The three students nervously sit around the table while Professor Soleman quietly cleans his glasses. All of the other customers have moved to the bar, the drinks and sports channel keeping their interest. Cheers rise from the crowd, but the televisions are out of sight from where the trio anxiously wait to find out if they are in trouble. None of them dare to eat the large sundaes that are melting in front of them, the colorful flavors slowly becoming a soup. Unwilling to talk first, they stare at the large aquarium that is in the center of the dining room. The glass cylinder runs from the floor to the ceiling and is filled with grasses that allow the fish to hide. Light bounces off the scales of numerous piranha that dart through the vegetation, their red bellies making it look like they dipped themselves in blood. Two catfish occasionally come out of hiding to search the stones for food, the pair going relatively unnoticed by their carnivorous neighbors. A larger creature can be seen lurking in a sunken log, but it never strays from the shadows. The only reason the students know that it is there is because of the occasional spray of bubbles that come out of the opening.
“There is some news that I want to share with all of you,” Professor Soleman states while taking a bite of his own meal. Dabbing at his chin with a napkin, he settles back in his leather chair and does his best to smile warmly. “I was going to talk to all of you tomorrow, but Coach Warner said that he saw Mr. Chambers in the lobby. That convenience store’s hot chocolate is certainly worth the late-night trip. It is a pleasant surprise to find Mr. Porter and your sister with you as well. After all, what I have to tell you is difficult to say and I’m glad to only have to do it once. By the way, Charlene has said that none of you have classes tomorrow due to current events.”
“Is there a reason you’re pussyfooting around the subject?” Thomas bluntly asks as he gets some courage. Pushing his food away, the young man does his best to show confidence that he does not feel. “If there’s something we should know then please tell us. We’re tired and would like to get some sleep. If you’re wondering why we’re out here then I’ll give you the truth and we can move on. This was a hot chocolate run was to give us a little more energy to finish our studying. Although, it seems like a moot point since we no longer have class tomorrow.”
“Your friends will no longer be attending this school, so I’m forced to disband the mythology club,” the teacher softly explains. Checking his watch, he licks his lips and lets out a slow breath to reveal his own fatigue. “It has been confirmed that Ms. O’Connor was in the fire and Mr. Garcon had a fatal accident. He fell on the ice and one of the other players accidentally cut his throat with their skate. Mr. Pugh has left for the remaining semester to help both families with the funerals. He has taken both deaths very hard, which isn’t surprising. Mr. Garcon and Ms. O’Connor were the ones helping him get out of his shell. As for Ms. Hall, she has dropped out and checked herself into a mental facility. Her own loss has taken its toll on her and she had a severe breakdown upon hearing about her friends.”
“That was rather sudden,” Apollo points out, his attention more on the piranha. Getting an idea, he pulls out his phone to check for messages. “Nothing from Bryce or Harvey, which is very strange. It isn’t that I don’t believe you, Professor Soleman, but I would have expected them to say good-bye.”
“Doesn’t sound like Bryce was in any condition to do so,” Aurora interjects as she tries a bite of her ice cream. The cold ripples through her mouth and makes her cringe from the unexpected headache. “That only explains her, sir. Harvey may be rather shy and introverted at times, but we’re his friends. He would have said something before leaving. Are you sure he left right away and this isn’t a misunderstanding?”
“I didn’t ask him when he came to me,” the professor replies, his tone changing to one with more of an edge. Looking from one doubtful face to the other, he cracks his knuckles and leans forward. “You have questions and concerns, which I understand. Unfortunately, I’m merely the messenger and I lack the answers. Even Charlene has been left wondering why Mr. Pugh has decided to leave so quickly. That isn’t to say that he won’t contact you later once he’s settled in back home.”
Thomas’s chair scrapes against the floor and he gets up to look at the nearby aquarium. “I think we should drop it. Tests are coming and we need to focus. At least I do since my grades are rather low. Chris and Jennifer are gone, but Bryce and Harvey might come back next semester, so we should make sure we’re here too. Honestly, I just want to get back to the dorm before everything hits me and I start crying. I’m having trouble accepting some of it and I’m probably not the only one. Thank Charlene for giving us tomorrow off and thank you for taking the time to talk with us.”
“Yeah, I guess we should get some sleep,” Apollo agrees, getting the sense that his friend has something else on his mind. Grabbing the cherry off his sundae, he pops it into his mouth and puts a hand on his sister’s shoulder. “You can stay in our room if you want. Not sure any of us will get much sleep.”
Wiping a few tears from her eyes, Aurora nods her head and gets to her feet, which nearly give out from fatigue and sorrow. She leans on Apollo to make sure she does not fall, but she swiftly shifts her to a chair since he is checking something on his phone. It takes him a minute to help her stand, the twins yawning at the same time. Her brother gets the sense that she is putting on an act, her breathing and pulse surprisingly steady for someone in her condition. Thomas hurries over to help with Aurora, allowing Apollo to get his keys. The trio seem to have trouble leaving, adding to the idea that they are confused and lost. Once they are sure about what they are doing, they say their goodbyes and leave Professor Soleman to finish his ice cream.
“I hope they sleep well,” the teacher whispers while he watches them leave. Gathering all of the food, he goes about taking random spoonfuls from each one. “I should really do what has to be done. She is becoming a lot less patient and irrational. Not a smart idea to run the risk of getting into trouble. Still, there’s no sense in letting sweets go to waste. I’m sure she would understand.”