The ancient Greeks believed humans once had four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces. We were happy. Complete. So complete that the gods, fearing our wholeness would quell our need for worship, cleaved us in two, leaving our split selves to wander the earth in misery. Forever longing. Longing for the other half of our soul. It is said that when one half finds its other there's an unspoken understanding. A unity. And each would know no greater joy than this.
Of course, the ancient Greeks never attended Mystic Falls High, where every school year was just filled with more and more hormones, and a never-ending popularity contest. High school.
Josie Saltzman wasn't one of the most popular kids in school, in fact, she was more of an outcast. But whatever it is that she's seen as, there is no doubt she is one of the smartest kids in her class, maybe even the whole school. Which is why when her parents decided to get a divorce and separated her from her twin, Lizzie, and she had to stay with her father, who happens to be struggling with money, she didn't think twice before deciding that she could use her brain to make money off of some of the other kids in her grade, which happened to be struggling to keep up with assignments most of the time.
When her parents told her and Lizzie that they were getting divorced, they thought they would stick together, as they've always done, but seeing Alaric so broken convinced her otherwise, no matter how hard things were, she would keep him company, Lizzie had always been closer than her to Caroline anyway. So when her father announced that they were moving to Mystic Falls, Josie kept her mouth shut, no mater how much it hurt to be away from her mother and twin. When they got to Mystic Falls, Alaric got a job in railroad, it was supposed to be a starting point, but he's been stuck there for years now.
This is what brings Josie, wanting to help out with rent, to start witting papers for her classmates, job she has been perfecting for a couple of years now. Students would send her money and instructions, and she would help them ace any assignment.
As of one of her most recent papers, Josie sat writing an essay on Plato's philosophy of love, criticizing ancient philosopher's works appeared to be one of her favorite activities. Convinced that the idea of finding one's other half to feel complete, was ridiculous, she turned more to Camus' theory that life is irrational, and meaningless. Adding another A-plus paper to the pile.
The day started like any other, she woke up, got to doing her chores, except for her laundry, and head off to school on her bike. She got to see part of town on her way to school, green fields next to the concrete road was a contrast that made everything feel better than it actually was, as she lived a few minutes out of town, she had to stick to a schedule every morning before class. As she passed Carson Gravel and a few hundreds of trees on her way, a truck passed by her, yelling dumb nicknames at her.
"Why so salty Saltzman?" yelled one of the kids as the other laughed at the comment.
Josie kept her eyes on the road as mumbled a quiet "Idiots..." at the sight of her classmates.
The tall brunette sat through her first classes of the day taking notes, everything important the teacher said, she wrote down, every single detail she could use in the future in one of the multiple papers she's scheduled to write. Getting to music class was always a relief, she didn't have to do much there, she's always loved music, not to mention that she got to play the piano, one of her favorite instruments.
Music class was the period she usually used to deliver the papers she had already finished and thus getting her payment.
"Fantastic. The angels weep with joy." mister Flores, the music teacher, had always been a bit too dramatic for everyone's taste. "Next up, the winter talent show. Mandatory for all seniors."
At the sound of the word "mandatory", Josie recoiled in her seat, as much as she loves music and playing different instruments, she'd much rather do it in the tranquility of her own bedroom, or the back of the classroom, where she could just hide from others' gazes.
"This is your last chance to strut your stuff. Mandatory."
As the teacher continued explaining the way the talent show would work, when and where it would take place, Josie took this as the chance to distribute the assignments she had been payed for. She started handing the different papers to the students sitting next to her, who would keep them moving until these reached their destination, the students paying for the service. The classroom became filled with essays going around and chatter erupted, as it always did when mister Flores would start talking about stuff.
As whispers filled the classroom, so did laughter when Josie was the joke. Dana, one of the most popular girls in school poking fun at the Saltzman twin as she sent her fellow classmates a so called "nerd alert".
"Is there a problem?" Mister Flores asked the students as he realized that no one was paying attention to him.
Josie rolled her eyes as the whole class replied at the same time saying no. Maybe if they actually payed attention to the teachers they wouldn't need her to do almost every single assignment for them.
One of the papers got to the hands of its now owner, Rafael Waithe, the most popular kid in school, Josie had been writing his papers for as long as she can remember, he was probably his most loyal buyer, so definitely not the brightest kid in the class, but one of the richest and most desired ones for sure.
Josette's gaze fixed on him for a couple of seconds, thinking how could he be the most popular dude in the school, but even she had to admit that even if he was dense as shit, he had a million dollar smile. But her eyes landed soon after on Hope Mikaelson, another senior, and Rafael's girlfriend. Hope wasn't focusing on the class either, her head down and her eyes fixed on the book on her hands, she looked peaceful, beautiful even, and Josie couldn't help but stare.
The brunette was brought off of her trance as soon as mister Flores started giving instructions "Let's all turn to page 49."
The classroom was shortly after filled with music, and Josie couldn't help but gaze back at the redhead girl that had had her attention on a book just prior. Hope Mikaleson's voice was easy to distinguish from everyone else's as the choir started singing "Annie's Song", she hit every note perfectly. The brunette couldn't look away from blue eyes and full lips, she was wearing her hair down in perfectly curved waves, as usual, a grey sweater and some jeans, but to Josie she always looked gorgeous.
But the Saltzman girl wasn't the only one whose attention had been grabbed by Hope, outside of the classroom, in the football field, was Landon Kirby, part of Mystic Falls High's football team, the Timberwolves, listening to the redhead's beautiful voice through an open window. As soon as he realized who the owner of the voice was, he couldn't help but smile, his thoughts having been invaded by the Mikaleson girl for the past few months.
Landon's trance was cut short by the football coach calling his name due to his abrupt stop, so the boy went back to running and training.
Chapter 2: who writes letters these days?
As soon as the bell rang indicating the ending of the current period, students filled the school's hallways, but even in the sea that was Mystic Falls High, Landon's eyes soon landed on the person he was looking for, Josette Saltzman, who had her back turned to the curly haired boy, facing the wall at the end of the hallway, where the announcements were posted.
Josie knew she had to sign up for the winter talent show, mostly because it was mandatory, as it was written in big red letters on the sheet. Most people were joining the talent show in groups, as it was probably encouraged, but the brunette doesn't really have many options anyway having in mind she doesn't get along with anyone in the school. After looking at the sheet for a couple more seconds than necessary, thinking about excuses she could give the teacher so she wouldn't have to participate, she decided to just write down her name and get over with it, knowing she had no way of escaping the activity. Her handwriting neat and organized made a contrast against her classmates' messy calligraphy, and her name sat lonely in the sea of friend groups who had already signed up for it.
The halls were starting to get empty shortly after, the students having already gone to their next period.
"We are the source of our own hell"
The classroom has never been as silent as it is now with Emma Tig, the teacher, talking about Jean-Paul Sartre's play, No Exit. Josie sat in her usual spot at the back of the room observing how every student was in their own worlds, just waiting for the bell to ring indicating that class was over so they could finally go home after a day of sitting on their asses learning probably not as much as they should, and ignoring their responsibilities.
How did they even get to senior year?
A question Josie has been asking herself for the longest time now. She let her mind wonder for not more than a couple seconds before the bell rang, dismissing all the students for the day.
"Five hundred words on Sartre's use of thwarted desire, Monday."
More assignments, more work for Josie, which also meant more money, so she couldn't really complain. It only took the class less than a minute to leave the classroom, and just as everyone left, too busy talking about their own stuff to even hear anyone else, Josie approached Mis Tig's desk, as she usually did after a class, wether it was to discuss something about the class that had just ended or about the brunette's future.
"Six different takes on Plato. Impressive." After a few years of grading papers, it was pretty obvious for Miss Tig that most of the essays her students were handing her hadn't been written by them, but actually by Josette Saltzman, who she's always recognized as one of her brightest students, even if she didn't really participate in class unless it was completely necessary.
"Just the one." Even if Miss Tig knew Josette's "secret", she would never admit it in front of her.
"That's what I tell the bartender." After years of knowing each other, Miss Tig had gotten way more comfortable around Josie, comments like these were a given between them now, the majority of them always said by the teacher, as the Saltzman girl always tried to treat her with as much respect as she could, but that didn't stop her from sending some remarks her way.
"How come you never turn me in?" With curiosity getting the best of her, the brunette decided to ask about something that had been in her mind for a while now, along with a shy chuckle, knowing that the older woman sitting in the desk behind front of her would probably just reply with a snarky comment.
"And have to read the actual essays they'd write?" A humorless laugh leaving Miss Tig's lips along with that.
Emma Tig had been trying to convince Josie to apply to different colleges she thought matched her student's potential for months now, she couldn't stop bringing it up with the hope that maybe one of these days Josette would actually give at least one of them a proper thought. And today wasn't any different, as soon as she had the opportunity, she slid a couple of sheets that were being held together by a clip. Josette knew her intentions so well she wasn't even surprised when she grabbed it and read the words "Grinnell College" at the top of the first page, instantly putting it back down on the desk.
"You know I'm going to E-dub. Full ride. I can live at home and, plus, I get to stay in lovely Squahamish" The brunette had decided this a long time ago, knowing that this allowed her to stay in town and more importantly, close to her father, who she promised herself years ago that she would always stay with.
"Damn shame." Still no matter how long she had had this decided for, Miss Tig was as stubborn as it gets when it came to Josie's future, not wanting her to miss out on big opportunities to stay in town. "And honesty it's more like Hell-quahamish."
Josie knew her teacher was probably right, but she couldn't help but reply, "It's not that bad." this immediately got her a questioning look from Miss Tig, who knew she was too smart and observant to actually believe that. "Okay, it's not that good either, but it's what's happening."
"I spent four of the best years of my life at Grinnell."
Probably true but not convincing enough.
"And look at you, back home in Hell-quahamish." She had to admit her comment came out meaner than intended but she knew the teacher could take it, they were used to this.
"You're right. Stay away from the liberal arts."
And as she was leaving the classroom she couldn't help but send out one last poke at the teacher. "Try not to get fired over the weekend."
"Are you kidding? Everyone in this town fears God, but you know who God fears? The Teachers Union." Had it been any other student, Emma would probably be writing down a detention for them, but she couldn't deny the banter she had with Josie kept her on her toes and she appreciates that. Call it favoritism but the teacher had always had a bit of a soft spot for the Saltzman girl.
As Josette was riding her bike back home, going through the same streets she had that same morning, the same truck drove past her again, the speakers blasting some rock song, and as per usual, the students riding back home in it, couldn't keep their mouths shut, deciding to yell dumb nicknames at her for the second time today. Her classmates' childish attitude having ceased to impress her, she kept her head down, focusing on pedaling.
But just as the truck was leaving her sight, the voice of a boy running and yelling behind her started getting closer to her.
"Hey! Hey! Hold up!" The voice belonged to no other than Landon Kirby, who managed to catch up with her only to grab the back of her bike and so making her loose balance and fall face first on the side of the road.
What the f-
"What is wrong with you?" Was all she was able to say, with a very surprised but mostly pissed off voice.
"I'm- I'm sorry. I, uh..." Landon's intention was obviously not to make her fall, and with the shakiest of voices and a very awkward apology, he started picking up Josette's stuff that had fallen to the ground when he grabbed the bike.
The brunette was watching him confused and annoyed as he was still holding some of her stuff in his hands, probably not knowing what to do with them and looking at her with regret plastered all over his face. But besides her stuff, he was also holding a sheet of paper, which Josette assumed was probably one of the boy's unfinished assignments.
"Ten dollars for three pages, $20 for three to ten. Not in the over-ten-page biz." Most of the students in her class had already asked about prices so her voice came out monotone and fast, being used to repeating this to all her new "clients".
"No, I'm not trying to cheat."
Here we go again.
"Nobody is. Whose class is it for?" The sooner she was done with this conversation, the sooner she'd get to go home, and she really wanted to be able to finally get to her place and relax after a full day of non stopping class, she also had to write a few more papers she was being payed for and she wasn't looking forward to spending the most part of her night doing them.
"No, it's really not uh- it's-" Growing tired of the Landon's stutters, Josie took the paper off his hands to check for herself, but instead of an assignment she was met by an envelope.
"Who writes letters these days?" An honest question the brunette couldn't help but ask with a confused look in her face.
"I- I thought it'd seem romantic."
Of course he did.
Taking the letter out of the envelope, Josie saw who it was for. The name Hope Mikaelson written at the beginning of the letter with a messy handwriting brought out a scoff out of her, annoyed at how everyone seemed to be so interested in the redhead. "Can't help you."
"I just need a few words. Good ones." Trying to ignore the boy's stuttering voice, the brunette got back up on her bike, her back facing him to try and make him understand that she wasn't interested. Turning to look back at him only to try and let him know she wasn't taking part in this.
"I'm not writing to Hope Mikael- To some girl. It'd be wrong. A letter is personal. It's supposed to be authentic." Her voice coming out more stern than intended until she realized her slip up, there was no need to mention Hope, she wouldn't do this for anyone, it's not just a Hope thing.
"That'd be awesome." Failing to understand her point, Landon kept pushing.
"No!" How can someone be this dense? "I can't be you been authen-" Getting more annoyed with him by the second, she decided to just end it with "Get a thesaurus, use spell-check. Good luck, Romeo." And with that finally getting back on her bike and on her way home.
"No, I can pay more for authentic." The boy's pleads being completely ignored by Josette, Landon was left standing on the side of the road, letter in hand, panting after having been running after her for a couple of seconds, if not minutes, before she even realized, just silently watching her pedal away from him.