Weird: Book of Secrets, Chapter IV [part ii]

Chapter IV, part ii: Cookies, Memories, & Awkward Conversation

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22 of March, 2021 – First Planning Period

CARI

My entire life, I relied on certain truths to guide me, as I never expected them to change. I knew my biological father only by name and title, and saw him from a distance at social gatherings. I was the second born, so my mother seared into my psyche that I could not, under any circumstances, embarrass our family name. My older brother, who bore the weight of her expectations, grew cold and distant over the years as his ascension to power came to fruition. I loathed Valentín de Ardo with every fiber of my being, and had even made it my life’s mission to step out of his prodigious shadow and make a name for myself in the witch community.

At no point could I have ever predicted that my brother would actually be my sister.

None of the other students had uttered a single word in response to Val’s inquiry. Since I had done my best to appear unfettered by the surprise appearance of my sibling, the majority of the witches seated around me had resorted to exchanging glances or looking to Val, as she was our new tutor.

“No volunteers?” she confirmed. “Alright, how about we do this: we’ll go down each row, and everyone will state their name, pronouns, year, and their designated group. Let’s start with you.”

Her dark eyes fell on Alicia, whose own green eyes grew wide.

“O-Oh!” Alicia spun back around in her seat so as to face the front. The tips of her ears were flaming red as she cleared her throat. “Uh, Alicia Gilbert, she-her, junior from the Young Coven.”

“Perfect!” Val praised her with a gleeful smile before moving onto the next student in the row. “Next?”

“Yolette Saint Vil,” the junior introduced herself. “She-her, junior from the De Mortie Coven.”

“Elyse Hawkins,” announced the freshman to my left. “She-her, freshman from the Hawkins Coven.”

“Sage Bloodworth,” my substitute guide piped up. “They-them, junior from the Bloodworth Coven.”

Val nodded to the witch with a smile before craning her neck to see the name on the desk behind me. “Sage, do you know who’s meant to sit next to you?”

“Yes, professor. Galiana Franco was assigned to sit there, but there was an incident with another student this morning. She’s in the healing ward.”

Val’s eyebrows rose. “Already? Well, I hope she has a speedy recovery. Anyone know what happened?”

All eyes fell on me. Feeling self-conscious, I sunk an inch or so in my seat and begged the universe to alter physics long enough for me to melt away. Ah, shit.

Following the collective gaze of the class, Val nodded with comprehension. “Okay, let’s keep the introductions going. Next?”

Our eyes locked, and I could tell that my older sibling was silently begging me to comply. I straightened my posture and said, “Caricia de Ardo, she-her. Freshman from the De Ardo Coven.”

She smiled in return before moving onto Lilly. I tuned out the rest of the introductions; my head was spinning from all the new information.

I was attending an academy along with my estranged half-brother. There were Haunters bold enough to compel other students. Protecting another student put a target on my back–but, to be fair, my family name had probably had a hand in that. Thanks to the stunt I pulled, every witch was either afraid of me or wanted to get close to me for selfish reasons. And to top it all off, the brother I spent the better part of my life hating had just come out as transgender, and my new sister was vastly different from the person she was before.

It’s like they’re an entirely new person, I remember thinking as I used the latter half of the class’s introductions to study our tutor. She was radiant, exuding a mixture of confidence and sweetness that I never would have expected from Val. They were never this nice or sociable, not even at the behest of our mother.

Once the student who sat behind David–a senior naiad from the Enipeas Frolick–had completed her introduction, Val returned to her desk and opened the plastic container. A sweet aroma filled the classroom as I was struck with a sudden sense of nostalgia. Anise?

“Tann and a few others from the café helped bake some cookies for you all. They’re rosquillas de anis, or Spanish anise cookies,” Val explained as she held the container up with one hand. I heard her whisper, “Poliki flotatu, pausatu goseentzat,” and the container floated out of her hand, making its way between the first two rows. It paused between each pair of students, allowing them to pluck one or two each from its storage. I sheepishly grabbed one just as Val began placing a short stack of napkins on the first desk of each row. “Please pass those back. Grab as many as you’d like, and try to eat them before your next class starts! Last thing we need are your other professors breaking down my door asking me not to be nice to you.”

A few chuckles rang out among the class, along with sounds of content and fascination at the taste of the vegan treat. I bit into my own cookie and was immediately blasted with memories I thought were long forgotten. Trips to a gorgeous beach, white sand stretching for miles. Nanny chasing after me as I made a beeline for the blue waves. Val’s laughter as they built a castle with Axel. Val’s arms wrapped around me as I sobbed relentlessly over a cut on my lower calf. Two figures off in the distance, sprinting towards us.

I blinked. What the hell was that?

I had nearly finished my cookie when Val peered up at the square analog clock that hung over the whiteboard. “Looks like we only have a few minutes left, so I want to take this time to address some things. It wasn’t that long ago that I was enrolled here, so I know that having me as your homeroom professor also designates me as your tutor for at least this year. That being said, I want you all to know that you can come to me for any issues you may have, whether it’s an assignment, problems with one of your classmates, or even a concern regarding a member of the faculty.”

Val reached into her purse and fished out two short trays, one of which was divided down the middle. Then she pulled out three clear plastic bags, two filled with black and red hair bands that were separated by color. The third had what appeared to be a deck of cards bound by rubber bands. She opened the first two bags and upended them into the divided tray, making sure that each color was confined to its side. Then Val pulled the cards out from the third bag and removed the elastic bands, placing the stack on the single tray. Once finished, she placed both trays at the end of her desk and gestured to each as she explained their purpose.

“Here, you will find my business cards. I know you’re normally given the contact information for all of your professors along with your schedule, but since I was a late addition, I’m sure you have no way to contact me. I want each of you to take a card before you leave and if you need me for any reason, go ahead and reach out. You’re also welcome to stop by in between classes or after Middy, if you’re designated for phys-ed at that time. I want to urge all of you to not skip the mental health course given once a week, and to avoid coming here when you’re meant to be in a different class. Adhere to your schedules! I can give out passes and make exceptions, but there’s only so much I can do.”

Students were already making their way to the front to take one of Val’s business cards. “And the hair ties?” Omari asked after taking a card for himself.

Val cleared her throat and addressed the class as a whole. “I noticed that a few of you aren’t adhering to the school’s dress code policy regarding how you should wear your hair. While you all look lovely tonight, I would ask that those with long hair keep it tied back like the rules ask. You can have your hair in just about any style of braids or ponytail, even pig tails–we just ask that long hair not be left loose, as it could be a safety hazard. So please take a hair tie if you don’t have one ready, and make sure to fix your hair before the bell rings. I don’t want you guys to receive a verbal reprimand over something small like that.”

My cheeks were burning as I realized that her warning applied to me. I can’t believe I forgot about that! That policy is written on the Citizen’s website, but that part is only mentioned in passing.

Before I could stand to take a hair band, I heard Val add, “Oh, and if you’re a freshman and you have me for B-two, I want you to stick around after the bell for a quick word.”

My heart dropped. That’s me! I’m the freshman in her second period on Tuesdays! I’m in trouble–

The bell rang over the intercom, and the entire class jumped out of their seats. I slid my arms into the straps of my backpack and cleaned off my desk of any crumbs. When I turned to make my way toward the front of the room, I saw that Sage was waiting for me patiently by Val’s desk, taking one of her cards for themselves. Val was smiling sweetly in my direction, almost apologetic.

Might as well get this over with. I suppressed the urge to sigh as I joined them, grateful that the other students had all left. Once I had wiped the crumbs off my hand with my napkin, I dropped it in the trash and faced my sister.

“So,” she began. She seemed oddly nervous. “Anything to say to me?”

I took a black hair band from its tray and pulled the clip from my hair. “Galiana Franco is my guide, and we were together when a vampire compelled her. He wouldn’t stop when Ax told him to, so I–I, uh, threw him across the room. With magick.”

Sage raised their fist to their lips and let out a small cough in an attempt to conceal their smirk. I shot them a pointed glare, and they bit their bottom lip.

Val sighed. “I should’ve known it was you when they said a freshman used wordless magick, but I also never thought you would go out of your way to break the rules like that. And on the first night, Cari!”

I nodded and bowed my head, ashamed. “I know. I wasn’t given an official verbal reprimand, though, so I think I’m okay for now.”

“Alright, well… If you promise not to be reckless like that again, then I think we can keep this from Clarence.”

My head shot up. “Seriously?”

“Seriously,” she smiled. “Jude’s an ass, so I can imagine how the whole thing played out. But if this ever happens again, even once more, I’m telling Clarence about all of it. Deal?”

I was so relieved that I grinned back. “Deal!”

I began stepping away and pulling my hair up into a ponytail when Val held out her hand. “Hold on! Isn’t there anything else you want to talk about?”

Idling a couple feet away from the door, I finished tying my hair back and stared inquisitively back at my sibling. “No, not really.”

Val cocked an eyebrow. “Really? Nothing regarding this?” She motioned to herself, her left hand flying up and down before her.

“Um…” I blinked. “Red looks good on you?”

She scoffed and threw her hand down to her side. “Cari–!”

Students began entering for her A-one class, so I waved at her with one hand and gestured for Sage to follow me with the other. “See you later, professor!”

Then we bolted out of there, nearly barreling into Axel.

To Be Continued
Updated on Mondays

Photo by Massimo Virgilio on Unsplash

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