The classroom smells like a funeral home.
Hushed voices pulse over the pairs of students hunching over trays spaced across the counters. The odor of bodies fresh out of gym class mingles with the scent of formaldehyde.
Hair dampens at my temples. A crematory would be cooler.
Not many have finished their assignments. Only a few overachievers sit in the rows of empty desks on the other side of the room, their tasks completed, proud smiles on their faces.
Mrs. Cryer shuffles around the tables watching over us—a reaper waiting for lost souls, her bony finger pointing out errors. She shuffles around with purpose. She shuffles around without direction. Then she stops at our table, her eyes peering over reading glasses.
“Mr. Bove and Miss Jordan, you two are falling behind,” she says, a disapproving tsk in her voice. She only uses last names when she wants to emphasize her warning. “Best hurry before class ends.”
She continues shuffling around.
Biology is my least favorite class. Mrs. Cryer’s assignments are outdated. It’s her last year teaching, her retirement long overdue. Stern and direct, she’s not the sort of teacher I usually like, but I do. There’s an underlying kindness to Mrs. Cryer. A kindness hiding in her eyes, evident in her actions.
One of the things I like about my school: my brother, Dalton, is in the same grade. We’re not twins or anything. Actually, we’re cousins. His parents adopted me when mine were killed in a boating accident on Lake Como in Italy. I don’t remember them. I was two when that all went down.
The thing I hate about school: Dalton’s in my biology class.
“Come on, Ana.” Dalton slides the dissection tray closer to me. “I did all the setup. Just make the first cut.”
The little green body looks rubbery—almost fake—crucified to the tray with pins as it is. I push strands of dark hair from my face with a latex-gloved hand. I could’ve opted out of this barbaric ritual of separating body parts from an innocent frog.
Why did I even agree to this?