The Residencies are the two tall, black, stone towers rising from the flat plains enclosed by the ring of towering mountains. The Residencies, the buildings around them, and all the land which were within those enormous stone walls comprised Wolfgang Academy, an elite school for orphaned children. Inside the Residencies lived the students of Wolfgang Academy, children whom Headmistress Emily Longhorn discovered in the foster care system, and orphanages, children demonstrating exceptional academic potential. To harness this potential, she brought an excellent staff of distinguished teachers from all over the world: from Brisbane, Australia to Alaska, United States.
“Get your bags in order, students. Make sure to check if you have everything in your bags. Y’all are going to a third-world country. So, if you forget to take something with you, y’all are gonna have a tough time,” instructed Miss Berkley, coming to her closing remarks after a long, boring list of instructions, “And remember, please don’t forget to bring toothbrushes and toothpaste with you. Bring spares too! Y’all don’t want Mr. Gallagher and Ms. Seagale with your bad breath. Any more questions?”
We all looked at each other, waiting for someone to ask a question.
“Well, seeing that none of you have any more questions, I’ll make my way to the Girls’ Residency then.” Miss. Berkley grabbed her cup of hot chocolate and her files and smiled at us before walking towards the door.
“That’s one boring woman,” commented Timothy, “Can’t stand her talking for so long.”
Jackson King chimed in, “I wonder how her husband deals with her.”
Francisco Adelante laughed. Once that much-hated bloke joined the conversation, a dead silence permeated the air. Ouch! The atmosphere was tense because not many people liked Francisco, the guy who sucks up to girls. I could tell that Timothy and Jackson were waiting for him to leave. Timothy was stifling his desire to snap, “We aren’t talking to you, Adelante.” But, he held his peace without saying anything, like Jackson King, who wanted to say something worse.
“Well, guys, I’ll go to my room then,” I said, trying to break the tension and silence.
“Goodnight, Kirt,” said Jackson, followed by Francisco Adelante and Timothy McAllister.
“Goodnight, guys.” I got up to leave.
Sensing that his presence was not wanted by Timothy and Jackson, Francisco walked away and sat in the corner of the room with his PSP.
When I was on my way to the door, I remembered something and asked: “Timothy, did you see Hernanda lately?”
“Ooooh!” said Jackson, nudging Timothy. “Someone’s got a crush.” Jackson winked at me.
My face turned red like a fresh lobster. As much as I tried not to smile and suppress the reddening of my face, I failed. I broke into a smile.
“Look at his face!” said Jackson pointing at me.
“Shut up, Jackson,” I said throwing a cushion at his face.
He caught it and said, “Someone is in love.”
“His face is getting redder and redder,” teased Timothy.
“Guys —” I couldn’t formulate the rest of the words. My cheeks and ears warmed up with blood rushing into them. My heart was beating faster. “Guys — ”
“He can’t even talk. LOL!” said Jackson.
Soon the laughter calmed down and Timothy said, “Last time we saw her was at the Student Loung: the one in Braydon Hamilton block. She left early from our Dungeons and Dragons game because she wanted to pack and go to bed before 9.”
“Oh,” I said. “Thank you, Timoth.”
Jackson King chuckled.
“I’ll go then, guys. Gotta pack up.”
“Goodnight, Kirt,” Timothy said.
“Goodnight, man,” Jackson said, “don’t spend the whole night texting ‘You Know Who’.” He winked at me twice.
“Shut up, Jackson!” I said, my cheeks starting to blush again.
Both the boys broke into laughter.
I grabbed a can of coke from the table along with a few biscuits and went to the staircase.
In the Boys’ Residency, each grade had its own floor. My floor was the tenth because I was in tenth grade. Since the building was old, there were no elevators. Whenever we had to go to our levels, we had to take the long way on the stairs.
As soon as I entered my room, I headed right for the bathroom to dump the half-finished can of Coke down the drain. I was sick of drinking Coke; it was my fourth can that day. Now, I would not call dumping Coke down the drain a waste. For, I remember reading somewhere that it served as a potent drain-cleaner. After getting rid of the Coke, I threw the emptied can into the bin I used for toilet paper.
I then walked up to an area close to my bed and surveyed the room. I was pleased with how tidy it was. It wasn’t that tidy always. The bags I will be taking with me on the next day lay neatly stacked under the bed. The pieces of clothing that I wasn’t taking with me were folded and neatly put inside the cupboard. My textbooks rose like a tower above the table where my computer was. Next to my laptop was a camera that I decided not to carry with me after realizing that its battery was dead, and I had lost its charger. There was no use taking a camera with a dead battery.
There were bedside tables on the left-hand and right-hand side of my bed. On the one on the right-hand side, there was a stack of novels. I read the titles printed on their spines: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens; Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix by J.K Rowling; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K Rowling; and, Dark Places by Jon Evans. I decided to take one or two with me on my journey. I took the two Harry Potter novels and stuffed them into the remaining space in my knapsack.
Once I put the novels in my bag, I looked at my phone screen, which had lit up because of about 103 messages. That’s not an unusual number of unread notifications, given that it was the summer holidays, and our class group was always active. I usually don’t like having a lot of unread messages, so I decided to skim through all the texts I received.
Whatsapp had the most notifications. My grade’s group chat was very active, with everyone expressing all sorts of emotions about the trip tomorrow. The bratty Fiona was lamenting the lack of connectivity in the camp. Her equal, Michaela Smith, was doing the same. For, without an internet connection, she wouldn’t be able to upload her make-up tutorials to YouTube. After scrolling through the unread messages, reading one or two here and there, I put my phone aside. The notifications continued, but I didn’t want to read them.
Then, I picked up my phone to see if Hernanda was online. I opened Whatsapp, clicked on her profile picture and the chat opened up. She last saw her phone the previous night. She wasn’t a girl who was obsessed with social media. Seeing that she wasn’t online, I threw my phone on the bed once again.
I sighed and looked at the window, staring at the snow outside. Wyoming was experiencing one of its worst snowstorms that night. Out of curiosity, I wanted to open the window and feel the wind hit my face. I threw my phone to the side, on the bed, and propped myself up. I looked at the window once again and saw the branches of the trees scraping the window. I walked to the window and opened it. A jab of freezing air hit me. The air outside was freezing. It overpowered the room-heater powered warmth in my room. Bits of snow hit my face. I basked in that sting of chill air. After a while, I shut the window. The warmth of the room-heaters embraced me once again.
I returned to my bed and lay down to relax. I yawned. As I was lying down, listening to the sounds of the room heater and those of the branches that were scraping my window, a volley of continuous message tones stabbed my eardrums. “What in the world!” I lifted my phone and saw that David Taylor and Frederik Collins were having a GIF war on WhatsApp. Notifications after notifications came through, to my annoyance. I pressed the power button tightly until my phone was off. After I did that, I enjoyed the ringtone-free silence that came after I turned the phone off. I put my phone on the bedside table to the left of my bed.
When I put my phone aside, my hand came across a picture of my parents with me taken when I was one year old. In that picture, Mom was holding me and laughing, while Dad was kissing her on the cheek. I smiled as I felt that picture, imagining how different life would be if they were alive. If they were alive, I would have been living in Germany. Children with parents should be grateful that they have parents. There’s no worse feeling than the feeling of being an orphan: with no one of your own.
While I imagined about how and where I would be if they were alive, I stared at my boarding pass, which lay folded on the crumpled bed sheet on the bed. I saw the words ‘American Airlines’ printed beautifully on top of it. Rough handling wore off its edges. A coffee stain dotted the pass. The next day I was to go on a field trip to Bolivia. I had never been to Latin America before and I was filled with excitement and anticipation. Bolivia is an exotic destination. I was enthralled at the idea that in a few hours I would board a plane to the land of jungles, beautiful mountain ranges, and pristine lakes. The field trip the next day was like a dream come true.
After a while of holding my parents’ photograph, I looked at the clock and saw that the time read 11:30 p.m.
Realizing that I needed to travel the next day, I decided to go to sleep.
I checked my bags one last time, turned the lights off and went to sleep, after throwing a heavy fur blanket over me.
For the whole night, I couldn’t sleep. I was excited about the trip the next day. Ms. Berkley told us that the bus that would take us to Billings Logan Airport in Montana would arrive at 7:00 a.m. It was a long day ahead. According to the itinerary, 10 A, which was my class, and 10 B, which was another class whose field trip was to Sri Lanka, would board the same bus to Billings Logan. From there we would fly to New York. In New York 10 A and 10 B would split. 10 B would board a flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka while we would board a plane to La Paz, Bolivia.
Isn’t it an exciting feeling, knowing that you’re gonna travel tomorrow?