I massaged my temples as I left Mr Tailor's office behind, Brad and Niall being left behind too. There was a dull throbbing growing in my head, brought on by a combination of worry for Brad and a lack of sleep. Trying desperately to keep my blurry eyes open, I glanced at my watch, seeing that I had five minutes of lunch break left.
I let out a long sigh, before beginning to take the route to my locker.
Suddenly, a perfectly manicured hand was reaching for my neck and wrapping itself around my tie. Before I knew it, I was being yanked aside and forced into a wall, met with a surprisingly angry Emily.
"Yes?" I asked tiredly.
"Why the hell didn't you tell us you were Bradley Jameson's cousin?!" she demanded, her blond hair bouncing as she made an animated attempt at interrogation.
Her voice was loud…
"I didn't think it mattered," I managed to get out.
"Of course it matters!" Emily shrieked. "You're a Jameson! You never told us!"
I winced at the high pitch.
"What do you mean?" I asked, suddenly extremely curious. My name had never meant anything to me before, except being the shackle that tied me to my parents.
Emily looked like she was going to say something, but the bell rang. The blonde sighed before letting go of my tie.
"Sorry 'bout that," she mumbled. Then, she turned on her feet and left the hallway, walking slowly towards our next lesson: English.
I found I couldn't concentrate at all in English, despite the fact we were analysing one of my favourite poems of all time. Pushing The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock out of my mind, I tried to force myself to process everything that had happened that afternoon.
I wasn't stupid, or wilfully ignorant. I could see patterns, even if I didn't want to, and begrudgingly admitted that coincidences rarely happened, especially when you had Juliet Capulet's memories.
Why had I received Juliet's memories? It was a question that had hung over me ever since my thirteenth birthday. Why me? Was I going insane? What was wrong with me?
I never told anyone about the memories, being all too aware that people had been burnt at the stake for less, but that didn't mean they no affect on me. No, that was an understatement. Juliet's memories had been disturbing.
The fact that everyone was staring at me broke me out of my reverie.
"Miss Jameson?" the teacher, a young woman with mousy brown hair prompted. "Do you need me to repeat the question?"
I smiled sheepishly.
"If you would," I said.
"I asked what you thought the meaning of the poem was," she said, holding up the print-out.
"It's about life," I said simply, thinking over the words of the verses in my head. "It's about growing up and trying to figure out the world, trying to find yourself love, sifting your way through the confusion and searching for a meaning, all the while scared and frightfully aware of your mortality."
My eyes bore holes into the print-out, skating over the Italian epigraph with ease. They jumped from line to line, drinking in the feeling of confusion.
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
It was a poem that seemed to truly emulate how I felt. The confusion, the endless searching, the crushing feeling of inexperience…
That was when I reached the last, stabbing line:
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
I was drowning under everything, wasn't I? I sighed, running a hand through my short hair. I was drowning, but I would struggle and struggle until I broke the water's surface. I was sure of it.
I never considered that someone might have to pull me from the water instead.
When the bell sounded, signalling the end of English, I packed up my books and made my way to my next lesson, which was study.
Built into the Verona Academy timetable were various study sessions which were needed for students to deal with the vicious amounts of homework they were laden with. Glancing at my timetable, I could see that I had mine in room 5, wherever that was.
Just as I emerged from the classroom, someone caught my hand.
"Room 5 for study, right?"
I looked up from my map and timetable combination to be greeted by Michael's – dare I say it – concerned face.
"Yeah," I said with a nod, secretly relieved someone wasn't out to get me today.
Michael and I walked in silence for a while, him leading me through the mass of students up staircases onto the top floor of the school.
"Look," he said, pulling us to a stop outside room 5. "I just want to apologise for whatever Niall did. It's just… He's been through a hard time recently."
"And he needs you to apologise for him?" I asked, raising my eyebrows.
So I was being aggressive, yeah? Well, shoot me.
"Well, yeah," Michael said as he averted his gaze. There was a terse silence for a moment before he put a hand on my back. "Let's just get to study."
Throughout my study I worked on the morning's maths homework, happy to lose myself in a matrix of figures. With my head down and my hair – despite being clipped back – covering my face, I found it easy to avoid Michael's gaze.
I couldn't help but feel like a greenhorn at Verona, like I was fighting a war against my inexperience every day I was there. It had been so much easier with Emily's guiding hand to stop me from falling flat on my face, or with Michael's easy-going humour.
Upon reaching the last set question for maths, I slammed my work book shut in frustration. A few people in the silent study room looked up, including the teacher supervising, but I ignored them.
I hated not knowing things, and it appeared there was a great deal I didn't know about life at Verona Academy.
After study period ended, it was Michael who stopped me from gathering up my books and leaving.
"SNC," he said without emotion, catching my wrist. Then, he added, "You promised."
I thought about it for a second. After I signed myself over to the SNC – those puppy-dog eyes could have persuaded me to sign them my soul over for bargaining in a poker game, I swore it – I had texted Sam, asking to be picked up later that night. If I didn't go to the meeting of the Verona Chronicle, I would be hanging around school like a loner for nearly two hours, but...
I made a noncommittal noise.
"Please, Mads?" Michael asked. "I know Niall can be a complete ars—"
The hand appeared to come out of nowhere.
"Language," Emily chastised as if it was second nature, walking past Michael to me.
Seeing Emily, I moved to leave, but Michael still hadn't let go of my wrist.
"About earlier," Emily tried to explain, "I'm sorry. After what happened over the summer, tensions are a bit high around here whenever the name 'Jameson' is mentioned. Finding out that you're one of them, well, it was just a bit of a shock."
Emily looked absolutely desperate as she explained everything to me.
"Add to that the fact that you're Bradley Jameson's cousin, and well, I kind of freaked. Names mean a lot in Verona, Lynn, and Jameson is among the most meaningful to people here."
Internally, I raised my eyebrows. What did that mean? I asked that of Emily.
"Well," Emily looked distinctly uncomfortable. "It's hard to put in words."
"What she means to say, Mads," Michael butted in, "is that it's best not to ask people what they think of the name 'Jameson'… There are a lot of split views in Verona."
I looked around us. Without realising it, I had walked with Michael and Emily to the front of school. William had been strangely absent that day, I realised, but didn't mention it at that point.
"I tell you what," Emily suddenly said, already shivering in the cold. "Don't come to the Chronicle today." I stared at her. "It's fine," she said. When I raised my eyebrows, she insisted on it. "No, Lynn, it really is. Call your driver and get them to pick you up early. We'll introduce you to the SNC on Thursday."
Emily pulled something out of her bag. "Just, when you have time, read through these."
Placed in my hand was a memory stick.
"You can get a feel of the name Jameson yourself from that, if you want."
With that, Emily turned around with Michael. It didn't escape my notice how their hands intertwined and she leant into him.
I sighed, looking down at the memory stick.
Then, I clasped it in my hand and pulled out my phone, already hitting speed dial.
Damn, it was cold.
"Tell me about your day."
"What is there to say, Kevin?" I asked in rhetoric. "I went to school, came back and ended up here, speaking to you."
Kevin sat opposite me, his blue eyes staring back at me from behind his thick-rimmed glasses. His sweater was a dark shade of navy blue, with a pattern of diamonds down the front.
Slowly, he raised a hand, pointing to a sign. I didn't need to turn to be able to know what it said.
'SARCASM IS NOT APPRECIATED'
"What do you want me to say?" I asked. "I woke up at approximately six-thirty—"
Kevin shook his head once more.
"How many times do I have to go over this, Lynn?" he asked, also in rhetoric. "I asked how your day was, not what you did."
Kevin was always like this.
"I don't want to talk about it," I responded. "How was your day?"
"Good, but that's beside the point," Kevin replied sharply. "Give me some credit, Lynn, I can spot an evasion when I see one."
"Well," I said, mimicking his tone, "then I guess that," I jerked my thumb behind me to his certificate of having a PhD that hung beneath his sarcasm sign, "isn't for nothing then."
"Must you always make my life difficult?" Kevin asked.
"Must you always do the same?" I retorted.
"There's a difference," Kevin insisted, "it's my job to interrogate you. You just do it for fun."
I sat in silence, refusing to answer that.
"If you won't talk, Lynn," Kevin said, "I will."
I swallowed. This was when things always got uncomfortable.
"Shall we start with Brad?"
When I got home, at nine o'clock, looking at the documents on the memory stick wasn't exactly a priority. Talking to Kevin had, however, dredged up some emotions I swore I'd gotten under control. Kevin was annoying like that; he always knew how to get under my skin.
So, in desperate need of distraction, and hesitant to ask Sam, I opened up my laptop lid and plugged in the memory stick.
Late into the night, despite the fact I had been practically sleeping through school, I scrolled through pages and pages of newspaper articles, not even pausing until one particular title caught my eye.
When it did, however, I slammed the laptop shut in anger, before throwing it off my lap onto the floor. That was a distraction. One which I neither needed nor wanted.
My mind whirred around it, trying to break through the anger that was currently clouding my vision. Anger was useless, I told myself, I just needed to think.
Thinking was not something I could do when tired.
Seeing the blinking display of my alarm clock reading 10:30, I fell backwards onto the bed, determined to sleep off my confusion.
I think I must have been so tired I forgot why I used to be scared of falling asleep.
Because, when you fall into that blackness, without your mind ordered and ready, the blackness takes you down.
And, you see things you never wanted to remember.
Namely, your death.
For those of you who have not read the truly fantastic poem by T. S. Elliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, read it. When my English teacher first read it aloud to me in class, my first thought was 'what the hell?', but it's worth taking the effort to understand it. It's a beautiful still of life, growing up and trying to figure everything out, surrounded by people, but feeling very much alone.
Anyway, huzzah! New chapter! Bet you weren't expecting one so fast, were ya?
Over and out,