Author's note: This is a story I did with Akshaya! Link and details below!
The wisps of my cinnamon, brown hair fell loosely as curls on my cream complexed face. Applying a smear of strawberry flavored lip gloss, and swaying in front of the curvature mirror that decorated my dorm.
Pleased with my style, I held my calculus books in hand, and anything I could find that writes.
“Drat, I’m late again,” I softly murmured, searching for an eraser.
“Miss. D’sal, why aren’t you in class?”
I froze, pasting a small, dubious smile on my face, bowing down to the principal, grabbing the hem’s of my patterned skirt and crouching down.
“Mrs. Veloz, pardon my absence, I shall be in class soon.”
Mrs. Veloz tutted, as she was about to say something but reconsidered it, nodding at me she left, her high heels tapping against the cool, marble floor.
Taking a breath of relief, I whisked away to class.
“Ahh, finally Brittany, we’ve been hoping you’d come,” My teacher called out, placing a hand on her hip, as she sipped some cold, brewed coffee that made me remember my empty stomach.
Saying my apologies for being late, I sat beside Hillary; my best friend.
“Say, what’s today's excuse for being late?” She purred, bobbing her head low so that Mrs. Jen won’t see her mouth moving.
Rolling my eyes I ignored her absurd question.
“Girls, who can solve this equation?”
A wave of hush fell over us, some looked at me for assistance but I faced the front, not bothering to take any risks of getting an incorrect answer and humiliating myself.
“Anyone?” Mrs. Jen questioned, her brow going up in surprise.
I felt someone gasp, looking at my right I saw Klara raise a skeptical hand in the air, waiting to be called.
Her dark, coffee hair was cut to her neck, and placed in a small ponytail. Her gleaming green eyes were magically attractive for someone who was unknown at school.
If I were the Alpha, she was the Omega. The loser at school, no one bothered to befriend her, in fear that they will be considered ‘uncool’.
“Mrs. Winters?” Mrs. Jen’s voice quivered as if she couldn’t believe Klara existed until minutes ago.
Without a word, she got up, rearranging her plaid skirt and walked to the front. Taking the chalk, she scribbled the numbers. Everyone else looked at each other in bewilderment, trying to catch up to Klara.
“Is- is that correct?” Her lower lip trembled, as she bit it.
“Why, yes it is,” With a small smile, Mrs. Jen excused her.
“Showoff,” I heard Hillary whisper in my ear.
“Did everyone study for the test?” I rotated my pencil in my hand, tapping my foot against the oakwood floor.
Hillary gulped, shooting me a nervous look. She wasn’t a big fan of tests.
I waited until Mrs. Jen passed a paper to me to feel the tension in the air, my heart beating, my eyes seemed to blur, not letting me read the questions. Hands sweating as I reached over my paper.
I could smell the almond shampoo beside me, cranking my head slightly to the right, meeting her emerald eyes as my hazel eyes fell down in silence.
I saw her mouth the questions, a ‘v’ etched in her brow, her mouth carving into a smile as her hand and mind worked in sync.
My mind felt fogged, not letting me focus. Making it waver to my undisturbing surroundings.
If I brought my chair faintly to the right, I’d see Klara’s answers. Knowing I was getting in a risky situation, I decided to take the chance with my usually good luck.
Klara was already on the last question when I hadn’t even written my name. She hadn’t noticed me shift over, keeping her eyes interlocked with the paper.
Quickly, I wrote my name and began to fill out the answers, all the calculations, every number, every symbol that she wrote.
Just when I finished the last problem, Klara had flipped over her paper, giving me a puzzled look.
I smiled at myself, knowing that even if I got caught the teacher’s would never pose me as the culprit knowing my reputation.
I felt a sharp jabbing sense of pain, my mother’s soothing voice filling every corner of my mind.
“I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful example to further generations.”
I hated to break her image of me, the perfect girl with noble qualities. It just wasn’t me.
Even in her last seconds of life she had begged me to be a good girl, not fall in the ways of evil.
Rubbing the stinging tears from my eyes, I’d held her freezing hands, feeling her heart fading away at my every sob. Her doe eyes twinkled one last time until they closed forever.
“Pss, you good?” I felt Hillary nudge me with her elbow. Rubbing an unexplainable tear, I nodded.
“Please be prepared for our next topic, have a wonderful day girls,” Mrs. Jen finished, opening the class door for us to be excused.
Klara hesitated to leave, as always dawdling beside her desk, scribbling with a blunt pencil that barely was a few inches long, doodling away at the school property. Not that anyone cared, it was an old boarding school, established in the 1900's specifically for girls.
I vaguely recalled having any initiatives to ever end up here, in the outskirts of town. Far away from home, having to depend on strangers for a measly meal. It just wasn’t fair, but life isn’t fair either.
I guess some good luck must have rubbed off, as being the most popular girl in school wasn’t so awful. I always got selected in teams first, being able to command everyone at will, use them as pawns and toss them away when they were useless to me.
My mother wanted me to be a good girl, someone who people look up to for good reasons.
I didn’t care, she wasn’t around anymore.
I was on my own now.
I shielded my eyes from the late, evening sun. Taking big breaths of fresh air, wavering of spices from the kitchen and fallen yellowish orange leaves of Autumn.
“Bri, wait up,” Turning around, I glimpsed Cammie jogging up to me.
“Hey Cam, what’s up?” I asked cooly, with a dubious look pasted on my face.
“Mrs. Jen asked me to call you to her class.”
“Oh,” My lips made a ‘o’, wondering why Mrs. Jen wanted to see me, “Thanks for letting me know.”
My hands felt sweaty, my heart beating faster. Was Mrs. Jen going to accuse me of cheating? That thought made me gulp, my throat becoming dry.
I knew I shouldn’t have copied Klara, why did I sweep so low?
Heart ricocheting, I reached out to the door handle and stepped inside.
“Miss. D’sal, do you have any clues to why you’re here and not out there?” She asked, inclining her chin towards the window that showed everyone having fun.
Shaking my head, I locked my hands against the curve of my plastic, blue chair.
“Hmm, Miss. Winters will be joining us shortly,” She said, her lips making a straight line of disapproval.
I was right, this was about the test.
Mrs. Jen indicated me to a seat next to her desk and I spotted my test next to Klara’s. My face pale, the color drained from my face.
“Yes?” Mrs. Jen asked, when she saw me staring in revelation.
“How-?” I started, a thought clicked into my brain.
‘Let her take the blame’
Would I lie?
I had to.
To save my reputation.
“Klara cheated, she copied my answers.”
“I see,” Mrs. Jen became thoughtful, “How can I believe you?”
“Mrs. Jen, I’m sure that it was Klara!” I said, my arms held out in protest, “Please believe me!”
My eyes flew to the door creaking slowly open and Klara stepping inside with a vacillating face. Her eyes wide in shock when she saw me.
“Well, she’s here now.” Mrs. Jen looked at her in skepticism, “Miss Winters, I’m sure you know why I have called you.”
“Sorry, Mrs. Jen?” She whispered, looking at the test papers and giving me a look of doubt.
I had to play along.
“Really, Klara?” I said, rolling my eyes over-dramatically, “You didn’t know?”
“Miss. Winters,” Mrs. Jen continued to add, “Is it completely coincidental that both yours and Brittany’s papers happen to be the exact same? Word for word, number for number? Even the cuts and slashes?”
I kept my eyes downcast, knowing that Klara knew I was at fault but I’d have the upper hand. My eyes flickering back at her again, giving her a spiteful warning.
“Mrs. Jen, I studied really hard. I wouldn’t imagine why Klara would want to sneak my answers in the pretense of them being hers.”
“I thought you were honest.” Mrs. Jen looked through both our papers in her hands, “Especially when you managed to solve that tricky sum in class today.”
I heaved a sigh of relief, knowing that the teacher supported me.
“Mrs. Jen I didn’t copy anyone, least of all Brittany,” Klara said, shaking her head. Shooting me an unfriendly look, as my heart began to feel better but a sense of guilt piled up instead.
If mom had been here, she would have been disheartened to see me, her only child being mendacious.
Mrs. Jen looked at both of us, her fingers automatically tapping against the oakwood table.
“Well, I can’t punish one of you without proof so both of you are in time out, Miss. D’sal, you know where to go, please escort Mrs. Winters there.”
With a sweat trickling face, my eyes adjusting to the fact that I’d been punished finally set in. Well, at least the blame wasn’t all on me.
“Y-Yes ma'am,” My voice quivered, shooting a placid look at Klara who seemed lightheaded, her fingers intertwined with each other, her cinnamon colored hair acting like a curtain as she hid behind them.
We forcefully left, she lagged behind, sniffing a tear as she rearranged her backpack in multiple ways until she was satisfied with draping it in one shoulder.
Rubbing my hand against the bamboo door marked DETENTION. I’d never been inside before, but was curious to what was beyond the carved door.
“Why?” I heard a murmur behind me, sighing I pushed the door open, not bothering to be polite.
She held her shoe out before the door shut, pushing past the heavy door as it made a click noise when it closed behind her.
I heard her gasp, I had to as well. Downy white sofas near the water cooler, an AC running above, making small, undisturbed noises. A wooden basket of snacks littered in different brands sat on the circular, glass desk.
A low, dim light was all the illumination we had. It almost felt like a party vibe, wondering what this room was used for before.
Old, storage boxes were tucked away in the back, all filled with old newspapers and magazines.
“What is this place?” Klara asked, coming to sit nervously on the couch.
I shrugged, “A time-out room, didn’t you hear?”
She shook her head, “Did you copy me?” She asked instead, the question I didn’t want to answer but I was surprised that she wasn’t screaming her head off but maintaining calm, like nothing happened.
Biting my lip, I slightly nodded, unable to meet her glance.
“I’m sorry, I wanted to ace this test but I couldn’t study, you’re smart.”
“Um… thanks?” I could see her smile waver.
“So you forgive me?”
“I guess, it’s not like the teacher believes me anyway, only non-popular kids get the benefit of doubt.”
“Oh,” I said, I hadn’t realized that was what she thought of me. Someone who people supported just because they seem special.
“Everyone knows your ‘rich’,” She added, using her fingers to quote.
“But you know what, it doesn’t matter, my parents worked so hard they got sick, they couldn’t even care for me but still managed to get me good education,” She continued, the tears she had saved had begun to pool her eyes.
“Don’t cry,” I cooed, “I didn’t know.”
“No one knows,” She wiped a tear, sniffing again, “And no one cares.”
We sat in silence, as the evening began to dim. She was nothing but a silhouette against the flinching, overhead light.
We looked in opposite directions, never meeting each other’s awaiting eyes.
“Do you smell that?” She said, breaking the overwhelming quietude.
“N- oh yeah, I do.”
We got up from our seated positions, walking around but staying close enough.
“Smells like…” I started.
“Fire?!” We began to panic, looking over our surroundings for a chance to escape.
“The door, we have to leave,” Klara pulled my hand, I felt a dizzy sensation from the smoke as it traveled into the room.
“It’s locked,” I pushed past her, kicking at the door but my leg hurt as I pulled away.
I nodded, jumping on one foot, while slowly resting the other.
“The door’s locked,” She repeated, her hands entwined around her head, “Now we’re trapped.”
“God, don’t freak out, let me think.”
“Me?!, I wasn’t the one who cheated and blamed someone else and now being the person responsible for us suffocating to death.”
“Gosh, don’t be melodramatic,” I rolled my eyes, “What, I said I’m sorry.”
“Are we gonna find an exit or keep arguing, ‘cause I know how to win one,” I mocked.
She sighed, walking away from the stubborn door, “What’s your plan?”
I checked my watch; 8:20. It had already been 20 minutes since bedtime, I couldn’t even hear any screams or people fleeting for their lives. The heat began to cook us, Klara seemed some sickened than me, sweat dripping down her chin, her eyes expressing unbearable pain, her teeth chattering as she twitched.
“Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out,” I tried to reassure her.
“You mean, you’ll figure something out.”
“Yeah, that,” I wasn’t in a mood to argue about petty things.
We huddled closer as the warmth intensified, I could see the sparks of red and orange lit the newspapers and slowly turned them to ash with a flicker of an eye.
Klara moaned, “We’re gonna die.”
“Shh, we’re not,” My facade slipped a little, but I wasn’t ready to give up without a fair fight, “Can I tell you something?” I asked.
“I understand what you mean, it's not fair for you or anyone to be put down cause they aren’t liked by everyone.”
Klara pouted her lips, nodding slightly.
“I… I feel like there is more than meets the eye, you’re an amazing person and never forget that.”
“Wow, I can’t believe Miss. Perfect just complimented me!” She wheezed a laugh.
“I… eek, a mouse!!!” I scrambled to stand on the table, peeking at the carpet.
Klara gave a good laugh, “Geez, it’s just a vertebrate.”
“Oh yeah Miss. Knowitall, something that will bite you.”
“Where is it?” She asked, clearly not bothering with my joke. I shrugged, inclining to the floor.
“A tunnel,” She finished, her lips curving to a smile, “We can definitely fit through there.”
Klara began to get on her knees as mine shook from fear of the loose mouse still roaming the room. Klara’s bravery made me stunned, how the introverted, shy girl was suddenly finding ways to save us.
And I was impressed.
Letting Klara go in first, I was dazed by the musky smell of the tunnel, water leaked from the sides. Soaking my dress, I wanted to complain but understanding the current situation I kept mum.
I wanted to groan about my hair all fuzzy, my lack of clean oxygen, my lipstick melting from the shoddy smell.
I couldn’t see anything with Klara blocking my view, I had nothing to do but trust her. The tunnel felt slimy, I wondered if sewage rats would pop out and attack us.
My head felt dizzy, this was not something I was used to. I had to use my mouth to gasp for air as we went deeper into the maze like shaft. We moved left and right, rounding against the spiraling sides. Yet Klara didn’t utter a word, and neither did I.
I began to lose faith, my long legs cramp, luckily Klara was much shorter than me to fit inside much easier.
“Will this tunnel ever end?” I complained, dodging something that looked like a dog threw up.
“I don’t know.” I could barely hear her, feeling her breath was just a whisper.
I heard her stomach growl as she constantly swallowed, my throat felt like sandpaper as well but I tried not to think about it.
Just when I felt bile rose up my throat, Klara gasped. I looked behind her head to see that the space had become bigger. We were saved!
Klara went out first, looking around as I feebly got on my aching pair of legs admiring freedom.
“Now what?” I asked.
"I’m not sure but I don’t feel like we're enemies anymore. Though we weren't sure what was going to happen to us now or in the future, we would get through it together,” She said as I nodded.
“Teamwork is dream work.”