I actually found my way to Lit class by myself. Okay, so it was just on the other side of Neferet's room, but still I felt a little more confident when I didn't have to ask to be led around like the helpless idiot new kid.
"Zoey! We saved a desk for ya!" Stevie Rae yelled the instant I got to class. She was sitting beside Damien, and practically hopping up and down with excitement. She looked like a happy puppy again, which made me smile. I was really glad to see her. "So, so, so! Tell me everything! How was Drama? Did you like it? Do you like Professor Nolan? Isn't her tattoo cool? It reminds me of a mask--kinda."
Damien grabbed Stevie Rae's arm. "Breathe and let the girl answer."
"Sorry," she said sheepishly.
"I guess Nolan's tattoos are cool," I said.
"Well, I was distracted."
"What?" she said. Then her eyes narrowed. "Did someone embarrass you about your Mark? I swear people are just plain rude."
"No, that wasn't it. Actually that Elizabeth No Last Name girl said she thought it was cool. I was distracted because, well..." I was feeling my face get hot again. I'd decided that I was going to ask them about Erik, but now that I'd started talking I wondered whether I should say anything. Should I tell them about the hall? Damien perked up. "I feel a juicy tidbit coming on. Come on, Zoey. You were distracted becauuuuse?" He drew the word out into a question.
"Okay, okay. I can sum it up in two words: Erik Night."
Stevie Rae's mouth dropped open and Damien did a little pretend swoon, which he had to straighten up from right away because at that moment the bell rang and Professor Penthesilea swept into the room.
"Later!" Stevie Rae whispered.
"Absolutely!" Damien mouthed.
I smiled innocently. If nothing else I was sure that I would love the fact that mentioning Erik would drive them crazy all hour.
Lit class was an experience. First of all, the classroom itself was totally different than any I'd ever seen. There were bizarrely interesting posters and paintings and what looked like original art work filling every inch of wall space. And hanging from the ceiling were wind chimes and crystals--lots of them. Professor Penthesilea (whose name I now recognized from Vamp Soc class as belonging to the most revered of all the Amazons, and who everyone called Prof P) was like something out of the movies (well, the ones on the Sci-Fi Channel). She had seriously long reddish-blond hair, big hazel eyes, and a curvy body that probably made all the guys drool (not that it's very hard to make teenage boys drool). Her tattoos were thin, pretty Celtic knots that traced their way down her face and around her cheekbones, making them look high and dramatic. She was wearing expensive-looking black slacks and a moss- colored silk cardigan sweater set that had the same goddess figure embroidered over her breast as Neferet had been wearing. And, now that I thought about it (and not Erik), I realized Prof Nolan's blouse had the goddess embroidered on the breast pocket of her blouse, too. Hmmm...
"I was born in April of year 1902," Professor Penthesilea said, instantly grabbing our attention. I mean, please, she barely looked thirty. "So I was ten years old in April of 1912, and I remember the tragedy very well. About what am I speaking? Do any of you have any idea?"
Okay, I knew exactly what she was talking about, but it wasn't because I'm a hopeless history nerd. It's because when I was younger I thought I was in love with Leonardo DiCaprio, and my mom got me the entire DVD collection of his movies for my twelfth birthday. This particular movie I watched so many times I still have most of it memorized (and I can not tell you how many times I snot cried when he slipped off that board and floated away like an adorable Popsicle).
I looked around. No one else seemed to have a clue, so I sighed and raised my hand.
Prof P smiled and called on me, "Yes, Miss Redbird."
"The Titanic sank in April of 1912. It was struck by the iceberg late on Sunday night, the fourteenth, and sank just a few hours later on the fifteenth."
I heard Damien suck air beside me, and Stevie Rae's little huh. Jeesh, had I really been acting so stupid that they were shocked to hear me answer a question correctly?
"I do love it when a new fledgling knows something?" Professor Penthesilea said. "Absolutely correct, Miss Redbird. I was living in Chicago at the time of the tragedy, and I will never forget the newsies shouting the tragic headlines from the street corners. It was a horrid event, especially because the loss of lives was so preventable. It also signaled the end of one age and the beginning of another, as well as bringing about many much-needed changes in shipping laws. We are going to study all of this, plus the deliciously melodramatic events of the night, in our next piece of literature, Walter Lord's meticulously researched book, A Night to Remember. Although Lord was not a vampyre--and it's really a shame he wasn't," she added under her breath, "I still find his take on the night compelling and his writing style and tone interesting and very readable. Okay, let's get started! The last person in each row, get books for the people in your row from the long cabinet in the back of the room."
Well, cool! This was definitely more interesting than reading Great Expectations (Pip, Estella, who cares?!). I settled in with A Night to Remember and my notebook opened to take, well, notes. Prof P started to read Chapter One aloud to us, and she was actually a good reader. Three class hours almost over and I'd liked all of them. Was it possible that this vamp school would actually be more than a boring place I went to every day because I had to and, besides that, all my friends were there? Not that all of the classes at SIHS had been boring, but we didn't get to study the Amazons and the Titanic (from a teacher who'd been alive when it sank!).
I glanced around at the other kids while Prof P read. There were about fifteen of us, which seemed about the average in my other classes, too. All of them had their books open and were paying attention.
Then my eye was caught by something red and bushy on the other side of the room near the rear of the class. I'd spoken too soon--not all of the kids were paying attention. This one had his head down on his arms and he was sound asleep, which I knew because his chubby, way-too-white-and-freckled face was turned in my direction. His mouth was open, and I think he might have been drooling a little. I wondered what Prof P would do to the kid. She didn't seem like the kind of teacher who would be cool with some slug sleeping in the back of the room, but she just kept on with her reading, interspersed with interesting firsthand facts about the early twentieth century, which I really liked (I loved hearing about the flappers--I would definitely have been a flapper if I'd lived in the 192os). It wasn't until the bell was about to ring and Prof P had assigned the next chapter as homework, and then told us we could talk quietly amongst ourselves, that she acted as if she noticed the sleeping kid at all. He'd started to stir, finally lifting up his head to display the bright red sleeping circle that was on the side of his forehead and looked bizarrely out of place beside his Mark.
"Elliott, I need to see you," Prof P said from behind her desk. The kid took his time getting up and then dragged his feet, scuffing his untied shoes, over to her desk.
"Elliott, you are, of course, failing Lit. But what's more important, you're failing life. Vampyre males are strong, honorable, and unique. They have been our warriors and protectors for countless generations. How do you expect to make the Change into a being who is more warrior than man if you do not practice the discipline it takes even to stay awake in class?"
He shrugged his soft-looking shoulders.
Her expression hardened. "I shall give you one opportunity to make up the zero for class participation you received today by writing a short paper on any issue that was important in America in the early twentieth century. The paper is due tomorrow."
Without saying anything, he started to turn away.
"Elliott," Prof P's voice had dropped and, thick with irritation, it made her sound way scarier than she'd seemed while she had been reading and lecturing. I could feel the power radiating from her, and it made me wonder why she would ever need a male anything to protect her. The kid stopped and turned back to face her.
"I did not excuse you. What is your decision about doing the work to make up today's zero?"
The kid just stood there without saying anything. "That question calls for an answer, Elliott. Now!" The air around her crackled with the command, making the skin on my arms tingle.
Seemingly unaffected, he shrugged again. "I probably won't do it."
"That says something about your character, Elliott, and it's not something good. You're not only letting yourself down, but you're letting down your mentor, too."
He shrugged again and absently picked his nose. "The Dragon already knows how I am."
The bell rang and Prof P, with a disgusted look on her face, motioned for Elliott to leave the room. Damien, Stevie Rae, and I had just stood up and were starting to walk out the door when Elliott slouched by us, moving more quickly than I believed possible for someone so sloth-like. He bumped into Damien, who was ahead of us. Damien made an oops sound and stumbled a little.
"Fucking faggot, get outta my way," the loser kid snarled, pushing Damien with his shoulder so he could get through the door before him.
"I should smack the crap out of that jerk!" Stevie Rae said, hurrying up to Damien, who was waiting for us.
He shook his head. "Don't worry about it. That Elliott kid has major problems."
"Yeah, like having poopie for brains," I said, staring down the hall at the slug's back. His hair was certainly unattractive.
"Poopie for brains?" Damien laughed and linked one arm though mine and one through Stevie Rae's, leading us down the hall Wizard of Oz fashion. "That's what I like about our Zoey," he said. "She has such a way with vulgar language."
"Poopie's not vulgar," I said defensively.
"I think that's his point, honey," Stevie Rae laughed.
"Oh." I laughed, too, and I really, really liked how it sounded when he'd said "our" Zoey . like I belonged...like I might be home.