CHAPTER FOUR – The Empty Chair
Barren. That is how the halls seemed without the appearance of his bleak-expressioned sibling. Hawkin read through every face in the hall, hoping to see his little brother glaring at his own shadow, trudging as far from civilization as possible. Okay, so he didn’t exactly want to see him glaring at things looking depressed and angry. But the likelihood that he would be seen any other way was slim to none, and at this point, Hawkin just wanted to see him. If that meant he would appear in his usual stormy mood then so be it. Underneath all of his smiles and casual hellos, Hawkin was worried. Devastated.
Okay, calm down. He told himself. It would have been almost unheard of to see Kamill this early in the morning anyway. Right now, before the bell for first rang, he would be in homeroom talking to Rumel. Generally Hawkin stayed out of their conversations, along with the rest of the school just as a rule of thumb. But today he made an exception. He poked his head into his English classroom.
His stomach churned uneasily when he saw the empty chair. It was the chair where Kamill was always sitting whenever Hawkin came in from homeroom. If he was here at all, Kamill would have been sitting in that chair, scowling at the intrusion. He was always there before school started. Him and Rumel shared a curious bond. Though he had a dad already, Rumel acted as a father figure to Kamill, and Kamill looked up to him as one.
The door clicked behind him as Hawkin entered the room with heavy shoulders. Rumel stopped scrawling something on a stack of yellow sticky notes and looked up. He cocked his head when he realized who was trouncing into his classroom. Clearly he had been expecting someone else.
“Hawkin…where’s your brother?”
Dejectedly, Hawkin thought, I was going to ask the same thing.
He hid the inner turmoil with a smile. “No idea. I thought he’d be with you.” Aside from himself and an overzealous English teacher, the room was empty. It felt wrong. The empty chair, devoid of Kamill’s usual presence, made Hawkin feel exactly that… empty.
“So he’s here then?” Rumel’s voice broke through his thoughts, making him feel attached to reality once again.
There was a short, vexed sigh as Rumel pinched his brows together in confusion. “But you go to school together.” He said dryly.
Hawkin shrugged again. “Not today.” He cared about the situation more than he was letting on, but he just wanted to leave the topic behind him. Knowledge of his dysfunctional home life wasn’t something he wanted spread around. If he made this seem like a huge deal, Rumel would want to know all the details. That meant telling him.
Rumel isn’t known to be the best at keeping secrets.
“So you have no idea where he’s at?” Mr. Lechter sounded frustrated.
Didn’t that bother him at all?
This time Hawkin paid careful consideration before answering. He was a touch offended by Rumel’s accusatory tone, but he didn’t let it show. “I have a pretty good idea.” He bit back. “Anyway, what are you teaching us today Rumi?”
“Rumel.” He ground out, deciding to drop it.. Hawkin’s apathy towards the matter was disconcerting, almost disgusting. The lack of emotion told him that Hawkin could have cared less about his brother.
“Kay teach. Rumel it is. What’re we learning today?”
“You’ll find out,” was the terse reply. Rumel had returned to writing whatever important scribbles he needed on the sticky notes.
The blonde bit his lip and shuffled around in his SpongeBob backpack for some paper. Instead, his hand found a piece of crumpled paper from the night before. He stuffed it quicly into the dark recesses of his pack, trying to ignore the burning in his ears.
As the day progressed, Hawkin’s worry became a tangible thing with a mind and purpose separate from his own. It refused to be covered by his unfailing good humor. Instead, it laughed away his attempts to ignore it, just growing more substantial until it had to be addressed. When the bell rang for lunch period, he couldn’t shake a feeling of apprehension.
For once in his life, he didn’t want to face the screaming and the laughing, the concerned glances and the necessary conversing that lunch brought with it. For once, he wasn’t grinning at the prospect to simply talk for a half an hour. He wouldn’t be doing much talking. He would be acting, acting like he wasn’t fraying at the edges.
His mask was starting to beak.
He took a deep breath and grinned despite everything. It was going to be okay. If he just smiled, things would be okay. He was…
“You don’t look so good. You okay?”
It was Madolin. She saw right through his gossamer-thin grin. He pasted the fake happiness on a little thicker to cover up the holes.. “Yup,” he said cheerily, “never better!”
Madolin looked him up and down, assessing his statement. “If you’re sure…” She didn’t want to drop it so easily, but something told her not to press the matter. “So, did you finish Mr. Dykes’ homework?” It was the best way she could think of to change the subject. /That, and she kind of needed help.
When he didn’t answer, Madolin shifted awkwardly. “Uhm, Earth to Hawkin…”
He blushed looking away from her, scrambling to find his inner Mr. Suave amidst everything else in his head. He bit his lower lip before looking back at her. “I-I-I’m sorry. I didn’t quite hear you.”
He was in his happy place.
“Homework… did you do it?” She said dryly.
“For who?” With a sinking feeling he realized she probably already told him this too, while he was spacing out. Like a genius.
Hawkin cringed and Maddy raised her eyebrows at him.
“Of course!” He said through a mightily suspicious grin and clenched teeth. “Me? Forget homework?”
There was a momentary silence as she gave him a reprimanding glance. “Aren’t you supposed to be an example? You know, helping out the new student.” She buzzed.
“Hey, hey, I’ll get it done. Besides, you spend one day here and you’ve been here your whole life. You don’t need an example, especially not mine.” He breathed out relieved. It seemed like he had himself under control once more. No more space-trips for his mind. Later, maybe, he would let it wander to the moon and back. A little exercise might have done it some good.
Hawkin walked her to her next class, stopping by the door with a grin. “Well, this is your stop.” He patted her on the head before turning to leave. Her defensive reply startled him.
“I’m not a dog…”
Hawkin’s mouth twitched downward but he forced a laugh at her indignance. “Well, what uh, what are you might I ask?”
Again there was a bloated silence. Madolin appeared to have to think deeply about his question. He couldn’t help but smile at her thinking face. When her gaze returned to his, he blushed… actually blushed. Mr. Suave never blushed!
“A bee.” She finally said.
Hawkin forced the pink stains away and raised his eyebrows with another trademark smirk. “I suppose that makes sense.”
She simply grinned, feeling stupid and not knowing why. “Well, it should because, uhm, it’s my last name.”
“Hmm?” Her hand lingered on the door handle. She had been about to walk inside to find a seat before the bell rang. But something in his voice made her stay. The way he said it, like he was about to impart upon her the secrets of life.
“Do you know where all everyone goes after school?” Suddenly he sounded much less serious.
The thinking face returned. It was a good question actually. She had just been wondering about that. Yesterday when she left there was a grand total of two kids on their bus, including her. Outside, the grounds had seemed desolate. She’d even tried calling the number of a friend she’d met that day. No one answered. It was as if there was a huge concert after school that she had somehow not heard about. “No... I was wondering that,” she mused, “everyone sort-of… disappears.”
Finally he had the chance to redeem himself, maybe more. He grinned even wider. “I’ll show you tomorrow. Meet me at the doors.”
“Got it.” Although her reply was a flippant one, lightening bugs buzzed around in her belly. She was officially going to be part of something tomorrow. The status of new-girl was fast on its way to disappearing.
Madolin walked into class with anticipation fluttering inside her limbs and the bell rang shortly after. Where did everyone go to? The realization that she had to wait until tomorrow was almost enough to take the edge off of her excitement.
Hawkin was still on his way to his own class. He shrugged. Not like it mattered. He was just doing his job…
Well the flirting was a bonus.
If he could even call it that, he thought cringing. A better description of it was staring, blundering, and blushing.