For both Monika and Florian their ride to school went by rather quickly, although for very different reasons. Monika's head was once again filled with piercing questions about her new life, while Florian's was almost completely empty, or perhaps just filled with a mist that made everything feel dull and weary. For Florian, this was a perfectly normal situation. It took him at least three hours every morning before he was actually, truly awake. A trait he shared with his mother; anything they did before that just felt like an immense drag. Monika on the other hand simply didn't adapt well to sudden changes. Situations like these always brought her into great turmoil. Normally she wouldn't think too much about anything, which would make trips like these take much longer than it did now.
A bit confused at how quickly this part of the day had already passed by, Monika arrived at the cantonal school Wiedikon and parked her bike next to Florian's. “How late is it?” Monika asked as she looked around for a clock. Florian yawned, squeezed a tear out of his left eye and shrugged. They walked around the side of the building and onto the plaza. The big clock at the top of the school's front showed that it was just about past 7:20. Monika sighed in relief and the two of them looked around for a bit. A few people were standing about here and there, all of them very young. No doubt part of the new students just like her. “This sucks,” Florian groaned. “Now what am I going to do for half an hour until classes start?” Monika didn't pay him much mind and instead went on ahead through the gate into the entrance hall.
A couple of signs had been put up to guide people to the large lecture hall where the entrance ceremony would be held. Monika bit her lower lip and wondered if she should head on in already. They were quite a bit too early, but she didn't really know what else to do and wandering around getting lost didn't really seem like a good idea. Florian patted her on the back and mockingly said “Have fun, sis.” Without a further word he left her standing and shuffled off in the direction of his classroom. Monika sighed again, finally convincing herself to follow the signs.
The hall was far from filled, but at least there were a couple more people around than on the plaza. Monika picked a chair that was well distanced from everyone else's and seated herself. Most of the other students were either trying to figure out a way to get some more sleep in the uncomfortable seats, or fidgeted about excitedly. There were two pairs that were quietly chattering with each other, probably old friends from primary school. Looking around the hall, Monika was a bit disappointed to find it appear so ordinary. There was no sign of special arrangements having been made for this, and in general the hall didn't have any kind of fancy appearance. It was built much more with practical purposes in mind than extravagant ones.
Monika passed her time twiddling her thumbs, trying to calm herself down. The seats were slowly taken up more and more as time moved closer to 7:45. People were dressed in all sorts of manners. Some looked really polished and probably spent a good hour getting themselves dressed for this, while others looked rather ragged. Monika studied the various faces, but none of them really spoke to her directly. They all looked foreign to her somehow. She sighed, rested her head on her hands and simply waited for the speech to begin, not paying mind to anyone else around her anymore.
Finally the headmaster stepped onto the stage. He looked very dry. White shirt, dark grey felt jacket. Gray hair and a black moustache decorated his wrinkly face alongside a pair of round, wire-frame glasses. Very contrasting to his features was his voice, which came in a very warm and comforting tone. To her surprise, Monika actually enjoyed listening. She felt much calmer and more comfortable now.
The speech was over rather quickly and they were then asked to find their classrooms. People streamed towards the exit and everyone pushed and shoved as if they were in a big hurry. Monika held on tightly to her backpack and went with the flow. Finally the crowd loosened up as they neared the entrance hall. Monika found a corner where she wouldn't get in anyone's way and got the entrance sheet out of her backpack. Room F12 it said. She quickly tucked the paper away again and followed the students up the stairs to the first floor.
The rooms were laid out rather confusingly and she couldn't quite make sense of the numbering scheme. After a few minutes of wandering around aimlessly and dodging other students, she finally managed to find her way.
The room was lit up brightly, the sun shone directly through the windows. A lot of students had yet to arrive, so it was only half-full by now. Some were eagerly talking with each other, others just stared out of the window or tried to find some more sleep still. Monika chose one of the free tables that was well enough distanced from everyone else. She didn't really want to bother anyone. Unsure of what to do exactly, she looked through her backpack once more and took out her agenda. Apparently the first class today would be German. She wondered what kind of things they would have to do for a class like this. She had heard from her brother that they sometimes read poems and such, which she wasn't very enthused by.
Not long after the teacher walked in and unpacked her suitcase on the table up front. She wore a white blouse and a chequered skirt. She had short, wavy, brown hair and looked to be in about her late thirties. The students that now walked in all got a bit of a scare and quickly hurried to an empty seat, thinking they had been late already. A meagre boy with freckles plaguing his face sat down to the right of Monika, but didn't mind her at all. He was much too focused on the teacher, who was now leaning against the wall and looked out of the window. To the left, a blonde girl with bright eyes and an excited giggle found her place to sit. She immediately greeted both of her desk neighbours, all the while shooting glances over at the teacher. Monika just introduced herself quickly and then went back to being silent while the blonde started up a hushed discussion with her other neighbour.
Finally the bell rang. The classroom was now fully seated, all eyes focused on the teacher, who slowly got away from the wall, picked up a piece of chalk and wrote her name onto the blackboard. “Good morning, kids. I'm Anna Hartmann, your German teacher” she introduced herself. “At least for now,” she went on. “In this semester we'll primarily go over some of the basic German grammar rules again. If you paid attention in primary school, this shouldn't be much of a problem for you. Then, if you manage to pass the probationary period, we'll gradually move on over to literature and other, much more exciting things than plain grammar.” She talked in a rather leisurely manner and it managed to calm a few of the students down, even if some seemed to flinch a bit at hearing the word “grammar”.
The lesson went on without really seeming to touch any actual material at all. Ms. Hartmann merely proceeded to lay out the plan for the semester and explain a few things about how everything would work, now that they were all high school students. She especially encouraged people to keep an agenda so that they could write down when they would have to hand in homework and so forth. Monika was pleased that she had already planned for that. The lesson ended with a short story about how Ms. Hartmann herself had gone through the probationary period back in her day, and she encouraged the students to study enough.
Monika wagered that the pace would pick up quickly next lesson. She was a bit disappointed that they hadn't had a real lesson yet, but perhaps not all teachers would take it as easy as Ms. Hartmann did. During the break the blonde introduced herself as Jennifer to Monika. They exchanged a few pleasantries and talked about the school for a bit, but didn't quite hit it off, so they both minded their own business again quickly. Monika started doodling into her agenda, making sure that nobody else could see it.
The next lesson turned out rather differently. As soon as the bell chimed, the teacher stepped through the door, slammed his suitcase onto the table, and wrote his name onto the blackboard. Mr. Knecht didn't have time for pleasantries and jumped right in, asking people to translate sentences from French. He then proceeded to hand out the textbooks to everyone and noted that he would collect the money for that from everyone that needed a copy next week. The rest of the lecture was spent starting off with the first chapter in the book. All the while the classroom was completely stiff and silent. No one dared to touch or mutter anything. It seemed to drag on forever too and was altogether probably the worst class she had ever had, Monika noted. Fortunately enough she wasn't called up too often, which came to her advantage as French wasn't one of her strongest suits. A lot of the students only managed to stammer something out very slowly when they were called up; knowing that she wasn't the only one comforted her a bit.
Everyone sighed in relief as the bell announced the end of the lesson. They had already been assigned homework for the end of the week as well. Monika now wished she hadn't hoped for a real class before. She had anticipated that there would be a strict teacher around, but nothing like this. The rest of her classmates apparently felt similarly as she overheard from the excited chatter during the break. Jennifer didn't try to talk to her again, so she spent her time looking around the classroom inspecting people for a bit. For the most part it was an expected mix of people. One boy stood out in particular however, thanks to his comparatively massive height. Monika wondered how tall he would become once he was fully grown up. Maybe he'd even reach the ceiling!
Since they had the afternoon off on Mondays, the last remaining class before they were free to go was now finally up, and it had to be math. The teacher had thick, black hair and a full beard alongside his thick-framed glasses. He looked a bit confused around the classroom after he had written his name on the blackboard and announced himself as Mr. Ammann. He wore black trousers and a grey vest over a white shirt. Monika thought he looked a bit ruffled and his coarse voice added on to that effect. Still, it was in a nice contrast compared to Mr. Knecht. He then went on: “I'll be your class teacher for the coming two years. What this means is that if there's any sort of, uh, problems then I'm the one to talk to. Otherwise if there's some kind of general activity going on then I suppose I'll be the one in charge of that as well.” He cleared his throat and continued. “Other than that I'll be teaching you math. Nothing too–” he gestured wildly with his hands “exotic or difficult to start off with though, no worries about that. It'll be tougher than what you've had before, that's true, but, uh, still nothing to be worried about for now.” He frowned, went around the desk and pulled a book out of his briefcase. “For this class, you'll need this book here. I'm sure some of you will have it already from your siblings and so forth, but for those who don't, you can buy it from me. See me after class if you do need one. If you don't, make sure to bring it with you from here on out.”
He then proceeded to explain various rules that the school had and other organisational things such as what to do in the case of absences or problems of similar nature until this lesson, too, was called to an end. “Alright, enjoy your lunch, and don't forget to come back tomorrow. School starts for real then” Mr. Ammann shouted over the noise. Monika overheard someone mutter “If that French class wasn't real school already I don't want to know what is.” Just thinking back to it made her frown, so she tried to avoid any memory concerning that class. Instead, she calmly packed her belongings and went on to leave.
Suddenly she was stopped dead in her tracks. Someone pulled on her sleeve, less than gently at that. Monika turned around and shouted “Hey! What are you doing?” A black-haired boy with a blue shirt and dark-blue jeans stared at her. He withdrew his hand immediately and looked rather puzzled. Monika retaliated with an expression that rivalled his in confusion, but didn't say anything else. The boy's face started to redden as the blood rushed to his head. He stammered something along the lines of “I thought you were ..” then turned around quickly and ran to some other students who watched him silently from a classroom. Monika stood there for another few seconds, but then finally managed to set her gears into motion again. She left quickly, not intending to repeat that encounter.
The late summer sun had already done plenty of work to heat up the air. The temperature was now approaching 30°C, and would only continue to rise over the afternoon. Monika vowed to make it to the relatively cool interior of her house before that would come to pass though. She loathed hot weather; everything felt exhausting, sweaty, and icky in it. Right now with the head wind to cool her down it wasn't too bad. But even if it had been 40°C and there hadn't been any wind whatsoever, Monika would not have taken notice. She was still too confused about everything that had happened today, and thus retreated into her own mind. Cycling back home was purely mechanical and required no conscious thought.
She only snapped back out of it as she was lying on the couch in the living room and her mother hushed her off of it. She was drenching it in sweat from the heat and effort of cycling. “Do you even know how difficult it is to clean this couch? Let me tell you: it's impossible!” Anja sighed and went on “You're burning red and you look like you might explode at any moment. Go on, scurry off and take a shower, young lady.” The door slammed shut behind her, Monika faced the stairs. A shower didn't sound bad at all right now, she thought.
Written by shinmera