Who am I?
"Mrs. Jakobson, why are you late?" the dark cloud asked. It was like the aura you expected villains in Manga to have, like a talking Yami Yami no Mi. Kara fidgeted in place, fighting to see any human features in the fog. "I won't repeat myself, girl. Come in!"
She wielded power.
Her voice caused Kara's terrified gears to run, and she saw some students express their empathy for her situation. Some snickered, too, trying to hide their joy behind the cover of their hand. It was a foolish endeavor.
Mrs. Hammock wasn't that blind.
"How would another 'surprise' test sound? You seem rather eager to disturb my lesson, which means... oh, you already know everything I was about to teach you? Very well. A surprise test tomorrow. For everyone..." Mrs. Hammock glared at Kara. "Almost everyone."
While Kara appreciated her putting a stop to the snickering, acting as if she had been teaching just now when all she did was publicly humiliate Kara in front of the entire class was a bit much. She bit through the knot in her tongue like Alexander the Great cut through the Gordian Knot.
"I lost my memories and when I went to the teachers' lounge to ask, they were very uncooperative," she said, gripping the straps of her backpack tightly.
"You lost your memories, huh?" Mrs. Hammock didn't sound amused. "Surely someone told you which classroom you had to go to, no? We even wrote you a letter, if I remember correctly. Sounds like a poor excuse to me, Mrs. Jakobson. Take a seat."
Kara looked for said seat.
There were five empty seats in the classroom, none of which caused her memories to return in a grand spectacle she had hoped for.
"Which one is mine?"
"I understood the game you're playing the first time, no need to keep playing it," Mrs. Hammock said dismissively, a vein bulging on her forehead.
Kara started to understand why Bonnie warned her about his woman.
"You can ask Mr. Fata about me asking for directions, by the way," Kara added.
"You even involved the other teachers in your prank, Mrs. Jakobson?"
Her head spun in circles, and it wasn't just because her last name had been uttered multiple times, now.
She bit her lips as she glared back at the teacher.
"Where do I sit? Should I call my doctor to tell you that my memories are indeed gone?"
Mrs. Hammock fearlessly overpowered Kara's childish attempt at a glare and stepped closer, looking down on the girl.
From up close, the fog cleared enough to reveal a beast of a woman.
She was a big woman, thin as a stick but large. Her eyes seemed to be deeper than the Mariana Trench, where the gates of hell opened for anyone who dared to stay too long. Deep wrinkles spread out from her eyes like a spider's legs, reaching her sparse hairline that looked like a spider's nest. Her teeth were white, but a nasty shimmer of red glowed out of the slits between them. A bony finger stabbed at Kara's collarbone, causing her to step backward.
"That's not how you talk to a teacher. Now sit down, or you'll go to the principal."
"Where?" Kara asked, her voice but a whimsy whisper at this point.
Finally, a hint of uncertainty washed over her face. Mrs. Hammock stepped back and pointed to a seat in the far back, next to a familiar Asian boy, Ludwig.
"Over there, Mrs. Jakobson."
"Thanks, Mrs. Hammock," Kara said overly cutesy, spitting the sarcasm directly in her teacher's ugly face. That dark aura of hers seemed to be contagious. "And it's Kara. My name is Kara."
Her arrival had done something to the classroom.
Mrs. Hammock couldn't focus throughout the lesson, repeatedly dropping her chalk and misspelling important notes on the blackboard.
With a distressed look on her face, she brought an end to math class.
The door fell shut behind her, and the classroom erupted with chatter and noises, most of which now circled around Kara's seat, bombarding her with questions.
"Why did you have to rile her up like that?" Ludwig asked her first, him being the one right next to her. "That's gonna bite us all in our asses!"
"The teachers here were just so unfriendly," Kara said, pouting.
"This is an elite school, Kara! They were hired to be unfriendly and encourage us to solve problems on our own!"
"Oh... why didn't anyone tell me?"
"You didn't know?" Ludwig asked, mouth agape.
"I didn't remember, duh."
"So you really lost all your memories?" a girl said, her blond-haired face suddenly appearing between Ludwig and Kara.
"Not all of them, but-"
"How come you're still here, then? Shouldn't you be in some kind of medical facility?" another girl asked, pushing the blondie out of the way.
"How are you feeling?"
"To be honest-"
"Will you repeat the year?"
"Why couldn't you remember your seat? Was it all an act?"
"STOP!" Kara slammed her hand hard on the table, silencing the crowd. Every question had been adding another weight on her weak shoulders, and it was too much. This silence was better. "The doctor just said that I forgot most things related to my accident. What my classroom and seat have to do with it, don't ask me."
At the mention of her accident, the kids looked away and backed off, muttering their assent and well-wishes.
"They're just concerned about you... in their own way," Ludwig assured her.
"All they're concerned about is their own lust for sensations," she said.
Ludwig had this blank look on his face that Kara found hilarious. She wished she could take a photo of it.
"Where did that come from?"
"A manga," she admitted. "Did you read it?"
The next class started before long.
The only time they had to change classrooms that day was for the art class. Kara found herself ta a loss as this was one of those lessons she had done no preparations for.
There was no hidden talent under the skin of her tiny hands, either, and she wasn't happy with the end result.
Even the art teacher merely scoffed at her work.
"You'll get some more time next week," he said, not even trying to hide his disapproval.
These people were so hard to please.
"Art was never your strong suit," Ludwig said after class. "Don't worry about it."
"The way he looked at me, Ludwig... it's the way he looked at me!"
"In case you missed it, he looks at all of us that way," Ludwig said resolutely. The strength in his voice surprised her. "I know you've had a bad day but that's just how teachers are around here. You can't change that."
The day passed fairly quickly.
Aside from the distance between her and her classmates and her relationship with the teachers, Kara was relatively happy with what she accomplished.
Academically, she was hopeful that she could catch up to her classmates over the Summer Break. Socially, though...
"What's with this distance between us?"
"It's probably because of those jokes you pull all the time, Kara," Ludwig said, hanging his head as he had been designated as Kara's sole company throughout the day. It seemed that she was tiring to be around. "Kids our age don't make those jokes... and even if we do it, we make sure that they come off as jokes..."
They were leaning against a hazel tree right now, waiting for the lunch break to end. Kara had her own food from home, and Ludwig had gone to buy a sandwich in the cafeteria. Through a coincidence, he found Kara outside and decided to sit down with her.
"I quoted manga characters, and I thought they'd get them!"
Out of nowhere, Bonnie appeared.
A miserable-looking Adrian stood behind her, his posture slumped over as Bonnie lazily held his collar in her grip.
"What's with him?" Ludwig asked her.
"Got another bad grade. Seriously, Adrian, you've seen that stuff, already!"
"It's not like I paid them any attention the second time around, either, you know?" he grumbled, kicking the grass.
"Even if you didn't... anyway, what's this about manga characters?"
Bonnie's eyes shone like those of a predator who just found her next meal. She was one of those sensation-hungry people, too... though Kara held that one back. She didn't want to get on this trio's bad side, too.
"Get that, Kara's reading manga, now."
"No way! When did she start?"
"After waking up," Kara said. "Obviously."
"Yeah," Bonnie said, nodding. She let go of Adrian who rubbed his neck with an annoyed scowl and sat down on the other side of Kara. She picked up a hazelnut, peeled it, and offered it to Kara. "I'll bring you a lot more if you tell me all about it."
"That's an expensive offer you made, there," Kara said, accepting the hazelnut. "There's not much to say. I got bored at home, so I started reading my sister's manga collection. Is it that strange?"
"I know how you were before, so it is! I didn't even know your sister had any manga!"
"Probably because she didn't care about those before," Adrian put in.
"Maybe you just never asked," Kara told him, sticking her tongue out. He looked even more annoyed and leaned against the tree next to Ludwig, out of Kara's sight. With neither girl to annoy him, the irritated aura seemed to dissipate. "But I still don't get what's so strange about it. What did I do before? There's nothing in my room to go by."
"Nothing at all?" Bonnie inquired.
"That's just how I pictured it, though," Adrian said.
"Stop it, you're being rude," Bonnie warned.
"I'm being realistic. She never did anything but study, study, study, did she? The total opposite of me. No wonder the teachers are so mad when their little favorite suddenly finds herself-"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he said, not sounding sorry at all.
"Don't mind him, Kara," Bonnie advised, standing up. "I'll discipline him."
"That's fine," Kara said. "It's alright, really. I don't remember any of that, anyway..."
"So it's fine if we mock your old self?" Ludwig doubtfully asked.
"If you put it like that..."
The rest of the lunch break was spent in an oppressive silence. They didn't really talk throughout the rest of the day, either, and Kara went home with her father, who'd drive right back to work once he dropped her off.
Due to the next day being another day of school, Kara couldn't wait for him today.
She accepted her share from the Sister-pot and retreated to her room with Nia. She fidgeted around on the bed in anticipation.
"How did it go?"
"Good enough, I guess," Kara said. "Say, did I really do nothing at all back in the day? Before the accident? We talked about it at school, and... I just can't picture it. Was I that studious?"
"Studious, huh?" Nia looked physically uncomfortable just talking about it. "I wouldn't describe it as such. You were more like... obsessed? From what I heard of mother and father, you did little else after I left. They... hmm..."
She broke off, there.
"My sister, if anything's wrong, don't hesitate to tell me. You understand? No matter what, come to me. I'll help you."
She planted a kiss on Kara's forehead and left for her room.
Kara thought to hear a sort of rumbling from next-door that night, but she didn't go to investigate. She had tomorrow to worry about.
Kara woke up before her sister the next morning. As she Nia to walk her to school today, Kara went to wake her up when the seconds kept ticking away. She took awfully long to come out, too. She had a serious case of bed-hair and wore a tired expression.
"Didn't you sleep well tonight?"
"I'm surprised you even dare to ask with..." She yawned. "With that innocent expression on your face, little sister. You're gonna break my heart."
"... I'm sorry, did I miss something?"
"Mhm, mhm, now that I think about it, it makes sense... so you forgot, huh? Anyway, how late is it? Am I in time for a quick shower?"
"You should have time for that-"
"Or maybe a bath. Nothing goes over a bath. You want to get in together?"
"Kids my age don't get into the tub together, do we?"
Nia cocked her head.
"Really? We used to do it before I went... away," she said with a yawn.
"Even then, I already went."
"I'll just get myself ready, then. How long do I have?"
"It's 7 am."
"Then that's fine..."
Like a zombie drunken on sleeplessness, she wobbled towards the bathroom.
"Don't fall asleep in the tub!" Kara called after her.
"Won't do, won't do..."
She did, by the way.
They did have some leeway, though, so that was fine. Kara just added it on the list of funny things she could tease her sister about.
"Did you study late into the night, or what's up with you today?"
"Can you stop teasing me about that, already?" Nia complained.
"I'm serious, though. Not sleeping enough is bad for your health. Remember when I didn't sleep enough for one night. Instant sickness."
"You just woke up from a coma, little sister. I dare to say that your body couldn't handle your typical sleepless night."
"Typical, huh?" Kara didn't like the sound of that. "Does that mean I, too, had a frequent meeting with my studies at night? Why not just study during the day?"
"You'll find out when you take a look at your exams, sweet one," Nia said, ruffling her hair. She seemed dead-set to transform Kara's hair back into the messy affair it had been when she woke up. "And there's more to sleepless nights than studying."
"I kinda don't want to tell you," Nia said, winking meaningfully. "If you want to know, find out yourself."
"What a tease."
"You're one to talk."
Chuckling together, they walked the rest of the way to school.
Kara's school life didn't change all that much. She still didn't fit in with her classmates, who looked at her with both sympathy and apprehension, and she spent most of her time around the Ludwig-Adrian-Bonnie-Trio as usual.
The classrooms were terrible places as Kara either couldn't keep up or was too irritated with the teacher to concentrate.
Their remarks didn't help things, either.
"That's not how I remember you."
"Your prowess in history seems to have diminished."
"I can't believe you never read this book."
"See, class? This is what half a year of laziness does to you!"
"Keep on studying, Mrs. Jakobson. You can't stay like this."
It didn't take an exam to know why the old Kara had to study all night just to keep up. No wonder there was nothing in her room.
If she wanted things to change, she couldn't just blame the teachers.
It was time to take the initiative.
"Let's form a study group!" she proposed to her trio of friends.
"Could it be that you want us to teach you under the guise of a study group meant to benefit all of us?" Bonnie said, hitting awfully close to home.
"She's quite behind, I tell you," Ludwig put in, looking unhappy with the idea.
"Say, you said that you kept your knowledge, no? You remember stuff from last year, don't you?" Kara nodded, and Bonnie grinned widely, displaying her white teeth. She grabbed a trying-to-flee Adrian by the neck and pushed him towards Kara. She, not expecting this, almost fell down with him as she caught him. "Teach him, and we'll teach you."
"We will?" Ludwig asked.
"What's the harm in it? Who knows, maybe she'll be actually useful to us when she catches up to us," Bonnie said.
Ludwig wasn't convinced.
"I decline," Adrian added.
"You don't have the right to do so," Bonnie said.
"Why?" he asked.
"He doesn't?" Kara said at the same time.
Bonnie dismissed their protest with a wave of her hand and a glare in Adrian's direction. He looked annoyed but unable to speak up.
"When will we hold this study group?" Ludwig asked.
"Lunch break sounds fine, no?" Bonnie suggested.
Bonnie's fist struck the tree they met at, leaving a fist-shaped hole.
"Sorry, me and my spastics, sometimes. Boys, what did you want to say?"
And so their study group came to be.
Kara tried really hard throughout the week. She raised her hands in class, even though her answers didn't even begin to satisfy her teachers.
Her classmates even snickered at her as they did at everyone else who raised his or her hand for pointless stuff.
Ludwig just looked incredibly uncomfortable throughout the whole thing.
When Friday was finally over, Kara was glad to be done with school.
A mountain of schoolwork was waiting for her, and she knew that it couldn't be completed in a single day, either.
Add to that her catch-up work, and her week transformed into a seven-day-school-festival of learning, studying, and thinking.
It was Nia's turn to walk Kara home that Friday, and she immediately saw through the carefree facade Kara employed.
With no other choice but to tell her the truth, Kara told Nia about how she felt like the enemy in her classroom.
"How about I show you tonight?" she suddenly suggested.
"What will you show me?"
"Did you notice that your cupboard has wheels? You just need to unhinge it from the wall. Tonight at 9 pm, before mother comes home, lock your room and roll it out the way."
"Why would I do that?" Kara asked.
"It's a surprise."
Nia simply smiled at her little sister and refused to say another word. Did Kara hide something behind that cupboard? Was there more to her room than nothingness, after all?
Kara's steps quickened while she thought about it.
Waiting for the appointed time was harder than she wanted to admit. She didn't want to fail her sister, and so she watched the clock intently, which only seemed to make the time move slower.
At 8 pm, Nia came into her room and proposed that they eat dinner.
After that, it was back to waiting.
Finally, the clock struck 9 pm and Kara locked her room and unhinged the cupboard. She did have to admit that she never thought about looking for wheels on a cupboard. It moved without much difficulty... but where to put it?
The only other place was the empty space beside her bed... oh.
So that's what it was for.
Moving the cupboard revealed a hole in the wall.
Kara felt like those kids that traveled to Narnia, only that this path was behind the cupboard, not inside of it.
She arrived in a dimly-lit room with cushions everywhere.
Nia was leaning against a wall, cocking her head.
She motioned Kara to sit down next to her, so she did. Nia wrapped a hand around her shoulder and they snuggled closer together.
"Now, why don't we talk about your Classroom of Enemies?"