Chapter 2: My Blue Marker Is Taken Rather Rudely.
"Liam," my dad shouted down the hall. "You're going to be late!"
I jerked out of my sleep, almost rolling off my bed onto the floor. Late? I glanced at my digital clock that had, for some reason, miraculously failed to go off- you know, make noise, like a digital clock was supposedto do. The numbers flashing back at me were not particularly good.
I cursed, stumbling out of bed. Hopping on one foot, I dashed to my clothes drawer, pulling out the first items I saw and throwing them on: a tan sweater and jeans. I didn't care whether they matched or not at this point. I quickly ran a comb through my hair. It was days like these when I was glad my hair was short.
Late on my second day of school. How typical.
When I was dressed, I grabbed my crutches from where they were leaning against the wall, slung my bag over my back, and left the room. The hallway leading into our dining area was bland and undecorated. I had wanted to hang up some paintings or pictures when we first moved in two weeks ago, but Dad had said no. Maybe he liked the plain-ness.
"Alarm not go off?" my dad asked as I arrived in the kitchen. I shook my head, grabbing a banana from the bowl on the counter. I debated about starting the tea kettle, but eventually decided that there wasn't enough time and I'd have to skip my morning tea for the second day in a row.
"Good thing I wasn't scheduled to work today, or you'd probably have slept until noon." Dad was sitting at the table, his medication and a full bowl of cold cereal beside him. It looked like today was another day void of food for him. No matter how many times I told him it was unhealthy to go without food, he never did listen.
"Probably," I replied shortly, peeling my banana and contemplating the ways I could force him to eat. My dad chuckled weakly, folding his newspaper back up. I noted that he'd been reading the crime section of the paper, as he always did- today the major story was about some statue that had been smashed in the middle of the night. I never understood why weird crime stories fascinated him so much.
Shaking my head, I grabbed his pill from where it had been placed on the table and shoved it in his hand with a glare. He frowned, but took it anyways, popping it in his mouth. I watched him closely until I was certain it had gone down his throat.
"C'mon, I'll drive you. You won't have time to walk at this point." He stood and pulled on his jacket. His cane had been lying by the table, and he scooped it up. Once he told me that he didn't actually need the cane at all- psychosomatic limp, he said- but that he really uses it as an emotional crutch. Poor guy- mum's death had cut him up. It had cut allof us up.
Together, we left the house. The drive to my school was short and spent in a miserable silence. I fidgeted in my seat, torn between wanting to talk to him but afraid that doing so would make him more sad than ever. Lately, he had been caught between two moods: a depressed slump, where he wouldn't smile or eat properly for days on end, and then what I called a "Normal Phase", in which he'd try too hard to act happy. This would usually end up throwing him back into his depression, and the cycle would repeat itself, over and over again.
He let me out by the front doors. Thankfully, students were still spilling into the building, meaning that I wouldn't be as late as I thought.
"Bye, Dad," I muttered as I got out of the car. "Have a good day. Eat something."
I think he might have smiled a bit, but he said nothing. I sighed as I watched him drive off. I worried about him constantly. My biggest fear would be to come home from school one day only to find out that he'd done the unthinkable. I turned and headed into school, not ready for a new day.
I fought my way through the commons area, heading straight for my locker. I kept my eye out for Hannah, because I remembered what she had told me yesterday about forcing me to meet my locker partner. I didn't want to run into her, in case she kept to that promise. I didn't have time to fend her off this morning.
After fumbling with my locker combination for a brief moment, I finally managed to open it. The jam jars, I noted, were gone. They had been replaced with a plastic bottle full of gelatin. An eraser shaped like an ice cream cone sat in the congealed gelatin, quivering slightly. It made me feel somewhat ill to see.
I shoved my backpack in the locker and extracted my geometry folder and pencil case. I slammed the door shut with my good foot, departing for class.
I made it just in time. The bell rang as soon as I sat down, and I heaved a sigh of relief.
Mr. Barlow, a tall, balding man, looked up from his computer at the full classroom. He adjusted his frameless glasses and stood, striding to the front of the class, papers in hand. "Welcome to another day of geometry."
Everyone groaned in response, obviously unhappy to be here. Mr. Barlow ignored them. "Let's call roll. Jacob Abercrombie?"
"Here," one boy said from the back of the room, raising his hand.
"Abby Bingham?" No response. "Absent..." Mr. Barlow muttered, marking it down on his sheet. It continued like this for nearly five minutes before he dove into today's lesson. I doodled in my note-taking book as he droned on and on about various ways to calculate a triangle's height. I already knew all of this, as my class back in London was much farther ahead.
Suddenly, he halted in the middle of lecturing us on the proper usage of the Pythagorean Theorem, directly in front of my table. The class, roused by his pause, glanced around to see what had distracted him. At first I thought he was looking at me, but thankfully, it was the girl I was sitting next to that he was focused on. She was paying even less attention than I was. In fact, she had completely zoned out.
"Sadie," Mr. Barlow said, a warning tone in his voice. She ignored him, still lost in thought. "Sadie Hooper!" This time it was a shout.
She snapped back into reality, looking momentarily surprised. "Yes?"
"Have you been paying attention at all?" Mr. Barlow demanded with a glare, arms folded angrily.
"No," she replied bluntly, with an edge of defiance. Then her eyes fell on the dry-erase marker clutched in his hand, and her mouth fell open in a perfect circle.
The rest of the class sighed, simultaneously rolling their eyes.
"Can I have that marker?" she asked. She started rummaging in her pocket for who knows what.
"No." Mr. Barlow didn't even seem surprised by her odd request. "But you can start paying attention."
"I need it." Her gaze was still fixed on the blue marker.
"Why do you need it this time? Last week you wanted my magnets. I never did get those back, mind you."
"It's for an experiment." She finally managed to withdraw a tiny vial from her pocket, and she held it up to the light to examine its contents.
"Just give her the damn marker so she'll shut up!" someone yelled from the back of the room.
"No, you can't have the marker!" The teacher was seething by now. The girl stood, almost over-turning the little table we shared. Her fists were clenched in tight balls, nails digging into her palms.
I don't know what came over me just then, but looking back, I know that if I hadn't intervened, something not so good would have occurred.
I snatched my pencil case off my desk and sorted through it quickly until I found a marker identical to the one Mr. Barlow had. Tugging on her arm, I managed to get her attention. Both teacher and student looked down at me, surprised.
"Uh, here," I said, clearing my throat. "You can have my marker."
The girl scrunched her forehead, eyes moving rapidly between my marker and our teacher's. After a short but tense pause, she grabbed the marker from my outstretched fingers grudgingly. Then, without another word, she ran out of the classroom.
My mouth fell open in shock. The rest of the class rolled their eyes in unison for the second time. Mr. Barlow huffed dejectedly.
"You aren't getting that marker back, you know," he said.
"I- That's okay." Which was actually a lie; I did want my marker back.
"Tracy," he called to a student on the opposite side of the room. "Take this down to the attendance office. Tell Mrs. Stringham that we have a runner." Mr. Barlow scribbled something down on a post-it note and handed it to Tracy, a small, mouse-faced boy. He departed and closed the door behind him.
It seemed as if this was a regular occurrence in this class. I, however, was still extremely confused and slightly irritated. Who does that girl think she is?I didn't get a thank you or even a simple nod of acknowledgment from her.
However, the class continued on as if nothing had happened.
Hannah caught up to me at lunch. Today, she had attacked her hair with a flat iron, and it pooled down her back like a golden waterfall. I couldn't help but stare. God, I was such a dork sometimes.
"Liam!" she squealed, dashing up to me in the library. The other students glared at her, but she took no notice. I could feel my face heat up for a reason that I refused to admit was true.
"Um, hey, Hannah," I muttered, shuffling my crutches awkwardly. She giggled and twirled a strand of hair around her short index finger.
"I didn't see you this morning," she whined, face slipping into a little pout. "I was going to introduce you to your locker partner, but I couldn't find you."
"I was late getting to school today." We walked over to a shelf of books, and Hannah began idly flipping through a random one she pulled from the middle. It was about Dalmatians.
"Hmmm, that one's cute," she hummed contently, pointing to a picture of a speckled puppy with ears too big for its body. I shrugged my shoulders. "You can come after school with me to meet your locker partner, if you want."
"Why are you so eager for me to meet her?" I wondered out loud. She turned to a section entitled "Grooming Your Adult Dog" and studied the page for a while before answering.
She sighed. "The person you're sharing a locker with is really, um, different."
"Yeah, I gathered that from what she keeps in our locker..." I muttered to myself. Hannah laughed.
"Okay, what I mean to say is that she doesn't have any friends."
I gave her a sideways look. "You seem to talk an awful lot about her."
"I try, and that's a whole lot more than anyone else does around here." She rolled her eyes. "I just want her to find someone she can actually tolerate."
"And you think I'm that person?" I narrowed my eyes. Hannah bit her lip and turned back to her picture book.
"Well," she said slowly, "I think you have the best chance at getting close to her. She doesn't know you and you don't know her, so it's like you're starting on a clean slate, sort of. And plus, you're her locker partner."
Suddenly, I felt a wave of sadness and frustration wash over me. "So, in other words, you're only being nice to me so I can get you out of talking with this girl?"
Her face fell at my accusation, and I regretted saying what I had just said. Well, kind of.
"No, not at all! I like you, Liam, and I think we should be friends. All I'm asking is that you at least try with her. That's it. Please?"
Her already large brown eyes widened, silently begging me to take on the job.
Should I? From what I'd heard and seen, whoever this girl was seemed really weird. I wasn't sure if I wanted to get involved with this. I mean, it's hard enough trying to make normal friends alone, and this would just be even more difficult.
On the other hand, I firmly believe that everyone deserves a friend, no matter how different they are from the rest of us. And I really did want to impress Hannah. She was cute, I'd admit.
It was a brief internal battle, but I finally slumped my shoulders in defeat and nodded.
Hannah squealed, delighted. Quickly, she engulfed me in a hug that was made awkward by my crutches.
"Thank you so much, Liam," she grinned and pulled away from me. "I owe you one." She pulled out a cell phone from her pocket and checked the time. "Oh, look! We have enough time left of lunch to go talk to her now, if you want."
I smiled weakly. "Sure."
"Great." Hannah closed her Dalmatian book and replaced it on the shelf. "I think she's in the science room, dissecting a cat or something. Let's go."
Oh, God. What had I gotten myself into this time?
Author's Note: Wow, thank you all for reading and reviewing the last chapter. I wasn't expecting to get that big of a response! I appreciate it so much.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. I'm excited to post the next one.
Thanks for reading, and please review!