Eyes Cold Like Winter

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An Intense First Lesson

It was time for the first period. Elise noticed how some of the students in her tutor group left the classroom, and different students entered. The students who just arrived were in her class for English. She also remembered Mr. Courbet telling her that once students started their GCSEs, they would be placed in different classes for Maths, English and Science, based on their skills.

In English, they were studying Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. Sitting through the lesson, Elise heard Lucius yawning out of boredom.

“Lucius!” shouted Mr. Kilbury, “Did you not have enough rest last night? It is rude to yawn out loud during lessons.”

“Can’t you keep it down?” scoffed Lucius, “I just took my medication for anaemia. I can’t help but feel a bit drowsy.”

“I perfectly understand your condition,” replied Mr. Kilbury. “but you should not respond in such an attitude. Now, if you were paying attention, can you tell me the historical and geographical references to Dracula?”

“Very well then,” said Lucius. “if you insist.”

Lucius cleared his throat, and Elise could hear the female students excitedly whisper that it was Lucius’s usual show-not-tell banter with Mr. Kilbury.

Dracula,” began Lucius. “as everyone knows, is a work of fiction. Literary historians connected Stoker’s Dracula to the Transylvanian-born warlord, Vlad III Dracula. He was also known as ‘Vlad the Impaler’, due to his sadistic nature and the fact that he impaled his victims on wooden stakes. During his visit to Whitby, Stoker got his inspiration for his titular character after a visit to a public lending library on the Harbourside, now a Quayside fish and chip restaurant. There, he read a book called An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldova by William Wilkinson on August 8th, 1890.”

“You appear to be confident with your knowledge as always,” said Mr. Kilbury. He seemed dissatisfied with such a detailed answer. “You’ve explained the historical aspect, now let us see if you can tell me the geographical aspects.”

“At the beginning of the novel,” Lucius sarcastically continued. “Dracula travelled from Russia to London on a schooner that becomes shipwrecked off the coast of Whitby. The opening setting was also inspired by an actual shipwreck that happened earlier in the 1800s. A Russian schooner called Dmitry was shipwrecked on the Tate Hill Sands beach. This setting was used as the start of Dracula’s route into the town. St. Mary’s Churchyard also serves as one of the notable settings of the novel, since it was the location where he attacked his first victim, Lucy Westenra.”

The students applauded when Lucius finally finished. Elise was not surprised when she saw Mr. Kilbury’s seemingly aggravated expression as though he had just admitted defeat. Glancing at Lucius, she saw him giving a heavy sigh. He was probably out of breath after explaining the facts in great detail.

English continued without a hitch and before long, it was finally time for the first break. The students in Elise’s homeroom class returned to Mr. Kilbury’s classroom, while the students who attended English class left. Just as Elise prepared to get up from her desk, she found herself being swarmed by her classmates.

“Nice to meet you!”

“What’s your hobby?”

“How do you find this school so far?”

“It must be amazing to receive a scholarship! You must be very smart!”

“Which school did you previously attend?”

Please don’t talk to me all at once! I don’t even know who to answer first! Thought Elise to herself. She briefly glanced at Lucius, hoping he would help her out of this situation. However, he paid no attention to her, because he was absorbed with a game on his iPhone.

“It’s unusual to have a new student at this time of the year though,” said one of her classmates. “Is there a particular reason you decided to come to this school?”

Elise froze when she heard this. She clearly remembered a recent incident back at the orphanage, where a group of orphans stole her bag. They had dumped the contents of her bag, including her bag into the baptismal font in the orphanage’s church. Although the orphans received a severe reprimanding from Mrs. Lindsay, it did not stop them from tormenting her. Elise began to tremble, at the thought of this unpleasant memory.

“What’s wrong?” asked a female student, “You look pale.”

“That’s because you asked her too many questions!” said a male student.

“Don’t talk like it’s my fault!” she snapped back.

“Perhaps she’s just shy.” said another female student.

“Leave her alone then,” suggested another male student. “It’s natural that anyone would be nervous on their first day at a new school. She’ll probably open up once she settles down.”

The students then separated into their friendship groups, to continue their conversations from this morning. Elise felt a sense of relief to be alone again, but what happened just there made her feel uncomfortable to remain in the classroom. Will I be able to make new friends here? was her first thought.

Another thought struck her mind. What if they found out she is actually an orphan? Would they ostracise her? No one would want to be around someone with a pitiful background. She then thought of Lucius. It was no longer a surprise that he was popular with girls, but if they knew that she was living with him, she might get bullied. Even worse, if they knew that his father was sponsoring her, they would easily assume that she was taking advantage of his generosity for her own benefit.

Getting up from her desk, Elise grabbed her bag and hurried out of the classroom. Unbeknownst to her, Lucius had looked up from his iPhone as he watched her leave. Elise went to the washroom, finding solace in one of the toilet stalls. It was too much to take in for her first day at her new school.

It was not long until the school bell rang again to end the first break. Elise stepped out of the stall and spotted some girls trying on some makeup products usually sold at Boots. There was a Boots back in County Durham, but Elise had never expressed interest in cosmetics until now. Glancing briefly in the mirror, Elise noticed how bland her face looked, compared to the girls at this school.

Heading out of the washroom, Elise quickly glanced at her timetable and saw that History of Art was next. Clutching the straps of her bag, Elise hurriedly began to find her way to the classroom for her next lesson. No matter how many flights of stairs and corridors she passed through, Elise could not seem to find her classroom.

“Excuse me, young lady,” came a voice from behind her. “are you perhaps, lost?”

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