You found yourself sitting on a large bench on top of a small bridge, admiring the view of the sunrise from afar with the cottage houses underneath. The chilly autumn wind flew past your nose, and chirping birds kept you entertained as you observed the world waking up in front of you. A small cup of coffee kept your hands warm as the various forms of clouds moved across the sky like the waves across the sea. At least today, it didn't look like it was going to rain.
Neither Qi'ra nor your mother moved out of bed in the morning when you decided to sneak out at six o'clock to enjoy the last two hours of dawn before you would go back to school. It was a risky idea but a worthy one.
Qi'ra drifted off like a stone, yet she was not dreaming. Her snores, which came from the guest room, were so loud it could even wake a bear from its winter sleep. Possibly one of the reasons why you got up so early in the first place.
What are you supposed to do in the last year of a teenage life except making vital decisions? University or work? Abroad or inland? Party or study? Continue or give up?
Next to you lay your psychology notebook that couldn't help you with this decision either.
It's impossible to know at such a young age what you want to do with the rest of your life, which path you should take for it, and what you have to sacrifice to achieve your purpose in life.
And even though it was bright and early in the morning, time passed so quickly that you didn't notice your coffee had gone cold.
Getting a surprise test written on a birthday by a teacher who strongly disliked you sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So why not make it one of the memorable ones too. After all, it was your day. Indeed, an unforgettable moment in your last teen year.
Your new black wrist bandage that seemed to other people like an accessory on your hand didn't go away without comments as you passed through the schoolyard.
What happened? Did it hurt? You kind of look like a boxer! Writing now with the devil's hand, huh?
Of course, you couldn't dismiss visiting Maz after not having seen her for a week. All those years before, she used to bake cinnamon rolls on your birthday. But today, you only received from her two donuts, which were baked with love.
The moment you entered your classroom, you got surprised by a loud Happy Birthday scream. Rose and Finn were all gathered around your desk on which Poe randomly sat like it was his own. Among their joyful faces, they were clapping and cheering almost as loud as you knew it from the grandstand in the sporting arena.
"You remembered?" you marveled in a high-pitched tone, eyes widening in delight.
"We weren't sure if you would show up, but I mean... what kind of friends are we to forget your birthday?" Finn exclaimed in doubt while scratching his head.
You advanced and hugged them all tightly, thanking each one of them for congratulating you. Letting a tear flow was too much, but the way Finn hugged you back brought it nearly out of you.
As you were about to slip into a hug with Poe, he carelessly snatched off your hat and replaced it with a pink, white polka-dotted party hat of which the string grazed against your chin.
"Just a style change," Poe uttered a quip with a wink.
"And what if I don't like it?" you prompted him good-humoredly with an unsaid purpose as you stepped closer between his legs.
At the right moment, you tried to steal your hat from Poe, who held it behind his back, but without success. Within seconds and an amused chuckle, he only stretched his arm higher up so you couldn't reach it anymore.
"Uh-uh! You gotta stick with it until school's over."
You heaved a sigh and turned over to Finn and Rose, who looked at you in awe as if you were their little child finally growing up.
"I honestly didn't expect my birthday to start that great. I even doubt anything could ruin it," you chirped with harmony and confidence.
A loud clearing of the throat came from the door and interrupted your enjoyment. Too bad you were all already familiar with it.
"Sit down, everyone, and be quiet!" ordered a man with a dark voice.
Professor Ren stood by the door, observing the class in shame. He held his briefcase in his hand like he always did before he entered the classroom. Always waiting for you to sit like soldiers on your benches and greet him all at once.
Like the pigeons on the streets, everyone flew to their seats as fast as they could.
"You sure 'bout that? You might wanna take your words back," you heard Poe whisper in your ear.
Slightly, you turned your head to Poe. With a brooding expression on your face, you shared identical thoughts.
If Monday was a person, it would be Professor Ren. Funny how you used to think it was Mr. Hux. Yet even your psychology teacher beat him on that.
"The same goes for you, Mr. Dameron," Professor Ren recalled while walking up to his desk.
When Headmaster Palpatine announced the following news for the week, Poe disappeared into the back row, with your hat still in his possession. After the prayer, you sat down and patiently waited for your psychology teacher to distribute the tests.
Professor Ren placed his hands on the leather briefcase as his gaze met yours. For a moment, he studied the apparently new changes on you that were invisible. As if it was possible to look any different than twenty-four hours before.
"I see you're wearing a new hat. Hm..." —he paused and observed your cone on your head— "pink doesn't seem to be your color."
His gaze cast back to his briefcase, of which he started to take out his stack of folders.
And working as a teacher with an attitude and ego like yours seems to be the wrong career choice. But what do I know?
"It's her birthday!" Rose declared.
Yours and Professor Ren's eyes shot back to her in surprise. Rose's bright eyes of an optimist lingered at her hands as she began to pinch her fingers together, which started to turn red and sweaty.
"I am aware of that, Miss Tico. You made it loud and clear. The next time you speak up in my class without my permission, I will not hesitate to give you detention," Professor Ren affirmed coldly without blinking.
Rose had nothing to say to this. There was an incomprehensible look in her sight. Like a small light gushing away. As if she came to the realization that her childhood has ended.
Who would have guessed that currently, the most popular teacher would speak in such a tone with the brightest student in the class? No one ever threatened Rose to give detention. Every teacher liked her, even Mr. Hux.
"She was just trying to explain to you why I'm wearing this" —you grumpily took of the party hat and placed it on the table— "pompous hat. No need to speak to her in such a disrespectful manner."
Professor Ren's eyes shot back at you so steady like he wouldn't harm you, yet he was pretending. You knew if he could, he would hurt you within seconds.
"Spare me your act of courage for defending your friend. You've done enough," he replied sharply.
By you, he probably meant Qi'ra. You would never forget how Ms. Rey just yesterday gave Professor Ren the cold shoulder. Instead of driving with him to his home (as is usually the case with people who were on a date to have another "cup of coffee,") she took a cab and left him standing in the cold rain in front of the sports arena. And you had the pleasure of watching it all from afar.
No wonder he was so cranky. You wouldn't be jumping around like a bendy deer with joy either if you would get dumped by a date.
"Now, as promised, I will hand out the test. You know the rules. Do not turn the page until I say so," Professor Ren stated clearly, as he walked through the rows.
As expected, he stopped at your bench, observing you sitting there waiting for the sheet of paper that would stress you out for the entire two hours. Waiting to mess up all again like you did last time.
"I hope you studied well. Not that you think, since it's your birthday, and you missed a week of school because of an incompetent accident of yours, that you won't write the test?"
Professor Ren didn't sound like he expected an answer from you. It was more of a reminder that in no way he pitied you.
"Certainly, professor. You made it loud and clear."
"Good girl," he muttered and slid the uncovered test on your desk.
An uncomfortable and quite disgusting shiver ran down at the back of your neck at this indirect compliment that sounded inappropriately in so many ways. But, in no way could he meant it the way you just imagined it for a second. You were certain.
Everyone was already sweating in fear of forgetting what they have studied while holding a pen in their hand and biting it out of pure nervousness.
Professor Ren walked up to the front of the board, ready to give the signal to turn the test over, but something was missing. He still hadn't moved his chair next to you. He told Ms. Rey he would. You couldn't possibly write the test with your injured hand and much less with your left hand.
Professor Ren held his hands on his hips and took a deep breath. And at the exact precise moment, as he gave the class a signal, that's where it happened...
A shrill and annoyingly loud sound that went off and kept repeating itself grabbed your attention, making everyone instantly drop their pens and stand up.
Alarmed in concern, Professor Ren opened the door to find students, all assembling like rats from different classes and heading with their heavy footsteps to the nearest exit door.
"You!" —Professor Ren pointed with his finger at Rose— "close the windows, turn off the lights, and evacuate the class!"
Getting the responsibility was nothing new for Rose. She tightened her lips and did as told while the teacher and the rest of the class frantically made their way out.
Poe and Finn waited by the door, hurrying you. To gain some time, you helped Rose to turn off the lights. There were only three classes on the third floor, so as soon as Rose closed the door, you rushed all together down the stairs at a fast pace into the fresh air.
Once outside in the schoolyard, each class stood all together gathered up in a group with their current teacher. It seemed that no one had expected the fire alarm to turn on, which only meant that it was not the preparation for a fire drill.
"Do you see our class anywhere?" Finn asked with narrowed eyes, using his hand as a prop to avoid the sunlight blending his sight.
"There! I see Kaydel's blond hair buns," Poe remarked.
You rushed to your group of class as the others seemed to have been waiting for you. Yet, the person that was in the position to look out for you was nowhere nearby.
"Why does Professor Ren always disappear when something happens?" you wondered aloud. "First the elevator, now this?"
"It can't get any better, huh?" Kaydel added with a smirk.
You rashly looked around at the other classes, somehow hoping to find him, and yet, your thoughts suddenly brought you to another particular person.
"You mean the guy from the choir? I told you to stay away from him," Kaydel reminded you harshly.
"He took me to the hospital, and aside from his flirty comments, he seems nice."
Kaydel lowered her head and murmured to your ear so that nobody around you could hear it.
"I recently found out that aside from his bad reputation at his old school, he was engaged in a secret bet about who could deflower the most girls for real money. He would pick them up randomly one by one and then drop them afterward like a banana peel. Now imagine who won the most money."
Your eyes grew round in disbelief. "That's horrible!"
"I'm sure this is not the only evil thing he did. I still don't understand how Headmaster Palpatine could accept him into our school. But you know what people say now anyway. Looks like the old mister got a problem with the minister of education."
Vicrul had warned you before to not be friends with him, but the belief that he would do something like this... The constant flirting around, doing everything to make you like him, taking you home on his motorcycle...
"I'm sure that by now he has realized his mistake and feels guilty about it and wouldn't do such a thing again," you tried blindly to defend him.
Kaydel didn't seem to fancy your comment as she narrowed her brown eyes and gave you a stern look, showing her eyebrows high above on her little forehead.
"How can you defend a man whose only goal is to devirginize us?"
"God, no, I would never defend him! What he did is absolutely disgusting, but I just think - that everyone deserves a second chance," you attempted to make your point out clear. "He's in a new school with new chances, and I think he's really trying to be a better person."
"You make it sound like losing our virginity has no value!" she responded sternly.
"No, Kaydel that's not what I said—"
She ignored your final words with a loss of sight and bumped her arm against yours as she moved past you. Your injured hand got to feel every nerve tightening inside and exploding all at once, at which you could only express a painfully quiet whimper.
You briefly grabbed your bandage in the hope the pain would slow down. Although it's been a week now where your hand rested for good, it still hurt. You could move your fingers, but only slowly.
Looking back at Kaydel, you noticed the red hair from a man of medium height, who wasn't much taller than Finn, talking with a slide smile to Rose. In order not to miss anything, you made your way forward to the group.
"Why is he here?" you asked Poe in a low tone, who stood behind Rose.
"He replaces Ren's position," he replied. "But he doesn't know why either."
Your gaze fell on Mr. Hux, who was looking down at Rose, discussing how long you still would be standing out here.
"As long as we haven't found the cause of the fire alarm, it is not safe for the students to return to their classrooms," Mr. Hux stated loudly.
"Do we know who caused it?" Rose asked.
"Unfortunately, no. But I believe our extraordinary teachers are looking through the entire building to find the responsible one."
With Professor Ren's second disappearance and the undiscovered cause for the fire alarm, it didn't look like you'd be writing the test any time soon. In fact, the last time you took the psychology test, the two hours weren't enough. Every minute counted, so you could say that today was your lucky birthday.
"Besides school, how are you doing, Mr. Hux?" Rose asked all over, this time in her charming voice that she seemed to use on teachers who refused to round her number on the test for one point higher.
"Well..." —he clasped his hands behind his back and stuck out his chest with his gaze narrowed to the floor— "you see... my cat, Millicent... hasn't returned from her walk, and I'm quite concerned about her."
He sounded like he was on the edge of a breakdown, trying to hold it in. Like many others, Mr. Hux wasn't quite the man who talked about their well-being as well as how he truly felt. And yet, his emotions took control over him because of a beautiful cat you once saw when Professor Ren brought him home.
"Surely she'll be back soon," Rose tried to comfort him.
Mr. Hux could only muster a brief smile that quickly disappeared. And so, he stayed outside with you for a good quarter of an hour in the beautiful sunlight. After a while, it got warm in his black coat, so he took it off and hung it over his arm, marching around the group and talking to other teachers. Ms. Holdo was there too. She stood next to the stairs with some other teachers around. For a second, you thought about walking up to her, yet you let it be. Mr. Hux wouldn't want you to distance yourself from the class.
Shortly after, the students were sent back to their classrooms. The cause for the fire alarm hasn't been confirmed, and neither the person who was responsible for it.
What may have questioned everyone was that even though you still had a full hour of psychology class, Professor Ren didn't show up.
It came to a free period on which Rose suggested spending it in the cafeteria. You were sitting at the table far behind, drinking water and orange juice (soda drinks weren't allowed), and chat about your accident, such as everything you missed.
It seemed that you had missed, actually quite a lot. Professor Ren was polite and respectful for the whole week and even greeted his students in the hallways. This was hard for you to imagine and even harder to believe. On Thursdays, they served cheeseburgers in the canteen, and for dessert, they had pumpkin pie. Headmaster Palpatine fell over his long robe in the hallways, Ms. Rey shouted for the first time at a student, and Mr. Hux didn't insult anyone in the class for being incompetent to solve a calculation.
As the school hours passed, so did your appetite when it was time for lunch. A hard roll with butter and the donuts Maz gave you made your empty stomach a bit fuller.
Maybe it was a mistake to get up in the morning without telling anyone that you were at school. But at the same time, you had a tracking service on your phone, so there was no need to worry about finding you. There were no messages. Neither from your mother nor from Qi'ra, so everything was as usual without any trouble.
The tinkling of the bell rang for the last time. Your cozy hat was back on your head and your pink party cone in the paper trash. On your way out, you took a closer look at the hallways. The cold walls were old, covered with tiny holes between the stones of which the breeze was felt on the fingertips. You could almost think your school was the German version of the Oxford University, just much smaller. The lanterns never worked, which didn't bother anyone because who would be out here at night needing them anyway?
You had one rule to follow. Not to leave the school until Qi'ra would pick you up. But when you walked out the big entrance door and looked through the large windows, where the Nightsisters statues stood high above you, there was no grey golf car in view. You sat down by the window, feeling the cold stone against your bare thigh, and started to dangle with one leg.
"Waiting for someone?"
The voice from behind was gentle, and it belonged to Vicrul with whom it was now forbidden to match that word.
You turned your head and glanced up at him. He stood there with his loosened dark blue tie, and his white shirt was not tucked into his pants, while his backpack hung over one shoulder.
You didn't form a smile, nodded or even acknowledge him in any way. It was as if you were between a wall. So close yet so far away.
His gaze fell on your wrist bandage, and he grew a smirk.
"I'm sure you're already annoyed by telling how this accident happened."
"I'm not annoyed," you responded plainly, tightening your lips.
You tried to avoid eye contact with him as much as possible, so you just kept staring outside the window, waiting for your free taxi to arrive. Waiting for a sign. A hint.
Vicrul tossed his backpack to the floor and sat right next to you. Out of reflex, you immediately pulled down your skirt and backed up to leave some space between the two of you.
"Something's bothering you?" he asked in a soft voice.
"Nope," you lied and took your phone out to look at any notifications or missed calls. You placed the phone on the wall next to you as you noticed how Vicrul was trying to read you, to read your emotions, your reason for lacking contact with him.
"Are you hungry?" he broke the silence.
His request that he once asked you already a while ago made you look at him again attentively as if he knew what to say to receive your attention. The only word that was missing behind this beautiful sentence was love.
"I cooked some delicious chili con carne, and I have a big pot on the stove at home that needs to be eaten. That would be quite unpleasant to throw it away after putting so much effort into it, don't you think?" he continued.
"Are you trying to lure me into your house?" you demanded firmly.
"You had me at chili con carne," you indicated with a chuckle, brushing your nose.
And that's exactly how you broke the first rule. Both of you stood up at the same time and headed to the stairs.
On the way downstairs, you couldn't feel your phone in your pocket and quickly jogged back up the stairs. You took your phone and went down the stairs, where Vicrul was already waiting in the schoolyard.
As if by a firebolt, you heard and felt from behind a dull fall of a stone. Your heartbeat began to race, and the tingling over your neck gave you goosebumps. When you quickly turned around, you felt the dust from the stone in your eyes, craving into you like sand. Just where you were standing seconds ago, you found the statue of one of the Nightsisters cracked in two.
"Is everything all right with you?" Vicrul asked in a worried tone, only to find your gaze directed downward with a frown. You could even believe he sounded more frightened about your life than you over your own.
"If I were still standing there, you could take me to the hospital for the second time," you let a nervous laugh out.
You looked up from where the figure had fallen, but nothing could ever have pushed it down, neither from up there nor anywhere else. And if it did, statues can't fall from the same place just like that, especially when they stood like this for over eighty years peacefully.
Only moments later, as if nothing had happened, you sat on Vicrul's motorcycle, arms wrapped around his body on your way to his beloved home.