CHAPTER TWO: PHANTOM STUDENT
The end of the week seemed to arrive much sooner than I thought it would. Adjusting to the school was just as quick and surprisingly smooth considering I’m surrounded by rowdy teens. The students were all talkative and energetic but I suppose it's because I'm the science teacher and the anatomy of the body is somewhat interesting to their age group - or they just prefer hearing their voices instead of mine. Although the school is rather small, I still haven't seen her again. She definitely doesn't attend my classes, nor my tutorial. I've searched the other classes with my only clues being the hat or headphones, but she was no-where. I’m starting to wonder if she’s even really a student here. If she wasn’t, why would she be wearing a uniform... idiot. Now I’m beginning to wonder if she was actually real. She was here quite early on Monday and then M.I.A all week?
"What's with her?!" The anger in my voice surprised even me. Sigh.
"I need to clean up before I head out." Placing my hair up in its usual bun, I set to work. Hushed voices rose a few minutes later outside the classroom, and I move to investigate, well, eavesdrop.
"... know right. I heard that too."
"Do you really think she'll be coming back next week, Lore?"
"Apparently she will be."
"Ugh... she really creeps me out you know. That resolve of hers."
"Same here. Ever since the argument last year she hasn't said a word to us."
"Well to be exact she hasn't really spoken to anyone."
"I guess being the daughter of the chairman's friend does come with its perks."
"She's missed an entire week this time though. Normally that's grounds for expulsion, right?"
"Yeah but guys can you really blame her for not wanting to come?"
"Shut up, it's not like she spoke up against it!"
"Yeah but..." their conversation ends as I open the door, the three girls staring at me before sighing in relief.
"Oh, it's you, Mr. Fairchild." Amy said, her montone expression returning to that of utter boredom.
"Ladies. It is the weekend, why haven't you left yet?"
"Waiting for Luce. She has detention." May says in a matter of fact tone and I rolled my eyes inwardly.
"Were you cleaning by yourself, sir?" Jess quietly asks and I turn to face her.
"Um, yeah. I figured I'd clean up a little since I have the time."
"Don't you have a girlfriend waiting for you, sir."
"Umm..." their eyes studying me. This is dangerous.
"Who were you girls talking about just now." Their disappointment was more than visible but relief washed over me when they rolled their eyes at my obvious subject change.
"We were talking about S squared." My eyes widened at the sudden mention of that name.
"The Silent Student?!"
"Yup the one and only." May scowls as she says it and I feel myself frown at her attitude.
"So, she’s an actual student here?” And real.
"Have you met her sir?"
"Ah, yes. On Monday."
"Monday?!" They all stare at me in disbelief.
"Yes, she was in the classroom when I got in."
"She rarely attends, so why was she in the class if she wasn't going to come to the lesson?" Her tone, although neutral, was laced with sweet poison.
"May, why do you sound so disgusted about her coming in?" She asks almost in a whisper.
"Shut up Jess!"
"Hey, don't shout at her!" Amy shouted.
"Now, now girls. Calm down." They all sighed.
"Who is this S squared anyway?"
"Atlas... well apparently she's the daughter of one of the Chairman's close friends..."
"Wait... Atlas? The absent student isn’t..." At that, they all laughed at my surprised expression.
"No sir, Atlas is a girl. She had short hair when those photo IDs were taken. Everyone makes the same mistake if they haven’t seen our student details.” With that, the conversation ends as Luce re-joins the group.
"Well then Fairchild, if you're ever bored and lonely don't be afraid to say so," May says, a cheeky smirk on her face. Rich kids, I swear. As for Atlas, she remained on my mind the entire weekend.
From what I heard of the conversation, she misses lessons quite often and she appears to be your typical rich kid. Maybe my assumption of her was wrong. But, why was she there on Monday? Why was she absent all week? And WHY is she on my mind so much?! Well she is my student, so I guess this is normal. A teacher worrying about his student. Yeah that’s it. Finishing my coffee, I aim to finish up marking the homework from yesterday before the days end. Come to think of it, although she was marked absent all week, I got no notifications for concerns. I guess what the girls said was true. Perks of having connections.
"Ahhh almost finished." I sigh as I reach for the last paper... Atlas Winters?
"How did she do the assignment? She wasn't in the lesson when I set it... Was she?" I stare at the neatly written essay,
"No, no, no, no. She was definitely not in the lesson." I couldn’t help the smile that formed at the phantom essay. At least she did it.
"Did she really write this?!" Shock and disbelief tugged at my brain as I finished reading her essay. It was so well written I struggle to believe this was written by a student. Even for one at a high-school level, this is way too sophisticated. And how did she know these terms and hypotheses? I taught these from the new textbook on Tuesday and some of these I haven’t even thought in lessons yet! It’s not plagiarised so it’s got to be her work, right? Writing A+ at the top of her paper I move to the balcony lighting a cigarette, the light drizzle sounding on the leaves of the tree near my apartment.
"This girl truly is of a strange species I never thought existed." Until now.