Chapter 6:

Office of Truth

Who am I?

Kara studied her ass off that weekend, and the weeks after that, too. She studied with her trio of friends every lunch break to the melody of Adrian's complaints, but even he shut up when he didn't do as poorly on his next exams. She studied with her sister every day, if only an hour, to reduce her questions to a minimum.Bookmark here

She only allowed herself to eat when her homework was done for the evening, and Nia never failed to wait patiently for her to finish.Bookmark here

Kara seldom slept in her own bed.Bookmark here

After dinner and the usual hygiene rituals, she and Nia met up in the secret cove and talked about how the teachers might have started resembling a wild horde of strict assholes a bit less.Bookmark here

The only Funtime at school, as strange as it sounded, was her study break.Bookmark here

Bonnie and Ludwig were less distant than they had been in the beginning, and even Adrian stopped complaining all that much.Bookmark here

Kara suspected he would never stop complaining altogether, though.Bookmark here

She even attempted to talk with her other classmates a bit, though that venture had been less than successful.Bookmark here

If her friends had been distant in the beginning, her classmates were downright ignoring her, now. They talked normally with Ludwig, though.Bookmark here

Kara knew her accident had something to do with it.Bookmark here

Maybe they were jealous that she didn't have to take the exams. If only they knew how hard she worked to keep up with them.Bookmark here

She would trade her position with anyone if she could just rewind the time and resume before she ever had the accident and make it not happen at all.Bookmark here

Such was her dream.Bookmark here

Such was not reality.Bookmark here

Before she knew it, two weeks and five untaken exams had passed.Bookmark here

The mood in the classroom was tense, and everyone scribbled on their exam papers. Kara could have taken this period off, but she decided to partake in every single exam to see how she stacked up in comparison.Bookmark here

Mrs. Hammock had given her the funniest reaction.Bookmark here

"Don't expect me to grade that mess."Bookmark here

"No, I don't expect anything of you. My sister will look over it."Bookmark here

At this point, she had come to terms with the strictness of her teachers. Her friends had been right. They treated everyone the same, no matter their situation, circumstances, or mental state. If there was something they didn't like, they said it.Bookmark here

They never lashed out against a kid just like that, and this knowledge had transformed Kara into an insolent brat.Bookmark here

She knew this, but did she stop it?Bookmark here

No.Bookmark here

It was too much fun to stop.Bookmark here

"You know that your mark for behavior will be terrible, don't you?" Bonnie asked her on the third week's Friday. They decided to take a quick break between studying, as there was nobody to be disturbed in the library, anyway. "I mean, don't stop, it's hilarious, but you do know that behavior receives marks, do you?"Bookmark here

"I wonder," Kara said. She had, indeed, forgotten about the mark for behavior. "I might not be judged at all this year. I can explain why I got it, anyway, so I guess it's not that bad."Bookmark here

"You really are carefree these days, aren't you?"Bookmark here

"I wasn't before?"Bookmark here

Bonnie chuckled.Bookmark here

"Let's just say Adrian would've been much more against the idea of being taught by you before."Bookmark here

Adrian decided to ignore this conversation about him.Bookmark here

"Was I that terrible?"Bookmark here

"Oh, sweet one, you shouldn't call yourself terrible. You're making me feel guilty, here," Bonnie said, rubbing Kara's cheeks like one would a toddler's.Bookmark here

Kara just accepted it with a frown.Bookmark here

"Well, sorry about that."Bookmark here

"But in all seriousness, you should hold your tongue in check around them. That got you into trouble once, already," Bonnie warned.Bookmark here

"So I was a brat before the accident, too?"Bookmark here

Bonnie decided to overhear her question.Bookmark here

"Just know that I warned you."Bookmark here

"Huh..." Kara said, returning to her studies.Bookmark here

That was cut short, though, when after 15 minutes, the school speakers came to life with a nasty beeping sound, causing all four of them to cover their ears with anguished expressions on their faces.Bookmark here

"What the fuck?"Bookmark here

"What now?"Bookmark here

"What...?"Bookmark here

"Ouch..."Bookmark here

"Attention. May Kara Jakobson, West-Class 4B, please come to the principal's office. I repeat, may Kara Jakobson, West-Class 4b..."Bookmark here

When Kara registered her name, all the previous confidence in her mischiefs was suddenly gone. Her body lost all its energy as she turned a pleading gaze to Bonnie.Bookmark here

She just shrugged.Bookmark here

Her expression screamed 'told ya,' in Kara's face.Bookmark here

"Just go," Bonnie said. "I'll make sure that he studies."Bookmark here

She pointed at Adrian.Bookmark here

"You don't have to do that," he complained, falling silent with a single glare from Bonnie. Her power over him was frightening. "Alright..."Bookmark here

"If you feel terrified, just accept all his conditions," Ludwig advised in a whisper, although there was still no soul in the library.Bookmark here

"Are you speaking of experience, Ludwig?" Bonnie asked with a laugh.Bookmark here

"Uhm..."Bookmark here

"Don't take him seriously, Kara. He's just messing with you. Don't worry, he'll even carry all your stuff back to your classroom for you."Bookmark here

"I will?"Bookmark here

"I just said-"Bookmark here

"Alright, alright, I'll do it, I'll do it!" he wailed, jumping out of his chair when Bonnie extended her hand.Bookmark here

"Have fun," Bonnie cheerfully called after her, sounding just the tiniest bit spiteful.Bookmark here

Thanks to Bonnie, Kara now knew her way around the school. The principal's office was located next to the teachers' corridor, right next to the stairs.Bookmark here

On her way there, she received all kinds of funny stares with all kinds of emotions being transmitted like painful arrows, easily penetrating her skin.Bookmark here

When she finally reached the office, she promptly decided that studying the door was more important than going inside. It was made of wood, a light brown. It looked more massive than the classroom doors but had no striking features otherwise.Bookmark here

A sign reading 'Principal's Office' was attached to it on the eye-level.Bookmark here

Kara pretended to study an elaborate tree ring around the door handle for a while, shaped like an oval with convulsions, then she just pushed it open.Bookmark here

Lunch break would be over, soon.Bookmark here

What greeted her was the blinding light of the sun, shining right through the windows to the back, making the principal appear like nothing but a dark shadow.Bookmark here

Kara shielded her vision, wincing in pain.Bookmark here

A soft chuckle reached her ears.Bookmark here

"Oh, pardon. You just took so long, I decided to pull a little prank on you."Bookmark here

The electric blinds purred softly as they descended, blocking out the sunlight. Only then did Kara get a good look at her surroundings.Bookmark here

The office had the same white color for walls as the rest of the school. A massive oakwood table faced the center of the room, the usual office-tools and a computer sprawled out across its surface. Pots with plants ornated the otherwise empty spaces between cupboards and other furniture. The principal even had a sink to wash his hands, as well as a little fridge.Bookmark here

A fan clung to the ceiling, fighting with all its might against the warm and stale air.Bookmark here

The principal chuckled again, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead.Bookmark here

He was a middle-aged man on the brink of looking old.Bookmark here

There was a different air about him than his colleagues, less oppressive. His expression betrayed none of his reasons for summoning Kara into his office, though she could guess what it was about. She gulped and sat down in the empty chair opposite the mustached man.Bookmark here

"You needn't be so stiff. This is not a classroom," he said, picking up a hand-fan. "You want one, too? This office gets too hot during the summer."Bookmark here

Unsure of how to react, Kara accepted the fan.Bookmark here

They continued to sit there in silence, each fanning out air to their sweaty faces. He was right. This office was too hot.Bookmark here

How could he stand it in here?Bookmark here

He even wore a suit and tie.Bookmark here

"Now, you must be asking yourself why you're here, don't you? You kids always expect a lecture when I call you... do you dislike me so?"Bookmark here

"What else but a lecture would you call me for?" Kara said suspiciously.Bookmark here

The principal laughed, resting his hands on the table surface.Bookmark here

Kara noticed a nameplate between them.Bookmark here

Raoul Linse, the Principal of Hazel High School.Bookmark here

Raoul raised a brow, smiling amusedly.Bookmark here

"Did you do something that deserved a lecture?" Kara had nothing to say to that. "You see, I was tasked to ensure your well-being by your sister and a certain Doctor Legerer, so you see, I have my reasons for being interested in your happiness. That being said, how do you feel? Is there anything you wish to complain about?"Bookmark here

He spoke without judgment, without a demand.Bookmark here

The principal was simply... curious.Bookmark here

"Mrs. Hammock shouldn't be that rude to me," Kara admitted. "That would be nice."Bookmark here

"Oh, your absence did a serious number to your grades. You have to understand, she doesn't hate you. She cares about you getting better, perhaps more so than anyone else." Kara's face contorted to a grimace. "I see you're not convinced... Kara, these teachers treat every student the same. I'm sure you've noticed. They won't favor you or treat you kindly just because you woke up from a coma. They reported how you tried to reason with them, but they can't just take your side in this. I hope you understand."Bookmark here

That was about what Kara had expected.Bookmark here

"I'm trying hard, you know? I just wish they'd think about me for a second," Kara admitted.Bookmark here

"The same way you think about their position for just a second?" principal Raoul countered. He had this annoyingly gentle smile on his face, again. "Kara, enough of my colleagues. Isn't there anything else you want to talk about? Aren't we old friends?"Bookmark here

Old friends?Bookmark here

Her perplexion seemed to show on her face.Bookmark here

The principal continued with a pained expression.Bookmark here

"It really hurts us to see that you lost your memories, my dear. I hope you'll get better eventually. When you do, come by and we'll have another chat, alright?" He peeked at his watch. "Now, now, you better go-" The school bells rang. "Don't worry, I'll write you a letter of apology. Just wait for a second... where are the forms...?"Bookmark here

While Kara watched him rummage through his drawers, his words echoed in her ear like a scream in the mountains.Bookmark here

'Aren't we old friends?"Bookmark here

"Principal Raoul? What did you mean by... old friends?"Bookmark here

His hands stopped for a moment.Bookmark here

Kara didn't miss it.Bookmark here

"As you are now, it would be very irresponsible of me to tell you," he finally said, speaking slowly. "I heard you're treated differently, now, and frankly speaking, our acquaintance isn't an enjoyable story, Kara." He scribbled his name onto a form, not looking at her. "Should you require to know, I'd be glad to talk with you about the whole story... but for now, this much will have to do. Talk to me if you need assistance, Kara. Please."Bookmark here

She accepted the form and hurried back to her class.Bookmark here

Mrs. Hammock tended to teach her class at the worst times, just like today. She glared at Kara with what couldn't be anything but loathing. She saw nothing of the supposed kindness and care Principal Raoul had spoken about in this furious shadow of negative energy.Bookmark here

When Kara handed her the letter, she looked like she had to swallow the ugliest slug there was, urging Kara to her seat.Bookmark here

"What did he want?" Ludwig whispered to her while Mrs. Hammock turned to the blackboard, scribbling something on it. He pretended to pick up his rubber from the ground, too, shielding his face from the teacher's vision. "Was it bad?"Bookmark here

"He just wanted to talk," Kara whispered back, hiding her face behind her table, too, as she scrambled around in her bag.Bookmark here

"Just talk?"Bookmark here

"Yeah."Bookmark here

Mrs. Hammock then turned to look at the two of them, her eyes mere slits in her face. Ludwig shot up to attention, causing his rubber to fly behind him in a high arc.Bookmark here

Mrs. Hammock just sighed and turned back to the blackboard.Bookmark here

They couldn't talk during this lesson, at least.Bookmark here

When all their classes were over and done, the usual quartet met up at the gates. It was her father's turn to bring her home today, but the commute seemed to be too thick to allow for a punctual arrival. Bonnie, Adrian, and Ludwig decided to wait with her and talk about her visit to the Principal's office, while they were at it.Bookmark here

"You said he wanted to talk?" Bonnie said, trying to sound casual. Her face seemed tenser than usual, though. "What did you talk about, then?"Bookmark here

"Just how I was doing," Kara said. "Nothing, really."Bookmark here

"You didn't talk about your accident? At all?"Bookmark here

"All he said was that it would be the wrong time... he let it slip that I was a frequent visitor of his office in the past, though..." Kara admitted. Bonnie, Ludwig, and Adrian shared a meaningful gaze, there. "Say, am I a bad girl? Food battles, pranking teachers... even though they kinda earned it with how they're treating me... did I do stuff like that?"Bookmark here

She hoped that they would be denying it, that they would assure her that she had never done anything like it...Bookmark here

But no words like that left their mouths.Bookmark here

Kara bit her lip as Adrian spoke up.Bookmark here

"Hey, maybe we should-"Bookmark here

"Quiet, Adrian," Bonnie hissed, stomping hard on his foot. The blond boy groaned as he received an elbow-blow into the stomach, making him keel over. Ludwig looked kinda frightened in the midst of things. She confidently said, "You're putting us on the spot here, Kara. Don't you think that your questions today are super cruel for us?"Bookmark here

For once, Kara couldn't care less if she was super cruel or mega cruel or infinitely cruel. Bonnie's eyes betrayed her.Bookmark here

"You know what happened, don't you?"Bookmark here

She did.Bookmark here

Kara saw it in her eyes... in those narrowed eyes.Bookmark here

Bonnie crouched low, picking up a hazelnut. She peeled it and tossed it Kara's way. She caught it but didn't look away from Bonnie.Bookmark here

"I'll pick many more for you for the rest of the school year, every day if you just drop those questions. They're unfair, Kara."Bookmark here

"The school year ends in four weeks."Bookmark here

"Then the whole year. Please, Kara..."Bookmark here

But she had to decline.Bookmark here

"I'm sorry," she said, not really understanding why she had to apologize for anything. "This is more expensive than all the hazelnuts in the world. Who am I, Bonnie?"Bookmark here

It wasn't her, but Ludwig who answered.Bookmark here

"You could be quite difficult to be around," he said slowly, observing not Kara, but Bonnie for her reaction.Bookmark here

"Look, can we stop this? I don't like talking about this... oh, isn't that your father?"Bookmark here

Kara followed her finger to a black car, a familiar figure waving at her behind the wheel. Kara forced a smile and waved back, then turned back to Bonnie.Bookmark here

"I want to know about me. I'll ask again."Bookmark here

"I'm sorry, but I won't promise to help you, there. See you tomorrow."Bookmark here

"Yeah, see you. Bye, Ludwig. Adrian."Bookmark here

Once she was in the car, Kara was glad for her father's silent nature. She had a lot to think about. The Sisters' Grove would be used, tonight.Bookmark here

After doing her homework and eating dinner, Kara locked her door and found Nia already waiting in her usual spot, smiling kindly.Bookmark here

"You look like you need someone to talk to."Bookmark here

"How right you are," Kara huffed, using her sister's lap as a pillow. "Listen to this, the principal called me to his office, today!"Bookmark here

"The principal? What did you do this time-"Bookmark here

"I didn't do anything, he just wanted to talk! Please have some faith in me, sis!"Bookmark here

"Food battles and pranks usually don't elicit my trust in any way, but for you, my sweet sister, I'll make an exception. What's wrong, then?"Bookmark here

Kara chose to ignore the playful tune of her sister's words and began to tell her everything.Bookmark here

From the familiar way the principal talked with her to the strange refusal to tell her anything about her past, as well as her friends' funny behavior when she told them about it. Most of it consisted of cursing and pouting.Bookmark here

"What did I do, Nia? How am I supposed to fix the situation if nobody tells me anything! I hate this! I want to show them how I've changed, but I'm not given the chance!"Bookmark here

"Hmm..." Nia caressed Kara's head with one hand while playing with one of her own strands of hair in the meantime. She seemingly took the matter very seriously, as her eyes turned glassy and distant. "In the principal's case, it might be that your doctor told him to hold his tongue. Theoretically, if you are totally different now than you were back then, the shock could... cause something. I'm not studying medicine, so don't hold me accountable for that."Bookmark here

"I'd never do that, Nia," Kara promised, snuggling deeper into her thighs. She smelled nice. The smell of her shampoo lingered on her body. "I'd still like to know."Bookmark here

They fell silent for a while. Nia continued to caress Kara's head as Kara played with Nia's knees, enjoying it when her leg twitched.Bookmark here

"Those friends of yours... do they treat you well?"Bookmark here

"What kinda question is that?" Kara asked, turning her head. Nia looked entirely serious... grave, even. "Th-they treat me well, yes. They're the only ones who treat me well."Bookmark here

"What about your classmates?"Bookmark here

"I think they're slowly coming to terms with my appearance. There's this weird sense of tension... of distance whenever I try to talk with them, but it's already much better than it was in the beginning, so... only the teachers-"Bookmark here

"They're only doing their job, Kara. Try to understand."Bookmark here

"The principal said the same, you know?"Bookmark here

The silence came back.Bookmark here

Kara grew tired of playing with her sister's knee and decided to just enjoy the smell of her shampoo... or was it body lotion? Kara didn't think she smelled that nice after a shower. Nia had some frightening weapons at her disposal!Bookmark here

"If your friends treat you well, why do you want to know about your past?" Nia asked, then. "Isn't it fine like it is? Do you need to know?"Bookmark here

"It's my past, Nia. I have to know."Bookmark here

She rose from her lap and looked at her big sister. Nia was biting her lip and avoided her eyes. It took her a moment to don her usual smile, again, but at that point, Kara already suspected that Nia had more to say on the matter than she revealed.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.