This story is based on a prompt given by The Frangipani Creative for
#WritingWednesday. The prompt was as follows,
”On the first day of school, two best friends discover a frightening secret about one of their teachers.”
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“Kimmy ya! Make up your darn mind! You have to submit the forms by this weekend.”
JoJo, my best friend, was understandably impatient. I was dragging my feet about a very important decision – which school to pick, and JoJo was sick of all the dithering.
Last year, I had moved to Mysore in the middle of the school year, after two miserable years in Ranchi, away from all my friends. My father was a civil servant, with a transferable job, and at the ripe old age of fourteen, I was kind of sick of the constant moves. I needed roots and I needed friends – the sort of friends who would stand by me, all my life, and not the sort who’d forget all about me when Dad’s service uprooted us mid-year and packed us off to the hinterlands.
Dad’s position at work was dependent on the whims and fancies of ministers and let’s just say that my Dad was kind of a maverick. He refused to conform to typical civil servant red-tape, and had rubbed a lot of important people the wrong way. Therefore, every time his department needed to transfer an officer to soothe some minister nursing an imagined insult, Dad was the scapegoat. Thus, the mid-year transfer to Mysore, that led to us having to pick the only school that would admit me at short notice. The problem was, it was not a very great school. Which led us to my current dilemma.
JoJo lived next door, and in the past six months, we’d become best friends. She was transferring to a posh new school called The Abbey School. Now that it was time for me to pick a school, my parents had given me two options. One, I could stay in Mysore and go to JoJo’s new school, for as long as Dad was posted here. Two, I could stay with my grandparents in Mumbai until I finished twelfth grade, which would give me the stability and sense of belonging that I craved. I was so confused. On the one hand, I desperately wanted to put down roots and cultivate meaningful and lasting friendships. On the other, I didn’t want to be away from my parents for so many years.
Oh well, time to throw the dice.
“Tell me about the uniform again, JoJo.”
With a roll of her eyes, JoJo complied.
I was not being snooty. But those uniforms? White shirts and knee-length grey skirts for girls, and grey trousers for guys.
“Yuck! JoJo, if they do insist on curtailing our individuality, they should at least do it with some style”, I argued.
“Oh, for God’s sake, yes or no?”
“Yes! Okay? I want to stay here, with you guys. Just pray that Dad doesn’t get transferred for a couple of years,” I said, with my fingers crossed.
After that, there was sheer pandemonium, with JoJo swinging me around and the two of us screaming, until my Mom came and yelled at us to keep it down.
The new term started a week later. Dad insisted on dropping me off, since it was my first day. My insides were one big ball of squirming nerves, and Dad was not helping, with his pep-talk.
“You’ll be fine, Kimmy. Don’t worry so much.”
“But, I don’t know anyone other than JoJo, Dad. What if she’s not in my class? I won’t have anyone to talk to.”
“Of course, you will! Just be yourself, Kimmy. That’s all you need to be.”
I snorted. As if! Just before I left home, my Mom gave me a big lecture on the virtues of curbing my sarcastic tongue. She was worried that I’d make more enemies than friends…the “like your Dad” part went unsaid.
I watched wide-eyed, as a guard checked the car for explosives, and waved us in. The sight of all the Audis and BMWs in the parking lot, unnerved me. Our official white Ambassador attracted curious glances, like most of those kids had never set eyes on such a car.
“Look at these kids, Dad. They have servants to take their bags from the car to the school doors. How will I ever fit in here?”
“All this doesn’t matter, my Kimmy. Like I said, you just be you. If these kids like you, great, otherwise, they can just go hang. Don’t let them define your happiness. Now, do you need me to drop you to your class?” Dad asked eagerly.
No way! As if being the new kid was not enough, if my Dad came to drop me off, as if I were a baby, I’d never live it down.
“No thanks, Dad. I’ll be fine,” I said, with a quick hug to soften the blow. I hopped out of the car and headed inside.
JoJo was already waiting for me at the main double doors. She hugged me and led me to the Principal’s office to get our schedules. A sweet-faced receptionist waved us in.
The Principal, Mrs. Ghosh, was very elegantly dressed in a demure sari, with a string of pearls around her thick neck, and a big, black bindi. She looked me up and down, and cracked a wintry smile.
“Ah, the new girls…Kimaya Pandey and Jyoti Das. My dear, I don’t normally accept new students at such short notice. We have a long waiting list and only brilliant students from impeccable backgrounds are accepted, after three levels of interviews. Jyoti can vouch for that. In your case, Kimaya, I have made an exception based on your situation. Don’t make me regret it.”
Umm..did she just insult my family? I hated her already! By impeccable backgrounds, she meant filthy rich, right? So, my Dad’s not a millionaire. Big deal. That didn’t give her the right to put us down. Also, that thing about her making an exception for me because of my situation? That was complete hogwash. As if the hefty donation that my Dad shelled out, had nothing to do with it. I open my mouth to tell her off, when I remember that the big bucks donation was non-refundable, and I had promised Mom that I would control my unruly tongue. Her words, not mine. So, I smiled and try to look suitably gratified. As if!
Mrs. Ghosh droned on about uniforms and dress codes and code of conduct…yada yada yada. I had to avoid looking at JoJo, lest we both burst out laughing and got suspended on the first day of school. So, I focussed on Mrs. Ghosh’s big, black bindi. There was something about it that grabbed my attention and held it. I tried to look away, but I couldn’t.
Look away Kimmy, I told myself. Look at the pretty pearls. Look at her bulbous nose. Look anywhere, but, at her bindi. No luck. Mrs. Ghosh’s big bindi had me hypnotised, like I was moving away from my own body. As I was staring at the weird thing, I saw it.
A red eye in the middle of the big, black bindi! It opened, looked around sleepily, then, looked right at me.
It blinked and I snapped back into myself , with a gasp. The thrall was broken. I looked down. Mrs. Ghosh was still talking away. Did she notice anything? I didn’t think so. I think the gasp was the right reaction to whatever she was saying.
I risked a glance at JoJo. She was staring at Mrs. Ghosh, wide-eyed and pale. She slowly turned towards me and raised her eyebrows.
Yep, she had seen it too. But, how was this possible?
I sneaked a look upwards. I saw…a big, black bindi. That’s it. No red eye. Did I imagine it? No, no, I saw an eye, and the eye saw me too. What just happened?
Trrrinngg! Mrs. Ghosh pressed a buzzer, and the receptionist came in with our school schedules. My interview with the Principal was over and I’d been in a trance for most of it. Mom was going to kill me! What if I missed something important? I could hardly tell my parents about the eye, could I? They’d think I was mad.
Mrs. Ghosh threw her weight around a little more, and when she was convinced that we were suitably impressed, we were allowed to leave. On the way out, I turned and looked back at her. Elegant, if slightly bovine looking Principal, with beady eyes and a self-satisfied air…check.
Big, black bindi in the centre of her forehead…check.
Red eye, in the centre of said bindi? Nope, nothing there.
The door slammed shut in our face. I looked at the receptionist to see if I could spot anything on her. A tail, a tusk, even fangs would do, just to show me that I was not going mad. Nothing. She smiled at me and handed me a list of do’s and don’ts. I gave her a weak smile, and JoJo and I walked up the wide staircase.
“Umm… JoJo…did you…”
“Saw it,” she replied, tersely. She was breathing heavily.
I dropped down on the staircase, oblivious to all the kids rushing to their various classes, and put my head between my knees. JoJo knelt down next to me.
“What the hell was that?”
“No fricking clue, Kimmy,” whispered JoJo.
A pair of legs came into my line of vision, and I raised my head.
A tall girl, wearing a badge that said ‘Head girl’, smiled at us.
“Hey kids, welcome to The Abbey School,” she said, and as she smiled, I caught a flash of her tongue, a forked tongue.
She leaned forward and whispered, “Also known as Demon High.”