Chapter 3 - Isolde
“Did you hear? Did you hear?” Verity says animatedly, poking my arm as she skips next to me, somehow managing to keep her balance in her uncomfortable looking heels.
Verity is the biggest gossip around. I am a pretty inquisitive person, but I keep my speculations in my mind. She, however, voices them – and very loudly.
I give her a look, slightly annoyed at my hyperactive classmate. Her chocolate-coloured eyes are huge, hungry for information, her dark brown hair in a glamorous sort of wild tangle.
“About another Antithetical?” She whispers the word, simultaneously stressing it, head ducked, as if one would come to murder us all now.
What’s that phrase? Speak of the devil?
“Yeah, I hear about them a lot of the time.”
I walk into the bright school compound and head for the Upper Years block. It was once white, but there was a dare for someone to throw paint all over it, so now it’s splattered in every colour known to man. The building looks incredibly wacky – especially next to the consistent white of all the other ones – but I find that the carelessly thrown colours are much more beautiful than the blinding white.
Verity flips back her brown curls impatiently, and sticks a hand on her hips, holding my arm so I don’t walk away – she may be small (hence the use of the killer shoes) but she is quite strong. “Don’t you care about them killing people?” Her tone is filled with disgust of the Antithetical, but also with the undeniable, morbid excitement of an avid gossip.
I remember the one I saw yesterday, and am momentarily distracted.
“So?” Verity prompts.
I snap back to reality. “Of course I do, but gossiping about them won’t stop them.” I point a finger at her, a grin forming on my lips. “And don’t say you’re not looking for a gossip.”
She sticks her tongue at me like a child, and I laugh. “Touchy.”
But she’s already flounced off in her childish manner.
My laughter dies as thoughts about Mum force themselves into my mind. She’s not looking well. At all. For the past week, she’s been pale and upset. Twice I’ve caught her staring at some point in the far distance, gripping something so tightly the veins stand out on her wan skin. She’s been telling me that she’s fine, but her false words and weak smiles don’t fool me.
The bell rings, and I’m startled into the busy life of school.
I’m sitting on a chair in the library, reading, when I feel a pair of hands settle on my shoulders.
“Hey, Isaac,” I say without looking up from my book.
He sits down next to me, and I surreptitiously assess him to gauge his mood. He seems fine, but with Isaac, you can never really be sure. My attempt to be sneaky fails miserably, because he then says, though smiling a little, “Done boring holes in me?”
“Not quite. You’ve got an abnormally thick head,” I tease, setting down my book. He’s fine.
I’m suddenly jabbed in the ribs, but my grin doesn’t waver. “So. Going to the forest today?”
Isaac shakes his head with an apologetic expression. “Nah. I’ve got a ton of homework.”
“Uh . . . Mathematics, Geography, History.”
I raise an eyebrow. “That doesn’t sound like a ton. I mean, what do they even tell you for Humanities?”
“All essays,” he explains with a sigh, muttering some words I better not repeat.
Suppressing another grin, I ask, “How about tomorrow?”
“If I don’t get another load of work to do.” Isaac sighs. “Finals coming up as well . . .”
Our last tests of compulsory education. I should be feeling nervous, but I’m not. History and Philosophy are my best subjects, and my future career is definitely going to be based on one or the other.
My positive attitude earns an eye-roll from Isaac. “Unperturbed as always, Miss Good-at-everything.”
“Please,” I scoff. “I can barely walk into the Sports Hall without trembling.”
He smiles broadly. “True.”
Isaac has a talent, not exactly for sports, but for flooring people. He favours old, now illegal activities called boxing and wrestling. I, however, prefer to run cross-country. Sprints and middle-distances are OK too, but anything to do with hand-eye ball co-ordination I’m disgracefully bad at.
“I wonder what would happen if you went to the dance,” Isaac muses.
I cringe at the very idea. I’d probably bring a few dozen students tumbling down to the ground.
“How about you stop bullying me?” I say. “And fix your hair.”
Isaac makes a face. He gets comments like this practically every day. His hair colour is incredibly uneven, ranging from a brown so dark it’s almost black, to a bright golden shade. The untidy locks are always in complete disarray, with tufts sticking out everywhere – some straight, a few curly, others wavy. It looks truly crazy, but he doesn’t care – just gets annoyed when people bug him about it.
“I’m surrendering,” he says, putting his hands in the air.
Smirking, I shake my head at him. “Too easy.”
Isaac looks earnestly at me. “I solemnly swear to be difficult next time.”
I roll my eyes and smack him on the head. “Come join me for lunch.”
“Yes, sir. No, sir. Three bags full, sir.”
“It’s Miss, by the way,” I inform him loftily.