During homeroom the next day, as I sat at my isolated desk, Megan came over and said, “I asked my parents, and they said no.” She sighed. “I even told them that you weren’t evil anymore, but they still said they couldn’t have you in our home.”
“Eh, it’s okay. Honestly, I’m not surprised,” I told her.
“No, it’s not! You have to have somewhere to live!”
“At least I’m better off than the people who live out on the street.”
“So, you don’t live on the street? You have shelter?!” Megan let out a sigh of relief.
“Yup, I, uh, live under a tree,” I said.
“Oh, Anita, that doesn’t count!” she exclaimed, worry returning to her face.
“Well, I’m okay—” I was interrupted by my science teacher, Mr. Sifuhn, who was also my homeroom teacher since he’s my third period teacher. “Anita, your name is no excuse for such misbehavior!” he boomed. “You know you aren’t supposed to talk during the announcements!” Of course I knew that, but, like everyone else, I never paid much attention to that rule. I never could hear the announcements, no matter whether I talked or not. “For that transgression, you get an hour detention after school today!” concluded Mr. Sifuhn. The room was silent for thirty seconds, as it always was after someone was punished for talking, but afterward, the silence collapsed into whispers, which elevated to regular talking, which turned into shouts. And Mr. Sifuhn did nothing about it. I didn’t expect him to, either. He was extremely prejudiced against the Cursed, and he blatantly showed it by giving the Blessed mostly undeserved rewards and the Cursed mostly undeserved punishments. I always got detentions for the tiniest mistakes or for nothing at all. This didn’t just happen in Mr. Sifuhn’s class; almost all of my teachers gave those kinds of detentions, but not as frequently as Mr. Sifuhn. “Mr. Sifuhn,” said Megan suddenly, “you shouldn’t punish Anita. I started the conversation. If she got punished, then I should, too!”
“Oh, Megan, I’m sure it wasn’t your fault,” he said, smiling. “And for trying to take the blame for something that clearly wasn’t your fault, you may take some candy as a reward.” He gestured for her to come up to the candy bowl. Megan objected, so he came over to her desk and placed a pile of colorful candy on it. “Your candy is waiting for you on your desk,” he said. Megan went to her desk, scooped up the candy, and gave the candy to me. “I don’t want the candy. You can have it, if you want,” she explained.
Ding dong ding! “That’s the announcement bell! Listen to the announcement!” said Mr. Sifuhn. A student council member who had announced the usual homeroom announcements spoke over the intercom. “There will be no Channel 101 today due to technical difficulties.” The intercom clicked off. How typical. The main television that controlled all the other televisions always broke down while playing Channel 101 News. “So, I guess that means we can start learning about physics earlier!” said Mr. Sifuhn. The class groaned.
At three o’clock sharp, I strode over to Room 33 where a group of about thirty students were seated. Some looked nervous—Regulars, I bet—while others were bored or upset. I took my seat just as Mrs. Elralehimeshym, my rather hefty redheaded Advanced Yordstap History teacher, said in her shrill voice, “Okay, you hooligans! I don’t want to be here as much as you do, so be quiet! I have tests to grade.” She took a stack of essays and placed it on her desk, but didn’t touch it afterward and read her book.
I never minded detention that much. In fact, I almost enjoyed it. In the past, it had been a good way to stay away from my parents, and now it just gave me decent shelter for longer. While the tree did give me, literally, a roof over my head, it didn’t have any walls to keep the cold out, so I was always shivering. I took out my homework and decided to work on precalculus homework first. We were working on trigonometry, which I found rather difficult since I had forgotten much of what I had learned about it last year. I hate math.
Mrs. Elralehimeshym, bored by her book, turned on the radio to listen to the news. I wasn’t interested in anything that was on the news, so I continued with my homework. Stupid trigonometry! But I was going to understand this! I just needed an epiphany. Where was that epiphany? But the epiphany didn’t come, no matter how much I begged it to appear. I looked through my math book to try to understand inverse circular functions and what the heck arcsin x was. Oh! So arcsin x was just another way to say sin-1x. Why did we need to know this crap anyway? Finally getting some part of what we had learned in today’s trigonometry lesson, I slowly managed to finish my precalc homework, cursing whoever had thought of trigonometry after every problem. I then took my tattered copy of The Complete History of Yordstap (our school had been suffering from budget cuts) and read about the Trafilnarian (Trafilnaria is one of the 37 Districts) rebellion started by the Cursed population for more rights. I liked history. I liked learning about the past and analyzing it. It’s amazing how one little thing could change so much. For instance, if the Trafilnarian rebels had not had a traitor amongst them, they might have won more rights for us Cursed people. Currently, we couldn’t even vote, since we “rogues” would vote for a “rogue” president. And if my parents hadn’t tried to steal the Anvil of Crisstareenaywebdermotti, my life would have been in a much better condition than it was in now. I definitely wouldn’t have the vile name I was unfortunately stuck with. “…and this headline should really alarm the Blessed and Cursed,” said the radio, catching my and about three-fourths of the detention-servers’ attention. “A series of about fifty mysterious disappearances has occurred around Rirsocet County, and the missing people, without fail, were either one of the Blessed or Cursed.” The reporter then interviewed families and friends of the missing people. I noticed that only families and friends of the missing Blessed were interviewed, but I tuned out the interviews themselves. Rirsocet County…that was my county! What was happening? Why were all the disappeared people specifically Blessed or Cursed? I could sort of understand why the Cursed were vanishing—no one liked us much, anyway, so why wouldn’t anyone try getting rid of us—but the Blessed? I figured that their disappearances may have been driven by jealousy. Why did this have to happen? I hadn’t seen any Blessed or Cursed people disappear yet, but I was sure the situation wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Mrs. Elralehimeshym quickly turned off the radio to reduce agitation, I supposed, but all of us Cursed were visibly quaking. If fifty of the Blessed and Cursed had disappeared already, what would stop whoever had taken them from taking us?