Class went on without a hitch. Most of it was organizational stuff.
“See you,” Alba said, as she passed Via’s desk, while leaving the classroom.
“Uh, bye,” Via answered, again taken off guard by the girl.
“Did you just say goodbye to the new girl?”
“Eh, she seems nice, I met her in the restroom earlier.”
“Royals use the restroom?”
“Oh, come on, now you’re exaggerating.”
“She was ... overly formal. I didn’t really know how to act around her, hahah. I was so casual compared to her.”
“Well, that’s to be expected considering the difference in status.”
“Her name’s Latvia, by the way.”
“Wow, that’s an unusual name.”
“Her nickname’s Via. That’s all I know.”
“Ooh, already calling her by a nickname.”
“Not really. I doubt we’ll be calling each other in any way.”
“Hey, have you noticed ... Alba and Latvia are kind of on friendly terms, I guess? I don’t really know what to call it.”
“They sure have been saying hello and goodbye to each other every day for the past weeks.”
“Yeah, isn’t that about it?”
“I guess. Latvia isn’t really talking to anyone else now, is she?”
“Yeah, she always seems so distant.”
“I talked to some of the guys. They won’t dare approach her, because of her status and the way she always seems so uninterested in the others.”
“Woah, that’s crazy, I thought for sure, someone would approach her.”
“Well, Alba has been.”
“Right, others have started to take note of that as well.”
“I mean, it sure is brave. Makes one wonder if there’s something else going on between the two of them.”
Weeks have gone by, and I still haven’t made any friends.
Via had accepted her situation. There wasn’t really that much she could do about it. She had hoped that maybe Alba could become her first friend, but apart from their almost-daily greetings nothing really happened. Via wasn’t entirely sure what could have happened. Maybe getting invited for lunch? Alba’s friends seemed to be kind of suspicious about Via, however. She overheard them talking about her every now and then.
Well, it didn’t matter too much anyway. She was in her final school year, which meant another fresh start in a couple of months anyway.
“Latvia,” the teacher called out to her, suddenly.
“Yes?” she answered a bit too quickly, afraid she’d gotten lost in thoughts and didn’t pay attention.
“Could you take these sheets to Alba’s house and let her know about the group assignment?”
“Um, sure,” Via replied, as she accepted the sheets. Looking a couple of rows ahead she’d noticed Alba was missing.
“She is at home sick, it seems,” the teacher explained. “You know her address, right?”
“No, I don’t ...”
“Oh, my mistake. Come to my desk after class and I’ll tell you.”
Right, life in the inner city is different from the noble’s district ...
Via went about her task, after a quick detour home. She didn’t want to worry us by taking unusually long to return home, I guess.
Convenient ways of delivering messages didn’t really exist in the inner city. Obviously, you didn’t have smartphones and the internet. The best way to deliver messages was the postal services, but there also was a profession called messenger if you lived in the noble’s district. For some reason we didn’t have that in the inner city, maybe because the job was very difficult. It was easier to deliver messages across the rather small noble’s district, compared to the vast inner city. Of course, messengers were mostly underway by foot, so it wasn’t the most pleasant job on top of that.
Via was taken aback a bit, having been tasked to deliver the schoolwork to Alba’s. Back at her old school, when someone was sick, they’d just send a messenger.
“That must be it,” Via muttered, as she glanced between the address description provided by the teacher and the house she was standing in front of.
It was a multi-story building meant to house multiple families at once. These had become common in the city after the war ended and the population started growing again.
Needless to say, it was a comparatively new building.
Via searched for the family name on a panel next to the door and after another second of hesitation pressed the button. Via was curious what the mechanism behind that thing was, as she had never encountered such a panel before. Needless to say, multi-family houses did not exist in the noble’s district and afterwards we moved into a single-family home.
“Yes?” An elderly woman opened the door and greeted Via.
“Um, hello. I am a classmate of Alberta’s,” Via repeated the sentence she’d learned on her way here. “I have come to bring her some papers from school.”
“Ah, of course. Alba your friend is here!”
“Come on in, I’ll bring you to her room.”
“Thank you very much,” she replied too quietly to be heard.
Via was led upstairs where she was already expected by Alba, wearing a sleeveless shirt and some shorts. She might as well have been wearing just her underwear. Via did not know where best to look.
“Hi there, come on in,” Alba invited Via without much hesitation and the girls entered her room.
Alba looked Via up and down and remarked, “So weird to not see you wearing the school uniform.” Some unspoken expectation seemed to hang in the air.
Via had changed out of her uniform into some more casual attire. Since coming here, she had experimented with clothing deemed ... indecent for the noble’s district. By all means, she wasn’t dressing immodestly, however a woman wearing pants was considered indecent. Pants were reserved for women of the working class, after all.
Her pants were held up by suspenders over her shoulders under which she wore a button-up with a floral pattern. Via’s clothes were undoubtedly a bit flashier than Alba’s, although improper by royal standards.
“So, what brings you here?” Alba asked.
“Right, I was tasked with bringing you some of our schoolwork,” Via said, as she handed a few sheets to Alba.
“Yay, schoolwork. Nothing better to do when you’re sick ... Don’t worry I’m not contagious, I just got my period, and the cramps were too bad to get up in time. So, I just stayed home.”
Alba shuffled through the papers, skimming them with disinterest.
“Ah, that reminds me, there is this group assignment we have to do. It requires three to four people, I think the details are on one of the sheets?” Via said, as she glanced onto the papers.
“Yep, there it is,” Alba said, putting the right paper on top. “You already in a group?”
“No not yet, I-” Via hesitated. She couldn’t really tell her no one wanted her in their group. Or that she made no effort to be included for that matter. She’d seem like a total loser.
“We haven’t decided on groups yet.”
“You can join me and my friends if you want,” Alba said nonchalantly.
Is this one of those cases, where people offer you something with the expectation, that you say no?
“So?”, Alba asked once more.
“I- I’d be happy to,”
“Great, because I hate doing presentations, and the more people in our group, the less I have to talk.”
“Hahah, I get that feeling. I always freeze up when I have to talk in front of other people.”
“Or when talking to people in general?” Alba remarked.
Oh no, she saw right through me.
“Yes ...” Via admitted. “It has always been like this. But after changing schools, it has become worse. I’m bad with new environments. And I-” Via wanted to add, that she was insecure about her behavior. Having grown up in the noble’s district and being thrown into this new environment. Everyone behaved so differently. She didn’t have any scripts on which she could rely.
But she couldn’t dump that all on this girl she barely knew.
“Yeah, I can’t imagine how different the noble society must be from us commoners,” Alba replied, as she looked around her small room. It was just big enough for her bed a wardrobe, and the bit of floor they were standing on.
“Yeah, I feel very out of place ... But I’m glad we’re friends!” Via suddenly blurted out. She didn’t want to sound like she was looking down on her. Feeling out of place, because her room was so small, or something.
“Friends?” Alba opened her eyes up wide in surprise, so unlike her usual cool gaze.
“Uhhh,” Via began to panic even more. “In any case, I am looking forward to working our group together and get soon well!” Hastily she rummaged through her bag, as if she was packing her stuff, and left through the door, marching ahead her limbs as stiff as a puppet’s.
At least her back was straight, and her gaze fixed at an imaginary point ahead of her.