She accosted him as he entered their college dormitory. “Is it my fault? Did I say something?”

He started, shaken from his musings. “Sorry. Don’t follow.”

“I saw you entering the psychobabble office. They badgered me about my relationships with others. Didn’t think I said anything bad about you.”

He hesitated, reliving his confrontation with a counsellor from the Campus Cooperation Council. She demanded productive friendships and enthusiastic collaboration with his fellow students. Here was his chance to address those demands.

“No worry. Just a little pep talk,” he said.

“Come on. In Poli-Sci, they say our country stresses individual initiative, but in times of crisis, we join together to meet the challenge. It’s a bunch of bull. They’re brainwashing us, not meeting an external threat.”

He gazed at the mousy girl he remembered from last term. She was suddenly highly animated and much more appealing.

He pointed at a sofa in the residence’s conversation pit. “The college stresses academic excellence that supports our efforts to achieve our individual goals. But it also accepts the need for everyone to work together to meet the country’s challenges.”

She pushed away and perched at the far end of the sofa. “Fine, we study hard and win Nobel prizes or run high-tech companies or whatever we’re after. The rest is garbage, a perverted picture of belonging, being part of a team. I can’t do it.”

“Why not? We’ll be friends. I can help you with math and biology, and you can help me with English.”

“Pragmatic friendships to follow the rules, not real friendships.”

He smiled, thinking friendships evolve. “And the teamwork requirement. Put more effort into the annoying course projects we must do in teams. They’ll notice.”

“But they’re so unfair. Last term, I worked hardest on each project. Some did almost nothing.”

“It’s how it is. Accept it.”

She glanced at her phone and looked up with a twinkle in her eye. “Cafeteria’s open. Wanna go eat?”

He rose, silently thanking the psychobabble counsellor. This could be the start of something good.

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Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
8 months ago

Great story Alan. I think it can be hard to form relationships if it’s not something that comes naturally to you – I speak from experience – if you are being forced into it, then it becomes doubly hard. So just finding someone, on the off chance, to speak to, who has similar interests, can feel pretty miraculous. Your story is very intellectual, which I’m not particularly, so it took me a few reads through to properly soak the story in!

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
8 months ago

Hello, Alan. Carrie is right. It’s really hard to make friends if it doesn’t come naturally. Others are very fortunate to have found a true trustworthy friend and not a traitor. Great story, Alan.

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Alan Kemister
8 months ago

Yes, you’re right, Alan.

Sandra OReilly
Sandra OReilly(@sandra-oreilly)
8 months ago

Really liked this Alan it was very thought provoking – I too would find it very unfair if I’d done most of the work and it was then labelled as a team effort.

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Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
8 months ago

I can really relate to the girl in your story Alan. I was once told that I was not a team player. The truth is I always prefer working alone. I think it’s a control thing. Not that I don’t see the benefit in working as a team, I guess I never found the right team! I like the two characters in your story. As Rick says, in the closing scene of Casablanca “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

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Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
Reply to  Alan Kemister
7 months ago

He didn’t come across as insincere at all Alan. I found him to be encouraging and supportive. As did the girl or she wouldn’t have got that twinkle in her eye!

Paul Lewthwaite
Paul Lewthwaite(@paul-lewthwaite)
8 months ago

I like it, Alan, the dystopian slant tinged with humanity and the promise of a fulfilling relationship that goes against dogma is a great back drop. Well written.

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Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
7 months ago

I like your futuristic take on what a relationship between two young students could look like in a more controlled state, Alan. There is a lot of Orwell between the lines. Could you enlighten me concerning Hawthorne House 2038, please?

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
Reply to  Alan Kemister
7 months ago

Thanks for the information, Alan, and good luck with your project. I see that you are very careful to make details in your book not only believable, but also applicable to other, real facts. You are doing a thorough work and this is a great part of it.

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Marianna Pieterse
Marianna Pieterse(@marianna-pieterse)
7 months ago

Alan, I agree with what everyone else said, a forced friendship seldom works. As Carrie pointed out, it feels pretty miraculous if you find someone with similar interest. It does seem that your two characters might just have found that special friendship! This is a great story.

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