If Gwen had materialized with me in my home at that point I would have given her a very stern talking to about not helping people lost in the woods when you know you can teleport them instantly home and they are instead wandering around talking to trees and men with fuzzy upper lips in the dark. But she hadn’t, so instead I simply went upstairs and collapsed on my bed.
You’re probably wondering, if you were paying attention to the bit where I said I didn’t have any parents to worry about me, how it is that I have a house to myself. That’s a fair question. The short answer is, I inherited enough money from them that I was able to buy my own place, and had good enough legal counsel to be able to live there alone even though I was only 17. My uncle Eldwick came to check on me periodically, and that satisfied the court’s need for adult supervision.
I know. My lawyers are VERY expensive.
I’d only been there for one summer, my parents had died over six months ago in the midst of their attempt to circumnavigate the globe in a 50 ft yacht. The indian ocean was an unforgiving place, apparently. Insisting that I didn’t want to drop out of high school for the entirety of my junior year was the only thing that had kept me from joining them. Strange to think that high school could save your life. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
I was sure, however, about how I felt about my old hometown, my old school, and my old friends. I couldn’t take the pitying looks, the constant condolences, or the unsolicited charity that people kept throwing my way. That had been clear from the first few months after my parents passed away. And I decided that rather than continue in that vein, not to mention continue paying for the ridiculously expensive private school my parents had paid for me to attend, I would ditch Colorado Springs and everything that went with it, and try my luck in a new state.
Which, between my interest in eventually pursuing a degree in outdoor education at NAU and a fascination with living within driving distance of the Grand Canyon, led me to buying a cozy two story house in Flagstaff, Arizona.
I woke up wondering how I’d managed to convey the highlights of my backstory while asleep, but decided even the fact that I was aware that that was what I had done was too strange to contemplate before breakfast. I lay in bed for a moment, still partially convinced that last night had either been a strange dream, or a ridiculous hallucination, but then I ran my hand across my forehead and brushed my hand across a tender scab that reminded me that at least some part of last night had actually happened.
I moaned at the thought of attending my first day at a new school with giant cut in the middle of my forehead and decided that as tempting as crawling back under the covers might be, it was time to get up and see just how ridiculous a face I would present to my new classmates.
It turned out that my face would prove to be even more notable than having a giant cut in the middle of my forehead might make it. I spent half an hour searching for my contacts, which had managed to go missing somehow between when I removed them last night and when I woke up this morning, making in exceedingly clear that someone was fucking with me. I had a pretty good guess as to who that was. My normal glasses were nowhere to be found, instead replaced with a pair of black horn rims. People were going to think I was going to school dressed in freaking cosplay. The only thing I needed now was a black cape and a red and gold scarf. Thank goodness it wasn’t cold enough to warrant either item, otherwise I had a distinct feeling that my wardrobe might have mysteriously been replaced with nothing but capes and scarves matching that description.
“Gwen!” I called to the empty house, hoping the lunatic from the night before might appear and at least grant me my normal glasses, if not my contacts.
After brooding through the entirety of my meager breakfast of cold cereal and hurrying out the door, I practically had to run most of what should have been my leisurely 20 minute walk to school. I arrived just in time pick up my registration packet and head to my first class.
I was excited for AP chemistry, since my honors chemistry class in my sophomore year had been one of my favorite subjects. But the teacher who glared at me as I entered the room in perfect synchronization with the bell marking the beginning of first period had a decided look of “not amused,” writ large across her face. My enthusiasm dampened a bit as all eyes shifted to me while I searched the room for an open seat.
“Ms. Marmot, I presume,” she said, as I took my seat on the last available stool at the back of the room. Her British accent surprised me slightly, but not more than the utter disdain dripping from every word in what should have been a fairly harmless sentence.
“Um… present?” I said, not sure if she was just finishing up roll or impersonating a literary character who had expected to make my acquaintance.
“Would you care to tell us why you’re late this morning?”
I briefly considered quibbling about her definition of “late” but decided that wasn’t in my best interest.
“Umm…” I considered explaining the mysterious disappearance of my contacts and glasses but that would just make me seem scatterbrained. So I went with the next best thing. “It’s my first day. I’m still learning my way around.”
“And you believe that excuses tardiness do you?” As the teacher approached my desk I couldn’t help but think that she looked familiar, though I couldn’t pinpoint from where. Long lank hair, and a beak nose were fairly noticeable features, and I felt as though I should have known where I’d seen the woman before, but it was just an irksome feeling. Perhaps it was that irksome feeling that caused me to put my foot in it right from the start, perhaps it was the culmination of all that morning’s frustration.
“Well, it’s kind of a one time excuse, so yeah, I guess so.”
That only elicited a glare from the woman, who promptly headed to the front of class and addressed everyone as though she were beginning her lecture.
“It appears that Ms. Marmot feels that she should be exempt from the rules that govern the rest of us. What do you think of that?”
A blonde haired boy in the front of the class raised his hand.
“Yes, Drake?” the teacher said, a slight smile gracing her mouth.
“I don’t think so, Miss. I believe she should be punished.”
The fact that the blonde kid with entirely too much product in his hair also spoke with a British accent almost distracted me from the fact that I’d just been thrown under the bus by a total stranger. I hadn’t realized that Flagstaff was home to so many British expats.
“And what do you suggest for her punishment, Drake?”
Had this teacher really just asked an 18 year old suck up what my punishment should be?
“Well… Why don’t you—”
“Why don't you leave her alone?”
The voice that issued that line came from right beside me. Any gratitude I might have felt for someone standing up for me was immediately replaced by a deeply unsettling awe. The young man who sat next to me, the only other person at the two person lab table, was disturbingly good looking. And I don’t mean that as some weird replacement for ‘very.’ I mean he was so good looking that I instantly didn’t trust him. No one gets to be that attractive and live a normal life. He was sure to be either a narcissist, or a sociopath, or possibly just a run of the mill douchebag. At any rate, the flips that my stomach was performing made me instantly leery of him.
The warm reception that the lank haired teacher gave him, made me even more wary.
“You’re right, Eduard. We shouldn’t be too hasty to punish her.” She beamed at the youth sitting beside me, whose callously tousled black hair, half cocked sardonic smile, and ice blue eyes, were drilling holes of charisma into everyone who looked at him. Then she turned to me and her face once more resumed it’s glacial state.
“Don’t let it happen again, Ms. Marmot.”
I nodded dumbly and began searching the contents of my bag for my notebook while the teacher began an introductory lesson on how atoms bonded and made up all matter in the universe.
“Don’t worry,” said a voice over my shoulder as I rummaged the bottom of my backpack for a pen. “Ms. Rebuke is pretty much always like that. It’s nothing personal.”
“Ms. Rebuke?” I asked, sure Mr. Too-Handsome-to-Be-A-Real-Human was putting me on. He replied by pulling the schedule I’d left on our table closer to me and tapping the period 1 slot. Sure enough, Ms. Rebuke was written there plain as anything. I had to stifle a giggle and I suppose I wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped.
“Ms. Marmot? Is there something you find humorous?”
I managed to swallow the laugh that had been building in the back of my throat and shook my head, wiping my face into one of solemnity.
“Perhaps you would care to explain to the class how atoms bond?” The snide smile that accompanied that question suggested that Ms. Rebuke thought such a suggestion would lead me to run screaming from the room. I sighed.
“Did you want me to explain ionic bonds or covalent bonds?” I asked.
The way Ms. Rebuke’s eyebrows rose to slap each other above her nose made me assume she would tell me to forget about the whole thing, but instead she seemed to decide I was bluffing.
“Both,” she said with an expression of pure triumph.
I was slightly uncomfortable with the idea of explaining something to my peers at the very beginning of my very first class at a new school, but it wasn’t as though my old school hadn’t required oral presentations in every subject at least every other week. I got up from my stool and headed to the front of the class. It baffled me that this AP Chemistry class was going over something as basic as the bonding of atoms on its first day of class, but maybe this was just a review for everyone. Or, then again, maybe they didn’t have an honors chem feeder class for their AP class the way that my former high school had.
I picked up a piece of chalk and drew a handful of concentric circles on the board, filled them with the appropriate number of dots then I turned around and faced the class.
I was about halfway through my explanation, and just getting warmed up to asking the other students questions, when Ms. Rebuke suddenly snapped.
“THAT IS ENOUGH!” she called from the far corner of the room. Where she had been standing quietly in a shadow for the past two minutes. “Go to the principal’s office this instant, Ms. Marmot!”
I tried to keep my jaw from dropping to the floor. Was I really getting in trouble for explaining ionic bonds to the chemistry class after the teacher had asked me to? What the hell kind of school was this?
“Get OUT!” Ms. Rebuke called again, after a moment of my staring dumbly at her.
I started to form some kind of reply, but I was cut off by the disturbingly handsome boy standing up and handing me my backpack.
“I’ll show you where it is,” he said quietly, as he ushered me out of the room. I said nothing, merely followed behind him like a puppy that had been struck by its owner.
“I’ve never seen anyone get kicked out of Rebuke’s class that quickly,” said the stupidly handsome boy as we walked more slowly than was strictly necessary.
“Well, I’m all about breaking records,” I replied, attempting to look proud of myself. “Actually, I’m not even sure how that happened. Are all the teachers here like that?"
He shook his head. “No. Rebuke is her own special head case. Don’t worry, Mr. Bumblebee is much nicer. You probably won’t get into any real trouble.”
“So… Eduard?” I asked, unsure of what else to say, but not really wanting to talk about my prospective disciplinary consequences. I’d noticed that Ms. Rebuke’s pronunciation of his name hadn’t been the British Edward. “Is that french?”
Eduard shook his head.
“Russian. My folks were from Russia. I’m first generation american.”
“Cool,” I replied, staring at him for a bit in an attempt to figure out what he was hiding. People weren’t that good looking and this friendly. Something had to be up. I was sure of it. But before I could decipher anything from his apollo-esque face we arrived in front of a door marked Principal.
“Here you are, Mademoiselle Marmot,” he said, cutting a disquietingly accurate victorian era bow. Apparently Eduard watched quite a few more period films than the average 18 year old male. Then he turned on one heel and walked back in the direction of our chemistry classroom. I won’t pretend I didn’t appreciate his jean covered ‘retreat’ as he walked away. Then I shook myself. Something very suspicious about that character. He was charming in all the ways I expected a highly normalized sociopath to be. Like Dexter…
Oh well. I couldn’t linger forever on thoughts of the gorgeous sociopath. Punishment awaited. I knocked on the door, unsure of how else to proceed.
“Come in,” called a voice from inside.
I stepped into a room that reeked of pot, and coughed a few times while waving my hands to clear the cloud of smoke in front of me. Was someone hot boxing in the principal’s office?
“Hello?” I called.
“Over here, dear.” The voice that said the words sounded elderly and British, and gave me additional cause to wonder how many people in Flagstaff were actually from the UK.
“Hello? Mr. Bumblebee?” I asked, even as I stepped through the swirling fog of pot smoke and incense to find a man seated in a wing backed chair with his feet propped on a plush velvet footstool. There was no weed in sight, but that didn’t make me any less suspicious. There was nothing else that explained the smell in this room. Still, I wasn’t going to accuse the principal of my new school of smoking weed on the job, so I simply stood in front of him for a moment before awkwardly adding, “my name is Victoria Marmot, Ms. Rebuke sent me here.”
“Oh dear,” said the man in the wingback chair, finally releasing the mouthful of smoke he’d been holding in while I introduced myself. The grey puff looked especially strange coming from his grey bearded face.
“And what did you do to set off poor Ms. Rebuke?”
“I’m not sure actually. She asked me to explain how atomic bonds work and I started to, but then she cut me off, shouted at me and sent me to see you.”
“Mm… yes. That sounds about right.”
“Why yes,” said Mr. Bumblebee calmly, his fingers tapping a gentle rhythm on the arms of his wingback chair. “You see, Ms. Rebuke is bat-shit nuts.”
I couldn’t help it, I laughed aloud. It was more the way that Mr. Bumblebee said it in such a matter of fact tone than anything else, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Well then, Ms. Marmot. I dare say there’s not much reason for you to be here. And indeed, it doesn’t seem that there’s much point in you being in your chemistry class today either. Let’s see, which class do you have next?”
“Umm…” I dug my schedule out of my pocket and scanned to find my second period class. “English with a Mr. McGonagall?”
“Ah yes, that should be interesting as well. McGonagall isn’t angry the way Rebuke is, but… Well, let’s just say his lessons are always an adventure, shall we?”
“If you say so, sir.”
“Now now, no need to call me, sir. This isn’t an English boarding school is it? Mr. Bumblebee is fine, or if you’re feeling cheeky you may call me Albert.”
“Well, no one ever does, but I maintain hope.”
He raised one enormously bushy eyebrow at me.
“I mean, yes, Mr. Bumblebee.”
He sighed, almost disappointedly, and I decided that perhaps he really did want me to call him Albert. Maybe I’d try it next time. Maybe.
“Your class is down this hall to the left, right at the next hallway and then four doors down on the right,” he explained without getting up. I nodded, hoping I would remember, and also hoping I wasn’t getting a contact high just from being in here, and turned to leave.
“Oh, and Victoria?”
“Yes, si— Albert?”
I didn’t turn to look at him again, but his voice sounded pleased when he spoke next.
“The glasses are a nice touch, but the cut on the forehead might have been going a tad too far.”
I walked out the door and shut it behind me, shaking my head and wondering when I would next get to assault Gwen in return for the pendulum I’d gotten to the head the night before.