Behind the book racks
The next morning, Julie had woken up with one question on her mind. How was she going to deal with Roman Moltenore’s option of where she would study with him? She had woken up thirty minutes earlier than her usual time while trying to come up with alternatives, and so far, she came up with three of them.
One, by telling him that she was sick and was sleeping in her room. Two, getting into detention would avoid spending time with him. This way, he would even forget her existence, thought Julie to herself. The third option was studying with him. But the third option wasn’t easy.
It wasn’t like the second one didn’t. One detention would end up straight in the student’s report that would be sent to her uncle’s house.
There was another option, an option that could be dangerous. Getting Roman in detention, this way he would be occupied. But knowing her luck, the possibility of him escaping out of it was higher and her getting into the detention room more.
Turning to her left, she picked up the note to read what the letter thief had to say today. Julie often slept past eleven in the night, which was why she wondered if the letter thief received detention every day for staying outside the dorms after the time mentioned in the rules.
“This means we must have spent at least one detention together,” said Julie. Opening the letter, she read—
‘I haven’t even started bullying you and you want to turn back time? What a dreamer. Don’t worry though, people like me exist to burst that bubble. I have a fresh task for you. Make sure to not step into the detention room today. I have other plans for you after that. You know what will happen if you don’t follow.’
“Of course, I am not getting into detention. You don’t have to tell me that,” muttered Julie, softly rolling her eyes. If there was one thing she had picked upon, it seemed like her letter thief was a male student. “One day you tell me to get detention and then you tell me not to.”
In the next paragraph, the person had written— ‘What’s the deal with you and your aunt? Did something happen?’
Picking up the pen from her table, Julie wrote back to the person— ‘I know that you are the letter-napper of my envelope, but I am not going to answer your questions. Those things are personal. Do you get detention everyday? Have we sat in the detention room at the same time?’
Since her mother’s death, Julie didn’t want to speak anything about her family with anyone as it was a touchy subject. Thankfully she had no friends in the last place she studied, and it saved her breath. Not that she could make any friends there because the bullying there had never been easy.
When Julie finished her shower and was getting ready, the note she had kept at the window had been left untouched. Stepping out of the dorm, she and Melanie started to make their way to their class. Julie heard Melanie speak about what she did over the weekend, and when asked about hers, she explained everything that happened last evening.
“Wow, he did that?” Melanie looked surprised. “I don’t think he’s ever offered to teach anyone before.”
“Me neither,” replied Julie. “It was too sudden and unexpected. I am hoping no one has heard about it.”
“Well, considering Eleanor and her girls aren’t harassing you right now, you are good,” Melanie placed her hand on Julie’s shoulder, offering her an encouraging smile. She then asked, “Have you decided where to study?”
Julie nervously laughed, “I don’t want to. I tried to speak to him yesterday, but it didn’t work.” Every time she remembered it, she heard the harsh screeching of the chair in her mind.
“Maybe you will learn something useful from him. I mean he is the topper in his year and your grades will improve for the better?” said Melanie, who looked doubtful of what she uttered.
“Maybe. I will try to talk to him one more time,” said Julie in a low voice, and Melanie shook her head.
“Good luck with that,” responded Melanie.
But as the needle moved towards six o’clock, Julie could feel her heart pounding in her chest as if it was ready to leap out and make a run. She had stayed back in her classroom by herself, working on her assignments, hoping Roman would believe that she was busy with classwork!
When Julie was done packing her bag, she quickly ran to the window, putting her head out and looked below to make sure Roman was nowhere around. On seeing him not there, a wide smile appeared on her lips. It seemed like it was finally safe for her to leave the building. Leaving her classroom, she started to make her way down the flight of stairs, and she turned around to climb down the next set of stairs when she caught sight of the Devil guarding the last steps of the stairs.
Roman was sitting on the stairs with one of his long legs stretched out while he read a book that was in his hand. She quickly turned, ready to climb the stairs when she heard him ask,
“Where do you think you are going?”
Julie scrunched her nose, pursing her lips and turning back. She saw Roman watching her over one of his shoulders. She answered, “I think I left something in the classroom. I will be back in a bit-”
“That won’t be needed,” replied Roman, closing the book that was in his hand. He pushed himself to stand up and turn in her direction. “Your textbook is more than enough. You are fifteen minutes late. How are you going to compensate for it?”
“By not making you teach me so that you can do what you wanted to do?” asked Julie in doubt.
Roman stared at Julie, raising his hand to move his finger for her to come over. “Come here,” he said, ignoring her words.
She should have been more careful while climbing down the stairs instead of thumping her foot like a giant. Walking down now, she stopped walking when they were of the same height. It felt good not to have to crane her neck.
Clearing her throat, she said, “I really don’t need a tutor, and I will be fine by myself. You don’t have to-”
“Let us go to the library,” announced Roman as if he hadn’t heard a single word that had come out from her lips.
“No!” came Julie’s high pitched voice. “I don’t want to go to the library.”
“What are you scared about?” Roman raised his eyebrows, an unamused expression on his face.
“There are girls who will chase me around the forest just because they think I am trying to get close to you. Do you see that? People are going to talk and that-”
Roman interrupted with, “They are silly girls who only speak.”
“No, they are crazy with a probable obsessive trait,” Julie replied with a serious face.
“How about if we study in the classroom?” she tried to haggle.
“Do you have your textbook with you?” questioned Roman, and Julie realized she didn’t. She didn’t have any plans to study with him, and she had hoped to get out of the situation. “Don’t tell me you are planning to use my year’s textbooks,” he said sarcastically. “Come on,” he jerked his head and started to walk towards the entrance of the building.
Julie quickly climbed down the last flight of stairs to catch up to him. “I will go and get the book from my dorm,” she said, trying to keep up with his feet, but Roman replied,
“Too far. The library is closer and you have already wasted a lot of my time.”
When they walked through the gates, her eyes looked around to make sure no one was seeing them. But to her dismay, everyone around noticed them. Only if she could turn invisible now, thought Julie in her mind. When they reached near the library, Roman said,
“Go get the textbook and meet me at the back side of the first floor.”
Roman went ahead, walking through the library entrance while leaving Julie standing there for several seconds. Was this him trying not to be seen with her in the library? Taking a deep breath, she made her way towards the doors of the library. She internally prayed before taking a step inside the library.
While walking towards the racks that contained textbooks belonging to her year, Julie’s eyes moved towards the stairs, and she noticed Roman climbing the stairs. His eyes briefly met hers before he reached the top of the stairs, and he disappeared.
Pulling the textbook that she had come here for, she turned and gingerly started to make her way to where Roman was. The students who studied often preferred to sit on the ground floor of the library. It was only the students who wanted to do scandalous things like to go to the last section. Julie had already witnessed it when Roman was making out with another girl.
Having mixed feelings about the current plan, Julie quickly walked up the stairs and the long path next to the many racks. When she came to where Roman had told her to, she saw him sitting on the bench in front of a movable table, which could be pushed back to the walls.
“What now?” demanded Roman, watching Julie, who hadn’t taken a seat.
“You said something about other payments...you don’t have that in your mind, do you?” asked Julie, her voice holding a sliver of wariness in it.
Roman’s lips twitched, “I have a lot of things on my mind. But what do you think I have on my mind? Please enlighten me,” he leaned back, watching her.
Julie pursed her lips before she said, “What you were doing the first time I met you here. Making out...”
“I have no such plans,” Roman brought his hand forward, pointing towards the empty seat in front of him. “Sit.” Placing the book on the surface of the table, Julie sat in front of him. “Seeing the mistakes you made, it would be better if we brush up on your basics first.”
“Okay,” replied Julie, obediently flipping through the pages. It wasn’t every day she was offered to be taught by one of the brightest students.
While she was trying to get to the right page, Roman questioned her, “The person who was sitting with you yesterday. Is he your friend?”
Startled by the question, Julie raised her head, “Dennis? We just started speaking recently, why?”
“Was merely curious,” replied Roman in a nonchalant tone.