So as the universe would have it, the moment I stop caring about friendship with Lionel is the moment that I get a friendship with Lionel. Albeit an uneasy one.
Going out on limb, I offered my hand to Lionel, but not in the normal handshake position. My hand was bent down back towards me and made a "greater than" sign with my arm. I looked at Lionel who seemed to recognize what I was doing, but appeared reluctant to join me.
I was in the position to begin our secret handshake. One we'd had since we were four years old.
Lionel hesitated. Then he mirrored my hand position and we began. Our hands moved towards each other and touched at the wrists. We rolled and twisted our hands so that we palm to palm, then brought our other hands, which balled into fists, up to fist bump our touching palms. Then our hands exploded outward, I brought mine up then swung down to slap Lionel's hands as they came up. We fist bumped one more time, "locked" our fists, and then stared at each other.
"That was cool"
Startled, the two of us let our hands dropped, and we were suddenly conscious of the fact that we weren't alone.
"Don't tell anyone about what you just saw" I told Claudia.
"Yeah. Or we'll have to kill you or something" Lionel added.
After a brief moment, we all laughed together, for the first time in many many months.
The next day went more or less how Lionel had predicted. We weren't as close as we used to be, but we were sitting in what some would consider "friendly proximity." It was homeroom and we were waiting for the PA system to come to life with the days announcements.
"Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance."
We stood and pledged allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
"Students. Before our announcements we would like to hold a moment of silence for our former Principle Donald Gordan who passed on yesterday due to a heart attack."
I glanced at Lionel and Claudia, who glanced back with hands clasped. We all held our breath as the secretary continued,
"His replacement, who graciously accepted commission at the last minute, is Mr. Edward Leeman."
The classroom, which had been buzzing with the low murmur of non-attentive students, was silenced almost immediately. Replacing the day's latest gossip were gasps of:
"They can't be serious!"
"It's not April 1st is it?"
"I thought he was fired!"
Lionel, Claudia, and I all let our breaths slowly and miserably. We knew what was coming next.
"Now a word from our new interim Principle."
Don't you just hate him already?
"I am honored to be back at this school after the... issue... that resulted in my unemployment. Matters have been cleared up, and I am back to serve you once more. Mr. Gordon was a great man, but a man who was far too busy for his own good. I mean to place no blame, but having to travel to all the student activities strained the old man far too much. I believe it would not only benefit the administration, but the students as well, if certain extra-curricular programs were cut from our school. Drama Cl-"
I stopped paying attention at that point and turned back to Lionel and Claudia.
"Great. Just great. We've had him for about 27 seconds and he's already screwing with our daily lives. What are we gonna do?" Lionel said.
I thought for a moment as I turned half my attention towards the speaker.
"-also be withdrawing money from the Appliances and Facilities fund which means-
Back to Claudia, "-He makes bad decisions! Why can't anyone see that?"
"-no longer need the frills you are used to in restrooms and-"
"I know Claudia, if only we could burn him at the stake we-"
"-getting rid of other useless devices-"
"WAIT!" I shouted. Then sheepishly looked at my shoes as I realized I had just yelled in front of the whole class. "Sorry Mrs. Bundrenson" I mumbled, then turned back to my friends.
"Ok guys. I have an idea. It's crazy... but it might work."
Claudia and Lionel leaned in in anticipation.
"Claudia. You said that Leeman makes bad decisions but nobody sees it."
I was so excited that I cut her off, "And Lionel, you happened to mention burning at the stake."
"Well yeah... it's morbid but effective."
"And Mr. Leeman just mentioned that he was making a budget change that would allow "useless" devices and "frills" to be gotten rid of or be allowed to fall into disrepair. So..."
I trailed off and allowed them to fit the pieces together themselves.
Claudia seemed confused, but Lionel was muttering and ticking off fingers as he did so.
"No one notices, fire, devices... fire... devices.... devices..." then he looked up at me with eagerness, "Daniel that's brilliant!"
Claudia threw up her arms in exasperation and said "Could someone please explain the evil plot to me before I become a literal mad scientist."
I motioned to Lionel to continue.
"Well if I understand Daniel, he thinks we should disable some "useless devices" and then cause a disaster that those "useless devices" would have prevented and make it look like it was all Leeman's fault for withdrawing money that could have been used to repair said devices. If I'm correct... the device and disaster are aptly named."
"Good. I believe the devices in question are..." he paused for effect,
"The fire alarms!"