Marinette hesitated outside the classroom door. The sound of happy chattering and laughter filtered through the open door, begging Marinette to come join. But she didn’t want to go in. Lila was in there. Lila had been there for a day without Marinette. She had been spreading her lies to the new class who would be eating out of her hand. They would jeer at her, ignore her, hurt her. Marinette started to turn around, intending to hid out in the school’s library, in a back corner where no one could find her and just draw, when she felt a gentle nudge on her thigh. Glancing down, Marinette got caught up in Tikki’s gaze. Concern, worry, love, understanding, and encouragement as seemed to shine in them, all in a pool of support. Tikki didn’t say anything, there was nothing that she could say. All she did was give her chosen a slow nod of encouragement, hold her gaze until Marinette nodded back.
Squaring her shoulder, Marintte took a deep breath, entered the room, and froze. One of the other student’s had seconds before shouted something, pointing at something in the front of the room . Over three dozen sets of eyes followed the gesture, all of them ended up landing on Marinette. For a few long tense seconds, no one did anything and Marinette fought the overwhelming urge to turn tail and run. She watched as their expressions shifted from amused, to confused, to shock, and finally … recognition? Marinette felt more then saw them stare at her face, more specifically, her bruising and eye. She had been rushed at the hotel again this morning, slept through all her alarms and would have slept longer if Ms. Bustier hadn’t sent Alix up. Whether it was because of what happened yesterday or not, was still to be answered. Though due to the late wake-up call, Marinette barely had enough time to slip into the uniform she was provided with before running down to catch to bus. She hadn’t been able to put on any make-up and she had no idea how bad the bruising had become. All she knew was that her whole face was hurting, and she knew her eye was still red. The doctor had said it would take a couple weeks for the colour to return to normal.
“Oh my gosh, you’re the girl from the news.” One of the boys said, breaking the silence.
This caused more confusion for Marinette before it quickly turning to horror. She had been on the news. Everyone saw her almost getting killed by a truck. Her panic attack, her face, everything. They knew, Everyone knew.
Her panic must have shown, just as she was about to bolt, the boy who had first been talking interrupted her.
“Hey, are you ok? What am I saying? Of course your not ok. What I meant was do you think you should be coming to school? I mean, yesterday looked pretty intense and, and traumatic and shouldn’t you be resting? Do you want to go to the nurse? I’m sure that Mr. Spinale will give you some free days. And . . “
“Claude, please allow the girl time to breath. Unless Ms. Marinette is severely ill, she must attend classes or she …” another voice, Mr. Spinale, said, walking in. He turned to address her, but pulled up short. “My God, what happened?”
As those words left Mr. Spinale, the entire class, mostly the real class, erupted in not quiet whispers. Mostly on the fact that Mr. Spinale swore. He never swore, and heaven help anyone who he caught using ‘vulgar language.’ But as the information filtered through their minds, they seemed to catch onto the fact that he called her by name. By the last name of the student that wasn’t in class yesterday due to being sick, according to her teacher.
“I … I … I …” Marinette stammered, trying to formulate an answer. But she was saved from answering when Mr. Spinale turned abruptly to Ms. Bustier.
“I thought you she was at your hotel yesterday, ill.” He asked, his tone dropping into the danger zone. He didn’t bother waiting for an answer before cutting her off. “If that is so, then explain what happened to her.” The order wasn’t veiled in the slightest.
“She was, at least that’s what I had thought. She left, and you saw the news. I had to pick her up from the station. She must have run into trouble and panicked. I didn’t find out until much later that she had left the hotel. At least now Marinette, and everyone else, will think twice before running off.” Ms. Bustier said, her voice sounding exasperated. ‘So that’s the excuse that she used.’ Marinette had vagally wondered how Ms. Bustier explained her absence, that is, if anyone had asked.
“Did you have any medical treatment, Miss?” He had turned so abruptly back to her, that Marinette automatically braced for a blow. She didn’t notice the spark of anger flare in Mr. Spinale’s gray eyes nor the flash of understanding and anger in Claude’s. Relaxing after a second, Marinette hid her embarrassment and pushed back the lump that formed in her throat.
“Y-yes. They had a doctor come look at me at the station. They said I was going to be fine.” Marinette said, her voice faltering slightly.
Mr. Spinale was quiet for a moment before turning to his desk. Rummaging through one of the drawers, he pulled out a stack of paper. Quickly signing two, he tore one off before offering it to Marinette.
“It’s a hall pass. I want you to go visit the nurse. I know you said you already had it looked at, but I would feel better if the nurse had a look at it. That way she can gauge how well your healing. She could also give you something for the pain. Claude, you go with her.” He said, fully ignoring Ms. Bustier who made a move to protest.
Claude didn’t hesitate. Once the slip was in his hands, he grabbed Marinette’s hand and dragged her out of the classroom. He held it loose, giving her to choice to pull back. Claude didn’t say much while they walked, in fact he didn’t say anything at all. His face was grim. Marinette thought it almost looked angry. The only time he spoke was when the nurse, a young man in his mid-twenties, demand to know what happened. As the nurse, Mark, was assessing her, Marinette couldn’t help but notice how he kept glancing at Claude, who was just leaning against the office wall, silently watching them. Mark quickly distracted her with question of her medical history for her school files. She gave him as much as the could remember, starting from when she was put in the system. There were a few notable hospital visits, but if he notice, Mark chose not to say anything. He just wrote her information down. By the time he had finished assessing her, taking her history, and given her something for the pain, nearly two hours had passed.
“Marinette, if you need anything else, just drop by.” Mark informed her, giving both of them notes before sending them back to class.
“Why did you come to school today?” Claude’s question caught her off guard. It was the first time he had spoken to her since Mr. Spinale had interrupted him. Turning to look at him, Marinette met his gray eyes, her right eye throbbing slightly.
“… I … needed a sense of normality. Some … semblance of routine.” Marinette said honestly, her voice wavering slightly.
Claude didn’t respond, He just nodded in understanding before opening the door. Mr. Spinale briefly glanced at them from his lecture, nodding once before continuing. Marinette scurried to the back of the room, into the far corner as far away from everyone as possible. She needed to be alone. Shuffling beside her caused Marinette to panic. Glancing to her left, she found Claude sliding into the seat beside her, putting a barricade between Marinette and her class.
“I always wanted to see what it was like back here.” He whispered with a shrug, turning his attention back to Mr. Spinale. Though his attention was on his teacher, he did catch the small, grateful smile Marinette gave him.
Class ended far too quickly for Marinette’s liking. As long as she was in class, Lila couldn’t bother her. She had some sense of safety in the room. But now, she had two hours of free time. Two hours of trying to avoid her classmates. Claude made her promise to wait on at the front of the school for him. He had to grab some friends and they were going to head to a small café across from the school. He claimed they had the best sandwiches.
She had only been waiting on the steps for five minutes when her class came out, Lila in the center.
“Oh, Marinette. What are you doing? Waiting for someone to take pity on you.” Alya sneered
“With a face like that, pity will be the only thing anyone would have for her. Though I must say, your new look suits you. The swelling really added to your face. And the bruising pulled together that beaten puppy look.” Lila commented, her voice light, almost friendly sounding to those who where listening. “Mind you, what can we expect from a chink.”
“Biǎo zi” The word was out of her mouth before Marinette even knew it was there. She hadn’t meant to say it, but she couldn’t feel bad about it, not after what Lila called her.
“What did you say?” Lila growled, eyes flashing in anger. Alya and the rest of the class, glared at Marinette with anger, they knew it was an insult, they just didn’t know what it meant. Adrien, well, Adrien stared at her like she had summoned a demon from the depth of hell.
“Biǎo zi” Marinette repeated herself, offering no translation. There was no way she was going to tell them she had called Lila a bitch. She had panicked and her mouth had moved on its own, but they wouldn’t listen to that. Lila wouldn’t hit her here, would she? There would be too many people. They wouldn’t attack her again. They wouldn’t, would they?
They were drawing a small crowd, many of them looking skeptical at the French class. But no one was sure how to intervene. Lila opened her mouth but whatever she was going to say was cut off.
Freezing, Marinette’s mind brought her back to the last time she had heard someone call her that. Same voice. Same desperate tone. Turning, Marinette’s gaze locked with a 23-year-old man at the bottom of the stairs. First thing she notice was that he was tall. He stood about 6’2”, well built, and his whole vibe eluded to danger. Black messy hair with a streak of white along the front fell in a carefree, messy way. But it was the eyes she recognized. Those green-blue eyes that she remembered would sparkle with laughter and grow soft and cloudy when she cried. Eyes that promised safety and love. Eyes that could only belong to one person.
“Jay-Jay?” Marinette whispered, her voice so quiet she was sure that he couldn’t have heard her, but the way his eyes light up told her otherwise. “JAY-JAY!”
Leaping off the top of the stairs, Marinette collided with him. Catching her, Jason stumbled back down the stair, clutching her tiny body close. The sob that left her shook her entire frame as she gripped him. Afraid that she was only dreaming. That he wasn’t there. She had seen the blood. She had been there. He wouldn’t wake up. He hadn’t woken up. There had been so much blood.
“Nettie, Nettie! Oh God, please tell my you’re real! Please tell me your real! I’m so sorry Nettie! I’m so sorry! I tried … I tried so hard to find you after … after … but I couldn’t and I thought … I thought …” Jason said, before breaking. Burying his face into her hair, Jason let go of the dam, crushing Marinette in a desperate hug as the tears fell. Both their legs gave way as they sank to the pavement, clutching each other, too afraid to let go.