[ C H A P T E R 0 1 ] Happy New Year!
The day Elisa Mary Vincent joined my school, Laura Lucia was found dead.
It was a day I would never forget, no matter how much I tried. That is because, it was also the beginning of what would be a major change in my relatively flat-line life. I liked it that way - a flat-line life, I mean - although my friends did try to get me to change. I was this way for a while now and therefore, gotten rather comfortable. I did not want to even make an effort to change; I mean, why would I, if I were comfortable in it?
Apparently, I was the first person that Elisa had met from Lucifer High since the time she set foot in it. It was weird, too.
That day began very rough for me; Mom says I probably woke up from the wrong side of my bed - although, what that is supposed to mean, I have no clue. I awoke feeling rather irritated with life in general. Another year in the same old school; I had been to Lucifer High ever since I was in fifth grade. And that day was the first day into my eleventh grade. I freshened up, gulped down the boiled eggs that Mom had made for breakfast, hurriedly kissed her cheek, and left with my bag slung around my chest.
There was not too much distance between my home and my school and so, I was OK with walking all the way. As I trudged along, my head hung down with generally depressing thoughts running through it, I heard a honk from behind me. I turned around to see Mark zoom past in his ancient Land Rover. Jessica Martin, who sat beside him in the passenger seat, waved at me with her enthusiastic smile. Her smile was always infectious and so, I could not help but smile and wave back - yea, despite my irritability that morning. Then again, Jessica was like that. She was Mark's best friend and one of those people who are impossible to resist. I mean, the way she speaks is so friendly, that people cannot help but be equally friendly to her.
When I reached the front gates of Lucifer High, I remember thinking, 'This is it: a beginning to another boring year. Don't I have anything else to do?'
I realised I did not. With a heavy sigh, I stepped into the campus and looked around. As usual, there was a mass of people walking about, arms around their friends and making bets about who would win the Lucifer Championship or the Lucifer Trophy for the new academic year. Naturally, I did not participate in any of these discussions, since I was not even interested.
I checked the time in my watch and found that I had arrived fifteen minutes early.
As I made my way towards the other side of the campus, a whirlwind whizzed past me, nearly toppling my footing. Luckily for me - and whoever the whirlwind represented - I had a natural instinct for balancing myself and so, managed to stay upright. The whirlwind, however, did not.
The whirlwind turned out to be a girl. I frowned as I saw her on her knees and groaning in pain, her book bag on the ground beside her with its contents spilled out. I debated whether to help her or not. Before I could make up my mind, though, she got hold of a bench beside her and set herself right and placed the books back in her bag.
Then, she turned to me.
No, no, she was not one of those attractive people, nor was she a very ugly one. In my standards, she was a regular girl with moderately good features - nobody that would be asked out on the first meeting. But, something told me she was different even from the normal regular girls that I had known.
As I gazed disinterestedly at her, she shot me an apologetic smile. I usually ignored girls because they tended to be clingy with me - only Zeus knew why - except for the ones who were friendly with me, like Jessica Martin and her best friend, Lydia Thomas.
So, this girl's apology came as a surprise to me - and let me tell you that I am not very easily surprised.
I just blinked and mumbled, "It's all right."
I thought that that would be the end of it. Turned out, I could not have been more wrong.
"Well then," she went on, a little hesitantly, "can you please tell me where to find..." - her voice trailed off as she consulted a paper that I saw was clutched between her fingers - "Room 213?" Before I could respond, though, she added, "Ooh, where are my manners?! I am Elisa Mary Vincent!" She jumped up and held out her hand.
I shook it mechanically. "I am Frank. It's on the second floor."
"Oh right!" she giggled nervously. "All right then... Again, I am very sorry for having caused you so much trouble. You see, I'm new here and I do not know very much! - in fact, you're the first person I've met here!"
Now, that made things easier—she was one of the new students.
Before I could stop myself, though, I remarked, "Room 213? So, I assume you're in the ninth grade?"
She grinned up at me. "That's right! And you?"
"Oh cool! So, how do you think studies will be like here? I mean, you must've been here for a long time now."
"Yea, you got that right." Before I knew it, I found, myself walking beside her towards the school building.
"So, you into anything?" she asked, giving me an once-over. "You must be in the sports - athletics, maybe?"
I smirked. "No, I try not to show myself wherever I go."
"Is that so? Or, is it that you're shy?" When I shot her a glance, she was grinning at me.
I grimaced. "Oh please," I muttered.
"Anyway, I'd like to be something literary here. Do you know of any clubs I can join?"
I shook my head. "No. But, I do know someone who'd introduce you into that department."
"Oh, that'd be great!" she squealed, clapping her hands in excitement. I felt myself smiling in spite of myself. "So," she turned to me, "when are we meeting again?"
By then, we had reached the second floor and were standing at a corner of the hallway.
"Do you know where the cafeteria is?" I asked her, before I could stop and think.
"Oh yes, I do!" Her head bobbed up and down in succession, making her short dark brown curls bounce around on her head. "We'll meet there?"
"Yea. I'll introduce you to my friends and you can find out whatever you want from them."
"That's awesome!" she grinned again. "Room 213 for me. See you later?"
I nodded once in confirmation. She waved her hand and walked away. I stared at her retreating figure with a neutral expression and wondered why I said whatever I said. Not just about the meeting, but every word that burst forth from my big mouth. Was I getting attached to her or something? I grimaced to myself, before turning towards Room 201 that was my Homeroom for the year.
No sooner had I turned around than I had to stop myself, for right in front of me was Lydia Thomas, looking serenely at me. Did I mention that Lydia is one of those people who are called 'psychics'? I mean, Lydia is not really one, but she is so weird enough she could be. She is no doubt a very nice person to be with, but sometimes, when she gets these "feelings" that she is always talking about... well, that is the time you just turn off your natural hearing aids.
That is, if you are anybody but Jessica Martin.
Right now, I blinked at her and she smiled back at me.
"Yo, macho!" she greeted me, waving an arm above her head. She always called me 'macho', although I am not sure I did anything particularly manly - except for shaving and getting my hair cut once every two weeks. Then again, the latter is not really manly - I mean, look at Elisa Mary.
"Hey, Lydia," I greeted her back in my usual bored tone. "What's up?"
"The ceiling!" she grinned at me.
'Typical,' I thought, rolling my eyes at her. Aloud, I said, sarcastically, "Very funny."
"I know! That's why I always say that! Anyway," she scooted closer to me and beckoned me to bend lower. She is a good three feet shorter than me.
"Who was that girl?" she whispered in my ear.
I straightened up and shrugged. "Some new girl. She wanted to know about the literary group, so I asked her to meet me at the cafeteria."
Lydia squealed at this - but, I already had my fingers pressed into my ears, so I was saved from the consequence of it: I had expected that one coming from a mile away. When I uncovered my ears, she said:
"So, you finally got a girl for yourself?! Why didn't you tell me, Frank?! Why? Why?"
I shrugged. "Firstly, she's not 'my girl' - she'd be better off without me, trust me. Secondly, I just met her to-day - she tripped and fell down and then asked me for Room 213."
Lydia, who had had a big smile on her face suddenly was not grinning anymore. I frowned at this change, but she did not say anything immediately.
"What?" I asked her. "What's the matter? There is a Room 213, isn't there? I remember seeing it the last time I was here."
She slowly nodded her head. "Yea... yea, it's there."
"It's the ninth grade, silly!"
She blinked at me in confusion. "That ain't ninth grade!"
Now, I was exasperated. "Oh, whatever, weirdo. But, let me tell you this: when I introduce her to you and the others, you are not to do or say anything...well, weird, okay? She's seems nice and it's her first day here."
Lydia nodded. "Okay, I won't."
"Good. Now, run along to your class. It's almost time."
She nodded again, gave me a mock salute, and rushed off to her tenth grade Homeroom. I sighed as I made my way to mine. This was going to be one heck of a year, that was for sure.