My Best Friend is a Prince from Another World



Pt. II, Ch. 7: “OK, maybe there would be a bright side to it.”


Weds, Sept 2
Upper School Main Building

I was wearing my glasses again and had decided to learn more about side effects before letting someone else use magic on me. I had woken up in the middle of the night, mostly with just the usual need to go to the bathroom, but also with a headache. When I came back to bed, I wanted to read a little before going back to sleep, but the spell must have been in a halfway state of wearing off - my eyes were too blurry to read, but not yet back to a normal level where my glasses were comfortable.

The headache was gone in the morning, but the missed sleep had me grumpy, as did the prospect of my first PE class. Dormer had sent his housekeeper over again, and after breakfast, the streetcar was the same. The main difference was that instead of the opening assembly, we had to go straight to our homeroom.

On the way, we stopped by our “mailboxes” - a crate of folders at one end of the floor where the second-year homerooms were. Joel checked his first; it had a bunch of fliers for clubs, and for class events. Mine had the same, which I stuffed in my backpack, but there was also a card, which said

Please come by to see me in my office any time after the 6th period. - Ms. G. Calliot

It was dated the day before. Crud. Nothing to do about it now; this was the teacher for my advanced World History course. I had yet to meet her, as I’d have the first class in the afternoon. Homeroom was quick; our class had a special double period of PE to get to, and we were dismissed to go change.

Joel and I followed the rest of the class, as beyond “somewhere in the Sports Center building” I had no idea where we were supposed to go, and I don’t think Joel did either. As it turns out, there were four homerooms out of the ten in the 2nd-year class all set to do the annual fitness testing and gym orientation, and we were supposed to meet at the main field behind the building.

Our class got split between boys and girls, and the boys from our group got to run through something annoyingly like the “Presidential physical fitness tests” we were subjected to in elementary school. Not everything was the same - there were no weight sets involved in elementary school - but I still couldn’t do a pull-up. The least annoying part was the longer run, or jog in my case - and until I looked up the conversion of miles to meters, I’d felt good about my time. In gym class the prior year I’d never been able to get more than a few seconds under 10 minutes a mile. Had a little less than a year more bicycling over a bridge helped? I was at 9:15, which sounded good until later when I checked the conversion to miles - 1500 meters are just enough short of a mile that I was basically where I’d been a year before.

We were about to be dismissed to go to our third period classes with a fair bit of time to spare, and I was dreading having to use the shower around other people, when the gym teacher called out “Mark Berg and Joel Ross, I need to talk to you before you go.”

So, we did. “You two are transfers?” he asked. When we nodded, he continued. “That’d be why we don’t have a record of you passing a swim test last year. After you change, drop by the PE department office. We’ll have to schedule you for one.”

We changed, and we went by the office and signed up to take our swim test with a bunch of first years the following week. On the way out, Joel was concerned. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to pass that,” he said.

“Why not? We both had swimming in 8th grade, you passed that.”

“We weren’t in the same gym classes that year, remember? I passed the class, but I think it was mostly the teacher taking pity. I haven’t tried swimming since.”

“Urk,” I grunted. “They said it’s not timed, you just swim to the other end, no particular way. Just kick your way down on your back, that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Says the guy who has floated around in a pond nearly every summer.”

I shook my head. “Fine, fine. Why didn’t you ask what happens if you don’t pass?”

“I didn’t think it applied to us, but it was in the student handbook. I get to take swim lessons as my PE.”

“That doesn’t sound bad,” I said.

“It would be a lot of extra time on top of soccer.”

“Maybe the swim classes are co-ed? If so, you’d meet some first-year girls.”

We were almost to our classroom, but he laughed. “OK,” he said, “maybe there would be a bright side to it.”

Up until the afternoon, the day went pretty much like the day before. Mr. Kirill’s English class and then social studies, before lunch. Today there was a choice of hot lunches - slices of something called sibbat breast, a white meat that looked a bit like chicken or turkey, in a creamy sauce, or a baked macaroni-and-tomato sauce. Joel tried the sibbat, but I figured I’d best be cautious about meats I’d never heard of and got the macaroni. Jack and Kai had brought lunch as usual; today Amy joined the four of us and had brought her own lunch as well.

Joel liked the sibbat, although he said it tasted a little fishy. From what Kai and Amy said, they were a distant relative of dragons, but domesticated and not much bigger than a turkey. Having a backbone plus four legs and wings pretty much precluded being related to anything we have on earth. I was curious to see them but eating one… not so much.

After lunch, we had math, and then we split up; Joel had a free period, while the rest of our group had electives. My own, advanced world history was over in the other classroom building, a floor down from the third-year classrooms, and it was the first classroom I saw that looked a little different. Most of the classrooms were a regular grid of desks set apart from each other, with a few more in each room than there were students. This one was set up with the kind of one-piece chair-and-writing table a lot of our classrooms at home had. They were arranged in a circle, and while there was a big desk at the head of the room, the teacher was sitting in one of the same chairs.

I wasn’t the first to arrive but there weren’t many students yet. Dean Jerdew had told me the class was going to be mostly first years, who had either placed out of the regular world history class with their exam scores or had done the honors history course at the lower school. Since the seating was a circle, there wasn’t any way to hide in the back like I usually would have.

A large group of students came in just after me; judging by the conversations, they must have all known each other. While we weren’t required to wear the uniform jacket and tie on a non-assembly day, most people had ditched only the jacket; some of the girls had switched to a bow of the same blue instead of the tie. It still seemed very formal compared to school at home and looking out at everyone rather that at their backs I felt a little conscious of having skipped the tie myself.

It was not long before maybe three quarters of the seats were filled, and the teacher called roll. I hadn’t expected to recognize any of the names in the class, and we must have been about half-way through when I caught a name that sounded familiar. “Tess Hahn?” The “Yes, ma’am” came back from a short blonde girl, seated in the group near the teacher. It took me a minute, but I realized where I’d seen her - she was one of the two we’d seen on the streetcar yesterday, and who had been the 1st year class rep at the opening assembly.

The first class was typical - we got a syllabus, our textbook, and a pile of photocopied readings. It sounded like we were going to be writing a lot for the class; that worried me. Like I told the dean, I’ve never been good at finishing papers on time.

Then it was over, and I figured this was a good time to check in with the teacher. Walking up to the front as others filed out, I asked “Ms. Calliot? You left a card in my mailbox, saying I should stop by your office.”

“Yes. Thank you for checking in, Mark,” she said. “I left it yesterday, but I suppose you didn’t see it until this morning.”

I gave an embarrassed shrug, “Sorry about that.”

“No problem,” she said. “Dean Jerdew explained your situation to me. Do you have a free period now?”

When I nodded, she went on. “Then please follow along to the faculty office, and we can talk now rather than after the end of the day.”

When we got there, and she’d set things down, she asked me, “Do you know why I asked to speak to you?”

“I don’t,” I said, “but to guess, it’s about my placement into your class?”

She thought for a moment. “That’s a decent guess, and it’s indirectly the case. It’s more about making sure you’re able to succeed at this school overall.”

I must have looked confused. She went on, “I’m sure the dean mentioned that it’s unusual to have students with your mixed academic background, especially on scholarship.”

When I needed, she went on, “when that’s happened, or when we’ve for other reasons taken students who’ve had academic challenges, the school usually assigns a teacher as an extra academic counselor of sorts. Because of your interest in this class, and because I am not responsible for a homeroom this year, the dean asked me to do that for you.”

“I see.”

“We’ll meet, once a week to start, probably less later in the year. We’ll go over how you’re doing in your other classes, and if needed, I can connect you to other resources, like tutoring or extra credit work.”


I must have looked or sounded nervous, “This really isn’t a bad thing, Mark. For some students, they just need the extra help learning the material. In your case, from what the Dean said, you mostly have trouble with due dates and staying motivated. The motivation must come from you, but I can at least help you keep schedules on track.

“Normally this isn’t mandatory, just highly encouraged, but from what I’ve heard about your record, I do have to ask you to either take this seriously if you’d like to remain in my class as an advanced-honors elective. We do a lot of writing in this class, and you won’t have multiple-choice tests to fall back on.”

“What do you need me to do?” I asked.

“In general, I’d like you to keep a log of all your homework for these first two weeks of school. For my class, I want you to get started on the first paper immediately, and I’d like you to get back to me with a couple of possible topics related to our first term’s material as soon as you can. Did you read the syllabus during class?”

I’d scanned it. “Kind of?”

“Please have a longer look. Let’s check in briefly after the class on Saturday,” she said, “and if you can, I’d like you to propose the topics then in case they won’t work, or one of them needs refining.”

“OK,” I said.

“No questions for me?” she asked.

I shook my head. “This is all really new for me. If you’ve got a few minutes on Saturday, maybe I’ll have some then?”

I met up with Joel back at our homeroom. “What was that card about?” he asked.

“The dean asked the history teacher to keep an eye on my keeping up with the work,” I said.

Joel shrugged. “Doesn’t sound too bad.”

“I guess not,” I said. “I’m going to have to start on a paper really early, though.”

“You’re the one who wanted to take the equivalent of AP Euro.”

“Don’t remind me.”

After we got home, Dormer dropped by to let us know that the foreign ministry had approved his request, and that Ms. Yali would start on magic lessons for Joel soon. I was welcome to join.

For tomorrow, it seemed like a good day to try biking; Joel had his first Obdresti Literature class and had to be there one period before I did, and then he would be going to meet soccer club people after classes got out.


About the author


  • California, USA

Bio: Amateur SF/fantasy writer. Professional computer geek. Something of a grouchy old man, but mostly harmless.

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