The way too early, cold September wind was blowing in your face, freezing your eyelashes, bringing tears out of you that ran down your red cheeks. You held your hands in front of your nose to prevent the sickening smell of the student’s stinky cigarettes when you walked through the entrance of the schoolyard.
Wednesdays used to be fun until Professor Ren showed up.
You imagined him as the teacher who would give extra homework during the weekend. At least you would see his grumpy face only after lunchtime for two hours, and then not until Monday next week.
The thought of sitting in front of him again made your legs slow down on the stairs like you were carrying stones. What happened in the classroom before was something you didn’t want to experience for the second time. Thinking about it was a pain in your head, so you tried to avoid it. No one would believe you anyway if you would tell someone or report it to the teachers. Who would consider a student’s voice over a well-recognized teacher who comes from one of the best universities in the world to teach in the middle of nowhere in a school full of rich and arrogant kids? You climbed the stairs to the second floor as your eyes glimpsed at the hallway.
Well, well, if this is not the devil himself.
You recognized your favorite professor standing on the other side of the hallway with his head bent down next to Headmaster Palpatine, who mumbled something to him. They stood next to the stairs you needed to take to get to your class. Professor Ren seemed concentrated, carefully listening to what Palpatine had to tell him. He nodded, and a strand of hair fell to his forehead, so he shoved his hair back away from his face.
Headmaster Palpatine was a peaceful man who would always greet the students when they walked past him in the building. He was cunning, and Rose liked the wise prayers he held through the loudspeakers every morning. His snow-white hair matched his skin color, and his large, wrinkled forehead that hung on his face made him look older than he was. This year Headmaster Palpatine would celebrate his eightieth birthday, an age where it’s usually impossible to continue to work. But with all the control and power he had over this school: The idea of retiring did clearly not cross his mind.
Professor Ren looked quite young. With his arrogance and knowledge, you would guess he was at least thirty-two. Something about his firm hand touching his hair broke something out of you. You erased those dumb thoughts as fast as possible. You stretched your shoulders back, raised your jaw, and walked with courage towards them.
Headmaster Palpatine flinched and stopped talking when he noticed you approaching them.
“Miss [Y/Surname]! What a pleasure… to see you again,” Palpatine greeted you with a welcoming tone, his voice cracking off in breaks to take a quick breath.
“Good morning Headmaster Palpatine. The pleasure is all mine.”
Your gaze went up to Professor Ren, and your eyes locked. The longer you stared into his eyes, the more you felt like you were entering a dark mine, trying to find sparkly crystals in them, but without success. He kept them well hidden.
You nodded in his direction. “Good morning to you too, Professor Ren.”
In response, he only shook his head, rolled his eyes, and let go of a deep sigh.
Why do I even bother? Of course, you wished he would greet you too, like the other teachers with manners did, but you forgot that absolutely nothing about him was normal.
You wondered if his reaction was part of his university preparation, or it was just you who had the honor of being greeted by him like that.
Your eye contact got interrupted by Palpatine when he cleared his throat.
“Did you know… that… this young girl over here is a talented singer… whose performances with the choir are always magnificent? However, I prefer… when she sings solo.”
You noticed Headmaster Palpatine emphasized the word solo as if he wanted to send a secret message to Professor Ren without you understanding it.
“Oh, thank you, Headmaster Palpatine, that’s very kind.” You smiled and put a hand on your chest in flattery, in receiving a compliment from the Headmaster himself. After all, everyone loves compliments. They give us the feeling of being good enough.
Deciding to join the choir a year ago seemed now to pay off. Apparently, you were so good that Ms. Holdo, who was popular because of her purple hair, had the impression your voice needed more practice to become even more powerful. Singing was at least one thing you didn’t fail at.
Your eyes turned back at Professor Ren, who seemed tensed. When he heard the word solo, he looked straight down at Palpatine as if he got stabbed by lightning. His gaze jumped back to you, and for the first time, you recognized something in his eyes that was not there before. He looked confused and rattled. Maybe even startled? Whatever personal meaning this word had for him, he didn’t like it.
With Headmaster Palpatine’s wide grin, he reminded you of Pennywise with his wicked IT smile. With his compliments, you felt protected. Having him on your side was a big bonus. You knew if Professor Ren would ever blame you for something that was not your fault, you could ask him for help.
“I’m certain her voice will captivate you,” Headmaster Palpatine added with his gaze fixed on Professor Ren.
Your eyes turned slowly back to your professor, and you lifted your chin a little higher, raising your right eyebrow. A prideful smirk emerged on your face. There was no way Professor Ren saw that coming after telling you two days ago that he imagined you would fail in everything you do.
“We’ll see,” Professor Ren answered.
He said it with confidence and a skeptical smirk, as if he first had to confirm it himself. You blinked twice, questioning if he heard you. It was like he had just read your thoughts. Your voice wouldn’t change his mind about you, so you took it as a challenge to be the first one to fascinate him. And maybe then, his beliefs about you being a failure would vanish.
A sudden ring from Professor Ren’s pocket made him take his phone out. Anyone else would have taken the call by then, but he just stared at the screen with a pale expression. You shared a look with Palpatine in the same thoughts, yet none of you considered giving him a remark. Professor Ren fiercely pressed the phone in his hand as if he was about to crash it and hung up, turning the phone completely off and shoving it angrily in his pocket back.
With no further assumptions, you respectfully said goodbye to Headmaster Palpatine and your psychology teacher and carried your way.
Ms. Rey always held her course so passionately that it would be a crime to hate her. Two hours of English course can pass by quickly if you’re interested in a class. The fun you had in today’s lesson made none of the other classmates notice the doorbell ring.
Now the genuine horror would begin. You had no intention of going to psychology class. Slowly and without motivation, you lifted yourself off your chair and took your backpack.
“Oh, before I forget about it, please remember to bring the money to the next lesson which we have on Monday,” Ms. Rey reminded the class. “We’ll start reading the book that I will distribute to you.”
You slowly approached Ms. Rey, who stood there with her eyes glued to her notebook while biting her nails.
Her clothing style differed from all the other teachers. She usually wore a white tunic with a brown belt around her waist and had her hair braided into three cute buns. The teachers treated her differently. Just because she was not as rich as the other teachers, she didn’t mind as long as she was happy. She knew her worth and was comfortable in her skin. At least that was what she showed the students.
“Ms. Rey, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this lesson today.” She lifted her head and put her notebook away. “I’m happy to hear that! I guarantee you, when we read the book, it will be even more fun,” Ms. Rey said in a lovely tone.
“About that, what book is it exactly that we’re going to read?” you asked curiously.
“Pride and Prejudice.”
Your smile disappeared the second you heard the title. Your eyes were in confusion, and you looked around the class, wondering if any hidden cameras desired to caption your reaction. You wanted this to be a prank since Professor Ren reminded you somehow of Mr. Darcy. Reading this book and not picturing him as the character would be now… difficult.
“I promise you will love this book. Especially Mr. Darcy,” Ms. Rey smiled as she took her bag. “Enjoy the rest of the week. See you on Monday.” She left the classroom, leaving the door open.
Of course, it was her decision which book you would read in class, but of all the books available for this year, why did she have to choose this one?
As if by magic, Finn came through the door, exhausted in sweat from running all the stairs back up.
“Good, you’re still here,” Finn breathed. “Come with me. I have to show you something.”
You didn’t even have time to ask what happened when he grabbed you by the shoulders, yanking you down the stairs to the underground parking lot, which was reserved only for the teachers.
Two classes and a few teachers with Headmaster Palpatine were gathered in a circle, discussing and trying to silent the students who were loudly talking around.
As you approached Rose and Poe, who looked confused, you thought someone had dropped dead or had discovered something unnatural. But everyone was standing two feet away from the open elevator, which was destroyed from the inside. The brown wall had deep holes in it, as if someone had tried to hit it with something hard, and the mirror lay shattered into hundreds of pieces on the floor.
Whoever had this tantrum in the elevator should get a reward because, at least, the school would get a new elevator. This one was older than Headmaster Palpatine himself, and using it was pretty risky if you didn’t want to plunge four floors into death.
“Who did this?”
“Nobody knows,” Rose replied. “They are trying to find out who took the elevator for the last time, but without cameras around the building, they are helpless.”
“Who cares,” Poe mentioned. “At least we’re free in the last two lessons!”
“Wait, what? That can’t be. We usually have now professor-”
“Ren. I know,” Finn interrupted. “I saw him in the morning walking past me. He didn’t even say hello.”
“Yep, sounds very much like Professor Ren.”
“Finn assumes it was him who did it,” Poe alluded.
You crossed your arms and let a small laugh out. “Pff, that’s a stupid accusation. What makes you believe it was Professor Ren?”
“I’m not sure, but he’s quite suspicious. It wasn’t even him who canceled the hours. The secretary announced it to us,” Finn explained in a mysterious tone, as if he was a detective about to solve the elevator case. “According to them, he disappeared just like that. Or can you imagine anyone else doing this?”
“No,” you replied quietly.
Sure, Professor Ren looked like all muscles, but it wouldn’t make sense since you had already seen him in the morning, and he seemed normal, like always. With a cold facial expression and the tiredness of this bullshit appearance. Not to forget an unknown phone call, which he hung up.
There was no reason to accuse Professor Ren of this, but it would be quite exciting to know if it was him and what consequences this would bring to him.
Your eyes fell to the ground, trying to proceed with how a noble professor who didn’t seem to be the type of people who gets sick in their life would do such a thing.
Whatever the reason for his sudden departure was, you had just unlocked the interest to find it out.