PersephoneBy: Kaitlin Bevis
I hunched over, doing my best to ignore the sound of my name being whispered on the wind. It curled around me in a sensuous breeze. Once I would have turned around, tried to find whoever said my name. Now I knew better. There was no one there. There was never anyone there.
Too bad I hadn’t figured that out before the whole school began to think that I was crazy.
I was starting to think they were right. I could feel someone watching me. Eyes boring a hole in the back of my neck, crawling over my skin. The hushed sounds of my classmates did little to make me feel safe. Fabric swished as they shifted and moved. Nails scratched skin, lips smacked, and someone breathed too loudly. Above it all Professor Homer spoke with quiet excitement. Rare in teachers, but he was still new.
Something brushed against my spine and I twisted around, heart in my throat, only to see the innocent branches of the bushes swaying in the wind.
“Is everything all right, Kora?” Professor Homer’s glasses glinted in the sun. He shielded his eyes with his hand, brown eyes crinkling in concern.
“Sorry.” I shifted away from the bush and faced Professor Homer. He waited for Rachel and the twins, Jessica and Ashley, to stop giggling before continuing the story.
I ducked my head to ignore their laughs and whispers. The air around me stiffened, ice cold. No one else noticed. My breathing slowed, and I forced myself to stay rooted to the ground, as solid and unmoving as the gray trunk of the oak tree in front of me. It took every fiber of my being not to squeeze my eyes shut.
Please don’t see me.
The thought was as illogical as a deer praying not to be spotted by a hunter. I was already in the hunter’s sights.
“Are you okay?”
I jumped at the sound of Melissa’s whisper; her hazel eyes remained riveted to Professor Homer to fool him into believing she was paying attention. He narrowed his eyes in her direction, not missing a beat in the story he was telling the class.
It’s not real, I reminded myself, and latched on to the distraction she provided. I gave Professor Homer an innocent smile, touching my thumb to my chest to sign I was fine to Melissa. We’d learned American Sign Language years ago to share secrets, but ASL wasn’t often discreet. To learn another “secret” language, we’d signed up for Latin.
It hadn’t taken long to realize vocabulary wasn’t the focus of Latin class. No, we had to learn about declensions, cases, conjugations, and sentence structures. No wonder the language was dead.
Professor Homer tried to keep it interesting by mixing in classical education and mythology. Since tomorrow was the start of winter break, and two-thirds of our classmates were taking make up exams, we were taking what he called a “mental health day.” He leaned against the trunk of the oak tree, brown loafers peeking out from beneath the cuffs of his tailored pants. A yellow legal pad full of scrawled notes was propped haphazardly against the tree trunk.
A shift in his tone caught my attention. He rolled up the sleeves of his blue dress shirt, moving his hands as he told the story. He leaned forward, voice becoming ominous.
“Oreithyia danced upon the river bank, unaware she was being watched.”
A cloud passed over the sun, bathing the class in sudden shade. Goose bumps rose on my arms as the temperature plummeted. I flinched when a gust of wind knocked over the legal pad with a thump. The yellow pages fluttered open, sending loose scraps of paper floating toward the lake.
“Suddenly, the God of Winter, Boreas, swept her away in a cloud and…” Professor Homer faltered at the sight of the escaping papers. “Married her.”
I rolled my eyes. At sixteen, it wasn’t as though Melissa and I were clueless about what happened to poor Oreithyia. Beside me, Melissa nodded as though I’d spoken aloud.
Professor Homer continued. “For nearly a century afterward, the people of Athens traced their lineage back to Oreithyia and Boreas, claiming to share the blood of the gods. Can anyone tell me what’s special about this myth?”
“It explains winter, right?” Rachel’s voice drew my gaze past Alex to where she was perched on the opposite end of the short stone wall our class was using as a bench, flanked by Ashley and Jessica.