Latasha waited patiently. She only tapped her foot, drummed with her fingers and swiveled her neck regularly to take in all the sights and all that was being said around her. Anyone else might appear a bundle of nervous energy and be told to relax, but for Latasha, that was extremely patient.
“Latasha LeBaidu?” A large African-American woman held open the door that was always locked and led into the guidance offices. Latasha jumped up and the woman smiled for her. “I’m Jean Johnson, your freshman guidance counselor. There is nothing wrong. These appointments are just so I can get to know my students better. Come on in.” She said the last as she went into one of the little offices. There was a computer desk with chair and with surprisingly few papers on the desk. Ms Johnson sat behind the desk. There were two chairs in front of the desk. Latasha looked at the one by the little window, but took the one by the door in case she needed to make a quick getaway.
Latasha said nothing, so after a moment Ms Johnson began.
“I understand you live with your mother.” Latasha nodded. “And you have a brother who just graduated. James? Is he the oldest?”
“And you have two younger siblings?”
“Yeah. John and Leah. They are twelve and nine, well, almost ten.”
Some thirty minutes later, Latasha staggered out of the guidance office with a note so she could get back into class. Jean Johnson picked the paper off her desk. It was a list of students, and they all had grades beside their names. The woman found Latasha’s name and wrote A+, and after a moment added another plus. She smiled a very satisfied smile, tapped her toe, drummed a bit with her fingers and swiveled her head to look every time someone walked past her office door.
Latasha felt drained and had no energy for English. Fortunately, it was her last class of the day. She felt a bit better on the bus, but the idea of doing homework made her turn up her nose. All she wanted was to fade out in front of the mindless television and maybe go to bed early. When she walked in the front door, she saw that was not going to happen and whined a bit. The social worker, a slim, dark haired, dark eyed Ms Elena Montrose was there with her mother and John and Leah were sitting at the kitchen table as well, trying hard to be good.
Ms Montrose started right in. “Latasha, you are in the ninth grade?” Latasha nodded. She was not in the mood for another interview after the one she just had. “And do you have any homework?”
“Yes, ma’am.” That was all Latasha intended to say, but she saw that was not going to be enough, so she added, “English and math.”
“And how are your grades?” Ms Montrose asked. “Your little brother and sister are not doing well.” Latasha looked at her mother, but her mother was afraid to say anything for fear of saying the wrong thing. Latasha was startled by that. Normally her mother defended her children, and with volume. It made Latasha wonder what Ms Montrose may have said before she arrived.
Latasha sat up a little straighter, tired as she was. “My grades are improving. I am working on Bs. I am looking at the community college for law enforcement and going to the police academy.” Latasha spoke with conviction and that made Ms Montrose take a double look. It made her mother drop her jaw. This was the first Latasha actually said anything about it.
“Wow, great,” John praised his big sister.
There was a knock on the door. “I’ll get it,” John and Leah both shouted and raced to the door. Clearly, they were looking for an excuse to get out of their chairs. It was Libby Carter and they brought her in, each holding a hand. It was not clear to anyone exactly what Libby Carter saw, but she saw something. It showed on her face, and it sounded in her voice as she spoke without any prompting.
“Latasha, are you ready for your tutoring? And don’t worry John and Leah, I’ll look at your homework too.” John and Leah backed up. This was a new idea.
Latasha’s mother stood and looked much relieved. “Ms Carter. This is Ms Montrose of social services.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Ms Montrose stood as Libby looked up and smiled, innocently.
“Well, it is getting late. Missus Barton, we can pick this up on another day.” She gave Libby the broadest, most fake smile Latasha had ever seen. It looked more like a grimace. She stepped out the door with one last longing look at the two young ones. John and Leah did not notice, but Latasha and Libby noticed and so did Latasha’s mother.
As soon as the door closed, Latasha’s mother collapsed into her chair and Libby went straight to her. “She is threatening to take John and Leah,” Latasha’s mother confided in a whisper.
Latasha also had her head turned to look at the door when she fainted and she became the first concern. They helped her to the couch and as she came around almost immediately, she insisted she was fine. Libby insisted equally hard that Latasha review her day, aloud.
“This is not normal?” Latasha’s mother did not know.
“For an elect, never unless attacked,” Libby answered honestly.
“But nothing unusual happened today,” Latasha said. She completely forgot about meeting her new guidance counselor.
“Ms Montrose?” Latasha’s mother was curious now.
Libby shook her head. “She did not want Latasha. But I would watch your little ones.”
Emily sipped her chai-latte and tried to focus on her Earth Science book. It was hard, and she said as much. “It doesn’t matter what the book says. Professor Maynard has her own interpretation of things which mostly has to do with blaming human beings for every ill on the planet.” Amina and Maria looked up briefly, but only Maria spoke.
“So it should be an easy A. Whatever the question, just figure out how to blame the human race.”
Emily shook her head. “I can’t follow that much convoluted logic. But I sometimes get the impression she thinks the Earth would be a lot better off if there were no human beings.”
“Huh.” Amina sounded for a second like she was responding to Emily’s comment, but then she said, “Listen to this. New Jersey State started as a graduate school in engineering and applied sciences. They affiliated with a school of nursing when it began after the First World War. According to this, the undergraduate college was not formed until nineteen fifty.”
“Three buildings are older, Gorgon Hall, what is now the science building and the library, thanks to the generosity of Dimitri Gorgon. The college took the buildings after the war when it was founded, but during the war, the government used the buildings for various experiments. Some of the early work on the Manhattan Project happened right here.”
“The Philadelphia Experiment?”
“It doesn’t say. But listen. The library had a second basement level dug out to house certain ancient artifacts, rare books, scrolls and fragments including some papyrus scrolls and clay tablets dating all the way back to Sumeria. All that stuff came over here to keep it out of the hands of the Nazis.”
Maria looked up. “I got the guided tour. It is all temperature and humidity controlled down there. Amazing stuff. I think our friend Mindy works down there with Professor Papadopoulos.”
“Papadopoulos,” Amina repeated. “Head of the Antiquities department.”
“No,” Emily shook her head. “I mean our friend Mindy? You mean Connie’s Mindy.”
“Yeah,” Maria said. “I feel sorry for her.”
“I do too,” Amina said. “She seems very nice.”
Emily looked at her Environmental science book. “I thought you were reading for Heinrich’s class,” she complained.
“Huh? No.” Amina pulled up the pamphlet from inside her open book. It was a history of the university, probably printed at some point for alumni and parents. “But I should be.”
“Hard class?” Maria asked.
Emily and Amina groaned together. “It would be simpler if it was all just textbook, but he lived through it all,” Emily said.
“And he is frightening.” Amina looked up at Emily. “Don’t you find him frightening?”
Emily nodded slightly, but her eyes were elsewhere. The others looked. Jessica was in line with another boy. She was laughing and pawing at the poor guy.
“How many does that make this semester?”
“I already lost count.”
They went back to their books and Emily took another sip of her drink. She was not surprised that chai-latte was tea. She really did not like coffee or espresso or whatever they wanted to call it, and vanilla or hazelnut did not make it any better.
“Hello Maria. Emily.” Emily looked up over her shoulder and was shocked. It was Morgan Granger wearing something revealing, and she had more to reveal than Emily would have guessed. Her hair was down and well cut, and she did not have her glasses anywhere in sight. Maria had her mouth open, but managed to push her glasses up her nose. Amina looked distressed. Emily felt the sudden urge to get cocky.
“These drones? These are just my playthings.” Ms Ganger laughed softly and the only way to describe that laugh was sexy. In fact, as Emily turned in her seat for a better look, she could not help thinking everything about this woman was sexy. She exuded a kind of come-hither essence that turned every male eye in the place in her direction. Emily did not get a good look, though as Ms Granger said, “Good to see you. I hope to have you in class again,” and she moved on.
“What the hell was that?” Emily was not sure if she said that aloud.
“That was wrong,” Amina said. “That was very wrong.”
“Talk about your makeovers,” Maria was still staring in that direction as Pierce came up.
Emily introduced Amina. They had not met before, but Pierce only had one thing on his mind. “The Hive tonight? The Undead are playing.”
Emily slammed her Earth Science book shut. “My savior,” she said and stood. They went off, arm in arm and Amina turned to Maria.
“There are many strange and unnatural ones on this campus, like Professor Schultz and that woman who was just here. At least Pierce is nice.”