The day that that I had been dreading the most since my arrival in Lixerra had finally come. Time went by incredibly fast and before I knew it, it was already the assembly day and my last day of freedom. I just laid on my bed in silence, staring blankly at the ceiling as different scenarios started to play in my mind: Would I fail? Would I succeed? Was coming to Coleste the right thing to do? I had never given much thought about school since for the past two years my parents home schooled me, but now I was in a different situation and I had to admit that I was not ready for this change at all. Everything happened way too fast that I was barely able to process any of it. Here I was, after spending two years in the comfort of the only home I had ever known, in an academy filled with more accomplished witches.
“MYSTICS!” Rose would whine whenever the word witches slipped out of my mouth. “We are Mystics, witches are mythical creatures created by mortals to explain all the evil in the world they can’t blame anyone else for.” I would roll my eyes at her explanation, because for me it was the same thing, both can control natural elements and both can do shit no mortal ever dreamt of doing, so why the fancy name? I couldn’t use my power, which was already a terrible blow to my frail self confidence, let alone being surrounded by students who had spent most of their lives learning how to control and wield their abilities. And to add salt to injury I wasn’t doing well in my private lessons either. For the past few days I wasn’t able to summon my main element and Mr. Isaiah deserved a medal for being so patient with me so far and not giving up on me for being weak and useless.
Well, I guess starting from tomorrow I was doomed.
Light knocks on my door snapped me out of my deep thoughts and before I could answer Rose peeked her head through the door.
“You’re awake!” she exclaimed as she pushed the door open and came in. “Good morning!”
“Good morning.” I replied with a smile but not with same enthusiastic tone of hers.
“I came here to wake you up but since you’re up and ready, let’s go. Kira made breakfast.” she grabbed my wrist and dragged me downstairs with her to the kitchen where the scent of coffee greeted me. Kira’s obsession with coffee was beyond me.
“Wow dude, you look terrible!” Kira whistled as she saw me.
“Good morning to you, too.” I replied, rolling my eyes at my roommate. I had come to notice this past week that Kira and Rose were not that different after all. They both had a problem with holding their tongues. But I guessed that could be a great quality as I could be sure they would never lie to me.
Or at least that’s what I thought.
“Morning. Have you slept at all last night?” She brushed her blue hair back and handed me a cup of coffee.
“I did. A little.” I sipped on my sweet coffee and relaxed a little in my chair.
“What’s wrong?” Rose asked.
“Nothing major, I’m just stressed about school I guess.”
“Relax, everything will be okay.” She said as she rubbed my back. “Kira and I will be there for you, whatever you need.”
“We have all struggled with our magic at some point in our lives Lilith. You’ll get the hang of it soon, I promise.” Kira smiled at me, a rare warm smile as opposed to her usual smirks, scoffs and eye rolls, and I suddenly felt at ease. She slid me a plate of toast with jam and butter, already picking up on the fact that I don’t enjoy savory food in the morning except for the occasional omelet, and my stomach growled in response. I said my thank you and dug right in, and the girls soon joined in what seemed to be the quietest breakfast we’ve had together so far. I suppose I wasn’t the only one nervous about classes starting, just like me Rose and Kira were about to start their senior year, and no matter how good they were at pretending they were fine, this morning their nervousness was clear on their faces.
The sound of a phone ringing broke the silence and Kira reached into her pocket to retrieve her device. A small smile formed on her lips as she looked at the caller idea and her finger slid swiftly across the screen, answering the call with a cheerful ‘Hello, babe’.
I gave her a quizzical look to which she responded by sticking out her tongue, but otherwise said nothing and waited for her to finish her call. Rose was busy stuffing her face in, quickly clearing out her plate of eggs and bacon, so I saw no point in asking her. A few minutes later Kira blew a kiss through the phone and hang up, happiness radiating off of her like a halo.
“So”, I started, “I didn’t know you had a ‘babe’”.
“It just didn’t come up.” She averted her eyes, staring at her plate instead.
“Was that Gabby?” Rose finally asked, walking around the counter to place her dish in the sink.
“Yes, she’s on her way to school now. She said she could make it to the ceremony after all.”
“Who’s Gabby?” I interrupted.
“My girlfriend.” Kira stated coolly.
“I guess there is a lot I still don’t know about you two!” I gave her a sly smile. “What about you Rose? Do you have a girlfriend? Or a boyfriend?”
“Neither. Romantic relationships don’t interest me at all.” Rose said as she brushed her long hair back.
“Alright then.” I giggled and took another bite of my strawberry jam toast.
After breakfast I waited for the girls to get ready. I was already dressed in a pair of black jeans and a black top with white sneakers and matching accessories since the early morning. The girls marched downstairs, looking as breathtaking as ever, and we left the house, making our way towards the dormitory area that is reserved for the medium ranked students. Somehow I still couldn’t fathom the idea of this school dividing students into different living areas. I’ve learnt that the ones who belong to the royal line and wealthy families cohabit in the houses area while the others with low family profiles and backgrounds stay in the dormitory area. I didn’t know if I should feel lucky that I somehow belong to the first category or feel bothered by it, like shouldn’t everyone be treated equally? We were on neutral ground weren’t we? What was I even talking about? There’s no such thing in the human world, let alone in here. Mystics take their ranks and position even more seriously, and apparently I was not the only one bothered by this hierarchy. Kira made it very clear as we walked together that she loathed this system, mainly because her girlfriend Gabriella belongs in the medium rank. Kira and Rose were royalty- I almost chocked on my coffee when they announced it to me a few days ago- and just like humans, mystics frown upon royals mingling with ‘peasants’ as Kira put it.
We stopped in front of the dorms, waiting for Gabriella to arrive. The area was chaotic, to say the least. It was officially the first day of school - even though classes start tomorrow- and it seemed like Lixierra academy was buzzing. Apparently, even though a lot of students come to school a week or so before classes start to get settled in, the majority prefer to show up on initiation day. And so we stood there as a whirlwind of mystics passed us by, bags in hand, suitcases dragging behind them as they greeted their friends and - very loudly- described their summer vacation. But with every new face walking by, one thing was definitely getting old. You guessed it; it seemed that when it came to me, everyone’s reaction was the same: shock, confusion, nudging, whispering and pointing.
“Kira!” A loud voice snapped my attention back to my friends and I saw a girl waving and walking towards us. She was a little shorter than me, with beautiful tanned skin, big bright brown eyes and wavy brown hair that went a little under her shoulders. She was wearing a bright red tank top and black shorts that accentuated her curvy figure, along with black sneakers and a golden ankle bracelet.
“Gabby!” Kira waved back, a bright smile gracing her face. She opened her arms as soon as the girl reached us and they hugged for a while, breaking off that warm embrace only to kiss like no one as watching.
“Alright we get it you’re in love. We have a ceremony to get to!” Rose let out after a couple of minutes, her smile contradicting her words and tone. Kira pulled back, glaring at Rose as Gabriella smiled sheepishly. I cleared my throat, feeling awkward and out of place.
“Hey Rose, I missed you!” Gabriella said as she detangled herself from Kia’s arms and hugged her friend.
“I missed you too! Glad to have you back, maybe now Kira will be a little less cranky.” Rose chuckled as she hugged Gabby back. “This is Lilith, our new roommate.” They both turned to me, smiling widely. Unlike everyone at this school, Gabby didn’t gasp. She showed no indication of shock and confusion; instead she just smiled at me and extended her hand for me to shake.
“Nice to meet you Lilith, I’m Gabriella.”
“Nice to meet you too.” I mirrored her smile, my initial awkwardness fading away as a feeling of familiarity took its place. These were my friends, they were warm and caring and thoughtful and cheerful and snarky and welcoming, and suddenly I wasn’t so terrified of what’s to come.
Before any of us could say anything a loud voice rang from the speakers that were hung on the light polls: “Dear students of Lixerra academy, we kindly ask you to join the conference hall to start the entrance ceremony, which will begin in 30 minutes.”
Rose groaned in frustration. “Should we really attend this thing? I’ve been through it for 3 years now, it’s okay to skip it this year.” she whined.
“No, it’s mandatory. Plus Lilith is a new student, it will be the first and last time she’ll ever attend it. We have to be there for her.” Kira looked at me with a bright smile and I nodded in gratitude.
“Whatever you say.” Rose rolled her eyes and the four of us made our way to the conference hall. I followed the girls silently behind as they chatted happily with Gabriella. I was happy to stay quiet and admire the new hallways of the building we just entered. The walls, just like in the ballroom, were covered with the symbols of the elements, glowing under the lights of the chandeliers. It was bright out and the long glass windows did an amazing job of the letting the sunshine in, but for some reason the chandeliers were also lit. The loud chatter of students in the hallway felt comforting at first, but then I started picking up on a few whispers and conversations and that comfort turned into panic. I looked around and noticed that some students were giving me weird looks, making no effort to hide their bizarre facial expressions.
“Is that her?”
“It can’t be.”
“She looks exactly like her.”
“Well the hair is definitely different!”
“She’s paler that I remember!”
I had no idea what they were talking about and somehow I didn’t feel like I’d get a clear answer if I asked so I picked up my pace and took a place right between the girls. “I am seriously considering having plastic surgery right now.” I said, making them laugh.
“You’re still new Lil, it’s really normal that you’re getting all this attention. Don’t worry it will be over soon” Kira reassured me.
“I hope so.” I just mumbled.
Once we entered the conference hall, I wondered why they call it a hall when it was nothing like one. It was more of a high school gym, only 10 times bigger and way more prestigious. Seats were divided by seniority, something that I really appreciated and made me feel less nervous because for a second I thought the seats will be divided according to the kingdom you belonged to, and I really didn’t want to imagine what would had happened to me to if that was the case. In the middle of the room stood a gigantic stage, with a microphone propped up on it and a few chairs standing behind it. The girls and I immediately took our seats like everyone else and I looked around, trying to tune out the loud chatter. A few rows back I caught a glimpse of someone waving in my direction and I smiled as I saw Kyle’s familiar smirk. I waved back, grateful for that small gesture.
“Okay, wake me up when this thing is over.” Rose said, putting on her earphones. A few moments later, a man in his thirties wearing glasses and a sharp gray suit walked on stage, rendering the whole room quiet. “Hello everyone, I see that most of you decided to skip the ceremony entrance like always.” He smiled and continued. “It’s been a long time since we last saw each other. I hope you enjoyed your vacation and are ready for another hardworking school year. For the new students I’ll introduce myself, I’m the school council’s president. My name is Xavier but you can call me Mr. X. Nice to meet you all and hopefully you’ll enjoy your stay here.”
“Like every year, I will be clarifying the rules and curriculum of this school: You will be taking Magic classes where you will learn to control your main element and to strengthen your secondary element as well. Classes are usually divided by elements so that students of the same main element will be taught together but will have shared classes to work on your natural abilities. Aside from that you will also be having martial arts classes.”
“What?” I whispered, trying so hard not to scream in shock.
“Don’t worry; it sounds a lot worse than it actually is.” Gabriella smiled at me.
I stopped paying attention at this point, too focused on the fact that I had never taken a spinning class, let alone martial arts. Most of the students here looked perfectly in shape, and I grimaced as I imagined what would happen when I took a class with those perfect creatures. Like worrying about my ability -or lack thereof- to practice magic wasn’t stressful enough, now I have to worry about embarrassing myself in a whole different domain.
What did I do to deserve this?
“And finally”, Mr. X’s loud voice brought me out of my unbelievably embarrassing thoughts, “this school has a certain reputation and every student is expected to maintain that reputation by behaving well at all times on school grounds as well as the island. Therefore, I shall now recite the rules for all of you.”
It took for what seemed like forever for Mr. X to tell us the rules, which seemed a bit redundant since every student got a detailed rule book with their schedule and curriculum. I guess he figured no one reads that thing so he decided to trap us all in a huge room and make us sit through it instead. I did my best to listen to him go on about the curfew and the living situation and when we’re allowed to leave school grounds, but at some point I got bored and decided to observe my fellow students instead. It was hard for my untrained eye to distinguish the royals from the commoners, mainly because all mystics looked well put together and unbelievably gorgeous to me. Instead, I watched as they whispered to each other, a laugh stifled here and a strand of hair brushed back there. Everyone was apparently as bored as I was so when Mr. X wished us a good day and finished his speech by letting us know where to get our schedules; I wondered if the students were clapping because of what he said or because he was done. My bet was on the latter.
We stood up all at once, seemingly eager to leave this place and enjoy the rest of our day. Rose yawned next to me and I laughed as she stretched and took her earphones out.
“I thought he would never shut up.” She rolled her eyes and shoved her earphones in her pocket.
“Every year it’s the same speech, and every year it gets even more boring.” Gabriella rubbed her temples.
“Let’s get out of here.” Kira started. “How about lunch? At Joe’s?” She asked and we all nodded our agreement.
We stood still in front of our chairs, waiting for the rows to empty a bit so we can move. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kyle leave with a couple of his friends out of the back door and I silently wondered what they were up to later. He looked as dreamy as always, cloaked in black clothes, his hair a stylish mess and for a brief moment my mind wondered back to the day we spent together. I was surprised to find myself enjoying the time I spent with Kyle. Shopping proved to be a little difficult when we both insisted on paying, but other than that I had the most fun I have had in a long while. The rows finally cleared and Rose was the first to move, practically sprinting down the stairs. I was about to follow suit, with Kira and Gabriella right behind me, when a loud gasp stopped me in my track. Right in front of me on the other side of the stairs stood a tall, incredibly handsome boy, staring at me as if he just saw a ghost. For some reason I was unable to move, frozen as I stared into his big brown eyes. His features looked all too familiar, and suddenly an image flashed across my mind of the same boy, smiling brightly at me as his glossy black hair sparkled under the sunlight. That image couldn’t be more of a contrast to what stood in front of me today. The boy looked disheveled, his brown eyes gloomy and watery, his rosy lips shaking. I was almost certain he was about to cry. Time stood still as we stared at each other, the pain and shock conveyed in his eyes sent a shiver down my spine. I racked my brain, trying to remember where I’ve seen him before but nothing came to me, and I stood there, wondering why my heart was beating so fast and why I felt this indescribable pain in my chest.
“Aline.” He finally spoke after what seemed like an eternity of crushing silence, his voice breaking as he fought back tears. He only uttered one word - a name that I’ve heard more than once since I came to Coleste- but that single word carried with it the pain and agony of a crushed soul and suddenly my knees started shaking and I was struggling to breathe.
“Chase.” Behind me, Kira’s voice was just as shaky. “It’s not her.”
Chase? Does she mean the same Chase from the masquerade? The charming boy who complimented my mask? Is that why he looked familiar to me?
Chase briefly looked back at Kira, confusion clear on his face, then he brought his eyes back to me and for some reason I felt the most gut wrenching pain squeezing my heart. He was hurting, and more than anything in the world I wanted to put my arms around him and comfort him, but I was frozen in place, unable to understand why I was so torn about this meeting.
“How?” He whispered again, and this time Kira pushed her way to the front, doing what I was too afraid to do. She hugged him tight, whispering a few words into his ear. He looked even more shocked and tears started streaming down his cheeks. He closed his eyes for a while, letting Kira comfort him, and then opened them again when she let him go.
“This is Lilith.” Kira said, unable to look at either of us. “She’s our new roommate.”
Chase didn’t seem to believe her as he stared at me for a while longer, shaking his head and wiping the continuous stream of tears away from his eyes. I wanted so badly to do something, to be whoever he thought I was, to help him through his tears but I didn’t know what to do. I was shocked at myself for feeling so intensely about someone I barely knew, but something about his crying face made me grimace in pain. Why was he crying? What is it about my face that elicited such reaction? Why is nobody telling me anything? My thoughts dissolved into thin air when Chase, suddenly aware of his surroundings, took one last glance at me and sprinted down the stairs, pushing against Rose who was watching the whole scene from a distance. Her face mirrored mine, shock taking over her features as she glanced at me.
I stared at Chase’s retreating back, a huge lump forming in my throat. I had no reasonable explanation for what had just happened or why I was feeling so crushed but I knew one thing; his pain and tears were caused by me -or whoever I looked like- and that bit of information tore my heart apart.
I glanced at the three girls to find them staring at me. Their faces looked just as distraught, this encounter leaving them just as baffled as I was. I had so many questions going through my head and I wanted answers so badly, but I was unable to form a coherent sentence, to demand an explanation for my misery. So I did the only thing I was able to do at that moment.
I started crying.