The Protectors-In The Land of Light

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Take A Seat, Miss Wiley

We head to the principal’s office. Some kid bumps into my side and almost knocks me over. I stumble to catch up with my feet.

“Hey, Be careful of her,” Chase snaps, stepping in front of me, a cold protectiveness to his voice. The student frowns at him then shuffles away. Chase glances back at me and raises an eyebrow.

“What was that about?” he asks, his voice surprisingly serious. I shake my head.

“I can deal with them,” I say.

“Yeah, you handled that perfectly.” He winks back at me. “No one should treat anyone that way.” I wish that was reality. I’m used to it. I sigh and continue on, Chase at my side, now glaring at anyone who gets too close.

My school will forever smell like B.O. and boys’ lockers to me. Along with other disgusting smells you don’t want to know. Our mascot, a black tiger, doesn’t really match the dull halls of our school. This school’s mascot should be a grey sloth.

I knock on the door of the principal’s office, which is a square room with pictures of our principal at award ceremonies all along the wall. Along with trophies of his accomplishments. Mr. Kepler motions for us to enter and I focus my eyes somewhere above his head. I still feel his cold eyes on me. His bald head is as polished as ever. We’ve never had a favorable history.

“Take a seat, Miss Wiley.”

My principal, Mr. Kepler, is a middle aged man with a stern face. His cold grey eyes permanently piercing. I always have to fight back a giggle whenever he’s around. His bald head is way too shiny to be natural. You could use it for a mirror.

I slouch down across from him in one of the plush armchairs and continue staring at his shiny head, not letting myself meet his eyes.

He is one person I am not afraid of. Even though I should be. Chase sits down too, though he doesn’t slouch as much and he tries to put on a bright smile. Mr. Kepler disregards him. Chase turns to me and raises his eyebrows in an obvious question. What’s with the death looks?

Mr. Kepler turns slightly fidgety under my relentless gaze. I think I terrify him. Another time we fought, besides when he tripped Ri, was when he caught me in the library when I was supposed to be in class. He told me to focus and get to work but I didn’t hear him because I was so enthralled in the story of a different world than the one I live in. When I finally noticed him, I snapped back with a snide remark. Everyone laughed. Ri told me that my eyes had glowed again.

And now here we sit in a room thick with tension.

“Who is this?” Mr. Kepler sneers in his oily voice, with a cold smile. “A boyfriend perhaps?” I turn beat red and turn away, pretending to cough so they will not see my flushed face.

Once I recover enough to say something, I respond stiffly, “No, he’s just a friend that I met today. He’s a new student here and I wanted to help him around. Is that okay?” Making myself meet his beady grey eyes, I intensify my stare. His bald head glistens under the fluorescent light. His temples begin to bead with sweat, reptilian visage pinched with anger.

“Why should I help him?” he scoffs. Chase turns fidgety. I don’t blame him.

“Because he’s your student, Mr. Kelpler.” Mr. Kepler told us in the orientation tour before the new school year started, that he does not care about his students and that he would only expect the best behavior from us and that we should not bother him. I wonder why he even works here.

“Do you really think that you, Miss Wiley, are the best person to assist this young man?” he snides, his beady eyes squinting.

“Yes, I think I am the right person for this job.”

“Me too,” Chase jumps in.

“So be it,” he sighs, rather reluctantly. He turns to Chase and grumbles, “What is your name, young man?” He pulls out a registration form.

“Chase is fine, sir,” Chase tells him, appearing embarrassed.

“At this prodigious institution we use formal names.” He arches his eyebrows importantly. “So, your last name.”

“Yes, sir. It’s Cutler,” Chase mumbles. He clearly is not proud of his last name. I wonder what secrets he is hiding up his sleeve. Maybe being a telepath wouldn’t be a lame ability.

“Alright, Mr. Cutler, you will join Miss Wiley in all her classes and your locker will be right next to hers,” he instructs and shows us out, the back of his shirt has a sweat mark the shape of Florida. Now that he has dismissed us he turns his head away, ready to be done with this conversation and us.

“Great, thanks, Mr. Kepler.” I say drily, and turn to leave. Chase smiles and shakes his hand, trying to be polite. I begin to walk out of the office, slinging my backpack over one shoulder.

Just before Chase leaves the room he calls, “Thank you, sir for giving me the opportunity to check my teeth before meeting new people!” I choke on a laugh. Did he just call out Mr. Kepler on his bald head? My respect for him just bounced back a little bit. Chase somehow successfully closes the door before laughing.

“He’s going to hate you forever,” I say and hold my stomach through the giggles.

“Eh, it was super worth it,” he says between laughs. “I’ve never seen anything that shiny in my life. That man is creepy.”

We head towards where I know our lockers will be, keeping my eyes glued to the floor, holding back a grin.

“Nice school,” Chase remarks, his eyes trailing the white lockers and banners promoting government issued programs. Senior schoolers shuffle past, eyes on their Flips. No one is different, or better. Just stuck in a world of rules and monotony.

When we get to the lockers we find Ri, leaning against her locker, arms crossed. Her fingers are tracing the white flowers that are embroidered on her black bell sleeved shirt that is belted over her immaculate white pants. I always look like I’m the trash collector when I compare my clothes to hers.

“Hey,” she says, smiling stiffly. Her light grey eyes shine out of her heart shaped face, curious and untrusting. She purses her glossy mouth. She looks tired. I’m worried for her.

“Hi,” I respond giving her a big hug. Ri only comes to about my shoulder so it’s always like I have to bend in half to give her a hug.

“Who’s that?” she asks, regarding Chase with an arched eyebrow.

Uh oh.

Ri and I had made a pact a couple of years ago that there would be no guys till we both graduated. We had decided it was better to be focused on our school and friendship.

It had always been hard for Ri, but never for me. And now I brought a dude.

“He’s a friend,” I say hurriedly, taking a few steps back. This was the second time in fifteen minutes that I had to deflect that Chase wasn’t my boyfriend.

“An extremely good looking one,” Chase says, winking. “I’m Chase.”

They shake hands. “Ri.” Ri eyes him, chewing her lip. Then she turns to me.

“I need to talk to you about something. Privately.”

“Uhh… alright.” I glance at Chase and he shrugs at me as Ri grabs my hand and drags me to a corner.

“El, something happened yesterday that shouldn’t be real.” I pale. It couldn’t be. What was my luck? “It shouldn’t have been possible, but it happened somehow. An-and I couldn’t call because I was afraid someone would hear it.” She chews her lip.

“Spit it out,” I urge, taking her hand to support her. She’s swaying, like she’s about to faint.

“There was a needle….”

“I knew it,” I say, not letting her finish. “When you started talking. Ri. It happened to me too.” I pull back my sleeve and show her the tattoo. Ri lets loose a little sob, pulling back her sleeve.

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