Disclaimer: I do not own anything, except Cookie, to an extent.
A/N: I'm still getting used to the controls on here, so any help would be appreciated. Also, please r&r! (:
I stand at the front of the room, staring at the desk. I have never been behind it before, but still I can feel her presence, here of all places. It doesn't matter how many years pass, this classroom will always be hers'.
The five A.M. bell rings. I sigh, sinking down into the chair. I am shaking, even though the kids are not due to come to class for another hour. The irony of all this suddenly dawns on me. I have faced some of the worst things this universe can throw at me, yet…the idea of teaching children terrifies me to the very core of my being.
I try to tell myself that it's impossible-they can't know who I am. It's been ten years. They couldn't know.
But their parents…their parents must. Their parents were my classmates, for God's sake. They must have told them something about me. About us. They will know who their new teacher is, and condemn me for what I am, for the mistakes I made when I was their age.
By the time I've wandered to the window, I'm nearly ready to bolt, to cut and run. Biscotti will forgive me for leaving. I'm not cut out for this.
Instead, I focus on my reflection, barely visible in the glass due to the coming dawn. I do not look any different than I did then. Sure, my eyes may now have dark circles beneath them, with wrinkle lines pulling them down at the edges. Yes, I may be a few inches taller and neither my eyebrows nor a chunk of hair grew back the right way after a not-so-accidental accident. I still wear my brown tank top and sweatpants. I still am more likely than not to be barefoot, as I am now. I still wear what's left of my hair in a ponytail.
But not even I can place what is truly different between the girl I was and the woman who stares back at me now.
"Excuse me, are you miss…" The voice makes me jump. I have been so caught up in my thoughts that I never heard the girl coming.
"Doe," I fill in my last name to the end of her sentence on instinct. "Can I he-"
My mouth dries out when I turn to see her. She can easily be my daughter-no, my twin, were I still fifteen. The only difference is that she actually wears the uniform I had scorned back then. Even our eyes, the darkest purple, are the same.
"Classes don't start until six," I change my response, immediately shutting down. It doesn't matter if she looks like me, she isn't me, and I cannot get attached. "You shouldn't be here."
"I-I know. I'm sorry," She looks at the ground and scuffs her shoes. "I'm always awake before the other students. I…um…wanted to-to speak with you."
This makes both my heart plummet and my temper flare at the same time. She is nothing like me. Nothing at all.
"What about?" I already know the answer as I sit down in the student's desk in the middle of the room, the one I know all too well. My name is still carved into the edge nearest me.
The nervous little wisp of a girl takes a seat as well, although she stays ramrod straight. "I…I wanted to know if I you were who I thought you were."
I raise an eyebrow at her, secretly fighting down nausea. She knows, she knows, she knows, she knows…my mind chants. "And who do you think I am?"
In response, she hands a yearbook to me, and I opened it to a sticky-noted page. When I see the old photo, I drop the book. On the floor, it still is open to that one page, taunting me.
It was a shot I could remember very well. The photo showcased me, in my typical tank top and short shorts, at the end of a race. Pico and Chai were parading around with my trophy like they had won. Mokka had me up on his shoulders; Lassi was clinging to one of my hands like she was trying to flip me off over his head. She was frozen on the film in mid-jump. Sorbet was on my other side, trying to hand me a bottle of water, as maybe the only sane person in the photo-but her smile, immortalized forever inside my mind, outlives every other memory I have of her, and it will be the Sorbet that I remember when I'm old and senile.
And of course. Miss Madeleine. She stands off to one side behind us, smiling like I was her own daughter, like we were her own children, just like I remember her. She is why I choke up and nearly vomit.
Because as perfect as this photo is, this is the way I'll remember us. All seven of us. This is the way I want to remember us. I will not remember the times Pico nearly set everything we worked for on fire, or the times that Sorbet's smile left her forever, or the times that Chai descended into hysterics because he couldn't take it, or the times Lassi's plans almost got us all killed, or the times Mokka's past came to collect on its debts. And I will not, will not, remember Miss Madeleine the way she was on…in that place that still haunts my nightmares.
I look up to see if the girl is still sitting there. She isn't. I'm glad, because I can feel my past pulling at the back of my mind, demanding the attention it's been denied. So I put my head down on the desk and let the memories (the ones that I do not want to remember, but I know I always will) engulf me.
T E N Y E A R S A G O
It is still dark outside when I wake. Sorbet lays next to me, although I can't remember when she came and got in bed with me. It's a twin size, but I don't mind. She needs someone, now more than ever, with everything that's going on in her life.
I'm already hanging half-way off the side, and all of the covers are piled up around her, so it's easy enough to get up without waking her. I grab my jacket off the back of the chair and slip out the door. I only look back once to see if Sorbet will ask me what's going on. She doesn't even move.
I have long since stopped wonder what people think of me when I come jogging out onto the street into town through the school's main gates. A fifteen year old girl, made out of nothing but lean muscle, not wearing the robes but in her pajamas, running alone by herself at some ungodly hour. At least the reputation of Will-O'-Wisp keeps those who would from kidnapping me.
I stop to yawn, leaning on a park bench. As much as I love this time, it makes me sleepy for my classes. Miss Madeleine is usually pretty lenient about it, partly because she doesn't pay attention either. After all, she's the one who brought me here; the identity card tapping against my hip when I move, the card that bears my ridiculous name, makes me all too aware of who I have to thank.
The story goes that she found me as a baby somewhere. The 'where' always changes every time I hear it; sometimes, I was just lying out on the street. Sometimes my parents (whoever the hell they are) left me on the steps of the school. Sometimes I was in the garbage pile outside of her favorite coffee shop. No matter where she found me, she always did. For that, I'm eternally grateful.
It sounds good at first. Except, then it goes on. When she showed the wrapped up baby to principal Biscotti, she demanded him to take me on as a charity case. He said that he'd only do so if I came with a name. Something about the last charity case ending with enigmas and plains of darkness and night-birds and some other stuff I don't even remember.
Regardless of that, this is how my unfortunate name came about.
Since apparently it was a fad here on Kovomaka to name your kid after food, she got the on-the-spot idea of 'Cookie'. My last name she meant to be a pun on 'Jane Doe'. I've never made any claims that Miss Madeleine wasn't always absent-minded. Needless to say, I've grown up tough.
Well, it worked. Biscotti either bought it or just took pity and didn't want to release me back out into the world with that kind of a name, but he let me into the school. I was raised here, in the nursery that I'm still trying to figure out why we have.
So, there you go. That's the origin of yours truly, Miss Cookie Doe.
I'm half-asleep on my desk as the voices of my classmates fade in and out of my hearing. There are four that are most prominent, those of the ones closest to me-Pico, Sorbet, Mokka, and Chai. I sort of listen their conversation with an unsettling feeling of déjà vu. We say the same things every day, idle speculation about why Miss Madeleine was late (my personal theory was that she cared about class just as much as I did).
"Hey, Cookie!" Pico shakes me. I lift my head up only to glare at him. Used to it by now, he just keeps on talking. "Where's Miss Madeleine? Class shoulda started by now. Do you think something happened to her?"
"Calm down, she's just late," Sorbet steals words right out of my mouth. I make some kind of noise of gratitude at her. "It happens all the time. She's probably just finishing up her lesson plan. It's nothing to get so worked up about."
I don't think he's worked up, personally. But Sorbet and I tend to have…different opinions on the little fire mage. I call him her pet, she calls him my punching bag.
"What is this, the 30th time this year? When's someone going to give her a tardy slip, that's what I want to know!" Chai, the dear little thirteen year old salamander-morph he is, pouts at the desk diagonal to me. I give up on sleeping.
Before Sorbet can launch into a lecture about anger control or some other kind of crap I don't pay attention to, Lassi starts jumping from her position at the door.
"I see her! She's coming! Quick, everyone, get back in your seats!" She exclaims, bolting to her chair ahead of me, her rabbit ears streaming behind her. Lassi makes to her place seconds before Miss Madeleine literally bursts into the room. The door bangs against the wall, but she doesn't stop running until she trips and nearly falls flat on her face. She catches herself on her desk, though, and turns to face us, her typical smile plastered on.
"Good morning, apprentices!" Miss Madeleine doesn't have a shrill voice, per say, but it is a voice that carries and quickly silences a room of high schoolers. "I trust you were all quietly studying your spell books while you were waiting for me?"
I think that the marks on my face from my jacket sleeve speak for themselves.
"Miss Madeleine, you must be aware you are late for class. Again!" Mokka scolds. On an impulse, I throw a paper ball at him. He needs to stop being such a teacher. Actually, he needs to stop being such a robot.
"Yeah, what's up with that? You're late all the time, but when I forget my homework, who gets detention? Me!" Pico takes his cue to start talking. "If I get held back again this year, I'm holding you personally responsible!"
"Yeah!" I echo. He and I high-five, while Sorbet sends us her best 'I-do-not-approve' glare.
Miss Madeleine only laughs. "I'm sorry, my little students! I'll never be late again, I promise!"
We are all skeptical. Miss Madeleine will stop being late when she dies. Even then, no guarantees she'll get to her funeral on time.
"What did you all set on fire now?" Sorbet pounces as soon as Pico, Chai, and I walk out of detention.
"Nothing!" I go into immediate denial. We haven't set anything on fire this time. We just forgot to turn in a group project. Well, more of a me-and-Pico-don't-do-our-work-and-drag-Chai-in project.
It is about this point that we stumble on Lassi and Mokka pressed up against the door to the principal's door, clearly eavesdropping. Sorbet sighs, ready to go into mom mode again, but Lassi presses a finger to her lips and pulls us all against the door. I have no arguments as to why we shouldn't listen in, especially when I hear who is speaking.
"Miss Madeleine, you are the only one that I can trust with this delicate matter," Principal Biscotti is the first person I hear. "I'm afraid there's simply no other way. Leave your students in my care. We will await your return."
I think my heart falls into my stomach and my stomach falls into my feet.
"But to the wind planet? Really? Are you sure this is a good idea?" Miss Madeleine responds, her voice dropping down to a whisper. I have to strain to hear now, and the others behind me start pushing.
"Quite sure, Miss Madeleine. I need your help in dealing with a very troublesome wizard on Puffoon," Biscotti continues with his same matter-of-fact tone. For some reason, it makes me mad. "Is that so?" Miss Madeleine even sounds curious now. I can literally feel my temper boiling. I jerk back, elbowing Chai in the stomach. I don't even care.
"Indeed. He was once a student of yours, in fact. His name is Kale, although he calls himself Master Kale now," Biscotti explains. Not even the fact that the "big bad" is named after a cabbage can get rid of the gnawing feeling in my stomach.
"My sources tell me that he has banded with a crew of villainous space pirates, who do his dirty work across the solar system. I'm sure you remember him. He seemed a most promising pupil, but now I'm sad to say he's gone somewhat astray…it may come to blows, and I pray you defend yourself if it does." Biscotti suddenly sounds anxious. It's about time.
"Kale? With the scruffy hair?" Miss Madeleine is utterly shocked. "But he was such a sensitive boy. What happened? I can't imagine him being any trouble!"
Suddenly, Chai pushed me in retaliation for my earlier collision with his ribcage. Unfortunately, that's the last straw for our unstable pile; the door crashes open. We don't waste a moment standing still and looking dumb; instead, we run straight across the room to Biscotti and Miss Madeleine.
"Miss Madeleine! It's not true, is it?" Lassi's lower lip quivers dangerously. "You're not really going to Puffoon! But why? You can't leave us!" "Teacher! We were listening at the door. We heard everything you discussed." Mokka had not yet learned that there were some things you just didn't say. "You have to go to Puffoon and fight pirates and wizards? This sounds highly alarming."
"Students, please!" Miss Madeleine tries to get order again. "This conversation was not meant for your inquisitive ears."
"All that talk of other planets…" Sorbet interrupts. I can't tell if she's trying to get more knowledge for herself, or just trying to figure out what's going on. "Are you honestly planning on going into space?"
"Please, I'll be fine," Miss Madeleine tries to smile. It doesn't work. "You should be more worried about your tome reports. "They're due next week!"
Somewhere, through the shock, I realize I should probably start on that project.
Nearly a week later, the day before our reports are due, Miss Madeleine calls us all to the meditation room. We don't waste time talking; I go straight up to her, tapping on her shoulder. She turns around, almost surprised to see us.
"Have you been here long, Cookie?" She asks. I almost answer, but the others run up behind me then, and Sorbet thwacks me in the back. Miss Madeleine continues, unaware. "Good, you're all here."
"Miss Madeleine, what's going on?" Chai asks. She focuses on all of us.
"The universe can be a very dodgy place, so it's high time for me to teach you how to defend yourselves," Miss Madeleine suddenly gets serious. "But these skills are designed for extreme circumstances."
I start smiling like an idiot. I'm a scrapper; extreme circumstances are right up my alley.
"That sounds awesome…and dangerous!" Pico speaks my thoughts aloud, probably without even knowing it.
"Waiit, does this mean you're taking us with you to Puffoon?" Lassi squeals. I hadn't even thought about that.
"Ahh…no, children. I'll be traveling to the wind planet alone. I'm afraid I don't have time to explain why that is, so please be understanding," Miss Madeleine seems like she regrets this fact. She covers up quickly, though. "Cookie, step forward."
It is several hours and plenty of explosions later when we all collapse to the floor, exhausted. Only Miss Madeleine still stands.
"Had enough?" She smiles. I nod. "Good. We'll end your lessons for today. You're all set for galactic fun!"
"Are you serious? Are we going into space, too?" Usually, Sorbet can tell when things are a joke. I guess she's still frazzled.
"So, we're all going into space? Cool!" Chai is the next to be dragged in. I sigh.
"No, I'll be going alone. Yes, quite alone," Miss Madeleine repeats. Her face darkens. "Yet, I've got a…strange, foreshadowy feeling. If anything happens to me, I want you all to be able to take care of yourselves."
"What could happen to you? You're Miss Madeleine," Even Mokka is surprised by her mood change. "You know, well, everything."
"Well, I don't know. Just a weird feeling, I guess. I don't want to alarm you," Miss Madeleine again attempts a smile.
Too late, I want to tell I feel it too. A strange feeling that nothing will ever be the same.
"But the important thing is this: you all have great power. Believe in it," Miss Madeleine orders. It isn't a statement, it is an order. The bad feeling inside of me wells up. I am struck by a terrifying idea I shove to the back of my mind. We pick ourselves up off the floor and leave.
The next day, Miss Madeleine is gone. Professor Pistachio takes over her class, which is my only hint things are different. I walk into class and nearly have a heart attack when he's standing there. He teaches my afternoon class. It's not a good relationship.
Nervous, I take my seat, and thwack Pico's arm.
"Hey, where's Miss Madeleine? And what's grumpy pants doing here?" I hiss. He shrugs. The bell rings, cutting off his answer. Pistachio begins to pace.
"So, students, I understand you have a tome report due today," He announces. My head shoots up. Somehow, I'd forgotten all about it. Of course, Pistachio catches my face. "Miss Doe, that's an interesting look. How about I collect yours first?"
I swear silently. "Well, you see Professor, I…forgot it in my dorm room."
He nods, as if he believes me. "Well then. Who is your roommate again, Miss Doe?"
"Sorbet," I sigh, digging my nails into my palm. Sorbet turns around. I stare at her, hoping she gets the message.
"Of course. Miss Mintblue," Pistachio turns to her. "Will you be so kind as to retrieve Miss Doe's paper from your room?"
Sorbet stammers out a response, jumps up, and runs from the room. I cross my fingers under the desk, hoping she won't be such a goody-goody as she usually is and give me a copy of her paper. Unfortunately, she returns several minutes later, empty handed.
"I-I couldn't find it, s-sir…" She whispers. Pistachio looks back at me, an evil look in his eyes.
"Of course you couldn't," He sneers. "Miss Mintblue, do you know where you will find Miss Doe after class today?"
"Very good, Miss Mintblue. Take your seat," Pistachio turns back to the front of the room. I slump down in my chair. This can't be good.
T H R E E M O N T H S L A T E R
I sit in the meditation room, pulling uncomfortably at my jacket. Instead of punishing me like usual three months ago, Pistachio had threatened to expel me if he caught me without my uniform-which he knew I hated. So now I was stuck in the bulky white hat, white jacket, white tights, black shoes, and blue dress for the rest of my education. This was not me.
Sorbet and Mokka don't say a word, thankfully. Mokka I know sees me fidgeting; Sorbet it so wrapped up in her meditation she probably hasn't even noticed that I've moved.
Suddenly, Pico and Chai come crashing into the room, looking like they'd lost the crown jewels. They seem to snap Sorbet out of her trance.
"Not here…" Pico grumbles. Sorbet tilts her head.
"What's the matter, you two?" She asks as they run up the stairs to us. I walk over beside her with Mokka, now thoroughly intrigued.
"We kinda lost Lassi…." Pico tries to sound casual. Chai scuffs his feet against the floor. "I dunno what got into her. She started talkin' about how she was going to go into space or something."
"Space? What gave her that idea?" Mokka cuts in.
"Well, she must think she can find Miss Madeleine on the wind planet, right?" Chai finally starts talking. "I mean, it's been three months since anyone's seen her…maybe she is in trouble and we need to help!"
Sorbet shakes her head. "We're all worried about Miss Madeleine. But how does she expect to get into space? Unless…"
"What, do you know something?" I demand, grabbing her shoulder. Lassi and Chai are the youngest of us all at thirteen, and I can't help but feel like a big sister to the both of them. Albeit a horrible role model.
"Mokka, you remember that trick the seniors play about there being a rocket ship hidden in the school?" Sorbet smirks. I don't want to remember that prank. That had been my first fight at Will-O'-Wisp. I also won, but that's beside the point.
"Yeah…" He sounds hesitant to remember as well. I sort of dragged him into helping me fight the seniors when they jumped out at me in the necromancy lab. "That was really funny."
"Wait a second! Do you think she's trying to find the rocket?" Pico finally catches on. "Chai, do you think it exists? We gotta find it!"
They go running out. Sorbet shakes her head again, mumbling something about how they were helpless by themselves and goes after them. That leaves me and Mokka. We follow the others through the school and into the back corridor, up another stair case, and up a rickety metal latter. Inside the next room, Sorbet waits, staring at a large door. Being the girl that I am, I go up to it. To my surprise, it starts talking.
"You seek to open the door to the heavens?" It groans at me. I nod, awestruck. "I only grant access to those with great power."
I close my eyes and focus on the dark magic inside of me. It wells up, overwhelming. I can feel the room go pitch black. Even as power seeps out through me, I can feel my strength coming back to me.
When I open my eyes again, the door slowly opens. The three of us, in stunned silence, run through, and…up another ladder of sorts. Inside the next room are six rockets. Of course, Pico and Chai choose this moment to join us.
"Look at this place! Those pointy-pod things are rockets, right?" Pico yells, not really caring about any hearing damage to the rest of us.
"The rumors were true!" Chai squeals.
"I half-doubted Miss Madeleine was really going to Puffoon…now I guess she was serious; these are space rockets," Sorbet smiles.
I walk up to the main rocket. The next thing I know, it starts shaking. Actually, the whole room starts shaking, filling up with smoke. I swear again.
"Dammit, Lassi…" I whisper, falling to the ground like the others. Duck and cover, right? Sure enough, things start flying. By the time I get up again and turn around, thinking it's safe, the roof is open. One of the rockets is missing. And I'm the only one conscious.
So I do what anyone would do: I say a good-bye to everyone, hope things work out for Sorbet and that Mokka gets that upgrade he wanted and that Chai eventually grows up and that Pico passes this year.
Then I get in the second rocket, pull a shiny red lever, and blast off from school, heading into the expanse of space. For a while, I can see Lassi's rocket ahead of me. Eventually, though, it fades from view as we go through a meteor belt and I start getting pummeled. One meteor hits the front of my rocket, and then everything goes black.