The rest of the free study period proved to be fairly uneventful. Since the class rep didn't know anything else about the new student, that line of discussion dried up quickly and the dialog soon shifted to more mundane topics, such as classes, teachers, recent episodes of shows I knew nothing about, after-school activities and the occasional playful jab and joke thrown around for good measure. All things considered, it was a laid-back and rather pleasant experience.
Not that it kept me from making notes, even if only the mental variety. I was mostly concerned with the group dynamic of these people.
First off, there was Josh. Somehow he rarely seemed to be in the center of attention, yet he was always there to add a comment to any topic in question and the two girls seemed to pay him heed whenever he spoke. I suppose the last part was a given, but still…
Angie on the other hand was the most active speaker in the group. She talked, joked and teased nonstop, yet somehow she never really appeared to be trying to be in control. Even when it came to Josh, where she threw more proverbial punches than she took, their interactions felt more like the joshing (no pun intended) between close siblings rather than one side domineering over the other. I suppose that is how a childhood friend relationship is supposed to look, huh?
As for the class rep, she mostly stayed silent and listened, only nodding and speaking short sentences when asked about something. The only time she took the initiative was when we started to get too rowdy or when it looked like Angie was picking on Josh.
Overall I had to conclude that these guys were nice and it was fun hanging out with them even if doing so like this didn't really further my overall goal. It just felt strangely relaxing.
At last the first period ended with the ringing of the chime and our impromptu group broke into its constituents. Well, technically Josh and I were still sitting by each other, but I was too busy copying his homework to bother with further socializing for the moment.
My next class was math by the way, which was also taught by our homeroom teacher, Mrs. Applebottom. Now that I mentioned it, am I the only one who thinks her name sounds really, really British? Just me? Anyways, just a quick glance at the homework problems showed that either my math skills were really, really rusty or that they started teaching rocket science in high school while I wasn't looking. The problem wasn't with the operations; I could do most of them in my head without a calculator, but I just didn't know the right formulae for anything... which, taken that I had amnesia, shouldn't have been all that surprising.
“Man, I became dumb.”
“'Became'?” Josh grinned at my side, but I brushed him off with a roll of the eye and continued copying.
The lesson started only a few seconds after I finished and the teacher arrived almost the moment the bell rang. She was a thin young woman in a dark blue turtleneck sweater and she wore her hair in a tidy bun on the back of her head. She stood in front of the blackboard and the class fell silent in an instant.
“Good morning, children.” Her soprano voice was actually quite pleasant, but for some reason it made me feel uncomfortable. “As you have probably heard, our class received a new addition this morning. She is from the mainland, so please help her out if she doesn't know how to do something around here.”
A particular word in that sentence hit me like a sledgehammer: mainland. I never had the time to really wonder about this, but just where the hell was I anyway? Geographically, I mean. I already knew that I was in a fairly big town; that much I could gather from the maps from the day before, but I had no idea where the town was in relation to, well, everything else. I decided to quickly scribble the question into my notebook and shelve it for the time being in favor of more pressing concerns.
“Her name is Eleanor Dracis, please welcome her.”
On the teacher’s cue the sliding door (still weird) opened wide to let in a blonde girl of average height but above average poise. To my, and presumably some others' disappointment, she actually wasn’t wearing a dress but the standard female uniform of the school comprised of a white shirt, a khaki jacket worn over a grey knitted vest and a knee-length skirt of the same color. Not that she needed a dress to stand out in the first place, mind you.
To put it bluntly, she was beautiful. Sure, Angie was cute and the class rep was also pretty, but she was just supermodel-tier, and not the starving, anorexic type either. That much was made obvious by how well she filled out her clothes on the front and back.
Then there was her sparkling blond hair adorned by a red metal hairband that I nearly mistaken for a tiara. It was long (her hair, I mean, not the hairband), and she wore it in twin-tails that seemed to naturally curl into drills as they cascaded down behind her shoulders. Actually, I think that was called a 'ringlet', a hairstyle often denoting wealth and nobility. Huh. At this rate I could safely update my hypothesis about the link between physical appearance and importance to an actual theory.
But back to the topic at hand: The girl strutted into the classroom with confident steps and stood by the teacher’s desk for a moment before she did a small curtsy. After the stereotypical ooooh-aaaah-ing and sqeeing finally died down (I had to give it to them, the placeholders were nothing if not predictable) she looked over the class.
Her eyes seemed to pass over me, completely unaware of just how nervous I was getting by the whole ordeal. It was at this moment that I was at the highest risk of something incredibly embarrassing happening. Thankfully nothing of the sort came about, instead she smiled and spoke up with dignified voice.
“Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Eleanor Dracis. It is my pleasure to meet you.” She curtsied again to another bout of applause and turned to the teacher. “Please take good care of me.”
Mrs. Applebottom smiled mechanically at the request.
“Naturally. Please take a seat over there.”
She pointed at the empty desk right in front of mine and I involuntarily groaned. Yup, just as expected. Furthermore, she seemed just as ambivalent about the idea of sitting next to me as I was, but then she looked over at Joshua and her face suddenly softened. That stopped me on my tracks again, but I had no time to realize that look's implications at the moment.
She walked over to the desk and sat down without saying a single word and then the lesson began, robbing me of any opportunity to ponder for forty-five minutes...