Tower of Babel
Author: Isaac Woulms

Chapter 4

Ben completed the pop quiz and waited for the rest of the class to finish.

I should try to talk to her after everyone's done with their test. I wonder if that weird uniform is the only clothing she has? I think I’ll, “Ssss.”

The strange pressure from yesterday came back with the hissing sound in his ears. “Ha-” A shout almost escaped, but he buried his head in his arms.

What the hell is going on?

The pressure stung for a second then left. He picked his head back up and saw a note on his desk that was not there before.

“So what's there to do around here?” the paper read. Ben looked to his left and almost jumped. In the brief moment his head was down, Cindy moved two rows of chairs and now sat next to him, staring intently.

Ben pressed his pen against the row below her question.

What should I say? Should, maybe, Ben's mind started to race. No. I'll just say what I honestly feel.

Ben jotted down his answer and passed the note back to Cindy. “There's a park in Arp, but swing sets are only so much fun. Tyler is a twenty minute drive and that's usually the place to do stuff.”

“Let's go,” was her reply.

Ben was unsure of his ability to interpret written English anymore. Her handwriting is hard to read as is, cursive and a perfect slant to every word, but to agree to go with him somewhere was unexpected. Just to make sure Ben asked, “You want to go to Tyler?”

“Yes. Right now. Let's go.”

“Right now like after schools?”

“After the bell rings I'll be waiting by your car.”

Cindy held out her last message for Ben to read then crumbled up the piece of paper. He could only sit at his desk and try to decide what he would do, hoping the answer would come to him.

So what's one day of school that I'll miss. It's not like I skip all the time, and plenty of people do it. He thought of anything else it could be. So after two days of knowing me, she would just ask me to take her to Tyler? Maybe she has a crush on me too.

Ben rolled it around in his head up until the bell rang. Cindy smiled slightly, stood, and then walked out of the room. He waited a while longer knowing he had to make a decision or else his decision would be made for him.

“You look like you’re thinking really hard about lunch. The foods not all that bad,” Mr. Harrington said.

Ben forgot the teacher was still in the room. “I'm just thinking about… what I want to do next.”

“I remember when I was young and had all the options in the world.”

“So you’re saying you would be more care free?” Ben asked, searching for an easy reason to go with Cindy.

“All I'm saying is I wish I was young again. When you get to my age and have a career, you're pretty much told what you'll be doing every day.”

“You don't look like you have it all that bad Mr. H.”

“I don’t. I'd still like to take a vacation back to your age where I just did things, no worries you know? I probably shouldn't be saying these things but it's my way to continue the dream.”

“The dream?”

“I had this dream as a kid that I would do whatever I want and say whatever I want when I grew up. Then reality hit and I hated being fired all the time. There's rules here and regulations there. Peers, bosses, and coworkers always expecting a certain thing of you and the way you should act. Live life Benjamin.”

Ben thought about it for a moment.

“Also,” Mr. Harrington added, “If it were up to me I wouldn't be wearing pants. I would burn all my current pairs and live a life of freedom and cool breezes.”

Ben nodded then jogged out into the hallway. He quickly turned back to the open door of the classroom and said, “Yeah, pants are overrated.”


The mall’s probably the perfect place to start since girls like shopping and all that. I better make small talk or else it's going to get weird just sitting here in silence. “So where did you go to school before you moved here?”

“Your car’s a little loud on the inside.”

That could have gone better. “My other car is a Porsche, you know a weekend driver.”

“You should have just drove that then.”

That joke failed, maybe I shou- is she laughing?

“Oh I get it. Sorry, I caught that one a little late. So tell me everything about yourself, and do not spare any detail. I am studying you very closely.” Cindy then winked at Ben.

“Me? I've lived here in Arp all my life, and haven't done much traveling. I like listening to hip-hop and watching comedy movies. What do you want to know?”


Ben shifted his car into a higher gear as he accelerated to highway speeds. “I've been told I have a great imagination. I'm kind of a loner at my school, but it’s never bothered me that much. I've always wanted to go to a concert, and maybe skydive.”

“Any hidden talents?”

“I can solve logic puzzles without much of a challenge. Let me ask you something now. What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“When I grow up?” Cindy looked out the window and occasionally waved at a passing car.

“Yeah you know when you get older? What's your dream job?”

“I'll be whatever I turn out to be.”

“But you get to decide what you want to be.”

Cindy turned her head and cocked it to one side.

Her eyes look pretty, he thought. “That's the thing that we’re given from birth, a choice. You can be an astronaut, a bank accountant, or an astronaut bank accountant. You are who you decide yourself to be. My grandpa taught me that.”

Cindy started laughing again. “That is a childish ideal.” Her laughter, like Ben's belief, was sincere. She then looked back out the window.


Maybe the ride here was a little rough but I hope she enjoys the mall.

“Here we are,” he said as they walked through the entrance. She grabbed Ben's hand and began leading him to the first outlet in sight.

Wow, she's holding my hand.

“There are so many hats in this store. Here put this on.”

Cindy grabbed a hat at random and put it on his head.

“But this is a girl’s hat.”

“That is fine it still sits on your head. Actually, try this one.”

Cindy was in a frenzy. She would grab a hat only to replace it with another. Some hats the same design but a different color, female and male headgear alike, displayed for Cindy.

“Wait I have an idea,” Ben said. He took two yellow baseball caps and put them on her head with the brims facing away from each. “Now look into the mirror.”

Cindy saw herself and laughed. “They look like ears. You try, you try.”

They spent ten more minutes trying on different hats and then Cindy threw them on the ground and left the outlet dragging Ben behind.

“Maybe we should pick up...” Oh well I guess.

The next outlet had large black and white pictures of half-naked men sporting six packs and faded jeans. Cologne specific to the clothing company fumed from within while loud pop music bumped from the ceiling.

“So if you put these pants on you'll look like that right?” Cindy pointed at one of the models in the pictures.

“Not really. I'll just look like I'm wearing the same jeans.”

“Don’t lie to me, come on.”

She held the pants in one hand and took Ben to the dressing room.

“Wait, we can't go in there together. What if someone sees us?” Ben looked around for an idle person to testify his claim, but strangely enough, they were none. “Hold on we can't-”

Cindy grabbed for his jeans and said, “Take your pants off, and try these on.”

“I will but you’re going to have to wait outside.” Ben lightly grabbed her wrists and took them off his buttons, the top set already undone.

“Come on just try them on.”

Cindy tried again and Ben held her hands at bay.

“Hey. Look at me.”

Cindy's eyes met his. Ben felt like melting, but he had to stand his ground. “How about you try on clothes and I'll just wait out ther-”


Cindy unzipped her dress and started slipping out of it.

“Wait. Hold on, I'll be right outside.”

Ben waited a few minutes and began thinking about the situation he was in. This girl is a little weird but being here is way more fun than school. She doesn't seem that shy but then again, maybe she's not shy at all. I can see how that can be good and bad. At least she's hanging out with me so I'll take it as a good thing. She's taking a while in there.

“So how's this?” Cindy said, as she walked out of the dressing room.

To give Ben credit he tried to be courteous by leaving her alone in the dressing room. Since she decided to walk out wearing only the pants and her bra, it was free admission to stare. Her bust was perky and a fine size, a youthful display of beauty and womanhood.

Ben just sat and nodded his head slowly. “Nice.”

“So you’re not as modest as you make yourself out to be, huh?”

“Wait, what?”

“The nerve of some people.” Cindy stuck her nose in the air, walked back into the dressing room, and locked the door.

“What did you expect me to do?”

From inside the dressing room he heard, “Just seeing who you really are Benjamin. Like I said, I'm studying you very closely.” Stepping out of the dressing room, she was back in her uniform with the pants draped over her arm. “Ready?”

“How did you do that?” That was literally three seconds and she was dressed. What's with this girl?

Cindy walked past Ben and tossed the jeans at its stand, knocking it over. “Let’s go somewhere else.”

 Ben observed the destructive nature she had when it came to mall outlet clothing. “How about we get you in some new gear? You’re going to a normal school now, and we don't have a uniform policy. Give yourself a new look for a new life.”

She looked at the ground for a moment and tried to find the right words to say.

“Come on, now you’re starting to act like me when someone invites me to do something fun.” Ben winked and grabbed her hand. A little pressure came to his head, but it lightened and there was no hissing noise.

“He's suddenly different.”

“What?” Ben asked.

Cindy took her hand back and stopped in her tracks.

Ben continued, “Maybe it's not that I'm different, I could be just warming up to you.” That sounded smooth.

Cindy didn't say anything. She leaned in closer and looked into Ben's eyes observing the smallest of details and what they were telling her.

“I've been told my eyes are hazel but if you look closely there's a little bit of blue and a little bit of green. It's kind of cool I think.”

Cindy smiled and said, “Let's get to shopping.”


An hour later Ben sat outside another dressing room.

“Are you going to try to flash me again?” Ben asked.

“I bet that’s what you want.”

“Don't be shy. I want to see your new digs. I bet it looks way better than that oppressive uniform.”

Cindy continued her protest. “Maybe I like my uniform. I've worn it a lot so maybe it means something to me.”

“Maybe it does, but it's up to you to decide if you’re going to be the same as you were from your old school, or if you’re going to be a new person.”

She loitered in the dressing room reminding herself of the reason she came to Arp. Ben's words, who you decide to be, echoed in her ears. At first, she laughed, even though it started to make sense. “Okay. I'm coming out.”

Cindy stood in front of Ben, not with deceitful confidence as she had before, but a posture of uncertainty. Her top was a black t-shirt with white laces going down the center. Over the shirt, a long sleeved silk vest that matched the laces. Black skinny jeans replaced her skirt and black sneakers with complementing colored white laces covered her feet.

“I really like it.”

“You're just saying that.”

“No I mean it.” She looks beautiful.

Cindy walked back into the dressing room and began to change. This is only temporary. It is not like I'm going to be able to keep any of this, she thought.

“You should hold on to those. I bet you'll be happier that way.”

Cindy smiled and said to herself, “It is not up to me if I am going to be happy, Benjamin. You will understand soon enough.”


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