As it turns out, that had been my Western Civilization class, and Mr. Pearce's lesson had nothing to do with the Titanic or when it sank. Ten minutes after I'd been woken up—apparently Pearce had pushed me out of my desk—I had a sudden regret I'd slept through his entire class. It was clear he'd well-earned his place at Darwin's, and no doubt the favorite among students. The bell rang shortly after my nap, and I regretful shuffled to lunch. I was given funny looks in the hall, but they passed after a moment. It'd been going on all day, but it's not like I could blame them. I did look a tad feminine to those who believed otherwise. I was able to ignore them, for the most part. Not like I wasn't used to them—before I'd came here, the scar on the left side of my face caused people to double-take. It started on my forehead, ran through my ordinary eyebrow, and ended in the middle of my cheek. Well, it did before Nate bought some kind of tattoo makeup that ran about five-hundred bucks a jar. Though I can't say it wasn't worth the price—I'd almost forgotten I had a scar marring my face. Well, until I washed off the makeup and got a good look at the five others that tainted my body. All born within the same four minutes.
Four minutes to scar. Seven to kill. Twelve to change everything.
I shivered. Not here. Not now. You're safe. He doesn't know. I chanted this in my head until it convinced my body of its truth, and a few minutes later, I was standing with a tray full of food in the door of the Commons, trying to figure out where I would sit. Virtually every table was full, and somehow I believed male bathrooms were less accommodating in seating than female. I didn't even know where the library was, and even if I did, the testosterone in the air was clouding my brain to the point where I doubted I even knew my name. Then I noticed the doors leading to outside. I shrugged and headed that way. A few people gave me doe-eyed looks, as if I was walking directly into a train filled with C4 and gun power with a match in hand.
I rolled my eyes. So what if I wanted to sit outside? Was that were the pretty people ate? I glanced outside the glass doors, seeing that, indeed, a horde of genetically blessed teenagers all sat on the benches, chortling. I saw two blonds, along with a black guy grinning at something a brown-haired guy—who, I might add, looked like he'd based everything he knew about clothing on Grease—had said. He, of course, pulled it off and managed to look sexy. Funny how all those people end up finding each other and they're just immediately friends. As if their bond was based upon nothing but, "We're all stunningly handsome and confident, let's be friends and make those less physically gifted sob and form cults in our honor."
Ashamed, even as I did so, I turned around and headed back to some forlorn table by the tray drop-off. There was a good reason it was deserted, too; it smelled like watered down in vomit strained through a garbage bag. I discreetly covered my nose as I set my tray down and tried to calm my gag reflex.
The feeling of nausea vanished the second I tasted the food. It took me approximately ten minutes to finish it all. Which, even in my book, was a great record. If anything was to be said about my five feet and eleven inches, it was that I didn't get there by eating my spinach. In fact, I'm pretty sure the only reason I was this tall was because all the sugar and fat had somehow built up inside my body and mutated into a new form of growth hormone.
It took a minute of admiring my job well done to realize I still had fifty minutes of lunch to sit and be awkward. I couldn't even pull out my sketch book and doodle; this place was too packed with people to focus, and someone might catch a glimpse. I dumped my tray in the disposal behind me, which left me with forty nine minutes and thirty-six seconds to sit and be awkward. It was clear in the first five minutes no one was going to sit by me; my table was barren.
I sighed and walked passed it, deciding on reverting to my antisocial behavior and leave lunch altogether. I headed to my next class, which was Health, and prayed it was empty.
I landed on my bed with a melodramatic flop.
It was the end of the week, and I wanted to nap. As it turns out, switching from your run-of-the-mill public school into an incredibly elite and foreign boarding school wasn't as easy as I assumed. Insert sarcastic laugh. I hadn't played the ever-addictive Conscription in five days. Five. Not to mention my backpack had broken the third day of school. The strap snapped from the weight of my books. I can't believe I'd ever complained about being bored on Monday. Now, determined to be intelligent here, I used my entire lunch period reading the text and finished the papers. Seriously, you'd think the fact that I was going to an all guy's school would be the main stress catalyst, but so far, I'd barely noticed there weren't any other girls. Then again, not like I noticed when there were girls. Thankfully, the heavy-duty makeup I used to hide my scar seemed to be worth the expense. It no longer received side-long glances from horrified passersbys, and it was as liberating as being a man was shackling. Instead of gawking at my scar, they were grimacing at my overall face. My heart still pounded in my chest every time someone made eye contact longer than two seconds, but my disguise seemed to do its job.
That's another thing; my supposed body guard hadn't shown up yet. I'd called Nate on Tuesday to nervously point this out, and he hadn't seemed surprised at all.
"I was literally just about to call you about this," he'd said, voice warbling with sheepishness. "The guy who was going to go got into a car accident on his way from London. Broke his leg and an arm, so we have to find someone else. Someone, you know, capable of fighting."
I'd sucked in a sharp breath. "Could it—"
"He ran into a tree, Cal," Nate said flatly. "Unless they've been plotting your death since the fifties, planted that tree, and waited for your overseer to hit it, I doubt it was them."
I grimaced. "Well, I don't want a guy who can barely keep himself alive keeping me alive, anyway. When will you guys be able to find someone else?"
A long pause. "Days, if we're lucky. Few weeks, if we're not."
So, basically, I was on my own for a sadly estimated number of days. I had to have enough faith in the system to have hidden me well-enough that I wouldn't need a guard.
I thought about getting up and starting the insane work human beings had somehow condensed into twelve square inches of paper, but then I reminded myself that the beds here were incredibly expensive, and I probably shouldn't waste comfort like that.
A loud crash caused me to jerk out of my bed with a deep grunt. My face felt numb from how I'd been laying on it, and my wig was slightly out of place. The digital clock sitting on my bedside table was burning the numbers 3:47 into my retinas. So much for the nap; I had the sinking feeling I wouldn't be able to fall back asleep.
Then, another noise sounded from the window to my left. My entire body froze, though I should've leapt into action right there. Still, the only thought my mind was able to produce was, "Ohmigod, they found me. Ohmigod. Ohmigod. Oh. Omigod. Crapcrapcrap."
I tried my hardest to remain asleep, slowly turning my head towards the window. Sure enough, there was a dark figure attempting to pry it open. Nate had made sure my room had a fire escape, but I suppose that helped my attacker in as much as it would help me out. My heart was thundering in my throat, and I slid my hand under my pillow, only to realize I had yet to unpack any of my self-defense objects. I cursed, knowing I was too far from the suitcase. I didn't think they'd find me at all, let alone this quickly.
I swallowed, slithering out of bed and landing on the floor. My breathing was shallow and I could feel the tears in my eyes. I felt along the carpet, cringing as I heard him try to slid open the window lock again. My jaw was clamped together so hard it hurt, and my convulsing chest didn't help.
How? How did they know?
Doesn't matter, I told myself. They know. You need to get out.
Then came the horrifying sound of the window lock going click, and right then I knew it was too late. I'd barely made it five feet across the floor I was so petrified. I heard the window sliding open, and crawled quickly towards the other bed. My fingers trembled over the zipper, but I figured the time for sublimity was over. I ripped at the zipper and reached into the pocket I knew my pepper spray was in. There—my fingers curled around the small bottle and the feeling of slight security weighted my gut.
Feet hit the floor behind me. I leapt to a stand, spun around and jammed my finger down on the spray button, aimed in the general direction of the silhouetted body.
Liquid splashed into my face, and it took only a moment for me to feel the intense burn in my eyes.
"PISS!" I bellowed, torn between expressing my pain and eliminating the man that had just come through my window.
"What the—" a voice spat, before being cut off as I chucked the small can at them. It landed with a gratifying tck as they cussed. With my hands clamped on my eyes, I charged at them.
But if anything could be said about pepper spray, it's how effectively it blinds you. I'd intended to aim at the man, but sorely missed and ran straight into something wooden at thigh-height, which caused me to careen into the floor. I cursed heavily as my face slammed into the ground, my legs flailing in the air. Unsure what would happen now, I began thrashing all my limbs, fully expecting to be held down.
My eyes felt like acid had been poured directly into them. Swear to God, if I could've seen anything, it would've been the smoke rising off my eyes. It was like someone had ripped them from their sockets and dipped them in bleach.
"What the fuck?" a deep voice roared, attempting to grab one of my wrists.
I responded quickly, using they hand they'd gripped to rip them the floor beside me. The weight was heavy, but the man had been taken off guard and allowed me to jerk him to the floor beside me. Still blinded and eyes searing with pain, I slammed my finger tips under his ribcage and aimed for the spot Nate had made me memorize—the kidneys. I heard him choke in both pain and shock, giving me time to roll onto my knees and slam the heel of my hand into his nose—well, where I thought his nose was. The hit man was taller than I'd expected, so I ended up hitting the edge of his jaw instead, but judging from the grunt I'd received, it was still effective.
Figuring him to be incapacitated as I'd get him, I sprang off his chest—making sure to give it a good kneeing first—and bolted towards my best bet for the door. Unfortunately, the sizzling in my eyes distracted me and I ended up running flat-out into the wall. The burn in my eyes was now accompanied by a strong throbbing in my head, and I couldn't do anything other than roll on the ground, moaning and attempting to wipe the pepper spray out.
God, I thought. I'm going to die here, on this floor, because I'd screwed up my own attack. God. I'm stupid. I'm so stupid I was killed by pepper spraying myself. Ow. Tears burst from my eyes. I couldn't die here. I couldn't. But then I heard the sound of footsteps, and they stopped right in front of my face, and I thought, No way in hell am I dying here.
"Jesus," the man gasped, still feeling the effects from my attack, giving me a small bit of hope. "What the fuck is—" the moment I felt his hand wrap around my arm, I clamped onto his wrist and lunged. But this time he'd been prepared, and pulled my forward, slamming me with his fist so hard I swear my already blind eyes went blank for a moment.
"I knew you'd do that again, you spastic twig," he growled and yanked me into the air. With his considerably greater strength, it jerked my backwards, causing me to run straight into his chest. His arms immediately clamped around me in an iron grip, lifting me off the floor.
My entire body was writhing, but his arms didn't waver. I turned my head in attempt to bite something, but due to my lacking visuals, it failed. "Let me go!" I roared, kicking wildly and hitting nothing.
"Okay," he bellowed, staggering from the weight of one of my kicks. "Let's get something straight here—you hit me first. I didn't—"
"Let. Me. Go!" I screamed, thrashing more in his arms. There had to be a way out of his grip—there had to be! God, somewhere in my head I knew how to get out of this hold! Why couldn't I remember?
"Jesus! I'm not trying to hurt you—fuck—" I suddenly jerked all my weight to the front, flinging my assailant over my head. He was slammed into the floor, and my vision was still blurry, but I knew for sure which was the door was. I sprung forward, hands in front of me prepared to grasp for a handle. But I found more than the handle.
I found myself sprawled back on the floor, coughing from the sudden impact. Not again. There was a figure standing over me in the doorway. The light was flicked on.
"What the hell is going on here?" the figure bellowed. It wasn't the assassin's voice, thanks god, but my head was too muddled to respond. "It's three AM! What the hell are you two doing?" A reasonable pause. "Is that blood?"
"Yes," snapped the deep voice from behind me. The venom in his tone could be compared to the pepper spray in my eyes, it was so severe. I suppose my hit to his kidney still affected him, because he had to pant out his sentence. "I don't—know—who the fuck—he thinks I—am—but I—was com—ing in—and he—tried—to tackle me—but acci—dentally—blinded—himself." A pause. "Brilliant—by the—way."
Liar! I wanted to scream. You're here to kill me, bastard!
The man in the doorway scoffed. "You," he said, and my eyes just barely picked out a finger pointing at me. "Up.
I sustained my fetal position, and groaned in response. There was a man here to kill me, and I couldn't even tell the dorm administrator.
I heard the murderer chuckle. "Did I mention—he ran into a few walls—on his violent tirade?" he asked, quite cheerily despite the choppiness of his words. "Because—he did. Four speed."
The dorm attendant sighed in a way I found insulting, but leaned down and peeled me off the floor. My entire world was suddenly unstable, and I just now felt the effects of the guy's punch. My cheek throbbed where he'd hit, my eyes watering so much the pepper spray was only a slight burn now.
"Christ, kid," the attendant muttered, looking me good in the face. "Did you pepper spray yourself? Seriously?"
I could only grunt back.
Another sigh. He looked behind me, at my attacker. "I take it you gave him the shiner?"
The man must've nodded, because the attendant looked back at me and whistled, "He got you good." He threw my arm over his shoulder, supporting my weight. "Come on. Let's get you checked out, and you can tell me what happened."
Not that I had a choice.
After being practically dragged to the nurse and getting a heavenly solution for my eyes, I found myself sitting across from my apparently not-assassin on nurse beds. Even if he hadn't been trying to kill me, I couldn't help glaring at him with an ice pack over one purpling eye and a watery solution dribbling from the bloodshot other.
Oh, and another thing; if I hadn't sprayed myself in the freaking eye before charging at him in the dorm, there was no way in hell I'd have attacked this guy. Once my vision had come into full focus, I was able to take note of his six-three frame and deadly expression. Oh, yes, and the tattoos. Even with bloody gauze sticking out of his mouth from my misplaced attack, his mutual glare gave me goose bumps.
The thirty year-old dorm attendant, Mr. Menezzi, sat on a plastic chair in the corner, having already given up on trying to stop the communal looks of hatred and annoyance between my new best friend and I.
"Let me get this straight," he said, rubbing his eyes and appearing as exhausted as I felt. He pointed a finger and Tall, Dark, and Brooding. "You haven't been here this entire week because you 'were visiting your grandmother in Norway'," Menezzi said this with a great deal of doubt. "So he—" a thumb was jerked in my quasi-male direction "—thought you were a burglar sneaking in, tried jumping you, but accidentally spray himself with mace…" Mr. Menezzi failed to disguise his snickers, making me momentarily aim my death ray in his general direction. He looked up, the grin still on his face. "Okay, okay—Jesus! I'm done laughing. I swear." Menezzi broke his word and allowed another chuckle, this time accompanying it with a head shake.
"Okay," he re-started, pointing at me again. "You sprayed yourself with mace, and not knowing what else to do, Calvin, you threw the can at Ian, charged him, ran into the wall, and as Ian was helping you up, you attacked him again, punched him in the mouth, ran for the door, ran into the wall a second time," Menezzi didn't bother hiding his laughter this time, "but Ian recovered, attempted to get you to your feet, so you attacked him again, so this time he punched you in the face, tried to get a hold of you, but you broke free, made a second run for the door, but I opened it, officially knocking you out." Menezzi paused, eyeing both of us. "Correct?"
Ian and I both nodded mutely, refusing to break our violent eye contact.
"Well," Menezzi sighed, slapping both his knees. "This was great fun, but I don't care to punish either of you for beating the crap out of each other." I felt he was being generous to me by adding the 'each other' part. We all knew I would've been screwed in that fight, and only I knew I was a girl. I intensified my glare.
"Ian?" he added, swinging his head towards my not-so-assassin, who'd been taken off guard and broken eye contact. I smirked when I saw him flinch in annoyance at losing.
Haha, bitch, I wanted to say. You broke the stare. I win.
Menezzi seemed to notice the small battlefield and rolled his eyes. "Ian," he continued, "you skipped the first week of school—don't even give me that shit, you were sneaking in. Your grandmother is punctual, if not the Hitler of time keeping. You'll have seven hours of detention to pay in the next week." Ian's face remained mildly annoyed. Menezzi stretched out and yawned, then got to a stand and gave us both withering looks. "Well, I'm tired as fuck, so enjoy rooming together, boys."
Menezzi was nearly out the door when we processed his words.
"Wait—what?" I sputtered, leaping off my seat and the world spun for a moment, but I was too mortified at Menezzi's comment to be bothered by it. I looked at Ian, who seemed impassive, then back to Menezzi, who was staring at me with raised eyebrows.
"I'm not supposed to have a roommate," I stated, heart picking up. "The headmaster specified that. I room alone." No—no! I couldn't room with him! Not just because he was a dick! Because I had no dick! But Menezzi didn't know that. My most valid argument and it was taboo. Thank the heavens for the invention of irony, because God forbid my life actually be simple.
"How great for the headmaster," Menezzi snorted, shaking his head. "But we've already had dorm shortages this year, and because dearest Ian here didn't show up for registration on Monday, he was automatically assigned to the last one left—yours."
I blinked at him. "Um, no," I replied, shaking my head. "That won't work. There's got to be—"
The look on the administrator's face shut both my mouth. A thin, irritated smile nearly split his face in half. "Listen here, kid," he snapped, his muddied green eyes staring me down with the weight of a humpback whale. "I don't care how much damned money your mummy paid to have you dorm alone, Calvin. I'm not this tired for no goddamned reason. Dorming was insane this year. Some rooms have three kids in them. You'll just have to bloody take it as it is."
And with that, he left.
The words that ran through my head suggested I no longer had a problem cursing, but that was only a small check on the apparently growing list of my problems.