The next day, Zelda got out of bed groaning. That horrid section B-13! And still nothing was relevant about the drug trade. She began talking to Nyurka, her half-wolf, half-Siberian husky as she got up and headed to the shower.
“You know, I can’t wait to get back to Luna Plateau and the Base so I can kill Reinhardt.” Zelda stepped into the shower stall and turned the water on full force.
“And, Nyurka, I’m not getting much progress on teh case. All I know is that the drugs are passed through the school before they’re distributed to potential clients.” She began to wash herself. Nyurka barked and wagged his tail.
Zelda stepped out and began to towel herself dry. Ten minutes later, emerging from her room in her usual goth-y fashion, she ran back to the sink to brush her teeth.
Her morning rituals done, Zelda patted her dog on the head, grabbed her satchel and a cropped blazer, and rushed out of the suite so that she wouldn’t be late for class.
“Here she comes,” Sean Felton announced, looking towards the door. “Y’all think she’ll like the surprise?”
“Is she crazy?” Jason Harker muttered to Ren Monteiro. “Running in the hallway is forbidden.”
The ‘surprise’ was a skeleton sitting in one of the students’ chairs. A new one had come to the biology department, supposedly donated by one of the teachers. The boys had sneaked it out of the lab and smuggled it into the classroom, inside an extra-long gym duffel bag.
“Heya. Good morning,” Zelda called out, slamming the door and rushing inside. Her eye caught the skeleton seated on her chair, grinning at her.
She stopped dead.
The class waited expectantly for her reaction.
Zelda dropped her bag to the floor and picked the skeleton up. “What’s this doing here? I thought I dropped this off at the bio department.”
Sean blinked. “You two…know each other?”
“Sure,” their adviser answered, flashing something that could be classified as half a smile. It was sort of twisted, and plenty spooky.
“Sure?” Section B-13 echoed.
“Yep. He’s a friend of mine who died in last year’s war. Since he had no family to bury him and he was dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, I decided to donate his skeleton for academic purposes.”
Zelda frowned a little and shook her head. “Oh, well. Might as well take him back there.”
“I’ll help you,” Sean said, jumping up and picking up the feet.
The skeleton jangled as the two of them carried it out sideways.
Sean and Zelda walked back to their corridor in silence, until they spotted a tall boy with spiky black, red-streaked hair enter the classroom.
“Who is that?” inquired Zelda, turning to the boy beside her.
“He’s Rick Brighton, of the prestigious Brighton family,” answered Sean, making air quotes with his fingers. “He’s got a brother here, too. The Brightons were one of the first British families to migrate to Nianta.”
“Oh,” Zelda tapped her lip thoughtfully, her eyes narrowing a bit. She didn’t say anything at the moment, but she filed the information for later reference.
Back inside the classroom, Zelda checked the attendance and began to start their Intro to Psych lesson. “Hey, everyone. Where did you stop last week?”
A few voices volunteered “Interpersonal adjustment, miss.”
“Oh. Okay, thanks. Can anyone tell me a quote made famous by John Donner?”
Rick Brighton raised his hand. “‘No man is an island?'”
“Right. We are all biological and cognitive beings, but we are at the same time social beings. Other people play important parts in our lives, and in our lesson for today, we will learn all about interpersonal adjustment.” Zelda set down her tablet and strode to the front of the room. “Adjustment involves understanding how we perceive other people and social situations, and how we respond to other people…”
After an hour, she sat down with a pounding headache while the others went to different classes. Two minutes later, she heard the sound of footfalls. She sat up and took off her jacket.
“Where’s the new teacher?” A male voice demanded.
The arrogant tone of his voice made Zelda seethe. “I am the new teacher,” she answered, a slight lilt of disguised rage in her voice. “What–” the hell “–are you doing in here?
“Relax, please. I just wanted to see if Querada was telling the truth about their hot new teacher. And I can see that they’re not mistaken.” The young man gave her a tilted smile. He had fair skin, blonde hair and liquid green eyes. The colour of his necktie indicated that he was from the Honours class.
“I’m Kevin Brighton.”
So what, Zelda thought. “Karyna Dereveau,” she responded cordially.
“You’re French. You don’t look like it,” smirked Kevin. “New to the job?”
“Then you may find it difficult, indeed. I regret that my brother belongs to this section, we he could be exposed to bad influence and questionable behaviour.”
Despite her misgivings, section B-13 was in her charge, and no one was going to come in, poke insults at them, and get away with it. “Really?” Zelda said sarcastically.
“Yes. Don’t you believe me? But you will see.”
Zelda fixed him with a glare. “I don’t believe you. MY class may be…spirited, but they’re not bad people.”
Kevin shook his head and started for the door. “You will see, sooner or later. So long, mademoiselle Dereveau. A pleasure.”
Zelda stared at his retreating form and gritted her teeth. The battle lines had been drawn. So, B-13 was despised by everyone in the school. She would not allow her class to be picked on, no matter how much she hated them personally.
“Troublesome, huh? I’ll show you what trouble really looks like.”
Rick Brighton was staring at the floor.
“See him?” Ren pointed at the dark-haired, somber-faced boy. “He’s always like that. He needs to be calm and quiet while communicating with them.”
“With whom?” Zelda asked, wrinkling her eyebrow and watching Ren sit at the corner of her desk.
“With them. He sees things.”
“Who? Sees what?” repeated Zelda, exasperated.
Ren rolled his eyeballs. “Spirits, you know. Ghosts. Phantoms. Apparitions?” He counted them off one-by-one using his fingers. “They say he’s psychic.”
Interest piqued, Zelda glanced over. Rick must have felt her gaze, because his brooding, sea-grey eyes slid over to her direction. She turned back to Ren. “Are you sure?”
He shrugged. “Be my guest and check him out.”
Rick Brighton was moderately surprised when the new teacher took a seat in front of him. He could sense her urgency, and her need for…something…some palpable. She needed to know something. Something that, he sensed, she was better off not knowing.
“Rick. All by yourself?”
He smiled. He was indeed a loner, but by no means unsociable. Now the girl before him, he knew that she preferred to be alone and had no talents whatsoever when it came to socialising. “Yes, I am all alone.”
“Oh.” She looked at her hands. Rick looked at her body-fitted t-shirt. It was black and had WHAT ATTITUDE PROBLEM? printed on it. Beneath it was a forlorn-looking stick drawing of a child with big, empty eyes. The child was clutching a bleeding teddy bear.
“Do you need something?” he asked, more suggesting than inquiring.
“I…I need…” her voice was breathless, desperate. There was an air of intense urgency in her eyes. But suddenly, as she opened her mouth to speak, her features shuttered down as if someone had pulled a curtain over a window. Rick blinked, salvaging what little he had seen – vast, black stillness only with small gaps of light in between. A patched-up memory.
“Sorry about that,” Zelda said, giving him a calm smile. “I didn’t know what I was thinking.” She got up, her face unreadable. She walked away, leaving Rick once again all by himself.
The B-13 section had no interest in Mrs. Smith’s history sermon. Well, to state the truth, no one was. The teacher herself looked sleepy, but rambled on and on about the four empires and the wars that had divided them. Most of the students were blissfully asleep, and Mike, Rick, Ren and Ted were the only ones sluggishly awake.
“What did Karyna want to know?” demanded Mike, leaning back on his chair.
Rick shrugged. “Nothing, really.”
“Well, what did you find out about her?” Ted wanted to know.
“Very little. She’s deep…and no one’s seen through her yet.”
Ren doodled listlessly on his textbook. “Does she have a boyfriend or something?”
“Or something,” Rick murmured.
Ted’s eyes opened wide with horror. “Oh no…it wasn’t the skeleton, was it? Oh, NO.”
Rick looked puzzled. “What skeleton?”
Ren ignored Ted. “Does she love him?”
Rick turned to Ren and shook his head. “No…I don’t think she quite understands what love is.”