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.
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.
Kara seldom slept in her own bed.
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.
The only Funtime at school, as strange as it sounded, was her study break.
Bonnie and Ludwig were less distant than they had been in the beginning, and even Adrian stopped complaining all that much.
Kara suspected he would never stop complaining altogether, though.
She even attempted to talk with her other classmates a bit, though that venture had been less than successful.
If her friends had been distant in the beginning, her classmates were downright ignoring her, now. They talked normally with Ludwig, though.
Kara knew her accident had something to do with it.
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.
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.
Such was her dream.
Such was not reality.
Before she knew it, two weeks and five untaken exams had passed.
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.
Mrs. Hammock had given her the funniest reaction.
"Don't expect me to grade that mess."
"No, I don't expect anything of you. My sister will look over it."
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.
They never lashed out against a kid just like that, and this knowledge had transformed Kara into an insolent brat.
She knew this, but did she stop it?
It was too much fun to stop.
"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?"
"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."
"You really are carefree these days, aren't you?"
"I wasn't before?"
"Let's just say Adrian would've been much more against the idea of being taught by you before."
Adrian decided to ignore this conversation about him.
"Was I that terrible?"
"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.
Kara just accepted it with a frown.
"Well, sorry about that."
"But in all seriousness, you should hold your tongue in check around them. That got you into trouble once, already," Bonnie warned.
"So I was a brat before the accident, too?"
Bonnie decided to overhear her question.
"Just know that I warned you."
"Huh..." Kara said, returning to her studies.
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.
"What the fuck?"
"Attention. May Kara Jakobson, West-Class 4B, please come to the principal's office. I repeat, may Kara Jakobson, West-Class 4b..."
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.
She just shrugged.
Her expression screamed 'told ya,' in Kara's face.
"Just go," Bonnie said. "I'll make sure that he studies."
She pointed at Adrian.
"You don't have to do that," he complained, falling silent with a single glare from Bonnie. Her power over him was frightening. "Alright..."
"If you feel terrified, just accept all his conditions," Ludwig advised in a whisper, although there was still no soul in the library.
"Are you speaking of experience, Ludwig?" Bonnie asked with a laugh.
"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."
"I just said-"
"Alright, alright, I'll do it, I'll do it!" he wailed, jumping out of his chair when Bonnie extended her hand.
"Have fun," Bonnie cheerfully called after her, sounding just the tiniest bit spiteful.
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.
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.
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.
A sign reading 'Principal's Office' was attached to it on the eye-level.
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.
Lunch break would be over, soon.
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.
Kara shielded her vision, wincing in pain.
A soft chuckle reached her ears.
"Oh, pardon. You just took so long, I decided to pull a little prank on you."
The electric blinds purred softly as they descended, blocking out the sunlight. Only then did Kara get a good look at her surroundings.
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.
A fan clung to the ceiling, fighting with all its might against the warm and stale air.
The principal chuckled again, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead.
He was a middle-aged man on the brink of looking old.
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.
"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."
Unsure of how to react, Kara accepted the fan.
They continued to sit there in silence, each fanning out air to their sweaty faces. He was right. This office was too hot.
How could he stand it in here?
He even wore a suit and tie.
"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?"
"What else but a lecture would you call me for?" Kara said suspiciously.
The principal laughed, resting his hands on the table surface.
Kara noticed a nameplate between them.
Raoul Linse, the Principal of Hazel High School.
Raoul raised a brow, smiling amusedly.
"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?"
He spoke without judgment, without a demand.
The principal was simply... curious.
"Mrs. Hammock shouldn't be that rude to me," Kara admitted. "That would be nice."
"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."
That was about what Kara had expected.
"I'm trying hard, you know? I just wish they'd think about me for a second," Kara admitted.
"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?"
Her perplexion seemed to show on her face.
The principal continued with a pained expression.
"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...?"
While Kara watched him rummage through his drawers, his words echoed in her ear like a scream in the mountains.
'Aren't we old friends?"
"Principal Raoul? What did you mean by... old friends?"
His hands stopped for a moment.
Kara didn't miss it.
"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."
She accepted the form and hurried back to her class.
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.
When Kara handed her the letter, she looked like she had to swallow the ugliest slug there was, urging Kara to her seat.
"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?"
"He just wanted to talk," Kara whispered back, hiding her face behind her table, too, as she scrambled around in her bag.
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.
Mrs. Hammock just sighed and turned back to the blackboard.
They couldn't talk during this lesson, at least.
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.
"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?"
"Just how I was doing," Kara said. "Nothing, really."
"You didn't talk about your accident? At all?"
"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?"
She hoped that they would be denying it, that they would assure her that she had never done anything like it...
But no words like that left their mouths.
Kara bit her lip as Adrian spoke up.
"Hey, maybe we should-"
"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?"
For once, Kara couldn't care less if she was super cruel or mega cruel or infinitely cruel. Bonnie's eyes betrayed her.
"You know what happened, don't you?"
Kara saw it in her eyes... in those narrowed eyes.
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.
"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."
"The school year ends in four weeks."
"Then the whole year. Please, Kara..."
But she had to decline.
"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?"
It wasn't her, but Ludwig who answered.
"You could be quite difficult to be around," he said slowly, observing not Kara, but Bonnie for her reaction.
"Look, can we stop this? I don't like talking about this... oh, isn't that your father?"
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.
"I want to know about me. I'll ask again."
"I'm sorry, but I won't promise to help you, there. See you tomorrow."
"Yeah, see you. Bye, Ludwig. Adrian."
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.
After doing her homework and eating dinner, Kara locked her door and found Nia already waiting in her usual spot, smiling kindly.
"You look like you need someone to talk to."
"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!"
"The principal? What did you do this time-"
"I didn't do anything, he just wanted to talk! Please have some faith in me, sis!"
"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?"
Kara chose to ignore the playful tune of her sister's words and began to tell her everything.
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.
"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!"
"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."
"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."
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.
"Those friends of yours... do they treat you well?"
"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."
"What about your classmates?"
"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-"
"They're only doing their job, Kara. Try to understand."
"The principal said the same, you know?"
The silence came back.
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!
"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?"
"It's my past, Nia. I have to know."
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.