He was about to catch me. There was no way he wouldn’t. No matter how fast I ran through the maze-like corridors, I could hear his resolved footsteps echoing ever closer. He called out to me, with his eerily calm voice.
I jolted awake, sweaty and out of breath. My mom was calling me from downstairs.
“Pauline, honey, hurry up! Your father and I are about to leave!”
Oh, no. Did I miss my alarm? I checked my phone: 7:32 a.m. Yep, seemed like it. I threw my clothes on as fast as I could and ran to the front door.
“Mom, Dad,” I started, gasping for air.
“Pauline,” my dad interrupted with a stern tone. “I know you’ve never been much of a morning person, but we’re going away for six months. How are you going to avoid being late for school if you miss every alarm?”
“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I’ll try harder, I promise.”
“It’s okay,” my mom answered. “Are you going to be alright, staying here by yourself this whole time?”
Frankly, I was quite offended that she’d even think I wouldn’t.
“Mom, I’m 18. I have the right to vote. You think I can’t take care of myself?”
“Alright, alright, upstanding citizen,” she giggled. “We’re leaving then. We’ll be back after you graduate.”
They both hugged me and left.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Alone at last! I didn’t have much time to bask in my newfound independence, though; I was running extra late. I inhaled my breakfast and pretended to be an Olympic level sprinter to get to school on time.
Most of the day went just as usual, though I couldn’t quite stop thinking about the nightmare I had. I’d been having the same one for weeks and it was really starting to get to me. Oh, how I wished for a good night’s rest! But I had to trust that it would go away eventually.
Eventually, it was time for the last period of the day: math class. The teacher announced a change in our seating positions. Since the start of the year, I had been sitting next to my best friend Noémie in every class. I sighed.
“Don’t worry,” the teacher said, “this is only temporary. You’ll get your usual seats back after the next holidays.”
Of course, the next holidays were in two months. He didn’t judge it was necessary to mention it.
“Well, you heard Mr. Dumbass,” Noémie said while gathering her stuff. “We’re going to have to be separated from each other for a little while. I’ll feel like an oyster without its pearl,” she added dramatically.
Mr. “Dumbass” was obviously Noémie’s least favorite teacher. She had given him that nickname right when she met him. His real name was Mr. Demasse. To be honest, he kinda deserved it; he was cold and very strict.
“Pauline!” he called me. “See me after class.”
His tone let on that I had done something wrong. I mean, in Mr. Dumbass’ mind, anything could be reason for punishment, but still. Noémie looked and me and shook her head, as if to say “You’re going to have a bad time.”
“Ah, and your new seat is at the back of the classroom. Since no one else’s sitting there, pick wherever.”
And now he’d decided to isolate me. Well, whatever. Noémie found herself at the very front row, which wasn’t much better.
The rest of the class was uneventful, and, as promised, I went to see the teacher right after the bell rang.
“There’s going to be a new student in the class,” he announced.
“That’s what you wanted to see me for?” I questioned.
“Actually, I’ve decided to place him next to you. Most new students in any establishment aren’t really respectable, and I absolutely do not want to have a thug sitting next to me.”
“Why me?” I exclaimed, outraged. He didn’t want to have a thug sitting next to him? Why would I? “There are so many other students in this class!”
“I know you try to be friendly with everybody,” he answered. “I’m putting him next to you so that he feels welcome and integrates better.”
I sighed. I was going to have to pretend to be a therapist for some random dude.
“I see,” I simply said. “When is he coming?”
“Tomorrow,” the teacher dropped.
And he hadn’t said a single word to the rest of the class.
“His name is Aoki,” he added.
“Why is he coming here?”
“He’s getting transferred from another school.”
“How many stupid questions do you still have?” he snapped. “Just ask him yourself, in person, tomorrow. I know next to nothing about him anyway.”
He got up and gathered his stuff to leave; I did the same.