Darren yawned. His attempts to stifle it were of no use, and he was only glad of the fact that Monaghan was busy scribbling on the board, so he wouldn’t be caught. It was going to be a boring day; he could feel so in his bones. Johan was staring out of the window in the back. He had sobered down somewhat after the very public ‘verbal hiding’ that he had received from Monaghan.
Johan was a unique character, one unparalled on many points. He was extroverted, loud and cheerful, but now that Darren thought of it, he didn’t really talk about himself. It chilled him to the bone as it dawned upon him that he had no idea where Johan lived, or who his parents were. And he was supposed to be Johan’s best friend.
Now that he thought about it, Johan’s personality had changed a lot in the past three years. When he had entered school, he spoke very little English, and with a very heavy unrecognizable accent. He was a moody, suspicious character back in those days, picking unnecessary fights with local toughies and breaking a limb or two in the process. Darren remembered that afternoon vividly, when he and his friend Justin had helped Johan up after he had been terribly beaten up after provoking a couple of local bullies. It was the first time Darren had seen anyone cough up blood and insist on walking to the hospital alone.
The only thing he knew about Johan’s past was that he had been in a military school since he was around ten years of age, and that something had occurred after which he didn’t respect his father. He knew nothing about Johan’s mother and Johan had never mentioned any siblings. Sometimes he caught him staring at some innocuous object, spacing out. At such occasions, Darren thought he could see glimpses of real pain and remorse in his eyes, which vanished as soon as Johan’s eyes focused again.
Now too, Johan was looking out of the window next to his seat behind Lanie, oblivious of what Monaghan was trying to teach. While the entire class was busy reading, nodding to escape attention or studiously taking notes, Johan was staring at the tree outside in sheer defiance. He may have sobered down, but Darren could sense tension in his body posture, as if he was waiting for Monaghan to pick on him so he could give him a taste of his own medicine.
Darren smiled. This revenge-seeking, eye-for-an-eye attitude was uniquely Johan’s. He remembered Johan’s favourite phrase that he had picked up in military school – Honour first, country next, self last. And this was a question of honour. He was going to have his revenge. Sure enough, Monaghan picked up the bait.
“Now, Johan” his voice rang out clearly, “Would you care to explain the next two lines?”
The entire class turned to look at the teacher’s favourite whipping boy. He was an excellent actor, though, and his expressionless face resembled that of an animal being led into a trap. Hastily he shuffled to his feet, but he refused to look anywhere except at Monaghan’s face.
“Which poem are we doing?” the teacher asked.
“Keats” Johan muttered under his breath.
“Which poem by Keats?”
“I don’t have my book.”
Monaghan shot a hard glare at his only insolent student’s direction and sighed. “Why are you sitting in this class if you are so disinterested?”
“Because Pop forced me to.” He cocked an eyebrow arrogantly.
“I need to speak to your father, then.” The teacher’s lips had shrunk into a hard line in exasperation, “Clearly, he doesn’t know about his son’s antics.”
“Oh, he knows” Johan picked up his bag and walked up to Mr. Monaghan. Up close, the contrast between the teacher and the student was bizarre. Mr. Monaghan was a thirty-something, balding, dark-haired bespectacled man, barely taller than 5’8’’. Johan was a light blond-haired person, his splayed hair not much longer than a crew cut. With his build and height of 6’2’’, he easily towered over the stocky English teacher. Johan crossed his arms and looked coldly at Monaghan, “he knows about what I do, and that’s why he’s got me kicked out of my guardian’s house. I don’t keep contact with him and I live alone. But you must be glad, right? After all, you won’t see me with Elena Meirhofer when you stalk her home.”
There was a deathly chilled silence in the classroom. Darren had a minor cardiac arrest when he heard Johan speak.Oh my God, someone stop this dumbass from saying anything more.
“You think I don’t know who started spreading rumors that I was staying with m. Meirhofer because I was romantically involved with her? “Johan continued in a loud, clear voice, “I do stay with her. She’s my legal guardian and now she’s allowed me to move out. But no one knew of this except you, because you stalk her. You follow her around like a lost puppy! Remember this, Monaghan; I have a security detail on me, and so does Elena. Stalk her again and my father will have you drawn and quartered. You may masquerade around as a politically correct, prim and proper teacher, but inside, you are just a sick creep. And since you are new to the school,Sir, let me inform you that I consistently get high grades in literature, so you better stop picking on me.”