Aislinn was well aware that in small towns news traveled quickly , so she was not at all surprised to wake up to over twenty text messages. She copy and pasted generic responses letting everyone know that she was okay before stumbling into the bathroom to get ready for school. Although Aislinn typically loved being the center of attention, she was dreading all of the questions her classmates would ask her.
She arrived at Thorndale High thirty minutes before the first bell and took all of the back ways to get to homeroom. She was elated to find that the only other person in the room was Naveah.
The other girl had gone through a serious transformation in the past twelve hours. She was now dressed like the Hunter Morris gang with black leather pants and a fitted red tank top. She’d also discovered the virtues of subtle make-up and highlights. She was still plain in her natural features, but she looked confident and infinitely more appealing.
Aislinn threw her backpack up on the desk next to Naveah and slid into the seat, soreness finally catching up with her.
“Did you hear about last night?” Aislinn asked. She figured that since Naveah was new, she wasn’t part of the same grapevine as everyone else. Aislinn decided she could give her the bare bones of the story in order to give Naveah something to talk about with everyone else. Also, Aislinn was sure she’d be glad to not have to deal with Mrs. B again. In fact, pardoning the respectful amount of sadness for death in general, no one was really sad to see Mrs. B go.
“What happened last night?” Naveah said cautiously.
“Well, Adam and I were walking in the woods and found Mrs. B’s body. The police think it may have been an animal attack, but it was pretty brutal.”
Naveah blanched and fumbled to find any combination of words that may convey whatever emotion she was trying desperately to feel.
“Are you going to be okay?” Aislinn asked, fearing the girl was going to be sick.
“So they think it was an animal, right?” Naveah asked, finally able to speak.
“Yeah, that’s what they’re going with,” Aislinn didn’t want to tell Naveah about the human figure she saw as the shock would probably make the poor girl faint.
Just as Naveah was about to respond, Monica rushed into the doorway, spotted Aislinn, and ran to her side.
“Oh my god, Aislinn, tell me everything!” she said as she took the seat to Aislinn’s left.
“Well like I was telling Vey, we just sort of found her-“
“Not about Mrs. B, I already heard all that from my aunt. I’m talking about you and Adam!”
Aislinn’s demeanor changed into that of a giddy school girl. She divulged every detail of the night sending Monica into gossip overload. By the time she’d finished her story, Monica was shaking like an excited Chihuahua.
“Finally! Everyone in school has been waiting patiently for you two to get together! Even the teachers had a pool!” Monica exclaimed as she pulled Aislinn into an extremely tight hug.
“Well we’re not together quite yet. We still have to iron out the details,” Aislinn responded, grinning from ear to ear.
“I figured you guys were already like a couple. I mean, it’s obvious you guys care about each other,” Naveah squeaked. Monica and Aislinn turned to face her, both surprised that she was still listening and that she had opinions.
“Thanks, Vey, that’s very sweet of you,” Aislinn said.
“So where is Adam? Is he still in this homeroom?” Naveah asked.
“He’s got morning practice. He’ll come waltzing in about fifteen minutes late,” Monica explained.
The rest of the class trickled in over the next twenty minutes, all of them making a point to stop by Aislinn’s desk to ask how she was holding up. She’d perfected her canned response by the fourth inquiry and managed to sound appreciative of the concern despite being utterly annoyed by the repetitive questions.
Aislinn was relieved when Mr. Everett entered the room seemingly more disgruntled than usual. He placed his briefcase on the desk and turned to face the class. He inhaled deeply, took another moment, then began speaking.
“I am sorry to inform you that Mrs. Bertram has tragically died. I’m here for support if any of you need it, and I’ve also been informed that a grief counselor will be on site to offer more professional assistance,” his tone was somber and far more serious than any of the students had ever heard before.
The class sat in silence for a moment before turning to each other and continuing their conversations. Mr. Everett stood, mouth agape, trying to formulate a response.
“Y’all are acting rather cavalier about this. It’s almost as if I told you that it was going to rain tomorrow. Not a single one of you is upset by this?” he asked.
“Well, she was a fucking asshole. You can’t expect people to mourn you if you do nothing but make them miserable,” Wayne shrugged. The class nodded subtly in agreement.
“Still, this is someone’s life. You should all show a bit more respect,” Mr. Everett replied.
“Sir, is it important for us to mourn her because we’ll miss her as a person or because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do?” Aislinn asked. She wasn’t rude or accusatory, she genuinely wanted to know why it was such a big deal to him.
“It’s socially acceptable for a reason, Aislinn,” he said after a moment’s pause. With that, he sat at his desk and logged onto the computer, leaving the room in the silence he had hoped for when he first walked in.
About five minutes later, Adam came in and took the seat behind Aislinn. The interruption was all that was needed for the conversations to start back up.
“What was that all about?” Adam asked when he was settled.
“Oh, just Mr. Everett trying to illicit an emotional response from a desensitized generation,” Monica said over her shoulder.
“How are you holding up?” he whispered to Aislinn.
“Better now that you’re here,” she whispered back with a smile.
When the bell rang, virtually everyone bolted from the room leaving Aislinn and her friends to calmly collect their things. They were almost out the door when Mr. Everett stopped them.
“Aislinn, may I have a word please,” he said, eyes still attached to his monitor.
“Mitosis,” she said and pretended to keep walking. She turned around to find Mr. Everett suppressing a smile. For some reason Aislinn always felt proud when she made Mr. Everett break his stone cold aesthetic.
“I heard that you found the body,” he said matter-of-factly.
“I did. That’s probably why I shouldn’t be outside at ten o’clock on a weeknight,” she said jokingly.
“Death is a very big thing to deal with, Aislinn. Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked.
` “I don’t think I’ve really processed what happened,” she said. Aislinn knew that the nightmare was just a way for her to digest the night’s events, but she hadn’t had a moment to truly think about what she’d found.
“I don’t want you to run from this, Aislinn. Some people would constitute finding Mrs. B as a traumatic event. If you need to speak with someone, my door is always open,” he said.
“Thanks, Mr. Everett. I promise I’ll stop by if I start feeling overwhelmed,” she said with a genuine smile.
“Good, now get to class. I’m not writing you a note,” he shooed her away and went back to his computer.