Fifty Minutes Past Midnight
I heard the familiar chime of the school bell ring over the public announcement system, signaling that the first period of the night had begun. This meant that all students who were not in their scheduled classes without the permission of a member of faculty would be considered tardy. An offense of that nature wouldn’t warrant more than a verbal reprimand, but to be late on the first night without permission for any reason other than guide duties would leave a bad impression.
Lucky for them, Lalo and Max have already made their impressions on the professors, I reminded myself as my eyes darted between them. And everyone saw what happened to me tonight, so I basically have a pass until the last bell… But no matter how awkward this situation is, I can’t believe I never realized how much they look alike.
Both were around the same height and sported similar wild curls, but the lighting brought out the reddish hue in Gerardo’s brown hair. Max’s hair was like soft obsidian, dark and inviting. The junior also had a more defined jawline compared to the senior, and I wondered how I ever even came close to thinking that they looked identical. But if Max pushes me away like that, then he’s no better that Lalo.
The next few seconds felt like an eternity as they stared at one another; Max met Gerardo’s glare with an indifference that obviously irked him. When one of them finally spoke, I was surprised by who it was.
“I doubt your homeroom professor gave you a pass for the rest of the day,” grumbled Gerardo. He then stepped aside, giving Max space. “Student council members can grant one tardy pass a day, though most use it on themselves. I can give you one for your next class.”
I could tell that Max was as put off by Gerardo’s offer as I was. He gestured to me with a thumb over his shoulder. “One of your charges is in the healing ward–don’t you think she’d be a better recipient of your ‘generosity’?”
Gerardo huffed out a laugh. “Hah! I didn’t take you as a guy who cared about things like generosity, Max. Sure, maybe when you have an audience–”
He waved in my general direction, and I was starting to get pissed off. ‘Charge’ this and ‘audience’ that. I have a name…
“–But what happens when you drop the act, huh? Is the Max you put on display anything like the guy pulling the strings?”
I gritted my teeth. What the hell is he talking about? Is he calling Max fake?
The future head of my coven leaned forward until only Max could hear him. I saw Max’s jaw become tense before he adjusted the backpack strap over his left shoulder and walked briskly out of the room. He had barely made it out the door when Gerardo called out:
“And if I find out you approached one of my charges without my permission again, I’ll make you regret it.”
“Lalo!” I gasped. I was furious–how could he talk to another witch head like that? “You can’t just threaten another student–”
“Por que não?” he debated. “Afinal, é para isso que ele veio aqui, não é? Se ele não pudesse te impedir de ir para Arion como o ‘pacificador,’ então ele teria que usar ameaças.”
‘Why not? After all, that’s what he came here for, isn’t it? If he couldn’t stop you from going to Arion as the peacemaker, then he would have to use threats.’
“Ele não estava me ameaçando–!” I insisted. ‘He wasn’t threatening me!’
“Isso não soou exatamente como uma conversa amigável para mim,” Gerardo scowled at me. “O que se passa contigo? Por que você está defendendo aquele filho da mãe?”
‘That didn’t exactly sound like a friendly conversation to me. What’s up with you? Why are you defending that son of a bitch?’
“Nem pensas!” I said in frustration. ‘Forget it!’ “Go back to class, Gerardo.”
“A-one is my free period,” he sighed. When it was just the two of us, I used the nickname his mother gave him–but whenever I got irritated, I used his given name. This was certainly something he knew, of course; you don’t spend your childhood with someone without picking up a thing or two about their habits. “Look, I know you told me not to come, but I wanted to be sure that you were okay. I was worried about you.”
I ignored the heat that rushed to my cheeks. He doesn’t get to cozy up to me. “I’m sure you were more worried about keeping up with appearances. It would look bad if you didn’t check on me.”
Gerardo huffed out a breath, walked over to the chair next to my bed, removed my book bag and placed it in my lap as he claimed the seat for himself. “Question my actions all you want, but don’t ever question my feelings for you.”
He slouched in the seat and pocketed his hands, watching me with his dark eyes. “We need to talk about our covenant.”
22 of March, 2021 – Class A-1
Some say that the best part of the Academy of Occult Arts is being known as one of their alumni, since it’s the top school in the dark dimension. Others say it’s the faculty they have employed, as most walked these same halls in their youth. My opinion? The best thing about AOA: smart scheduling–meaning the staff who make the schedules take into account the locations of each of your classes.
It was thanks to whoever our fantastic scheduler was that I was able to slip into Professor Penn’s contemporary literature class more than five minutes after the bell. “Sorry I’m late, Professor–”
The instructor’s nose was buried in a book that was unmistakably a manga when she waved off my excuse. “Yeah, Mars told me about your quest. Excused.”
Though caught off guard, I nodded and grunted out a, “Thank you,” before claiming the only remaining seat in the back. I stifled a groan as I recognized the other three students whose desks were grouped with mine.
“The answer is no, Arion,” Fiona maintained. Her dirty blonde hair was pulled up in a bun, showing off the crystal studs on her pointed elf-like ears. “The freshman rule stands: leave Cari de Ardo alone.”
Arion was about to argue when I took my seat in front of him and next to Fiona. “Max? You, late? Where’d you scamper off to?”
He spoke with a teasing lilt that reminded me of Oreste. He knows something. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Yeah, right,” scoffed Lenora, seated to Arion’s left. “I heard you went to visit Gal Franco. Didn’t take you for the type to try and steal someone’s girl.”
“I’m not stealing anyone’s girl,” I defended, frowning. Is Gal dating someone?
“I know of every couple who attend this academy,” insisted Arion. “Gal Franco is not in a relationship.”
“Not officially,” the senior witch disclosed. “But rumors have circulated since she started here. She’s betrothed to Gerardo.”
To Be Continued
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Mommy of two ☆ Witch without a coven ☆ Founder of the Sisters of the Shadows ☆ Professor of Charms & Incantations I & II and supervisor of The Arcane Citizen, a student-run newsletter for the Academy of Occult Arts ☆ My web series are now available at https://vocal.media/authors/natasha-penn ☆ https://linktr.ee/nattypenn for all social/support links
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