Jason sat by the end of the field and worked on the vine in front of him, plucking the berries one by one and placing them delicately in the basket beside him.
“You know you’re going to have to work a little faster than that if we’re to get the quota done by the end of the day.” Adam said as he brought over his own basket, filled to the brim.
“Hmmm?” Jason murmured, his mind off somewhere else.
“Jason, seriously, get your head in the game.”
Jason shook his head and sighed.
“Sorry man.” He said. “I’m just… you know.”
“Yeah, I know.” Adam patted him lightly on the back. “Look, do you want to head off for the day? I can finish up here.”
“What? No, it’s fine! I’m here, I want to help.”
“You can’t stay locked up in the fields for the rest of your life.” Adam said.
“Are you sure about that?” Jason asked. “There are quarters nearby and plenty of work for me to do.”
“Yeah, especially when you just sit there and don’t do anything!” Adam sighed and placed his basket down. “Look, you can’t hide away forever. You need to face everything.”
“What’s the point?” Jason asked, irritation creeping over him. “She’s just going to be there, making my life miserable.”
“She’s just one person, come and have a drink with Christiana and I. If anything, you can show her that she can’t get to you.”
“Yeah, that’s what I need right now, to be the third wheel whilst you make your move on Christiana.”
“You know it’s not like that.” Adam said. “It’s better than hanging out here.”
“Nah, you’re alright.” Jason said. “I’ll just go back to my flat. Watch a movie or something.”
“Jason, seriously man, you need to face up to her.” Adam said.
“Why? So that she can humiliate me again?” Jason argued. “No thank you. The whole thing is just a bunch of crap, I can’t be arsed.”
Jason picked a large bunch of berries and threw them into the basket.
“I am going to go actually.” He said, getting up. “You okay on your own?”
“I wouldn’t have suggested it otherwise.” Adam said.
“Good, see ya.”
And with that, Jason walked out of the fields, making his way to the dorms as quick as he could. He hated this part above everything else. He was tired of the evil looks he was getting from everyone, not to mention the insults and, on one occasion, the objects that are thrown at him.
He was generally lucky today however. Not many people walked past him and those who did, simply walked on the other side of the corridor and avoided eye contact. He could deal with that. He had made it all the way to his front doors before he bumped into anyone. It was Lucille. She was coming out of her own flat down the corridor and she tutted to Amy who followed her out.
“I can’t believe that they’re insisting they keep him here on this row.” Lucille said loudly. “I’ve repeatedly asked them to move the convicted felons from the area of young innocent women, but it’s like talking to a brick wall.”
Jason clenched his teeth and counted slowly to 10, searching for his keys so that he could get into the flat without having to hear anything else.
“It’s like they want to see us all murdered in our beds,” Amy replied. “I feel for you honey, I really do. I feel unsafe and I’m three corridors away.”
Where were his keys? He desperately checked every pocket for a second time. Out the corner of his eye, he could see them moving towards him. He sent a silent prayer up to the heavens, hoping that they would pass him by without addressing him.
“Did you hear that?” Lucille said, directing her question at Jason as they reached him.
“No one wants you here. Why don’t you find somewhere else to live?”
Jason chose not to respond, he took another deep breath and once more searched for his keys.
“Hey, I’m talking to you.” Lucille said.
“I’m a little confused as to why.” Jason poured out. “Aren’t you meant to be scared of me, or something?”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Amy spat. “You beat up one innocent woman then make us all terrified and not want to talk to you. Well, guess what, we’re not going to give you the satisfaction.”
“Oh look who it is, the sheep of our little community.” Jason turned to see Christiana saunter down the corridor. “Are you sure you feel comfortable out here, so far from civilisation? I mean, who is there to follow?”
“I fail to see why you keep yourself associated with the people you do, Christiana.” Lucille said.
“Maybe because I can see a liar like Michelle a mile away, as can anyone with a brain cell.”
“Why would she lie about anything as terrible as that?” Amy asked. “Didn’t you see the bruises all over her face, the next morning? Poor thing.”
“Trust me, if Jason had caused those bruises when she said he had, they would no longer have been on her face by the next morning.” Christiana said. “She did that to herself.”
“Oh here she goes, Lucille.” Amy scoffed. “Off on that ‘the injections aren’t really vaccines’ story again.”
Christiana squared up to Amy. “Say one more word, and I’ll prove to you that I’m right, right here and now.”
“Is that a threat?” Amy asked, her voice sounding shocked. She backed away.
“Don’t tempt me.”
“Chris, it’s okay.” Jason said. “I’ve found my keys, fancy a tea?”
Christiana tore her eyes away from the two women and gave Jason a large welcoming smile. Right now, Jason wanted to hug her so badly but he reserved such an act for when they were safely inside.
“Yes, please.” She said, and hooked her arm in his.
Without another look back, they both entered his flat and shut the door behind them.