Sitting in 11th period, Mr. Monroe, coincidentally the history teacher, drones on about the civil war. I sit all the way on the left side of the room, next to the window. I haven't heard much of what he's said. It is such a beautiful day, the sun bright and full, and scattered clouds creating patterns on the grass.
I am vaguely aware of Henry trying to get my attention.
Henry was in the past six classes of mine, and in all of them he had been the first to make a speech about what he did over the summer, the first guy to make the teachers laugh (most of them female, by the way), and the only one with an unfailing smile.
I was miserable.
Though all of my teachers are nice to me, and so far I don't have any enemies among my peers, it feels wrong. Foreign. I know I do not belong in this place, with these people. Over half of them are wearing leather cowboy boots and plaid.
A piece of paper suddenly hits the side of my head, landing on the wooden table below me. I glance up at the direction it came from, my right, and see Henry grinning. My eyes widen, as if to ask what do you want with me?, but I don't smile. I can't. He moves his eyes from my face to the note, face to note, face to note. I get the message.
How's your day going? I sigh and simultaneously roll my eyes. Really? Passing secret notes in class?
Are we in 5th grade or something? I write. Then I erase it, replacing it with,
You should know. You're in most of them.
Taking a quick peek at the teacher, whose back is to the class, I toss the paper back in a ball. My hand is still extended when I catch the eye of a girl behind Henry. Blond hair, pouty lips, and brown eyes that are glaring.
Henry is chuckling softly, reading the note. He scribbles something, then hands it back.
I know, right?
Coincidence, I reply. The girl behind Henry is still watching us, but not glaring anymore. Almost a look of curiosity, maybe?
I chuck the note back to him, then hear,
"Isn't that right, Miss Laney?" The use of my last name snaps me back into reality, and Mr. Monroe is looking at me, and so is the rest of the class.
"Um, right." There is a pause, and I know that the teacher caught me not paying attention. I brace myself. "I'm sorry, what were you saying?"
"I was just talking about your aunt, Sandra. I heard that you're living with her, now." I nod. How did we get on this topic? I thought we were talking about the civil war!
"She wrote a thesis statement in college about the intercontinental consequences of the American Civil War. We went to community college together," he boasts. That explains it. "Anyhow, I heard you were staying with her because your mother is in rehabilitation. Is that true? That is very kind of your aunt."
My breath catches. My heart pounds. How dare he bring this up. It is none of his business! And how did he even know about my situation? Did my aunt go around, telling everyone about her poor parent-less charity case?
The room goes silent, and I'm sure everyone can hear my heart hammering in my chest. I hope my face isn't too red, even though I can feel the heat radiating from me. Mr. Monroe is looking uncomfortable. Henry is gripping the piece of paper like it is the only thing keeping him from speaking. I pray that he doesn't.
My voice is small. "With all due respect, I don't think that is relevant to this class."
He blinks once. Twice. Then says, "Of course, I apologize. That must be a very delicate subject for you to talk about," and he smiles. But it isn't sympathetic or apologetic at all. It is smug.
Like clockwork, the bell rings, and I bolt out of the room. It feels too stuffy all of a sudden. I know that Henry is behind me, calling my name, but I cannot wait for him. I turn to the right, and disappear behind the first door I see.