Modern • Academy • Drama
Being one of the top students at Holmes Institute involves more responsibilities than Jasper Madero really wants. Luckily, she’s pretty clever and can slip out of those with only a little fuss. Her friends want to help smooth things over, and her school’s founder just wants her to live up to her potential. She gets that. She just really wishes she didn’t.
Sneaking back home from Watson Hall was the first step to comfy clothes. Jasper would rather be in the era-inspired commons, flopped sideways on the carved sofa with her legs over the arm, than standing backstage in a suit. Getting stared at by an ocean of donors in their stuffy outfits with deep pockets—that Verity Holmes wanted a piece of—wasn’t Jasper’s idea of a top tier Friday night. And what did she need an award for anyway? To prove she was smart? That’s what the grades were for.
Jasper didn’t regret the decision once the bus dropped her off, and she didn’t by the time Darius got back with the other two best students either. The only thing she wished she’d done differently was bring the remote closer for when Netflix asked if she was still watching.
Min and Everitt came to find her first, which she figured gave her about 15 minutes before Miss Holmes stopped lecturing Darius by the door and marched into the living room to sort Jasper out. They stood in the open archway with their dumb starry glass trophies, plus one for her. Poor souls were still in their show gear to be paraded about. Never bothered them, though. Everitt thrived in his perpetual state of being dressed like an inclusivity model for Ralph Lauren, and Min barely needed a reason to make new clothes. Biggest differences were that he took out his ‘lucky bowtie’ for special events and she put her ethereally straight hair into a ponytail.
“So,” she deadpanned, “was it lit?”
“Miss Verity delivered an exceptional speech,” Everitt chose to describe how lit it wasn’t. Jasper just sighed. She couldn’t roll her eyes, or he’d mope for days when he took that personally. “And she awarded us with these.”
He presented her with a smoked glass trophy, aka an expensive rectangle with her name engraved on a silver plaque at the bottom. They changed the trophy style each year but kept it as pointless as ever.
“Huh.” Jasper pointed to the trash next to the redwood archway. “There.”
Everitt gasped, clutching the trophy against his sweater vest like she suggested throwing out a baby. “But you earned this! Take more pride in your intellect.”
Min held her hand out for it instead, and he recovered from his shock with a smile as he passed it off. They always made quite the duo from the first day they met at the academy. His curly hair failed to make her height over him less obvious. She had three piercings in each ear and two in one eyebrow while he had those academia rectangle glasses. And Everitt made more than enough chatter for both of them.
“I’ll put it on the reptile shelf,” Min informed Jasper. That’s what she called the collection of figures Jasper’d picked up over the years. Personal pets weren’t allowed at HI—just the community cat. Min tucked the trophy-baby in the crook of her arm with her own Smart Kid award and pulled her ponytail in front of her shoulder. “You should’ve stayed.”
“Waste two hours and then some so the donors can feel fuzzy warm?” Jasper sat up and gave them a forced smile. “Hard pass.”
“Miss Verity was upset.”
“Oh, goodness me,” she answered Everitt, holding a hand to her mouth in fake shock. “Vera, upset? Like her usual? Or—” She pulled out an exaggerated tight smile, nowhere near the PR-approved expression the newest Holmes descendent had on hand. The important part was Jasper got him to hide a snicker behind a hand. The worried pout look was getting old. “Okay, so that one. Don’t care either way.”
Didn’t need to be a genius detective to solve the mystery of whose grumpy footsteps were coming around the corner. The heels on hardwood signaled the approach of one irritated Verity Holmes, if her friends looking at her like she had a terminal diagnosis wasn’t hint enough. Jasper had just enough time to flop back on the couch before she manifested behind them.
She kept a careful neutrality when she glanced from Min to Everitt, stormy sea eyes searching for weakness. Even her hair was made to appeal to anyone with stylish waves ending in a harsh, even cut right at her jawline. Just add smokey cat eye makeup for your very own organic bitch.
“I need a moment with Miss Jasper.”
“But of course,” Everitt chimed, eyebrows still furrowed as he smiled and followed Min upstairs. She wondered for a second if Verity would care if the award took her place. Jasper didn’t want to be there then either. With her hands clasped in front of her ombre sweater, the school’s founder waited for her good students to be out of earshot.
“Every opportunity you have, and for every student in these walls,” Verity explained for the hundredth time, hoping it might stick, “is due to these donors. You have an obligation to—”
“Why did they give us money if they don’t want to? Why do they need to see us?”
“Because they want to see their charitable deed paying off, Jasper, and,” she cut off Jasper’s next reply, jabbing a manicured nail in her direction. “There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is compromising those donations because you want to sit around and do nothing.”
“What’s wrong,” Jasper corrected her, because someone had to, “is taking back donations because you didn’t get something from it! Donating is literally giving things away for nothing.” She shrugged and looked up at the vintage-style cream ceiling. “That’s the point.”
“Jasper!” Verity closed her eyes, taking a bracing breath and giving Jasper a precious window to stick her tongue out. “You have talent. You are smart, determined, and clever.” Having a seat on the light grey reading chair she usually occupied in the promotional material for the school, Vera leaned forward. “But none of that will make you exempt from doing things you don’t want to do or understand the purpose of.”
“What, like you living off the legacy of your dead great-great-whatever?” The way her jaw locked, Jasper realized she hit home with that. Too close, probably, but there was no stopping now. She grinned and rested her hands behind her head to get a better look at that ‘don’t you dare’ glower. “Bet you had job offers in the womb just because you had alleles in common with the great Sherlock Holmes.”
Vera stood, brushing invisible lint from her pencil skirt before folding her hands in front of her one last time.
Resting bitch pose. Although Jasper knew just what she did to deserve it, and she could bank on Darius pulling her aside before breakfast to talk about it.
“Report to Miss Hawthorne in the morning for your volunteer schedule.”
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