The First Time
Before Miss Halloway could give her an answer, the school bell rang to end lunch break.
“Elise,” said Lucius. “let’s get going. Science is our last lesson of the day. Don’t want to get lost again, do you?”
“Ah!” exclaimed Elise in surprise, “How did you- I mean, of course not!”
He must’ve memorised my timetable from a distant glance. She thought. Elise flushed when she heard Miss Halloway slightly chuckling behind her.
“What’s so funny?” scoffed Lucius.
“I’m sorry,” she chuckled. “I thought it was really sweet to see you watching out for Elise. When you first came to this school, you never really talked to anyone and kept to yourself.”
“Whatever!” sighed Lucius.
His school life sounds just like mine when I was still at the orphanage. Thought Elise. Miss Halloway seemed to know a lot about Lucius. She wondered if she could ask Miss Halloway what kind of person Lucius was at school.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Lucius insisted that they should be heading to the Science classroom. Elise quickly thanked Miss Halloway who once again, encouraged her to visit her in the library whenever she liked.
Similar to Elise’s History of Art classroom, the Science classrooms were in one building, separated from the main school. Lucius told her that once every four weeks, they would rotate between the subjects, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. At the end of every school term, the class would have a mock test on all the Science subjects in preparation for the GCSE exams.
The first round of the Science rotation was Biology. Elise found herself flushing again to be sat next to Lucius, who chose her out of all their female classmates to be his lab partner. Throughout the lesson, she did not know whether to feel happy or scared.
A part of her wanted to be happy since this was the first time she was able to partner up with someone. At St. Jerome-Emiliani, no one wanted to dissect a cow’s heart with her in Science class. Her other part felt scared, because she could not help but notice how jealous the girls were when Lucius chose her as his lab partner.
The school day finally came to an end when the bell rang. Lucius told Elise to wait for him in the main school building as there was something he wanted to discuss with their Science teacher. Today was a first time for almost everything. Thought Elise, I was able to befriend someone other than Lucius, and was able to open up to them.
When Elise befriended Miss Halloway, she felt as though a light had just flashed into her heart. Was this the motivation she needed to change? She was gradually becoming comfortable around Lucius and had also noticed how much she had opened up to him last weekend. Perhaps courage was all she needed to make friends.
“Hey you!” said a voice behind her.
Elise stopped in her tracks and turned around, finding herself face-to-face with a random group of girls. They were not in her class, but she had definitely seen them around lunch. A sense of dread came into her mind when the girls asked her if they could have a minute with her.
The next thing Elise knew was, she was in the cloisters being confronted by the girls. I knew this was going to happen! She thought, I probably shouldn’t have eaten with Lucius during lunch. Memories of her life at St. Jerome-Emiliani came flooding back to her. Could those girls do something even worse than the orphans did?
“What’s your relationship with Lucius?” asked one of the girls, “It’s so unusual to see him so engrossed in one girl!”
“This has never happened until now!” exclaimed another.
“What did you do to him?”
“I- uh- didn’t do anything…” replied Elise nervously. “Why are you all making a big deal out of this?”
“That’s some cocky words coming out of that mouth!” shouted one of the girls, “You probably used your status as the scholarship student to get his attention!”
Hearing this, Elise felt overwhelmed with anger as she gripped the straps of her bag. Growing up, she had done a brilliant job putting up a façade to hide her vulnerable side. She was able to hide her true emotions without showing it on her face. These girls are crazy! Elise thought to herself.
“My scholarship has nothing to do with Lucius!” said Elise, “He just helped me get familiar with the school grounds, that’s all.”
“That’s all?” scoffed one of the other girls, “You even dared to get cosy with him at the cafeteria.”
“Why of all people does he prefer someone like you?” asked another.
“Compared to everyone,” said another. “you’re plain and boring as if you’ve fallen behind with time!”
Elise shuddered when she heard the words ‘plain’ and ‘boring’. She recalled seeing some female students trying out some makeup products from Boots in the bathroom earlier that morning.
“So what if I’m plain and boring?” she replied, “No matter how pretty a person may look, there are always some with a cruel heart behind their mask.”
“What did you say?!” shouted one of the girls, “We’ll teach you and that mouth of yours by putting you in your rightful place!”
She charged towards Elise and raised her hand. Elise cringed ready to feel the impact and the stinging pain on her cheek, only to hear a squeal instead. Looking up, she saw Lucius in front of her. It looked as though he had appeared at the last second. He was gripping the girl’s hand in an iron grip.
“Lucius!” exclaimed the girl in surprise, “What do you think you’re doing? It’s not what you think.”
“Is it?” replied Lucius as he gripped her wrist tighter, “Earlier just now, you were going to hit Elise. Or rather, it is correct to say that you were all ganging up on her.”
“She insulted us earlier on!” said one of the girls, “We just wanted to give her a scare so that she won’t say anything mean next time.”
“No,” said Lucius. “What Elise said is the truth. All of you do indeed look pretty, but what really lies behind those made-up faces are feelings of jealousy, resentment, arrogance, and greed.”
“How dare you!” shouted another of the girls, “She really did something to you after all!”
“She didn’t do anything to me,” replied Lucius. “And I wanted to keep her company. It’s better than associating myself with women who only care about outward appearances, rather than inward appearances.”
The girls cowered in fright as Lucius glared at them with his amber eyes. It was probably their first time to see him angry or to see him defend someone they dared pick on.
“Just because Elise was keeping me company doesn’t give you all the right to gang up and bully her,” he continued. “She just transferred into this school and this is the kind of hospitality she gets? Don’t make me laugh. You don’t even know her or what she's been through. As her friend, it is my duty to ensure that she settles into this school and to help her open up to others.”
When she heard this, Elise felt as though another flash of light had just entered her heart. She watched Lucius release the girl’s hand, causing her to stumble back a bit. The girl massaged her wrists while her friends rushed to her aid.
“I too didn’t think highly of Elise when I first met her,” he told them. “But once I got to know her, she is in fact; a modest, honest, and thoughtful person. If anyone dares to threaten or even harm Elise, I don’t think you all want to know the consequences.”
“We’re sorry!” squealed the girls as they turned and dashed off.
Once they had disappeared from their sight, Lucius turned around and was surprised to see tears slightly welling up in Elise’s eyes.
“Hey,” he said as he gently cupped his hands on her cheeks. “What’s wrong? Did those girls upset you that much?”
“No,” replied Elise quietly. “It’s not them.”
“Then what?” he asked.
“I’ve never been defended by anyone before,” said Elise. “And I was really touched when you called me your friend.”
“It’s nothing special!” said Lucius quickly as he released her and glanced away, “I’m just following father’s orders to be kind to you.”
Peering slightly at his face, she noticed that his cheeks were slightly red. Was Lucius slowly opening up to her? After all, he did find her at the beginning of lunch because he anticipated that she would get lost again. That was probably why he memorised her timetable.
“Anyway,” said Lucius as he turned to leave. “we shouldn’t be lingering around here. Let’s go back to the manor.”
“Yes!” said Elise as she hurried to join him.
While walking by Lucius’s side, Elise could not help but remember the touch of his hands on her cheeks. Although it was only for a short while, his touch was soothing and warm. It’d be nice to be able to feel that kind of warmth again. She thought, Today really was a first time for everything.