Chapter 14:



Tuesday – 15:15

I burst through the doors leading to Thaddeus' room and let out a sigh of relief when seeing that my pupil was sitting on his bed, sipping from a juice box.

"It's nice to see that you are awake," I said. "Are you feeling alright? Any discomfort or pain anywhere?"

"I am feeling fine," Thaddeus answered. "I am a little hungry, but that's all."

"That great to hear," I said. “I will take you to the cafeteria a little later when it opens. In the meantime, I wanted to have a chat with you if you feel like you are up for it."

Thaddeus nodded. "That's okay. I am up for a talk."

I struggled to force the words out. I knew that I had to say them, and I even wanted to, but pushing myself to say it out loud was the tricky part. I sat there in awkward silence for a minute, gathering up courage, before finally speaking. "I am sorry. It is my fault that you got into this predicament." Once I finally started admitted my feelings, they poured out like a burst dam. "But not just that. I also apologize for not respecting you and for treating you more like a little kid than an adult."

"It's fine," Thaddeus said. "You didn't do anything wrong, so there is nothing to forgive."

"No!" I said adamantly. "It is my fault. I have always been lucky during my missions, and it only makes sense that the luck would run out eventually. I was cocky. If only I checked the tires or the road beforehand. Then I would have seen if there any problems and you wouldn't have been hurt."

Thaddeus remained silent, most likely realizing that saying nothing was the wisest choice in this instance. Nothing he could say would have changed my mind on the matter.

"Additionally," I continued, "it was pointed out to me by an unexpected source that I don't make it seem like I care about you enough. I plan on fixing that. I want us to share stories about our lives with each other so that we can learn more about the other and grow closer. Is that okay with you? I don't mind starting. What would you like to know about me?"

Thaddeus nodded. "That's fine by me. Anything is fine. What were you like as a child?"

I whistled wistfully. "As a child? Well, I was actually a pretty wild boy for the first six years of my life. I swung bats at my sibling's friends and liked playing with knives. But I also loved puzzles and would spend hours every day solving ones that had a thousand pieces. My favorite sport was ice hockey, and I even played on a team for a while. However, I got into a car accident, which put an end to any potential hockey career.

"The doctors were scared that I would be wheelchair-bound for a few months at the very least, potentially even forever, but I was already walking again after a day. However, since they were still worried about brain injuries, I wasn't allowed back on the ice for a year. When that time passed, the rink had already closed down, and I had moved on to karate and baseball.

"It all worked out for the best since, after that moment, I transformed into a very well-mannered and behaved kid. I almost won a couple of world series during my years in the kid's baseball league and trained up to a brown belt in karate before my family moved. I was also a huge fan of books. I would bike to the nearest bookstore a couple of times a week and read for the entire day. I liked watching kid shows, was a good student in school, and loved playing board games with my family."

I took a deep breath. "Well, that's my childhood. I hope that it made you feel closer to me. Would it be okay if you told me yours?"

Thaddeus remained silent for a minute. I was about to let it be and move on to the next topic when the kid finally spoke. "I don't have nearly as interesting of a story. I never tried anything like sports or karate. You already know that I didn't watch television and that I had sleeping issues. I liked to read, though I just read at home in my room. I did everything punctually, but I never felt a drive for anything, like school. I did my work and studied. I even got good grades. However, it wasn't out of interest. I just wanted to make my parents proud and thus be willing to buy me a video game console, but that never ended up happening.

"On my parent's recommendation, I went for an engineering degree and did very well.... or at least, I did while I was attending. Then one day on the way to school, I saw a girl about to get hit by a truck. I had time to save her, but I was a coward. The girl ended up dying and I became depressed. I quit school and mostly stayed in my room for the rest of the year. Then one day, an advertisement arrived at our door requesting truck drivers. It seemed like a sign that I should make up for my cowardice by becoming a driver so accidents like that wouldn't happen again. After I applied, a man came to my door and told me about TRUCK-KUN and told me what I would be doing. And now here I am. That leads us to when I met you."

Everything clicked into place in my head, and I felt as if I genuinely understood Thaddeus now. I now also understood why he was scouted. TRUCK-KUN must have seen his act of not saving the girl who was about to die as a sign that he wouldn't be against hitting a person with a truck that wouldn't actually hurt them. Some people would be against even the thought of doing that. They don't recruit or hire people randomly. They look for people that they know would take the job and not blab to the public. "I am deeply sorry you had to go through that. Sadly, just because many truck incidents are orchestrated and harmless, accidents do happen and sometimes a truck is just a normal truck."

Thaddeus just stared forward, on the verge of tears. I saw that he wanted to let the silence hang for a bit for them to think about what was said. So I let the silence hang. I wasn't sure about Thaddeus, but I sure felt closer to the lad than before. I could only hope that spilling my personal life story was enough to get Thaddeus to feel more intimate and connected to me. That potential bond meant more to me than anything else at the moment, and I was determined to do whatever it took to acquire it.

After a few more minutes of silence, I got around to the last order of business that I wanted to take care of with the boy before moving on to the mission. "One last thing. I haven't thought of a good nickname for you, and not calling you by anything isn't nice or thoughtful. Therefore, if you want, I will call you by your full code name if that is what you want. Well, is it?"

Thaddeus sat silently for another minute before wiping his eyes and answering. "Y-y-yes, it is. Please, address me by my code name from now on."

I flashed a big smile and then spoke the words that I had been waiting to say this whole time; they were the words that I knew would have the best chance of me truly being forgiven as it was the sincerest and most apologetic thing he could say under the circumstances.

"Sure thing, Thaddeus."