The Rose Garden

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Chapter Three

The lecture room for Ancient History was not a difficult place to find. A good place to sit was. The lecture room was large with rows upon rows of chairs behind a high, white desk. The seats and desks went around the room, and got higher up as they went. There were the back seats, which already had a few kids sitting in them and the front row seats, for the really eager nerds. There were already a few of those sat there as well; Cassie decided that she would go for the middle and to the side so that she had a good view of the screen and the professor, when she or he finally arrived. It was a spot that didn’t attract much attention - it wasn’t at the back, where sat the ones who didn’t want to be noticed or look like they didn’t care, but it wasn’t at the front either, where the ones who cared too much and wanted to be noticed sat. Yes, Cassie certainly liked where she’d chosen to sit.

The room filled up with more students, as Cassie organised everything on her small section of desk; textbook placed next to her, pencil-case atop it and folder underneath both items, a fresh pad of paper in front of her, open to its first clean page and her phone turned on silent and in her bag and a pen already in her hand. She had contemplated recording the lecture on her phone but dismissed the idea; she had quick and neat handwriting, and she would prefer to take her notes down by hand, straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak rather than a digital device. Besides, she didn’t know how well the phone would pick up speech and she didn’t want to risk not having notes worthy of revision. If she came to write detailed notes and the recorder hadn’t picked up the necessary details that she needed, she’d probably cry.

The Professor walked in about ten minutes after Cassie had sat down, her nerves and excitement building as the minutes ticked closer. When the Professor finally strolled in, five minutes before the lecture was due to start, Cassie was practically bouncing in her seat.

“Good morning, class. I am Professor Amelia Hague.” She was young, younger than Cassandra expected, probably in her early thirties. Amelia was tall with a round face and light brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, wearing a pair of black-rimmed glasses. “This first lecture is going to be the first of your Mandatory Courses: The Introduction To Ancient History. Just out of curiosity, who is taking Latin or Greek as well?”

A series of hands were raised, Cassie’s included. She’d chosen Latin, preferring to learn the dead language rather than Greek. Her parents believed it to be a sophisticated language.

“Right, okay. Who can tell me what seize the day is in Latin?”

A number of hands went up, including Cassie’s. Professor Amelia chose a boy at the front, with dark hair.

“Carpe diem.” The boy answered and she nodded with a smile. Cassie lowered her hand, giving a small shrug to herself. Well, sure, everyone knows that anyway, she thought sourly. That’s a question that pops up on pub quizzes for god’s sakes.

That continued for a while, the professor switching between Latin and Greek before she questioned, “who knows what ‘te futueo et caballum tuum’ means?”

Cassie’s eyes shot up from her notebook, jotting down the Greek phrases that had been said; her knowledge of lectures and lessons was that professors didn’t just say things for the fun of it. They would later become necessary. She looked around the room to see people looking at one another in confusion and it was clear that no-one else knew it. Cassie did and her hand rose hesitantly as Professor Amelia surveyed the room, eyebrows raised expectantly. She pointed at Cassie in excitement, smiling warmly at her.

“Screw you and the horse you rode in on.”

Professor Amelia’s grin was so large it looked like her face was about to split in half. “Yes, that is correct! The Romans loved their swear words, and curses, and insults! Much of their literature, their lyrics, poetry, even their graffiti contained profanity!” The lecture continued much in that manner, Professor Amelia getting excited about nearly every topic they covered and by the end, Cassie had three pages full of notes. They were messier than she anticipated; she knew she could write fast but she’d never realised that the Professor may talk faster than she could write. When she got back to her room, she was going to re-write her notes, make them neater. She may be going into town sooner than she thought; she doubted that this notepad would last as long as she’d hoped. Cassie theorized that it would only take half a dozen lectures before she was having to buy another one.

She looked down at her phone as it buzzed, seeing a message from Nathan. Just finished first lecture - meet in SU? 10 mins. Her fingers were quick, typing a reply immediately, agreeing to it. That gave her ten minutes to find the Student Union. She eyed Professor Amelia as she began to pack up her things, the red-head walking down the stairs and pausing a few steps away from where the Professor was stood. Professor Amelia looked over at the young woman, smiling warmly.

“What’s up?”

“I was wondering if you knew where the Student Union was. I’m supposed to be meeting my friend there but I’m not quite sure where it is.” Cassie asked and the woman smiled warmly at her.

“Of course. As it so happens, I’m heading that way myself.” Amelia stated, picking up the bag and slinging it over her shoulder as she headed for the door, Cassie following. “I never caught your name.”

“That’s because I never gave it.” Cassie smirked at her own sarcastic comment before noticing the bemused look on the Professor’s face, dropping her head. “It’s Cassandra Winters. Sorry.” She apologised and Professor Amelia shook her head.

“There’s no need to apologise. Many may believe sarcasm to be the lowest form of wit, but I guarantee that those who say that have only ever been on the receiving end of sarcasm.” She smirked and Cassie smiled, surprised by what she had said. Most of the time her sarcasm got her in trouble with adults; she’d rarely ever had anyone encourage her sarcasm before. “So, how come you’ve chosen Ancient History?” The Professor questioned and Cassie gave a shrug.

“I enjoy learning about the past.”

“Well you could have taken any standard History course for that.” Professor Amelia pointed out. “Why Ancient History?” Cassie sighed, a wistful smile coming over her face at the thought of the subject she had chosen.

“The Greeks and Romans fascinate me. They were probably one of the most civilised groups in history, not to mention that the Greek and Roman gods are possibly the best mythology stories of all time.” Cassie gushed, excitement shining in her eyes and in her voice and Professor Amelia grinned as the girl stopped talking, her cheeks flushing nearly as red as her hair as she realised that she’d rambled on.

“I think you’re going to be a fantastic student, Miss Winters.” Professor Amelia commented and Cassie blushed slightly, nodding her head in thanks, a small smile threatening to pull up the corners of her lips. The pair had stopped and the Professor nodded her head, causing Cassie to turn around. They’d arrived at the Student Union.

“I’ll see you at the next class.” Professor Amelia smiled and Cassie nodded.

“Thank you, Professor.” Amelia just grinned at her before walking away as Cassie made her way into the Student Union with a grin on her face.

She found Nathan with ease, the young man sprawled out on one of the sofas in the cafe, his laptop on his lap and a cup of something with lots of whipped cream atop it in his hand.

She went and sat in the armchair beside him, frowning slightly at his computer. “Is that why you didn’t buy a pad of paper?” She questioned. Nathan nodded seriously.

“Why would I write everything when I’ve got a perfectly good computer to type it onto? Writing takes a lot more effort and the lecture rooms have plugs in them. I plug the laptop in, boot it up and bam. I’ve got all my notes write here and ready to create any more.” He pointed out and Cassie frowned in distaste. “Hey, don’t look at me like that!” He ordered, pointing at her. “Some like to write; I prefer to type. Besides, how do you plan to write your essays and dissertations?” He pointed out and Cassie had to agree with him there.

“It’s still weird though. Notes should be hand-written, it’s just a fact of life.” Cassie protested but Nathan shook his head.

“Do you know what your problem is? You’re a traditionalist.” He pointed out and Cassie looked affronted. She was not traditionalist; how could she be?

“I am not! I just don’t understand how you can type up your notes in class!”

“And I don’t understand how you can write yours. So let’s just leave it at that, shall we? Before this escalates into an argument.” Nathan pointed out, calmly and Cassie sighed, nodding. “Good. How was your first lecture?”

Cassie grinned and the pair chatted about their first lectures; Nathan was doing Psychology as it turned out and she promised to put him in touch with her brother, who would be able to give him some tips about the course and work experience and other things. Cassie’s brother William had finished University a good few years ago now, and was now working with the police as a psychologist, helping with investigations and criminal interviews.

“What’s your professor like?” Cassie questioned, scooping a bit of whipped cream up onto her finger and licking it off; she’d ordered a hot chocolate from the Student Union cafe.

“He seems okay. Maybe a little bit on the stricter side but he’s not too bad. How about yours?” Cassie thought about Professor Amelia Hague, how she told her to be as sarcastic as she liked, how excited she was when Cassie knew the phrase ‘screw you and the horse you rode in on’, how nice she was when Cassie didn’t know how to find the Student Union and how she had faith that Cassie would be a fantastic student.

“She really loves her subject. I’ve never seen anyone be so enthusiastic about Ancient History before.”

“Is she hot?” Nathan asked and Cassie laughed, rolling her eyes.

“Jesus, Nathan, do you care about anything else?”

He gave a shrug. “Of course I do!” There was a pause. “Is she married?” Cassie gave an annoyed and exasperated sigh, rolling her eyes at the lad. He may have been funny but sometimes he was so obviously a straight, white boy that it put her on edge sometimes. Cassie frowned to herself, quickly correcting her thoughts; Nathan wasn’t actually white, he looked to be more mixed race, a bit darker than what was considered white but he did still act rather sexist sometimes; which really did bug Cassie to no end.

“Have you ever thought that women are more than just hot? That they are actually people, with thoughts and feelings, and not just pieces of meat to be admired?” Cassie pointed out and Nathan frowned at her.

“Of course I have. Cassie, I know that. But are you telling me that the first time you see a guy, you don’t wonder if he’s hot or attractive?” Nathan pointed out and Cassie frowned.

“No, actually. The first time I see a person,” she emphasised, “I wonder if they know about the fact that in Ancient Greece, beards were a common sign of manhood and men rivaled against each other based on their beards. I wonder if they know that the Romans disliked philosophy, partly because it was a Greek invention. The first time a man sees me,” Cassie flipped the tables, directing the conversation back to her original point. “I wonder if he knows that I got 4 A*’s, 5A’s and a B in my GCSE’s. I wonder if he knows that I came first in a singing competition a few years ago, against adults who’ve been singing for a living. I wonder if he knows that I got 3A*’s and an A in my A-Levels. I wonder if he knows any of this, or cares, whilst he’s stood there, staring at my fucking tits!” Cassie finished, glaring and Nathan looked down, feeling rather ashamed after her outburst.

“I’ll make sure to think about a woman’s intelligence, her thoughts and feelings the next time I meet another woman.” Nathan told her and she nodded.

“That’s all we ask.” Cassie agreed and the pair smiled, before Nathan frowned.

“So, you came first in a singing competition?” He asked and Cassie sighed nostalgically before nodding, smiling.

“Yeah. It was over the summer and into the first term of Year 12. They were quite a few rounds and I passed through all of them with flying colours. I sang “Young Volcanoes” by Fall Out Boy and I won the competition.”

“Do you have a video?” Nathan asked and she frowned, pulling out her phone.

“I think I might have one buried somewhere.” It took her a good five minutes to search through a ridiculous amount of photos and videos before she found the right one. She played the video, handing the phone to Nathan who watched it in awe. Cassie looked amazing, in a black dress with heels. Her hair was curled into ringlets, framing her pale face, wearing a pale lipstick. Her voice was high and soulful; Nathan knew the song well, and she’d slowed down the song, lengthening the lyrics and the tune. It had clearly been performed on the piano and it added a second quality to her voice, which was ethereal; the sounds that were coming from her mouth sounded natural, as though singing was second nature to her. Her song finished, and Nathan handed back the phone, staring at Cassie in awe, who blushed, looking down.

“Cassie, you’re amazing at singing.” He complimented and she gave a shrug.

“Thanks.”

“You could pursue that.” He suggested but Cassie shook her head adamantly.

“No. I don’t sing professionally. It’s just a hobby.”

“How can it be a hobby when you can sing like that?!” Nathan demanded, in shock and Cassie sighed.

“Because singing won’t get me anywhere in life but my studies will.” She snapped and Nathan sat back slightly in surprise. She sighed, shaking her head. “I’m sorry, Nathan. But I don’t plan to pursue a career in singing.”

Nathan gave a shrug. “It doesn’t matter anyway. Do you wanna head back to the dorms?” Cassie nodded, downing the last of her hot chocolate.

“Let’s go.”

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