Chapter 7:


Life Eats Us Now

Recess had arrived, a welcomed break from the monotony of classes, and I was making the most of it, as I always do. I leaned against my desk, savoring those rare moments of alone time. Amidst me, the hubbub of words and laughter formed a comforting background, like a gentle breeze sweeping away the day's troubles.

The cafeteria food had an uncanny ability to lull me into drowsiness. As I chewed on a rather unappetizing slice of sandwich, my eyelids grew heavier with each passing bite. I had my meal alone, sitting just by the corner of an empty table in the cafeteria.

I hadn't yet managed to make any friends to share my meals with. I did consider approaching John, but it seemed like a long shot. John was a magnet for both boys and girls, and they would all converge around him as soon as the bell signaled the beginning of recess. It was as if he possessed some kind of gravitational pull that made him the center of attention.

I was right on the edge of falling asleep when something delicate tickled my nose, gently prodding me awake. It was a subtle but persistent sensation, pulling me back from the brink of slumber.

I sat up quickly, squinting against the streaming sunlight. On my desk, there lay a stack of papers. I rubbed my eyes to clear away the last traces of sleepiness, and that's when I noticed another figure right beside me. It was John, with a friendly smile, standing by my desk. Speak of the devil himself.

"What are these papers for?" I mumbled; my voice still heavy with sleep.

He leaned in closer. "While I was returning from the cafeteria, Ms. Indy asked me to give them to you. Oh, and Reol, you have extra classes today after the regular ones. After the seventh period, just go to the teacher's office."

I blinked in confusion, the words taking a moment to sink in. "Extra classes? W-why do I have those?"

Extra classes were like a never-ending nightmare for me. Back at my old school, they were an unavoidable torment. Even for the last mid-terms, if I hadn't transferred here, I would've still been stuck with them. Just when I thought I'd escaped their grasp, even if just for a moment, they had returned.

"I suppose nobody filled you in," John remarked, casually resting his arms against my desk. "In this school, they're dead serious about things like studying."

I took the file in my hand. A bunch of papers, all class notes, stapled neatly inside. "Because it's an elite school?"

"Exactly. So, you get it now, don't you?"

"But then... why do I have to go through this...?"

"Oh, it's not that big of a deal. If I remember correctly, they'll just make up for all the lectures you've missed the last few days," John said casually, as if he were talking about the weather.

His words did little to soothe my worries me though. "Not a big deal," he repeated, as if trying to downplay the whole situation. But for me, it felt like a brewing storm, a dark cloud hanging over my day.

I tried to force a smile, but it came out more like a strained grimace. My nerves were still wound tight, refusing to let go. "Yeah... if you say so..." I replied, my voice wavering.

John turned his attention to Adica, who had been in her book up until now. She had this serene vibe that felt light years away from my current state.

"Adica," John asked, "what did they make you do during those catch-up classes? Can you remember?"

She lifted her eyes from her book, gently setting the book down on her desk before fixing her gaze on him. "Not too much, actually. They just asked if I had any issues or troubles."

John turned his gaze back to me, his face still a picture of unwavering calm. "See, Reol? Just as simple as that. If you're okay, they'll let you off after today."

"Simple." The word felt like it came from a different world right now. "So there's chance t-that I might be stuck there for an entire week?" Nothing in my life ever seemed simple, especially not the thought of attending these extra classes while trying to navigate the complex maze of this unfamiliar school. Yet, Adica and John's apparent ease in accepting the situation made me wonder if I was letting my anxiety blow things out of proportion. "Don't worry. That never happens."

As their words washed over me, my mind turned to something else. If Adica also had to attend those classes, did that mean she was a transfer student like me? I didn't know much about her yet, but what surprised me even more was how John had managed to make her talk so casually.

As the conversation wound down, I started to construct a mental to-do list. At the top of it was the task of informing my mother about the sudden addition of extra classes to my schedule. John's voice acted as an abrupt disruption to my wandering thoughts, jolting my focus back to the present, where he awaited my attention. "Also," he said, "though I've mentioned it before..."

"What is it?"

"Don't hesitate to reach out if you're struggling with anything," John reassured me. "Like I said earlier, I'll do my best to help."

I nodded. "Ah... sure. I appreciate that," I replied, though I couldn't help but wonder why he felt the need to repeat it. Was he just being exceptionally kind, or had he noticed something about me, something I'd been trying to keep hidden? Perhaps it was the latter, and the thought of him seeing through me made me uneasy. If anything, I wouldn't want him to look at me that way.

However, if I dismissed his kindness outright, it would be unfair. If he genuinely believed I was struggling, that not everything was as effortless for me as it seemed, then I appreciated his consideration and willingness to reach out.

I couldn't help but wonder if, someday, I could consider him a friend. I hoped so.

The remainder of the school day drifted by in a blur of daydreams and feeble attempts to concentrate on the lessons. My thoughts were consumed by one thing: how to avoid that looming extra class, how to sneak past the school's watchful eye, and head straight back home.

I strained my brain, desperately searching for a valid excuse, a way out of this situation. Should I tell them I'm sick? Something urgent came up back home? But every idea I came up with fell apart upon closer examination. Finally, with a heavy heart, I punched in my mother's number, the digits tapping like a requiem, explaining the situation and informing her of my impending lateness, before reluctantly making my way to the teacher's office.

The campus was slowly emptying out, with most students already gone, leaving only those engaged in various clubs. One thing I liked about this school was the absence of mandatory club participation. Here, you weren't compelled to be part of any club, let alone attend club activities. Even though that's the usual norm. And why do they even make club activities mandatory in the first place? 

And as for the dreaded extra class, well, it didn't really feel like a class at all, just what John and Adica were talking about. In the end, it was more like a counseling session. Mr. Clair, our Literature teacher, also happened to be our class advisor. While Ms. Indy handles everything related to our studies, what a homeroom teacher usually does, Mr. Clair takes care of everything else that Ms. Indy doesn't deal with. We basically just reviewed the regular school schedule and activities, and talked about any problems I might have faced.

Mr. Clair is still quite young, in his mid-twenties, and had a genuine kindness about him. Our conversation flowed smoothly, his calmness helping me speak without tripping over my words.

"So, Reol, if you don't mind me asking another question," As he said, there is always a thoughtful expression on his face.

"No problem.... please, go ahead," I replied.

"Were you part of any club at your old school?"

"Clubs...?" I paused briefly before responding, "Well... yeah, I was in the track and field club. But it was mandatory for everyone."

"I see. Are you thinking about joining the track and field club here too?"

I shook my head. "I don't think so... I didn't really get involved in club activities back then. We just had to have our names on the club roster. Club activities were mandatory back in my old school."

"Every student? That seems unusual."

"Well... m-most of us were in the home-going club like me, and we had our names on one of the sports club lists. So, not exactly every student."

"I see..." Mr. Clair's eyes suddenly sparked with an unexpected enthusiasm. "What about the literature club, then? I happen to be the advisor, so you can always come talk to me if you're interested!"

"The literature club...?"

"Yes. I think it could be a wonderful experience for you!"

"But... I d-don't think I'd be much help to the club..."

His composed demeanor suddenly turned into a burst of excitement in his eyes. "Don't worry. We only have two members, and they hardly ever show up at the club room. You'll be just fine."

I realized I should add this to my checklist. Well, no, I decided I would go straight home now and jot it down. I didn't want to be swayed by others' opinions all the time.

After a bit of back-and-forth, Mr. Clair convinced me to sign up for the literature club. I didn't want to be a burden, but I couldn't bring myself to turn him down either. As I hesitated over the sign-up sheet, I couldn't help but wonder how I'd explain this to my mother. I was sure she'd be upset with me. I even considered the idea of her talking to Mr. Clair to sort things out.

Lost in my thoughts and wandering the nearly empty hallways, I suddenly caught a faint, melodious tune drifting through the air. The sun was dipping low, painting warm colors across the school grounds, and the music blended perfectly with the softening light. As if the music itself is guiding my every move. Faint shafts of sunlight crept through the windows, casting intricate patterns on the polished floor, only to be abruptly severed by my looming shadow.

As I continued, my curiosity grew, each footfall echoing in the quiet space. The notes stopped all of a sudden, then getting back up slowly, pulling me further along, as if I were chasing an elusive dream. It was a surreal moment, the world around me fading into insignificance, replaced by the music that seemed to hold a piece of my soul captive.

"It's so calming... like a waterfall," I whispered to myself, unable to keep myself from walking towards it.