I can feel the tension between us as soon as I enter the room. I glide in, his fear-filled eyes following me as I move to my usual spot in front of him - standing, of course, seeing as I pace too much during my lectures to be able to sit.
Well, that's how I wish it happened. My descriptions may be just a little bit off.
In truth, I walk in and promptly trip over my feet, sprawling out on the floor as a result. I look up at Eric, who gives a snort and turns away from my eyes. It almost makes me miss our previous staring contests.
I attempt to regain my dignity by slamming a piece of paper down in front of him. The top of the page has a bright red 'F' on it.
"Thirty-seven percent." I hiss, then stalk over to the window, awaiting his reply. I know he won't speak for a couple of minutes. He likes to check over the homework I have marked first.
The silence stretches on for longer than usual. I realize that he's not going to reply.
I turn to see him glaring at my back. Or, now that I've turned around, my chest. He seems to notice this too because he quickly averts his eyes. I cross my arms, a blush creeping onto my face.
Then I remember what I'm supposed to be doing - teaching.
"This is the worst mark yet!"
"Yes, professor, what's your point?" he answers calmly, which only makes me more angry.
"My point is that there is no point in me teaching you if you're not even going to try!" I say, moving so that we're face to face, "And don't call me professor. My name's Rosalie, or Rose." Better yet, fall in love with me already and just call me 'honey' or something along those lines.
"You're anything but a rose, unless the thorns count." Ouch. That hurt.
"As for me not trying," Eric's voice softens, "I'd rather keep that to myself." The emotion shining in his eyes is not one I've seen in them before. Is that pain I see?
His moment of vulnerability leaves as soon as it came, "What of the F?! If you wanted me to improve, you would be helping me with this damned math homework!"
Despite my grandmother's (smart) advice, I am still pushing the lessons. And, a few days after the conversation between the two of us, Eric is still complaining and I am still not showing any signs of easing up.
He thinks his life is hard? He should come and see it from my side. I even very recently got cookies if he need an incentive to join. It better be enough because my patience is running thin.
I sigh, "Know what? I'll just give you a couple pages to do and then we'll take a break for Christmas holidays." I give him the page numbers and leave the room without looking back.
I'm angry - with Eric, with my grandmother, and with myself. With Alistair too. And, since the list seems to be growing, why not just throw in the dog too?! And my mother! And my father!
I feel like I'm going to explode with all this pent-up rage, so I go to the library, taking my usual place on the red chair. I don't know why, but the huge room calms me. It could be the silence and the openness of it.
Slowly, the anger fades, though it still remains alight, no doubt to be flared up again sometime in the near future. How can it not, when I seem to be mad at everyone? I'm angry with my mother and father for their messy divorce, and how my father never once tried to contact me after it.
No, I lied. He did try, but my mother got in the way. I remember it clearly now. It was a surprisingly warm day for October, and I had just gotten back from school. The doorbell rang loudly just as I was setting down my backpack and getting ready to take off my shoes. Instead, I turned to the door, opening it as was my duty even back then.
There stood my father, glasses perched on his straight nose. I had jumped into his arms, which held me tightly to him.
"I've missed you," he had said, and I was just about to reply when someone began to pull me back, away from him.
"You." The word contained so much accusation, so much hatred. My father's blue eyes blinked once or twice before he stepped forward and opened his mouth to say something; perhaps to utter some apology for whatever had had done to make my mother hate him so much. The door was slammed in his face and I never saw him again.
In the ten years that followed, my mother had explained to me why she made him leave and why I couldn't see him. She said he had made his choice after walking out one day and never coming back. She altered my view of him, twisting it beyond recognition, until everything good about my time with him that I still remembered was gone too.
Like my love of books. And my skills in math.
Now those things are back, but only after being transformed into this hideous form, which fills in my reason for being mad at Alistair, which in turn is the reason for my frustration with Eric, who doesn't seem to want to even remotely like me.
And last, but certainly not least, my grandmother, and her dog. It creeps me out that they're always together, unless the dog is leading Eric or me somewhere. My grandmother seems to not be able to live without it!
And all that talk of ghosts in the house?! Though I've seen my fair share of proof (for example, the feather dusters that are currently cleaning dust off of the bookshelves), I still refuse to believe it.
As for her advice - why is it so reasonable and fair? I hate myself for letting it sway me so easily, but her words hold truth and a certain knowing quality to them. Her prediction about my transformation was so accurate I wonder if she's gone through something like it herself. No, that's impossible. Still...
I hop off of the chair, taking off its cushion. The letters and passports are still there.
Hesitantly, I take one of the passports. My knowledge of languages is good enough to know that it's a French one. Upon opening it, I see a picture of a young woman - a very pretty young woman. Her dark hair is pinned back in a low bun, and despite the black and white of the picture, you can see that her eyes are sparkling, though they have a slight film over them. It's a pity that she is not smiling, as people in passport photos are usually not, because her smile would have made her even more beautiful. The name Agathe Lucille is printed in large letters at the top; it's my grandmother.
I pick up the other passport, which reveals a very handsome man on one page and a nerd on the other. The picture of the geek is glued in beside the actual passport photo, like a before and after picture. I can see the similarities now too - the same straight nose, similar dark features. He looks somewhat like my father, but he's not. He's my grandfather.
So that's how she knew.
The dog interrupts my thoughts and I drop the passports quickly, as if caught red-handed. Sealing the compartment, I hurry to the kitchen. Anger always tends to make me hungry.
I arrive in the kitchen before Eric, which is unusual. My grandma is already at the table and I find I see her in a new light now and regard her with new found respect.
I take my seat beside her and we wait for Eric to arrive before we say grace and begin our meal. We wait, and we wait.
And we wait.
Finally, I push my chair out, tired of the dog barking its head off, and go upstairs to find him myself.
"Eric!" I yell, pushing open his door. The room is empty, and very cold. The freezing winter wind blows in through the open window, rearranging the navy and white curtains.
I go to close it when I catch a glimpse of a lone figure making its way towards the barn. The light is fading fast as I watch him pass it and walk into the trees beyond. I stare after him, battling with my thoughts: is he going to come back, or is he gone for good? A sense of dread fills me.
Then, I hear a howl, haunting and hungry as it floats in through the half-open window.
I'm flying down the staircase and into the main hall before I have even formed an idea of what I should do next. The collie sits beside the front door, watching me with the same dread I feel inside. It follows me as I grab a nearby coat, leaving the house and ploughing through the deep snow towards the line of trees in the distance.
The two of us are not even halfway there when we hear more howling and the bloodcurdling sound of Eric screaming for help.
I'm sorry to leave you hanging, but you'll see what happens next week! This is more of a filler chapter, but it's important = )