Chapters 1 to 9 have been sent to the supporters.
It was early morning the next day, and Zoe woke up to an eagle perched on her windowsill. She smiled; the mountain air was so pure, it almost had an icy scent to it, and she wanted to open her window and just take a lungful before starting her day. There was a perk in her step, and there wasn’t reasoning why; she simply wanted to be happy today.
It was a conscious choice.
Shrugging at the eagle, not wanting her day to be destroyed by an innocent yet lethal bird, Zoe walked into the bathroom. Despite the murky history of the room, she had a perfect sleep, but that could probably be attributed to the previous day’s exhaustion.
“I am not going to overthink it,” Zoe mumbled and entered the bathroom. There was something nice about having the whole thing to yourself. She remembered sharing the bathroom back with her Mother; it wasn’t the best of the experiences. From an early age, she’d learnt to be possessive about the little things’ life had afforded her.
“It is just a clump of hair, Zo,” Olivia mumbled and threw the nauseating clump in the trash bin.
“It is your clump of hair, Mum,” Zoe whispered before dry heaving some more, “I’ve told you to throw it away before I enter the bathroom!”
“You’ve taken after your father; he was an absolute clean freak like you,” Olivia mumbled; she never talked about Zoe’s Father.
It was the truth; Olivia never talked about Emmanuel Huntington. The only information she’d ever gotten was through absent mumblings. Zoe had tried to prod, to extract more details, but Olivia was like a vault, and so she never pointed out those mumblings. Those were her only source of information on a stranger.
Zoe placed her clothes by the sink and stared into the mirror. She picked her brush and stared into her own deep-blue eyes; she’d inherited them from her Mother and, of course, the height. Zoe was a Huntington through and through. Kelly had shown her pictures before she moved to Silverstone. Zoe and Daphne looked eerily similar to one another and took after Emmanuel’s Mother. Claire was more like Kelly with her brunette locks, while Markus was a replica of Emmanuel himself.
Zoe didn’t like that; she wanted more of Olivia in her face. She wanted the button nose, the mousy hair and the signature smirk, as well as the mystery. Olivia Rudolph was an ethereal woman.
How did Emmanuel and Olivia even meet?
Zoe didn’t dwell on that. She walked under the hot shower and let the thoughts run down the drain.
Zoe walked out, a towel wrapped around her body and opened a carton; fiddling with the contents inside, she pulled out a cell phone. It was her old phone; they weren’t allowed to use mobiles in Silverstone Academy.
“Some rule,” Zoe mumbled.
Yesterday, at the airport, Zoe had secretly purchased a sim card. She wanted some contact with her old friends. It was difficult letting them just go, and also, Zoe needed some of her stuff. She put the sim card in the phone and switched on her phone, her neck constantly darting towards the main door. The last thing she wanted was for someone to catch her with it.
The phone switched on, and Zoe immediately put it on silent; she scrolled through her numbers and stopped at one, her thumb hovering over it before pressing and bringing the mobile to her ear.
“Hello,” a chirpy voice greeted her.
“Sara Beth!” Zoe whispered.
“Oh my god!” Sara Beth screeched, and Zoe pulled the phone away from her ear, wincing and smiling at the same time, “I miss you!”
“I miss you too!”
“Is this your number?”
“For now, yes! But you cannot call me up on this, ever!”
“I am not even allowed to have a phone,”
“How is that fancy rich school?”
“Well, it is quite different; I mean, people here are quite serious and focused.”
“Does not sound fun,”
“It is not, and my half-siblings are the most serious of all,”
“I still cannot believe Daphne Huntington is your sister. Although I always thought of her to be your celebrity look-alike,”
“Daphne is like six inches taller than me,”
“And that’s the only difference,”
“She’s also not a celebrity,”
“Isn’t she? Daphne was in the front row seat for every major show at Milan Fashion Week. Many designers want to work with her; she famously turned down to be a showstopper for Versace.”
“So? Do you not understand the golden ticket life has handed over to you,”
“Forgot about that in the midst of your fangirling over Daphne. She’s not that nice, you know,”
“Uh oh, are they rude and mean?”
“No, I guess. I mean, Markus and Claire have been quite forthcoming. They are polite and friendly, and I am also a part of their social circle. But Daphne, she’s a bit of an oddity.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, she is polite and warm at one moment but cold and rude at the other,”
“Oh, I get that; you changed their lives as much as they changed yours; for some people, it takes time to come to terms. I think you need to persist more; she’ll come around, I am sure!”
“I guess so,”
“Anyways, any cute boys?”
Zoe groaned and laid down on her bed.
“C’mon,” Sara Beth pleaded.
“Well, there is Levy,”
“Who’s Levy? Better yet, what does he look like?”
“Oh, he is good looking and happens to be Markus’ best friend. Also happens to be Daphne’s boyfriend,”
“Nope!” Sara Beth announced.
“You cannot roe that boat, you hoe!”
“I am sorry?”
“Daphne is your sister, and your relationship is still floating over choppy waters,”
“What’s with the nautical metaphors?”
“I am saying that you cannot pursue Levy; at this point, you need to focus on building stronger relationships with your siblings.”
“I know,” Zoe groaned, “which is why I decided to leave Levy alone.”
“Good girl, you need to follow the code!”
“I cannot afford to have enemies now,”
“I know; I wish I was with you.”
“I do too. Listen, I have a favour to ask,”
“What is it?”
“I didn’t clean up a lot of things in my house; I mean, I didn’t even enter my Mother’s room before I whisked away to New York.”
“You want me to get something from the house and send it to you?”
“Yes, just a few of her clothes, her jewellery and anything else you feel I would like to have. I am sorry to just pile this up….”
“Don’t you dare complete that sentence; you are my best friend!”
“I love you,”
“I will pay you back the money for the shipping,”
“I am not doing that, Zoe!”
“Okay, how about a Chanel coat. It is a little too feminine for my taste….”
“Yes, I think that Chanel coat is a perfect form of payment.”
“Alright then! Just send anything that you can! I will send you the address.”
Zoe pressed the end button and took her phone to the box; she switched it off and placed it inside. The door knocked, and she cursed under her breath, putting on a t-shirt and pair of shorts. She pulled the door open and found Claire and Daphne standing.
“Good Morning,” Claire walked in, followed by Daphne. The two looked around the room, observing the books and the décor.
“Well, you are like Dad,” Daphne muttered.
“He is a neat freak like you,” Claire said, “Dad likes everything to be in order. Our house staff gets fired frequently because they are often unable to match to his standards.”
“Neatness promotes efficiency,” Zoe shrugged.
“That’s something Dad would say,” Daphne plopped down on Carla’s bed, and Claire sat on the small chair that came along with the desk.
“So, what’s the plan for today?” Zoe asked.
“Nothing, we will take our uniforms for alterations and perhaps see if I have to sign for any extra-curricular. Markus has already opened his tuition slots. He’ll be taking five students this year. Last year he had four, I guess,”
“I think it was three,” Zoe said, “that’s what Headmaster Duvall said.”
“Nope, there were definitely four,” Claire said, “although I don’t know who the fourth one was, Markus would teach that one at odd hours in the library.”
“Oh, maybe Headmaster Duvall was mistaken.”
“Perhaps,” Daphne shrugged, “are you interested in signing for Markus’ classes?”
“That’s a wise decision, he teaches well, and you need all the help to stay abreast with our dynamic syllabus,” Daphne smirked.
Zoe bristled; she knew she wasn’t the brightest, but she wasn’t a complete dud either. It was only her laziness that stopped her from achieving the full potential and not incompetency. She planned on changing that; Sara Beth was right, this was indeed a brilliant opportunity, and Zoe wasn’t a fool to not take full advantage of it.
“Well, I guess I need to meet Markus,” Zoe said.
“Do you want to do that now?” Claire said.
“I heard his slots fill fast,”
“You’re right; Markus is in his room. We’ll see you later!” Claire and Daphne pranced out of the room, and Zoe released a breath she didn’t know she was holding. The two sisters were stressful to be around.
Zoe picked up a notebook and her iPad and walked out of the room, locking it up. Joseph was leaning against the wall, but she ignored him and walked towards Markus’ room. She knocked thrice and waited. Levy flung the door opened, and her dry mouth became even more parched.
Standing in front of her, in his sweaty glory, was Levy Kingston without a shirt. He was out of breath, and his face slightly red.
“What’s up?” Levy asked.
“I am here to….” Zoe cleared her throat, “I am here to meet Markus.”
“Come on in,” Levy opened the door wider, and Zoe stepped inside.
The room was clearly divided into two sections. Markus’ side was neat and immaculate, while Levy’s was messy with his clothes strewn about on the floor.
“Looks like the hurricane hit only half the room,”
Markus looked up from his notebook and smiled.
“Hey!” Markus said, “what are you doing here?”
“Signing up for your tuition classes, that is, if a slot is still open.”
“We do have one slot open; you can have it if you want!”
“Yes, Please!” Zoe cried.
“Every Sunday and Wednesday from ten to twelve in the night, at the school library.”
“Woah, that’s pretty late!”
“Markus’ timings are pretty odd, but he teaches well,” Levy flopped down his bed, “he was teaching a student from one to three in the night last year.”
Markus frowned but didn’t elaborate upon it.
“That’s a tight schedule, Markus. How do you manage your football practice and extra classes?”
“Time management,” Markus muttered, “also, I don’t engage in stupid things.”
“What stupid things is he talking about?” Zoe turned to Levy and raised a brow.
“Parties,” Levy whispered.
“You don’t attend parties, Markus?”
“Why attend parties when you can solve maths equations?” Levy answered on Markus’ behalf, a teasing smile on his face.
“You are not serious, are you?” Zoe whispered, “I love to party, Markus.”
“I am quite serious about my education, Zoe.”
“Don’t you date? What about your girlfriend?” Zoe asked, sitting beside Markus.
“Oh, this is going to be interesting,” Levy muttered and propped himself up on one elbow.
“No, I don’t date,” Markus’ nose was flared as he gazed at his notebook.
“Liar, I am pretty sure he was seeing someone last year,” Levy pointed, “I almost caught a glimpse, but the asshole was too sneaky.”
“Shut it, will you,” Markus snapped, “I don’t date.”
Levy and Zoe sat stunned. Markus sighed and turned to Levy; he had an apologetic expression on his face. He picked his notebook up and walked to the door.
“I am going to the library; I will see you there at ten tonight, Zoe.”
Of course, it was Sunday.
“That was odd,” Zoe whispered, “I shouldn’t have asked that question, I guess.”
“That was odd,” Levy reiterated, “I have never seen him lose control like this.”
“Perhaps we too the teasing a bit too far?”
“But he was seeing someone last year, Claire and Daphne aren’t aware of it, but I am. I just couldn’t realise who it was,”
“Anyhow, I’ll apologise for my part,”
“I will come along with you; I need to pick a few reference books too.”
It was almost ten when both Levy and Zoe reached the library. It was huge, in the simplest of terms and stretched out for more than a mile. The shelves were tall, and there was a silent hum of the few students who studied. There were small study stations around the periphery of the library.
“Markus should be on the second floor,” Levy said.
“There is a second floor?” Zoe whispered.
“The library has five floors,” Levy said.
“Please tell me there is an elevator,”
“Only for the staff and faculty,”
“Come on,” Levy flung his arm around her shoulder and brought her under his arm; Zoe’s face flamed, “a little exercise will not hurt you.”
“Clearly, you’ve not seen me; I am not the most athletic person out there,” Zoe managed to choke out, “also, you might want to loosen your grip.”
But Levy didn’t listen to her and simply tightened his hold, Zoe faked a choking sound, and he only grinned. They quickly climbed up the stairs, and true to Levy’s word, they found Markus at a studying station. He turned around and frowned at Levy’s arm.
“Levy, you know how Daphne is,” Markus pointed out, “she wouldn’t like your proximity to Zoe, despite your friendly intentions.”
Levy dropped his arm and rubbed the back of his neck; guilt rose in Zoe. She shouldn’t have allowed that contact; she had known Daphne for a very short while but knew enough to understand her jealousy and territorial attitude.
“Sorry,” Levy said, “I will leave the two of you and get to my work.”
Levy walked away, and Zoe turned to Markus.
“I should’ve known better,” Zoe took the chair beside Markus’, “I know Daphne enough.”
“Daphne has been the spoilt one, she was the youngest, and my Father showered most of his affection on her. She is an entitled brat and is possessive about her things, so I’d suggest you maintain your distance from Levy. Even Claire does it.”
“What if they break up one day and he plans on moving on?” Zoe opened her laptop.
“I don’t know, and why aren’t you using the laptop that Dad gave you?”
“I don’t want to let go of everything from my old life, Markus.”
“But it’s just a laptop,”
“Mom saved up money for five months to afford this second-hand MacBook. I can’t just throw it away,” Zoe smiled, “and besides, we watched a lot of Netflix on this laptop, and so it will always hold fond memories.”
“I understand! Sometimes things escape me, and I forget that people have feelings too.”
“I don’t think so, you have been quite considerate of my situation, and that says a lot. You have the markings of a gentleman, Markus,” Zoe smiled.
“Oh, thank you,” Markus blushed and opened one of the notebooks, “we can start with just going over what the syllabus demands out of us this semester and start with a small topic. I’d like to see how you work with problems, and we can work upon your weaknesses.”
Zoe started to take down notes as Markus explained everything. He did have a lot of knowledge about things, and Zoe was astounded by the fantastic tips he gave. They opened her trigonometry textbook, and they started to go through all the problems one by one. Zoe attempted a question and got it right, earning a nod of approval from Markus.
“You have a stronghold over the fundamentals, which is always helpful because we move towards more difficult questions from here on. So, since this is your first day, I will not take things further, but I want you to go over these concepts and attempt the following two exercises and meet me on Wednesday.”
“I will do that, thank you by the way,”
“Would you like a cup of coffee?”
Zoe walked towards the small coffee station that was right beside the librarian’s desk. She pressed a button and placed two mugs under the machine. The hot liquid poured, and she extended her arm to grab the cream when another shot out beside hers. Zoe turned around and found Roman standing.
Their eyes met, and a slow smile spread across his lips. Zoe’s heart rate slowed down.
“Hello,” Roman whispered.
“Hey, I need the cream,” Zoe said, wiping her hands on her jeans.
“Take it,” Roman offered, and Zoe smiled, extending her arm towards the pot, but before she could take it from him, Roman had raised the pot to about twice her height.
Zoe’s jaw dropped.
“Are you serious?”
“I am, shorty,”
“Give me the cream,” Zoe demanded.
“So demanding, of course, you want cream,” Roman’s voice had a suggestive tone, “you are a little kitty, always wanting things your way.’
“I don’t have time for this; give me the cream. My brother is waiting.”
“Your brother can wait a little longer,” Zoe would croon at his accent if he wasn’t an asshole, “come on shorty, hop a little.”
“I don’t like this,”
“But I love it,”
“I really need to get back, Roman. Just give me the damn cream,”
“On one condition,” Roman said.
“Say ‘Please, Roman may I have the cream’,”
“I am doing no such thing,”
Roman shrugged and walked away, leaving a fuming Zoe behind.
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