The start of second semester was always a bit of a scheduling scramble, though this year there were rumours of something even more exciting—not that anyone knew what it was. There was simply evidence—the janitor, Mr Love, was even more unbearable than usual about the halls staying clean, the dark muttering from under his face-tentacles even more chilling than usual; Coach Igor was even harder on the casketball team; Deputy Headmaster Malthus was lurking around every corner to make sure no one was running or playing pranks; Mr Where and Mr Gray were even a little on-edge, despite usually being the nicest teachers in school.
One morning in February, too early for anyone but the band geeks and nerds who came for zero period, Draculaura happened to come in early; it was Thursday, and Thursdays were when she woke up super-early in order to spend breakfast with her nocturnal father. Happily, he usually wanted to talk about what books she was reading, or what she was writing, so there hadn’t been the usual awkward conversations about those habits of hers that he found objectionable.
It was when she was checking her writing folder to make sure she had all her notes when she saw something that made her drop her papers.
There was a bone-demon—a bone-demon—walking down the hall. He was tall, and regal, and—Draculaura couldn’t help how wide her eyes got, or how she stared—she blushed, knowing it was rude but unable to look away. He turned to look at her, and some part of Draculaura’s mind—the part that was still functioning beyond ‘ohgawdohgawdohgawd’—observed that there was another bone-demon behind him, and a girl that looked a little like Frankie.
‘Are you all right?’ he asked quietly. Draculaura’s body seemed to snap back into functioning, and she noticed her papers and notebooks in a mess around her feet. Blushing even more, she squeaked and knelt down quickly to gather them up.
‘Sorry!’ she found herself muttering, embarrassed. ‘I did not mean to stare—’
‘Don’t worry,’ he assured her, kneeling to help.
‘Oh no no, please—’ she protested, mortified. He only smiled kindly.
‘Don’t fret. It takes me a while to wake up in the morning too,’ the stitched girl said with a smile. Her companion—brother?—laughed.
‘Yeah, and about six cups of tea.’
She giggled, swatting him.
‘Are you—new students?’ Draculaura asked haltingly, trying not to sound too hopeful. It might be unseemly to seem eager….
‘Maybe,’ the boy said with a shrug; Draculaura noticed he was dressed in a rather old-fashioned style, though she couldn’t say it looked awful on him—or his sister. The boy smiled at her, and Draculaura’s heart fluttered a little.
‘We’re visiting today,’ the girl added cheerfully. ‘We’ve never been around so many monsters our age before!’
‘Well, see you,’ she said, lamely, smiling; she watched them continue down the hall, not realising she was still staring after they had turned a corner until she saw a hand waving in front of her face.
‘Hel-lo, earth to Ula-D…’ Clawdeen teased, as Draculaura blinked, coming back to reality. ‘Who did you see, ghoulfriend? One of the Jaundice Brothers?’
Draculaura sighed dreamily, still hugging her folders and notebooks. ‘Better,’ she murmured.
‘Whoa!’ Frankie had apparently arrived with Clawdeen, while Draculaura was still distracted. ‘Better than the Jaundice Brothers? Who could possibly be better than that?’
‘Skellingtons,’ Draculaura sighed.
‘Huh?’ Frankie felt like she was missing something.
But Clawdeen was gasping. ‘Ooooh, Frankie, only the most royal-est monsters ever!’ She grabbed Draculaura’s hands, jumping up and down. ‘This is creepariffic!’ she squealed, voice dangerously close to a howl.
‘What are we so excited about?’ Lagoona asked as she arrived, having seen Clawdeen’s gleeful bouncing from down the hall.
‘There are Skellingtons visiting!’ Frankie said, excited without knowing precisely what the big deal was. She did know that she liked being excited, and that Draculaura seemed very happy, which made her happy. Lagoona looked just as pleased, though Frankie had observed she was more languid than her friends. Maybe it had something to do with being from the water….
‘Scary cool!’ she commented. ‘I remember Dad told me the king got married and stuff just before I was spawned.’ She laughed softly. ‘I never realised he might want his kids to come here!’
‘My uncle Dmitri told me all about them,’ Draculaura gushed. ‘How cute they were as babies—they’re positively biteable now—at least,’ she added, blushing. ‘The boy I met was.’
‘Tell the truth, his dad is fangtastic,’ Clawdeen giggled.
‘Totally,’ Lagoona agreed, before wondering if Frankie had been told about the Skellingtons yet. ‘Jack Skellington is the King of Halloween, Frankie. It’s really important.’
‘Yeah, he’s even more royal than Cleo,’ Clawdeen added snidely.
‘Who’s more royal than me?’ Cleo had come up behind Clawdeen while she’d been talking, and the other girls had been trying to think of a way to let the werewolf know without saying anything, but it was too late. Clawdeen turned around with a smile that was more baring of teeth than grin.
‘Draculaura says there’s Skellingtons visiting,’ she said smugly.
‘Oh,’ Cleo said, carelessly. ‘How nice to have some quality at the school.’
‘They are only visiting,’ Draculaura felt she should insist, lest anyone get their hopes up.
‘I bet they’re also looking at Chimera Preparatory,’ Lagoona said with a nod; the rival school caused instinctive sneers or snarls from all assembled—Lagoona knew it would, and hoped the universal dislike of CPS would make Cleo and Clawdeen forget about fighting.
‘Well,’ Cleo sniffed. ‘It isn’t as though anyone who’s anyone goes there. It’s only the nouveau riche.’ She regarded Draculaura and tried not to look too interested. ‘So, are they visiting today?’
Draculaura put a finger to her lips—it was the only remnant of her erstwhile habit of biting her nails. ‘I think so… they are here today, and said they were visiting….’
‘Ghoulia would know,’ Cleo said with a nod.
‘I can’t wait to meet them!’ Frankie said as the bell rang. ‘Come on!’ she pulled excitedly at Lagoona’s hand—they had first period together—and all this talk had made her giddy. She pulled a little hard, though, and her stitches popped a little. ‘Oh not again!’
‘Need a tack?’ came a soft, low voice. Draculaura recognised the girl from before—she was tall, with her long fiery hair in a plain braid down her back. Her pallid skin was stitched neatly, the seams all turned in, and she held a threaded needle up with a friendly tilt to her brows.
‘I—uh—’ Frankie had never met someone like herself before. She didn’t know what to say. ‘Sure,’ she managed. ‘Thanks!’ she added, remembering it was polite. ‘But hurry, I have to get to class and Mister Gray doesn’t like when people are late.’
Her narrow fingers flew around Frankie’s wrist, and she deftly tied a knot and snipped the excess in a matter of seconds, the items slipping back into her pocket like she was attached to them.
‘Wow, that was scary cool,’ Frankie said, amazed. ‘Can you teach me?’
She gave a soft laugh behind one hand, her cheeks flushing slightly violet. ‘Thank you, I didn’t know it was special. I’m Eulalie Skellington. Did you say you had Mister Gray’s class? I think I’m supposed to visit there first.’
‘You’re Princess Skellington?’ Clawdeen yelped. The girl looked away modestly, toying with the strap of her old-fashioned messenger bag.
‘Oh, please…’ she said modestly. ‘Just Eulalie.’
The second bell rang, and the girls scattered, calling out promises to meet for lunch. Frankie and Lagoona headed off with Eulalie, who seemed more than a little shy. Frankie could understand.
‘Are you from a small town?’ she asked, knowing that was the closest common environment to hers—not everyone was born in a basement, after all.
Eulalie nodded. ‘There’s more students at this school than there are people in my hometown,’ she joked with a nervous smile, looking at all the other kids, who were watching her with interest as she walked by. ‘I don’t really know what to do… I’m not used to being stared at.’
‘It’s okay, you get used to it,’ Frankie said lightly, taking her hand.
‘They’re staring because you’re scary cool,’ Lagoona put in with a friendly smile.
‘I feel like they’re staring at my clothes,’ Eulalie murmured, her cheeks violet with embarrassment. She’d thought her school clothes were pretty, just like the engravings in her Victorian storybooks, but the kids here seemed dressed very differently, and she felt very clumsy in her ankle-length burnt-pumpkin orange dress and black pinafore. True, there was intricate embroidery and lace she’d tatted herself, as well as a carved cameo at her throat; but everyone here was in such bright colours, and short skirts or trousers, and nothing so formal as what she was wearing.
‘Don’t worry,’ Frankie said again, as they got to their classroom. ‘You look pretty and…’ she cast around for a word. She did think Eulalie was pretty in her dress, but it was a different sort of pretty, something more… more something, she just didn’t know what.
‘Refined,’ Lagoona said, as she opened the door to the classroom.
‘Just in time,’ Mr Gray said with a smile, the roll-sheet in his slim hands. ‘Good morning, Miss Stein, Miss Blue. And welcome, Miss Skellington.’
The class went quiet in a hush, students craning to get a look at the tall, red-haired princess. Eulalie was blushing, but pleased that the teacher had called her ‘Miss’ and not ‘Highness’ or ‘Princess’. She didn’t mind being a princess, but her parents were insistent that rank didn’t come into things all the time, especially since education and knowledge made all beings equal.
‘Good morning,’ she said, a little scared when her friends made their way to their seats, leaving her up in front of the class alone with the teacher. She tried to hold herself with grace and refinement befitting a young lady, and straightened, forcing herself to stop pulling nervously at her fingers and poise her hands elegantly at her sides. ‘It’s so lovely to meet you,’ she added.
‘Enchanté’ he said gently, kissing her hand. ‘You have the manners of a princess, Miss Skellington.’
‘I… I try,’ Eulalie stammered. She smiled at the class, though she was nervous (and suddenly realised how brave her father must be, to address everyone in Town Meetings from his podium). ‘My name is Eulalie, I’m from Halloweentown. I hope we can be friends,’ she added, surprised at how clear her voice was. ‘Even though I’m only here for today.’
‘We do too!’ Frankie called exuberantly, her smile so wide she thought it might pop some stitches. ‘Can—’ she checke herself at Mr Gray’s raising brow. ‘May Eulalie sit here with me, please?’
He smiled approvingly. ‘I think that would be well, yes.’ He pulled a small tome from his drawer, offering it. ‘This is our text, Miss Skellington.’
She took it with thanks and retreated, sitting gratefully next to Frankie. She’d never been in a real classroom, there was almost too much to see and observe. Soon, though, Mr Gray began his lesson; which didn’t seem to refer to the text at all. Eulalie was entranced as she quickly discovered the class was about humans. She adored humans—it was something her father had impressed in her—and she started taking furious notes after Frankie nudged her and lent her a pen and notebook.
Draculaura was almost disappointed that she didn’t get to share class with the princess Skellington, though she did have to hush Clawdeen gently when the werewolf got a little too abrasive with her comments about Eulalie’s dress.
‘She was perfectly lovely,’ Draculaura insisted, her voice soft, but firm. ‘Her corset fit her splendidly, and everything. She is just old-fashioned, Clawdeen.’
‘Ghoul should get with the times, is all I’m sayin’,’ Clawdeen said, but she went quiet and added, softer. ‘I liked all that detail-work.’ It was a peace offering. ‘I wonder if she did it herself—did you see how fast she was sewin’ up Frankie?’
‘I wouldn’t be surprised,’ Draculaura said thoughtfully.
‘I can’t imagine sewing my own things,’ Cleo said, slightly disdainful. ‘What must her parents think.’
‘She did say her mother sewed as well,’ Draculaura reasoned.
‘I hear the king married a common girl,’ Cleo went on. ‘Father was scandalised.’
Clawdeen rolled her eyes. Draculaura didn’t say anything, thinking.
‘Uncle Dmitri,’ she began carefully. ‘told us Queen Sally is a natural queen, and very pretty. Oh!’ she said. ‘And he said she was a ragdoll. That must mean she comes apart, like Frankie. No wonder Eulalie was not surprised.’
‘But why are her stitches all neat?’
‘Maybe her mother sewed her together?’ Draculaura postulated, just as they got to the door of Ms Arach’s chemistry classroom. Deuce was leaning against it, and smiled at them.
‘Morning, babe.’ He leaned over and kissed his girlfriend’s cheek. ‘Hey girls.’ He opened the door, letting them go in first—Cleo, of course, took the lead.
‘Someone is in my seat!’ Cleo hissed, as she saw the green-haired girl. Clawdeen and Draculaura just headed for their seats, but Cleo looked plaintively at her boyfriend. ‘She’s in my seat, Deuce!’ her voice fluttered. ‘Make her move!’
The girl had heard, and smirked insolently, eyeing Deuce. ‘Bring it.’
Deuce hesitated; he didn’t want to be impolite to a lady, but he didn’t like being around Cleo in… eruption… either. ‘Why don’t we…’ but there were no more seats together. ‘Um….’
Cleo huffed impatiently, stalking over to the green-haired girl. ‘I am Cleo de Nile,’ she announced, tossing her head. ‘princess of Ancient Egypt, and you are in. My. Seat.’ She glowered.
‘Oooh,’ the girl drawled. ‘I’m shakin’ down to my boots. There’s a seat nexta me, princess.’
Eyes snapping narrow, Cleo’s voice went dangerously sweet. ‘I’m afraid I didn’t notice,’ she crooned. ‘You seem to be taking up both spaces.’
There was the crackle of electricity, and sparks jumped through the fluffy mass of green hair. The girl pushed herself up, and Cleo realised she was taller than Deuce, and her being fat just made her seem bigger. ‘Say that again,’ her voice crackled with rage, and she looked… dangerous.
‘Is there a problem, girls?’ Ms Arach arrived fashionably late as usual, her low voice barely above a whisper, but penetrating to the very corners of the room.
‘Someone is in my assigned seat, Miz Arach.’
‘Ah,’ the chemistry teacher glided toward them, her feet invisible beneath the hem of her clinging black silk dress. ‘I believe this is one of the visiting students.’
‘Shock,’ the girl said with a nod. She tilted her head toward the back of the classroom. ‘My brother’s up there somewhere.’
‘Yo,’ came a voice, and a boy with long red hair that radiated dangerous suavity gave a lazy salute with the tip of his long black tail. ‘I got an empty seat up here, princess,’ he flashed a smirk, yellow eyes flirtatious.
‘Mm,’ Ms Arach hummed, looking between them. ‘Deuce, go up and sit with—ah, what was your brother’s name?’
‘Casanova,’ he called, and there were a few stifled giggles. Shock rolled her eyes.
‘Lock,’ she told the teacher, who nodded.
‘Deuce, sit with Lock. Cleo—’
There was a soft moan, and Ghoulia stood up.
‘That’s very kind of you, Ghoulia,’ Ms Arach said. ‘Cleo, take Ghoulia’s spot.’
Cleo sighed, but it was half in relief—she hadn’t been looking forward to being forced into such an insolent, ugly girl’s company. Princesses did not sit next to fat commoners. She went up a few rows and tried not to fidget as Ghoulia made her way down the row—she knew the zombie couldn’t help it, but honestly she was slow.
Finally, everyone was sorted out and Ms Arach went back to the front of the classroom. ‘Lock, Shock, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourselves, before we begin?’
‘Age before beauty,’ Shock snarked, looking up at her brother, who only tossed her a fanged grin.
‘Lock,’ he said, tail swishing through the air as he leaned on one hip. ‘I’ve been trainin’ to be a blacksmith, I can out-prank and out-curse any of ya, and oh yeah,’ he pretended to just notice his tail. ‘I’m an incubus.’
As he sat back down, more than a few girls were leering dreamily at him. Shock sighed, getting up.
‘I’m Shock; I have to live with that,’ she said, jerking her thumb at her brother. ‘I’m a seamstress an’ come up with the best plans,’ she glanced smugly at Lock, who stuck out a pointed tongue. ‘And…’ she cast around for something impressive. ‘I’ve been invited to apprentice to Eros’ tailor.’
Deuce inhaled sharply. ‘Whoa,’ he said, impressed. A few other Greek kids were also murmuring interestedly.
‘You mean you’ve met him?’ one faun-girl said breathlessly.
‘Sure,’ Shock said with a shrug, though she was dripping with self-satisfaction. ‘Lots of times.’ She left out that usually Eros was visiting Jack or that she was usually in Kissingtown for sewing supplies.
‘Let’s not pester them with questions,’ Ms Arach said, before things could get out of hand. She smiled politely at them. ‘Welcome to Monster High, both of you. Now,’ she said, turning to the black-board and scribbling an equation. ‘I believe we were studying the transformative effects of heat on various common solutions…’
Shock noticed that Ghoulia was, for all that she looked brain-dead, taking furious notes in neat shorthand, as fast as she could. Shock listened, half-interested in the lecture but not really following it. She used her time to observe the rest of the class. That princess was glaring daggers at her—whatever, she didn’t matter. Shock tried to shake the feeling of self-consciousness at the girl’s nasty insult, looking away. There were a few kids with horns and hooves, a cyclops, a couple of vampires… where were the cool kids? Lock was already stirring up trouble, using his tail to tug at the pigtails of a vampire girl with pink stripes in her hair… that wolf-girl next to her looked promising, and so did the snake-haired boy next to Lock. Maybe they could hang out, though if it meant hanging out with Cleo, Shock would skip it and make her own fun.
At a pause, Shock looked over as Ghoulia nudged her; the zombie girl had gotten out a notebook and a pen, and set them carefully in front of Shock.
‘Thanks,’ Shock muttered, opening the notebook. Ghoulia’s neat handwriting was on the first page.
Cleo can be a little callous at times; I’m fairly certain it’s because she doesn’t know any better, so don’t take it too much to heart.
I know the lecture will bore you—in medias res, any class is platitudinous; I’m sure Ms Arach wouldn’t mind if you doodled in my notebook. I always purchase superfluous ones for the beginning of the semester.
Shock was surprised at the eloquence—luckily she’d learned to read a few years ago, when all the Skellington kids were learning. She carefully wrote back, letting out her ire; Ghoulia seemed like a nice girl, and soon, after the vitriolic curses sputtered and died, Shock’s pen began sketching the girl beside her.
Shock had always been fond of drawing, and she had a natural talent for translating what she saw into what she drew. Ghoulia was quickly sketched and first came the layers of foundation that would make way for flattering gowns, skirts ending at knee or mid-calf to make sure she wouldn’t trip on petticoats, sleeves and cuffs unfettered with trimmings that she might have hands free to write. Shock didn’t notice class had ended until she heard a soft moan. Shock smiled, nudging the girl gently.
‘I design clothes,’ she said in reply.
Ghoulia mentioned, flustered, that no one had ever even offered to take her shopping. Shock raised a brow, snorting.
‘Some friends,’ she muttered.
Ghoulia defended them, saying she’d never shown interest in fashion, so it made sense. Besides, shopping for herself was frustrating even for her, taking hours and hours since contorting to reach zippers and crawl into the more experimental garments was an impossibility.
‘I’ll teach ‘em how to dress someone, then,’ Shock said, closing the notebook. ‘Everyone deserves nice clothes. Anyway, you don’t wanna get stuff off the rack—bespoke fits much better.’ She grinned. ‘And I’ve just been dressin’ me an’ two other girls for years, so don’t give me all that polite crap about me putting myself out for ya.’
Ghoulia murmured as she carefully packed her things back in her backpack. Shock looked around and noticed the class was mostly empty, except for the few other zombie students. Well, that’d be the way she’d show that bitch, Cleo. Shock wasn’t convinced that these friends of Ghoulia’s were real friends. Even though she was admittedly a bitch herself, Shock wouldn’t just up and abandon a friend who couldn’t keep up. She didn’t even do that to her brothers, even back when they were all working for Oogie. Sure she threatened it a lot, but she never really did it.
Ghoulia assured Shock that she didn’t have to wait. Shock just shrugged.
‘Ain’t got anywhere with better company to be,’ she flirted with a lopsided grin, leaning back in her chair.