Chapter 8Mature

"Adam, you've been very distracted. This isn't like you at all. Come on, you can tell me."
   Tears had begun to well up in the boy's eyes and now his face was pink with the effort of keeping them back. He shook his head in silent protest.
   "You're obviously upset. Please, Adam," she reached out to hold his arm but he whimpered and recoiled from her touch.
   "Is that sore?"
   He nodded.
   "Can I have a look at it?"
   He did not respond for a moment, only bit his lip. Eventually he unbuttoned the blazer he'd been wearing and rolled up the right sleeve of his shirt, turning his head from Amanda as he showed her his forearm.
   Four angry purple bruises coloured the pale skin of the child's arm in parallel lines as though someone with large hands had grabbed him with unnecessary force.
   "Adam, who did this to you?" Amanda asked, her voice urgent.
   The boy only shook his head again. Amanda left her seat at the desk and crouched next to Adam so that her eyes were level with his.
   "Look," she began softly, "if you tell me who did this I can stop them doing it again. I'll tell Mr. Leicester and he'll sort it out. You know we won't let anyone hurt you this way."
   "It isn't just one person," Adam sobbed, "they all do it. And they call me names and - and tell me I don't deserve to be alive."
   "What? Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Amanda struggled to keep the tears from her own eyes.
   "They'll just hurt me again! They've told me so. And I know they are serious because I've tried to hit back before, but they're never alone and another always comes in to hold me down. I just make it worse for myself! It's my own fault..." his voice was lost in sobs again.
   "Do you mean the soldiers? Is it the soldiers that hurt you? Listen, I know you're scared but if you tell me I can make it better, I promise," she pleaded with him.
   "Yes! When they come to take me for tests or to training, or here for lessons."
   Amanda's stomach knotted. To think that those monsters had hurt him and brought him to her as though all was normal. She breathed deeply and allowed Adam to continue.
   "Mr. Marcel is the worst. I hate it when he's on duty. When someone comes to make sure I've gone to bed I hope so much that it isn't him, because he comes into my room and..."
   The child could say no more. His face contorted and he buried it in his arms, collapsing upon the desk. It was all Amanda could do to pull him towards her and cradle his shaking frame, stroking his hair in an attempt to soothe him. Her own face was screwed up, livid at the thought of the soldiers hired to protect Adam betraying not only his trust but hers, and Leicester's, in the most despicable way she could imagine. They might see Adam as an experiment, an unnaturally strong and artificial thing, but she needed no more proof of his humanity than she had now; the weeping, frightened boy in her arms.

The End

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