Silence ruled the enormous library at the campus of Franklin Washington Academy, one of the best-ranking and oldest boarding schools in Massachusetts. Except in one little study spot where a sixteen years old hurricane brewed. Bernice Plata, one of many students, wasn't the only storm coming. The first semester's exams lingered just around the corner.
“I’m going to show this jerk who’s the best,” Bernice mumbled as she unloaded her backpack on a study table.
Some of her bottled-up anger leaked out when she handled the textbooks just a bit too roughly. Earlier that day she had a very unpleasant confrontation with an all too familiar douchebag from school. That argument set the tone for the rest of her day.
“We’ll see who’s going to have the last laugh, Mr. I’m All That,” she hungered for a comeback.
Determined to win this, Bernice sat down at a study table hidden between the shelves. Her textbooks and colorful spots of sunshine reflecting from the stained-glass windows surrounded her. Her eyes hovered over the pages with her forehead lined with focus and followed the trails of black ink.
All of her showed interest. Not just her face, but her entire body leaned over the open book. The border of the table drew a line and like a school, the dance chaperone made sure there was some distance between them.
Her restless fingers danced in a broken rhythm with a little key necklace and tugged at it against her neck. From time to time, the piece would take a joy ride of zip lining across the golden chain. At the right angles, the precious keepsake caught a taste of light. A long time ago, her birth mother gave her that simple piece of jewelry on her death bed and since then it gave Bernice some comfort in challenging times. Excelling in all the exams became the latest challenge.
Bernice’s pure concentration was a powerhouse, but nothing is completely invincible. A whisper was its downfall. Only a whisper; was not an unusual thing since this was a library after all, but it didn’t sound like a student’s chatter. It didn’t sound human at all and seemed like it was in a middle of an argument. A lack of loudness did nothing to take away from its intensity. Two very different tones spoke to each other; an angry one and a very scared one.
Bernice couldn’t help herself but listen in. She knew that her curiosity was uninvited, but the strange conversation held the potential for good gossip.
“She. Still. Has. It,” evilness slithered through someone’s lips.
“She has no idea what it is she holds,” whatever was being scolded tried to put up a defense.
“And when she does find out...then what?”
“You forget what dimension this is. They don’t do what we can do.”
“And you forget who that girl is. She can do what we can do...and more.”
“Not as long as we still have this.”
“The Promise is getting restless. Don’t let her find it.”
Bernice frowned, thinking who talks like that?
“Hey!” she called them out.
The airy conversation melted into silence. Bernice went to investigate the tricksters. Nothing. There was no one behind the other side.
“Hmm,” she lost interest in this mystery and went back to her books where her mind so comfortably nested. “Weirdos,” Bernice adjusted her shoulders into the chair and dismissed the sinister chant as classmates roleplaying some dorky fantasy.
“Hey, there,” a fellow classmate dressed in the same school uniform came up to her.
Smiling, Bernice looked up, “Hi, Kelly.”
“Still studying, huh?”
“Yeah... I just figured I would do some exercise problems.”
“We both know you are going to blow exams out of the water. You work up yourself too much.”
“It just feels wrong not to study when the exams are just around the corner.”
“I guess,” Kelly shrugged her shoulder and pointlessly flipped through some of the laid-out notes. But then, she remembered why she came to the library in the first place and immediately turned cheery.
“Hey, there is going to be a little party at Penelope’s,” Kelly’s mouth spilled it.
“Oh, nice,” Bernice waited for her friend to continue.
She knew Kelly wasn’t finished. Usually, her friend would end up complaining or trash-talking. Kelly didn’t disappoint and kept her tradition almost immediately. Like a mood ring, she changed her tone.
“That lucky girl. I wish my parent made enough to get me my own room. No one, but me seems to be forced to have a roommate,” Kelly pouted her lips.
“Oh, no. You poor thing. How could they? It’s so inhumane,” Bernice mocked her.
“Oh, shut up. You don’t know what you are talking about. You got your own room too,” Kelly flipped her glossy, red hair behind her ears exposing the soft twinkle of her diamond earrings.
“You are such a drama queen,” Bernice laughed.
“Maybe after we come back from Christmas break I’ll get my own.” Kelly dreamily looked up, but then quickly turned her eyes to Bernice, “so are you coming? Claire is bringing some champagne. It’s like a two-hundred-dollar bottle. I don’t know how she sneaked it in.”
“Shhhh!” someone hissed.
Kelly remembered herself again.
“Anyway, are you coming tonight?” Kelly tried to put the conversation back on track.
“Champagne, huh?... that is so hardcore,” Bernice’s eyelids grew heavy with irony.
“It’s free bubbly. So...?”
“Let me stay here just a bit longer.”
“Suit yourself. Come over when you are done,” Kelly picked back up her bag and waved goodbye. Bernice waived back.
Alone once again, she turned her attention to some calculus problems. The pencil in her hand moved quickly and with confidence. After so much practice it all seemed so easy now. She knew that she was more than prepared to take the tests. After the problems were finished, she checked the back of the practice book for accuracy. Bernice smiled. Her brilliance will be the downfall of Mr. I’m All That.
She planned an ultimate vengeance against the douchebag and left the library to join her cheerful and much more carefree friends. Right before slipping through the exit doors, Bernice took a glance behind her. She’s never done that before. Looking back was not something in her character and she worked too hard to be doing that now. No, she wasn’t looking back. It took her a second to realize that for whatever reason, she actually watched her back.
After lights out, Bernice changed into a pair of skinny jeans and a cashmere sweater. She let loose her up-do and let long, dirty blonde hair hit her back and did her deep blue eyes in a smoky eyeshadow. After she finished doing her makeup, Bernice peeked out of her door to make sure the coast was clear. She tips toed to a room on the other side of the dimly lit hall to secretly celebrate the end of the semester with her girlfriends.
Champagne was there as promised. Its sweet spell gently wrapped itself around Bernice’s head. Like the bubbles in her glass, she felt like floating up.
“I still have it,” Bernice held on to her key necklace to keep herself from becoming airborne. The only physical thing left of her dead mother that made all life's pressures bearable.