifty grand in cash and my sister can finally get her wisdom teeth taken out since my family lost their health insurance. Here’s fifty grand in cash and the start to your financial problems will be solved.”
“This is just the first payment,” he grabbed a black felt tip pen out of his pocket and wrote something down on the coffee stained napkin next to him.
“Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars,” I said out loud.
“Cash, check, or direct deposit. It’s yours if you find out what happened to the Dean’s son.”
That’s two thousand five hundred times I would see Benjamin Franklin’s face. I suddenly felt extremely overwhelmed and started to break out in a heat rash. I tried to calm myself down by taking deep breaths, but that only made matters worse.
“And if not?” I continued on with my thoughts. “What happens if I don’t find out what happened to him?”
I knew right then and there I was about to make a deal with the devil, but I didn’t have a choice. My subconscious didn’t have a choice. My head didn’t have a choice. My heart didn’t have a choice. And my family sure as hell didn’t have a choice.
Derek noticed me fidgeting in my seat and stalling until I found the right moment to deliver my answer. All I could do was stare back at him with blank eyes. Last week he was my math tutor. This week he’s a negotiator handing me fifty grand in cash. I knew for a fact that he didn’t come from money. If his stained clothes and chiseled body from doing manual labor all day didn’t give it away, his weekly conversations about it did. He repeatedly told me during our study sessions that his mom is a waitress at the local diner and his dad gambles away any money he can get his hands on. He tutored other students to help pay for groceries and bills and other odds and ends. He lived in a two-bedroom doublewide trailer off East Ridge Street with no living room. So, how does a 17-year-old boy have that kind of money?
“Aimee,” his voice grew gentle. “Do you want to look back ten years from now working some 9 to 5 dead end job living within a five mile radius of all your relatives where a night out at the local bar is the highlight of your year? Does it sound glamorous to be knocked up and engaged to some dead beat that used to be popular in high school and was one torn ACL injury away from making his MLB career possible? Didn’t think so. Just remember, at the end of the day, a restaurant can feed you a three-course meal, a boss can pay you a six-figure salary, and a family can love you unconditionally. But, all those people cannot function for you. Do you want to be small town forever? If you do then that’s fine. Walk away from my offer and pretend this conversation never happened. This decision comes down to you and what you’re made of. You’re always preaching about how much you’re afraid of breaking into old patterns. Don’t get comfortable with a mediocre life that isn’t worth living. Take a chance and allow yourself the freedom to be whoever you desire to be. You want to see how the one percent lives? Here’s your chance. I’m giving you the opportunity to start over and make a name for yourself. So, I’ll ask you one more time. Do we have a deal or not?”
Competition: June 2015 Pen Factor, Round 1
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