This is the last day of proper school so not much is going on except for revision and do-whatever-you-want sessions. We’re also watching “Romeo+Juliet” in English, you know, the one by Baz Luhrmann with Leonardo DiCaprio. The only reason I’m in school is because I get to see DiCaprio being such a lovestruck sweetheart in the film – I mean, he is so beautiful! And yes, Juliet (played by Claire Danes) is beautiful too, so I guess that’s the only reason I’ve not laid a finger on her.
Deus Ex Machina: Part II
17 – Aurora musis amica
Atticus Institute of Science’s main building looks like God had just dumped a large glass cube into the middle of nowhere. Whoever is in charge of the institute managed to remodel the land around it make it look more welcoming, like adding cypress trees, flower bushes and memorial statues. Other buildings, aside from the dormitories, are scattered around to form a circle so as to make navigation around the university ground easier; there are five buses and go back and forth from dorms and study buildings, and you can tell its destination by the colour of the bus, because different departments have different colours.
The dormitories for the fraternities and sororities are built to look like a comfy villa complete with a multiuse playground – it has two basketball baskets and drawn-on-wall goalposts – and a swimming pool which is only open in mid spring and summer, because by autumn and winter the weather will be too cold.
For the sorority and fraternities, they have three housing building. Inside a building, there are twelve rooms, each with their own bathroom. Six of the rooms have two bunk beds while the other six has twin beds – that means a dorm can house thirty-six students. The buildings are placed so they face the playground and swimming pool, which is situated in the middle of the three buildings. Sometimes, a building will not be used because not all students decide to stay in a dorm, so they will turn that building as a kind of party house. However, the dorm ground itself is famous for its ghost stories, so students will sometimes enter the deserted building and search for any paranormal activities.
On her first day at the sorority dorm A, Dea nearly got lost when she was searching for the meal hall – luckily she found it before breakfast session is done. There are six long tables and benches that can hold six girls per table and on the left hand side there is a rectangular hole in the wall where it houses the tray line server, and behind that you can see the chefs working on more food. Dea takes her healthy breakfast which consists of coleslaw with chicken fillet bits and orange juice. Seeing that the only empty table is the one at the corner, she makes her way past crowded benches and towards the lonely bench.
“Dea! Over here!” a familiar voice calls out. Dea turns around and spots Kalista sitting at a table with the dorm head and other students, who seem to not care about the duo. Dea walks over to the table and settles down at the empty space Kalista was patting. “Here’s Sleeping Beauty!” Kalista beams, “You look really tired yesterday so I let you be – sorry about that.”
“No, I think I’ll thank you because I feel well-rested now,” Dea replies.
“Oh, and I’m sure you know Helen,” Kalista gestures to the dorm head – Helen now – who gives a small wave and a placid smile. “I found that she’s actually really cool, and I’m sure you’ll like her and vice versa.”
“Hi, Helen,” Dea greets.
“I never thought I’ll ever see a Naitt,” Helen muses.
Dea gives a light laugh, “I honestly didn’t know the Naitts are so well-known here.” Beside them, the students who were previously uninterested are murmuring, throwing glances towards Dea once in a while. “But I guess the Pastors are respectable people, too – that peace treaty with the Troys went well, despite the things that happened.”
Helen shrugs. “But even though the declaration of piece had been signed, there’s still tension between us Pastors and the Troys. I guess it’ll take more time than I thought for us to completely bury the hatchet.”
Dea nods in agreement. Helen is a pleasant young lady to be with, lovely inside and out. She keeps her bronze curls in a high ponytail and her long bang is clipped to the left to let her glass-coloured eyes view the world calculatingly. Something about her makes Dea glow in respect, and though it doesn’t show Dea has the same effect to Helen. While Dea’s grace comes from her strong-headedness and leadership qualities, Helen’s aura was more lady-like and like the moonlight upon a pond.
The trio spends their breakfast until the last minute before they have to board their respective buses. Helen is learning law so she goes to the navy blue bus; Dea’s medicine department bus is the pastel green one and Kalista’s psychology department bus is the fuchsia one. Dea’s bus is packed with a close-to equal ratio for boys to girls. Spotting an empty seat at the very end, Dea squeezes her way through the cramped space and flops down on the seat when she finally has her foot in front of it. Unknown to her, there’s a girl seated at the far right of the back seat and she’s looking at Dea curiously. Dea notices her presence and smiles in greeting.
“I didn’t think I’ll see you here,” the girl says.
Dea laughs internally and says “And I forgot that you actually go here.”
The girl nods. “Actually, I doubt you’ll even remember me. Even Mum doesn’t communicate with me that much anymore. What’s been going on at home, anyway?”
Dea doesn’t say anything. How can she say this to her without causing a scene? Tell her in private. “There’s a lot to tell you, but I can’t tell you here. Meet me at the canteen tomorrow in lunch, okay. Or I’ll find you myself instead,” Dea says in a low voice.
The girl looks at her with dark slits – as dark as her mother’s. “Alright,” she says, “I’ll see you then, Deanna.” The bus halts to a stop and the girl stands up to leave. “By the way, what are you studying?”
Dea stands up and follows her. “Birthing and babies,” Dea simply says.
The girl laughs. “Decided to follow me?”
“Part of the reason. But I’ve always wanted to have a career with the babies.”
The two walk towards the medicine building whilst talking about the old times and catch up on what’s been happening. Dea makes sure she’s not mentioning about the whole Cornelius thing and so she only tells about the fun bits – it’s more like filtering sandy water; Dea can feel the filter paper getting heavier and heavier as more sand gets piled up and now there’s only a thin sliver of clear water that’s flowing through the wall of sand. Since Dea has to go to the introductory assembly before starting her first lecture, Dea bids farewell to the girl with a hug. “Good to see you again, Lucia,” Dea says.
“Send my regards to the others when you call home, okay?” Lucia says, “The last time I saw you guys, you were so young, especially Erin, Michael, Hiero and Brian. And I want to know how Mum and Ace are doing, too.” Lucia lets go and smiles. “I’ll see you soon, Dea.”
Dea watches Lucia’s retreating figure before she enters the auditorium, shoulders hunched from the burden of carrying ten albatrosses.
* * *
Even though all she did was sit through an hour-long(ish) speech, Dea feels so battered and worn, and the first thing she did when she arrives in her first class is to drop her head on her table like an anchor. The head of the medicine department was a meaty man with a balding head, but his otherwise comical appearance was sharpened with his jet black suit and permanent frown and angry wrinkles. His booming voice had snapped Dea out of her dream-like trances every now and then, and she had to suppress a dozen of yawn so that she won’t make a bad impression on herself and her family. The head then introduced the other professors one by one and each one would deliver their own version of we-wish-you-a-good-year speech. Though they were informative, it was deathly boring.
So before the professor comes, Dea plans on taking a short nap so she can be alert when her lesson starts. Dea wonders if Kalista is going through the same exhaustion, but Dea knows Helen isn’t because it’s her final year before she gets get bachelor’s degree, and their speeches are usually before the graduation (according to Lucia). A body seats itself on Dea’s right, and then another filled the space on her left. It seems like the two are conversing across her head and though they were whispering, she can clearly hear them despite her weary state.
“That assembly was so boring,” the one on the left says.
“Yeah! But I didn’t dare to yawn ‘cause the head looks so scary!” the left one says.
“Hell yeah, he did! And straight after that we have this – why can’t they put a five minute break or something?”
“But this day’s schedule’s only temporary; tomorrow will be according to the normal schedule, you know, the one we’re given.”
“Ugh! University life’s so hard! But, at least the people are nicer…”
“…Is she sleeping?” the right one whispers.
“She’s the Naitt, right?” the left one muses, “Should we ask her about it? I’m kinda dying to know –”
“Why are you being so inconsiderate?!” the right one hisses, “Think about her – she must be traumatised! And why would you care, anyway? Everyone should just give the Naitts a break for once!”
Dea feels thankful to the one on the right. Dea has never thought that strangers can care and all that, and now this unknown boy is defending her family’s privacy – such a gentleman. Dea lifts her head and feigns tiredness, looking lazily at the boys on either of her sides. The boy on her left is someone she has never seen before – she’s not interested. She turns to her right and she swore her heart nearly leap out of her throat. The boy is none other than Oscar.
“Holy – Oscar?!” Dea squeaks indignantly.
Oscar smiles sheepishly and gives his usual small wave, “Hi, Dea. I didn’t know you’ll be here.”
“And I didn’t know either!” Dea exclaims.
“Actually, I told you about AIS a little while ago, you know, during Careers Week?”
Dea blushes. “Oh, then I must’ve forgotten.” Or wasn’t listening, Dea cringes inwardly.
“That’s alright, but I thought you were going to the university in the next city. What changed?”
“Oh, well, I thought this is actually better,” Dea laughs nervously, “Jenny’s been complaining about how I waste such a good opportunity, so I thought about it and eyah, I think AIS is better. Obviously.”
Oscar smiles; Dea thinks she’s in heaven. “Well, I guess we’ll spend the rest of our years together, then.” Dea thinks “together” is such a strong word, and the thought of spending time with Oscar through difficulties would be wonderful, and she can act like his best friend so she can know more about him than she already does.
Oscar is not that drop-dead gorgeous type but his appearance is not that shabby either; in fact, Dea had almost dismissed him entirely the first time she met him. But something about him made Dea take a second look. They were lab partners in middle school, and the two would make small talks to get along through the school years. Then, they go to the same high school and they decided that they good companies for each other. When Dea shared her passion in hunting the boars, Oscar would sometimes tag along with her to hunt, much to Abel’s disapproval. Dea had thought of him as a loyal friend, but a basketball game celebration was what it took to change everything.
It was in the middle of her first year in high school, just after the basketball’s victory against the visitors. Oscar and Dea were celebrating by sharing a bucket of caramel popcorns whilst watching a cheesy romance film – they loved to watch those kind of films and then make fun of them, only to have them admit that it wasn’t so bad after all. They were at the cinema and since it was a school day, not much people were around, except for some adults and elders. When the film finished, just as the two were getting out of the cinema, a mugger jumped out of the blue and screamed shakily at the two of them to hand over their wallets, gripping his knife with a white-knuckled grip. Dea couldn’t really remember most of it, but she did remember the moment she charged forward at the man in an attempt to seize him – all the blame on the tomfoolery of youth, really. She heard Oscar call her name and then there was a lot of tumbling and disorientation and when Dea finally came to, Oscar got a hold of the knife with shaking hands, a black eye and a cut on his right cheek.
It looked as if he had just won a death match but he assured Dea that after Oscar beat the mugger up, he ran away without a glace, completely forgetting his knife. Dea felt so guilty, so foolish, so selfish to just put her friend’s life in danger because of her recklessness. But all Oscar said was:
“I don’t know what I’ll do without you, Dea.”
Okay, so there might be a chance that Dea had looked at that line too deep, however no one cannot possibly look at a man who had just wrestled an armed man for you without awe and gratitude, and these feelings slowly turned into some kind of attachment. Dea couldn’t stop thinking about how Oscar was so fierce yet so gentle, and as time passes she started to think about the little things he does that made her giddy. In conclusion, she fell in love.
If it was when Deanna Naitt was only a little girl, tomboyish and hot-headed, she would stubbornly say that she will never fall for a Prince Charming because that would prove her weak. The current Deanna Naitt thinks that it’s not so bad of a feeling.
Her flashback is cut short when a voice says “Umm, guys? Can you, uh, stop staring at each other? It’s kinda awkward…”
Dea blinks and snaps her head around to look towards the professor’s desk, flushing furiously. From the corner of her eye, she can see Oscar rubbing the nape of his neck, a gesture which means he’s nervous or embarrassed. The boy on Dea’s left smirks in amusement. “So,” he starts, “you must be Deanna Naitt.”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah. Hello – uh, pleasure to meet you,” Dea says distractedly.
“Pleasure’s mine,” the boy says, “I’ve heard so much about you from Oscar –”
“Eric!” Oscar gasps.
“What? It’s true!” the boy – Eric – laughs, “You know, he just keeps on talking about how Deanna Naitt is so –”
“Awesome!” Oscar interjects, “Really, really awesome. You know, remember that time when you shot the boar right between the eyes? That was awesome. Awesome, you know what I mean?”
“Umm…I think I do,” Dea says slowly, trying to summon the said event. She can’t remember such a thing.
“Anyway,” Oscar rambles on, “we really need to get settled down because the professor can come any minute now – oh! Speak of the devil! We need to be quiet now. Especially you, Eric. Shut up.”
Eric throws his hand up in surrender and then snickers about how “smooth” Oscar was. Dea follows Oscar’s suggestion and readies herself for the lesson. She still can’t figure out why she can’t remember the event Oscar was talking about.
* * *
“I hate assemblies,” Kalista whines to her pillow, beating the mattress with her legs in a mock tantrum fashion. On her desk, Dea is going through what classes she has to attend tomorrow and their whereabouts, highlighting a map of the university and the rooms in the buildings she needs to be in. She is also organising what books to bring and for which lessons, and at what amount of time she will spend reading each books after lectures. Dea swivels around to face Kalista and says “At least we’re going to have a welcome party for dinner – I bet you’re definitely coming.”
Kalista jolts up. “Hell yeah, I am!” she beams.
“Good, now do something productive before it’s six,” Dea says, going back to her schedules, books and maps.
Kalista frowns. “Since when are you so organised?”
“Since forever,” was Dea’s simple answer.
“Yeah, but not even Helen’s that organised,” Kalista points out.
“We’re raised differently, I guess,” Dea mumbles.
Kalista considers that for a moment. Dea is from Myca, and Mycan’s are perfectionists – God, why didn’t she think of that?! Spears is a strict city too, with militarism being their main focus (according to recent studies, most of the country’s military consists of Spearsans). Helen is very good in athletics but since she’s the daughter of a very rich man, she gets to learn about lady-hood and the like, thus hiding her ferocity behind a silk veil. Meanwhile, Athna focuses more on law and order, knowledge above all, with the best thinkers and political figures produced in Athna; they said that while Spears is the country’s guts, Athna is the brain.
But what’s Myca, if not nothing but a fairytale city? If Kalista was to put it in her own words, she’s say Myca is the heart of the country because of the town’s ability to conjure up many emotions from tourists and locals.
“You’re going right?” Kalista asks.
“Of course, why not?” Dea says.
“I don’t think you have a reason not to,” Kalista says, “And you’re going to be the highlight of the event; everyone’s going to crowd over you and bombard you with questions, I bet.”
“A day here and it’s still absurd how famous the Naitts are,” Dea huffs, rolling her eyes.
Kalista shrugs, “Can’t help it, I guess. I’m just going to take a shower. When will you take yours?”
“I took one before you came; now I can just pick something to wear for the party and go without a fuss.”
Kalista sniffs and mutters about how a shower won’t entertain her. When Dea hears the shower running and Kalista’s humming, she takes out her phone and dials Abel. “Okay, I did not know Oscar’s in AIS,” she says as soon as Abel’s voice is heard.
“…He is?” Abel says, sounding guarded, “Then stay safe, Dea.”
“I don’t get why you hate him so much, Abel, it’s not like he kicked your puppy.”
“I don’t have a puppy.”
“It was an expression.”
“Whatever,” Abel huffs, “I just…I smell something weird about him.”
“Even in middle school?”
“What has he ever done to you, anyway?”
“Nothing,” Abel answers.
“Then why on Earth do you hate him?!” Dea says exasperatedly.
“Just instincts, okay?” Abel snaps, “Now moving on, nothing’s been going on here. Erin’s health is improving but she’s still bedridden, and Ace goes in and out the house a lot. Annette is keeping Hiero oblivious but she’s also working on the case with her knowledge about law and stuff. Aside from studies, I’ve been doing nothing but check on the security systems and –” A loud beep is heard in the background. Abel sighs and excuses himself. Dea can make out a conversation somewhere not too far away and then there’s some sobbing and cursing and the sound of hurried footsteps. Just where in the world is Abel working at? It’s minutes later before Abel’s back on the phone. “Sorry, I’m actually in break in my part-time work and they need me to replace a co-worker – she has an emergency call or something – something about a baby.”
“Okay. Be careful,” Dea says.
“Relax, it’s just a cafe – worst thing that can happen is a couple break-up fight,” Abel jokes, “Be careful yourself, Dea.”
“I met Lucia – she sends her regards.”
“Lucia? Oh, I haven’t heard from her in a long while! I’ll get the message through, then.”
“Please do. Bye, Abel.”
“Be safe.” Abel hangs up.
Dea puts her phone on sleep and then taps it on her chin, thinking. Cornelius’s lack of moves leans more towards disconcerting than to relieving. His next move will be unpredictable like it always have been, or maybe Cornelius is currently focusing on pushing Zach to his edge of insanity – so that means there’s a possibility that Cornelius is in Athna or that he has accomplices that are stationed here. Chances are that he has minions, but Dea guesses that she’ll never know who’s who.
The shower turns off and there’s some shuffling. The echoing padding of wet feet gets louder until the bathroom door opens. Kalista is dressed in a comfortable lilac blouse and a pair of jeans that borders from indigo to navy blue. “I’m proven wrong – the shower was relaxing,” Kalista says, “You should get ready now; it’s almost six.”
Dea agrees and hauls herself from her seat. She goes over to her drawer and picks a sky blue frilly dress and a light knitted cardigan. She gets changed in the bathroom and when she goes out, Kalista expresses her awe. “If there are boys in the party, you are so going to get –”
“Let’s go, Kalista,” Dea says, dismissing Kalista’s remark.
“No, really,” Kalista says, following Dea out the door, “It’s either Helen or you, and I heard that even if the boys here are study freaks, they’re actually really good at –”
Dea hooks Kalista’s head under her arm and gives her a noogie. Kalista, despite her declaration of surrender, still brings the topic up for the sake of pulling Dea’s tail, much to Dea’s fond annoyance.