III. Nom De Plumes
“Hey, Sallow, how much did you get for the baseline?” a girl with black hair and green eyes asked me. She sounded genuine, but too much so. I knew she had ulterior motives.
“I’m not telling you,” I replied, moving away from her to my next class: Mathematics.
“Come on, Sallow, we all want to know! You’re Alex Sallow’s daughter. You have to have gotten good grades,” Maximillian said, and a crowd formed around us.
“Tell us!” someone said from the corner, and another said, “Yeah, Sallow, don’t be shy!”
“Is something the matter, Miss Sallow? You don’t look too well.”
“Professor,” I breathed out, turning around to face him. “They’re asking me to tell them my grades.” I was hoping he’d defend me, as much as I wanted to keep away from him.
“I bet she got a B minus, or maybe even a flat B,” the same girl said.
“Why don’t you tell them, Miss Sallow?” he asked, an amused expression dancing on his face.
“Yeah, Sallow, even sir wants you to tell us!”
I felt cornered. My breathing increased, but then Professor Donahue placed a hand on my shoulder. Warmth spread through my body, and I could calm down.
“Miss Sallow here got a flat A,” he called out to the crowd of students, and suddenly, there was silence. “Yes, ladies and gentlemen. You can leave the poor girl alone, now, because she has more intelligence than all of you combined.
“And Miss Moore, I’m sure you expected a B minus from her because you yourself can’t score within three letters of that. The second lesson I’d like all of you to remember from my class: don’t mock people you cannot compare to. Have a pleasant day.”
They shot me dirty looks before walking to their next class, the Professor’s eyes boring into them.
“Have a pleasant day,” he told me.
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen,” the Professor said, smiling at all of us. She was already a more genteel woman than Professor Donahue was. “Welcome to Mathematics. For all those who think this is an easy class to score marks, leave. Now.” How wrong I was.
“My name is Professor Minerva Brown. You will address me as Professor Brown or ma’am. For those of you in Visual Arts, I teach it too,” her eyes met mine.
She spoke for a solid hour and a half, letting us speak only when required and continuing to remind us to take notes. After a long and tiring class, I headed to the dining hall. Mathematics was not my cup of tea, but it was that or Physics, so I chose the lesser of the two evils. I couldn’t wait for my last class of the day, Film.
After a quick lunch of Pasta (unfortunately without Tori–she had classes at separate times than I did) I headed to the Film classroom. I saw Professor Donahue on the way and gave him a subtle nod; a thank you for earlier that day. He pretended not to notice.
When I entered the class, I saw that everyone had already assembled, but I couldn’t see the teacher. I headed for an empty table in one of the middle rows.
“Oh look,” one of the people in the first row said. I remembered her from English–long, dark hair and piercing green eyes. “Donahue’s favorite,” she cooed.
“Please leave me alone,” I sighed, placing my book bag on the table and sitting on the chair.
“Oh, no, darling–” I recoiled, her choice of endearment reminding me of mum– “I’m not going to leave you alone.” She stood up from her chair and walked towards me, her heels clicking. Everyone looked at the scene with rapt attention. “You see, it wasn’t enough for you to be Alexander Sallow’s daughter, or be published twice, or be the first one to pick all art majors. No, you had to go and suck up to Donahue and Brown. Now you’re going to get the best marks, not because of your skill, but because you’re a suck-up.”
Anger coursed through me. I stood up, my gaze assessing the girl. She wore heels, leggings, and a sweater all in varying shades of yellow. What an odd choice of color. “Well, neither Professor Donahue nor Brown knew about me before I stepped into their class today. What they graded me had nothing to do with who I was and everything to do with my skill. But what would you know, right?” My tone was laced with mockery as I smiled at the girl, silently challenging her.
I don’t know where my sudden lust for trouble came from, but I decided to roll with it.
“Maybe you have the skill,” she admitted, and I grinned triumphantly. “But look at you. Curly hair the color of carrots–”
“How unoriginal,” I muttered under my breath.
“What was that?” she asked.
“How. Un. Original,” I repeated, smiling. “Of course, you had to steal from Lucy Maud Montgomery. You can’t even think of an insult by yourself. What a shame.”
“Lucy Maud Montgomery?”
“Oh, don’t trouble your pretty little heart with useless details,” I said, waving my hand in the air with mock concern. “It’s not like your brain has limitless storage. Preserve what you have.”
“You–” she began, pointing a finger threateningly at me, but the Professor walked in.
“Yes, Miss Moore?” he asked, holding her gaze threateningly. “What were you about to say?”
“Nothing, Professor,” she said liltingly.
“Oh, no, Miss Moore. We’d all like to hear what you have to say. Right class?”
Everyone began to nod, and the girl was red with shame.
“You need a trip to the Head of School. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it,” he mocked, and I felt kind of bad for the girl in front of me. “Miss Sallow, sit,” he commanded, and I took my seat, while the girl ran from the class in tears.
“Professor Hermes Martin Jackson,” he said, writing his name in cursive on the whiteboard. “That’s me. I already know each of your names, so don’t bother. I expect you all to do your best, even if that best is a D minus. Your first assignment is due at the end of June. You have to film two episodes of a show with no limits on topic, theme, or character. That will help me judge who has the practical knowledge to excel in this art form. Any questions?”
No one raised their hand.
“Perfect. Now, silently think of your show and write down your ideas. Miss Sallow, if I may speak to you?”
I stood up, and everyone’s eyes were on me. I walked to the Professor’s table, wondering why the hell all the teachers had a sudden interest in me.
“Are you going for the wedding?” he murmured, so only I could hear.
“How does everyone know about it?” I asked, speaking normally. People glanced at us but said nothing.
“Not now, Miss Sallow. Tell me, are you going?”
“I’m thinking about it,” I said, meeting his sea-like gaze. “I’m not sure I believe you about its existence.” But my argument was falling short now that there were two teachers involved.
“Betta believe it. You and Donahue leave tonight. Pack up before then. Take your laptop,” he instructed.
“Why should I listen to you?”
“Do you want to be graded well in Film?”
“Good God. Blackmail, seriously?” I muttered. “Fine, I’ll pack. Will you tell me how everyone knows, now?”
He hesitated before saying, “Professor Hermes,” slowly. “Professor Minerva.”
When realization struck me, I was dumbfounded. “I am so done with this,” I muttered and walked away from him.
“Read them!” he called after me, and all the people writing looked up momentarily to see—a very red—me. “Please continue. Do excuse my lack of grace,” he said to the rest of them.