Knee bouncing in anticipation for her teacher to release the class, Demi Pearson tries to keep her eyes off of the clock and is constantly failing.
Why is it that time seems to go slower when you want to leave?
And she knows Mr. Tompson is fully aware of the eagerness of the class, which is why he is taking his sweet time going into unnecessary detail about the project they have to do over winter break. Of course, it isn't due for an additional three weeks, winter break is more for getting a head start. He continually emphasizes this point, as it will count for ninety percent of the final grade for the class.
Demi starts to run her finger down the spiral spine of her notebook, covering up a yawn with her other hand. On her junior year at the University of Maryland, this is her fifth semester with Professor Tompson; or Dr. Tompson; or any other name he offered to the class; even T-Dawg, just don't call him Mr. Tompson. Too formal.
He's the kind of teacher that all students love: one with humor, understanding of a student's life and way of thinking, breaks lessons down as simple as possible, and with a ninety-nine-point-nine percent chance of passing his class so long as you don't ditch, and do the homework.
He's also the kind of teacher that many would spread rumors about having affairs with students. Though not excessively handsome, the ruggedness of his face and the clarity of his baby-blue eyes is rather appealing. With close-cropped chestnut hair, he usually wears a nice shirt and tie with dress pants, except for Fridays. If it weren't for the wedding band on his finger, the rumors might've damaged his reputation among the school staff.
A sudden bang on the whiteboard makes her flinch. "I see some eyes drifting. I am well-aware of the time, but please don't pack your things yet, and give me your attention until the end."
Demi chuckles, tucking a strand of her black hair behind one ear. Out of the corner of her eye, she fiddles with the curl. Poking the home button of her phone, she finds there are two more agonizingly long minutes left. There also isn't a reply from Caleb about whether or not he wants to hang out tonight. She sighs with a pout but looks to the rubric to reread the points of the project.
The project is to pick a horror movie of any choosing – preferably one of psychological genres – and observe the criminal and his or her effects on the story and other characters. Prime examples being: Silence of the Lambs, the Babadook, Black Swan, Hitchcock's: Psycho, The Shining, and so on. Originally, he had a separate sheet of paper with three long columns of movies to choose from, of which some of the students still took – for those who aren't familiar with the classics – and yesterday they picked which movies they'll be reviewing.
And despite her many attempts to assure Dr. Tompson that she can do much better work with a thriller than a horror movie, he insisted that exposure to the horror genre is better for the imagination.
Yes, because imagination is needed for a class of criminal psychology.
Today is more for anyone who has questions about the project, and what is and isn't acceptable when proving points. Ultimately, like any school assignment, this project is a standard twelve-page essay, double-spaced, in MLA format. It must include an interesting opening sentence, a clearly stated thesis, and a transition between each paragraph.
Demi rolled my eyes during the explanation, only smiling at the obvious boredom that Dr. Tompson was indulging onto himself as he read over the mandatory points.
Finally, he turns and looks at the clock and smiles. He faces the class and says, "Alright everyone, thank you for your patience. And please have a fun, but safe winter break."
With a wave of his hand, as if releasing the invisible barrier blocking the doors, he releases the class. Most of the students immediately spring up from their seats and walk out the door as fast as they can without running, but some take the time to exchange a friendly handshake with Dr. Tompson, passing friendly words before they go.
Demi is one of them, taking her time to pack her things and waiting for several students to pass. Once most of the class is gone, she approaches Dr. Tompson as she shrugs on her backpack.
Dr. Tompson is clearing the desk for the next teacher when eyes flick to her and smiles. "Ms. Pearson, can I help you with anything?"
"I'm trying to see if my sixth attempt is the charm at convincing you that you will get my superb efforts and analysis on this project, if you just let me watch a thriller, and not a horror." she says with a giggle, as Dr. Tompson started to chuckle.
"You are persistent, I will give you that."
"Blame my father. Stubbornness comes entirely from his side of the family." Dr. Tompson snorts. "Please Dr. Tompson, let me just do some other movie. It'll be so much more exciting, and I'll actually be paying attention to what's happening in the movie instead of hiding behind a pillow."
"What makes you think you can't handle a horror movie?"
Demi arcs a brow, but still smiles. "I got nightmares from the first Harry Potter movie, and I hated Halloween for years because the decorations gave me nightmares."
"Listen, just watch the movies, and if you don't think that the scene is attributing to the project then just fast forward." He says with another laugh. "Hell, you kids can probably just do it from your phones anyway."
"Give me permission to fast forward, and I will abuse that power."
"How about watching it during the day." Dr. Tompson suggests as he puts his binder into his backpack. Clearly, her time is up. Seems like he wants to go home just as much as the students. So, Demi sighs in defeat and spares friendly words before leaving the class and entering the halls.
It's around one o'clock in the afternoon, so the halls are filling with students, some pulling out their car keys and headphones, ready to start their two-week vacation. Others gather in the main atrium of the school, cups of coffee and bags of food in their hands.
Demi follows the horde, putting in her own earbuds to block out the sounds of the school. Watching herself in the reflection of the windows, she digs through the pockets of her heavy grey coat. The red and grey scarf she pilfered from Laura's closet wraps around her neck, a knitted white beanie with a fur ball sits atop her head.
Now that her classes are done for the day, finals completed, and assignments given, she is more than ready to head home back to Illinois and cozy up on the couch and watch some ghost shows with her mom.
Thankfully the snow has been forgiving enough that Demi is comfortable enough to take the flight. And now with the weather finally letting up to a decent twenty-nine degrees, turbulence and flight delays will be the least of her worries.
She's already taken the time this morning to pack most of hers and Laura's things and set them up in their dorms, ready to leave at a moment's notice for when their Uber takes them straight to the airport.
Exiting the building, she sets up the Uber, trying to work through her gloves.
Winter here in Maryland is no different than Illinois, if anything, it's better considering Illinois has been hit hard with a snowstorm. At least here, the sidewalks are paved, roads are clear, and her thick, wool-lined boots can withstand being soaked.
Students and faculty alike pour in and out of the various buildings, their faces either bright with smiles, or still drawn with weary at having to sit through another class before going home for the holidays. Some of the campus workers put in good effort to string up drooping garlands of pine and holly between lampposts, some sweeping gathered clusters of snow from the sidewalks.
She's walking up the sidewalk to the dorms when there's a tap on her shoulder. Twitching to drive her elbow back, she manages to control herself in time to see Laura's pale-blue eyes and ever white smile.
"Hey, sorry. Didn't mean to startle you." Laura says as she tucks a piece of her honey-gold hair away from her lips.
"It's okay, I just get twitchy when I have my headphones in." Demi says as she pulls her earbuds out.
"You think I would have picked that up by now." Laura giggles. "Is everything packed and ready to go?"
Demi pulls out her dorm key and unlocks the door. Built in a beige brick exterior, this makeshift home is only bearable because of Laura. Its black-tiled roofs are chipping, and the girls around here don't seem to care about other tenants, since Demi constantly hears them yelling, screaming and giggling drunk Monday through Fridays.
Walking inside, the warm air hits them both and Demi tugs her scarf down from her nose. The girls nod to the security guard set behind a glass paneled wooden desk and make a beeline for the elevators. The lobby already has a handful of students gathered with suitcases or backpacks or duffle bags, most of them probably waiting for their parents to pick them up.
"I'm all packed." She answers. "The bags are all set on the beds. We just need to wait outside for the Uber."
"The tickets are printed and everything?" Laura asks as she presses the elevator button to go up. She takes off her gloves and tucks them into her coat pockets.
Demi raises a brow and smirks. "Have a little more faith in me, Laura. I have the tickets ready, double-checked our seating, reviewed the carry-on's. We should be all set for a smooth flight. The only thing I can't control is the weather, but at least that seems to be on our side, for now."
Laura smiles, and with her cheeks flushed against the cold, she looks as radiant as a spring flower. Her honey-gold hair spills into the white fur lining the hood of her coat. She's from Illinois too; Naperville, actually, and it's how the two became friends. Since Demi is originally from Downers Grove, it made things easy to hang out during semester breaks.
They first met their freshman year in a mathematics class, part of the required classes to take as General Education. The two first bonded over where they were from, then moving into more common interests. It soon turned into a wonderful friendship, and really helped when both were flying back to Illinois.
"Sorry, I just I can't get over the paranoia that I'm forgetting something. And that I'll remember it right as we get on the plane or something." Laura says, adjusting her mahogany colored beanie as they step into the elevator.
Demi presses the button for the fifth floor. "Even if we do, it's not the end of the world."
Flying is not her favorite form of transportation, but since Demi isn't willing to drive along the roads into Illinois, she'd rather sit on a crowded plane than a subway. It's more of the motion sickness from the takeoff and landing that makes her nervous, but after three years of going between states, it would seem her stomach has finally adjusted. Demi shudders at the memory of having her face in the toilet of the airport after her first flight back home. Cheese puffs have never looked the same.
Making it up to their floor, the girls walk down the hall, the white walls only occasionally interrupted by posters and bulletin boards of events going on around the school. Not that Demi ever really cared. She didn't like to go to events, only when Laura made her go to be the designated driver. And to try and get her to loosen up. As if sensing her thoughts, Laura loops her arm through Demi's and smiles.
Demi picks out their room key from her chain and unlocks it. With the walls being an ever-so-dull white, as Laura had said, the girls did their best to liven up the place. Against each wall are their beds with the associated desks, and wardrobes. The dresser sitting underneath the window divides the room, each side containing the girls' personals: watches, charging cables, or earrings.
While Demi was content to only bringing a few things that remind her of home, as well as adding a little bit of individuality, Laura was determined to bring as much of home with her as she could pack – which was a lot. Almost everything in their dorm belongs to her, whether she had brought it with her when she moved in or bought it while staying here. From the square azure carpet sitting in the middle of the dorm, to the twinkling string of lights that swoop across the ceiling. A little table sitting on the carpet is set with two plush cushions on either side, then hand-crafted dream catchers hanging at the head of their beds.
Each side of the room gives away who sleeps where. Demi had brought with a small tapestry her father had bought for her on her fifteenth birthday, as well as a few smaller posters of her favorite band and video game series. Her bed sheets are a soft blue color, the color of the ocean and the sky, while Laura's have the design of a black and white mandala flower.
While Demi sits on her bed, constantly checking her phone for the Uber, Laura rummages through her things for any last-minute clothes or jewelry she might want to take.
Demi leans back against the wall, careful not to tug on the tapestry. The backdrop of the tapestry is the forest at night. The sky is a beautiful mixture of blacks and blues, the stars streaming across it in dots and swoops of silver before gathering in an explosion at the center. When Demi was younger, she had loved stargazing – and still does, as evident by the handheld telescope tucked away in the drawer underneath her bed – so her father had seen this at a craft fair, the weaver selling it for a bargain. On her fifteenth birthday, her father had said it's something for her to look at when she wants to escape, or dream or wish.
She contemplates taking it with her, but would rather have it here than risk it getting ruined from flying and constant folding.
Demi jumps when Laura claps her suitcase shut, zipping it closed. "Okay, everything is all set."
"As I've already said." Demi interjects, earning a poke to the ribs.
"Alright." Laura sighs. With a heave, she fluffs her hair. "Okay, then we're all ready."
"Doesn't your last class end at two-thirty?" Demi says upon realization. She checks her watch only to find it two o'clock.
Laura shrugs. "Mrs. Olsen decided to let us go early. We were only watching a video, and then after filling out a sheet, she let us go."
"Good enough." On cue her phone chimes. "Perfect. He'll be here in about ten minutes."
"Awesome." Laura chirps.
Demi quickly switches out her books and folders for her laptop and novels and small snacks. Though she admires Laura's designer carry-on, if Demi's backpack isn't broken, it's still useful. Laura has insisted many times that she would be glad to buy Demi something nice for school, and Demi has declined just as politely.
Together they gather and haul out both of their single, but large luggage cases down the hall to the elevators, securing the neck pillows to the handles. Demi double checks their dorm doors, then secures the key to her chain.
When they make it down to the lobby, half of the students have already left, and despite the plush chairs and couches, the girls opt to stand outside. In their own little corner away from the crowd.
Propped on the sidewalk, Demi sits on her luggage, wheeling back and forth.
"I hope we don't have to wait long for our flight," Laura chimes. As she picks at her pink nails. "I hate having to wait in the airport for too long. Makes me even more nervous."
"Did you take the Dramamine?"
"Yeah. Oh, and here," she reaches into her carry-on purse and pulls out the little miracle pill bottle. "For you."
Demi takes the small bottle and dumps a single pill in her palm. With one swallow, she follows it with water, finishing the bottle Laura bought from the cafeteria.
As they wait, a breeze brushes past them, fluttering her loose curls. Demi zips her coat all the way to her neck and adjusts her beanie.
"What do you and your mom plan to do when you are home?" Laura asks as she wheels herself over to Demi.
"Don't know. She's still going to be working, and I'm feeling lazy, so we'll probably just lounge around the house, watching ghost shows."
"I'm surprised someone like her believes in that sort of thing, given her career has to have so much, explanation and logic behind it."
"That's precisely why she likes it." Demi laughs. "When something happens that she can't explain, it makes her happy more than mad. She loves delving into the unknown."
"It's so, cute to see such similar traits between you and your parents." Laura suddenly says. Demi turns to find her friend staring at her with a happy, pout almost, across her full lips. "You inherited your mother's looks, but you have your father's temper."
Demi sticks out her tongue, only solidifying Laura's observation.
She has the same black colored hair as her mother; even the same shade of green in the eyes. Even though her mom claims that Demi's are more of an emerald, while hers is a forest-green, Demi just think she's being poetic. Which only leaves her father's personality and temper to fill the rest.
Despite both of them being hotheads, often arguing over such small, stupid things, she loved him more than she will ever love anyone else.
And she would give the world if it meant she could have another screaming match with him.
Both of her parents are members of the force, her father a sergeant police, her mother a detective. Demi used to love how they would handle cases together, but that was when she was young, with the naive mind of a child. As she grew older, and began to understand how the world really works, she would almost panic whenever they left to go to work, that is until they sat her down and explained what they do, and how boring it can mostly be.
Then everyone soon knew who her mother is, only because she became the widow of Sergeant Patrick Alexander Pearson, killed while in the line of duty.
Every news station broadcasted it to every family in the United States in some veiled attempt to show respect and condolences to them. When really it just felt so violating in ways that she can't describe.
At his funeral, there were many officers that she knew from the station, extended family, close friends, some classmates even showing up to pay respects. But there were just so many strangers there because her mother decided to have an open funeral, and Demi didn't want anyone she didn't know to be there. It was supposed to be for them and the family, but it would seem her father had made a lot of friends during his service. Nowadays she understands why, but still, she wanted it to be private.
Her father had gotten a call to help officers with an armed robbery, men were shooting rifles against pistols and were under fire. He took a bullet to the thigh, the side and then the neck. They killed the robbers, which spared Demi the trouble of hunting them down in jail and killing them herself.
In the months that followed her father's funeral, her life seemed to . . . pause. She almost didn't graduate high school because of the depression that blanketed her during that time.
Which only made Demi closer to her mother since she took care of her during the months that she couldn't get out of bed. After that she spent three years of her life just going to the cemetery to sit at his grave for hours. It was a constant cycle: get up, go to the cemetery until sundown, then come home and go to bed.
Then one day she woke up and decided to fight. She decided to make her career being a member of the police. And with her new motivation, she earned a scholarship to University of Maryland. Though going to school out of state was difficult for both her and her mother, they both knew being accepted was accomplishing.
Once she started college, her mother gave Demi her father's wedding band to bring with. So you know he's always with you, she had whispered.
Demi has not let the band out of her sight, and wears it every day, between wearing it on her finger, or on her necklace chain, where it hangs now.
Demi rubs the worn metal between her thumb and pointer finger, a habit she's developed since receiving it. It gives her comfort; helps her think.
"I'd like to think I'm better than my father, since dealing with both of them helped increase my patience." Demi sadly chuckles. Laura rubs her shoulder and kisses the side of her head.
"I'm sorry." Laura says softly. "I didn't mean –"
"I know, I know." Demi says with a dismissive wave. "Don't worry about it."
Thankfully to avoid awkwardness, Demi's phone chimes and she looks to find the Uber has arrived.
Laura waves her arm and the cab pulls to a stop. She immediately starts to load her things into the trunk, the cab driver offering a friendly smile, even though Demi knew the size of the luggage is discouraging. When Demi wheels her own luggage up to the cab, she denies his hand and lift it into the trunk.
She and Laura hop into the backseat and secure their seatbelts. When the driver asks their location, Demi list the airport.
Once they navigate out of the campus roads, Demi sticks her earbuds back in, Laura linking their hands together. Demi offers a sad smile and turns towards the window, watching the world go by.
Despite her mother's constant encouragement and love, Demi knew she never will be the same after her father's death. Hell, even after ten years she still isn't fully back yet. What her mother doesn't really know is that Demi's main reason to wanting to join the force is because she wants to get a piece of her father back. Connect with him, somehow through his life's work.
She knows becoming an officer is a long road away. But she can and will face it.
Her father wouldn't be afraid of an adventure, and neither will she.