CHAPTER TWO – The Hooded One
A lone, high-pitched drone signaled the start of first period. The rowdy group of students that made up Mr. Lechter's English class paid it no mind. Hawkin smirked to himself as he noted that they had no reason to, and that some things never changed. Their teacher wasn't even there yet. A situation they were quite accustomed to.
Hawkin sprawled back in his chair, having nothing to do until Mr. Lechter showed up. That, he remarked to himself, could take anywhere between ten minutes to all day. Luckily for him, a distraction arrived. A distraction that had him giving voice to a deep rumbling laugh.
'Pumpkin' had just walked in.
“Ah, so you're in this class. I could have showed you where it was. Too bad you were in such a hurry to leave.” He didn’t mention that he had been the one just gaping after her instead of offering to escort her on her first day like any other decent guy would do.
Madolin gave a small, self-deprecating laugh. “Yeah, I suppose you're right… Uhm,” she side-glanced, “where's our teacher?” She gripped the straps of her vinyl book-bag nervously.
Hawkin shrugged as if he could care less. “Late. He usually is. You should probably sit down before he gets back though. Usually he's fine, but he doesn't like people standing up in the middle of class. At all. As in, if you're not sitting down you’re in the hall. There are no in-betweens with Rumel.”
Again, that shy laugh. “Thanks.” She blushed. At least she had found someone who could walk her through the first day protocol, even if that someone would be throwing jokes at her right and left.
With a readying sigh, Madolin scanned the room. Only one desk stood empty; it was accompanied by a shady looking kid, glooming about in the very back of the classroom. He didn't look old enough to be a senior. Actually, he barely even looked old enough to be a freshman. Yet here he was in a senior class. Or rather, here he wasn't. His mind looked far from the present. A scowl was held firmly on his face, dark and thoughtful, like he was plotting murder or something similarly sinister, His dark black hair hung over his face, hiding a permanent glower that was equally shrouded by a stark black hoodie.
In short, he was a daunting figure.
Madolin took in a deep breath – one that made the orange lines of paint on her face pull at her skin – and ambled to the back, taking the only seat in the room. She looked over at her hostile neighbor and decided to take her chances.
“Hi.” Her voice came out shaky.
He didn't even move his head, just flicked his wry gaze to her.
It was more of a grunt than a real reply. The grunt left Madolin sufficiently silenced as the wordless, brooding kid inspected the person he’d be dealing with all year. Ignoring the excess of orange, she was a blonde, with bright, playful highlights and a warm smile. She had a slight build, but not one that screamed Anorexia.
He glared at her harshly before scribbling something furiously into his dilapidated notebook. The pages warped where he gripped them with a vice-like hold. One might have thought his life depended on his little spiral that was curling at the edges.
It was no coincidence that of all the seats in the room, the one next to him was vacant. Madolin sat in a gloom, looking wistfully ahead at Hawkin in the front row, wishing there was an empty seat up there with the laughing, smiling seniors, rather than next to this less-than-sociable freshman. At least, she thought he might be a freshman.
Hawkin swiveled in his seat to toss the new girl a pitying grin. His gaze then fell on the hooded boy next to her. He sighed. “Kamill, try to be nice to–”
Kamill cut him off. “Shut up. I don't want to hear it.” He growled coldly.
“Ow (ouch)…” Hawkin responded.
“Yeah?” The anti-social, hoodie-boy clipped back. “That hurt? You know what? I don't care. Don't pretend like it actually matters. You're just going to laugh it off with your mini-harem and anyone else you can convince to worship the stupid ground you walk on. I'm just not one of them. Does that bother you?” The chattering stopped abruptly. All heads turned to the scene that was unfolding. Particularly because Kamill never said anything.
Madolin, not yet well versed in the goings-on of Lamina High, shifted awkwardly. Wishing once again there had been another place to sit. By no means was she a pacifist, but she didn’t like being right next to a brewing screaming match.
“Mini-harem?!” Now Hawkin sounded indignant. Madolin whipped her head back and forth between the laughing senior and the scowling freshman. "I don't have a mini-harem!" He didn't even sound angry. Just wrongly accused.
“Right… Large harem.”
With those sweet parting words hanging mercilessly in the air, he gathered his stuff in three jerky motions and headed for the door. Pumpkin stared after him, her confusion growing exponentially with every passing minute.
The door in question swung open just before he reached it and in walked an absent-minded looking professor, arms loaded with stacks of papers that dwarfed his already miniscule frame. “Kamill.” He exclaimed, shocked. Then he pinched his eyebrows together in confusion. “What are you doing out of your seat?”
Kamill didn't answer; he just kept walking.
The teacher trailed after him, annoyed. “Where do you think you're off to?”
Hawkin stood up, knowing what this was about. It was part of that turmoil at home he’d been hoping to leave behind him when he went to school. “Kamill, wait…” He was promptly cut off by Mr. Lechter.
“Hawkin, sit down. And… hey! Kamill, I was talking to you!”
But the only sign left of Kamill was a door shutting in his wake. Mr. Lechter opened it after him and called out in pursuit, "Kamill Talon! You can't just leave in the middle of class!"
From the doorway Kamill's unmistakable voice could be heard.
With a frustrated sigh, the teacher disregarded the scene. He decided huffily that Kamill could wait. Right then, he had a class to teach. He looked over to the fidgety senior in the front row and gritted his teeth. Hawkin was aching to bolt out the door after the shrewd figure.
“Hawkin please. Sit still!” The flustered teacher was growing steadily more exasperated. There were better ways to start the day, particularly since he had missed his flight a week ago. A whole week of traveling. Fine-dining. Escape. He had missed it all. His entire spring vacation. But he couldn’t think about that now. He had a class to teach.
"Now," He beamed. Pushing those thoughts to the back of his head and forcing on a smile, he said, "I hear we have a new student… Madolin, would you care to stand up and introduce yourself?"
His eyebrows shot up when she left her seat. He had only just noticed that their company had taken on the appearance of a ripe orange. From head to toe she was blistering with the color. She was actually quite self-conscious about it and Mr. Lechter's next comment didn't help.
“I must say you've started the year out with an interesting choice of attire. Levi… you wouldn't happen to have anything to do with that, would you?”
Mr. Lechter was spot on. He too had seen countless examples of their pranks, and this girl was a tragic illustration. The class erupted into laughter, all except for Madolin who had only just realized that Levi was among them. She shot him a wicked glare before reluctantly getting to her feet. Most of the laughter, she knew, was directed at her. Still she raised her shoulders with dignity and stood determinedly.
“I'm Madolin,” she huffed out, “as I'm sure you probably know,” she looked pointedly at her teacher, “thanks for that Mr. Lechter.”
He spread his hands in front of him in some sort of apologetic shrug. “Well with that done, let's get the lesson underway. Before we get started, I'd like to remind you that I'm not big on formalities. I prefer to go by my first name, Rumel, as opposed to Mr. Lechter. The whole Mr. and Mrs. thing just strikes me as a bit superficial. Now, if you can recall, before our break we…”
“Uhm, Mr. Lechter?” A voice from the doorway inquired. It was timid and reluctant. Mr. Lechter's reputation was well known throughout the school. Interrupting his class was a big no-no, and he would spare no formalities for those who did. The flustered teacher raised his eyes to the ceiling, making no exception for this student.
“Uhm, Mrs. Basset wants to know what you did to the copier machine, and why it smells like coffee.”
“Good grief,” the teacher muttered under his breath, “she’s good…how did she know that was me?” The class sniggered again. He wasn't as quiet as he thought.
“Well,” he replied with as much dignity as he could muster, “the answer is quite simple…I…I spilled coffee on it. Yep.”
The class was now straining to hold in their raucous laughter. Particularly at the befuddled, “Okaay then…” from the poor kid Mrs. Basset had sent on this perilous quest. The student lingered a little longer in the doorway looking bemused.
Madolin scanned the faces of the other students, but most seemed to be chattering excitedly or trying to catch up on a few extra hours of sleep. To all, this appeared completely routine. Could this class get any stranger? She corrected herself, the whole school was strange so far.
“Is that it?” Asked Mr. Lechter impatiently. He almost seemed to be saying, well that was a stupid reason to interrupt my class. The poor student just blinked a few times, not sure how to respond to this indifference.
“Uhm, yeah. I suppose it is.” Mrs. Basset’s messenger said finally.
“Then you don't suppose you could shut the door and let me continue with my lesson do you?”
The door was promptly shut.
Not missing a beat, Mr. Lechter plowed back into his agenda for the day with an exaggerated sigh. “Now, as I was saying…”
He got no further.
He sighed. “Yes Levi?” His voice was pitched in irritation.
“Do you have a tissue?”
“Really Levi? They're up front. You could have just taken one instead of…” he broke off, eyes widened in alarm. “Good grief! You're bleeding all over your textbook!”
Rumel grabbed a handful of tissues and rushed them over to his student, instructing him to wipe the blood off his books. Levi was pinching his nose shut, raising his head to the air. He ignored Rumel’s instructions and used the Kleenex instead to stem the steady stream running freely from his face.
“Why didn't you just say that you had a bloody nose in the first place?”
“Well, next time you won’t go digging for gold.” The class laughed at the jibe clearly made at Levi's expense. “Anywho, go clean yourself up, but take the hall pass and do it in the bathroom so you don't distract the rest of the class.”
Levi grumbled to himself. “You would have made some sarcastic comment anyway.” That was typical of Rumel. One of his students sprouts a nasty nose-bleed and he's more worried about not finishing one of his lessons than the actual problem itself.
Madolin scanned the room again with a dark smile at the justice. No one seemed surprised at this turn of events. With Levi gone and the door shut behind him, Rumel attempted to continue – begin really.
“You remember what we were working on before the break, correct?”
The ensuing silence answered in the negative.
Mr. Lechter grimaced and pinched the bridge of his nose tensely. “Alright then, just before you went on vacation, leaving your minds behind might I add, we had just finished discussing…”
The door opened, interrupting an enraged teacher once more.
“Oh for heaven's sake what is it this time? Will I never get my lesson st… Oh…hello… ”
In the doorway stood a familiar hooded boy, looking very displeased. His face mirrored Mr. Lechter's perfectly, as well as that of the security guard behind him who'd so kindly escorted him back to class.
“I believe he's your responsibility, Rumel.” The former grumbled out, his hand seizing Kamill’s arm. His grip was firm, but not cruel.
Rumel tilted his head back and forth as if assessing that statement in his head. “More or less, yes,” he finally said. “Thank you, I'll make sure to have a discussion with him later.” His tone took on that of an irate father. “Have a seat Kamill.”
The boy jerked his arm away from the security guard and stormed to the back of the classroom, taking his seat next to the obnoxiously orange new-girl. Taking this as his cue, the security guard left tiredly. Madolin was left with the distinct impression that this was a regular occurrence as well. She shifted uncomfortably.
A huge sigh sounded off at the front of the room. “O-kay! No more of that, shall we? Now, in a second I am going to pass out some papers. Please put your names on them as you will only be getting one copy, and you’ll need it for our next several activities.”
Rumel went down the row with several important papers, handing them to the students in the front and instructing them to pass them back. “Please,” he began, “don’t make any unnecessary marks on these.”
An audible rip could be heard from the back of the room. Rumel’s face went pale with fury. He tossed Kamill a dark look that seemed to say we’ll deal with this after class.
Hawkin stared without comprehension at the sheet of paper in front of him and sighed. He tried with every ounce of concentration he had to focus on what their eccentric teacher was saying, but his mind just wasn’t with it. He looked down with a frown at the paper. Forgetting Rumel’s plea, he flipped it over and began letting his hands form words on the back of it. The words began to form a song, and Hawkin smiled to himself. The song flowing from his pencil let him forget the callous words spoken earlier. A thousand words sparked through his now composed mind. Laughter. Chimes. A genuine smile. A world of gray. With a start, he stared down at the beginning of his song.
A simple smile, a laugh like chimes.
Though new to me, everything seems familiar.
My usual pretend grin feels natural next to her
The girl in orange, a light in my world of gray.
His smiled widened as he realized where the little free-write had taken him. The song was about Madolin. He had half a mind to wonder what she would think about that. He would just keep this one to himself. A shrill ring made him jump. He’d spaced away the entire first period. A part of him was grateful that he’d been able to escape so easily. The time he’d spent thinking on other things had helped ease his racing thoughts, but he simply couldn’t shake a lurking gloom that clung to his inner-most conscience. His mind was just too crammed. Most of it stemmed from worsening his and Kamill’s relationship, which seemed to worsen everyday. It was hard to remember the times when they would mess around and get into trouble together, but those times had existed once. There used to be a real bond between them. He wondered where it had gone to.
Somewhere in the midst of his dwellings, Hawkin straightened up from where he had slouched in his chair. A voice shook through the vestigial barrier of his thoughts.
“Uhm, Hawkin right?”
He looked up to see the little ball of sunshine from earlier that day. For a fraction of a second, the color flashed from his face. He grabbed Rume’s precious paper and rumpled it up hurriedly. “Yeah. That’s me.” He smiled at her, hoping on all that he held dear that she didn’t just see that. “Pumpkin, right?”
She looked down at her wild outfit. “Well, that does seem to be your new name for me,” she said dryly. “I was wondering if you could show me where room 238 is. Turns out, this school is bigger than I thought. And, you know, if the rest of the teachers here are the same as Rumel, I really don't want to be late again.”
This left Hawkin with a beaming grin. “Why not? I can be your tour-guide for the day. But you know, Rumel usually isn't that grumpy. I guess he's had an off-day. Just don't stand up in the middle of class. It's one of his pet peeves. Not really sure why though.” He laughed. “Maybe he just likes feeling tall for a little while. You may have noticed he's a bit on the short side.” Hawkin stretched out of his seat, giving just the right amount of show in doing so.
Madolin snickered, immediately catching onto this and choosing wisely to ignore it. “Oh. I noticed all right. It's a great way to start the day. A teacher with a height-complex,” she mused sarcastically.
Hawkin smiled at her joke. For a moment, a bloated silence lingered between them, until Madolin finally asked the question that was nipping at the crevices of her mind. “So, what was that between you and the emo-looking kid in the back?”
Suddenly the silence seemed alive, and Madolin was left with the feeling that she never should have asked.
Hawkin took in a deep breath before answering, “That ‘emo-looking kid’ is my brother. I'm really not sure what's up. I…well I keep trying to talk to him, but right now it's all kind of… one-sided. I just wish I knew what was bugging him besides…” He stopped mid-sentence as a boy with hunched shoulders and a glaring black hoodie whisked past him bitterly, seeming to have heard all the worst parts of their conversation.
“…besides me." He finished.
Madolin looked at him curiously, digesting this information. It was a lot for him to share with someone he'd only just met that day. Then again, if she had problems like that, a brother that hated her like that, she would want to get it off her chest too.
“It'll work out,” she finally said, “It always does.”
Hawkin smiled, seeming to shrug it off… for now. He changed the subject, hoping for some kind of distraction and also maybe some answers. His eyes narrowed in a serious face that completely clashed with his personality. “So you're pretty much like the rest of us, right?”
She raised her eyebrows at him questioningly. “Mm, what do you mean by that?” The day so far had seemed riddled with these confusing questions.
“Well,” he began, thinking about his response carefully, “you may have noticed that everyone here is… well, we're pretty much just a bunch of animals.”
“Soo…” she cocked her head, not understanding, “you're calling me an… animal?”
He went silent. “Uhm. Not quite what I was getting at. Just forget about it for now. Let's talk about something else. Names! I never got your last name. What is it?”
Madolin laughed, trying to keep up with the chaotic pace of his mind. “Bee. I'm Madolin Bee. Yours was Talon right?”
“It still is.”
She rolled her eyes amusedly, “Whatever. You knew what I meant.”
“Hmm. The only thing I really knew was that a very pretty girl is standing right in front of me.” As far as charming comments went, that one fell way below the charts. He almost grimaced at his lack of cunning. Why couldn’t he have come up with something more clever?!
“Whatever,” he mocked. “You knew what I meant. Well, this is it. Room 238!” As always, his mind blinked rapidly from subject to subject.
Madolin blushed and nodded. “Thank you. You should probably get to class too, before you're late.”
“I probably should.” He agreed with a stupid smirk.
Madolin looked over her shoulder and glanced back at a still grinning Hawkin. Her fingers lingered on the door handle. What a dork, she thought with a smile, but what an incredibly funny dork.
The bell rang and Hawkin – needless to say – did not make it to class on time. Hawkin – needless to say – didn’t care.