Michael Cavendish liked to think of himself as a simple person. Not simple as in dumb, but simple as in easy to figure out. A young man with few wants, and relatively easy to please. Almost like a linear function; you plug in different numbers to the input, and get one output for each. Just a straight line. Michael was the same. On the inside at least.
Just because he happened to be “popular” at his school and his father was the creator of InstaTravel, the first teleportation device that was made widely available and affordable. Because of this, Michael tended not to count himself as popular, for he knew most of the people that hung out with him just wanted something.
So yes, he had complained about school on multiple occasions to his parents, but as did every other kid in the entire world. Granted, it was usually about homework or teachers, or bullies. It was not about other students creating fake scandals based on him so that they could sue for millions, or all the hanger-ons trying to suck up to him that made it that much easier to create a scandal in the first place.
But that didn’t mean he should be sent to a boarding school.
Michael did not want to be the very rich kid cliche everyone expected him to be, but it wasn’t up to him. He had told his parents that he could deal with the people in public school, which was true. He had only gotten into one fight in his entire school career, which was pretty good, considering that he was in the middle of his junior year of high school. But alas, one of his last tendrils of ordinary life that he desperately clung to was slipping through his fingers and Michael could feel the pit of rich and famous looming below him. And above him were the faceless students of his school towering above him, standing on the edge of the pit, waiting for him to fall. Then one boy stepped forward and stomped on Michael’s fingers, the unexpected pain caused Michael to let go, and before he disappeared into the never ending darkness, he saw the face of the boy: Angelo Monserrat.
“Quit daydreaming Michael.” his father’s voice made him jump, realizing he had fallen into a trance while looking out the car window on their way to the boarding school.
Yes. The very person who invented teleportation was taking a car.
With the level of irony he lived with, Michael was almost certain that if he went through a metal detector naked it would still set off the alarm.
“That was a stupid joke” he thought to himself, but laughed anyways.
“What are you snickering about?” his father interrogated, scowling at him through the side mirror of their 1995 McLaren F1. Only his father would drive a racecar to drop his son off at school.
“Oh nothing Father, just that if Mother were still alive, you would never dare send me to boarding school.”
It was a low blow, and Michael knew it, but he was desperate, and after his older brother Jeremy had been sent to boarding school, he had made his mother promise him that he would never have to go.
His father was silent for a moment, and Michael was just starting to taste the satisfaction of shutting his multi-millionaire businessman father up when he said,
“I’m sure if your mother were to see you now, she would completely agree with me.”
“Besides, it’s not that much different than the school you have been going to except that it’s filled with elites and you live there. It even has boys and girls.” his father reasoned, repeating what the exact phrase he had used to reply to all of Michael’s complaints. Finally, he realized that no matter what he did, said, promised, or how much he begged or pleaded, he was getting sent to boarding school even if the Devil himself came and sat blocking the road to Kingsford’s Academy for the Elite.
The academy had a large open courtyard complete with a cast iron gate barring the entrance. The actual school was what looked like an old stone manor from the 1800’s that had been expanded upon to make a period piece education complex.
It was the same school his brother Jeremy had gone to, but Michael had never visited. Even back then the very thought of boarding schools had been repulsing. Like he had said, Michael was simple. What he liked, he liked, what he didn’t like, stayed on the naughty list forever.
It had been three days since his father had abandoned him here, at Kingsford’s Academy for the Elite, and Michael was miserable.
He had been dropped off on a Friday, right after school ended, and had had to spend the whole weekend at this awful school. Michael supposed it wouldn’t have been as bad if he had been dropped here right in the middle of the week, so then he could at least have new classes and professors to worry about if nothing else. Instead he had had to spend nearly three days not knowing anyone, or what to do, and no homework assignments to take up his time.
Luckily, during the late afternoon on Saturday, Michael stumbled upon the library while wandering the halls alone to try and get so hopelessly lost that he had to preoccupy himself with finding his way back to his dorm room. So far, it was his only pleasant memory of this unwelcoming place.
It reminded him of the library from Harry Potter, rows of ancient looking books all lined up sky high on the walnut colored shelves, with thick carpets and comfy upholstery positioned around the fireplaces. This was somewhere he could relax, somewhere he could be alone, yet have the hundreds of characters residing within the pages to keep him company.
Michael perused the shelves, running his fingers along the spines of the books as he passed them, looking for a title that drew his interest.
It was so quiet here. Only his padded footsteps and the occasional pop of the fire from the corner of the room.
Just then, a movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. He squinted through the shelves to see a flash of what looked like a girl, but with white hair. Based on how quickly she moved, she was young, despite the coloring of her hair.
Michael was intrigued.
He moved through the aisles following where he thought she had gone.
“Hello? Anyone there?” he called softly, not wanting to disturb the peace of the library.
There was no response.
Michael had left the library with a pile of books, and a slightly confused, yet intrigued mind, glad to have something to focus on other than the fact he was in the place he very much would have liked to avoid.
It was now Monday, his first day of school at Kingsford’s Academy for the Elite.
There were more people than he had expected, crowding the halls, politely shoving through to try and get to their next class on time. Michael was content to stand off to the side, allowing for the rush to clear up before he tried to locate his next class. Usually he would have been in the center, pushing and apologizing just like any other student, but he felt such a sharp disconnect from everything here, he couldn’t bear to pretend and fit in.
Suddenly, Michael caught a glimpse of white hair in the middle of the throng. It was the girl he had seen in the library. He could still not get a good look, but the white hair all but confirmed it. She appeared to be wedged between a few boys walking close together, seemingly unaware of her presence. Michael could tell she was struggling to break free, but the boys would not move.
Normally, he wouldn’t have done anything, and especially not in this boarding school and recent scandal situation. Michael wanted to avoid any sort of attention.
But he felt drawn to her for some reason.
Almost as if in a trance, he made his way through the crowd towards her. The boys kept walking in the same direction, towards Michael, still ignoring the girl trapped between them. When they almost collided, Michael spoke up.
“Let her go.” he said in an almost quiet voice, trying not to make a spectacle.
“Who go?” one of them said. The others looked around confusedly. Michael was about to reply when the girl, who had had time to free herself when the boys had stopped, leaped forward and clapped her hand on his mouth.
“Not another word.” she hissed. “Come with me.”
Michael, too shocked with the suddenness of everything, just nodded and let the white-haired girl drag him away, ignoring the weird looks half the hallway was giving him.
The girl led him into an empty classroom, making him open and shut the door behind them.
When she was sure they were alone, the girl slammed him against the wall.
“Who are you?” she growled, her face inches away from his.
She was beautiful.
The most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Her eyes were the lightest blue, alive with a spark of anger. Her flowing white hair surrounding her slightly tanned face gave her an ethereal look. Even her eyebrows, perfectly shaped, were white. As she waited for him to respond, he could smell her minty breath as she breathed heavily, probably from the exertion of trying to free herself.
Michael couldn’t think. What had come over him? All words left him. The only thing he could do was look at her. Her lips were a soft pink and he wondered if she was wearing lipstick. If it was the kind that if you kissed, you could taste it.
This thought pulled Michael out of the trance abruptly and he blushed, all too aware of her closeness.
“WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME???” Michael screamed inwardly. Never had girls ever had this effect on him and now he was terrified.
The girl rolled her eyes and stepped away.
“I’m Michael.” he replied, multiple seconds late. “What’s your name?”
The girl ignored his question.
“You can see me right now?” she asked, standing in front of Michael, having not moved, and still very visible.
“How about now?”
“Yes… are you okay?”
The girl cursed.
“Yes, I’m fine. Don’t tell anyone.”
With that, she started towards the door. Michael panicked.
“Wait!” he grabbed her arm. “Why can I see when no one else can?”
She stopped and turned towards him. He continued.
“I could tell they couldn’t see you because you were literally pressed up against all those boys and when I stopped them, they didn’t even know who I was talking about.”
She scowled, and tried to walk away, but Michael didn’t let her.
“You owe me one for getting you out of there.” he told her, and she sighed.
“Fine. I’m half-ghost. Don’t ask how, I just am.”
The realization dawned on Michael. He had met a few Mythicals before, a satyr and a merman, but this was new.
“Why do you walk through all those people invisible?” he asked, “Isn’t it dangerous?”
“I’d rather not be seen,” she muttered. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“What makes you think that?” he challenged, knowing that she was referring to his “popular” look.
“Well,” she hesitated, “you look like every other popular jerk around this school.” she finally settled on. Michael scowled, but couldn’t deny the truth.
“I suppose I used to be. Now… let’s just say if I had your power I’d be doing the same thing.”
She looked intrigued, curiosity alighting on her perfect features, and Michael couldn’t help but notice he still held her wrist in his hand.
“...I’d rather not say,” Michael was not about to tell this beautiful ghost girl he was the boy from the newspapers everyone was hammering on, even if it was fake.
“Hmph,” she turned again to leave.
“Wait!” he cried yet again, but she just scowled at him.
“Please… stay.” he said quietly. Michael didn’t know why he was acting like this. It almost felt like if he let her out of his sight he would fall into the depths of despair.
“Maybe it’s glamour” he thought through the muddle. He had seen it before, and it was much like what was happening to him right now.
“Are you putting glamour over me?” he asked, suddenly suspicious.
She looked confused. “Ghosts don’t have glamour.”
“Oh, well I just thought..” he trailed off, embarrassed.
“Oh..” she said softly, a slight blush tinted her cheeks, making them a beautiful rosy color. “No one’s ever..” she started to say, at the same time Michael began to admit, “I’ve never,”
Michael couldn’t help but smiled at her slightly flustered look.
“Maybe because you’re invisible half the time.” he teased. The girl opened her mouth, then closed it, and settled with hitting him on the arm. They laughed for a moment before Michael inquired, looking into her blue eyes.
“What’s your name?”
She hesitated, “Gwendolyn.”
“Gwendolyn,” he repeated, savoring the name, testing it out.
“Would you like to be friends, Gwendolyn?” he asked slowly, wanting to make sure before he over thought it. The unfamiliar bubble of nervous excitement swelled inside him.
“Friends?” she questioned, tilting her head to the side slightly, in a confused manner.
“I mean- more than friends is fine too but-” he shrugged nonchalantly, knowing full well that he was misinterpreting her question.
“Shut up. Just shut up.” she told him, and although Gwendolyn was trying to hide it, he could see the amusement on her face.
“So... friends?” his amount of confidence terrified him. Why did he want her to say yes so badly? Where were all these teasing and jokes coming from? Michael wasn’t funny.
“You want to be friends with the weird ghost girl.” she clarified, looking him in the eyes.
“Yes. I want to be friends with the pretty ghost girl.” he corrected, looking her in the eyes, “And also we outcasts have to stick together.”
“You still have to tell me why you’re an “outcast”’ she emphasized “outcast” with air quotes.
“I only tell my friends that.” Gwendolyn rolled her eyes.
“Fine. We’re friends.”
They stood there for a few seconds of awkward silence, still connected by the hand. Michael wasn’t sure if he should let go, but she made no move, and he wasn’t about to be the one to break it.
“You can still see me?” she asked again, breaking the silence. Michael laughed.
“Of course I can.”
Gwendolyn huffed in exasperation.
“It’s so strange. Why doesn’t it work for you?”
Michael started to say something, but the bell rang, making them both jump.
“I’ve got to go!” Gwendolyn gasped, rushing out of the classroom, her white hair flowing behind her.
Despite the still looming darkness of the scandal and the mystery of why only he was able to see the girl who was invisible to everyone else, and why in the world he was so drawn to her, perhaps going to boarding school wasn’t going to be so bad afterwards.