Chapter Thirteen

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Willow

My weekend passes in a blur. For the first time in eighteen years, I'm unable to brush aside what ails me. I keep trying, though, as fruitless as it is. I'm sad, and angry, and so many other things that are too simple to accurately describe my mental state.

Eli gives me space. Cassie, too. The two of them consult in hushed whispers, wanting to solve problems I won't give a name to. It's nice, I guess. Good that they care enough about me to worry, and good that they're getting along better.

It's Monday now. I skip breakfast, hoping to prolong my return to society for as long as possible. My stomach is not on board with this development, letting out occasional growls to signal its disapproval.

My first class of the day is with Galileo. I briefly consider skipping this as well, but the last thing I want is another detention. Devil knows what new torture that would bring. He's creative, I'll give him that.

I walk to the Heaven building by myself. I time it so that when I arrive at the classroom, it's with seconds to spare and every student is already in their seat. My blinders are on; Galileo's nothing but an amorphous blob in my peripheral vision.

Being around him, however distantly, is a knife to the chest. I want to wear apathy like a cloak, shroud myself in indifference, but I'm stuck with soft insides and thin skin resistant to any emotional armor. If I can avoid him, maybe he won't see it.

Surprisingly, Aristotle's in his spot and he's awake. Hardly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed—his eye bags have eye bags—he gifts me with a tired smile. 

I return it, or at least I try to. At the attempt, he loses his grin, studying me intensely. I quickly sit down, facing away from Aristotle so that he can't pick apart every minute facial tick I unknowingly make. He's far too perceptive, and I don't need to be psychoanalyzed today.

"Alright, class. So nice of you to take time out of your busy schedule and finally join us, Willow."

He pauses, perhaps waiting for a response from me. I give him nothing.

"Anyway," he continues, harsher now, "Since we're all here, it's time to get started on our group projects."

Predictably, at the mention of group work, several students groan. Pop quizzes are one thing, but group projects? That's cruel and unusual punishment.

"In the past, Professor Williamson assigned groups in her quest to have angels and demons work and live together in harmony. But I think that's bullshit, so I'm letting you choose your own groups. Each group must be between two and four students.

"Potential project topics are on this list," he adds, holding up a stack of papers that he begins to distribute. "Only one group per topic, so get your picks in fast."

Aristotle leans forward to whisper into my ear. "Want to be partners, Trouble? You can be the brains of the operation. The beauty, too."

Holding back a shiver, I grab the last two papers that are handed to me. "And what exactly are you bringing to the table?" 

"My charming disposition?"

I place a finger against my bottom lip, pretending to think about it. "Hmm, I'm not so sure about that."

"I can bring snacks," he offers.

"Now you're talking."

Passing back his copy—which he takes but still uses mine to read from—I scan the paper for the best topic. There's a lot of options for Angel/Heaven historical and cultural events. Shocker.

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