Emma groaned as she noticed a cover teacher at the front of the classroom, not the usual Professor Hidgens. This was the 9th time this month he’d been absent and her grades were flopping whilst others were rising. She just didn’t understand the new methods of learning. She understood Hidgens’ though. Hidgens’ methods were taking over complicated techniques and explaining them in a simple way. Like a 2+2=4 simple way. And that’s how Emma understood. Just recently, she’d heard other professors talking about Henry’s mental health issues and how he’d done horrific things to his body that don’t involve bleeding out or vomiting. She became worried. She’d gotten him groceries once before and she’d do it again. So that’s what she did.
She bought as much as she could carry, as much as she could buy, and got in her car just praying she hadn’t done anything stupid. She reached her professors house. It was a cabin on the outskirts of uptown Hatchetfield in the middle of the woods. It appeared abandoned, but upon further inspection you could see the gates and the borders hiding the cabin away. She parked her car and grabbed the bags, hanging them on her arm and approaching the gate. She pressed the button, alerting him there was someone at his gate. The intercom crackled. “Who is it.”
His tired voice became a sigh.
“Professor Hidgens? It’s Emma Perkins.” She paused. “I have your groceries?” There was an even longer pause, filled with more tension, until the gates rolled open. She smiled and walked in, pushing the front door open.
She laid the bags on the side in his kitchen and began searching for him. “Professor Hidgens?!” She called. No reply. She began searching for him, in his living room, in the bathrooms, in his underground laboratory, even on the upper floor. She went to open one door but it was locked shut. She tried again. Still locked she scoffed at herself, what did she expect? She knocked gently. “Professor?” Her voice was soft, compared to her normal voice being harsh and sarcastic. There was a pause, yet again, before the rattling or chains commenced from within the walls of the forbidden room. The door swung open and there he was. Henry Hidgens, her favourite Professor, there but not quite. His bright eyes hidden by dark shadows beneath them, his hair matted, his skin more wrinkled. But the most obvious difference was the weight loss. Even through his many layers of clothing, it was visible how ill he looked. There was a silence lasting a few minutes or so before Emma acted. She punched him lightly before pulling him into a hug. “You fucking scared me! You’re the only professor I give a shit about and you just vanish!” She pulled away and he winced.
“It’s okay. Your groceries are downstairs. Here’s my number. And you’d better message me! Bye Professor!” She smiled spinning on her heel and leaving
So Emma and Henry began talking platonically. It was mainly Emma begging for extra help on her exam prep. But then Henry’s birthday was approaching and Emma knew this. For the past several years, Henry had spent his birthday with his friends. Greg, Steve, Stu, Mark And Leighton And....Chad. Chad. It had to be chad didn’t it? Perfect chad with his perfect hair and perfect eyes and perfect build and perfect voice and perfect courier and perfect everything. And chad...chad was gone. Henry bit the inside of his lip hard. Chad was gone. Chad was dead. Chad was in a hit and run a few years ago, ending his and chads relationships instantly. He didn’t get there in time to hear his last words. Chad. Chad was gone. Henry slowly started tapping on the bedside table to the left of him, anxiously chewing on his fingernails on his free hand. That was when the buzzer buzzed again. “Who is it?!” He called anxiously.
“Professor? It’s Emma Perkins.” Emma. Of course it would be Emma. Part of him relaxed. “I’ll let you in.” He said. He quickly got changed and walked downstairs to greet her. She was dragging a bundle of presents behind her. His eyes widened in shock. “Hey Professor!” She smiled, dragging them through the door. She shut the door, a sweat on her forehead. He smiled.
“Emma...what is all this?”
“This, is for you.”
She wouldn’t leave until he opened them all. And then there was one. It was in a cage. “Oh! Professor be careful!” Emma said. Confused, Henry began unwrapping it. There was a pigeon inside. A beautiful pigeon. One with glimmering grey feathers that shone an elegant green and purple once the light reflected upon them. He smiled. “Emma I-I dont know what to say!”
“I do. Give her a name.” She smirked.
“I-“ he took a moment. “Alexa.”
“Alexa it is then.”
From that day forth, Alexa was Henry’s musician buddy, cooing his show tunes to wake him up. His personal alarm clock. She liked to come to school with him too. It made the students more invested in their work too. In a way, Alexa had saved them all. But most importantly, it had saved him. And it was all because of a student who cared too damn much.