I slid lower and lower in the leather-scented car seat until only my eyes could be seen over the dashboard. They followed the flight path of seven tiny starlings (AKA dragons) as they flitted carelessly through the sky. Why can’t I be relaxed as them?
“Sweetie, you’ll be fine,” my mom said reassuringly as our car rounded the corner into the school parking lot. I slid slower still, until not even my eyes were visible.
“No, I won’t be,” I grumbled, playing with the hem of my new shirt. “High school is going to murder me, and then you won’t have a daughter.”
“Nope, you’ll be fine. I can see that this is a nice high school, look at the principle outside! He’s smiling,”
You’d be surprised what you can’t see, mom.
Are you surprised that I haven’t told my mom about my…ability? I tried, I really did, but she brushed me off like all mothers do. She said that it was great, and ruffled my hair, but behind her eyes I could see it was all an act.
She thought I was playing.
Time to visit the scene of the crime, I thought as I took my first step out of the car, into the rain…into a puddle.
I cursed silently to myself and shook my foot, probably looking very strange to all those watching me, but who cares? My wet-foot-dance was nothing compared to my social awkwardness. They would see soon enough.
Once I was finished un-drenching my shoe, I turned and faced the huge school. It was at least three times bigger than my old middle school, and looked a lot more like a prison, with gray blocks and almost no windows.
Of all the high schools, mom had to pick Harmony?
I slowly made my way up the steps, trying to avoid the principal and scanning the faces of every student I passed. So far, so good. No ghosts, ghouls, or demons. No nymphs, friendly or otherwise. Nymphs were the most commonly seen in schools; they are the kids with the pale skin, dark hair and eyes. They’re unusually skinny and always walk like they’re dancing.
You don’t need my ability to spot them.
I was so focused on identifying one pale girl that I didn’t look where I was going. One second I was standing, trying to walk unnoticed through the hallways, next I was spread eagle on the floor, clutching my binder and notebook like lifelines.
I looked up, bewildered, into the face of a boy.
He wasn’t much older than me, probably in the grade above me. I think he might’ve been a nymph; he had the pale skin and the black hair. His eyes, however, were an ice blue color that made me shiver internally. When he looked down at me, despite his smile, it made me feel like I was frozen.
“Hey, sorry about that,” he laughed. His voice was surprisingly musical, more evidence of a nymph. “I wasn’t looking where I was going, are you OK?” he held out one of his strange pale hands, I stared at it for a moment before taking it. Gently he pulled me to my feet, he was obviously strong.
I shuffled my feet and didn’t meet his eyes, embarrassed.
Come on, you idiot, say something.
“Th-that’s OK,” I said quietly, still not meeting his eyes. “I wasn’t really looking where I was going, either,” I smiled weakly, receiving one in return. I realized my body was taught as a rubber band, and relaxed. Immediately I felt calmer, and was able to meet his blue eyes.
“I’m Felan,” I said, stretching out a hand. The boy’s smile faded for a second, than reappeared. He shook my hand, though his eyes looked more thoughtful than before, like I had given him some information he could ponder.
“I’m Zaki,” he replied, though his mind still seemed lost in his thoughts.
Zaki? That’s a strange name. Sounds…Arabic, almost. Then again, I suppose my name isn’t very normal either.
“Well I better be going,” Zaki said vaguely, though his eyes said he wasn’t really aware of what he was saying. “Mr. Gunner is going to strangle me if I get to class late,” with that he walked away, steps light and graceful.
If it weren’t for his eyes, I’d say he was a nymph…
I turned and again made my way unnoticed to class.
I had my head on my hands, half-watching the teacher, Ms. Herron, as she tried to review us about the American Revolution. I glanced up at the clock, and groaned inwardly. It was only fifth period?! It felt like I had been here for days…
Just one more period, I can survive. Maybe.
“When Paul Revere came riding in the dead of night, announcing loudly that ‘The British are coming! The British are coming,’ the minutemen rose to the challenge of defending they’re towns. Minutemen were nothing special, often youth farmhands with some gun experience…”
I stopped listening again.
First through fourth period hadn’t really been anything interesting. In Science second period some boy had inhaled pencil shavings and nearly choked while the teacher turned a blind eye. Yeah, great school choice, mom. I was in history now, and you think this was bad?
I had math second period, and apparently I was put in a math class way ahead of any other ninth graders. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, and the teacher yelled at me for explaining Pythagorean theorem wrong, apparently I was nervous enough to accidentally explain the Torelli Theorem, and call it the Tortellini theorem at the same time.
A loud bell sounded, ending the life deadening class period. I shuffled, just like I had all day, out of classroom and toward my last: Band room. Band was the only period I was looking forward to, I had always been good at music. Maybe there was something to look forward to at the end of the day.
Upon entering the Band room, my first impression was impressive. It was huge; at least 40 feet by 40 feet, chairs and music lockers were stacked along walls. My next emotion was disappointment.
Students: Band has been canceled, Class dismissed. Any student not found in another classroom will be punished.
“Fantastic,” I muttered, slumping in my seat. “Now what?” all the other students in the room now filed out of the classroom, talking excitedly about weekend plans and parties. I stayed in my seat, having nowhere to go.
I sat for I don’t know how many minutes, staring blankly at the board and thinking about nothing in particular. My mind wandered from thoughts of my old school, to thoughts of my dad, to thoughts of Zaki. Those blue eyes, even in my memory, were still so unnerving. I couldn’t decide if he was a nymph or not…he was a boy, after all.
You don’t see very many boy nymphs; nymphs are born from trees so there is no need for any male figures. Males are rare, and ones that don’t destroy everything are even rarer. And those eyes…
Let’s just call him a kind-of-nymph.
My eyes, wandering aimlessly as my mind, suddenly caught sight of a back room. In the room I could see the polished wooden frame of what looked like a grand piano. THAT caught my attention.
When I was six I had taken piano lessons from a very good teacher, but her grand piano had been very, very big, and completely white. Piano lessons ended when dad…well, let’s just say when dad ‘went away for a while.’ I don’t like to talk about it.
Slowly I got up from my chair, craning my neck to get a better view of the piano. The blue plastic chair squeaked in protest as I got to my feet, but I paid no mind, picking my way over the chairs carefully to reach the door.
By ‘picking my way carefully over the chairs’ I mean that I knocked half of them over and fell on my face twice…that’s normal for me. I’m certainly no dancing fairy, that’s for sure.
When I reached the door, holding my aching elbow (which I had gracefully knocked into the timpani), I tried the handle, finding it unlocked, and walked slowly in the dusty room.