"Hey Theo, did you see what that girl did?" my best friend, Karl, leant over and whispered, a wide smirk stark on his pale face.
I looked over at him and shook my head; the curious smile on my face belied my impassive features. His smirk grew as he told me of the latest mishaps of the girl. Of course, the said girl was Ophelia Jones, the new student at the school, and also the loner of the class. Keeping to herself in the right corner of the room, the others constantly murmured about her; their judgemental eyes boring holes into her as they mocked and ridiculed her. Not that the girl ever seemed to care; her eyes were always trained on the half-assed blue poster a student had done about Shakespeare. Her gaze never left the fine print that were naught but small dots on the large paper. By now, she's probably an expert on Shakespeare. Or whatever the student who made that poster said about Shakespeare – it didn't seem to be very accurate given their use of Comic Sans. She was beautiful, granted; her long, wavy, dark hair was always tied up with a red ribbon and her clothes were an immaculate trendy style that further enhanced her beauty.
Her impassive gaze unnerved all from the start, and her quiet attitude furthered us to think that she was plotting something malicious in her head. Yes, I know it sounds silly, but if you had managed to survive the look she gives you – and she hardly looks at anyone unless forced to - you let me know.
Still, it wasn't because of the impassive gazes nor the jealousy of the other girls that made everyone shun her to this extent. Ophelia had killed someone.
It was only during the third week that Ophelia had been here that the girl had died. As all clichés went, the late girl was the kindest girl in the room, and the first to talk to Ophelia. It was actually due to the girl that we had heard Ophelia speak at all. After their meeting, Ophelia basically became the girl's shadow – when you looked for her, there was Ophelia; when you were talking with her, there was Ophelia again; when you were in the bedroom doing naughty things, yup, there was Ophelia.
So when, at the end of the third week, the girl was found dead during one of their sleepovers, who wouldn't immediately clue in to the fact that Ophelia murdered the school's sweetheart in cold blood? The following month where neither the girl nor her shadow were present, rumours escalated, and with them, my hatred for the dark-haired girl bubbled. When Ophelia had returned, the police claimed to have found the murderer, and declared her innocent.
But not in everyone's eyes, oh no; the deceased was my girlfriend Serah, and she was friends with literally everyone. It wasn't merely a betrayal to Serah, but a betrayal to us all. How could someone kill the literal personification of an angel on earth? Anyway, ever since then, the girl had not uttered a single word to anyone, keeping the pretense of being mute for the world to see.
As Ophelia stepped into the room, its occupants quietened, and eyes of different colours followed her as she made her way across the room.
"Watch this," Karl said, looking ready to bounce on the spot with anticipation.
I raised a brow in question to his excitement but was given nothing more than a nudge to look at the girl.
The girl sat on her seat for no more than two seconds before she ended up sprawled on the floor, impassive eyes still gazing at the poster that hung on the wall, not seeming to care about her current position. The air was now speckled with muffled giggling, and Karl hi-fived a friend that sat next to him, congratulating each other on their successful prank. I gave a small smirk of my own, feeling sadistic pleasure as I watched her. Ophelia stood up, brushed off some dirt, and then dragged a chair to her table before sitting on it as though nothing had happened.
"Good one, man." I said, grinning at Karl and nodding.
Mr Robinson hurried into the room, glancing at the class with mirthful green eyes behind his silver frames. The young teacher placed his large black bag on the ground with an audible thump to show the heaviness of the package.
"Good morning, class! As I know how tiresome it is to have Maths first on a Monday – even though I find that it helps wake up your sleepy brains – I've decided that . . ." he grinned mischievously for a moment before pulling out a large folder stuffed with what had to be ten kilograms worth of paper. "You're all going to partner up and design a maths board game!" he exclaimed happily, looking very proud of his new invention.
The class groaned in synchronisation and the teacher looked slightly crestfallen. "Come on, guys! It's either this or calculus. I was actually planning on giving you a pop quiz this morning – which is still up for grabs if you prefer that," the teacher piped up, frowning slightly.
The students immediately looked to their friends across the room, nodding and sending notes around to agree on their partnership. "Wait! Now, I know this is unfair, but I'm going to choose your partners today," Mr Robinson beamed.
Karl sighed next to me, rolling his eyes at me. "This must be revenge for me stealing his lasagna last night," he mumbled.
Did I forget to mention? Karl and Mr Robinson were brothers, and they have been living together ever since their parents' early deaths. Their apartment was just big enough for the two, and could only be described as an "organised chaos", from its interior to its occupants. While Karl was organised and neat, his brother was erratic with his own "system" of organisation. After every sleepover at theirs, I always return home to find that I've misplaced an item. Swallowed up by the monster that is their apartment, I always think.
"Affected the whole class, man," I mumbled, noting his apologetic smile.
A pink note landed on my table, and upon glancing up, Cherry's eyes met mine and winked, her largely made-up eye seeming to have gained a large ring not unlike a raccoon's with the amount of eyeliner she had applied.
Shit. Seemed like another girl was about to stain my shirt with tears when I tell her I never wanted anything after that our one night, many months ago. I guessed she saw her chance now that Serah was gone. No doubt her note was filled with love hearts and girlish handwriting with pink glitter.
Karl sighed once more next to me and I realized that he had been partnered with Melissa, his ex and enemy. He looked at me pleadingly and begged me to swap with him, though the triumphant voice of his brother's stopped him from doing so.
"Hope for my safe return," he grumbled, glaring at his brother as he made his way to the frowning redhead.
"And finally, Theodore Jenkins and Ophelia Jones, please partner up, thank you," Mr Robinson smiled at us.
My head snapped up in surprise and I briefly caught my friends' sympathetic gazes.
"But-" I argued.
"No buts, Mr Jenkins, you shall have to learn to cooperate with Miss Jones. Now, hurry up, guys! We'll be here till Christmas if you're this slow!" he clapped his hands, silencing me effectively.
Fine, if he wants to play it this way. I rolled my eyes and willed the girl to come to my desk, feeling all too lazy to move. Several more seconds passed and the two of us remained seated on opposite ends of the class, each minding our own business and not bothering to move at all. Fine, seemed like she wanted to start a game with me too.
"Mr Jenkins, would you please move towards Miss Jones? I am about to explain the rules of this project," Mr Robinson sighed.
I imagined a 1-0 appearing above her head in flashing neon numbers. Frowning, I decided to lollygag and play on the teacher's annoyance before moving to the table behind hers, crossing my arms.
Apparently happy with my participation, the excited teacher moved on to telling the class that the project was due in two weeks' time, using multiple hand gestures to inform the class on its information. When he finally ceased yapping, he returned to his table and allowed us to discuss among our groups. Not that I wanted to discuss anything with her. I hadn't uttered a single word to her since she came that day three months ago, so of course I felt even less compelled to do so now. I was determined to keep my mouth shut and my eyes narrowed at her.
Ophelia, for her part, stubbornly refused to turn around - not that I minded - with her eyes still glued to the poster. What was so interesting about that damned poster? For sure it was made by some lazy person, given the lack of aesthetic properties. And Comic Sans? What was that dude thinking? Hey...wait a minute...that was mine. I blinked before realizing that the poster was created by me not one year ago. Why was she so obsessed with staring at my poster? That gave me the creeps and I shivered subconsciously.
"Miss Jones, would you please turn around and speak to your partner, please?" Mr Robinson smiled at her benignly, looking pleased when she had abided his instructions.
The girl still kept her eyes downcast, refusing to meet my own brown eyes. More minutes ticked by, and we sat in silence amongst the chatter of the boisterous classroom. I sighed and decided to take a risk. If I died, please do tell all that it was due to the girl sitting opposite me, and hopefully get me some revenge.
"So...any ideas?" I asked, my tone tentative as I raised my gaze to meet her heart-shaped face. Such a pity, that girl was stunning and her attitude ruined it. That, and her murder, of course.
She shook her head slightly, fingers fumbling under the table. Well, that wasn't too bad...I hadn't died...not yet.
"Uh, okay." I replied, straightening my back as I tried to get comfortable in this hard chair.
The rest of class passed with the pair of us not speaking to either; her nails seemed much more fascinating than I, and my poster seemed more intriguing to me than her.
"So how was it?" Karl asked, his bright green eyes that mirrored his brother's looked at me, smiling with anticipation and worry.
He was afraid that the collaboration between me and the girl would dig up memories of the late Serah.
"How was what?" I replied in an ambiguous tone, grabbing a tray and pushing it along the metal bar, waiting for the crowd to disperse so I could get to my lunch.
"You know, Ophelia?" he continued, urging me on, the smile growing wider by the second. Really, this kid is optimistic and immature, how the heck is he older than me?
"What about her?" I asked, grabbing a hamburger from the shelf and a stack of fries to follow. Karl pursed his lips and took a tuna sandwich instead.
"I saw the two of you talking, so...?" he nudged me, his tone getting softer as he reached for a hashbrown.
"She didn't speak. I asked her what she wanted to do for the project. She didn't reply. I left her alone. The end. Anyway, I'm sure we're gonna fail," I shrugged, placing a large cookie and a coke onto my already packed tray.
"Don't worry about it, we can just ask my brother to swap your partner, right? If he heard about your situation, he would have to swap, right? Don't worry, man. Lighten up a lil, eh?" he smiled and patted my back reassuringly. I couldn't help but give a small smile in return.
"Hey, Kylie!" he waved enthusiastically to a girl with flaming red hair across the canteen. She smiled and walked over to us, her pigtails bouncing in time with her chest. Damn, she was hot, too bad she was a friend.
"Hey guys! What's up?" she smiled, the bubbly personality of the eighteen year old shining through.
"Not much," I paid for my food and left to join the soccer team at our usual table.
"You wouldn't believe it. Our Theodore here just got partnered with that Ophelia chick," my ever-excited friend declared.
"Oh gosh! Is that true?" Kylie grimaced, looking at me sympathetically with warm blue eyes. "That must be awkward. Did she speak at all? Did you two talk? Did you see her eyes? She must be really weird. You must be upset," she asked, her expression changing from sympathy to excitement, and back to sympathy.
"No, it was just me, no, and yes, she is very weird, and no, I am not upset." I replied, taking a bite out of my long anticipated food.
She seemed to want to ask me more questions, but my silence deterred her, and she turned back to Karl for more gossip. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Ophelia walking into the canteen with her blue bag slung over her tiny shoulders as she made her way towards the counter. Wolf whistles blew at her from the juniors who obviously hadn't heard the rumours yet. Narrowed gazes followed her every move. Murderous intent filled the room, and I could feel my jaw and fist clenching.
I know, I know, I sound really dramatic. But this was the first time in three months that the girl had stepped foot into the canteen. What was she doing here now?
She grabbed a couple of things from the shelf - food enough to feed three hungry jocks at the very least -, and after paying for it, walked to the nearest empty table and ate. The silence that followed was deafening, louder than any other sound in the world but managing to be soft. My friends looked at me with worry and several eyed her for any movements towards me. I felt somewhat thankful for having such protective friends around me.
"Looks like the bitch doesn't know her place," Kylie hissed. An unfortunate fry was squished between her fingers.
She started to stand, and with her, three other girls.
"Yo, Kylie, sit down," I started.
She silenced me with a glare. "Serah was our friend too, you know? This is the least we could do for her."
Like I said, Serah was loved by all. Kylie was her best friend – or, at least, used to be before Ophelia cast whatever voodoo magic onto Serah, and we started to see Serah less and less. She used to sit next to me too, at lunch. In the months before she died, she would sit opposite Ophelia in the exact spot where she sat now, eating quietly, oblivious to the advancing group.
"Hey, bitch," Kylie hissed, towering over Ophelia.
The girl continued eating, though the shadow of the girls loomed over her.
Apparently Kylie didn't like being ignored, for she slapped the tray of food towards Ophelia. The resulting shreds of lettuce, sauce, and fries sprayed all over her top. Satisfied, she placed a hand on the table, and leaned toward Ophelia. Her lipsticked mouth was pulled thinly into a sneer.
"We don't welcome murderers here, bitch," Kylie hissed, "We don't want to see you again. Okay?"
Ophelia, to her credit, finished the last bite of the burger she had managed to salvage. The whole cafeteria held its breath as Ophelia looked the red-headed girl in the eye, and said,
"Well, too bad. I happen to like this place."
I could see Kylie freeze, clearly not expecting her to speak or to even react in anything less than a breakdown. But Ophelia wasn't like any of her previous victims that quaked in their boots and bowed at her feet in reverence. She latched onto Kylie's shock and simply . . . smirked.
The bell rang, and jolted us all out of our reverie. Completely unfazed, Ophelia grabbed her bag and left for class. Kylie's friends immediately tried to console the reddening Kylie, whose nostrils were flaring larger than an enraged bull's. The cafeteria was abuzz with noise: from exclamations about the deadly stare of Serah's murderer to exaggerated stories about how some supposedly saw Ophelia point her knife at Kylie.
Anyway, as I watched Ophelia's back, the numbers 2-0 blinked at me.