In the week that passed, Arly learned more about the men she peer-reviewed each period. She knew that Tom's parents did not approve of his artistic aspirations. He also wasn't near as much of an asshole as she expected. She knew that Kyran wanted to return to Africa when he completed his studies to continue working towards a better future there. Benny, she didn't know much about him yet. She knew he was shyer than the others and did not like talking about himself. That was fine - Arly did more than enough talking for both of them.
By their third class period, a group text had been formed by Benny so that they could discuss the lecture without interrupting it. At least, that was the intention of the chat. It devolved into sharing their favorite internet jokes and making plans to eat lunch together. The hardest part about the shared messages were hiding their amusement from the professor.
Their fun came to an end when the professor passed newspapers out to every student in the classroom. Arly was the first to receive her copy, seeing what the Ethics professor likely wanted to discuss in class that day. Everyone had been talking about the Miller v. Johnson case that day, and for good reason.
Johnson United Manufacturing was accused of dumping the byproducts of their merchandise near a local aquifer. This led to widespread illness in the community that lived nearest to the aquifer. The parents of the sick children mounted a civil suit. Unfortunately, most of the evidence that the lawyers were using was circumstantial. The case had been thrown out that morning by a judge. People were still rioting outside of the corporate office and the founder, Benedict Johnson, was nowhere to be found.
Arly did not know what to think as she read a detailed account of the decision. It could not be easy for a judge to make those choices and she could not imagine being in their position. She looked to Dr. Roswell as the others collected their copies, seeing Benny shift in his seat. "This is a perfect example of what we've been discussing this week in terms of corporate ethics," Roswell began, turning her beady gaze to Benny. "Would you like to start our discussion, Mr. Johnson?"
Benny's voice was hardly audible as he asked, "Why me?"
Arly did not think it was possible for her to hate a professor so much as the class shared a collective gasp. She understood the implication that Dr. Roswell was making. Benny Johnson and Benedict Johnson were related. She wondered how that escaped her knowledge, as Benedict Johnson ran most of Haven Heights, and understood why he would keep it from them. What right did Roswell have to take that away from him?
She knew that people could be cruel, but there was not much she could do to help Benny out of the situation. This professor wanted to make an example of Benny. All she could do was lay a hand on his leg and provide what support she could. A rational person wouldn't blame Benny for the things that his father's company did or make an example of him. What she could not know was that Roswell knew the Miller family. She had met those who were sick. It was not easy to be rational in that situation, knowing that a student in her class could be directly involved in that. Roswell did not regret her actions.
"I hate it too," Benny defended himself, only meeting Arly's eyes. "Honestly. It's awful, what happened to those people."
No one spoke up in Benny's defense but no one rushed to judgement either. The lecture hall was completely silent.
The professor let them leave ten minutes early and offered a half-assed apology to Benny. Arly kept him moving forward, with Kyran and Tom on each side so that no one would hassle him. She did not know what to say and only offered a tight hug when they reached the parking lot. Benny thanked her quietly and got into his car with the others watching. He didn't try to leave. If anything, it looked like Benny might be crying.
While he suffered in silence before finally starting the car, Arly seemed to be on a warpath, threatening to call the dean and report Roswell for that stupid student. Tom and Kyran did not understand why Arly found herself so bothered by what Roswell and Johnson United Manufacturing had done. There was nothing that they could do about it and Tom made a point of telling her so. "I hate when people say that," Arly complained, her eyes following the back of Benny's car. "And I hate bullies."
Tom shrugged, because Arly was not much of a match against a professor or a CEO. All they could really do for Benny was believe that he hated it as much as they did.
Tags: cancer, dad, death, grief, personal essay, reflection.
Two months earlier, a prison term for burglary was not on the mind of any college student enrolled in Haven Heights University. Those students were far more focused on their first day of class - a monumental experience for the incoming freshmen and a tedious one for returning upperclassmen.
Arly York, a Business Administrations minor, was one of those poor students. She should be more excited, having just transferred to the massive university after finishing her general education at the local community college. Instead, she dreaded the next two years and what they would bring. She didn't know how to survive at a massive university, almost four hours away from home.
Still, Arly put on a brave face as she entered the massive lecture hall. Over one hundred and fifty students, each from different backgrounds and upbringings, filed inside and found their seats. She could see that most tried to sit with their friends, leaving her to feel like a fish out of water. Most of these people already knew their friends and that wouldn't leave much room for Arly to squeeze in.
Arly decided to take a seat in one of the back rows, where she could work on other assignments without drawing attention to herself, and prepared for a long semester. The other students filled the seats in front of Arly, which didn't bother her. She preferred sitting alone in class. It was less likely that other students would look over her shoulder or copy her assignments. That made this seat perfect, she thought. No one else would want to sit so far back.
Obviously, she overestimated the likelihood that others in the class would want to avoid the back row and jumped when someone took the open seat beside her. She turned her head, just enough to see a cute smile and bright blue eyes. His cheeks were a soft shade of pink, as he hadn't meant to scare her. On her other side, another guy sat down. He wasn't too much older than her, but the canvas bag he carried had a few colorful patches from another country. She jumped again when another student, one she recognized from another class, slid behind her to take a seat. He apologized but Arly didn't care; she was more affected by the fact that they ruined her solitude.
She found herself thankful when the professor entered, locking the lecture hall's door to prevent other students from entering. While sitting in a row of four wasn't ideal, Arly knew that she could deal with it.
Her attention drifted forward, where the professor introduced herself as Dr. Hadley Roswell - head of the Haven Heights business department. Already, Arly could identify that the professor didn't care much for attendance when she dropped the roll sheet in the trash and turned on the projector. She appreciated that. The Business Ethics class would be one she could skip when necessary.
Once a power-point had been opened for the class to review, Roswell looked into the crowds of students. "Look around. See the other students in the classroom with you. Most of them won't be here by the time you graduate," the professor explained, leaning against the podium. Arly felt as though a mental hit-list formed in the woman's head, evaluating who in the class would live to see the end. "Today, we'll take it nice and slow. You're going to get to know the people in your row. These are the people you'll be doing every assignment with for the next fifteen weeks. They are your life-line."
Arly groaned, realizing that she was in a row with three guys. She would be stuck with them for the entire semester and her grade in the class depended on them. These classes were the worst. It wasn't fair to grade her based on the effort put forward by the others. Only one in her row seemed to like the idea and it was the guy who'd blushed - likely a pushover, which might not be so bad.
After Roswell finished giving some basic instructions about the next class period, she took a seat at the computer to continue working on the syllabus. Arly prepared to leave when one of her group members interrupted, "Uh.. I'm Benedict, but everyone calls me Benny. This is my second year at Haven Heights."
Arly hadn't expected the shy one to be the first to speak up, but she wasn't complaining too hard about it. He was actually kind of cute, if she was looking at that kind of thing. She released the handle of her backpack and settled in to hear what the others had to say.
"I'm Kyran. I've only been back in the States for a month," the one to her left spoke. His voice was rougher than Benny's, which fascinated her. "I've been in Africa for the past seven years, working on the malaria control efforts. I'm undecided, but the campus advisor recommended I take this class first."
That explains the patches on his backpack, Arly acknowledged. Two of three isn't so bad.
The other guy in their row had his eyes on his notebook, seemingly working on a rough pencil sketch of Dr. Roswell. He didn't acknowledge Benny or Kyran's attempts to engage him. The most that they were able to get from his was a name and a major; Tom, Graphic Design. All he wanted to do was sketch. That would prove to be a problem if this class required in-depth group work.
When the men finally found themselves brave enough to look back at Arly, she decided to keep things short. They didn't need to know everything about her. "My name's Arly. You call me anything else and I'll pretend you don't exist. I'm a Business Admin student and I want to open my own bookstore," she told them, setting her chin in hand. What else could they talk about now? "I didn't know this class would be almost all group work, but I think we'll get along fine."
She looked at the group they formed, recognizing that it would be a long semester. However, Kyran and Benny both seemed like nice guys. Maybe this could work, Arly decided.
Little did they know, this meeting would change the course of their lives forever.
Tags: self-publishing, writing, survival guide, publishing.
Alarms. There weren’t supposed to be alarms.
“What did you idiots do?” Arly demanded, pulling off her black mask. Thick curls tumbled into her eyes, but both men could feel the rage behind them. “We had ten more minutes!”
Arly groaned to herself as they began arguing, trying to place blame on anyone but themselves. She didn't care who did it (yes she did), but they needed a plan or they would be facing several long years in prison. Her focus fell to the massive stacks of cash still laying in the safe. They couldn't take any more without risking being caught.
She looked to her backpack once more and found that it was fuller than she thought. While they didn't get as much as they were hoping for this time, what they did get would be enough to start. She took hold of the zipper and closed the bag, shouldering it before she barked another order at her friends. Kyran took the hint, taking hold of his own backpack, and grabbed hold of Tom's shirt.
Kyran easily dwarfed Tom and pulled him along behind Arly, making sure to avoid any other potential traps. They didn't need to set off another set of alarms. What went off was more than enough to get their asses in gear. It wouldn't be long before officers showed up to the building and that would make escape harder. She should've known that robbing Johnson Manufacturing was a terrible idea.
As they neared the service shaft they used to get inside the building, Arly heard more footsteps in the hallway. She peered around the corner and saw that the evening guards were blocking the path. She panicked, pushing the men backwards into an office. Quietly, she shut and locked the door.
Tom glanced out the window while the other two watched the hallway, commenting, "It can't get any worse than this."
Both turned to shush him, noticing the flashing red and blue lights that must've surrounded the building. Arly hadn't considered how long it would take the police to arrive if the worst happened, but she knew it was a mistake to be so cocky. Maybe they deserved to get caught.
"Benny's going to hate us," Kyran mused. They deserved it. "This is bad."
It was bad. Arly agreed entirely. She was the one who came up with this terrible idea and they were all going to pay for it. Was it worth it?
They say that life is not about what happens to you, but how you handle the challenges that come your way. If the alarms going off throughout the bank were any indication, they were not handling the challenge well.
Arly wasn't sure where things went wrong this time. Did Tom forget a line of code when disarming the security system? Maybe Kyran touched something he wasn't supposed to.
Either way, this wasn't how things were supposed to go tonight. They were going to show old Mr. Johnson that he didn't own their city. Now, they were likely going to prison for a long time.
While she searched for her friends, to get out before the police arrived, Arly wondered what kind of life she sentenced them to with this brilliant idea.
Just weeks earlier, everything was fine. They were college students. They wanted to make a difference for the people who didn't have enough. They planned to be heroes. Now, she could kiss that all goodbye.
How did she get here, dressed in black, with bags of stolen money tied to her belt?
It all started one late fall afternoon..
Tags: favorite words, listicles, word, words, writing.
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20 years young. Should be writing.