“You absolute freak!”
“Can’t you just die?”
“Touch my sister again and I’ll break your arm!”
“So you’re one of those freaks you loved to...? … You are no child of mine.”
Cinder woke with a gasping, hacking scream, shaking as her arm clutched her chest in blind panic. A thump accompanied her fall from the bed before her eye could finally register what was around her. Bed, dark grey walls, barely visible sky, green alarm clock showing the time. 4:27am.
“I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay… I-I-I’m okay…” she rasped out, taking slow stuttered breaths as her body finally began to relax.
A shuddered sigh escaped her lips before finally standing up on weak legs and stumbling to the bathroom door. Carefully stripping down to get into the shower and starting the water, she quietly let herself cry. Only here, with the sound shower and the trailing lukewarm water, would she let herself cry and release the tension of the nightmare. A short while later, Cinder had towelled off and begun settling into her routine.
Changing the bandages on her arm took the most time, having to go slowly to not agitate the still sensitive scar tissue while she worked. Next came placing the cloth covering over the left side of her face, securing it in place to keep from falling while hiding as much of her scarring as possible, small hints peeking through near her nose and forehead. Last came her thin black silk tights, old but well cared for, and unlikely to agitate her leg burn.
With the precautions taken care of, she finally dressed for the day. Dark grey jeans worn away with time, a small black glove over her bandaged hand, and a white undershirt followed by her dark crimson long sleeve with small yellow accents. Briefly her eyes tracked over the ruined leather of her jacket…
“No… not yet… not today.” She managed a breath to calm her quickening heartbeat, grabbing instead a brown button up coat.
Cupboards were opened and closed, dishes grabbed, and toast made. By 6am, Cinder was prepared for her day… and had no idea what to do. Her schedule told her the first class was in Lecture Hall 105, and though arriving early couldn’t hurt, it seemed… ill advised to sit outside a likely locked room for two hours. After some indecision, she slipped on her black dress shoes, grabbed her book bag, and stepped out the door; Heading towards a small cafe on the other side of campus.
The weather was chilly, even in early September Vale tended to always be some version of windy chill during the standard school year. Going as quickly as she could comfortably walk, she passed a couple other early risers and grounds keepers. Keeping her expression blank as possible and not glancing at the eyes that would blink and stare at her half mask and barely visible bandages on her wrist.
“Just have to keep walking, ignore the stares, ignore the damn pity.” She muttered in quiet agitation, hastening her pace just a bit.
Finding the small student run location was a simple enough affair, being somewhat central in Beacon Universities layout with the Library and Student Union joining it to surround the elaborate fountain structure at the school’s center. Finding the door open and the tables all but deserted was a great relief to her. Looking to the hanging menu board it took little time to decide on a simple coffee and cream. Now came the difficult part of actually ordering. A deep breath to settle her resolve, she walked to the counter and addressed the barista reading a book and having a simple black bow atop her head.
“E-excuse me? I would like a large coffee, two ahem, two creams.” Cinder silently cursed her hesitant tone, hating how hoarse and small her voice had become.
The girl blinked a bit in surprise, likely not expecting more than the one student who already sat in the cafe until later, her eyes flicking to the patch on Cinder’s face for a brief moment before showing a surprising bit of restraint and keeping her gaze locked on her uncovered side.
“...Of course,” She quickly replied after a moment, ringing in the order with practiced ease. “That’ll be 400 lien, and for…?”
“Cinder.” She managed clearly, pulling out her student card to swipe before walking to the other side of the cafe.
With little else to do, she watched the barista go about making her coffee, noticing the name tag stating her name to be Blake. A bit on the nose sounding with her mostly black attire, though she wasn’t one to judge in that department considering her own red clothing habits. Noting the fresh pot that was made for her cup, she let out a content sigh as the fresh brewed scent filled the air.
“Coffee for Cinder.” Blake called with a small hint of amusement as she looked to her.
“Thank you… very much.” She replied, managing a barely forced smile as she took her cup and walked to a booth in the back.
Time passed reasonably quickly as Cinder sipped her coffee and basked in the growing alertness and energy she had lacked earlier.
With morning proper beginning, the cafe grew more crowded with those not used to the early rise, noise and talking soon made it hard to relax for Cinder, and with her coffee finished over the last hour, it was time to find the lecture hall. The growing crowds helped her anxiety in a way, with all focussing on finding their respective classes, she got little attention herself with her appearance. The extra time certainly helped her navigate the maze of hallways before finally finding the correct room and walking in to find a few other early arrivals sitting in various tiered sections of desks.
Finding a spot near the back of the room, she unpacked her books while the other students slowly trickled in and the time ticked away. It was with just a few minutes left before they were to meet the professor, when a blur of red burst through the door, panting heavily as they stumbled up the steps to the chuckles of a few others. Cinder raised her eyebrow as the girl dropped into the desk next to her in exhaustion.
“I… made… it…” The girl gasped out while slumping onto the desk, seeming strangely familiar to Cinder but she couldn’t place where she had seen her before.
Before she could dwell on her curious neighbour further, Professor Peach walked in and began setting up at the lectern while the room began to hush. A few moments later she turned to address everyone.
“Hello everyone, I am Professor Peach and will be directing you through Ancient Remnant 101.” Taking a piece of chalk, she wrote it out her name and the class on the board.
“I know you’re all eager to learn, or atleast get this credit over with as quickly as possible,” A warm smile crossed her lips at the wave of chuckles before she continued, “However I do like to atleast take attendance for the first class of the semester so I can get to know you all better should you choose to keep this class or dig further in the future.”
It raised a few eyebrows, but also got a few smiles at the high school feel again. It went alphabetically down the list, everyone calling in response to the roll call. When Cinder’s name came up and she raised her arm with a mostly clear response, the girl in the red hoodie seemed to jump, giving an attempt at a confused discrete look to her. Again that nagging in the back of her mind returned, frustrating her to no end until it all hit her like a bucket of cold water.
“Ruby Rose?” Professor Peach called out, the chill going through Cinder’s spine as the girl next to her stood up.
“Here!” She yelled down, giving an enthusiastic wave to the front of the room, eliciting yet more chuckles from others.
*Ruby. Robe… Ruby… Rose… Ruby Rose... * Holding her face as calm as possible from the years of practice was all that kept her from panicking as the memories flooded her mind, of a short misunderstood kid who she had done so much too years ago, before everything had fallen apart for her when she realized just why she had had so much anger and frustration in her during middle school. Before she had become Cinder...
*I’m so fucked.* The thought overwhelmed her mind with panic and despair.