The ward of castoria, p.6
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       The Ward of Castoria, p.6

           Robin Silverglate


  After lunch, Bryn walked to her AP European history class. While she really liked the subject, the class was a little on the awkward side for her. Her father was the teacher and he worked hard not to show her any favoritism. Bryn never asked questions in his class and if she did have one, she saved it for the dinner table. As Bryn entered the classroom, she noticed the new student introducing himself to her father.

  How strange, she thought. Is he going to be in all of my classes?

  Her father directed him to sit in an open desk in the front row. Bryn sat in the back row because she didn’t want the students to remember that she was there. It was already weird enough for her. She watched the new student get out his notebook and pencil. Once settled, he titled his body so as to sit sideways in his desk. He was next to the wall and most students who sat in that row turned sideways so that they could see the board better.

  Bryn took out her notebook and started to copy the quote her father had written on the board. While he took attendance, the students were required to copy a famous quotation in history. Today’s quote was, “A question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved?” by Nicolo Machiavelli.

  Her father started the class by holding up a small book and saying, “Nicolo Machiavelli is one of the most influential authors of the Renaissance period. His book, The Prince, is very short, yet full of advice to the rulers of Europe. He said the ultimate goal of a ruler was to maintain his country’s power and a Prince should expect obedience from all of his subjects in order to make that happen. Machiavelli brought up the question of whether it is better to be loved than feared or feared than loved by his subjects. Before I tell you what he said, let’s find out what you think.” He then proceeded to lead a class discussion on that issue.

  Bryn chose not to participate. Not because she had no opinion, but because she didn’t want to appear that she was her father’s favorite. She still paid close attention to what others had to say. Most students felt it was best that a ruler be loved by his people. There were a few students, most of them boys, who sided with the argument that it was better to be feared. She noticed the new student did not chose a side. Maybe he was shy or maybe he just didn’t want to call too much attention to himself on his first day of school.

  Her father brought up the different pieces of advice found in the book and applied them to specific examples in history. The time flowed swiftly by and her father seemed surprised when the bell rang in the middle of his description of Machiavelli’s belief in the importance of weaponry. He dismissed the class and all the students started packing up. Bryn hung back and waited until everyone left.

  “Interesting lecture,” she said as she sidled up to her father.

  “I thought so,” he admitted. “Machiavelli always seems to polarize the students.”

  “I’m going to the library after school today,” she said to her father. “Come get me when you’re done.”

  “All right, dear,” he said as he erased the board. “I’ll see you then.”

  Bryn rushed to her Chemistry class. The pungent smell of the classroom irritated her nose. She guessed that an earlier class had done a lab experiment and the odor was still lingering. The new student was there, of course, and he was even assigned the seat right next to hers. He gave her a small nod of acknowledgement as she sat down. She wondered if he realized they had all the same classes together. There was a test today so Bryn took out her notebook to cram a little.

  Mrs. Selyer started the class by passing out the test. When she got to Bryn’s table, she handed a test to the new student and said, “Just try it so that you can see what my tests are like. If you don’t do well on it, I won’t count it.”

  He nodded and looked down at the questions. Bryn began working on her test as well. The questions were just what she expected and she thought she aced it. The test took most of the period and Mrs. Selyer gave them free time at the end since they only had five minutes left before the school day was over anyway. Most of the students started talking, but Bryn got out her book for English and began to annotate it again.

  “How did you do on the quiz?” asked the new boy.

  “Fine,” she said looking up from her book. “How did you like your first day here?”

  “Fine,” he said smiling. “I’m Dane, by the way.”

  “I’m Bryn.”

  “It seems that we have all our classes together.”

  “I saw that too,” Bryn hurriedly said before she sneezed. Dane just watched her. Bryn expected him to say “Bless you,” but he didn’t.

  That’s kind of rude, she thought.

  She knew she must have been staring at him with an expectant look on her face because Dane asked, “What’s wrong?”

  “I just sneezed right in front of you and you didn’t bless me,” she said as she rubbed her nose with the back of her hand.

  “Why would I do that?” he asked with a look of confusion.

  Was he serious?

  “Because it’s the polite thing to do when people sneeze,” she said slowly.

  “But why would you need to be blessed?” he asked earnestly. “You were obviously sneezing because of the intense chemical odors in the air. That’s nothing to worry about.”

  Bryn opened her mouth to reply, but was interrupted by the sound of the bell. The forced pause made her think better of the saucy reply which was at the tip of her tongue. Instead, she said, “I should get going.” She put her book in her backpack and stood up.

  Dane did the same and grabbed his folder. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said kindly.

  “See you tomorrow,” said Bryn as she walked toward the door without a backward glance at the strange boy. She headed in the direction of the library; however, she changed her plans when she saw the malicious look Kayla gave her in the hallway. Bryn could tell she was madder than usual and had absolutely no idea why. Kayla never verbally attacked her in front of teachers, so Bryn decided it best to find refuge in her father’s office. She knew that she was a coward for changing her plans, but sometimes it was the wiser move to not give the enemy a chance to catch you.

  As she entered her father’s office, she saw a stranger sitting next to him in the chair where she usually sat. She was confused at first, but then remembered that his new intern started today.

  “Hi Dad,” said Bryn.

  Bryn’s father looked up from some papers on his desk and said “Ah, Bryn. I did not expect you for a while yet.”

  “I thought I would get a little homework done in here. I forgot you would be working with your intern.”

  Her father motioned her to come in further. “It’s fine. Come on in. Let me introduce you to Beck. Beck, this is my daughter, Bryn.”

  Beck stood up to shake her hand. He smiled as he said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve heard all about your merits today.”

  His smile was so infectious, that Bryn could not help but grin back. “Well, my Dad is my biggest fan, but he’s prone to exaggeration.”

  Her father seemed a little confused and said, “I don’t remember—”

  A knock on the office door forced everyone to turn their heads. The new student stood in the doorway. He glanced at Beck and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

  “Come in, Dane,” said her father as he motioned him inside the office. “Were you able to find all your classes today?

  “Yes, sir. Thank you for getting my schedule ready for me.”

  Her father turned to Bryn and said, “I’m sure you have already met Beck’s brother since I put him in all of your classes.”

  The good-natured Beck turned to her and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I asked your father to put Dane in all the best classes.”

  “And since I put you in the best classes, as well, it was an easy schedule to request. I just told Mrs. Hemmings to give Dane the same schedule as you, my dear.”

nbsp; The mystery of why the new student had all the same classes as her had been solved.

  Bryn was having a hard time picturing Dane and Beck as brothers. They seemed so different. Beck’s yellowish-blonde hair was in direct contrast to Dane’s dark brown hair. Beck seemed to have an easy-going smile permanently etched into his face while Dane’s features were calmer and more reserved. Another obvious difference was that Beck was very friendly, whereas Dane seemed quiet and strange.

  Yet, upon closer inspection, she could see a resemblance. They both had perfectly sculptured hair and flawless features. Both had roughly the same tall and slim builds. Beck looked just as handsome as Dane. But, Bryn noticed that Beck’s green eyes were not as striking as Dane’s. There was something not right about Dane’s overly dark eyes.

  Bryn realized she had never responded to her father when Beck broke the awkward silence in the room by saying, “Well, we should get going now. But we’ll see you later tonight.”

  Her father nodded and said, “Definitely. See you around six.”

  Beck turned to Bryn and said, “It was a pleasure meeting you.”

  Dane seemed discombobulated as he followed his brother out of the room.

  Bryn waited for the two brothers to close the door behind them before asking her father, “What’s happening around six, Dad?”

  He looked a little guilty as he said, “I invited Beck and Dane to our house for dinner tonight.”

  “What?” gasped Bryn. “Why?” She and her father never entertained anyone. As far as she could remember, they had never invited anyone over for dinner since her mother died.

  “Well, Beck was talking about how since their parents passed away, they haven’t had a good meal. Apparently, all they eat is pizza. So, I thought it would be nice of us to invite them over for dinner.”

  “I’m sorry for them. But Dad, when was the last time we had a home cooked meal? That’s not our thing either.”

  “I only promised them a good meal that wasn’t pizza. I never promised them a home cooked meal. We can order in from Wild Bill’s Steakhouse tonight. I’m sure that it will be fine with them. Honestly, I didn’t think you would mind. It’s all right with you, isn’t it?”

  The last thing Bryn wanted to do today was to have dinner guests. The house was a total mess and she had so much homework to do, but her father rarely asked her for anything. He was usually the one who made the sacrifices in their relationship. So, she put a smile on her face and said, “It’s fine with me. I’m going to go straight home so I can clean up the place.”

  He patted her shoulder and said, “That’s my girl. I’ll be home by four-thirty.” He sat down at his desk which was covered in stacks of textbooks. He picked up one of the books and started perusing through the pages. Bryn left the room in a hurry. She had no idea if the house would even look presentable by six o’clock tonight.

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