Jerome yawned, a huge, body-shaking yawn that left him feeling slightly light-headed when it finished. He shook his head a little, and looked around to see if anyone had noticed. From the looks they were giving him, about half of his maths class had seen it. Or hear it, he’d sounded like a small bear roaring.
“Tired?” said Celine, her eyes twinkling with viciousness. She was (in Jerome’s opinion) stunningly beautiful on the outside, and as rotten as old cheese on the inside. “You should try sleeping.”
“Thanks, Celine,” he said, his voice level. He turned away from her, and Gavin’s hand caught his shoulder.
“Ignore her, she’s a bitch,” he said.
“Don’t call her that,” said Jerome, though there wasn’t much conviction in his voice. “She’s got an opinion, just like everyone else.”
“Her opinions aren’t like anyone else’s.”
“You’re a toad, Gavin,” said Celine. She turned away, then looked back over her shoulder at Jerome. “And you’re just selfish. Why don’t sleep already and let the rest of us have Christmas?”
“Class, be quiet. And be seated, why are you out of your chairs?” Doctor Hasselmann had arrived and was starting the class; with a gentle grumbling but quick movements the students took their places and settled down to listen to his lecture. Jerome braced himself for the struggle of trying to stay awake while he listened to Dr. Hasselmann, and hoped he’d succeed.
An hour later he’d only started to doze twice and was feeling quite pleased with himself. He’d written down everything Dr. Hasselmann had said, including the ums, ahs, and the incidental asides, because he couldn’t fall asleep while he was writing. And now he’d have to rewrite his notes into something coherent, which would give him something to do that night while everyone else was sleeping. He slipped his notepad and pen into his bag, and got up from his desk, only to find Celine stood in front of him once more.
“Sleep, already, doofus,” she said, pushing him back down. Her hand was pale and stubby, not quite the kind of hand you expected from a girl with high cheekbones, long glossy hair and eyes so blue they were nearly purple. “It’s the middle of January and I’ve still not had Christmas. Do you know what my parents have got me for Christmas?”
“No,” said Jerome, trying to stand up again. She pushed him back down.
“A car. They’ve bought me a car for Christmas, but I can’t have it until then. You’re keeping me from my car, doofus, because you won’t sleep. So get on with it and sleep already.”
“You make it sound so easy, Celine,” he said, twisting round so he could get up from the other side of his chair. Her hand landed on his shoulder, but he shrugged it off and got out of the seat.
“It is easy,” she hissed, leaning towards him. “Just close those four little eyes of yours and wait.”
“Leave him,” said Gavin, standing next to him again. “You’re such a cow.” Celine gasped as though she’d been slapped, and her hand went up automatically, attempting to attract Dr. Hasselmann’s attention. He, however, walked past her without stopping, and was out of the door before she thought to call him by name. Gavin smirked. “Guess he’s not got your back today, cow,” he said. “Leave Jerome alone, go and pick on someone with your own IQ.”
“We’re in the same maths class,” said Celine icily.
“Yeah, but your daddy paid for you to be here, while the rest of us had to work to get here.”
The words hung in the sudden silence of the classroom, broken only when, a few minutes later, Jerome yawned again.
“Come on,” said Gavin. “We’ve got classes to go to.”
As they left the room Celine was still standing by Jerome’s desk, staring into mid-air and not saying anything. Jerome glanced back at her, and then at Gavin. “That was a bit mean,” he said.
“But true,” said Gavin. “She’s only in most of our classes because she’s got a tutor to get her through the work. She shouldn’t be in them at all.”
“How do you know? She might be capable of doing them by herself, but her tutor just kind of means we don’t see it.”
“How can you defend her when she keeps picking on you all the time? She knows about the nightmares, so she’s the one being selfish. No-one should have to have nightmares like that.”
“Yeah, but Gavin, if I don’t then no-one gets Christmas do they?”
“Is Christmas really all that important? I could do without it.”
Jerome laughed, though it was a tired laugh. “Yeah, I’m not sure I miss not having it. But…,”
“Well, what happens if I don’t get through the nightmares?”
“What do you mean, Jer?”
“Christmas only happens if I survive the nightmares. What happens if I don’t one year?”
“Don’t talk like that!”
Jerome half-smiled. “Sure. What class are we in next?”
“We’re not, we’re done for the day. I just didn’t want Celine following us.”