At lunch the three friends met up. Advay told them he had no other way but to work on his own for this activity and sulked about it all through lunch.
Sakhil was unable to control his laughter. Even Saakshi started laughing a little. But the two siblings could not fathom the reason behind such a decision by their professor.
"He seemed to know you." Saakshi calmly commented.
"He said my name sounded nice to the ear." Advay continued speaking without the gap of a heartbeat.
Sakhil's laughter grew even louder. "Well, what will you do?"
"What can I do? I'll just go to that place this Saturday."
"Don't worry, I will still help you with the other subjects," Sakhil said. With his sister around he had very few chances to boast.
All the other course subjects they dealt with were nothing peculiar. Life did not change much. Everyday after college Advay sweated for an hour playing, had dinner with his roommates and then they all studied together sitting beside each other in their room.
Chen and Tevy studied more and more and that pushed Advay and Eshin to do better. Now he rarely went on an evening walk. Advay also started his early morning workouts again.
Advay had a good sleep and he woke up fresh. He looked at the calendar in their room. The date was 15th of January. It was a chilly dawn. Advay quickly washed up and ran to the ground. He was not the only lad who exercised in the morning at the university. There were some 20 students like him doing laps or push ups. He waved to some familiar faces and proceeded with his own routine.
Then he went back to dormitory bathrooms for a shower. He had breakfast with Chen. Then he went to his college office to look for Miyazaki. He had asked her the day before for a gate pass.
"Here you have it. The Head asked you to be careful."
"Thank you, miss. I will." For a moment he wondered if the East Country was really as bad as they made it to seem. Or did they think he was a problem child?
He then went to the cafeteria to pack some hot food for lunch. He filled three boxes and put them in his bag. He added a water bottle to the stuff. Inside his bag there was also a notebook and few pens. He felt his pant pockets for his phone and found it safely there.
It was a sling bag and he put it over his back. He walked to the gates of the university. He checked his phone and it was already 9:30 A.M. At the gates there were some bicycles for the use of the students. After coming to the university he did not need to use them until now.
He showed the pass that Miyazaki gave him to the security guard. The guard wrote down his student ID number with "Permitted for 15-01-2021, Saturday only" in his register.
"I'm taking a bike," Advay probed to see if there was anything to be done in that regard.
"Sure, write down the cycle's number there and sign beside it." The guard told him and another one nearby beckoned him to his table. There was a register on it. Advay pulled out a blue coloured bicycle. It had the number 9 on it's rear end and he did the necessary.
The First Urban was considerably far away from the university. Advay scolded Prof. Logan silently as he started his ride. It was 11 A.M. when he reached the White River Orphanage (WRO).
He got off his bicycle and stood before the short gates that only reached his nose. Unlike the gates of the university, these gates had a sheet which blocked the view. He parked the cycle near the compound wall beside the gate. Now when the sun rose to height the winter weather was pleasant. Yet Advay was sweating a little because of riding his cycle at the max speed for more than one hour straight.
He opened the gate and there sat a guard on the post. "Yes?"
"I am a visitor." Advay did not say that he was there on a college activity.
The gate keeper had a lousy attitude. He waved his palm to say Advay could go in.
There was a two storeyed building in the compound and there was some space covered with concrete before it. Perhaps vehicles are parked there or it was just some space to let children play.
Advay walked towards the building and he suddenly stopped. To his right side a pair of green eyes seemed to move inconspicuously. Advay tried to look for that person but he found no one.
He also suddenly remembered a small incident from the past. It was almost half a year ago. Then he also suddenly realized that his first stop on the Eastern land was this very locality. Could that child really be that boy?
Advay started walking briskly in hopes of finding out who that kid was. But unfortunately he could not. He proceeded into the building. It was an old structure. There were some cracks in the walls, although very few. There was a faint smell of cardboard in the air. Within a few steps there was a small cabin with 'Reception' stuck on the glass covering.
He saw a girl around his age at the reception desk in the cabin. She was already looking at him with some curiosity.
"Hi, I came to visit."
"A visit? What kind of visit?" The girl inquired with a meek voice.
For some reason Advay did not feel like mentioning his whereabouts or the fact that he came here on a course mandated by his university. It was a habit that stemmed out of his years at the Force. Whenever he went home his relatives would ask him what he was up to, where he studied and what school or college he went to. Every time he would smoothly lie saying he got into an institution in the Southern Polar.
It was the best choice and most of his fellow people did the same. They chose to tell their families that they were in an institution in the country in whose direction they'd have to go to reach their base. In Advay's case the base was situated towards the south from the Central nation. His aunt would tag along to the port to send him off some times, but his lies were never known.
"Do you want to donate? Money or clothes or toys?" the girl probed further.
"To adopt?" she suddenly sounded bewildered.
"No, just to make friends with you," Advay suddenly gave off a charming smile. Vayden had been a great flirt since they were 10; he went around telling the girls who joined along with them that they looked pretty. And at fifteen he was popular among the girls. His habits rubbed off on Advay a little.
Advay was a natural observant and he had sensed the girl was infatuated with him. And he seemed to be very right. She blushed and tried to control her smile.
"I want to make some friends among the orphans here," Advay told her properly.
"But... Your reason is too random... I need to write it down and I can't write that."
Advay sighed. Fine then. "My university needs me to do this activity. I just need to hang out here, that's all."
"University? The Provincial University?" Advay's smile became tight.
"Yes, will you please show me around?"
"No, you wait here. I will call our in-charge!" She went inside what seemed like a hall and came back quickly.
"The in-charge will speak with you soon... There was no one like you last year but there was one the year before."
"I see. So the one from the year before, how many came?"
"Um.. It was just one sweet big sister. She came every week back then."
"Oh." Advay felt better hearing that. This senior of his also seemed to be in a single person team.
"What was her name?" If Advay was lucky, he could check some old records and find the lady's in the library's archives to help him with this lonesome activity.
"Um, I don't know actually. I used to do another part time job while studying during that period. But the younger children liked her so much."
"You... are from here?"
"Yeah," she nodded.
"Hello mister!" The in-charge greeted him. She was a middle aged woman and looked friendly.
"Hi, please call me Advay."
"Alright Advay. So I am the in-charge of this orphanage. I will tell you all about it and show around the place soon. Feel free to move around until then."
Advay gave her a nod.
The three soon dispersed.
Advay walked inside and took a look around the hall and it was considerably big. The place was clean but mostly empty. It only had some little things in the selves of the walls. Some plastic moulded chairs were stacked up on a side. A few children were sitting around a small table and drawing. Some coloured. Towards the right side there was a door that opened into some open play area. Through a narrow pathway this area was connected to the open area in the front. Some children were running around. Most of these children seemed to be below 10 years.
On the left side there were four doors, some of them were left open. In one of those rooms Advay could see some beds and shelves with clothes. Perhaps the children stayed and slept there.
There was a counter at the far end of the hall. Behind that there were two doors to the left and an entryway without a door in the middle. The entryway led to the kitchen.
Advay walked to the children in the hall and sat down at the table.
There were five kids, four girls and a boy. Advay didn't speak anything. He looked at them and did not want to disrupt their attention. The children also were of the same thoughts perhaps. They looked at him and looked back at their papers, continuing to draw.
After sometime the in-charge came over to him and led him to the front room where the reception was. On the wall some old photos were hung and the lady told him about them and their motivation for founding the orphanage. They moved from one photo to another.
If he could, he would have slept off standing before the woman. He even showed how disinterested he was in all the information she was giving him. He yawned three times but the lady didn't stop. She even got more enthusiastic as she spoke more.
After that she showed the hall, the open space in the front and right side of the building. Then she showed him the children's rooms on the left. They had bathrooms and wash basins within. The cots and clothes were old. Many windows were open letting in fresh air and making the place bright.
Then she took him to the upper floor. There were more rooms on this floor for the children and a smaller hall occupied the rest of the space. Some children who were a little older were studying in the hall.
They came down again and soon all the children assembled in the big hall on the ground floor.
"It's lunch time now. Would you like to join us?" The in-charge asked.
"Sure, but I got my lunch. Can I eat that if it's okay?"
"As long as it's not too grand."
On the far end leaving some space there was a long thin cement counter. Some old and young people were bringing out dishes from the entryway in the middle and placed them on the counter.
The children queued at the start of the counter to get their lunch. Small children sat in a circle on the floor to one side of the hall. Older ones among them sat on the plastic chair spread randomly, sometimes in groups. They struggled without a table.
Advay grabbed an empty chair for himself and settled on the right side. The in-charge had gone inside a room near the counter and didn't come out soon. He quickly ate his lunch without company.
When the time was 2 P.M. all the children had finished their lunch. The workers started clearing the dishes on the counter. The children were putting their chairs away.
Among them Advay saw a boy walking into the kitchen. What he saw was the back profile but he was sure of who the person was. So he did see him when he was outside the building.
He sat where he did and observed the boy. Actually he stared at the boy and tried picking up his words for the apology he owed.
After clearing and perhaps some cleaning, Advay wasn't sure because the boy took some time in the kitchen, the boy finally came out. He carried a plate with a small quantity of food and walked towards one end of the counter, away from Advay.
He placed his plate on the counter and grabbed a nearby chair. He sat facing away from the hall and started eating. Suddenly Advay thought he also could have used a nice table that way, not that he had any difficulties.
The boy seemed to eat slowly. Advay formed his apology in the mind, 'I am sorry about last time.'
It was a long time ago but it bugged him, especially after finding the kid. He hoped he wouldn't have to explain what he was sorry for. The boy must also have remembered just like him. He would never be able to get himself to say 'Hi, I was the one who scared you while you were peeing.'
A little girl walked to the boy and showed him a painting and spoke about it as she pointed at different characters in it. From his angle Advay could not see the boy's face, he saw the boy nod and tilt his head and then nod again.
The little girl giggled and did a little funny dance holding her paper which cracked up Advay. If it were himself sitting there and eating he would surely choke on the food. She spoke some more. Suddenly the in-charge emerged from the door in front of them. The little girl suddenly stopped talking and was scared. She ran away.
What was that? Advay wondered. He continued observing the situation. The in-charge looked at the boy for a few moments before she went away. Well, whatever. He did not brood over it.
"Hi, big big brother! Shall I draw you?" The same little girl appeared before him after a few minutes and he realized she was among the group which he chose not to disturb a while ago.
"Sure draw me." Advay loved to talk but not to people who wouldn't understand his words. What topics were there really to talk with a stranger who was so young? He would just watch this cutie make a two dimensional him.
Advay looked at the boy again and the little man was still eating. Well, since he would stay a while longer, it won't be a problem. Today, he is going home only after saying his sorry.
"Big big brother, this is you!" The little girl jumped a little to catch his attention.
Advay looked at the paper and gave her a stiff smile. Perhaps children didn't need too many words to understand the other person's feelings. "You don't like it?" The girl asked.
"Is my trunk just a fourth of my legs?"
"What big big brother?"
"Nothing. It's good." He definitely knew when not to talk.
"Yes!!! Then I will give this drawing to you! I am a good girl."
"Keep it with you. Then you are a good good girl."
"Ooookay!" And she did her little dance again.
Advay looked at the counter and the boy disappeared. Ugh, did he now have to search for him? Nah, he would apologize when he saw him next. It was all because of that girl, he pettily blamed.
He stayed around the place for another hour. Apart from the little girl who sprung around from time to time there were few other children who tried to approach him. He spoke to them and made some little friends.
He still had not seen the boy after his lunch. He bade a quick goodbye to the in-charge and the reception girl and walked out of the orphanage. His bicycle was safe outside the compound as it had come with a chain lock. Next time he would park it inside. He started his cycle ride back to the university.