The tour Cathy McKinnon promised is cut short before it even begins. Her phone rings. Her frown returns when she answers the call. She gets in a single 'hello' before the other side starts jabbering away. Whoever it is doesn't seem to plan on stopping anytime soon.

At least McKinnon has good taste, I muse. That is when it comes to the phone. She's using the same model as I do, though she can probably afford it whilst I should spend my money more wisely. The cover though… not so much. After all the gun-talk I was expecting a 'macho' camo look, so the crystal-studded pink her phone is wrapped in is a bit of a surprise. It does match her nails, but the pink miniature rabbit foot that dangles from a corner might be a bit much. I assume it's for luck, and if it would have been a clover, then yeah, why not. But a rabbit's leg? Seriously?

After a minute or two listening to the long monologue, McKinnon starts tapping the floor with her left foot. Another minute and she stops the tapping, deepens her frown, then continues with the other foot. Another minute and the tapping stops, her frown reaching Grand Canyon levels. When the other side halts to breathe she interrupts. "He did what? Tell him to - screw it. Whatever. I'll be over there in..." She glances at her watch, then looks at me, somewhat sheepishly. "Oh. You."

Yeah, me. I smile and wave my hand. I'll be fine.

She whispers, "Sure?" and I nod. I'm a good liar.

Cathy McKinnon studies me for a moment, then shrugs. "Ten minutes," she tells the caller. then disconnects, not waiting for an answer. "I'm so sorry..."

It's my turn to shrug.

"I was planning to introduce you to your classmates. Well, most of them. We took the liberty of putting all special cases together, and many do spend some time here before courses actually, eh..." She blushes, then hastily adds, "Not that I want to suggest that, anything. Well. You see, the people in your class are new like you, or had to take a summer course or their family asked... I'm not making this any better, am I?"

"Nope." So, I am a 'special' case then. I guess she did see my marks, after all. Bummer. "I'll be fine."

"That's good. C13. They're waiting for us. I mean you. Tell them I'll be there in an hour, I mean, no. Don't tell them anything. Except if they ask, then tell them I'll be there any minute. And good luck." She hesitates as if to say something more, but decides against it and stalks away on those heels.

"Right," I mumble. So I'll be on my own. Not that Nuttley's High is the kind of grandiose place that requires a tour guide. The whole complex is a mere three buildings, surrounded by dead grass and tall trees. Three-and-a-half buildings at most.

'Exhibit A' is two stories high, all red bricks and tall windows, with splotches of ivy reaching for the green tiled roof. It looks as if a giant hand scooped it up from some European country and put it down here in the west. It looks out over the dead grass, main entrance, and the parking lot beyond the fence. It's nice, a little old perhaps. Inside hangs the smell of tradition. There's the suggestion of chalk in the air, the shadows of dusty tomes still linger, and if you close your eyes you can hear the echoes of stern teachers safeguarding the wisdom of the ages. Modern wiring, bits of it hanging loose, and card readers and a camera in the hall spoil the illusion a bit. There's no C13 on the map near the entrance.

The main corridor is short and leads from a pair of large double doors on the front, to a similar pair on the rear. When I step through and out, I face the next building, quite imaginatively called 'building B'. It's similar in size and shape but painted white and its tiles are black. Some of the paint is flaking. A handwritten billboard invites me to join an art class in the attic for which loud music seems to be a prerequisite. I wander around a bit, delaying the inevitable. The few people I run into either politely greet, or completely ignore me. Both groups whisper behind my back. Whatever.

A modern, glass-covered walkway leads from 'A' to 'B', then wraps around the left side, to take me to, you guessed it, 'building C'. As I continue my stroll I notice that more and more of the glass panels above me show spider cracks and motley green spots. Nuttley's High's maintenance must be on a tight budget.

The third building is hiding behind several rows of trees. It is a large, single-floor glass-and-steel affair, all sharp lines and uncomfortable angles. I'm not an architect but I think it's ugly, which might explain the trees. Set in the wall next to the front door sits a plaque, proclaiming the building was gifted by the Kind Foundation. I guess they too thought it to be ugly and were happy to gift it to some good cause. When I step inside, I discover there may have been another reason. Despite the trees and their shadows this place is an oven. I bet the donation came without any kind of climate control.

Finding the building was easy. Finding room C13 is a different matter. There are signs everywhere, each door sporting a letter-number combination, and sometimes a little plate informing me that I am about to enter 'Staff Only', 'Exit' or 'Gents'. I skip the latter.

But again there's no C13. One row of classrooms ends with C12, and the next hallway continues with C14. There's a floor plan mounted on the wall, and yes. C13 isn't listed.

If not for some distant voices I might be all alone. Lost in thought I drift through the abandoned hallways towards the source of the sounds. When I get closer I recognize boasting boys, chatting girls. Someone giggles, the sounds of a video game. And under all that, like a kind of bass line to support the music of living the high-school life, there's a deep rumbling sound. Which might be a snore. At the end of the hallway, there's an unmarked door ajar, light and sound passing through the gap. Should I enter and ask? Life is full of hard choices, isn't it?

From the other side of the door comes the sound of a scuffle, followed by a short, very audible intake of air. The voices go silent but the snoring continues. A 'weh-weh-weeeeh' tune tells me the player lost. Whispers and heavy breathing take over, and I hesitate.

Oh, what the heck. Trouble always finds me in the end, so why shouldn't I go out and hunt it down myself for a change? It would save some time. So I don't knock but simply push the door open and walk inside, into a brightly lit classroom. The shades are down, the light is coming from rows of tube lights, one of them flickering. Six rows of six tables face a large workbench. Boxes, bottles, and intricate devices are stored in several glass cabinets along the walls, and a periodic chart of the elements confirms this must be the home of chemistry and mad science.

Front and center stands a petite girl with long blond hair, wearing a red summer dress, holding a boy up in the air. He has at least one foot, fifty pounds, and a severe case of acne on her. At second glance she isn't holding him up. I now see he's on his toes, trying to keep his throat clear off the four shiny nails that pierce the skin under his chin. Her thumb rests lightly on his throat. The blood-spattered tips of her silver-painted fingernails prove he hasn't been entirely successful.

The boy doesn’t seem to be in immediate danger so I scan the audience. Front row right sits the archetypical nerd, wearing a Dungeons and Dragons T-shirt. He has his phone out recording the scene. Nerd number two sits next to him and stares, mouth open, spit slowly trickling down his chin into his pocket protector. A handful of dice lay on the table, all but forgotten.

Behind the two nerds sits a dark-skinned boy with dreadlocks and striking green eyes. Every class needs a cool guy, and in this room he's the one. He waves his phone at me, the screen telling me it's 'Game Over'.

Three girls sit in the back, giggling and whispering to each other. Number one is a brunette with too much makeup, number two is clearly of Asian descent, and number three… Her hairdresser must like his colors. As in cyan, purple, yellow, red, pink, green. My gaze travels onward before I become colorblind.

On the second row on the left lies a tall guy, spread out over a makeshift bed of shoved-together desks. He’s all muscle, wearing grey jogging trousers and a sweater adorned with a big letter ‘N’. Biceps bulge where the sleeves of his sweater were cut off. He’s the source of the snore. In front of sleeping beauty I find my blue-eyed biker, leaning back, legs stretched. He lazily raises a hand as in greeting, but his eyes won’t leave the slender girl and her victim.

My attention returns to the girl in red. I can't see what she does, but I suspect it involves squeezing particular soft body parts. The face of the boy turns red, then purple, then ashen gray, and he whispers his apologies. She squeezes a little harder and makes him repeat his words twice before letting go. A slight push by her hand sends the boy backward, arms flailing. He trips over Biker-boy's outstretched leg, then crashes into the wall. The noise almost interrupts the snore. Almost.

The girl in the red dress carefully examines her fingernails before turning to face me. She looks me up and down. Mostly up, as I’m half a head taller than she is. She has pale grey eyes, a little nose which rises from a heart-shaped face, and lips as red as her dress, pretty but for the scowl. Her eyes narrow for a moment, then widen as if she suddenly remembers something. All of that is followed by a sweet, innocent, and completely fake smile.

She takes a step forward and offers me her hand. “Hey hello,” she says in a throaty voice and bats her eyelashes at me. “I'm Camelia. I’m the new girl. And you are?”

"Lost," I answer, which is true. I continue with an inspired "I guess." I almost shake her hand but I hesitate.

She raises a thick yet perfect eyebrow. Biker boy is watching. Then he tips his chair back, precariously balancing on just two legs.

He eyes the ceiling and sighs. "Yes, father. We have another one."

"I'm looking for C13," I say.

"Aren't we all," he says, and sighs again before smirking. "That, and love."

The three girls in the back giggle.

"Do we need another one?" The biker slowly tips his chair forward until all four legs touch the floor again. "Isn't three enough?"

The three girls giggle some more and blush adequately when he blows them a kiss. His personal fan club, I guess. They swallow it wholesale. Okay, he is kind of cute with his black hair and blue eyes, and the tight jeans leave little to wonder. Nice ass, too, I secretly admit. But even wearing a faded black T-shirt with an AC/DC print doesn't make him giggle-worthy.

Biker-boy gets up from his chair and punches the sleeping giant. "Hey, Lug, wake up." When the first punch doesn't give the intended result he punches again.

"He's mine," the girl in the red dress whispers. Camelia.

"Sorry, what?"

"You're in C13," dreadlocks says, "but nobody calls it that. We all call it 'the lab'." He rolls his eyes. "The lab. I'm William, at your service."

"Wake up Lug," biker-boy repeats, a little louder this time, then outright yells in the guy's ear, "Wake up, man! We have another looker this year!"

His words cause his fan club to send me the evil eye.

"Humpf." The big guy, Lug - if that's his name - smacks his lips as he gets up.

I now notice the food and sweat stains adorning his sweater, partially covering the printed 'Nuttley's High' logo. The remains of his red-meat-and-steroids lunch, I suppose.

'Lug' eyes Camelia, then me, then stretches and yawns. "Too thin," he rumbles. "The short one's too red, the long one too purple. More your type."

"She is?" Biker-boy frowns. His eyes move from Camelia to me and back to Camelia again. "Which one?"

Sounds from the left - his right - make him frown before he can make his decision public. He smiles at me, apologetically, then gets up and takes a step towards the pimpled boy who was tryng to get up. A swift kick puts an end to that.

"Stay... down," the biker says.

When the only reply is a grunt biker-boy nods in satisfaction before strolling over and offering his hand.

I feel a little embarrassed, two people offering a handshake, and me having none of it.

"Nice to meet you. I'm David," he says. He's a polite biker-boy.

"I… was that necessary?"

"Oh yes. Dexter had it coming. Don't worry, he'll be fine. A little bruised, perhaps. He's lucky Cammy didn't kill him."

Camelia grabs my hand before he can. She bends over and places a kiss on the back. I feel... I feel her tongue, surprisingly raspy, as she licks my hand. I quickly pull away and take a step back. The girl just smiles.

"I am Camelia," she says, "and I am yours."


About the author

The Real Angel Jay

Bio: I write bad fiction. In poor English. In all other aspects I'm just like a normal person. Please note that I'm a not a native English speaker (so any help is welcome).

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