Trixie could not believe her luck. And she was not quiet in expressing her complaints. Spud was right there with her. Jake shared in her sympathies, but was more interested in thinking of the sheet of paper in front of him. Was the colour pure white? And who decided if it was pure white anyway? How much of their life was dictated by outside thoughts that they just accepted it as their own because that's what everyone did and the world was just like that anyway?
"We suffer for how long in middle school and now this?" Trixie gestured to the whiteboard at the front of the room where Welcome To Magical Creatures: Professor Rotwood was scrawled in black marker. "It's going to be a total repeat of middle school. We're all just gonna suffer. I thought our senior year was supposed to be fun and we're stuck in this from September to June?!"
"It'll pass by quickly." Spud assured her. "Really quickly."
"I dunno." Trixie turned around, facing Jake behind her. "How are you feeling about Rotwood?"
The name stirred something deep inside Jake's brain, making him think back in time. Memories, especially ones that were older than this year, were hazy, hard to grasp. The name brought a sour taste to his mouth though, and dislike ran strong through his veins. He couldn't picture this 'Rotwood' but he didn't like the person. He faced Spud and Trixie in front of him (the desks were in pairs) and shrugged.
A man walked into the class. His hair was patchy, and Jake could smell mothballs from here. The scent made him recoil. He wanted to open a window, breathe in fresh air, but he couldn't make himself go to the window.
"Welcome to Magical Creatures." The man said, in an accent that made Jake want to cover his ears. His brain didn't like to think of the English language in the New York accent he was used to. "I am Professor Rotwood. I am here to educate you on the fact that magical creatures are indeed real." He smacked the board, creating a snap. "I have seen them with my own eyes."
The class broke out in snickers. Jake wriggled. He didn't like these people. He didn't like this structure. Even at the Centre there was a degree of freedom. But here, his life was "this now, this now, this now, this now, this now". He wanted to be outside. He liked the outside. He was spending a lot of time on the roof of his grandfather's house. He liked the breeze and the clean air, as clean as it could get in New York.
"Excuse me? Is this Magical Creatures?"
Jake's heart sped up and jumped into his throat. He had never heard this lyrical, soft voice before. He cast his eyes to the door. There she was, the girl from the cafeteria yesterday.
"Yes. You are late! I am Professor Rotwood. And you are?"
"My name is Rose."
"Well Rose," the teacher sneered her name, which made Jake feel oddly protective, "go sit next to our resident idiot, Mr. Long."
"Oh." Rose surveyed the room and spotted only one empty seat. It was next to a tall, muscled boy with longish black hair with green tips. His eyes met hers, and she smiled at him.
She made her way to his side, wondering why the Professor had called him the 'resident idiot'. She didn't know anything about his intelligence, but surely a teacher couldn't just say that to a student. She pulled out her book as Rotwood gave his introductory speech that absolutely no one was listening to.
"Hi." She said to him, keeping her voice low. Although she already didn't care for this teacher, she didn't like to be in trouble. "My name is Rose."
The boy's head twitched toward her. He had an earring in his left ear, she noticed. But he didn't look at her.
Suddenly, the girl in front of them turned around. Rose recognized Trixie from one of her other classes. "Hey, Rose, uh, I'm a friend of Jakey's here and he doesn't talk much." Trixie bit her lip, as though wondering what else to say. "He's been through a tough time lately, but he's a good guy."
"Okay," Rose nodded as Trixie turned back around, her dark curls bending to meet the brown hair of the boy meeting next to her. Rose looked back to Jake. "So you don't talk?"
His head tilted toward her. She caught a flash of his face as he dipped his head in a 'yes' motion.
"Well, that's cool, I guess." She tapped her long fingers against the desk. "To be honest, I talk a lot so, you know, there wouldn't be a lot of time for you to say something anyway, but hey, if you want me to be quiet too, I can do that. You just have to, let me know, or something." She twisted a long strand of golden hair around her finger.
"Okay, boys and girls. I want you to look at the person next to you. Study their face." Rotwood instructed.
Rose was already facing Jake, but he lifted his head up to glance at her. He was twitching slightly as he met her eyes. He was very attractive, she noticed with a slight blush. He had dark eyes and defined, heavier features. His dark hair was covering his eyebrows, tips of green fluttering into his eyes. She bit her lip self-consciously.
"In about a week's time I will be giving you a partner assignment. This will be your partner. This assignment, if done properly, should take several weeks and will be done in your own time. Not class time." Rotwood smirked. "Now, let's start compiling a list of all the magical creatures we can think of, hmm?"
Rose spread out a sheet of paper in front of her, digging out a gel pen. This class would be a piece of cake. She knew all about magical creatures. As students yelled out suggestions to Rotwood from around the room, she copied each one down. She was not one to speak out in class.
"Mr. Long," Rotwood said. "Can you give us a magical creature that is not on the board?"
Jake wasn't even copying down notes, Rose noticed. He didn't have a book bag with him. When Rotwood said his name, he covered his head, which was down on his desk, with his arms. He didn't move at all. Rose tried to watch his ribcage to see if he had continued to breathe, but she couldn't notice anything under his leather jacket.
"Mr. Long," Rotwood repeated.
"Dragons." Rose blurted, trying to divert the Professor's attention. "You forgot about dragons."
Rotwood turned a dark look to her. "Thank you for that, but I believe I was talking to Mr. Long."
"You know he don't talk," Trixie rolled her eyes. "Just lay off of him."
"Excellent grammar, Ms. Carter."
"I try." Trixie crossed her arms.
Rotwood gave up on the fight, turning to the board and writing 'dragons'. "Rose is correct. Dragons are one of the 'biggies' in the magical world. They are large, smelly creatures with low intelligence."
Rose made a note in the margin of her page. She knew better than that. She also knew that Rotwood had no idea what he was talking about when it came to magical creatures. That much was clear. Growing up the way she had, she had been exposed to magical creatures since birth. The only true thing Rotwood said about dragons is that they could grow to be very large. And the young dragons sometimes had a scent about them. But as dragons matured, they lost that scent. And they could be very intelligent.
She remembered the last time she had been in New York. It had been two or three years ago now. As part of her training to be the Huntsgirl, right hand to the Huntsmaster himself, she had to visit all of the headquarters of the Huntsclan. She had only been here for a summer stretch, but in that time she had the pleasure of meeting the American Dragon. He was probably a young dragon at the time. He hadn't been very big, or muscled. He had seemed to be in some kind of training, as she had. She remembered seeing him with a blue dragon on several occasions.
Though she was older now, and more mature, the thought of the red dragon somewhere in New York City made her angry. He was her arch nemesis. She had, in her youth, many chances to kill him and become the youngest huntress to kill a dragon. She had still earned that title by killing the Korean Dragon when she was fifteen, but the mocking face of the American Dragon had not left her. Now that she was back in New York for a yearlong assignment she had made it a personal mission to finally get the cocky dragon.
She clenched her hands once, feeling the muscles in her forearms. She thought of her right arm where the mark of the Huntsclan branded her as one of theirs. And she honestly wouldn't have it any other way. This Huntsclan had made her confident, powerful. There were a few small sacrifices, such as giving up the typical teenage dating, drinking, and drugs life. But she didn't mind that at all. She was finding adolescence tedious, having been a grown-up at the ripe old age of nine when she had killed her first magical creature – a brownie.
Rose looked over to the boy sitting next to her. He was attractive. He was probably one of the only boys she would admit to ever being attracted to. Not that she'd had much time to look, being in training. Of course, she would probably marry a male that was part of the Huntsclan so that their children would be guaranteed to be marked for the Clan.
Jake suddenly felt watched. His dragon instincts had seemed much more heightened since he had taken the drugs. Slowly, he lifted himself off of the desk, automatically sweeping the room. This wasn't the gaze of a magical creature, or a high school student. This was the gaze of an enemy. His shoulders slumped down. He just wanted to be an eighteen year old high school student. He didn't need enemies, especially since he had no interest in defending himself.
The bell rang. It was the last class of the day. Jake watched as students rushed for the door, casually picking himself up at his own pace. He didn't bring a book bag to school. He would just leave it somewhere if someone had made him. He wasn't going to be writing anything down. It was pointless. Running through the motions every day like this was pointless. He did what he wanted when he wanted. He had no interest in anyone else's plans for him; even it was something as simple as a curriculum.
"Jake, we're thinking about hitting up the skate park after school." Spud said, as they walked toward the front doors. "You should come with us, man. It'll be like old times."
Jake shook his head. Not only did he not know where his skateboard was, he didn't want to revisit old times. He didn't want these times. Or new times. He wished that time would just stop. Time was an irrelevant concept anyway.
"You okay getting home?" Trixie asked.
Home? Where was home? What is the concept of home? Was home really where your heart lies? What if you felt as though you didn't have a heart? Weren't hearts all about yearning and wanting, excitement and tears, breaking and being whole, beating wildly and stopping all at once? He didn't feel that. He felt existence. He felt his existence as though it were a coat of armor; heavy metal put in place to show him how little he was in scheme of things. Someone so small couldn't make a single dent in this huge world of crazed people only thinking of themselves.
"Jakey? Can you get home okay?" Trixie stopped, making him look her in the eye. He nodded. He wasn't that far away from Gramps. "We'll see you tomorrow." Trixie and Spud walked off together, skateboards tucked under their arms.
Jake watched until they were out of the sight. He then turned to head for Gramps' shop. The place was deserted, as it often was. Gramps was out fighting what evil he could with Fu, taking over Jake's duties. Jake wondered if his grandfather had figured out yet that Jake was never going to be the Am Drag again. He walked up to his bedroom. When he opened the door, Haley was sitting on the bed.
"I have an idea," she announced.
Jake quirked an eyebrow. He walked toward the bed, sitting beside her.
"I brought you paint."
Remembering his promise to try to be her big brother again, Jake made an effort to speak aloud, instead of resorting to the gestures and avoidances he used with everyone else. "Why?"
"I thought it might be therapeutic." Haley explained. "I saw your drawing of the dragon the other night and I don't know if you realized it, but that dragon looked like you. I think you miss that part of yourself, and I want to help you get back in touch with your dragon side."
"With paint?" Jake was still confused. The confusion felt weird. He was used to being so disinterested in his surroundings that if something cropped up that he didn't quite understand, he could brush it off and never think of it again.
"Your room is depressing." Haley commented.
He didn't see what that had to with anything.
She pointed to the wall directly opposite his bed, the one with the door. "That wall is totally blank." She pointed to the paint. "Paint something."
Haley handed him a photo. "I took this in March. This is what you actually look like, by the way."
He held the picture in his hands. He hardly recognized the form. Not that he had spent much time studying his dragon form in the mirror. In this picture, he looked free. Ironic, since that's what he wanted to be all along.
He was in the moment before the flight. His yellow underbelly contrasted greatly with the rest of his muscled, red, scaled body. His wings were open, ready to catch the breeze. His tail was curled upwards, coming to meet his chest. The tuft of green and black hair was shorter, spiked slightly. His eyes were open, a small jet of flame forming between his lips. How had he not noticed Haley taking this picture? He didn't even remember this moment.
"Here are your paints." Haley pushed the bottles and brushes toward him. "I'm going to go make a snack. Do chocolate covered bananas sound good to you?"
No. They didn't. But painting did.
I don't own American Dragon Jake Long. This chapter was edited by Noble6.