The lunch bell rang, but Lanie didn't leave her desk. Alley was absent from school, and she felt too lazy and disinterested in eating. The last period had been free to as the Physics teacher had gone off to some meeting with the Principal. She tried to go past the opening scene of her story, but it seemed like she had hit a major writers' block. She may be Indian, as she had proudly confessed to johan, but she knew very little of what being an Indian constituted of. She had stayed in India till she was eight years of age and knewonly tidbits of Indian culture and history.
Her only guide was a novella by an acclaimed Indian author, Ruskin Bond, and it was his work, 'A Flight Of Pigeons' that she was reading at the moment. It was very similar to her own idea, so similar that it almost bordered onj plagerism, but she considered it an inspiration. She was simply reading the novella for more insight into the background.
She had discoveredher love for writing almost ive years ago, and had been silently encouraged since then by both her parents. Nothing hindered her writing save her own dissatisfaction at its quality. What had happened that morning had kindled her interest in Johan. The opening paragraphs were mediocre in her view, nothing astounding. That they had been appreciated by someone, who had no interest whatsoever in the written word, had amused her. In fact, she had to simply look out of the window of the classroom, next to her desk to see him play basketball in the quadrangle with his fellow mates with total abandon.
What would he know of what constituted great literature?
"Oh my God, did you hear?" Lanie's eyes were rivetted to the book in front of her eyes, and she tried not to overhear, but the girls perched on the desks at the back of the classroom were simply too loud to ignore.
"What did you hear now?"
""I got to hear - and don't tll this to anyone!"
"Of course I wouldn't!" the second girl sounded scandalized at the very thought.
"Yeah, so... I heard that Johan Williamsohn and the Chem teacher Ms. Meirhofer stay together!"
"You're kidding!" the second girl ejected with a sharp expulsion of breath, "I had a sneaky feeling that they were going out or something, but I never thought - "
"Apparently someone followed them back to their apartment. I can't believe thatthey're sneaking around like that!"
The girls stopped gossiping abruptly as the sound of a basketball being dribbled could be heard coming from the corridor. Sure enough, within a few seconds, Johan and his buddy Darren entered the class, sniggering noisily at some personal joke. Lanie could see the two girls slink out of the class to continue thier gossip somewhere else.
"What are you reading here, sitting all alone?" Darren asked Lanie.
"I can't read with a hundred people talking all around me, now can I, Darren?" she turned to face him with a neutral expression on her face. Johan chuckled at that as he collapsed into his chair behind her, sweaty and tired from the game. "So, who won?" she asked quietly, returning to her book, "I saw you both torturing freshmen."
"Oh, that" Johan yawned, "We were trying to make life easier for Coach Larsson by taking preliminary selections. Useless bunch of morons is what we've got this year." After a few seconds of silence, Darren having gine out of the classroom, he asked Lanie, "So, how's the story continuing?"
"I'm doing research" she held up the book.
He mumbled something under his breath and stood up, preparing to go out for another round of selections.
"Hey, Johan" she said softly as he picked up a bottle of water, her voice faltering. He gronted an acknowledgement. "Is it. . .uh. . .true that you're dating Ms. Meirhofer?"
There was a stony silence on the other end,m and when Lanie turned to face him, She saw a blank, guarded look on Johan's face. Only his hard-set jaw gave away the fact that he was busy thinking of a suitable reply. "Where'd you hear that?" he tried to ask casually but his voice was heavy, tired.
"Hey, I don't mean to pry-"
"Where, Lanie? Who told you?"
"I overheard a coouple of girls" she said, embarrassed, "Someone followed you home and found out. If it's a rumour, it's spreading fast."
"I knew this would happen" he swore under his breath as he turned the bottle in his hand, "It's true that I live with her - "
"Are you serious?" she asked almost inaudibly, shocked at his reply. "Don't you know that it's against school rules?"
"Elena's my legal guardian" he said bluntly, "I'm not dating her or anything. I just live with her. God help the person who likes her enough to tolerate her Mother Hen attitude."
"Then - "
"Well, someone's doing a whole lot of unhealthy snooping, I would say." he said as he walked out. Lanie had a queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. If Darren had told her the truth about Johan's character, there would be a very unpleasant storm soon.