Stargazer Page 8

Fighting back laughter, I rolled onto my back to look up at the stars. Mrs. Bethany hadn’t chosen Ranulf to room with a human; she’d chosen Vic to live with a vampire. Apparently she’d realized that Vic didn’t sweat the small stuff and so would simply blow off any of his roommate’s weird habits.

Once again, she’d proven how insightful she was—and how well she understood all of us, even Vic. It made me glad that I’d already destroyed Lucas’s card and letter. I’d wanted to hang on to them forever, but it was too dangerous. Besides, I still had the stars.

I traced the image of Andromeda over and over again in the night sky. October seemed a thousand years away; it could never have been near enough.

Chapter Four

AFTER THE FIRST RUSH OF EXHILARATION PASSED, I had to ask myself—How was I going to get to Amherst?

Students weren’t permitted to keep vehicles at Evernight Academy. Not that I had one to keep here in the first place, but I couldn’t borrow a ride from a friend either.

“Why aren’t the students allowed to have cars?” I asked Balthazar in a low voice as he walked me to my English class on one of the first days of school. “A lot of people here have been driving cars as long as there have been cars to drive. You’d think Mrs. Bethany would trust them behind the wheel.”

“You’re forgetting that Evernight was around even before the automobile.” Balthazar glanced down at me, in one of those odd moments that reminded me he was almost a foot taller than I was. “When the school was founded, everyone would’ve had horses and carriages, which are a lot more trouble to store than cars. Horses have to be fed, and their stalls have to be mucked out.”

“We have horses in the stables.”

“We have six horses. Not three hundred. It’s a big difference when it comes to feed—”

“And mucking out stalls,” I finished for him, making a face.

“Exactly. Not to mention that there were a lot of hurt feelings when people got hungry and snacked on other people’s transportation.”

“I bet.” Poor horses. “Still, it’s not like anybody would be in danger of chowing down on a Toyota. And there’s plenty of room around here where people could park. So why hasn’t Mrs. Bethany changed the rules?”

“Mrs. Bethany? Change a rule?”

“Good point.”

Mrs. Bethany presided over her classroom like a judge presided over a courtroom: peering down at everyone around her, dressed in black and unquestionably in charge. “Shakespeare,” she said, her voice ringing throughout the room. Each of us had a leather-bound edition of Shakespeare’s complete works in front of us. “Even the least educated of you will have studied his plays in some context before now.”

Was I imagining things, or had Mrs. Bethany looked at me when she said “least educated”? Given the smirk on Courtney’s face, maybe I wasn’t imagining. I shrank down in my desk and stared at the book’s cover.

“As you are all familiar with Shakespeare already, you might justifiably ask—why here? Why again?” Mrs. Bethany gestured as she spoke, and her long, thick, grooved fingernails reminded me of claws. “First of all, a deep understanding of Shakespeare has been one of the foundations of Western cultural knowledge for centuries now. We can expect it will remain so for centuries to come.”

Education at Evernight wasn’t for college prep, or even just to make you smarter or happier. It was meant to carry its students through the impossibly long lives of the undead. That lifespan was something I’d tried to imagine ever since I was a little girl and first learned how I was different from the other kids in kindergarten.

“Second, these plays have been interpreted in a number of different ways since they were first written. Shakespeare was a popular entertainer in his own time. Then he was a poet and artist whose works were meant to be read by scholars, not enjoyed by the masses. In the past one hundred fifty years, Shakespeare’s plays have reemerged as drama. Even as their language becomes more foreign to the modern ear, the themes speak to us strongly today—sometimes in ways Shakespeare himself could perhaps not have guessed.”

Although Mrs. Bethany’s voice always set my nerves on edge, I couldn’t help feeling encouraged that we were going to concentrate on Shakespeare this year. My parents were huge Shakespeare buffs; they had named me after a character in The Taming of the Shrew, telling me that they’d been certain any name from Shakespeare would be familiar for hundreds of years to come. Dad had even gone to see him act in a few plays, back in the days when William Shakespeare was just one playwright among many fighting for audiences in London. So I’d memorized the dirge from Cymbeline before my tenth birthday, seen Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet on DVD about twenty times, and kept the sonnets on my shelf. Mrs. Bethany might give me a hard time this year, too, but at least I’d be prepared for anything she could throw my way.

Again, she seemed to have overheard my thoughts. Strolling beside my desk, where I could smell the lavender scent that always seemed to surround her, Mrs. Bethany said, “Prepare to have any preexisting assumptions you may hold about Shakespeare’s works challenged. Those of you who think you can learn all about it from modern film adaptations would be well advised to think again.”

I mulled the potential need to reread Hamlet until class was dismissed. As we all filed out of the classroom, I saw Courtney sidle up to Mrs. Bethany, saying something in a low voice, obviously hoping she wouldn’t be overheard.

Mrs. Bethany wasn’t having it. “I will not reconsider. You must resubmit your report, Miss Briganti, as yours was inadequate.”

“Inadequate?” Courtney’s mouth was a perfect O of outrage. “Finding out how to get into the best clubs in Miami—that’s, like, really important!”

“Under some dubious standard of importance, I suppose that may be true. You may not, however, submit your report in the form of phone numbers scrawled on cocktail napkins.” With that, Mrs. Bethany swept out of the room.

Courtney stomped after her in a huff. “Great. Now I have to type.”

I wished I could’ve told the story to Raquel, who loathed Courtney as much as I did and would probably be in a crummy mood after our first day at the school she hated so much. Instead, we just hung out in our dorm room that evening, talking about pretty much anything except what had happened in classes.

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