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Of Fear and Loss
I quickly make my way down the stone hallway, ignoring the eerie echos of my own footsteps. I tightly grip my books to my chest and press on. My mind is racing. ‘What did I do? I never get called down to the Headmaster’s office!’ I think while swallowing the lump that is forming in my throat. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest. I feel as though I am walking my own green mile, as the Headmaster’s door gets closer, and closer. I momentarily pause outside the tall oak door, before lifting my shaking hand up to knock.
“Come in,” a loud baritone voice booms from the other side. My knocks sound feeble and weak compared to the response. I open the door and cautiously enter the room. The door slams shut behind me, sealing my fate. I let my eyes scan the room, like a trapped animal looking for all the exits. My eyes lock with the Headmaster’s.
“I was told to come down here by Professor Cameron,” I choke out, before dropping my eyes to the floor. I take a deep breath to try and steady myself, my knees shaking from fright.
“Yes, I am sorry to pull you out of Professor Cameron’s class, but the matter we need to discuss is urgent.” I slowly lift my head to look at him. He is standing now, towering over his desk. His dark hair is cut short, and reminds me of a drill Sargent's. His broad shoulders look as if he is one false move from busting the seams. He emits strength from his very pores.
“I beg your pardon Headmaster Deiphobus, but I do not know why I was called down here. Am I in trouble?”
Within seconds I see my Headmaster’s face age. He lets out a deep sigh and slumps back into his seat. He no longer looks like the man everyone fears, and respects, the man that is made out to be a God. Right then, he just looks like a man. He covers his eyes with his hands and faces the desk.
“Of course not, Nissa. Please have a seat.” His voice is soft and kind. It is foreign sounding to my ears. I feel as though any movement might shatter this awkward peace. He raises his head and stares. I slightly nod and take a step forward, my stomach clenching with fear. I have never seen him like this. Something must be wrong. I settle myself into the high backed chair across from him.
“What is wrong?” I question once again pleading with my eyes to know the truth. His eyes drop; he can’t look at me. He turns away and picks up the phone, his fingers fumbling on the buttons. I stare at him, patiently, well as patiently as I can.
“Madame Valene,” he pauses, “Miss James has arrived, and I am requesting your presence.” I hear Madame Valene responding through the phone. ‘Why would Madame Valene need to be here? She is the school counselor.’ Headmaster Deiphobus hangs up the phone and turns his head towards me, expecting me to talk.
“What’s going on?” I stammer, waiting for him to yell at me for saying what’s instead of what is, but no scolding comes.
“We must wait for Madame Valene to arrive before I can explain the situation.”
“What situation?” I interrupt. “Why does Madame Valene have to get involved?” I start panicking; I can feel my gut twisting. “If this is about my grades I know they could be better.”
“Miss James!” It is his turn to interrupt me. “This is not about your grades!” he shouts as I flinch back into my seat. His face is turning red. “Now please sit quietly until Madam Valene arrives.” I nod quietly, allowing my hair to cover my eyes, hiding my tears.
“Yes sir.” I whisper, hating myself for how weak I sound. I hear him let out a deep sigh. The remaining silence is unbearable. I sit there awkwardly trying to believe this is some kind of weird dream.
The door swings open and Madame Valene steps in without knocking. She is a short, plump woman with curly blond hair. “I am so sorry that it took me so long.” she explains before coming to stand behind me.
“That is alright, Madame Valene, at least you are hear now.” he sighs with a hint of venom in his voice. I see her wince out of the corner of my eye.
“Excuse me.” They both turn to look at me. “Can one of you please tell me why I am here?” I beg. Madame Valene looks at me in pity and shakes her head.
“You poor girl.” she sobs before hugging me. I gasp in surprise, my body pulled against her.
“Madame Valene that is enough!” the Headmaster barks. “You are smothering her for God’s sake.” Sheepishly Madame Valene takes a step back.
“What is going on?” I cry. “I am sick of sitting here waiting! Will one of you tell me what has happened!” I shout, pushing myself out of the chair. “I have been sitting here patiently for too long. Do you know how many bad scenarios have been playing in my head? One of you just tell me already!” The second the words leave my mouth I regret them, but I can not stop myself. I stand their silently trying to meet their eyes. Both adults find the floor incredibly intriguing.
“Nissa,” the Headmaster clears his throat before continuing, “It is about your father.”
“What has happened?” I gasp, I can hear my heart pounding in my ears, I feel as though I am going to be sick.
“Headmaster, be easy on the girl.” Madame Valene hissed. She put a reassuring hand on my shoulder.
“Nissa,” he begins. He has to clear his throat before continuing, “I am sorry to inform you that your father is.” he pauses, his eyes meet Madame Valene’s. I can tell he is begging for help.
"Nissa, your father,” she looks uncomfortable and fiddles with her hands, “Well he’s dead.”
“No!” I screamed, my heart was pounding in my chest, my gut twisted, “No, he can’t be. I would know.” They just look at me while flashes of pain cross their faces. ‘I would know, wouldn’t I?’ My heart sunk, suddenly the ache in my chest made sense. I had a feeling all day that something was wrong, but I ignored it, and now I was faced with the truth.
“Madame Valene, you could not have handled this situation in any other way?” I glance at the headmaster, but his face is unreadable.
“Well I thought it would be best to just say it. Why prolong the agony of explaining it? Fast and quick like a band-aid,” she explained grasping for words.
“Like a band-aid! Are you an imbecile!” he shouts, while I stare in disbelief.
“Headmaster!” Madame Valene shrieks.
“I am sorry, Madame, perhaps it is best if you leave. You obviously do not know how to handle these delicate situations.” Madame Valene huffs before crossing the room and slamming the door as she exits.
“Headmaster,” I say but it is barely audible even to my own ears, “Please,” I cry, “Tell me this is not true. Tell me she was lying!” I beg. For the second time today I see him grow vulnerable. He stays quiet as he approaches me, stopping beside me and dropping to one knee.
“Nissa,” he sighs. I turn to face him, he’s at eye level and I see right into his piercing blue eyes. My friends used to warn me to never look into Headmaster Deiphobus’ eyes. They joked that if he got mad enough one look could turn you to stone or something. They always described his eyes as hard and emotionless, yet what I saw was pure emotion. His eyes show worry, concern, and compassion, almost as if he knew how I felt. He gently places his hand on my shoulder. “I am so sorry. I wish I could tell you this was all a nightmare, but that would be a lie, and I can not do that to you.” I can see in his eyes that he wishes I was there for any other reason.
“What happened?” I ask, my voice sounding weak.
“They did not tell me much, but what they did say was this,” He reaches onto his desk and grabs a small piece of paper, “This is what the office gave me. They say it was an accident, though they do not mention what kind,” he hands the paper to me. “Your mother is already at the hospital, she called you grandmother to come and pick you up.” I nod, not knowing any other words to say. ‘He is dead,’ I think, ‘My dad is really dead.’
Knock-Knock. We both look up at the door. Madam Valene opens the door and sticks her head in.
“Nissa, your grandmother is here to pick you up.” she explains before backing out of the door way.
“Come now Nissa, I will walk you to the office.” He stands up and leads me out of his office in silence. We enter the main hallway and everyone stares. All they see is miss goody-goody getting escorted to the office by the Headmaster. I hear some comments and snickers from the crowd as we pass. They all think that I have done something wrong. Little do they know that it is the world that is at fault. The Headmaster places his hand on my shoulder and urges me forward. The students pause and follow us with their eyes, they are all waiting for something to happen. My grandmother stands next to the doors, studying the floor. I could tell that she is crying. Headmaster Deiphobus, tightens his grip on my shoulder, to reassure and comfort me.
“Thank you, Headmaster Deiphobus.” I respond before taking a step out of his grasp.
“I’m sorry about your father.”
“I know.” I turn to face him. Before I know what is happening he closes the gap between us and hugs me. I can hear the surrounding people gasp, and see their jaws hit the floor.
“Nissa,” he whispers into my ear, “I know your pain.” With that said he lets go and takes a step back, and sends a glare to the surrounding student body. “There is nothing to see now get to class!” he roars. I can hear the nervous stampede of scurrying children, and I laugh to myself.
“Thank you sir,” I think back to all the horror stories I heard from the Headmasters office, he spent his whole career installing fear into his students, and know he would have to work hard to get that fear back, all because he hugged me, “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”
“Don’t mention it.” he grunts, as he starts to turn away.
“Does it ever get better?” I ask. He takes a moment to compose his response before replying, “Yes, right now you think it is the end of the world, but one day you will wake up and accept it. You never truly get over them, and you always will miss them and feel the pain of their loss, but you will accept it.” I nod, knowing that he is right. He gives me a small wave and a smile, before sliding his usual mask of hate and indifference into place.
“Don’t you have somewhere to be Miss James?” he barks, “Your mother needs you now more then ever.” I find myself hurrying towards my grandmother. “And don’t worry, everything will work out. It usually does.”
“Of course sir. Goodbye.” I wave a final goodbye before leaving the building with my grandmother.