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She sat in a chair in the middle of the classroom, surrounded by peers.

 

“Victoria,” said her teacher.

 

“Present,” said Victoria.

 

“Big Brother is watching,” said the poster on the wall, blue eyes gazing at her.

_________________________

The teacher paced slowly in front of the class, lecturing. Very likely about some revolutionary achievement of the Party, Victoria thought. She knew that she should have been paying more attention. Besides the fact that this would no doubt be on the test, this was history! She had been told by all manner of adults, teachers and parents and even the occasional Party member, that if she were to internalize nothing else from her schooling, then at least be engaged with history.

 

She couldn’t find it in herself to care. Somehow, Victoria felt she had heard this exact lecture before. In this same class, even. Her eyes traveled over the heads of her peers, before drifting to a stop on Sebastian, the blue-eyed boy that lived in the flat next to hers. He was sitting slouched in his chair, looking just as uninterested as Victoria felt. Suddenly, Sebastian shifted in his seat, and his eyes flitted over to meet her gaze. He nodded subtly towards the teacher at the front of the room and pretended to pass out. Victoria felt her mouth twitch upwards and bit her lip to prevent a laugh. Sebastian smirked.

 

“Students!” cried the teacher suddenly, and Victoria and Sebastian jumped. “Please memorize these dates-this will be on the examination!” Victoria snatched up her ink pencil and began cramming notes into her school pad, feeling her face warm and hoping it was not visibly red.

_________________________

Finally, the day was done. Victoria picked her way through the crowds of students, eager to be away from the classroom, but trying not to show it.
“Victoria Wood, yes?” spoke a voice from beside her, and she turned to see Sebastian keeping pace.

 

“Certainly. Sebastian Fredrick, yes?” she replied, suddenly having to bite the inside of her lip again to keep down a smile.

 

“Certainly,” Sebastian parroted, seeming rather delighted. “Do you think it a bit odd, comrade, that we’ve lived next to each other for so long but never truly spoken?”

 

“Well, we’re speaking now, aren’t we? And it hasn’t been that long,” she said breezily.

 

“I suppose,” Sebastian said, shrugging easily. “Anyhow, are you as relieved to be out for Hate Week as I am?”

 

“Probably more. I almost fell asleep in class today,” Victoria admitted without thinking, then cringed slightly. The conversation had been going so well, she lamented to herself, now he probably thinks I’m some lazy-

 

“You think that’s bad? I actually did,” Sebastian laughed, and Victoria’s internal monologue halted abruptly.

 

“For real? Sebastian!” she cried as the two of them exited the building and began walking down the road back towards Victory Mansions.

 

“Oh, come off it,” he rolled his eyes, “all we ever learn about is one amazing accomplishment of the Party or another. They just keep telling us over and over about how the Party saved civilization, or whatever. I already know that, I don’t need to sit in the bloody building all day and have some idiot talk paragraphs about it to me for hours at a time. And it gets so bloody cold!” He broke off suddenly, and Victoria followed his gaze to a man making his way towards them, wearing the blue overalls of a Party member.

 

“It is rather cold in the winter months,” she said mildly, “so it’s good that we’re moving into warmer days, don’t you think, comrade?”

 

The man passed them without comment or eye contact, and she relaxed slightly, then blinked. She had tensed up slightly without even noticing as soon as she’d seen the man.

 

“Certainly,” Sebastian muttered from beside her.

 

The two of them passed back and forth minimal commentary concerning the weather until they reached Victory Mansions.

 

“Did you see the films the other week?” Sebastian asked suddenly, as they were climbing the stairs. “There were war films playing. My mother took my brother and I to watch. They were quite good.” Something in his tone had Victoria struck silent. “There was an amusing scene of a refugee ship. Some children escaping on a boat-they were bombed, of course, and you could see one child’s arm flying up. Looked about my brother’s age-maybe seven or six.” He turned to look at her. “Did you see it, Victoria?”

 

“Big Brother is watching,” said the poster on the wall. Blue eyes gazing at her, piercing.

 

“No,” she whispered. “I had wanted to, but there-I had schoolwork,”

 

“Yes,” Sebastian said tonelessly. Blue eyes, gazing at her.

 

Piercing. “You did.”

_________________________

After Hate Week, Victoria sat down in her classroom and noticed that Sebastian was absent.

_________________________

“Victoria?” said the teacher.

 

“Yes?” Victoria replied.

 

“You are being called to the front office,” the teacher said.

 

She put her ink pencil aside and stood from her seat.

 

"You may take your bag with you," added the teacher, so she tucked her ink pencil and her school pad into her lunchbox and took them with.

_________________________

She walked slowly through the empty hallways, keeping her gaze lowered to the floor. She thought suddenly of the conversation she’d had with Sebastian, only a week and a half before, could hear him in the back of her head, talking about falling asleep in class. Why would he have said such a thing, she wondered, in a place where they could so clearly be heard?

 

She wondered why he was absent from class. She wondered why she was being called away from class.

 

Did you see, Victoria?

 

She walked slowly through the hallways. She thought of Sebastian. His blue eyes gazing at her. Piercing.

 

Did you see?

 

She stopped at the end of the hall. The front office was two doors down to the left.

 

The poster on the wall glared at her.

 

“Big Brother is watching you,” said the poster.

 

Sebastian stood outside the office, staring at her.

 

She turned away from the poster. She looked at Sebastian. His eyes were much nicer than the poster, she thought. Greener.

 

“Did you see, Victoria?” Sebastian said softly. “Do you see?”

 

 

“Yes,” Victoria replied.