Alex stepped back involuntarily. She hit Jae’s foot and looked over her shoulder. She mumbled an apology. Mentally, she criticized herself. She forgot that Skye’s step brother also went to the same school. She should have considered the possibility of running into him.
If he figured out what they came for, they would be doomed.
“Are you—” Jae began to say but Alex turned away. It was hard to see her face from his angle point. He blinked in confusion. Then, he glanced over the newcomer.
Did they know each other?
“You flatter me, headmistress” Neal replied and handed over the report. He tucked his hands in his pockets, “It’s only revisions. You’re always precise so it gets done easily. The credit should be yours.”
Jem looked over the contents and signed the bottom. She chuckled, handing the folder back, “Such a charmer as always. Oh, please meet our guests.”
The headmistress stepped beside Alex and placed a hand on her upper back, “This is Alexandra Greenwood. She’ll be checking out the school today. Alexandra, this is Neal, our Student Council’s Marquis.”
“Marquis?” Jae frowned. He raised his chin, folding his arms over his chest. He didn’t know the guy but he wouldn’t let his guard down.
“Ah, yes. Our student council is composed male and female counterparts for each rank. We opted to use aristocratic titles to distinguish them better than ‘Male President’ and ‘Female President’. Has quite a ring to it, don’t you think so?” Jem explained gleefully. It wasn’t the first time she heard such a reaction. She never grew tired of clearing things up.
“The same goes with my position” she continued, “We also have a headmaster. We divide the work according to our agreement but they are also things that need both of our approval.”
“Doesn’t it get too crowded?”
“Oh, no” Jem replied while shaking her head, “We have those in terms for my position and the student council. It would be hard to maintain if everyone had a counterpart. We hire as needed whether male or female.”
“Alexandra” Neal nodded in her direction. He held up the folder above his shoulder, “Pleased to see you again.”
“Neal” Alex gulped. She refrained from showing an emotion, “It has been a while indeed.”
The temperature dropped a few degrees. The two of them stared at each other without breaking eye contact. The rest of the room faded into the background. Their cold hard gazes remained solid. Neither one surrendered.
It only lasted a few seconds before the headmistress came over.
“Oh, dear” she gushed, “Of course, you’re acquainted. It shouldn’t be a surprise.”
“It’s okay, Headmistress” Neal answered, still looking at Alex, “It’s been years. We’re practically new people. The introduction was just right.”
“Is that so?”
“He’s correct,” Alex backed up. She refused to concede and returned his challenging eyes, “Like people meeting for the first time.”
“Wow…” Jem breathed out, stepping away. Her attention darted between the two alternatively, “Well, if you decide to enroll in Freccia Prep, you can be reacquainted. Get to know each other again.”
Neal smirked the slightest bit. It was almost unnoticeable. Alex only knew because a new light flashed in his eyes. He seemed amused by something. She didn’t know what it was but it annoyed her. She locked her jaw and narrowed her gaze.
Two could play at this game.
“You best be on your way then so you can have a look around. Do enjoy your time” he told her. Then, he bowed his head at the headmistress and turned on his heel. He strolled casually with a bit of a swagger. His back slowly disappeared around the corridor near the front desk.
Alex released a breath she didn’t know she held. Her lungs craved for air, making her breathe faster. She shuffled her feet towards her companions and smiled, “Shall we have the tour then?”
“Over here are our laboratories” the headmistress gestured towards a corner part of the buildings. It had three large double doors. Instead of lined up in a row, the middle set was on the opposite wall. It had an alternating look to them.
“There’s only a number of them so classes here became joint” Jem began to explain, “There was also a strong point about how science discusses the human body. The departmental teachers thought it would contribute to the education.”
“Good insight” Alex commented, trying to seem like she paid attention. Jae stayed silent behind her. She jabbed him once when the headmistress asked for their opinion and he neglected to answer.
She wasn’t doing that much better either.
She actually forgot most of the information from the tour. Other than the architecture, the rest of the school seemed modern. The classrooms had the standard design and setup—except each table could accommodate two students at a time.
What they did discover was that all four sides were interconnected. They also noted down possible entryways and exits. Alex almost wondered if they entered a spy film instead of a school.
“Let’s move on to the facilities outside of the main campus” Jem headed for the nearest staircase which also meant the nearest tower. Other than the ones beside the gates, the main towers turned out to be stairs. Each was wide enough to fit three lines of students.
Alex and Jae used a slow pace. They made it seem like he assisted her on the climb since she wore heels. Jae would place one hand on her back and would hold the other. They took each step with two feet at a time.
Although, in reality, they used this chance to have private conversations.
“So…” Jae whispered next to her, “Who is Neal?”
“He is Skye’s new stepbrother. We gotta be careful around him or he might be on to us.”
“Good to know,” he remarked. Then, he gave her a side-eye, “But who is he to you?”
Alex sneaked a glance at him, noticing the suspicion in his gaze. She rolled her eyes and shook her head, “He’s just one of many people that were forced to be acquainted with me.”
“Oh, yeah, sure” Jae nodded, “He surely recognized you though. Must have had memorable times.”
She snorted, “Sure… if tripping on your own feet and falling into a pool fully dressed counts as memorable.”
They reached the first floor and spotted Jem nearby. She waited for them patiently. Alex smiled in apology, pretending to wince on a step. She hoped that it looked convincing. She didn’t wear heels often but she really wasn’t that clumsy.
The headmistress wrinkled her nose at the sight of her, “Still breaking into them, huh?”
“Unfortunately, my shoes broke on the way” Alex laughed nervously, “So we had to buy new ones and they are a pain.”
They were actually just unused, appearing almost new. Emily had a good time breaking into them while bored in their aunt’s house. She kept saying that she had a secret method for it but Alex never figured it out.
The final bell rang, its sound bouncing off the walls. Classroom doors opened discreetly. A few creaked from rusty hinges. The large amount of footsteps tapped on the floor unsynchronized but light. Quiet murmurs filled the air as the students piled out to the corridors.
Alex fished out her phone and took a photo of the view. Then, she tapped into her phone.
“It seems less chaotic than Woodlands around here” Jae mumbled as his eyes swept the place. Whenever the last class ended, a commotion usually happened. It ranged from two boys tackling each other to two girls having a cat fight.
The headmistress grinned at his words, “They’ve been disciplined to not create unnecessary noise. It’s an institution of learning and not a playground. Boorish behavior shall not be tolerated.”
“It’s remarkable, Headmistress” Alex cut in as she tucked her phone away, “Especially with the number of students you have. It shows how effective your teachings are.”
Jem placed a hand on her chest, touched by her compliment, “Well, I can’t take all the credit. The teachers have done a wonderful job. We’ve also encouraged parents and guardians to do the same. It’s an effort created by everyone around.”
“Headmistress!” A voice called out.
Three heads whirled in its direction.
A petite female student brisk walked towards them. She had closed black heels and skin tone stockings. Tucked in her A-line navy blue skirt, she wore a long-sleeved white dress shirt. Over it, her navy blue vest had six silver buttons, arranged in three rows and two columns.
The top half of a black necktie peeked out from the vest’s V-shaped neckline.
Jae bit his tongue. He almost leaked out a whistle.
“Emily, dear” Jem greeted as soon as the student reached the group. The headmistress scowled, “Aren’t you cold? Where’s your blazer?”
“I’m alright, Headmistress” Emily smiled sweetly. Then, she faced the other two, “Alex! Glad to finally see you around here!”
Alex hid her snort with a cough. She waved shyly at her cousin. She didn’t expect to see her so soon—especially with that much energy.
The headmistress chuckled. She crossed her arms over her chest, “You knew she was coming, didn’t you?”
“Seems like I was obvious,” Emily replied, “We’re close cousins so I was looking forward to it. I was also wondering if you’d let me finish the tour? I think a student’s perspective might be helpful.”
“Headmistress!” Elena came up beside Emily. She wore the navy blue blazer Jem inquired about previously. She had a look of concern on her face, “There seems to be some sort of problem on which club will use an assembly room—even the teachers can’t sort it. It’s very chaotic.”
“Oh, dear” the headmistress gasped softly. She turned to the others, saying, “I’ll be leaving them in your care, Emily. Please drop the staff room before you step out of the premises.”
She and Elena quickly left the scene. Emily gave a thumbs up when her friend glanced their way for a second. Then, she whirled around, platinum blonde hair flying behind her.
She smirked, “What do you guys think? We did good, didn’t we?”
“Very good” Alex chuckled. The exploit was clearly staged. She admitted to herself that they executed it in a swift and clever manner. Her heart began to race. It was only a matter of time before she’d speak with Skye.
Now that the moment came, her palms sweated a bit. She concentrated on calming down while Jae narrowed his eyes on the blonde elf.
“How did you find us so quickly?” He asked.
Emily giggled and held up her phone, “A little birdy sent me a photo of your location.”