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The Main Character Syndrome of Aynnhailleah Angel Astrid: Episode 1.4

by Lael


“Okay, Jhémes,” said Angel, stumbling over the boy’s name a little as she shut the door of the headmaster’s office behind her. “I’m ready to go if you are.”

Jhémes turned to her and nodded. “I’m ready.” His face was still a little grim, almost bored.

Well, at least I get to escape Mrs. Grant, thought Angel. She took off her backpack and said, “We can just put our backpacks back here.” She carefully leaned it against a filing cabinet behind the office assistant’s desk.

The girl had turned to look at Angel when she had exited the headmaster’s office, her expression almost eager. She was still watching her when she set down her backpack. Finally, the girl stood and said, “I’m so sorry for, uh, well, the announcement earlier. I should have realized it was your name, Angel!”

Angel smiled. “Oh, it’s okay—”

“I can’t believe I’m meeting you in person,” babbled the office assistant, fidgeting as if she were fighting the urge to jump up and down, cry, or scream. “I’m such a big fan—I’ve been following you since you appeared in those Fantastic Chicken ads. Because of you, it’s the only fried chicken I eat!”

“Oh, Fantastic Chicken,” said Angel. Feeling her smile falter, she tightened her face muscles to maintain her expression. “That was a long time ago.” She forced a laugh and placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Thank you for your support for all these years. I couldn’t have made it this far without your love and support.”

The girl squealed. She whipped out her phone. “Can I get a photo with you for my PicYou? And would you sign my—” She stopped, eyes flickering past Angel. Her face morphed into an enraptured expression with what seemed like a hint of fear.

Angel turned her head to see Jhémes standing at her shoulder with a neutral expression. He put a large hand out and completely enclosed her upper arm with it. He had long, slender fingers and his nails were neatly trimmed short, like those of a musician. Though his hand was a little rough, especially around his knuckles, it was an elegant hand, one that was far more beautiful than those of other boys she knew. When would she find something about him that wasn’t imperfectly perfect, or just plain perfect?

“Sorry,” said Angel to both him and the office worker. Then she said to the girl, sheepish, “Maybe not right now. Feel free to come and say hello next time you see me outside of class hours. I’ll treat you to a drink at Moon Café.”

“Okay!” the girl replied, smiling wide with sparkling eyes. “I will!”

“Let’s go,” said Angel, though Jhémes was the one pulling her out the door, his hand gripping her arm tightly as if to not let her escape. She called over her shoulder, “Bye, uh . . . friend! See you later.”

“You got this, Angel!” said the office worker. She gave an overemphasized wink and grinned at Angel and Jhémes’s backs.

Whatever that means, thought Angel. She furrowed her eyebrows as she pondered this.

“What is Moon Café?” asked Jhémes, still pulling her briskly along.

“Oh!” Lost in her thoughts, Angel stumbled at the force, and she careened straight into Jhémes’s chest as he turned to catch her. He was warm and solid, and Angel felt as though she were breathing in a mix of pine and smoke that surrounded her like an expansive embrace. It was a far more natural and intoxicating fragrance than any high-end men’s cologne she had ever smelled at the exclusive perfume showcases her mother brought her along to every year.

“Are you all right?” he asked. His voice was somewhat muffled, and Angel realized that her face was still pressed into his clothing.

She jumped back with a gasp. “Sorry, I guess I wasn’t paying attention . . .” She trailed off as she glanced down and frowned. “Could you let go of my arm, please?”

Slowly, Jhémes released his hold on her, and Angel brushed at the wrinkles that had formed on her sleeve. She tried to resist giving her arm a light shake to relieve the lasting sensation of his nearly crushing grip. It wouldn’t look good to show any weaknesses in front of him. It felt like she was already failing at this though, with how hot her cheeks and the tips of her ears felt.

“You’re so tiny,” he commented, looking down at her. “The perfect height.” It seemed like he had snapped out of his silent mode from earlier.

Angel opened her mouth, ready to retort, but hesitated at his second sentence. What was that supposed to mean? At last, she replied, “Yes, I am the perfect height.” She lifted her chin. “So, what were you saying before this?”

Jhémes smirked, then said, “I was asking what Moon Café is.”

“Oh, it’s the on-campus café,” said Angel, waving a hand. “It’s a lovely place. You’ll see it when we get to that part of the tour.” She stepped past Jhémes and headed down the hallway. “Come on, we’ll walk around the main building first since we’re already in here.”

She stopped when she realized that the only sounds on the glossy marble tiles were the clicks of her heels. When she turned around to look at Jhémes, he was still standing in place, gazing at her with his left eyebrow raised. His scar shifted with this motion.

“What are you doing?” asked Angel, raising her own eyebrow at him.

“Aren’t you going to give me an introduction?” Jhémes asked back, folding his arms. “Shouldn’t there be some spiel you always say before you take people on the tour?”

“Well, yes, there is,” said Angel, swallowing a grimace, “but that’s not necessary right now, is it? We’re both students.” She forced a dazzling, wide smile, trying not to look like she was gritting her teeth instead.

“I actually requested this tour myself,” responded Jhémes. He shrugged with an easy grace. “It’s not something I would’ve gotten without asking for it first. Apparently, no student has ever thought to do that before. But I wanted to get to know my new school better, and I think that your tour guide script will be very educational.” He smiled sweetly, and blinked at her, his long, light eyelashes framing his piercing eyes like halos. If it had been any other girl in her place, she would have swooned and melted right there, but Angel wasn’t like other girls. She was too strong to fall for his act.

She sighed and straightened. “Fine, you get an abridged version. Hi everyone—or, uh, just one,” she gestured at Jhémes. “Welcome to Kennard International Nonaffiliated Academy, or just Kennard Academy for short. My name is Angel, and I’m your guide on today’s tour around our beautiful historic campus.

“Now before we get going, I would like to share with you some of our school's history. Kennard Academy was founded after the end of the Second Great Continental War by Frederick Nels Kennard, a knight from the kingdom of Fabia. Sir Kennard was well-known for both his martial prowess and his intellectual scholarship, and, being weary of war, he decided to create a school meant to teach the best and brightest youths of Elmere, regardless of kingdom of origin or social class. His efforts and sentiments can still be seen at Kennard Academy to this day. We pursue excellence in many important parts of society, such as diplomacy, the arts, science, and business, and we implement a well-rounded program for all students, in hopes that there never again will be a great war to tear apart our continent again.”

Angel then cleared her throat and said, “There. Happy? Let’s go.” She spun on her heel and marched off. She could hear Jhémes chuckle softly, but she ignored him.

“We’re going to start by walking through the east side classrooms,” she said, gesturing at the classrooms on either side of the hallway she entered. “On this side of the main building, we have the core subjects of social studies, composition and literature, and math. The science labs are in the middle hall, while we can pass by in just a bit. Freshmen and sophomores spend most of their time in this wing, while juniors and seniors spend less time here and more in specialized classes on the west side.”

As they passed by rows of doors and lockers, Angel’s steps slowed as they neared the math classrooms. She slipped onto Jhémes’s other side, standing right next to him so that any view of her from the windows on the classroom doors would be blocked by his towering form.

“What are you doing?” asked Jhémes, glancing down at her.

“Don’t look at me until we’re out of here,” muttered Angel. “Pretend I’m not next to you and keep walking.”

Shrugging, Jhémes obliged, but he lengthened and quickened his stride so suddenly that Angel had to nearly run to keep within his silhouette. Once they had cleared out of the math department, he halted without warning.

Angel, still riding on the momentum of having to increase speed to stay right beside him, tried to stop as well, but she somehow stumbled, tripping over her own feet—which she never, ever did. “Oh!” She thought her face would go crashing into the floor, but a pair of large, warm hands grabbed her tiny waist, completely encircling it, and pulled her upright again.

“It seems like we keep getting into these kinds of situations,” said Jhémes, the smile in his voice evident. “Your clumsiness is endearing, Angel.”

Angel pushed his hands away and kept walking as if nothing had happened. “I’m not clumsy!” she argued, feeling her lower lip jut out a little as she struggled to remain impassive. “I’m—I’m just having a bad day.”

Because of you, and because all sorts of awful things are happening to me that have never happened before.

They kept walking, with Angel pointing out the different classrooms and interesting landmarks and Jhémes quietly listening, until they finally reached the fountain in the front of the school. It was the very first thing that people saw when they entered through the front gates, and it was probably the most impressive thing on campus except for the exterior of the buildings themselves.

As they stood quietly and stared at the fountain, Angel asked, "So what made you transfer to Kennard? It's pretty late in your high school career to be switching schools."

Jhémes met her gaze with a sideways look. His expression almost reflected the one he had worn in the administrative office. "My sister."

"Oh, you have a sister?" said Angel. "That's cool—I've always wished I had one and not just my brother."

"Mmm-hmm." Jhémes fixed his eyes on the plumes of water again. "We've been homeschooled our whole lives, but she begged very hard to be allowed to go to an actual high school." He pulled his hands out of his pockets and continued walking down the pavement. "She said she would be fine on her own, but, well," he shrugged, "our father told me to keep an eye on her. So here I am."

Angel followed him and nodded slowly, running his words through her head. "I'm guessing you didn't want to be here, then?" she said, almost hopeful that he would agree.

Immediately, Jhémes’s eyes glinted like crystals under a brilliant light. His aura had changed again. He smirked and glanced down at her. "What made you think that? It was all the same to me, one way or another. But I think I've found a solid reason to look forward to my time here."

His mysterious smile sent a shiver running down Angel's spine. There was something about it that she couldn’t quite place.

“So, um, what was homeschooling like?” she asked hurriedly.

“It was fine,” he replied, waving a hand. “Father hired the best teachers he was able to teach us, but it wasn’t anything special.”

“I see,” said Angel, though she didn’t quite believe that his education could be ‘nothing special’ if he really came from an extraordinary family as Headmaster Arlov claimed. “So where are you from? What does your father do?”

Jhémes stopped and faced her. “So many questions,” he remarked, his tone almost teasing. “But we’re from Baranfall, Peaks.”

“Baranfall?” repeated Angel. She felt a little dumbfounded. Baranfall was one of the biggest cities in Peaks Kingdom, but it was infamous across Elmere for being one of the most crime and poverty-filled places in the world. Not exactly the place she envisioned him living in.

“Yes,” said Jhémes, as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. “It’s not all that bad. There are plenty of nice and fun places in the city. My father runs a business, so we live comfortably.”

“Comfortable enough to live away from all the dangerous and shady stuff, right?” pressed Angel. That made the most sense since he wasn’t a scholarship student.

Jhémes stared at her silently for an uncomfortably long few seconds. “What do you think?” he asked, tilting his head to the side.

Angel cleared her throat and looked away. "And that's about all the things you need to see around the school for now," she said hastily, beginning to walk quicker with Jhémes still close behind. "We'd better get back to the admin office and pick up our things. I want to have some time before the mock exam to get ready."

"Mock exam?" Jhémes raised an eyebrow. Angel felt a pang of disappointment when she didn't find a trace of panic or a single line of worry on his face, just curiosity. In fact, it was like a body of water on a peaceful day.

"We have a mock exam every beginning of the school year and sometime between midterms and the final exams," she explained. "They give us all an idea of how well we know the general class materials, but more importantly, they help us to score points for our teams."

Maybe I shouldn't have told him that, though, thought Angel. He's not going to be on my team, so that was as good has helping someone else.

"Okay. I heard about the teams," said Jhémes as he nodded. "It's an interesting concept, having to stick with them for all four years to potentially win a prize at graduation. Actually, that reminds me. I was given my team assignment along with my schedule.”

“Really? Whose team are you on?” asked Angel, trying to keep him from detecting the intense curiosity threatening to rise in her expression.

“You don’t know?” Jhémes tilted his head and bent down closer to Angel’s eye level. “I’m going to be the business and innovation member of Team Verity, the team that I heard is led by you.”

Angel couldn’t stop herself from covering her gaping mouth with a shaking hand. She was going to have a talk with the counselor when the exam was over.

***

“That exam was brutal,” exclaimed Bryony as the school dismissal bell rang. She and Angel stepped out of the classroom and into the throng of students in the hallway. “What did you think? It was easy for you, right?”

Angel didn’t answer, her head lowered. Bryony waved a hand in front of Angel’s eyes.

“Angel, are you okay?”

“I couldn’t think at all,” she croaked. “All I could hear in my brain was Jhémes Blake saying that he’s the new business and innovation member on our team.”

“What?” Bryony gasped. “But Dennis transferred home after our freshman year, and we’ve been fine without anyone new all this time.” Then she narrowed her eyes. “Wait—so what about your exam, then? Were you were thinking about Jhémes the whole time we were in there?”

“Yes—I mean, no! Ugh, I don’t know. I’m sure it’ll be fine,” replied Angel, waving a hand with false nonchalance.

Bryony smiled, reassured. “You’re right. It is you, after all. Come on then, let’s go check out the rankings, Miss First Place.”

“Okay,” said Angel, forcing herself to laugh. “I’ve got to go back to the Vermillion Hotel after this to get my things and check out, though, so let’s make it quick.”

They were shocked to find more students crowded around the electronic notice board than usual, seeing as rankings barely changed. In fact, the students were murmuring quite loudly, and some were shaking their heads and exchanging confused glances.

“What’s going on?” wondered Angel, while Bryony began to push forward through the crowd, pulling Angel along with her. However, Angel soon nearly collided with her friend’s ponytail when Bryony came to a sudden halt.

“Angel, uh, you might not want to look at the board just yet,” said Bryony, her face drawn as she turned to Angel and tried to steer her away.

Angel narrowed her eyes. “Why? What’s wrong?” She craned her neck to the side, clear of Bryony’s head, to take in the words right under the heading of ‘Fall Mock Exam 1.’ Immediately, she began to feel sick, and it was as though the world fell from underneath her. The digital board read,

1st place: Jhémes Blake

2nd place: Aynnhailleah Astrid

--

Previous: Episode 1.3

Next: Episode 2.1


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Sat Sep 30, 2023 12:03 am
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Ventomology wrote a review...



I'll be real with you... I still say it Jhe-mez. If I ever meet a real boy with this atrocious spelling, your novel will have ruined every interaction I ever have with him. This is so funny.

Also? Boy is not helping with the romance/rivalry situation. "Perfect height?" "Endearing?" "Solid reason to look forward to my time here?" Someone needs to teach him how to speak like a normal person. It's excellent.

One thing that I think needs to happen in this chapter, since Angel is technically giving Jhémes the tour, is that I think there needs to be some more setting description. Obviously they spend some of this time talking and getting to know one another, but it kind of happens in the void. Using the tour as an excuse, you could have very naturally brought us around at least a few new spaces in what I assume is enormous campus. They wouldn't have to be long descriptions. In fact, it might add to the humor to show Jhémes to very niche rooms that no other school would have, like... I don't know, a billiards parlor or something... and then say nothing to build on it, because obviously a billiards parlor is a totally normal thing here.

Great job introducing the idea of the sister--I think the fact that she's kind of the driver of this brother-sister pair makes her interesting before we even meet her, and so I'm already hyped for her entrance.

And last thing... gotta love that classic rivalry move with the test scores. I'm very excited to see how Angel reacts to that, since her interpretation of the feeling of competitiveness is so fun.

Great work!
-Vento




Lael says...


Thanks for the review! I actually was stuck on how to make the descriptions of the school more intricate, so I just haven%u2019t been able to make this section really good yet, haha. When I come back to revise that will be something I have to work on :)



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Tue Sep 05, 2023 6:48 pm
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WinnyWriter wrote a review...



I am once again here to leave a review :)

This was fun to read, as it gave some more insight into what's going on overall. The ending of the chapter definitely helped towards clearing up the somewhat ambiguous reasoning Angel had for feeling that Jhemes was her rival. (At least, I personally felt like it had been a bit unclear till now.)

I do have to say, though, I think Angel's reasoning for disliking Jhemes probably goes beyond even what is stated and what she even may recognize herself. I think she is frustrated with him because she finds him super attractive and doesn't want to admit it. In the beginning, when she tells her friend that Jhemes makes her feel things she never felt toward anyone before, I thought maybe she'd just never had any crushes in high school, but looking back, I think it's more likely the combination of attraction and jealousy that makes this situation unique.

Anyway, it's amusing and so cliche (because let's admit, it's kinda relatable) how Angel firmly denies that she's a little romantically interested in Jhemes and yet almost every encounter with him she's thinking about how beautiful and perfect he is. Classic. :) Also, I find that most of the time when a story's narrator (usually the main character) goes into detail on how another character smells, or when they use really specific descriptors to describe another character's eye color, that character is going to be a love interest. Angel is checking both of these boxes that indicate Jhemes is a romantic interest.

It's funny how wildly overboard people are in their interactions with Angel. First of all, her best friend always has this, like, unshakeable confidence in her and seems to see Angel as someone who can do no wrong and is incapable of failure. And then there was the office assistant, who was basically a classic fangirl. Her reactions seem disproportionately dramatic, but because this story is kind of satire, it is more excusable. Because let's face it, I don't think most people go that crazy over someone from an outdated commercial for their favorite chicken.

On the topic of the office assistant, I noticed that in the fourth paragraph you reference her as "the girl." Because there had been the interactions with the headmaster as well as Jhemes in between now and when the office assistant was last mentioned, and since this is the first mention of her in this chapter, I'd suggest referencing her as the office assistant again right here, just to remind us that there's somebody else around. Between the last chapter and the moment she's mentioned here, I kinda forgot about her, and I don't remember the narrative specifying that Angel had returned to the main office yet after her private talk with the headmaster. Anyway, that was a lot of excess words just to say I think she should be referenced a little more specifically right here rather than just starting off again by calling her "the girl."

Ah, the classic tripping and being caught by somebody attractive, the multiple bumps into them that force physical contact! These are, again, totally all the things you'd expect from a story built on tropes and someone with blatantly obvious Main Character Syndrome. I like how you make it so obvious.

I guess there are several more observations I could include, such as how Angel wants to get a read on Jhemes but he seems almost evasive, but I'll just conclude by saying that it is, once again, overall a great chapter. Spelling and punctuation seem to be on point, as usual. Keep it up!




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Sat Sep 02, 2023 9:49 am
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Lael! Lim here with a short review.

General Impressions

This was another funny chapter. Somehow I also still feel the drama of the reveals (like Jhémes being a member of Team Verity) even though they are trope-y. I feel bad for Angel losing her spot in the rankings, even though her reaction to Jhémes is also very over-the-top. I think in general Jhémes is genuinely causing her a lot of stress, but it is also very entertaining for me as a reader xD

Comedy

“I’m such a big fan—I’ve been following you since you appeared in those Fantastic Chicken ads. Because of you, it’s the only fried chicken I eat!”

I really like how she became a fan through watching Angel in a fried chicken ad (and not something like a sports performance or her dancing). It’s unexpected and silly and definitely got a laugh from me once it sunk in.

If it had been any other girl in her place, she would have swooned and melted right there, but Angel wasn’t like other girls. She was too strong to fall for his act.

Of course she’s ‘not like other girls’ xD I like how the narration itself carries the comedy and parody, complimenting the dialogue and action.

Something else I like that helps with the comedy and the story in general is your attention to detail.
gazing at her with his left eyebrow raised. His scar shifted with this motion.
^This is an example that’s not really comedy per say, but it adds a nice bit of continuity to the character’s appearance.
Angel couldn’t stop herself from covering her gaping mouth with a shaking hand.

The description in this line is specific and impresses on me how ‘big’ her reaction is, which is why I laughed.

Characters

It’s interesting that Jhémes has a sister – I wonder if she’ll become an important character in the future. I like that we’re getting more information on Jhémes that fleshes him out a bit and also establishes him as being the Stu to Angel’s Sue. He’s too cool to go to school for school’s sake, so he’s got to have a ‘mission’ there to look after his sister xD

Also, Jhémes almost seems to be deliberately annoying Angel. On the one hand, his actions might seem flirtatious like he’s trying to spend more time with her; on the other hand, that last trip was *definitely* his fault:
Once they had cleared out of the math department, he halted without warning.

And he uses that as an opportunity to call Angel clumsy. I noticed we don’t get much of Jhémes’ thoughts since this is Angel’s point of view, so I wonder what’s going through his head. Is he just trying to irritate her because he finds her reactions amusing? Hmm . . . I kind of wish we knew more about him or had more clues to help us interpret his behaviour, but maybe that’s being saved for later chapters.

Overall

I’m looking forward to how Angel deals with her decrease in rank. This feels like a harbinger to even more crazy stuff happening to her formerly very ordered life. Overall, I liked the development of the Jhémes situation in this chapter and also the funny interactions with the office worker fan.

Hope this helps – and keep writing!
-Lim





Always do what you are afraid to do.
— E. Lockhart, We Were Liars