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Alabaster Parphinian was no ordinary kid, I knew that from the moment I first saw her.
“Here are my homework assignments.” She thumped a brick of papers down on Mr. Winklesnatch’s desk. I swear the near leg of the desk groaned under the weight.
I closed my book and peered just over the top. Normally I’m bored in class, but I thought this could get interesting.
Mr. Winklesnatch adjusted his glasses and stared up from his seat. “It’s the first day of school.”
“I know that….” Alabaster glanced around in surprise. “What does that have to do with my homework?”
“Uhh….” Mr. Winklesnatch flipped through the first few folders in the stack.
“There’s more!” Alabaster chimed brightly.
“There… is?” Mr. Winklesnatch scratched his ear and a worried frown crossed his face.
“This is the model that’s due October fifteenth.” Alabaster plonked down a perfectly sculpted farmscape, complete with power-generating windmills. “It’s fully functional.” She blew on the windmills and a series of LEDs lit up. “It’s only four point five watts. I’m working on a higher-power version at home. Oh and there’s this!” She placed a Roman ballista on Mr. Winklesnatch’s desk. It looked like a miniature crossbow on wheels.
“Does it work too?” Mr. Winklesnatch poked the contraption with an idle finger.
The spring arm unloaded with a sharp twang and a steel tipped wooden dart shot across the room straight at my head. I raised my book protectively like a shield and the dart pierced all five-hundred-twenty-eight pages to protrude slightly from the far side, mere inches from my nose.
“Yes. Yes it does work,” Alabaster said. “You probably shouldn’t shoot it at students.”
“Hey!” I said, glaring at Alabaster. “You ruined my book. And, almost as importantly, you nearly killed me!”
“He shot it, not me.” Alabaster pointed at Mr. Winklesnatch.
Mr. Winklesnatch threw his head back and glared at the ceiling as if thinking, what did I ever do to deserve this? He squeezed his eyes tightly and took several deep breaths, but when he re-opened them, Alabaster was still there. “I haven’t assigned anything yet… I don’t even know your name.”
Mr. Winklesnatch ran a finger down his class list. “Parphinian?”
“Do you have many other Alabasters in the class?” She tilted her head curiously to get a peek at the list.
Most of the others in the class giggled, but I was far too curious about this new girl to see the humor. Besides, I had to find something to keep me from getting bored now that my book was destroyed.
Alabaster’s skin matched her name, ivory white with no hint of color, not even on her cheeks. She wore what could be best described as exceedingly odd clothing for a normal school day. Even on Halloween, the mishmash of eras and styles would stand out strangely. From the ground up, she wore painted wooden clogs, black fishnet stockings with a tear in the left knee, a poodle skirt from the 1950s, and a ruffled shirt and waistcoat which looked like it came from hundreds of years ago. Perched on her curly black head of hair she wore an old leather aviator’s helmet with goggles. Her arms and legs were rail thin and her face looked like it had been made of putty and stretched vertically to match her build.
Mr. Winklesnatch tried his best to gather his wits. “Ahh… right… You’re the only Alabaster, of course. That still doesn’t explain why you’ve handed me a stack of homework on the first day of school.”
Alabaster furrowed her black eyebrows in apparent confusion. “Why to save both of us time later, of course. They’re all catalogued by date, and color-coded to subject. I’m sure you’ll find they’re all A pluses, so you could save yourself the effort and just give me my report card now.”
“Wha-but-I….” With superhuman willpower, Mr. Winklesnatch finally gathered his thoughts. “How do you even know what I’m going to assign?”
Alabaster laughed. “That’s easy. All your assignments for the past five years are on the school website, so I cross-indexed the change over time to your assignments with what I know of the upcoming year and your nature. I wrote some software to extrapolate the results, let it run overnight and… there you go.” She said it as though she were giving a child instructions on how to tie their shoes.
With an incredulous gape on his mouth, Mr. Winklesnatch leafed through the papers, calmly at first but with an increasing panic as he got deeper into the pile. “How did… no… why… who….” He threw up his hands in exasperation. “Just take a seat.” He mumbled under his breath as Alabaster walked to her seat, “Ten short months and you can go back to your hobbies full-time Hieronymus… ten… months.” He sank his face into his hands and looked ready to cry. “Oh Lord, I’ll never make it.”
Aside from me, the whole class decided as one they wanted no part of the new girl. Every available seat was quickly filled with books, jackets, half-eaten apples, anything close at hand. Every available seat that is, except one, the one right next to me, in the front left corner of the class.
Alabaster pursed her tiny mouth in an attempted smile my direction and sat. “Alabaster Parphinian.” She held out a lace-gloved hand in my direction. I didn’t know whether I was supposed to kiss it or shake, so I settled on staring at her hand in shock.
“Are you mute?” She asked. “Perhaps deaf?” She quickly signed a series of symbols with her hands, but I had no idea what they meant.
“No….” I managed at last. “I’m Liam.”
“I’m not sure if I’ve heard of that condition. Is that what causes you to respond so slowly?”
“No… my name… Liam… my name is Liam.” I covered my mouth with a hand to shut myself up. Normally I have no problem with words, people often tell me I’m too talkative, but something about the new girl had thrown me completely off balance.
Alabaster tilted her head slightly. “What an odd manner of speaking you have, Liam.”
I gaped at her in shock. “Did you just call me weird?” Not that she’d be wrong in that. I am different from the other kids in my class. I dance instead of playing sports and I read books instead of spending all day staring at my phone, but coming from her the accusation seemed a bit much.
“Enough talking, time to get to work.” Mr. Winklesnatch stood in front of the class.
Alabaster ignored him. “Are you weird? Weird enough to stand out, or just an outlier in your peer group? I need to find someone who can blend in.” She seemed anxious.
“Alabaster, there’s no talking during class.” Mr. Winklesnatch tapped his toe impatiently.
“Shh.” She held up a finger to silence him. “I’m right in the middle of something with—”
“Unless you want a detention, young lady, I suggest you get with the program.”
Alabaster looked ready to argue, but I put a hand on her arm. “Catch me at lunch?”
“Yes. At lunch.” I glanced up nervously at Mr. Winklesnatch, but he seemed happy enough that I’d sorted Alabaster out without his intervention.