"Worse than fear dread treads slowly, nostalgic it feels even tomorrow."
"Miss Slayworth," said a scolding voice from behind the desk, Pierce could see the wrinkled lips stretch to a firm line with disappointment, "You are one of my best students and a good mentee, yet I hear the most appalling of whispers among the student body... care to explain why?"
Pierce swallowed nervously as she looked up to see Mrs. Norbel stare at her with a strange mix of gentleness and disappointment.
Although, she was openly ignoring Gracia, her best friend who was sitting right next to her, who was scratching the teacher's desk with a swizz knife absently, despite knowing that a knife wasn't allowed on their campus and neither damaging school property.
"You excel in almost every field Pierce," Pierce heard clearly, since her head was submissively lowered, she was called by her first name, it was now final she wasn't getting out of this one, "not to mention you have a great voice, the school principal and the other professors are even planning to recommend you for the elite universities in London and California, yet..."
"Yes I know..." no she hadn't, but it was good to know she was acknowledged by her school so much.
Side stepping her interruption the professor went on, "...and not to say, your father Judith is one of the most entertained guest affiliated with our school."
"Will you get to the conclusion already teach?" Gracia's rude interruption was enough to make Pierce recoil back into her small wooden chair. She would never understand her friend's half-witted replies or attempts at sarcasm. All Gracia was able to obtain was the teacher's wrath, unintentionally tagging her along the way.
Mrs. Norbel was an understanding woman, but Pierce doubted she would ever understand or even try to when it came to Gracia who excelled at being a troublemaker. The effort her teacher put in tolerating her friend was visible on her face.
Pierce signed while bracing for the onslaught which she knew was coming. Peeking on her right she saw Gracia still scratching the table which meant the day would end with another detention.
"You on the other hand Miss Gracia," Mrs. Norbel started sharply, "have no right to speak like that when you are the root of the cause."
Gracia snorted, another mistake on her part, "You don't even know if the rumors are true."
"I know what I want to know Miss Gracia, I heard that Miss Slayworth does chain smoking which is absolutely ridiculous if you ask me, she is a scholar, an elite. Whereas you on the other hand, are a delinquent, the one who got sustained from school for a whole month because you were caught bringing in alcohol on the school grounds knowing full well what it entails. You were even given counseling for a whole year because you burned down two most original paintings in the principal's office. And I sure do remember your run in with Mr. Jace who had to stay in the hospital half a year due to three broken bones and a ruptured muscle... Now you tell me how you want me to perceive this situation here."
Pierce found it an amazing feat to remember her friend's deeds in so much detail. It was a loud indicator of how much Gracia was loved.
Pierce mentally snorted.
Gracia sighed, "Ya ya, I am a bad girl but I tell the truth when I say these rumors are just that, rumors, show us some proof next time you chat us up with ridiculous flashbacks on queue."
Pierce felt like strangling her best friend for the tenth time that day, 'Why does she always have to be so difficult?'
Mrs. Norbel was fuming when Pierce met her eyes, her disappointment in her had doubled in intensity, as if she was the one who spoke those words. "Miss Gracia you ar-"
"Mrs. Norbel," Pierce started softly, cutting off her teacher with hesitation, "I assure you these rumors are not true, I don't even know how it started in the first place," although she knew who the initiator could be, there were many haters of her, "I will also ask for your forgiveness for my friend here, she sometimes just explodes like that when things go awry and you know she has anger issues which she has been working on. Please forgive us Mrs. Norbel."
The teacher backed down slightly and sat with a slouch, "I expect you to maintain the decorum here Miss Slayworth, I don't expect anything from your friend but I do expect from you."
Pierce sighed with relief as she looked at the scowling Gracia with pleading eyes, begging the gods above to let the day be saved with no further problems. Gracia got the hint as she got up to leave but was stopped by the teacher instead, "Please submit your knife here before you leave, and also the deadline for your assignment is on Monday, your behavior doesn't gets you any free pass."
"But the others are asked to submit it next week."
"You are not others, and that's your punishment."
Glaring at the teacher who was glaring right back, Gracia snapped the knife shut and placed it on the desk loudly. Then with a last look at Pierce, she quickly left through the staff room's door, proudly, her head held high for some unknown reason. She had always been difficult and even her parents were tired of giving reasons for her misbehavior. Pierce sometimes wondered if she was mentally ill, though she shouldn't have such thoughts for her friend.
She fiddled with her pink blouse absently, she had no idea what would come next.
Mrs. Norbel glimpsed out the long window next to her partitioned table, the soft orange glow indicated the evening fast approaching. "How is your life going Pierce, are the students bothering you again?"
Pierce shook her head negatively, knowing full well it was a blatant lie, "They fear Gracia." At least her answer was partially true. She hoped it scored some positive points for her friend, even though it was a far-fetched thought.
She saw Mrs. Nobel smiling at her softly, her eyes turning to a melted grey instead of hard steel. "Your mother would have been proud of you, she always believed you were born an achiever."
Pierce giggled, her heart warmed after hearing the declaration but deep inside she didn't have much faith in herself, her bullies showed her how much she lacked, it was a mystery to what made them hate her so much when she didn't even argue in return. She shook her head mentally to ignore the sad thoughts, she didn't want Mrs. Norbel to see through her emotions, explaining her things would be troublesome. "I should leave now."
The woman nodded, "Yes your father might worry."
Pierce stood up from the small chair sliding it back without a sound, scouting out the side table, picking up her grey slingbag which contained a few books and some stationery, she was a nerd and liked being one so she carried the small luggage around much to the dismay of Gracia.
"You stay well Pierce, don't let the others hamper your success I just know your future is bright." Pierce heard the parting words as she slid the door close.
Mrs. Norbel had known her since her kindergarten days, she even took care of her when her mother passed away, despite being strict due to her profession, she loved Pierce dearly and paid attention to her more than she did to the others, the reason being sympathy; Pierce enjoyed the attention sometimes but just not when it got her in the limelight.
Coming out of the staff room Pierce smiled at the vacant school corridor, the student lockers visible at the far end. Walking on the slippery floor maintained daily by the janitor, Pierce skipped through the hall in search for her best friend. The school had gotten over an hour ago so there was no student body to bully her or sneer at her, thus the reason for her extra cheer despite the mild scolding she got from her English teacher.
Coming out from the building Pierce headed straight to the meeting spot with a big oak tree in the center, it was a tree well known to both her and Gracia since it held many memories. So once there after crossing all the lawns and sport courts, she saw Gracia sitting beneath the tree with a very thoughtful look on her face. 'Oh no that isn't good.'
"Why did you not wait for me outside the room Gracia?" she asked quizzically although she knew what the reasons could be.
Turning to look at her with a dull expression on the face Gracia pointed a finger towards her accusingly, "A teacher's pet shouldn't demand things from a lowly flea, it's called bulling."
Pierce just pouted with laughter in her eyes, "Oh come on, she isn't that bad, I love her and I think she tries her best to forgive most of your mistakes. If there was someone else in her place I am sure we would have gotten a whole week of detention."
"But you saw how she looked down on me didn't you, you heard her give me punishment, and you still side with her?"
"Maybe because you scratch the tables with your swizz knife and rudely disrupt the person talking who many a times happens to be a teacher."
"That's a habit I am still working on."
"Good to know, but aren't you a bit slow with your work?"
Gracia had enough lecture to show any kind of humour, "Please just shut up."
"No can do."
The car honked as it took a turn, disrupting the talk they were having. Gracia scowled with annoyance, "Damn cars and their drivers, I tell you it was good when we were still using wagons and carts. Let us teleport back to the past."
Pierce laughed as she patted her friend, "But you would miss your internet then."
"I told you, I am done with it, even you would have left if you had to see that face every day. Urgh... Even her name makes me sick. May it be the social media or the local media, she is everywhere, that damned Martha." Gracia had always been the explosive one, she was easily irritated, annoyed, frustrated or angered; Pierce always had a hard time keeping her in check even though she was her best friend since kindergarten.
"Still, knowing you I am sure you would be back on the net as soon as you reach home, your resolutions are very short lived you know," told Pierce as a matter of fact. Gracia just shrugged as she changed the subject instantly, "What happened to your singing contest?"
Pierce ignored the fact that Gracia was again checking her net account for any new mails as distraction, 'And she said no internet.' "I signed the participation form but I don't really know if I can make it to the top."
The reply earned her a very unlady like snort.
They took the turn to a narrower lane that led to Pierce's home and stopped walking as they stood at the corner of the housing rows, Pierce looked at the pleasant sky while shading her eyes with her hands, "My father is always busy but I did get time to make him listen to my songs, he was very proud of me."
"Seriously he should be, your singing is really good. If it had been me I would be declaring to the whole world how wonderfully I can sing. Just imagine yourself as a singer, imagine how popular and how filthy rich you would be. I can see myself in your pool drinking rich cocktail and listening to live concerts."
"Okay okay I get it, but let me tell you that I won't be doing what you are wishing, I don't want to grab that much attention it would be bothersome and too much work. Some article writing job would be much preferred."
"But people already fawn at you."
Pierce narrowed her eyes, "Nobody fawns at me. They bully me!"
Gracia snorted again, "Same thing, you react and they like it."
Pierce glared this time, as sharp her glare could be, she was half tempted to stomp away with a huff, like a child. "I don't react."
"Yes you do, but I don't know why you don't get pissed, all you do is make yourself small or cower away in fear, grow a backbone girl!"
Pierce sighed, "I don't do that because I want to, it's out of reflex."
Gracia rolled her eyes, "I don't even know why they affect you so much."
Not feeling too hyped up for any argument, Pierce looked ahead at the row of white and grey housings, some were also colored in yellow or soft cream, but the majority looked the same. They reminded her of her monotonous lifestyle and the situation.
"Tell me your father hasn't gone missing again." Gracia must have noticed the gloomy aura around Pierce, since her question seemed hesitant and awkward.
"He has. He comes home only to eat these days."
"Jeez, just tell him how you feel about his absence I am sure he will understand," requested Gracia as she undid her hair and combed it with her fingers, her hair was curly blond with pink tips, it contrasted well with her rich olive skin tone occupied with the regular blush on the cheeks, it even complimented the tattoos lining her neck and shoulders.
When comparing to the rest, Gracia was one of the most beautiful girls in the whole school, her fans were many despite her rowdy appearance and hundreds of detentions unlike Pierce who looked total opposite of her with pale skin, dark chocolate hair and cold grey eyes. She was simple, even her black jeans and plain pick blouse was a dead giveaway of her personality.
"My father rarely stays at home, rarely, so I don't want to act like a spoiled brat ordering him around, he looks so happy when with me that I feel guilty making him concerned over me and being the punctual guy he reports everything , so you can't say he goes missing, just disappears for a while."
"So disappearing like that is a good thing? You think a lot about others Pierce, it's time for you to enjoy yourself and act a little spoiled, trust me, your version of spoiled is far innocent than mine."
Pierce half smiled at her friend knowing she won't take the advice anytime soon and looked ahead at the familiar street flanked by row of white fences and lawns buffering the buildup. Her home being at the center of the row housings looked pretty much common, the only difference showing through was the creepers falling over the boundary wall greeting the passerby.
"See you tomorrow then Gracia," Pierce said with a bright smile on her face and hugged the girl tightly, showing her affections without hesitation. Gracia smiled back returning it, clearly happy with the contact. Pierce then stepped back after a while but still smiled gently, she just couldn't stay depressed for long... it was unlike her.
"Ya, see ya tomorrow girl, give me a call if those losers bully you again, I will beat them straight." The emphasis was laid as she showed off her muscles and a fist.
Pierce watched her friend's back as she went ahead with her hands stuffed in the skirt pockets while whistling like a punk. Her mid-length curls flowing with the wind. 'I wonder what job she would apply for, it will be interesting to see.'
Looking at her house she somehow had a gut feeling that told her things wouldn't go as planned. The slight static in the breeze warned her. It was downright repulsive... as if something or someone was there watching her and if she went any closer, she would be harmed.