Teaching wasn’t exactly what Roman had expected. Sure, when you learn, you do teach at times, but as an actual teacher, dealing with high school students was indeed a tough job. There were different kinds of them.
Some of them didn’t bother about academics, some of them buried their faces inside books, some were exceptionally talented in extracurricular, and some only came to school for namesake.
But a student who fitted none of those categories was the amber-eyed one. Evette.
She wouldn’t speak a single word in class, nor out in the corridors. He never saw her at the canteen during recess. He never saw her talking to one single soul, except that boy who was trailing behind her, after each class. Roman decided to ask Evette about it, if he was causing too much trouble but until then, maybe she can deal with him.
When an exhausting class finally got over on Friday, Roman quickly packed his bag and bid goodbye to his colleagues, but just as he was about to get inside his car, he stopped at the sight in front of him.
“What’s so special about you, huh?” a boy asked roughly, to the brown-haired girl in front of him. “It’s not like your some kind of goddess that only sleeps with older men. You what that would make you? A slut!”
Roman cringed at the audacity and shamelessness the boy had.
“Come on Evette, one night was all I was asking. Guess I’ll just have to go the rough way,” he said, to the silent, amber-eyed girl. She didn’t speak a word at all the insults the boy was throwing at her and that angered Roman the most.
“Speak one more outrageous word to the girl, and I am reporting you to the principal, Jacob.” Roman declared and the boy spun around, startled to find that his teacher had heard him taunting a girl. He had addressed him by his first name and Jacob knew that that meant no good.
“Mr. Berkshire?” Evette voiced at a fuming Roman, who was glaring daggers at Jacob.
“Do you have anything else to say to her, Jacob?” he asked.
“Why are you interfering in our business, Mr. Berkshire?” Jacob questioned back.
“If it was some ordinary conversation between the two of you, I wouldn’t have but you are sexually harassing her. And that is not something that I can close my eyes at,” he said. Roman noticed that Evette had her books clutched tight in her pale arms and was darting her eyes around to make sure that no one was noticing the chaos that was happening between the three of them. “I am giving you one more chance, Jacob. If I hear such stuff again, you’ll be suspended and that’s it.”
With that, Roman asked Evette to leave and once she disappeared out of sight, he turned around and walked away into his car.
Students these days grew up with no morals.
His knuckles turned white at the pressure he was applying on the wheel as he was driving. Jacob’s attitude really angered him. In his time, the students never dared to speak to their teachers that way. What happened now?
Reaching home, he spent a few hours alone by himself while his cat was fast asleep, by playing some video games and munching on some chips. He had planned to get some drinks with his friends and so when it was time, he dressed in casuals and made his way to the club, where blaring loud music, flashing lights, and men and women grinding on each other on the dance floor awaited him.
He spotted his friend, Adrian, at the far end of the bar, sipping his glass of whatever drink that was, in solitude.
“Hey man!” Roman greeted him, sliding onto the seat right beside Adrian.
“Look who’s here,” he rejoiced. “The new teacher!”
“You’re drunk already?”
“Nah, this one’s my second.” He replied and signaled the bartender to take Roman’s order, who politely requested for a Cosmopolitan. “So, how was the first week?”
Roman inhaled. “Honestly, kids are nothing like how we were in our days. I mean, I had an idea but this is overwhelming. Some of them have no such thing called as etiquette or morals.”
“The Gen Z’s” Adrian commented.
“A few are great, but the majority are spoiled brats.”
“You gotta deal with them though.”
“Isn’t changing that and shaping them into good humans my job, after all?” he chuckled, taking a sip of his strong drink. His eyes turned to discern the various people around him, dressed in party clothes, drinking, talking and dancing.
Some were even kissing but that wasn’t Roman’s business.
“Okay, promise that you won’t make fun of me if I say you this,” said Adrian, taking Roman’s hand in his. “Bro, what the fuck is happening with these murders?”
Roman chuckled. “And that is what you ask me at a goddamn club.”
“It’s eating my head. Every time open the news, all I hear is this shit. Who the hell drains blood, after killing someone?”
Roman curled his fingers into forming a semi fist and scared Adrian. “Vampires!” he hissed, bursting into laughter seeing his friend’s startled face.
“Shut up!” he chuckled and they looked around the club in silence, before speaking again.
“Well, I would be lying if I said that they aren’t affecting me as well. It is messed up,” admitted Roman.
Adrian smiled. “That man was walking home after shutting his grocery store for the day. And then he just...died.”
“Exactly! Who kills people this way? This is more messed up than Ted Bundy. And it’s happening in our freaking city.”
“Let’s pray to God that we don’t become a target. To living!” Adrian said, raising his glass for a toast.
“To living!” and they clinked glasses.
Roman wasn’t one to dance on the dance floor with strangers, grinding on, and barely knowing each other. In fact, he was disgusted by the idea of that, and never understood what pleasure people got from doing that.
And so, he spent some more time with Adrian, before they parted ways. The night air was cold when he stepped out of the club, and he buried his hands inside the coat pockets.
Warm puffs of air escaped his mouth into the chilly night, as he walked alone through the quiet streets. The fear decided to creep into his mind again, and so he began walking faster to where he parked his car. A cold wind blew, and he shuddered as he spotted his car. He pulled out his keys and pressed the button that unlocked it, the car making a little clicking noise.
His hand wrapped around the handle and pulled it open but just as he was about to step inside, he froze at the sight of a woman. And she stood there, unmoving, staring blankly into the empty road.
The silhouette reminded him of someone he knew, but there was no way she would be here, at this time of the night.
“Are you alright, miss?” he shouted out in her direction and she spun around, and Roman found himself staring at similar pools of honey. “Miss Bellerose?”
“Mr. Berkshire?” she voiced, taking slow steps toward him, that gradually increased in speed. She was wearing a tank top, the exact same one that she wore on the first day they met and Roman doubted if she wasn’t feeling cold.
“Aren’t you feeling cold, Miss Bellerose?” he asked, preparing to take off his coat and hand it to her, despite feeling cold himself. She stopped him.
“It fine, Mr. Berkshire. This isn’t something that I can’t handle.” She shrugged. A chilly wind blew again and Roman shuddered again but Evette didn’t budge. “Besides it seems like you need the coat more than me.”
“What brings you here?” he asked.
Her eyes darted around. “Just...getting some fresh air.”
“You shouldn’t walk around alone like this. Haven’t you heard the news?” he asked.
She smirked. “For how long will you stay scared, Mr. Berkshire? For how long can the people be scared?”
“As long as they catch the culprit.”
“I doubt if that will ever happen,” she stepped closer to him, “if the killer is good at hiding. What happens then?”
“There has to be a solution. Someone can’t just go around killing people.”
She inhaled, smiling, and then looked around at the misty surroundings. “When the city lies like this, abandoned and dark, it is easy to kill people and get away with it.”
Roman was surprised at the fact that she was speaking so much; he had never heard her speak more than a few words. And yet here she was, speaking about how easy it was to kill a person in the city.
“Come on, I’ll drop you home.” He said but she shook her head.
“I’ll walk, Mr. Berkshire. I don’t like vehicles.” She said and then began stepping backward. “It was nice talking to you, sir.”
“But,” he began, “It isn’t safe. I’ll just drop you home.”
She shook her head again but this time Roman grabbed her wrist, genuinely concerned for his student’s safety but it caused him to flinch and let go of it, just as quickly as he touched it.
“W-why are you so....cold?” he stuttered at a smiling Evette.
“The night is chilly, Mr. Berkshire. Of course, my body is cold.” She shrugged. “You should leave. It isn’t safe for you either.”
“It’s safe for neither of us and so I am asking you to get inside the car so I can drop you home. And you are not refusing, Miss Bellerose.” He said, sternly, annoyed at why the girl was so stubborn. The killings are happening at random places and the last thing he needed was the victim to be one of his students.
Besides, he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he saw her alive if he leaves her alone. The surroundings are awfully quiet and dark, and anything can happen. Roman was genuinely concerned about her.
To his relief, the girl walked around the car, pulled open the door, and plopped herself down on the passenger seat. Sighing, he looked around before getting inside, the warmth inside soothing his chilled skin and he rubbed his hands together in delight.
“Now, you’re warm...” Evette commented.
He nodded and clicked the key in its slot, the engine of the car roaring to life. The headlights beamed bright light into the dark road, and the vehicle began moving, Roman’s back pressuring his seat at the inertia caused.
“Where do you live?” he asked.
“A little further away from the church.” She replied. “You can just drop me there.”
“How further away?”
“Behind the church, isn’t there like a plot of land for the dead? A very walkable distance from there.”
A plot of land for the dead?
“You live near the cemetery?” he asked, bewildered.
She shrugged. “You can put it like that as well.”
“What about your parents?”
“I live alone.”
Roman took a second to process that. She lives alone, and he doesn’t know where her parents are, or even if they are alive or not. And she lives near the cemetery. Her attitude toward the murders was vague, as though she was encouraging whoever committed them.
Why is this kid like this?
There were very few houses near the cemetery, as she said, walking distances from there but all of them were really large, sophisticated mansion-like houses. Roman had once stood and admired them, given how beautifully they were built. How can a girl her age live in one of those houses all alone?
Even if they were near the cemetery, one wouldn’t refuse to live there. The surroundings are beautifully adorned with lush greenery and evergreen trees that stay tall and proud among the houses. One wouldn’t even feel that there is a cemetery just nearby.
Besides, what’s the big deal in living close by a graveyard, if the environment is great?
“I’ve noticed that you are always quiet in class.” He stated.
She chuckled. “It’s my nature. And none of the people in my class is approachable. You can’t talk me out of it, Mr. Berkshire.”
“Do inform me if Jacob is causing you trouble.” He said.
“Thank you... for, having my back today.” She told.
Roman shrugged. “It’s my duty.”
A small talk about school and life, in general, was exchanged between them, as the car drove past the numerous dim streetlights that stood just for namesake. Roman realized that like she said, it was more than easy for someone to commit a murder and get away with it. And it wasn’t long before Evette pointed her hand at the church and Roman, brought the car to a halt.
She thanked him, getting out of the car, although something inside Roman, wanted to ask her to stay. It was a very dull instinct but when she stepped out of the car, he couldn’t help but sense something uncanny at the back of his head.
“Be safe.” He said before he drove away until her silhouette was nothing but a little dot in his mirror.