You could chew the air, the day was so humid. The weather reporter said with the heat index, temperatures would feel as if it were 115 degrees. Tensions were understandably high but I didn’t expect my day to go the way it did.
I started the day off in first period science just like any other day. For some reason, school officials hadn’t thought to turn on the air conditioning yet. Mr. Erickson didn’t feel that opening the windows would help and had two large fans attempting to circulate the air. While they did create a small breeze, they drowned out anything he was trying to teach us so he gave us a pop quiz instead. The quiz should have been handed out on Friday so none of us were prepared. Mr. Erickson yelled over the fans that we were to do the best we could and once we turned them all in we could study for the rest of the period. For the first time all year, he had rolled up his sleeves and revealed full length arm tattoos. I’m sure if administration had an issue with that the teacher would have just walked out, he was just that kind of guy.
My next period was gym class. Ms. June didn’t bother making us get into our gym clothes, she just told us the hour was ours. Many of the class sat around talking. A few, including me, decided to catch up on homework for other classes.
Math was where my day started to get complicated. Jess and Brit shared the class with me and even though we had been great friends in elementary school they had both become jealous of me. I studied and got good grades. I didn’t judge my friends so even though I didn’t become popular like them, everyone actually liked me. My boyfriend, even though he lived two hours away and went to a fancy academy, was loyal and affectionate. It was like a typical high school story unraveling through no fault of my own. Or at least I had thought.
Jess exercised every morning before school, Wednesdays she would swim laps in the pool. Her thick dark brown hair was still wet in the pony tail. She was very fit and very short which made for a perfect body on top of the cheerleader pyramid. Boys just wanted to stare at her chest and hope to get into her pants. She was too busy working on her body to realize that that was the only thing those boys cared about too.
Brit sang beautifully and I admired her. Except she wouldn’t share her talent with the school’s music programs. I thought it a bit selfish, but she decided she would get famous her own way. She made a demo CD and handed it out to the kids that would hang around her at lunch. But no one cared. They just wanted to be near her and she soaked that up, believing she had made a name for herself.
The three of us got grouped together at the start of the year and I could tell neither of them were happy with the arrangement. They would be civil during class time but if we got sent home with a project neither one of them would call. Jess usually sent the email detailing what they wanted me to contribute by the end of the day. I would complete the algebraic problems, they would create the presentations and by the next morning Jess would email me again with dialogue. To Mrs. Kuriant it was as if we were the perfect students. I was okay with this agreement we had since this was one of the only classes Jess and Brit were good at and we always pulled through with an A.
Today’s math lesson should have been a mini intro to calculus but with the heat Mrs. Kuriant borrowed one of the loud fans from Mr. Erikson and let us work on anything we chose. About half way through class Jess handed me a note. It was in Brit’s swirly handwriting telling me that they didn’t need my help with our next project, they would just send me the dialogue for the presentation the day it was due. I had a feeling in my gut that this wasn’t true, they were going to make me look like a fool and I was sure of it. Instead of making a big deal about it I walked up to the front desk and asked Mrs. K for the project outline, saying I had misplaced it. She only handed out one to the group, usually to Brit, but maybe in this heat she didn’t remember who she gave it to. She didn’t question the situation and went to her filing cabinet for the master copy.
I looked back to the girls I used to call friends. Instead of working on the project or other homework, Brit was braiding Jess’s hair while she filed her nails. One would think after the note they gave me that they would be angered that I came to the teacher, but it was as if they didn’t even notice. Mrs. K was back quickly from the copy room and handed me the assignment I was to do all by myself. The girls’ plan to sabotage me was already beginning to fail.
I went back to my desk and slide the project information into my folder and pick up the homework I had started in gym class. The bell rang and I made my way to the basement for health class.
Ms. June was also my teacher for health and the classroom was directly under the small gym. There weren’t any desks since she also used the room for the workout video classes. It turns out that Richard Simmons did wonders for the football team. Since she started making them watch the Sweatin’ to the Oldies they had a no lose streak.
On the bright side, being in the basement had one advantage. It was the coolest floor of the whole high school. Ms. June actually taught her lesson on the effects of meth on the immune system, all of us sitting on the floor or yoga mats with our notebooks scribbling down notes. This was another class that I shared with Brit and Jess, but I didn’t have to interact with them. I noticed the girls were giggling a lot and not too long after Jeff, who sat behind me, handed me a piece of paper. It was another note, this time with the more manly handwriting of Jess.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to open it or what they could possibly want to say. I continued listening to Ms. June and her advice on what not to buy at the store that made it look remotely like meth ingredients. It’s like she was inadvertently giving the druggies instructions, not that they could figure it out since I never saw any of them pass a science class with more than a D. Towards the end of class I decided to open the note. It was an attempt at blackmail. Jess and Brit said they had information on me that could turn my whole life upside down. There were some choice words there that couldn’t be said in a church. Plenty of name calling. But there wasn’t a reason, I couldn’t find the motive in their little hate note. I assumed it was just the jealousy, crumpled up the note and threw it in the trashcan behind me.
A loud bang came ringing through the classroom. Ms. June stopped her sentence mid speech for a second and decided it was just the generators kicking in. We all were relieved, maybe the administration had finally decided to turn the air conditioning on. The noise was so loud since the generators were next to this basement classroom. Ms. June continued on with the lesson until the bell rang.
We all filed out of class and that’s when we noticed the smoke. It filled the hallway to the stairs and students started freaking out. Girls grabbed all their things and ran, the boys almost tripped up the stairs after them. Ms. June went towards the generator room. She opened the door and a hot blazing fire leapt out. She quickly ran for the fire alarm and followed the rest of the class up the stairs.
I’m not sure what made me stay behind, maybe it was the shock of it all. The fire quickly reached the walls and wooden hand railing. I looked from the classroom and that’s when I realized the two bodies behind me. Jess and Brit hadn’t left with the rest of the class, and there was terror in their eyes. I motioned for them to follow me up the stairs and Brit’s fist went flying into my cheek. I yelled that this was no time for them to start the fight they started in the note but Jess put up her fists as well and yelled back at me to move out of the way.
The three of us ran down the hallway to the stairs while they tried everything they could to pull me back to get ahead. Midway up the steps they began calling me horrible names and still clawing at me. That’s when I reached into my shoulder bag, next to my notebooks was a mini baby powder bottle. I’m not sure why I did it, but I grabbed that bottle, opened it with my free hand and flung it at their faces. The fire surrounding us on the hand rails followed the powder and before I turned back to run, I could see their faces behind the flames.
I didn’t look back again and they didn’t emerge outside with the rest of the students. The whole west wing of the school was engulfed before fire crews showed up. Teachers backed every one as far as they could so the mixture of fire and humidity didn’t make us students melt completely. Ms. June took her roll call papers from her clipboard and tried to account for everyone in the class. She noticed Jess and Brit were nowhere but didn’t think much of it, assuming they had run off to find other classmates.
The next few days were cancelled. The fire department determined the cause of the fire was an electrical short in the generators. It turns out that there was an excess of fans being turned on to beat the humidity. Teachers went on strike, calling for better conditions and accusing the administrators of being the cause of the fire. It was almost a week before the authorities noticed Jess and Brit were missing and for some reason they didn’t think to check the spot of the fire for a few more days. Ms. June was questioned first, I don’t know the outcome but the cops must have decided she didn’t know anything so they started questioning the other kids in my class.
There were rumors flying around that they did it to each other. That Jess finally realized that Brit had more talent and Brit couldn’t handle the pressure of Jess being the cuter one. Another rumor was that they had actually just run away to be with each other. Maybe they had just been locked in the classroom. With each passing day the rumors got more ridiculous. That’s when they found the bodies.
Cops put out bulletins once school resumed asking for any information on the investigation as it now was a murder case. They had found out that baby powder was used as an accelerant to burn their faces, this made them fall back on to the ground and the heat was too much, and they died of suffocation. They came to interview me but I had nothing to give them. Although I knew what happened, I didn’t feel it was a murder. My self-defense against their bullying. I had no evidence to bring to the cops. I had disposed of the note long before the fire started, and me and the two of them had no other form of communication. Even their cell phones had no evidence. The cops couldn’t figure out a motive for murder and thanks to my flawless answers they didn’t have any suspects. For all they knew, these girls just disappeared. It could have all just been a dream.