“Marah Kingsley?”

A girl with a brown kinky ponytail raises her hand.

I try to keep the corner of my eye on Maxton. I’m a row over and three chairs up, and he’s sitting next to one of the windows, gazing outside with a distant look. I won’t be able to get away with much watching here. I hate being at the front of the class.

“Jareth Kinton?”

“Here.”

Our teacher is young and pretty. Her smile reminds me of my mother because it just looks so full of joy, like she’s just so happy being a teacher. I want to like her, but I don’t. Happy people go one way or the other with me, and for some reason, I find Ms. Hopkins’s strained happiness annoying.

“Thalia Knight?”

I force a smile as I raise my hand, but don’t even bother looking up.

“Hey.” The kid named Jareth pokes my back. “You know this isn’t our teacher, right?”

“Marlein Kosher?”

“What?”

“Yeah. That terrifying broad who yelled at us is actually the teacher. Hopkins is just one of the attendance admins.”

I turn sideways to look at him. He couldn’t be serious. His freckled nose wrinkles a bit as he smiles.

“Shein Kye?”

“I’m Jareth.”

“Yeah, I heard.”

“We’ve not met.”

“No.”

“You must live in the Capital.”

“Alexander Lanchester?”

We both glance at Alexander when he tosses his black mane and winks at Ms. Hopkins. I look back at Jareth.

“Dorm kids have been here for two months.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, it’s academy policy.”

“Maxton Locksey? Oh! A Locksey?” Hopkins beams, and everyone turns to look at Maxton barely raise a hand. “You know, your brothers were some of my favorite students.”

Maxton’s cheeks redden a little, but he returns to looking out the window. I would be embarrassed if I’d just been ignored, but Hopkins doesn’t miss a beat.

“Jackie Louis?”

“A Locksey, huh?” Jareth whispers. He moves his dark red hair over to one side of his face while sneaking glances at Alexander. “You heard of his brothers?”

“Yeah.”

“Legends, right? Star students of the academy. It’s not weird to have star students. It’s just weird when every single member in a family is.” He grinned and leaned closer. “Some say that they’re Hunters.” My skins turns cold, but I manage a nod. Jareth shrugs. “But that’s just speculation. Think little brother can handle that shadow?” We both glance at him, but Maxton is still staring out the window. Jareth chuckles. “Doesn’t look like it… Hey.”

I’d almost turned around, but I glanced back to see Jareth wearing a weird smile.

“You know, we should get coffee sometime. Get to know each other better.”

Most girls would blush, but I feel the blood drain to my feet.

“I don’t drink coffee.”

He laughs, and my heart jumps to my throat. Was I wrong to say that? Is that something all normal people do?

“I thought all girls drink coffee. Don’t… Haha, don’t freak out, Thalia. I was just –”

“She can probably smell what a worm you are.” A girl with long black hair glares at him. She tosses her head then smirks at me. “Hi. I’m Marlein. Thalia, right? Thalia, we’re going to be friends.” She grabs my hand and squeezes it. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. What could I say? “Don’t listen to a word Jareth here has to say.” She throws him a glare. “The past two months he’s been taking girls out one after the other.”

“Hey! I’m looking for the right girl, and sorry that doesn’t happen to be you.”

Marlein gives him a disgusted look, and Shein and Marah glance at each other in amused disbelief. And my heart is throbbing at just being in the midst of this! I’m just supposed to be a shadow that blends into the brickwork! Marlein scowls and rolls her eyes. She releases my hand, and I notice a silver bracelet on her wrist. She must be from a wealthy family.

“I only used him for a double date, Thalia. I didn’t want to third wheel with my friend Sierra and her boyfriend Marv. You can date him if you want.” She leans close and whispers. “Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if he tries to reach his hand up your skirt during class.” She smirk and turns back around while the other two girls snicker. Shein begins whispering to Marlein while Jareth’s face is blood red, and his chin is quivering in rage. I turn to face the front just wishing I could melt and fall through the cracks in the floor or evaporate into air then be inhaled and never have to worry about existing again.

Sure enough, Mrs. Crowley stalks into the room and looks around the class with wide, gray eyes.

“The roll has been called, and you’re a fool if you don’t think we’ll use this day as something other than an opportunity to possible sharpen your mushy, dense minds.”

Day one, and I already wish I’d never been born.

Maybe I just need to get into the clockwork. Escaped Keepers say that you can even get used to torture after a while.

Writer. College student. Focused. Blessed. Adventurer. Musician. Professional over thinker. I'm pretty busy with college, but sometimes I write. It clears my head and reminds me of the impact I want to have on the world, which is why I'll never stop.

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