Authors: Christopher De Sousa
With this all on her mind, consumed with her own thoughts and in her own reality, sheâd nearly flung the school's front door backward into the face of her best friend.
“Hey girl, get your head out of the clouds,” Naomi snapped, as she nudged at Katherine's shoulder from behind. “I called out at least three times for you to wait up.”
“Morning Naomi, sorry about that,” she replied. “I've had a rough morningâ¦and I'm not really all there.”
She looked down at the sport jacket Naomi was wearing: from the gold laced sleeves, to the thick red fabric of the shirt, and the blank patch at the chest where one would expect a mascot or emblem normally to be.
“Well what do you think?” Naomi asked.
“I see that the boys have also decided to embrace this colour scheme,” said Katherine. “But they still don't look quite right without the appropriate symbol...”
Naomi groaned and tugged at the fabric about the chest. “You're telling me. That is why you'd best hurry and come up with something to put there. Did you at least catch the game last night?”
“I tried to, but I still couldn't get excited over it,” she replied, but quickly regretting how she'd chosen to answer the question.
“Look Katherine, I've lobbied the school for a while now and have finally succeeded in getting the school board to support you with the design of a new mascot,” Naomi grumbled, her nostrils flared. “You could at least feign interest in basketball. You know how important it is to me. Heck, even Justin is playing for the boys.”
Rather shaken by Naomi's abrupt outcry, Katherine immediately bowed her head and sought to apologize. As Naomi was the captain of the girls' basketball team, Katherine had grown aware of how extremely passionate she felt for the game. Naomi was her best friend after all, and she recognised the need for her to be more supportive. She'd always admired Naomi's enthusiasm, and she sensed her skills for the game were also remarkable, even if she considered herself the last person to possess the necessary knowledge to pass judgment. But when she had seen Naomi play, she thought Naomi resembled that of a martial artist; with the graceful motion of each limb and with both the poise and perception to react to her opponents every whim.
“I promise to take it more seriously Naomi, and I do think I'm getting closer to coming up with something really worthwhile,” she vouched, retrieving a sketchpad from her backpack.
Naomi persisted in sifting through its pages and to intently examine each sketch.
“These are just the preliminaries of course, but there's something else I've only recently come up with.”
“That's fantastic,” Naomi smiled, as she handed back the sketchpad. “I look forward to seeing more.”
Although she found herself pleased with having mended any potential rift, Katherine eagerly sought to shift the subject of their conversation away from basketball and mascots.
“Has there been any more news on Andy Mickelson's condition?”
“Not a lot more, only that he simply collapsed in the alleyway and remains in a coma at Anabasis Public,” said Naomi. “It's pretty strange for someone so athletic to just collapse like thatâ¦With what you did manage to sit through, did it at least give you any ideas?”
“The game,” Naomi sighed, rolling her eyes.
“A fewâ¦,” Katherine replied, as she gazed down the hallway and along the span of lockers.
She watched as students shuffled about inside the corridor, fetching all they needed from their lockers for the day's first period. But then her attention fixed on those whom remained to loiter, and on those who were huddled about within a circle. For a young man weaved his way through the surrounding group with an attractive blonde woman draped on one arm. Consumed with a hot flush of rage, Katherine rigorously ground her teeth from left to right. With eyes locked upon the young man as if he were her prey, she lurched forward and strode toward him.
“He really should try to distance himself from Sadie Cassell,” said Naomi, placing a comforting palm upon Katherine's shoulder. “His problem is he's too nice to tell her to leave him alone.”
Katherine snarled at Sadie as this blonde young woman shot her an insincere grin. “Sure, that's his problem.”
“Sadie, let go of my arm,” she heard the young man say, as he appeared to tug himself free. “You know I'm seeing somebodyâ¦”
“Justin, I hope that somebody you are referring to is me,” she said.
Justin mumbled with an awkward smile. “Hey Kat, I've been meaning to catch up with you before class.”
As Justin slowly approached, Katherine glared back at Sadie. Sadie merely wrinkled her nose in response, and returned to the circle of girls while she brushed away her long locks of thick blonde hair. Katherine also couldn't help but notice that all Sadie's friends were staring at Justin as though they were somehow caught within a trance.
“Katherine, you need to relax,” said Naomi. “There is no reason for you to be jealous.”
“Jealous” Katherine was swift to respond. “We've been only dating for a couple of months now, and here he is openly flirting with Sadie Cassell of all people.”
She shifted her attention back to Justin. The young man was rubbing at his neck and gazing back at her as if he awaited an imminent scolding. She could also sense that Naomi too was now ogling him, attentive to his well-toned and muscular physique, and to his long and impressive mane of fair hair. Even this was enough to make her feel uncomfortable and insecure. For as soon as he'd arrived at Anabasis High, Justin seemed to have gathered an entire contingent of admirers. When looking at Sadie, Katherine saw a shapely blonde bombshell who would often court the drooled gawking of many an adolescent male. As for Naomi, she was a young and athletic oriental woman with the most smooth and silky skin. When compared with these two, Katherine couldn't help but feel it was impossible for her to compete, let alone to trust that Justin would not cave and give in to temptation.
“Only after one day of try outs he made the guy's first team. Let's just say that Albert was not pleased with the news,” Naomi had said.
“That good huh?” she had questioned, less interested in Naomi's information about his basket balling ability, and more so in her unwavering eye contract.
“Couldn't miss a shot, I reckon he'll be starting as the team's point guard come the beginning of the season.”
“Well that explains why Albert has been giving me such a tough time of late,” said Katherine, her eyes narrowed. “All these songs and snide remarksâ¦ he's just bitter that Justin has taken his position, and is using me to get back at him.”
They soon heard the rumbling footsteps from a group of boys come up behind them. “Hey Albert, catch it.” Albert soared past, landing with a jarring clang up against a nearby locker and grasping at a football.
“That's what I'm talking about,” Albert cheered, who in turn received a plethora of fist bumps and chest pumps from his teammates as they helped him to his feet.
Albert trucked over to Katherine, brushing her aside, and wrapping his arm around Naomi's shoulder. “Hey pretty lady, any further thoughts on Saturday night? What time do you reckon I should rock my chariot by your palace?”
Katherine could sense herself starting to feel nauseous upon hearing such a masterfully cheesy line. For the life of her, she could not understand what Naomi saw in him. She played over in her mind what was likely to transpire: she projected that at first Albert would be rejected, and then later Naomi would experience a change of heart, and accept his invitation. As she'd often witnessed, this was par for the course.
Naomi frowned at him. “I'm not sure Albie, perhaps when your mental maturity meets the date your licence suspension is lifted. I vaguely remember you telling me it was on the twelfth?”
Following on from Naomi's response, she remembered being told that during the last evening the pair spent together, Albert had totalled his truck and was escorted off in the back of a police car. As far as she was concerned, this too seemed a regular occurrence, and further begged the question as to why Naomi continued to put up with his antics.
“Cute, you'll change your tune when you see my new wheels,” Albert had said, before rushing after his teammates.
Her gaze lingered upon Albert as he approached Justin, deliberately nudging him to one side, before he engaged Sadie and her group of friends with vulgar banter.
“My Albie may be easy on the eyesâ¦but there is precious little between his ears,” Naomi said through a scowl.
The bell had finally rung, and the two girls slowly trudged off to class. History was first up, something that Katherine could not find herself less enthused. She believed there was little need to learn history as it belonged in the past, and had no real bearing upon the present. She believed this was particularly true with respect to their current module of study: the histories and origins of the ancient world.
Once she entered the classroom, she quickly looked toward the back for a free seat. Having claimed one of the few that remained, she decided to delve within the depths of her sketching pad.
The history teacher soon after arrived, and surprisingly later than usual, but immediately commenced the lesson once she'd found a piece of chalk.
“Ms Hawthorne, might I remind you that I have to leave at a moment's noticeâ¦as we discussed earlier,” said a young man toward the front of the class.
“Yes Mr Mathieson, I hadn't forgotten,” Ms Hawthorne replied, whilst writing on the blackboard. “Now, may I proceed with my lesson?”
While glancing up from her sketching pad, Katherine scrutinised the back of the young man's head as if she were trying to pierce open his skull. Blake Mathieson was someone that both she and her father knew all too well, and she had often wished that it wasn't so. She saw him as the direct antithesis of Justin Ellis: where Justin was tall, fair, and sociable, Blake Mathieson was short, dark featured, and an introvert.
She wasn't particularly fond of Ms Hawthorne either; although this was mainly because she'd often find herself singled out as the one not concentrating in class. It didn't help when Naomi would often tease her over some very obvious similarities she shared with Ms Hawthorne. Physically, they were both tall, and slender, with blue eyes and long black hair. But what really bothered her, was how her father would frequently liken her to Ms Hawthorne when voicing his opinion over their supposed stubbornness.
Rather than waste any further attention on Blake, or upon Ms Hawthorne's lesson for that matter, Katherine drew in her sketching pad. She drew very carefully the arch of a wing, and took the time to perfectly shape a sharp beak toward the front of a feathered head. But her pencil swiftly slid along the page and ruined her efforts, for the classroom floor had suddenly started to shake. Columns of books fell from off the shelves, the contents of a few desktops crashed to the floor, and a number of unoccupied chairs rattled across the classroom. In an organised fashion, the students quickly dove beneath their desks upon the first sign of the tremor, and she looked on as Ms Hawthorne braced herself between her desk and the blackboard until it had ceased. Once the tremors were over, the students reclaimed of their seats, and Ms Hawthorne re-commenced the lesson as though nothing had happened.
Katherine would often find herself, like many others, curious as to why these tremors were so frequent. What had made this even more perplexing was that Anabasis resided on no clear fault lines; nor were any neighbouring areas affected in quite the same manner.
With her sketch seemingly ruined, she squinted up at the blackboard at what Ms Hawthorne had written. There were three ancient civilisations she'd drawn up on the board in bold chalk: Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Atlantis.
“The first civilisations of humankind are widely accepted to have originated within these three realms. But which one came first? Is there even an answer to such a question?” Ms Hawthorne asked, as she guided her finger from one word to the next. “As we discussed yesterday, there were spiritual leaders whom watched over the peaceful Lumerian populace before the great divide. Do we remember the title given to these divine protectors? Can we recall any of their individual names, and of the regions that they controlled? Miss Munroe?”
Katherine had only been half listening at this point, and remained immersed in her own sketching. Ms Hawthorne promptly wandered over to where she was seated, and confiscated the sketching pad out from beneath her palm.
“You can have this back after class Miss Munroe, but while we are here you must pay attention.”
As she groaned at Ms Hawthorne in protest, she heard a light beeping pulse coming from toward the front of the classroom. It came from where Blake was seated; she observed the young man prod away at what appeared to be a wristwatch.
Blake rose from his chair and headed for the door. “To answer your question Ms Hawthorne, there were numerous divine leaders who existed during this ancient era of history. But the three names you expected to hear from us are those of the sun god Ra, the moon god Thoth, and the sky god Anu. And now Ms Hawthorne, I have to be elsewhere.”
“Very well Blake. At least some of you were paying attention,” said Ms Hawthorne, sharing a disgruntled glare with Katherine.
“Not all students are made equal,” Blake proclaimed, as if it were a penultimate truth. “In fact, some are simply incapable of producing anything of worth.”
With the day's first period having ended, Katherine stormed down the hallway and toward her locker. She could sense her temper starting to seethe from deep within, and she sought to hide her emotions by bowing her head, sustaining prolonged eye contact with the gold and red chequered vinyl floor that ran along the school's corridor.
“Hey Kat, wait up,” shouted Naomi, as she hustled after her.