“And now we see how order of operations affects the result of equations…”
The disinterested tone of Mr. Saltz droned on, barely audible over the chatter in the room. His teenage pupils looked at cell phones, leaned to neighbors and talked about weekends, or finished up homework due in their next classes. Some teachers held their class with an iron grip, but Mr. S. had obviously never felt that need.
Wil did not contribute to the ambient noise, but she was just as oblivious to the lecture as most of her peers. She sat at the back in a desk, comfortably resting her chin on her bent left knee. A strand of loose hair partially obscured her features as she pored over the cypher she’d found inside her locker.
The symbols on the notepaper were grouped in words, which helped. A few of the symbols showed up multiple times as well, telling her that her mysterious contact had kept his or her letters consistent. Wil could not yet guess what any of those words were, however.
“Let’s go over the acronym again,” Mr. S. paused briefly for the class to be able to recite with him, “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.”
Even though no one had actually said the whole phrase as he did, Mr. S. never broke stride nor expression.
Wil, listening with half an ear as she pondered, saw that the code had a few two- and three-letter words. She thought about the most common English words of that length, and penciled the ones she thought of at the bottom of the page: my, to, me, the, and, at, by, you.
Then, she stopped, dangling her pencil idly in her fingers at a new realization: the first word was ten letters long. It had two repeated symbols in it, and began with 👋, a moving hand. W-I-L-H-E-L-M-I-N-A? She lightly scrawled above the group.
Following this potential breakthrough, Wil wrote letters over matching symbols in other parts of the note. The one for E resembled an oval, with a zigzag across the middle like an Easter egg, and seemed the most frequently used. A lot of words had E in them, she reminded herself. Also, S, T, and L. Those were the first letters people picked when they played Hangman.
Taking the 🎩 hat icon to mean H, again from her name, Wil guessed the teapot, hat, Easter egg grouping to be T-H-E. Her excitement grew as she pieced in more and more letters. The message emerged with each addition.
Tucking her hair behind an ear, Wil sat up a bit and eagerly read in a whisper to herself, “Wilhelmina meet at the red table at noon.”