FIVE – TENDER TEACHER
To say Eva's first night spent at Auradon had been eventful would be quite an understatement considering she had spent it with the VKs as they attempted to steal Fairy Godmother's magic wand from the Museum of Cultural History. Unfortunately, despite all the hard work that had been dedicated to finding the wand, sneaking past the guards and forcing themselves to pass the terrifying statues of their parents, the five teenagers had discovered it was protected by a magical barrier.
After seeing the lifelike statue, Eva was unsure whether it was comforting to know that the people of Auradon viewed her mother the same way she did instead of some evil mastermind to look up to. To add to the difficulty of their task, the barrier set off an alarm when touched and it was only due to Carlos' quick thinking that all five of them had managed to hurry back to their dorms without being caught and hauled back to the Isle.
Due to their first attempt being a complete disaster, the VKs were forced to attend classes the next day, starting with Remedial Goodness.
Hurrying through the shining corridors of Auradon Prep, Eva made an effort to ignore the whispers and stares that followed her frame as she walked alone to her fourth class of the day. After Remedial Goodness – a class that had consisted of only the VKs – they were forced to mingle with the 'good children' of the school as they attended classes on the regular curriculum. Upon arrival, they had been allowed to pick three classes of their choice to accompany the mandatory ones and a class schedule had been drawn up for each of them.
'Coincidentally', they were separated for the majority of their classes. Fairy Godmother must have deemed them to be more manageable if they were apart; divide and conquer. Whilst the boys hurried towards Gym together, the girls attended three different classes. Mal had a free period, Evie darted off to Science and Eva dragged her lone self towards Art.
Nerves settled in as she approached the colourful classroom and she began wringing her hands together at the prospect of being surrounded by people she didn't know and who had no desire to be nice to her. The moment she set foot over the threshold, she would be judged and isolated. Taking a deep breath and reminding herself of who she was (a fearsome princess), she pushed open the door and sat at a free desk at the back of the class. Back on the Isle, she was one of the most feared VKs. She refused to allow anyone to belittle her or make her feel less than she was – only her mother had the power to do that.
Immediately, heads swivelled to face her and eyes narrowed as she slid into her seat. However, an encouraging smile from the teacher had her back straightening slightly.
Rapunzel had been teaching children for ten years and she wished to make everyone feel welcome in her class. Refusing to judge the anxious girl purely based on where had come from, she smiled in greeting. After all, she had married a pardoned criminal.
Passing the blue haired girl the supplies needed for the class, she beamed upon seeing the pure joy flit across Eva's face when she was told that the pencils and pens were hers to keep. Noticing that her name had been inscribed on the case, Eva had to force herself to blink away tears, especially when the brunette woman patted her affectionately on the hand.
Walking back to her desk, Rapunzel had a good feeling about the daughter of the Evil Queen. A positive atmosphere surrounded the young girl and she seemed passionate about learning.
Informing the class that their assignment was to design something they associated with the ocean, she frowned upon noticing Eva falter. Berating herself, she remembered that the water surrounding the Isle was dull and gloomy, nothing of beauty could be drawn from that. Picking up some photographs of the crystal waters and vibrant sea life found at Auradon, she was taken aback when she saw Eva hard at work. Pen and pencil flew across the paper.
Reminding herself that the girl was far more capable than she was given credit, Rapunzel seated herself at her desk and began grading some of the assignments piling up. Glancing around at the rest of her pupils, she noticed that besides one or two, none of them showed the same enthusiasm as the girl hiding herself away at the back of the class.
Rubbing her forehead in frustration, Eva was unaware of the charcoal smudge she had left behind as she stared down at the sea on her paper. The colours were too bright to be an accurate depiction of the image from her memory.
If her mother had seen the state of her at that moment, she would've thrown a fit, hissing about how hideous she looked. Strands of hair fell from the elegant braid and her hands were splashed with colour. Princesses should be clean, proper and prim at all times, her mother would chide. Their hands used for holding a book or a mirror, or used for grooming themselves so that they looked more desirable for wealthy princes. They should not be covered in remnants of ink and graphite.
Smudging the charcoal lines into the churning waves, Eva glanced up when a shadow fell across her page. Raising an eyebrow at the redheaded boy stood before her, she waited impatiently for him to lift his gaze from the drawing.
"I don't think I've ever seen such beauty in a pirate ship," the stranger complimented, continuing to admire the realistic drawing.
Despite the colours being dull and dark, the talent behind the image was undeniable. It was almost as if she had taken the actual boat and used magic to transfer it to the page.
"My dad isn't much of a fan of pirates," the boy commented.
Nodding her head once, Eva continued to stare at the boy, waiting for the taunt that was sure to follow. After all, why else would be talking to her?
"Forgive my lack of manners, I'm Parker Pan, son of Peter Pan."
Hiding her shocked snigger behind a delicate cough, Eva shook his hands hesitantly before introducing herself. Whilst she would remain polite, the insecure part of her was on edge as she waited for the cruel comment or trick that would end this interaction. Everyone, aside from Doug, was too disgusted by her presence and heritage to start a conversation with her. Instead, they opted to hide their fear behind whispered jeers. People were always afraid of the different or unknown.
"Oh I know. Everyone knows who you are. You also sit in front of me in Creative Writing."
Unsure how to react to this conversation, Eva hummed a small 'ah' before continuing to add the final touches to her drawing.
"Honestly, you have some talent there. Does that particular ship have a name?"
"The Jolly Roger."
Freezing slightly, Parker looked into Eva's blue eyes to see a mischievous twinkle sparkling in them and let out a cheerful laugh at the coincidence. Slowly, Eva joined in, giggling quietly. Moving his supplies to the space next to Eva, Parker ignored the incredulous stares he received from his peers as the spent the remainder of class working beside the blue haired girl, whispering in her ear as he attempted to get to know her better.
Discovering they both had a love for literature, they swapped recommendations and discussed books they had both read. By the end of the lesson, Eva had learnt that Parker wasn't as well-behaved as the rest of the citizens of Auradon due to his devilish hobby of pranking those around him.
Looking to the back of the class, Rapunzel shook her head when she noticed that Parker had managed to coax the nervous girl out of her shell. If anyone were unbiased and crafty enough to befriend a VK, it would be Parker Pan. The son of Peter Pan was cheerful and friendly to those he saw deserved it.
As everyone shoved their supplies into their bags when the bell signalled the end of class, Eva took her time packing up. Students rushed out the door as she slid her precious belongings gently into her bag and tucked her chair neatly under the table. Her station was the neatest in class.
"Eva, could I ask you to stay behind for a few moments?" Rapunzel called out to the young girl before Parker could steer her out of the classroom. "You are more than welcome to wait for her outside, Parker."
Waiting for Eva's response as he didn't wish to impose his friendship on her, Parker bid the blue haired princess a good day when she agreed to his demand of sitting beside him in Science, after lunch.
Shuffling up to the large desk that was painted purple and decorated with bursts of sunlight, Eva fiddled with the pendant around her neck as she waited to hear what she had done wrong. Picking up the drawing from the top of the pile of work, Rapunzel spun it round to face Eva.
"This is beautiful."
Hanging her head in shame, it took a few moments for the VK to realise that she was being praised for once. Usually adults only wished to speak to her when they wanted to berate and belittle her.
"I was hoping you would give permission for me to enter it in the display coming up soon. You could win an award." Rapunzel adding after sensing the young girl's hesitation. "And they'll hang it somewhere around the school for all to see."
"Oh no, I don't want anything for it. I'm just not sure it's good enough for you to use as a demonstration of your teaching." Eva blushed at the confession, rubbing her sweaty palms on her leather skirt.
Heart pounding in her chest, she shrunk when the brunette woman giggled lightly.
"It's more than good enough. You have a lot of talent, Eva, and you should never doubt that. Look, I know being taken from your home is a huge adjustment-," Rapunzel chuckled slightly at the joke, "-and not everyone has been welcoming here but my door is always open if you wish to talk to someone."
"Thank you so much."
"I want you to enjoy your time here, Eva. I am sure you will become a real asset to the school. Oh, also, Parker means well so try not to be so guarded around him. He's a lovely boy."
Thanking the teacher once more, Eva hurried from the classroom in search of her friends. As the whispers started once more, she refused to hide any longer. Spine straight and head held high, Eva walked with newfound courage. Auradon gave her a chance to be the person she truly wished to be, not the shell her mother had moulded her into. Someone believed in her, and that was enough to add a spring to her step.
"You're telling me you've actually met a Pirate?" Parker asked incredulously, hanging from a branch of the large tree Eva was seated under.
Books lay abandoned in a pile on the grass since the two teens had long since given up on trying to study for their upcoming Science test. Classes had finished for the day ten minutes ago and whilst she knew she should go and find her friends, Eva was enjoying her time with the child of Pan. Both of them had a free period last and so Parker had attached himself to the girl and forced her to spend time with him.
Knowing the happiness from her first day would soon be gone the moment she reunited with Mal, Eva was soaking up the last remnants of joy before that happened.
"You're telling me you've never met a Pirate?" Eva shot back, smiling as his head popped out from the leaves, dropping the green vegetation into her lap.
Picking up the leaf, she studied the pigments of colour before digging through her art supplies to find the right pencils. Blending the various colours together, she admired the tree before colouring the primary focus of her drawing.
"Well, considering all of them were classed as villains…" Parker trailed off, mouth setting into a grim line.
Shaking her head at her own stupidity, Eva realised that of course Auradon didn't have Pirates. They were considered villainous thieves so they'd been shipped off to the Isle of the Lost. It saddened Eva to know that what had once been a vast population of the sea world was reduced to the meagre group of Pirates trapped on the Isle. Pirates had once been numerous, with multiple vessels sailing across the water. Now there was only a pitiful handful left hanging around the docks, spending their free time on the Jolly Roger staring wistfully at the sea.
"What's with all the curiosity over pirates? Surely your father would be furious if he knew you were so interested in them."
Glancing up at the energetic boy and squinting to see his eyes, she held up a vibrant green pencil and nodded to herself, satisfied with the colour before returning to the page.
"Not at all. Whilst he makes no effort to hide his displeasure of them, he encourages my curiosity," jumping down from the tree, Parker landed next to the young girl. "-My hair has some brown in it - he doesn't understand my fascination with them but he tells me as much as he can remember."
Checking the shade of his hair now it was closer up, she could see the rare strands of light brown, pulling out a similar shade pen.
"I wish my mother was like that. Despite being on talking terms with Hook, she forbids me to speak to pirates. In fact, the one time she caught me conversing with one, she hit me with her crown. I think that was the first time she drew blood because the tip accidentally sliced my cheek. She was horrified because it took a fair bit of makeup to cover up the imperfection. Needless to say, I had to become far more covert with my friendships."
Staring at his new friend in horror, Parker wondered how she had recalled such a ghastly memory with ease. No emotion seeped into her voice when she had talked about it. Forcing his face into a look of neutrality when she looked at him so as not to show her pity, he allowed her to momentarily distract him with the finished portrait of him hanging from the tree. She had captured his likeness perfectly and his mouth dropped open at the talent.
How could such beauty been drawn by a person who had suffered nothing but cruelty and darkness?
"You and I had very different childhoods." Parker commented after gushing over the artwork.
"You have no idea."
Despite having only met the boy seven hours earlier, Eva found herself recounting her entire childhood with the Evil Queen and by the time she finished, Parker pulled her in for a hug and refrained from commenting on the horrors he had heard.
He was unable to comprehend how someone was able to treat their child that way and even more astounded at how someone could survive that and not be broken. Appreciating the silence, Eva melted into the rare affection, taking strength from it.
"That's fucked up," he said eventually, at a loss for words.
Eva snorted causing Parker to look at her as if she was insane. Perhaps she was but after a lifetime of knowing no other type of parental love, Eva had learned to accept it.