Julie had written only one line when she decided to strike it out. Using a new page, she wrote—
‘How can I trust you, when I know nothing about you. If you will keep it to yourself as a secret or if you will tell it to the other students for your own advantage? I don’t know anything about you, and you still hold the leverage by keeping my letter in your possession.’
As easy as it was to share the story with a stranger, at the same time, she didn’t know much about the letter thief. There was the worry where it might be shared.
When she received the response, the letter read—
‘Good to know that you aren’t dumb like other students in Veteris. Your concern is fair and in light of it, I am returning half a page of the letter that has been in my possession until now. Along with it, here is my response to one of your questions. The dorm that you live in, I have lived there.’
“It used to be a boy’s Dormitorium before?” Julie asked herself and noticed the torn letter that was left along with the letter.
Picking it up, she noticed her handwriting in there, and it was indeed her letter that she had hoped to reach Uncle Thomas, or it would be more right to say it was the lower half of her letter. How cunning, thought Julie in her mind. All the important information was in the first half!
But at the same time, she was more than intrigued by the thought of this person who said he lived in this very room that she now occupied. Weighing the matter, she finally decided to pen down what he wanted to know—
’If you would have met me a year ago, you would have found a different me. I used to speak less and not as much as I do now. Like many other places, the students there were of different kinds. Some nice, a lot of them worse. I used to have good grades, some decent friends, at least that is what I thought until they turned their backs. I don’t know what triggered it, but soon I turned into one of their favourite targets to be bullied.
If I think about it, Eleanor, the girl who lives in my Dormitorium, is nothing compared to those students. Or maybe it is because I didn’t let Eleanor take a hit at me.
It first started with girls comparing with each other, and then friends secretly comparing with the other person until it turned into a rivalry. My friend Natalie one day turned popular, and she soon cut ties with me before turning some of our lives into Hell. I never knew she could turn into a completely different person…′
Julie looked up from her book, staring at the wall in front of her while remembering how she felt turned into her once friend’s target.
It was one of those days after the class was over where Julie placed her books in her locker. Suddenly, out of nowhere, someone pushed her head right against the next locker. Flinching in pain, she had turned and saw Natalie standing in front of her, looking at her with rage-filled eyes.
“You little slut, I knew you would do this to me,” Natalie harshly pushed Julie against the locker. “You couldn’t resist, could you?”
“What are you talking about?” asked Julie, confused. She touched her forehead with her fingers and noticed spots of blood.
“Korbyn said he won’t go out with me, because he has plans with you. Since when did you start talking to him?”
“Korbyn? I don’t even know him, Natalie. It is a misunderstanding,” Julie closed her locker. She wanted to get back home and wasn’t looking forward to fighting. She started to walk away from there, but someone tripped her, making her fall to the ground.
“What is wrong with you?” Julie had never raised her voice before that. She stood up while Natalie’s friends laughed at her. Natalie, who was used to Julie’s demure nature, had not expected her to talk back.
“You. You are the eyesore of this place and the more I see you, the more I hate you,” said Natalie. She looked at her friends and said, “Drag her to the projector’s room.”
Before Julie could escape, something hard hit her head, knocking her unconscious for a few minutes. When she regained consciousness, she found her hands bound to the chair and in a dark room with just the projector running.
Natalie walked to stand in front of her vision with a relaxed expression on her face.
It was the first time Julie realized how messed up her friend had turned over a couple of months. Opening her mouth, she screamed to get the attention of the students or teachers.
Quickly one of the girls pushed a cloth into her mouth, and another tied a handkerchief around her mouth before tying it behind her head. To Julie’s luck, someone had heard her scream and knocked on the door.
“What is going on in there?” came a male’s voice from outside the room.
Natalie glared at Julie and said, “Let me talk to him.” She walked towards the door, opening it. Julie felt her heart beating loudly and tried to make noise.
“What is going on here? This is no place to be practicing for plays and making noise,” said the teacher.
“We apologize, Mr. Seymour. We didn’t find any other empty rooms. Please let us use this room for a while and we will be sure to be good,” Natalie smiled brightly at the teacher who stood outside the room.
“Okay,” agreed the teacher and walked away from there. Julie’s eyes widened, not knowing why the teacher had left without questioning or entering the room to see what was going on.
“Always trying to be the smartest person in the room, aren’t you, Jules?” questioned Natalie, walking back to the backside of the room where Julie was. Julie glared. “Even when we were small you were like this, behaving you were better than me. Trying to make it look like you were prettier than me, but you know what the truth is? You are nothing but weak. Look at you now.”
Julie tried to relieve her hands from the ropes, but they were rightly tied to the armrest. She didn’t understand how one knock on her head could turn her unconscious.
Natalie then smiled and said, “You are right. Korbyn didn’t say anything and I just made that up. If you didn’t bring your ugly face in front of me, I would have not done anything to you. Unbind her left hand,” she said to one of her companions. “You should have listened to me. I will give you a gift today, Jules.” Turning to the other girls, she asked, “Did you get the blade?”
Julie’s eyes widened, and she shook her head while making incoherent voices.
“It won’t hurt much and I will be careful to not cut too deep,” promised Natalie with a continued smile on her face. It was like the person Julie once knew as her friend was long gone, and now all Natalie wanted to do was hurt her.
Coming back to the present, in her dorm, Julie, who sat on her bed writing the details, continued—
’I didn’t bleed too much, but I do remember the pain when Natalie ran the sharp blade over my wrist. My mouth muffled, and she stood there smiling at me. I passed out, and when I woke up, I was alone in the room. That week, my parents had gone to visit my relative’s house, and by the time they returned home, the little mark on my head had healed, and I hid my scar from their sight.
It wasn’t like I hadn’t tried to speak about it to the teachers, but that only put me into further trouble. I would suddenly be pushed into small spaced rooms and locked by students who didn’t even know me, people I didn’t speak to. Thrown things at, made to trip. They listened and did what Natalie said, and it was like the whole place had turned against me. She didn’t pull another stunt like that again because I tried to be more careful after that incident.
It was when I decided to wear glasses hoping it would change the way others looked at me. It helped very little, but sometimes even little is enough to be able to breathe.
That’s all. Now it is your turn to answer my questions.′
And Julie added a period at the end of her sentence. Now that she had written it down, it felt like some of the demons had escaped from her mind.
Getting out of her bed, she started to get ready for her classes.
When Julie was walking with Melanie outside the building in the afternoon, she noticed Roman looking at her from where he stood. Even though their eyes met, he didn’t look away. It was strange how he seemed more familiar when teaching her while he looked aloof right now. When Melanie asked her something, she finally looked away from him.
Simon, who was usually with Roman, noticed him staring at the human girl.
“You are going to scare her, if you keep looking at her like that,” remarked Simon, looking back at Roman, who hadn’t bothered to shift his gaze even after being pointed.
Roman played with the broken toothpick in his mouth and said, “How fast are the rogues multiplying?”
Simon gave a thoughtful look before answering, “Not much in recent years. Most of them have been eliminated so that they don’t cause any threat in exposing us.” He then asked, “You seem to have been spending quite some time with her.”
Roman pulled out the recent letter he had received from Julie, and he turned it into a thin roll, “Have I?” It was because so far, they had spent time in the library only twice. “I don’t think it registered.”
“You never had a pupil before, and it has made some of them curious. Not that you don’t lend a hand, but because you don’t like involving yourself in other’s matters,″ hummed Simon, a mischievous smile on his lips.
Pulling out the lighter from his pocket, Roman lit up the letter that he had rolled that started to end from one end to the other. He watched the secret that was written to him catch flame, removing the evidence.
“I thought you already analyzed it,” Roman’s gaze turned to look at Simon with a lazy expression on his face.
“Mm,” Simon nodded his head, “Sometimes burning curiosity can engulf someone. Careful, Rome.” When Roman started to walk, he looked perplexed and asked, “Where are you going?”
“To see Dante,” replied Roman.
He walked towards the main office where the headmistress’ office was located.
Reaching the front of the room, Roman pushed it open and saw Dante sitting behind the desk.
“What brings you here, Rome?” questioned Ms. Dante, her eyes curiously looking at him.
“When was the last time the filtering was done?” Roman questioned her, and he came to stand right in front of her desk.
Filtering was the one way to wipe out the vampires who weren’t in the records and did things that didn’t follow the ethical code. Rogue vampires were often the ones who were created to cause destruction.
“Probably five years ago,” replied Ms. Dante. “Did you find something?”
“There’s a rogue who has possibly turned one of the humans into a vampire. A student,” responded Roman, and Ms. Dante’s eyes narrowed at this information.
The woman then said, “I cannot let any of you go after the rogue because of the protocols, not to mention the arrival of the Elders here and I would prefer all of you unharmed. If you know where this person might be, relay the information to Enoch and he will take care of it.”
“I heard about it,” said Roman, his gaze turning dark over the mention of the Elders while his face looked calm.
Dante nodded her head. She said, “The blood transfusion process was quicker than we first assumed it to be and it is only a matter of time until it completes. Also, I am glad to hear that you haven’t bothered Mrs. Hill to switch the human from your room to the one that turned recently empty,” she looked impressed with him.
The corner of Roman’s lips pulled up, “What can I say. I didn’t want to waste my time on unnecessary things and decided to put my time to better use.”
“Donovan will be proud when he meets you,” stated Ms. Dante, mentioning one of the Elders’ names. She picked up the glass of water that was on the table and took a sip. She said, “Thankfully, there have been no other deaths after the last one. One of the girl’s relatives had come here, and Evans got everything covered. Every death causes heavy damage, which is a ripple outside Veteris.”
Away from the headmistress’ room, Julie and Melanie walked around and outside their Dormitorium. Julie walked to the window of her dorm. She pressed the window, trying to open it.
“What are you doing?” questioned Melanie, wondering what Julie was up to.
“I was wondering if there was a way to open the window,” murmured Julie, trying every angle but the window stayed locked.
Usually, by this hour, she often received a response from her letter thief, but today it seemed like he was running late. Or maybe it was because she stood right outside her dorm’s window.