I saw her face twitch into a satisfied smirk. I could feel the two of us becoming good friends, but I made a mental note not to get too close too fast because certain… problems could arise later. As soon as my mind stumbled upon the thought of what those “problems” would be, I felt the familiar, dull throb of nausea deep in the pit of my stomach. I shoved the thoughts away, mentally burying them with the other useless memories I didn’t need, like trigonometry lessons from year nine.
I was so out of it that I didn’t notice my art tutor walking briskly down the hallway. He had stopped in front of Rowan and I.
“Good afternoon, Rowan. And… who I can only assume is Miss Karin Kneller?” His voice was breathy and deep. He sounded like he’d be better suited standing on a stage, reciting long-forgotten poetry, not teaching a bunch of teens how to draw.
I shot up to my feet, tripping over my bag as I made my way over to the teacher in order to shake his hand. I squeezed my eyes shut, waiting for the cold stone floor to make contact with my face. It didn’t. Instead, a pair of large hands had wrapped themselves around my waist.
Horrified and humiliated, I opened my eyes, expecting to find myself face to face with my art teacher. But, no, instead I found myself pressed close to the surprisingly sturdy body of Rowan Fairwood. I leaped away from her, apologising spilling from my lips without my consent.
At this, Rowan and the teacher laughed, obviously finding my reaction too funny for words. While I didn’t appreciate this too much, I couldn’t stop the little bubble of laughter which escaped my throat.
“What a way to introduce yourself, hm, Miss Kneller.” My chuckling teacher smiled widely, revealing two rows of immaculate white teeth. “Forgive me for not saying so sooner, but I am Mr Mack.”
What a strange name.
“Okay.” I acknowledged his introduction.
Once Rowan was satisfied with whatever she had to be satisfied with to enter the classroom, she stood up and did just that. Mr Mack swept his arm towards the door, gesturing for me to go in ahead of him.
“You’re lucky Rowan was there to catch you,” he said, holding the heavy wooden door open for me, “he can really move fast when he wants to.” Mr Mack then bent down to whisper, “you’re lucky he obviously likes you, if you were, say, Audrey or Nina, he would’ve let you drop.”
I chuckled a little but then frowned in confusion, “Rowan’s a girl, right?”
Mr Mack pursed his lips and stared at me, then shook his head. “No. He’s not.”
“Oh, okay, right.” I shrugged. Obviously I had heard Audrey wrong earlier.
I took a seat on the empty front row on one of the long-legged chairs. I yanked my pencil case from my bag and then threw the battered rucksack onto the floor by my feet; which dangled a few inches from the ground because the chairs in the art rooms were impressively tall.
I looked over my shoulder at the students who were sat in their friendship groups behind me. Audrey caught my eye and shot me a warm, but tooth-heavy grin that made me want to shudder instead of smile back.
Rowan was sat right at the back, and I saw him slip a headphone into his right ear. After he hit the play button, I noticed how he relaxed slightly. I watched him slyly out of the corner of my eye as he tugged a sketch pad from his rucksack. As soon as he had it flipped onto a clean page, his pencil was out and locked onto the paper; an expression of absolute concentration on his face.
Once again, I was so far into my own little world that I didn’t notice Mr Mack take a seat next to me. I gave a start when I returned to reality, letting out a little yelp of surprise which made his grin split his cheeks further.
“Away with the faeries, are we?” He said, still smiling.
“Sorry.” I mumbled, blushing furiously.
“Do you need me to walk you through what we’re currently doing? Or have you already read up on it?” Mr Mack asked.
“Uh… project planning and then final composition, right? And the theme is “Life”?” I said uncertainly, but my teacher nodded in agreement.
“Yes. Yes, it is. I’m sure you’re aware that you’re free to interpret the theme however you see fit, also?”
“Yeah, I know. It seems a little too easy… At my old school we used to get ridiculous themes like “fragility” and “youth”.” I grimaced, recalling all of the failed pieces of artwork and the looks at disappointment from my tutors when I failed the first half of the course. Honestly, it was a miracle that I made it into the Parker Bell art course.
“I see… well, if you need any help I’m always willing. Now, if you’ll wait a moment, I shall go and find you a clean sketch pad to start your project in.”
“Thanks.” I smiled, tapping my fingers on the desk as I waited for my teacher to return.