“Ready?” Shay called.
Kallima gave a thumbs-up from the courtyard grass. Sable stared down at Kallima fearfully from the top of the school’s gate. She gripped the edge tightly, and her entire body was grey and cracked. Her black hair whipped in the November wind. Next to her, Shay returned Kallima’s gesture with a grin. Sable shook her head.
“I don’t know about this, Shay,” the gargoyle said.
Shay pat the girl on the head, saying, “You’ll be fine! You trust Kali, right?”
“It’s the other one I don’t.”
“Hey!” Acacia shouted, throwing her arms out. “I’ll catch you!”
“We’ll catch you, Say!” Kallima said.
“It’s team-building, Sable,” Shay told his friend, patting her arm. “You don’t want to fail gymnasium, do you?”
“Not if it fails you,” Sable said.
“Just take a deep breath.”
Sable did, standing up and crossing her arms over her chest. She turned around as she exhaled, and Shay pushed her over the ledge.
The girl shrieked as she fell and twirled her arms as if attempting to slow herself. What shocked Kallima, though, was that she never turned to stone from the time her feet left the rocky edge to the time she slammed into the arms of her peers below. Her head whipped back from the sudden stop, and she grabbed Kallima and Acacia’s shoulders instinctively.
“What are you four doing?”
Kallima handed the tiny girl to Acacia and turned to the voice. Headmaster Locke stuck his entire torso out of a window on the third floor and stared at the freshmen in simultaneous fury and concern.
“Trust fall!” Kallima shouted back.
“It’ll strengthen our group dynamic in gym!” Shay said.
The headmaster shook his head, yelling, “Is there a less dangerous trust exercise you can do? I don’t need another student in a coma!”
Shay said, “I’m sure we could think of something-.”
“Well, do it!” the centaur commanded. “I’m watching you.”
“Alright, girls, incoming!”
Kallima yelped and rushed to Sable’s side just in time to help her and Acacia catch Shay before he smacked to the ground. He immediately launched himself out of their arms.
“Woo! That was a rush!” he whooped. “We gotta do that again when he’s not watching!”
“No,” Acacia said, “we need to study for finals.”
Sable nodded agreement and said, “I’m very lost in math.”
“Bullocks. I wanted to try it,” Kallima said.
Shay waved Acacia and Sable ahead. Then he glanced up at Kallima.
“We’re not going to tell her, are we?” he asked softly.
“That this was my idea? No way.”
“Everyone knows you’re the boss. You know that, right?”
Kallima said, “Yes, but I’m trying to fix that. Have faith in me, Shay.”
“Unwavering, Ma’am,” Shay said. “I do have a question though.”
“What is it?”
“After all you’ve been through, why put Sable on a wall and push her off?”
“I- I don’t know. I told you I would keep an eye on her. Not let her… I guess this is less about trusting others and more about trusting myself to take care of my friends.”
“Hmp. Did you come up with that,” Shay asked, “or did you get it from your mysterious friend, Blaze?”
The redhead gave him a light shove and rolled her eyes. Shay chuckled but shook her off.
“We could do a blind maze,” he said.
“That might work. I like it! Let’s get going,” Kallima replied.
She shot back towards the building, silently challenging her friends to a race that no one doubted she would win.
Ignatius sat across from Kallima, firing questions rapidly as the younger, taller girl searched her brain for answers.
“War of Talons.”
“Treaty of Magus?”
Ignatius scratched the paper with a red pen.
“Treaty of the Green.”
“Council of Fae Elect.”
“Founded in... er, nineteen sixteen?”
“King Titanus crowned.”
“Nineteen seventy-eight! I know that one!”
“You do,” the golden boy grinned. “Another treaty then? The White Light Agreement.”
“Eighteen... Eig- er, seventy-four.”
“Hey, you got one!”
“The Century War.”
“Very good. What started it?”
“Dispute over borders between Evendial and Jotephes.”
“Er, Jotephes fell. Queen Ephatas of Evendial divided the territory between her country, Anavell, and Domino.”
“Dormina. Close enough.”
Kallima groaned, “Why are you so hard on me, Iggy?”
“Because I’m not giving the final. Mr. Jarris set aside time to draft an exam for you, and he’s going to watch you take it. If you don’t pass it, I don’t get to teach, and you could get expelled. Then what?”
“Expelled? No one-!”
“Library, Miss Satu!” Miss Flores called.
“Sorry, Miss Flores,” Kallima said, ignoring the name. Then she turned her attention back to Ignatius, “No one told me I could get expelled.”
“You spat on Crown Prince Reginald,” Ignatius reminded her. “Forget expulsion; you’re lucky you weren’t imprisoned.”
“I know, ‘an act of defiance towards a government figure is to be viewed as defiance towards the government, the only exception of which is the infringement on personal rights.’ But minors have no rights. Shit, I’m lucky I’m not dead.”
“No, he wouldn’t allow it,” Ignatius said softly. “Still.”
“No one. It’s not important. What’s important is that you ace this test.”
“So you can teach.”
“And you can avoid attention.”
“Any word on your dad?”
Ignatius looked up from the paper, pale and stern, eyes laced with worry.
“They’re going to let me see him. Just for a few minutes before they ship me to Orphanage. No release in sight, though. Not even a court date.”
“Will you be all right?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never gone this long without seeing him. Now he’s going to be missing an ear. And a finger. Probably all his nails. Be lucky if there’s anything to him. And that’s if they keep their word and let me visit.”
“You don’t think they will?” Kallima asked.
Ignatius shook his head, saying, “No, I don’t. I finally got a letter from him yesterday. He’s alive, for now, but you can tell he’s losing his grip. He’s going to break, I know it.”
“No,” Kallima said flatly. “He’s your father. He won’t give Blaze up, not if he’d be giving you up, too.”
Ignatius stammered, “I- I don’t know wh-what you’re talking a-about.”
“Your guardian. Our guardian.”
“Oh!” Ignatius said, obviously relieved. “That’s nothing. I mean, yeah, he’s my guardian, too, but you need him more. Anyway, I don’t think they’ll risk letting me rebuild Dad’s resolve when he’s so close to giving in. Riots of Bridgewell.”
“Huh? Oh, r-right. Eighteen eighty-five.”
Ignatius shook his head and drew another X on the paper.
“Oh, come on,” Kallima groaned. “At least tell me the answers!”
“Treaty of the Green was seventeen twenty. Treaty of Magus was eighteen-o-five. You mixed them up. Riots of Bridgewell were eighteen ninety-five.”
“Perhaps you recall what started the riots?”
Ignatius slid his chair back and slammed his face into the table.
“My name is Kali, and I didn’t do it!”
“Apologies, Miss Kali.”
Kallima crossed her arms and sneered at the young senior. He raised his face so his chin rested on the wood as she scolded him.
“You don’t need to be so rude, you know. I got more than half your questions right.”
“Finals are soon.”
“I have three weeks to study.”
“But you’re missing basic history questions. I haven’t even reached laws.”
“I’ll figure this out, Iggy,” Kallima promised. “Don’t worry so much.”
Ignatius drummed his fingers together and sat up. To Kallima, he seemed a perfect villain in that moment, contemplating what to do with his captive.
“Time-out. That’s it. You need a time-out,” he said with a smirk.
“Time-out? What, am I a toddler now?”
The boy shook his head, “Not like that. Time out of the library. Time out of class. Time to yourself. Take a week off. Make flash cards, outlines, whatever you need to learn this.”
“Yeah. No class next week. Then, Monday after, I’ll give you a mock test. We’ll figure it out from there.”
“Brilliant,” Kallima said. “I can focus on learning without an inquisition.”
“Nobody ever expects the inquisition,” said Ignatius, making Kallima laugh loudly. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, you just- You wouldn’t get it,” Kallima chuckled as she gathered her things. “‘Nobody ever expects the inquisition.’ Oh, Lord.”
She cleared her throat and righted herself. Ignatius began arranging his papers as Kallima watched him.
“What?” he asked, realizing she was waiting for something.
“Are you coming?”
“What, to dinner?”
“No, to bed,” Kallima scoffed. “Of course to dinner. You can’t live out of a can, Iggy.”
“I don’t- Are you sure?”
“You’re a right dumb git. Of course I’m sure.”
The senior wiggled nervously before he sighed and rose.
“Okay, okay. I’ll have dinner with you guys.”
Kallima led the obedient boy out of the library, a glint of triumph lighting up her eyes, as Ignatius followed like a scolded dog. She had barely opened the door, though, when she was spun around and pressed to the wall. She gasped. Gabriel chuckled at her reddening face, strands of brown hair falling gently around his face. Kallima bit her lip and blushed furiously.
“Did I scare you?” he teased.
“More shocked then scared.”
The sylph laughed then leaned in and kissed his young girlfriend. The redhead sighed and began moving her lips with his and twirling her fingers into his eternally long hair. She squeaked gently when he slipped his tongue between her teeth. He smiled against her mouth and pulled her closer. Kallima batted one of his hands away from the hem of her skirt before he could pull on the fabric.
A cough made the two turn, pulling apart again. Ignatius looked down, his cheeks turning red. Gabriel glared at the short senior. With a chuckle, Kallima shoved his shoulder gently.
“Iggy’s going to sit with us again,” she said. “You both better behave.”
Gabriel huffed, “I always behave.”
“You slugged me.”
“She’s my girlfriend. Not yours. I’m the only one who gets to touch her. ”
“Boys! Stop it,” the dream fae said. “If two you can’t get along, I’ll eat elsewhere.”
Gabriel groaned, “fine,” as Ignatius nodded in agreement. Kallima grinned, pleased that the older boys were willing to listen to her. Slipping her hand into Gabriel’s, she ushered the duo downstairs to dinner.