Many years ago, when I still lived in London, I had a very strange dream. I had just returned from visiting my grandfather on the island where I currently live. It felt as if I had never left there and that I was standing on one of its beaches, filled with gravel and strong winds accompanied by a cold that chilled the blood. As the seawater reached my bare ankles and the sand slipped between my toes, I realized I wasn't alone. In front of me stood a beautiful girl.
Her presence was strange, almost divine. Her skin was as white as porcelain, her golden hair shimmered like sunlight, and her celestial blue eyes reflected the light of the full moon. She wore a fine and delicate white dress that fluttered in the breeze.
"Aren't you cold?"
I couldn't help but ask, despite my shyness. The corners of her lips lifted, forming a smile. That smile intensified the pain I felt in that moment.
"It's impossible for me to feel cold because... Wait, how did you get here? You're just a..."
She gently picked up a strand of her hair and began to stroke it while looking at me curiously.
With each passing second, I felt more disoriented. That place felt so magical that until that moment, I hadn't realized that nothing around me made sense.
My consciousness gradually began to fade, and the last thing I saw was the face of that mysterious girl.
"Are you leaving already? What a shame. I hope one day you'll come back to see me."
All of this might seem like the beginning of a love story with fantastical elements, but it was nothing more than a dream.
Many years have passed since then. I thought I had matured, but I'm still just a simple boy. The only thing that changed was my place of residence. I left the United Kingdom and moved to this infamous island to receive an excellent education.
I obtained a scholarship to what is considered the best school in the world, thanks to my grandfather's involvement in the Great South War. I try to strive every day to be an exemplary student so that I can lift my family out of the poverty we have fallen into due to my father's poor financial decisions.
Everything was going relatively normal until the final year of my studies. That's when that incident occurred...
"I like you."
Those were the words that came out of my mouth. I truly didn't expect it, not even myself. It was something that emerged from within me, as if it were an instinct engraved in my genes.
What, I haven't introduced myself yet? Sorry, I'm terrible at these things. My name is Martin Deeplet, I'm 16 years old, and you just witnessed the moment when I confessed my feelings to my classmate and neighbor, Juliana. She is very popular because she's a beauty. That, along with her pleasant personality, had captivated me at some point, to the extent that I confessed without thinking. Although I don't really feel like it was necessary.
"I'm sorry... I don't plan on dating anyone at the moment."
Those were the words that came out of her mouth. She gave me a somewhat uncomfortable smile. I know this situation must have been extremely unpleasant for her, but I couldn't help it.
"Eww, that guy confessed to Juli."
"Did he really expect to get anything?"
"Gross, just gross."
Those were the voices of some of our classmates who witnessed the event. If only I had waited to be alone to confess, it would have stayed between us. Juliana is not someone who would spread the gossip for the rest of the class to mock me. We have a lot of trust between us. I brought this situation upon myself.
"Haha, yeah, yeah, I get it." I scratched the back of my head and ran away as fast as possible.
Luckily, classes had already finished. I passed through the enormous gate that serves as the entrance to the school and quickly walked home. Anticipating what awaited me from the next day onwards, I decided to ignore the topic.
Days, weeks, and months went by, and going to school became a true hell. It may seem, by the way I say it, that I'm an unpleasant person to look at, and... until recently, that was the case. I didn't dress well, my hairstyle was ridiculous, and my hygiene wasn't well taken care of, but that changed a year and a half ago. Now I consider myself to meet normal standards; I take care of my appearance, have a generic hairstyle, etc. I also don't have a particularly unpleasant face, or at least I'd like to believe so.
The problem lies in the fact that when young people my age or younger label you with something, it sticks to you like a stigma that will haunt you forever.
The reason I simply didn't change schools, despite the suffering of attending, is because I had specifically moved to this city to enter this school. It's one of the most prestigious in the world. You could also say it's an experimental school, although that word perfectly describes everything in this country.
Furthermore, I didn't particularly feel bad about this fact because I wasn't the only one experiencing similar things.
There was the case of a classmate named Esther Carnot. She always wore long skirts, styled her hair in two braids, and wore thick, outdated glasses. She was bullied by our classmates because she supposedly flirted with one of the most popular boys in school. Although considering how introverted she was, I doubt it's true.
Several times, I decided to intervene to prevent the jokes and harassment from getting out of control. As soon as they saw me talking to them, they would walk away whispering things about me, but leaving Esther alone. I achieved my goal, but I ended up quite hurt.
Immediately after that, I would ask her, "Are you okay?" to which she would slowly nod and go back to what she was doing before being bothered, usually reading.
Sometimes she would thank me by sharing some sweets she had or timidly recommending me some books. They were nice gestures that I didn't refuse to accept, but I couldn't claim that we were close.
This dynamic continued until winter break.
I woke up late on the first day of school. Karen, my cousin and the only person I live with on this island, hit me with a broom. The alarm was ringing, but I couldn't hear it. I had a very deep sleep. I wrote it down in a notebook on my bedside table, got dressed, and without time for breakfast, I headed to school. As soon as I stepped out of my house, I had already forgotten the dream I had.
I arrived late for the opening talk of the new school year. When I entered the classroom assigned to my class, I saw the same familiar faces, including some new ones. The atmosphere felt heavy, everyone had uncomfortable expressions, and during recess, the groups, which were usually quite noisy, remained silent. I couldn't ask anyone what was going on. I couldn't bother Juliana after what happened; weird rumors about her might start circulating. I tried to ignore the fact, but I could sense that something was very wrong. I felt a void, a deep tranquility, and I could even swear that several gazes were fixed on me. Although it might be a bit of paranoia on my part. Lunch was even stranger; not only in my class, but the whole school was immersed in a somber atmosphere, yet no one seemed to talk about it. I didn't hear any conversations.
Setting aside the strange atmosphere and the peculiar sensations I might have, the rest of the morning went on normally. After finishing classes around three in the afternoon, I gathered my belongings to go back home. As I was about to cross the huge gate at the entrance, my class teacher, Dafne Mounier, called me. She usually has a cold and distant expression, but this time, I could sense a certain nervousness in her gestures.
"Come with me," she said.
She only said that and walked into the school building. I had no choice but to follow her; disobeying a teacher can be very costly here. This school is quite large, with two floors and around thirty classrooms. I followed my teacher to a small classroom hidden in the back of the first floor; I had never been here before. She didn't say a single word to me throughout the way, and I didn't dare ask.
"Go inside and take a seat. I'll be back in a moment," she said and left.
I waited until her figure turned the corner of the hallway and disappeared from sight. I turned the knob of the old door, which made a strange noise when it opened, and simply stepped inside.
The interior was quite different from the old exterior structure of the building. There was a metal table and five chairs, four of which were occupied by students dressed in the black uniform of this school. Two boys and two girls.
The boys were: on the left, Ivan Anderson. Blond, tall, elegant, outgoing, a member of the school's soccer team, and arguably the most popular in our class. On the right, Marcos Bernini, an introverted guy with a bulldog-like face. He tends to go unnoticed in the classroom because no one wants to get involved with him.
Unlike the boys, I was very familiar with the girls sitting there. The first one, on the left, was the beautiful and popular Juliana Beckman, with long light brown hair and a smile always on her face, my neighbor. The other one was tall and elegant, with black hair and green eyes, but had a solitary attitude. Her name was Gemma Ferrer. I know her because she's the daughter of my father's boss, and also because we were classmates in elementary school. Apparently, she joined our school this year.
A group, consisting of people I didn't want to associate with appeared in front of me. Very bad luck.
Why did they gather us here?
As I entered, they glanced at me for a second, but then looked away, each to their own side. They were seated on the sides of the table, and the only available chair for me was the one at the end against the back wall. I slowly closed the door, and sat down. No one made a sound, and due to the discomfort of dealing with these people, for obvious reasons, neither did I.
After a few minutes that felt like centuries, Professor Dafne entered through the door holding a folder. She threw the folder onto the table and began to speak.
"Martin, since you were not present at the opening talk of the school year, I need to bring you up to date," the professor's firm voice echoed throughout the room. "Esther Carnot committed suicide last night."
I was left speechless. The feeling of emptiness I felt earlier was because of that. The aura of that girl, who used to go unnoticed unless she was being bothered, was missing. My heart started beating fast.
"Due to that, the school conducted a survey during the talk to see who was connected to her. You were selected."
"But why me? I wasn't practically connected to her. We've only exchanged words a couple of times."
"Apparently, many believe that you are the reason she committed suicide."
"What...?" I choked. I couldn't comprehend those words; my head began to hurt.
At that moment, the dream I had during the night came back to my memories.
"Please take care."
The voice, I believe it, belonged to Esther.
Thank you for reading!
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