Chapter 1 | the new student
We were all told our assignment the second we entered through that wooden framed door. If you didn’t see it, it was magnified 100x on the white board in front of you.
I played with my pencil for a bit before picking up my head and surveying the other students in the classroom with me. They were all like a batch of puppets; reading, writing, sneezing, coughing at measured intervals in time.
I stalked everyone from my favorite seat in the whole world, the front seat.
No, that’s a lie. Everyone who knows anything knows it’s the back seat.
You may think that the back has its downsides as well; the troublemaking teens, the loud noises, the likely place any experience teacher would call on.
But at least the distance and the dark makes up for it. There’s a relatively higher chance you could get away with stuff when hidden by the forty-some other beings in front of you.
I blinked out of my thoughts before gradually turning around to face the boy sitting behind me. My eyes resisted glaring daggers into his sockets and cursing his entire soul-being, as a feeling of breaking bones and snapping necks briefly, just briefly, crossed my mind when he assumed it was a wise idea to poke my shoulder with his pencil.
Like I didn’t just turn my entire body and give him my attention.
Like, can I poke your eyes with my pencil.
Slightly amused, slightly disappointed, I found myself giving in to the faint voices in my head telling me that while I aced in acting, my own stubbornness fought diligently to break free and inflict damage. Nonetheless, patience.
“So, what’s the answer to #28, huh?” the boy chirped, side-glancing his friends with a — well what he thought was an uncaught smirk — before rolling his head back to parallel mine.
“... A-aren’t we supposed to do the problems... by our selves?” Good. Stuttering. The usual.
Poke.“Seriously?” he mocked, leaning forward into his desk as his head tilted threateningly at me. All I paid attention to was how his pencil was still in contact with my hoodie since his second poke. “You’re smart. Just do the damn problem for me.” And after several nudges from his comrades, he didn’t hesitate to add, “And maybe #29-45 as well.”
If I could, my eyeballs would be rolling to the back of my head. When his parents pooped him out it was hard enough, why couldn’t he be a grateful offspring and just learn some manners while he was at it? I’ll even volunteer to teach him some sense.
Because you do not look down on, what? Nerds. The Quiet. I could give him at least that much advice. They — correction, we —didn’t pop into the world just yesterday at 5 am sharp, so sit your behind down and wipe off that naive look of triumph because you do not know what anyone is capable of, dumb child.
Because one, the nerds will become future hackers, and two, the quiet will become undercover agents.
You never know.
But hey. He wanted to go down this route, come at me. “O-okay, I don’t know if this is right [don’t they all say this]... but I got A... B. C. D. E. F. G. H. I. J. K. L. M. N. O. P. Q. R. S. T. U. V. W. X. Y, and Z.”
Lesson number one in our volunteered lessons: the alphabet.
Dumb snickers filled the back of the room and I felt like I just physically punched the air out of the boy scrutinizing me with a scowl.
“Don’t play me,” he growled in my face, pointing his pencil at my direction while his friends watched on with amused stares.
Wouldn’t dream of it, sweetheart. I’ve seen better.
“Just k-kidding, here,” my hand whipped to my desk and grabbed a fake list of answers that I had scribbled down while playing a small game earlier to myself of... people I knew, and so far had only been rewriting the same people over and over.
I flashed my back at the crowd and kept it that way as I look back to the front and scoffed silently to myself, an emerging sigh hidden with the side bangs and purposely braided tails of my hair becoming apparent.
Lesson number two in our volunteered lessons: When in doubt, C it out.
I gazed back down at my finished paper and attempted doodles, then found another thought popping into my head. I glanced to my right at the girl with golden locks cascading down her lower back and perfectly ironed curls displayed elegantly on either sides of her proud chest.
Allison Frances. 17 years old. Half French, Half Korean. Blood type A. A total chic and playgirl. Currently in a relationship with football team’s captain Daniel Ordeon.
My eyes narrowed a bit behind my glasses as I let my mind run through the small list of information I had on the girl. She wasn’t exactly the type of student I enjoyed associating with.
I had nothing against popular people.
Maybe a little bit.
I became amused and irritated simultaneously though when the school’s pets run around the place thinking it’s their right to stain and crowd the environment. And they don’t just stop at their level, oh no, they stoop lower. The ones that can’t defend themselves, the ones that don’t care for a glow-up as much as their success in the future, those are the ones that these school pets prey after.
Or at least the preys seemed defenseless and weak, and ugly and quiet.
“I need everyone’s eyes up, right now,” my teacher’s voice broke through the silence that had been forced upon us minutes earlier. The puppets all immediately looked up at our teacher, Mrs. Reeling. Not because they cared what came out of her mouth, but because they cared for their break.
I ignored. My eyes didn’t stray to the front like the rest of the population and instead kept their attention on the doodles in front of me. I was determined to finish my masterpiece.
“We have a transfer student,” Mrs. Reeling announced, opening the classroom door, “Let’s all meet our new addition.”
I hummed to myself as I sketched some lines. One moment. I’m drawing the eyes. It’s a difficult task if I want to make them both identical.
“Hey,” a new voice filled the classroom. Chatter picked up in a matter of seconds and it didn’t require listening or eavesdropping on my end to understand that the conversations were all about the boy’s looks.
“My name’s Liam Carter. I’m 18 and grateful to meet all of you.”
I blew a single baby strand of hair out of my face.
Hi. Hello. My name is Jamie Lennon. I’m 17 and currently on a mission to draw an eye on my paper. Welcome to our class, enjoy, pass, get a job, and don’t talk to me.
Was what I would say, but I’ll stop at ‘I’m 17.’
“I see the class has already accepted you,” Mrs. Reeling commented, nodding at the new student with an amused acknowledgement.
He grinned at her and responded, “Wonderful.”
“There’s an empty seat next to Jamie,” she proceeded the routine, “Jamie, can you raise your hand?”
I halted my pencil and looked up, raising my hand with the pencil in the air. As my eyes scanned the front of the room, I finally saw what the boy looked like. Jet black hair contrasted the oddly bright blue eyes, and a tall and well-built figure popped out at you as you continued down. He must be smart too, considering he got into the school at this time of the year.
I.O. Academy was a private school for the well-educated students who could afford to attend here. The cost was ridiculously high and nearly impossible to be accepted in unless the parents were influential people in the competitive business world. Apparently, good looks were a guaranteed bonus.
Our Liam walked to the back of the class and sat to my right as instructed by the teacher, gaining loyal fans as he passed girls with heart bubbles jumping out their eyes and boys that eyed him in envy.
Soon the class picked back up to how it started. Their writing utensils began marking their papers once again, but this time there was a lighter atmosphere as you could hear small conversations being carried out throughout the classroom.
“‘Jamie,’ right?” I heard the new student announce to someone. A long moment passed before it hit me that I was that someone.
I held back a frown as I stopped my pencil again. He was talking to... me? Specifically, me?
I turned to look at him and abandoned my worksheet from earlier, about to put my name on the thing and turn it in, but that had to wait now.
“Yeah,” I hesitated, answering with the lost, small voice of mine, “I-I’m Jamie,” I smiled. Stuttering. Good job. You always tended to forget that. Today you’re doing good.
And what did I mean by that? Well, what if I told you, these braids, these glasses, this act, this me, was all just a large pile of lies and lies and more lies?
Enter in my personal life. I’m here specifically because I was told to be here, because I was assigned a command to be here. And I never disobeyed an order. An order from who you might ask. Well, let’s call them the R.eally U.gly people for now. For them, I walk the way I’m instructed to. I dress the way they suggest me to. And if they want me to act like a meek geek, then I act like a meek geek.
I’m still waiting for that signal when I could leave this school. Leave this unamusing and time-consuming hell of a place. School wasn’t meant for me, and I wasn’t meant for school.
"That’s a cool looking fish," the new student piped, grinning widely at me as he finished placing his backpack on the ground and had peered over into my territory.
Instantly, my past crumpled away and I was brought back to reality.
And I was offended. Looking down, I tilted my paper a few degrees around to see what he was referring to.
If my eyes could droop, it would’ve been a good time right now. Strike one. “It’s a lion,” I replied dully back, dropping the weak girl act just this once.
Right, so my art skills weren’t the best in the land. If you asked the magic mirror who the most artistic person was in this world, it wouldn’t even have Jamie Lennon registered into its system.
“Oh, my bad," the boy corrected himself, a nervous grin replacing his earlier confident one. He patted my back a few times as a man’s way to apologize.
Um, excuse you? Get your big dirty germ-attracting sweaty skin-shedding five-fingered hands off of me.
Was what I would say, but I’ll stop at ‘Um.’
I forced a smile on my face to indicate that I had forgiven and forgotten our first rocky encounter before turning away from the boy and going back to looking at my artwork. I lost my motivation to art for today. Thanks to a certain someone who couldn’t appreciate a masterpiece.
It was obviously a lion.
To my surprise, he continued stirring up a conversation with me. “Hey, want to introduce me to everyone?” he nudged my shoulder with one arm, head leaning against his other upright arm on the desk.
What I didn’t understand... was why he was still talking to me. Did I look like someone you’d want to converse with? Was there a flaw in my disguise?
“I’m not really close with anyone,” I answered in a gentle, soft tone, not looking at the boy, “you could kind of tell.”
“You know anyone that could introduce me to our classmates, then,” he pressed, eyeing the side of my face like he was planning to drill a hole through my cheek.
Like I didn’t just say I wasn’t close with anyone.
I shut my thoughts off for a moment as I sighed at my inner me. Old habits die hard.
Though, this kid was indeed getting on my nerves. Stated bluntly, I wasn’t in a very good mood after he confused an edible sea creature with my king of the jungle.
He was also attracting attention. The whole class was aware that he was talking to someone right now. And that someone was the one and only lowlife me. And I didn’t need that. I’ve been working hard to stay low these past two years and I’m not about to give it all up for some boy that just arrived here 10 minutes ago.
“I wouldn’t know, maybe the others could help,” I stated back with wide, friendly eyes. I also add, “Everyone seemed to welcome you with open arms, anyway.”
“Hmm, okay,” he popped back with a casual smile, spinning around to face the front as he looked down at the paper he had grabbed from the front desk earlier.
A good 15-20 minutes passed before I was fated with being poked by a pencil on the shoulder, again. My eyebrows twitched as I peeked up at the ceiling for help.
“Hey, I finished, want to check answers,” Liam asked cheekily, showing me his completed worksheet.
I arched my brows at him as I peered over his sheet. I was impressed. The boy was dedicated to his work.
“... S-Sure.” I quirked as I resisted letting my inner thoughts reflect off my face. This one head, two arms, two legs, two feet, ten-fingered being had been glued to me ever since he existed in this rectangular area we called a classroom. I wanted to smash my head down on the desk and pass out of irritation.
I waited patiently for the boy to finish checking answers and avoided any new stares that was cast my way. I spun my pencil around multiple times in a circle on my desk as I had nothing else to do.
My paper was soon returned to me as I heard Liam say, “Wow, we have all of the same answers. Genius buddies!”
.... I opened my mouth, only to close it again as I was lost in my confused thoughts, although I managed my signature smile for him to see. He creeped me out. His good looks — and apparently smart brain, I concluded as I looked down at my paper — were wasted. His personality was too bubbly for my taste.
Something caught my eye as I glanced down at my paper. There was a scribbled note at the bottom of my worksheet that I was positively betting my head on wasn’t there before.
It was nice meeting you, Jamie Lennon.
A dark expression fell across my face before I became cautious and hid it from everyone, carefully tilting my head away from the stares. And especially from the boy sitting to my right.
... Since when did I mention my full name.
Since when did he start becoming creepy all of a sudden.