22 of March, 2021 – Class A-1
“Whoa!” Axel caught me in his arms just before I collided with him, his azure eyes darting between Sage and I. “What the hell are you running for?”
I took his hand and shook my head, saying nothing as I instinctually began leading him out of E wing. The warmth of a third hand pressed gently on my shoulder, and I silently debated ignoring it as I peeked over my shoulder.
It was Sage, who was smiling with kindness while their eyes seemed to convey a thousand apologies. “Ax has to make sure Teagan gets to her classes today. I can show you to your next class.”
Heat rushed to my cheeks as I reluctantly let go of my oldest friend. “Right. Sorry, Ax.”
Axel was frowning. “Are you okay?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sage can fill you in, if you want.” Before my guide could protest, I added, “I was here yesterday for orientation, so I can find B wing on my own–besides, I want to stop by the healing ward between classes and see how Gal’s doing.”
Sage stitched their brow together pensively. “What’s your A-two?”
“Charms and Incantations II,” I answered, gesturing around us. “So I’m due back here.”
“My A-two is here, too,” they said, resigned. “I’ll be in the hallway before and after my class if you need me.”
I couldn’t help but smile in relief. “Thank you! I’ll see you then.”
Then I spun around and bolted out of the corridor, eager to put as much distance between myself and Val as possible.
Why are they here?! I screamed internally, paying mind to my facial expressions as I followed the long corridor back to the front lobby. Mami would kill them if she knew they were working as a professor. Val’s slated to be the head of our coven–what the hell are they thinking?
My pace slowed as I entered B wing, my eyes searching for room 105. And Nanny hasn’t said anything, so I don’t think he knows. If he doesn’t know, then there’s a good chance Mami won’t find out until gossip travels that far up the grapevine…
An open door to the left was labelled as my first class of the day, prompting me to enter with a few minutes to spare. Just as with homeroom, almost every seat was occupied while the large desk at the head of the classroom was devoid of an educator. Unlike my previous class’, however, this class only had enough desks to support nine students, and the desks were arranged to face the center of the room in an open circle. The professor’s desk was littered with knick-knacks surrounding a laptop, and the whiteboard behind it read the message, “Welcome Back!” in red marker. The space between the board and the connecting wall was covered by a corkboard with various cards, drawings, and notes pinned to it.
My desk was the second from the front on the left side, so I simpered meekly at my nearest classmates as I claimed my seat.
“I think you might be in the wrong class,” suggested the girl seated to my left. She wore her mahogany-dyed hair in fabulous goddess braids that curved into a wrapped-around ponytail. Miniature braids divided the thicker twists, adorned with a spiral golden cuff every few inches. Gold-plated mini-loops hugged her ear lobes, paired perfectly with the shiny serpent ring twisted around her left pointer finger. Her umber eyes were similar to mine, so dark they appeared almost black. “This is History of Magick II–it’s for sophomores only.”
I tried not to appear startled as I recognized her. She’s Renette De Mortie, head of the De Mortie Coven! “Y-Yeah, I know. I took extra classes when I was in middle school so I could get a headstart, so most of my core classes are for sophomores.”
Renette looked almost impressed–and a little sympathetic–as she let out a snort. “Wow. They weren’t kidding about you, huh?”
My eyebrows met over the bridge of my nose. “What–?”
“About you trying to show up your brother,” she remarked matter-of-factly. I was only a little put off by her blunt nature; other witches in the room gaped at the heir, amazed at her brazen display. “You’d need more than some advanced courses to catch up to him.”
“I know,” I conceded. My predicament began to weigh heavily on my shoulders–Val was already taking junior level classes by the time they were enrolled.
Oh, right. “Her–Val came out as trans.”
Renette’s eyebrows arched at the news. “Congrats. I’d trade my annoying-ass older brother for a sister any day.”
I couldn’t help but let out a half-hearted giggle at her response. “We can’t all be so lucky.”
I didn’t think anything of it when Cari told Sage she would rather go to her next class alone–she’s always preferred doing things on her own, and I made sure to tell Gal this over and over so she wouldn’t feel bad if Cari insisted on doing things by herself. Sage was in our group chat, so they knew this well enough to not feel bad as her substitute guide.
So when Sage made sure to let Cari know where to find them, and Cari’s response was to practically run out of the corridor, I knew something was up.
“Something happened in homeroom, right?” I clarified with the witch as we exited B wing at our own pace. My first class of the day was only across the way in C wing, and I had already shown Teagan to her next class, so I had time to walk Sage to their class before zipping back to my own.
Sage let out an exasperated sigh. “Yeah. I have Psych next, you?”
My eyes widened at the coincidence. “Same.”
They nodded and fell silent as we strolled toward C wing in tandem. Since the lobby between the two wings also sat at the foot of the grand staircase, it saw a lot of foot traffic, earning it the nickname “the intersection.” Students rushed past in all directions, forcing us to walk closer to each other. My shoulder pressed against Sage’s upper arm as we tunnelled through the double doors leading into our wing, and I kept my eyes trained ahead as I was once again thankful that I couldn’t blush.
Dr. Temitope greeted us as we entered her classroom, her grin wide and welcoming as she gestured for us to take any seat of our choosing. The Hunter was far more relaxed in her seating arrangements than most of the other professors, which made passing notes with Sage far less stressful.
While we normally took seats toward the rear of the room, the back of the class had been mostly occupied, so we opted for desks at the center. I nodded to Richard and Arion, fellow classmates who had just entered. Well, to be frank, the former of the pair floated in–ghosts can switch between corporeal and incorporeal forms in the dark dimension, so Richard easily accomplished such a feat–while the latter took a step in, waved excitedly at Dr. Temitope, turned to see the rest of the class, saw me, and audibly squealed. He then pushed through a gaggling group of fey with a, “Sorry, fairfolk! Coming through.”
My heart sank when I remembered that Arion was a member of the Journalism Club, and the sole contributor to The Arcane Citizen’s gossip section. No wonder he looks so happy to see me.
“Well, well, well! If it isn’t my favorite couple in all of campus,” the pterippos beamed, his golden eyes passing over Sage and me as he claimed the desk to my right. The class was already filling up; Richard became corporeal and took the seat in front of Arion.
“Thought you saw Virgil and Aurilla as your favorite campus couple,” Sage quipped.
Arion tucked a golden braid behind his ear, his eyes sparkling. “So, you’re not even denying anymore that there’s something between you two?”
I’m sorry, Sage. I knew they despised being in the spotlight, but I had to hope that whatever chemistry I had with this witch would be enough to keep Arion’s gossip sensors off of Cari. “What if there is?”
The winged stallion let out a hmph through his pierced nose and narrowed his gaze at me. “Don’t think I don’t see right through you, Axel de Ardo. Your little secret romance with the Bloodworth heir won’t distract me from that incident this morning between Jude and the new kid.”
Damn it! “Come on, Arion. It’s Cari’s first day–cut her some slack.”
“Oh, I’d love to if she were an ordinary newbie,” Arion shrugged. “But I’ve had, like, so many witches come up and ask me for a story.”
I frowned. “What witches? How many?”
“Rosa, Gerardo, Arabela…” He huffed out a short laugh before leaning in and lowering his voice to add: “You know, he usually stays out of this kind of stuff, but even Max approached me about this whole thing.”
I thought my already cold blood was going to heat up in response to my rising temper. “Max Quercini asked you to write about this morning?”
Arion shook his head. “No, actually. He explicitly asked me not to write about it.”
My jaw dropped, but only for a short moment before I regained my composure. “Good.”
The reporter scoffed. “C’mon, Ax. You really thought ‘the peacemaker’ would want anything bad written about his sister?”
The side of my face twitched at the mention of that age-old rumor. He’s just trying to get a rise out of me so I’ll slip and say something.
Thankfully, the bell rang over the PA system, and Arion turned to face the front of the class when he noticed the student sitting in front of me and let out an attention-grabbing gasp.
“Jett Danvers, right? The junior transfer from the Salem Pack?”
The guy before me glanced over his shoulder at Arion. “Uh, yeah.”
“Hi! Arion Floros, reporter and blogger for The Arcane Citizen.” The pterippos extended his hand to the werewolf, who took it and completed the handshake. “You know, you’re the first upperclassman to ever transfer to AOA, as well as the first late-bloomer the Hunter class has had in almost a decade!”
Jett let out an uncertain chuckle. “Uh, thanks?”
“We should meet at Middy,” Arion gushed as he pulled a little notepad and ballpoint pen from his tote. He jotted down some numbers and ripped the page off the top, handing it to Jett. “I’d love to talk more about your transformation and the classes you’re taking. Who’s your guide?”
Sage and I burst out laughing as the color drained from Arion’s face. Whitney would see right through him. “Good luck with that,” my friend snickered a little too loudly, prompting the surrounding students to chortle.
“Alright, settle down,” Dr. Temitope urged us, her deep earthy eyes falling on the pterippos. “Arion, ololufemi ọwọn, let the gossip column rest for today, yeah?”
“Gossip never sleeps, Doc, but I’ll try,” he quipped, caving under the werehyena’s intimidating stare.
“Relax those worried faces!” The psychologist assured us. “I don’t give classwork for this first week. Just give me the room for a few minutes so I can go over what we’ll be learning this semester, and then you all can spend the rest of the hour catching up with your classmates. Deal?”
“Deal!” called back some of the students. Others whooped and cheered, but quieted back down following the professor’s short laugh.
Dr. Temitope proceeded to check the attendance sheet before detailing her lesson plan to us, and for a moment I forgot that I was a one hundred and seventy-four-year-old vampire trying to protect his adoptive witch sister. I was more focused on the realization that I would spend an hour each week learning a new topic, just to spend the rest of the week researching that topic and answering online quizzes made by the academy psychologist, all while keeping a diary of my thoughts and feelings. Great.
After fifteen minutes, the professor ripped the plastic off a pack of composition notebooks and began setting stacks down on the first desk of each row, repeating the process when she ran out. Jett turned to hand me a few of the empty journals, and our eyes met.
“About earlier,” he began. “You’re friends with the girl who got compelled, right? How is she?”
“Uh…” I swapped a swift apprehensive glance with Sage as I passed the remaining two notebooks back to him. “She seemed like she was doing better when we left her in the healing ward. She should be better soon, but she’s resting there for the day just in case.”
“That’s good,” he said with a sympathetic half-smile. He was about to turn back around when I blurted out:
Jett frowned, still half-turned in his seat. “For what?”
“For asking about Gal,” I clarified, fully aware that all eyes and ears were trained on us. “You’re the first person to bother asking if she’s okay.”
The werewolf grimaced as he turned back around to face the front. “Well, fuck. I didn’t think I’d be going to one of those schools.”
“The fancy matching uniforms and private entrances didn’t tip you off?” jested Sage in a low tone. Jett chuckled without so much as a peek over his shoulder.
“I guess I was being optimistic.”
My smartphone buzzed in my pocket, signaling that I had received a text. I heard Sage’s buzz in their bag, and I spun around to meet their dazed expression before we both pulled out our mobile devices, opened Enchat, and read the newest message sent to our group.
(Sent at 1:08 AM) galfranco: How’s cari doing?
Sage gasped and began typing out a response, while my supernatural speed allowed me to send as many texts as the application would allow.
(Sent at 1:08 AM) axeldeardo: GAL (Sent at 1:08 AM) axeldeardo: WAT RU DOING ON UR PHONR (Sent at 1:08 AM) axeldeardo: HOW RU?? (Sent at 1:08 AM) axeldeardo: IS JUDE STILL THERE (Sent at 1:08 AM) axeldeardo: ILL KICK HIS ASS IF HES BOTHERING U (Sent at 1:09 AM) sagebloodworth: She’s doing ok. Guess who our hr prof is! (Sent at 1:09 AM) galfranco: AX STOP DUCK AND YELLING AT ME (Sent at 1:09 AM) axeldeardo: WAIT IS THIS WHY CARI WAS ACTING WEIRD (Sent at 1:09 AM) axeldeardo: WHO IS IT (Sent at 1:09 AM) axeldeardo: DONT MAKE ME TURN AROND (Sent at 1:09 AM) axeldeardo: lol talk about getting autowrekt gal (Sent at 1:09 AM) galfranco: I meant fucking you ass (Sent at 1:09 AM) axeldeardo: u wanna do wat to my ass?????? (Sent at 1:10 AM) galfranco: ugggghhhhhhh STOP
I was laughing so hard that I almost ignored the sudden sound of many phones vibrating, mine included. Every other student pulled out their smartphone–if they didn’t already have theirs out–and a hush fell over the class as everyone’s eyes were glued to their screens. I frowned and swiped down the length of my screen so as to open my notification pane, and I saw that I had unread Enchat messages in both my Haunter and sophomore groups. The hell?
I tapped on the sophomore group first–it was made up of every second year student attending AOA–and read the pinned announcement:
📌 (Sent at 1:10 AM) grayhollingsworth: Stedelen’s replacement is Valoree de Ardo, Cari de Ardo’s older sister! 😱