Cassandra glanced up from her painting. She could see that Icarus was working away at his, his motions automatic and his eyes seemingly elsewhere. Her gaze drifted to his left wrist. He seemed to be holding the brush just fine. She let out a small sigh of relief; one she didn’t even know she had been holding and went back to work.
The teacher was floating around, looking over everyone’s shoulders and making a passing comment or two. Cassandra braced herself. She and Icarus especially were not the most favored students for this teacher. There were others and they had clustered together around the island of desks, but they had it nowhere near as bad as Cass and Icarus. Sometimes Cassandra felt bad for the teacher, yet on the other hand she felt that this woman had no idea how to handle high schoolers or anyone over the age of five, really.
She huffed. Focus on the painting. Even if the painting could only be done with three colors. Yes, it was an exercise in color combinations. Fine. Cassandra could accept that…except that the teacher was acting as if these abominable, cheap supplies were just fine. The previous art teacher at least acknowledged that what the school was willing to buy was crap, so of course the exercise was going to be frustrating. But this teacher? Not her. She acted like there was nothing wrong with the materials they had.
“Good work, Mr. Ando.”
The teacher was at their island.
“Though you should try blending the colors a bit more.” Said their teacher. “This whole exercise is to create as much as you can,” she said with a big grin.
Chris Ando forced a smile in return. “Doing what I can, ma’am.” He returned to work, stuffing his blueish brush into the yellow well.
She was next.
Cassandra flicked her wrist, creating harsh strokes across the person’s face.
“Miss Ivod, when will you make something that isn’t morbid?”
Cass felt her eyes widen in their subtle way. She glanced at Icarus who had paused in his painting to watch the scene unfold. He gave a tiny shake of the head. Not worth it.
“I didn’t realize I was supposed to paint what other people wanted,” Cassandra finally decided on.
The teacher frowned. “Really, if you continue this we might need to have a talk.” Her teacher turned and walked to another island.
Cassandra’s jaw clenched.
Chris leaned over. “I think your painting looks really cool,” he whispered. “You should just blend all the colors together and paint it black. That’s following the exercise, right?” Chris smirked.
Cass snorted. She glanced at Icarus who may or may not have heard–he was already back to work. At least the teacher didn’t approach him. Maybe she had been notified and decided to, for once, use her brain and leave him alone.
Actually, that was a great idea on Chris’s part. Cassandra looked at her drawing again. She wasn’t quite sure who or what she was trying to draw, but black clothing was probably best for it. The red, green and yellow didn’t quite fit. Maybe as some kind of glow around the entity, but not for clothing.
Footsteps. Cassandra sighed. The teacher again?
No, the steps were too noticeable. Cassandra looked up to see Liana standing between herself and Icarus. The girl had crossed over to rinse off her brushes and, of course, took the longer way to see what Icarus was up to. She sneered. “You know, most people get better, not worse.”
Icarus dropped the brush, his eyes wide in horror and looking down in shame.
Cassandra felt rage explode inside her. It raced its way through her arm and right into Liana’s face.
The girl shrieked and staggered back, clutching her bleeding nose. Everyone else stared in stunned silence.
“Miss Ivod!” The teacher screeched, cutting through the quiet. “Office. Now.”
Cassandra shook her hand, a dull throbbing having started. The room exploded with shocked whispers.
“Uh, ma’am,” Icarus raised his hand. “Can I go too? I saw it happening and–”
“Escort Liana to the nurse.” Their teacher snapped.
Everyone looked at Liana and then to Icarus. Then to the teacher. Everyone on Cassandra and Icarus’s island stared at the teacher in disbelief.
Chris jumped from his seat. “Ma’am, seeing as Liana initiated it by being a total bitch to Icarus, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
The teacher’s look turned murderous. “If you wish to speak that way, then you can escort Miss Ivod to the office.” Her attention was then on Connie, who sat next to Icarus. “If Mr. Semsar does not want to escort Miss Anderson, then would you please escort her, Miss Vizosh?”
Connie’s lips thinned. She glanced at Icarus and then back to the teacher. “Yes, ma’am.”
Chris turned to Cassandra. He held out his arm. “Shall we?”
She glanced at Icarus. He was still staring at her. He gave a small nod, as if saying she could go–he’d be okay. Or so she hoped. Her attention was then back on Chris. She bowed her head and took his arm, much to the disdain of the fuming teacher.
The two marched out. Once the door shut, Chris pulled back his arm and reached into his pocket. He held out a stick of gum. “Already broke one rule. May as well keep it going.”
Cassandra stared at it. The throbbing in her wrist now spread to her knuckles. She accepted the gum, taking it with a now very stiff hand.
Chris frowned. “You gonna be okay?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. I’ll just ice my hand when I get home.”
“No, I mean with your friend.” Chris popped a stick of gum into his mouth and shoved the wrapper into his pocket. “That was cold of her.”
Cassandra’s shoulders sagged. “Please don’t ask about–”
“I wasn’t.” Chris stuffed his hands in his pocket. “I just meant, like…” he frowned. “People’ve talked a bit about what happened on Halloween. I don’t really care to find out–I mean, I do, but I won’t pry. But you looked really messed up after that. You still kinda do. Are you gonna be okay and not get eaten alive by worry that he’ll relapse?”
Cassandra blinked. Somebody had noticed her during that time?
“Uh…” she stared. “Um. Yeah. Yeah, I’ll be fine. Icarus will be too, I think.”
“Okay. Cuz, uh, pretty sure everyone’s now talking about how they expected anybody but you to clock her.”
Cassandra stared at her shoes. She shrugged.
“That’s also why I’m asking. You might be more rattled by everything than you think.”
Cassandra wanted to laugh. Yeah, that was one way to put it.
“Thanks,” she said instead. “We’ll be okay.” She glanced at Chris. He smiled.
She looked away, blushing.
They arrived at the office. Chris pulled open the door and bowed.
Cassandra entered, trying to hide the small smile.
The two filed into the dean’s office, flopping down in his two chairs without waiting for him to greet them.
“Chris, I’m not entirely surprised to see you here,” Mr. Marshal said. “But, Cassandra, I’m very surprised to see you.”
Chris leaned forward. “In her defense, she’s totally, absolutely, one-hundred-percent justified in her actions. As her witness and God as mine, I just want to make that very clear.”
Mr. Marshal rose an eyebrow. He turned to Cassandra. “Well, are you?”
The dean’s attention shifted back to Chris. “Go ahead and wait either here or in the library.”
Chris’s neck craned. “You got a new book on your shelf.”
Mr. Marshal waved his hand. Chris jumped up and darted over to the large, sagging bookshelf and picked up a bright red book.
Once Chris was out, Mr. Marshal’s attention was back on Cassandra.
“So. What happened?”
“Liana was a bitch.”
The dean sighed. “I believe we had an assembly about that kind of lan–”
“I’m not saying it because she’s a girl, Mr. Marshal, I’m saying it because she was being a completely horrible human being who is probably why aliens’ll never contact us; but, saying that takes too many words.”
“Well, clearly punching her took less.”
Cassandra gripped her wrist.
Mr. Marshal let out another sigh. “I understand what happened with you and your friends a couple months ago was very trying and traumatic.” He looked her in the eye. “And knowing you, you’re not the type to just punch people out for no reason.”
Cassandra stared back.
“So. What did Liana do, exactly, that makes her such a terrible human that will make extraterrestrials avoid us?”
“She looked at his picture and said people are supposed to get better, not worse.”
He frowned. “So you punched her?”
“Icarus is left handed. He slit his left wrist.”
Mr. Marshal didn’t seem to react right away, but there was a change in his eyes.
“I see.” He said, breaking the staring contest. “Very well then.” Mr. Marshal began to shuffle papers around his desk. “You may join Chris out in the hall while I contact your parents.”
“They’re out of town.”
“Then who’s taking care of you?”
“Virgil.” It was a half-lie. The truth was that she had the house to herself for the next few days. Virgil was the responsible adult who sat with her while she practiced driving to appointments.
“Ah.” The dean nodded. “Very well then. I will call him and he’ll pick you up. Your punishment is detention for the rest of the week, including Saturday, and part of next week. Also, I will have a talk with Liana to hear her side.”
“She’ll just cry. And probably lie.”
“Regardless, you did assault her. Your punishment is extremely light, despite potentially breaking her nose. We also might want a talk on victim blaming at some point. Though, rest assured, I will be sure to remind her that picking on survivors is quite low and uncalled for.”
Cassandra bristled. He meant well, but the way he said it. Survivors. Something about the word upset her. She nodded and stood up. “Thank you, Mr. Marshal.”
He nodded, the phone already at his ear.