Thursday, April 25th — Collège Françoise Dupont, Paris, France.
The silence of the classroom is deafening.
Marinette deflates after the ordeal of explaining, passing a hand over her eyes to rid herself of the angry, bitter tears, before resting on top of the table — formed in fists. Now that she's got it out, now that it isn't suffocating her anymore (for the moment), she feels raw and utterly exposed like this. There's still tears flowing, and she feels like if she attempts to speak, she'll sound exactly how she feels at the moment — broken, and fraying at the seams.
She can't bring herself to look at the woman, not when she's poured her heart out and is so vulnerable; so she casts her eyes everywhere — the window on the right, displaying the warm light of the setting sun. The tick-tick-tick of the clock, which reads five-fifteen. Her teacher's tall glass of water, its condensation slowly descending until it accompanied its fallen brethren, becoming a part of the pooling around the glass' base.
The call of her name is what makes her redirect her attention — after a great deal of hesitation — to stare her teacher in the face once more. Her lovely, lovely teacher, who was now watching her with intensified dismay.
"Marinette...I — " Mme. Caline Bustier exhales, before placing her hands over the girl's and Marinette really had to fight to keep the newly-produced tears at bay. No one had yet to comfort her like this — as if they were genuinely listening to her. "— I truly had no idea. If I had known I would have — I'm so sorry."
The hands tightened around hers, and the girl attempted a wobbly, yet grateful smile towards her. "You didn't know."
Because really — Lila was an incredible liar, and so much more manipulative than most people (a certain blonde haired boy) seemed willing to credit her. She was kept alive by the various students who were too trusting to actually check her (too blind, too afraid, too deceived). But even Marinette had her fucking limits — there was a point where she grew tired of constantly filtering her words. Constantly checking her emotions. Constantly being cast in a negative light for not putting up with her bullshit anymore.
Taking the high road wasn't the wrong way to go about this, but it was too convenient. And she had had enough.
"No," Caline said, firmly. "I should have done more as your teacher. The fact that you were so backed into a corner that you felt as if you couldn't come to me, or Mlle. Mendeleiev — you were almost akumatized — " Her teal eyes were cold as they bore into her desk. "It wouldn't have taken me so long to check Mlle. Rossi's records to prove her medical issues, or check her absences. Or even oversee the seating arrangement properly instead of leaving it to everyone."
The girl says nothing in response because — it really wouldn't have.
The older woman exhales yet again, eyeing her. "Do your parents know? Would you like me to talk to them for you?"
She manages a nod, "They do."
That explanation had turned out much like this one had — after a truly harrowing afternoon where everything had just gotten too much, she had only kept herself together up until she reached the bakery, where she promptly broke down. Both her loving, amazing parents had comforted her throughout her uncontrollable sobbing, with embraces that were full of comfort and safety before she was able to tell them everything. She could still remember her father's soothing head pats while her mother asked her what she wanted to do. "They want to follow whatever I decide."
"And that is?"
Marinette looked at their joined hands again. "I think — I think it would be best if I transferred to a new school."
Caline's shoulders drooped, and it was a long moment before she spoke again. "Are you sure? This won't go unpunished, Marinette. I will be speaking to M. Damocles about this, and Mlle. Rossi will be harshly dealt with —"
"I don't doubt that, Mme. Bustier, but...I can't — " She closes her eyes, " — I can't stay in this class anymore. Or this school."
And she truly couldn't. Not with Lila still reigning terror. Not with her classmates opposing her at every turn. If she just left the class, they'd question her at every turn. She'd never escape them. While yes, they themselves might not have known the extent to Lila's lies, or even afraid to confront her; there's the glaring fact that most actually thought her so horrible to hate on a new student for no reason . She was never so brutal to Chloe of all people, and yet, no one thought to question her reluctance to warm up to Lila. They — Alya — attributed her dislike of the girl for fucking jealously —
She flinched. She couldn't open that bag of hurt just yet.
The woman cleared her throat, eyes saddened. "I — I understand. I still will deal with Mlle. Rossi personally. Do you — " There was a pause, where Marinette noticed just how torn up about this her teacher really was, as the woman cleared her throat a couple of times, the setting sun causing her eyes to be hidden behind a shadow. "Have you found any schools to your liking?"
She shook her head. "Not yet."
"I could — I could help you with that. There are many great schools that may be suited for you, especially pertaining to Arts and Design." Caline eyes found hers. "I can work with you and your parents on finding the perfect school where you can truly feel at ease again. You deserve that at least."
Marinette's eyes misted once more. "Thank you."
Mme. Bustier tightened her grip.
Through constant back and forth, and even in-house visits from her teacher, they had gone over numerous schools in the surrounding area. It had taken a while before they finally settled on one — École Louise Vallayer-Coster pour Les Arts.
Mme. Bustier directed her to the school's official website, that depicted their well-rounded vision:
"At École Louise Vallayer-Coster pour Les Arts; we primarily cultivate students' artistic interests and goals while still providing enriching academic electives and after-school clubs and activities. Design and the arts — Performing and Visual, are part of our collège academic requirements to encourage all students’ creative expression, as we believe in making the students the best they could be — artistically."
The collège certainly sounded amazing — it was a private school, but was incredible in its size. Many of the students attending were on the richer spectrum of things, but it didn't discriminate on which people they accepted. It had an amazing success rate, and many fashion designers, singers, and actors came from it. It was slightly more expensive than Collège Françoise Dupont — something that Marinette was alarmed at and tried to pretend as if she wasn't enamored with the school already — but they were adamant. If it meant their daughter's happiness, they would invest in the school.
Marinette allows herself to cry.
With the help of Mme. Bustier; an interview is arranged with the school's principal — a Monsieur Moreau, and by the end of the week she's enrolled in, an acceptance letter in the mail. The woman additionally speaks with Monsieur Damocles in getting Marinette out, and the girl goes to school to gather her things from her locker (at the end of the day, after everyone's gone from the school).
Mme. Bustier wishes her good luck, sadness etched in her features. She gives the woman a hug, thankful for her help towards the end.
Her parents say they'll buy her a new phone, one that will only have Mme. Bustier and their numbers on it, as her other one is getting filled with messages from her classmates (mostly Adrien) asking if she's sick. She eyes them — the unread text from Adrien: hey, i have the homework that due monday i can bring it for you if you want, Juleka's unread hey marinette are you okay? and Alya's —
She exhales and shoves the phone in one of her drawers. She can't bring herself to fully delete them, or even throw it away. Besides, Jagged and Penny's numbers are on there, as well as Nadja Chamack's. She'll have to put them on her new phone when she gets it. She spends some time contemplating the years of pictures she has with her past classmates (the class picture, a few of her and Alya, some of her, Alya, Nino and Adrien, among others) —
I only tell people what they want to hear.
She eventually throws them in the same drawer. She'll eventually get rid of them.
Her room was much different, now that pictures of her classmates were gone from her walls. They were now filled with new ideas, and inspirations for designs, as well as pictures of her past designs for Jagged. Since this school was all about "making students the best they could be — artistically", she needed to be on top of things.
Marinette eyes herself in her full-length mirror, eyes staring at her reflection as Tikki flies up to embrace her jaw. She had certainly felt lighter, after finally getting somewhere. She's wasn't completely healed — no not yet — but for the moment, she felt like she get through the day again. And that was enough.
Mlle. Marinette Dupain-Cheng was going to erase herself from this narrative. And she wasn't going to give anyone a heads up.
Let them all wonder what just made her up and leave.