A/N: WOW that took a while, didn't it. Sorry about that. Let me know how you like it (or hate it, hahah)
5. Simple Biology and Coolidge Middle School - Part 3
By the time Jess and Nick got to her class, quite a few students had already arrived. All the students gave an excited cheer when Jess walked into the class, screaming 'Good morning, Ms Day' in a sing song voice, each in a different, offbeat tune, an idea born from the Harry Potter books. But the second Nick walked in, the class fell completely silent, everyone having frozen where they were as they stared at Nick.
Jess chuckled at Nick's obvious discomfort at the scrutiny that he was getting no subtly. Before she could say something, a girl sitting in the front row, right in front of Jess, raised her hand, her eyes wide as she stared at Nick.
Jess knew that look - teeth clamping down on her lower lip, jumping in her seat and even swinging a little bit. Rhea would explode any second now if not allowed to speak right away.
"Yes, Rhea?" said Jess, smiling a little.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Rhea stood up and looked at Jess after throwing a seemingly suspicious glance at Nick.
"Ms Day, is this your new boyfriend?"
The entire class chortled and Ooooh'd at her, and Jess had to roll her eyes because honestly, why hadn't she seen this coming. The children were surprisingly curious and even borderline obsessed with her love life. Everytime someone the kids were unfamiliar was brought to class by her, she would be asked if they were her boyfriend. (Girlfriend, when she first introduced them to Cece).
"No, Rhea, he is not," she said turning to look at Nick pointedly so he could back her up, but he was merely looking on with amusement.
"Right, Nick?" she pressed.
"No, ma'am," he agreed.
"Everyone, this is Nicholas Miller. And yes, before you ask, he is the author of The Pepperwood Chronicles," she added and the hands that had shot up when she'd mentioned his name, dropped. Except one.
"Ms. Day, didn't you say that the author would be a balding man with silver hair and a r-rotten?-"
"It's rotund, Matthew," said a Brianna, another student, shaking her head at Matt.
"Right, rotund," repeated Matt, nodding nervously and Jess realized where this was going and also realized that it was too late to stop her student. "You'd said that he'd be a balding man with a rotund belly, Ms. Day."
"Matt," sighed Jess. "I hadn't said that that's how he looked. I thought that's what he looked like, remember? You had asked me what I thought he looked like during the reading last month?"
"That explains your 'Fake GRRM' comment," Nick muttered under his breath, and Jess just looked at him sheepishly with a small shrug.
As the class broke into a debate over Nick's Real Look™ versus Grade 7's Nicholas Miller Look™, Nick turned to Jess and said, "I can't believe you thought that I was an old, grandpa-type guy! What made you think that?"
"I-I don't know, okay, just something about the way you write gave me old-man vibes!"
"Old man vibes?" asked Nick scrunching his nose, looking mildly hurt.
"Hey, it's not a bad thing!" she said quickly. "I… I mean old men can be, er, great too. And um…"
"You have a thing for older men!?" asked Nick, making a face that reminded her so much of the turtle from the video Cece had sent to her last night.
"Only for Walter Matthau types. From Grumpy Old Man."
Nick began to cackle. "That is such a weird kink."
Jess gasped and looked around at the class before glaring at him. "You can't say words like that in class!"
He just laughed at her while she huffed at him irritated, muttering that she didn't have time for this as she turned to get her class's attention. In a matter of seconds, she had them settled down and was explaining to them that she had gotten Nick to come talk to them about his book; that maybe all the questions they had been pestering her with for some time now, could finally be directed towards him
"And nobody be mean," she finished, looking pointedly at a small blonde girl with glasses sitting next to Rhea. "Okay, who wants to go first?"
"What inspired Pepperwood, Mr. Miller?"
Nick chuckled as he thought back to the day - lying drunk in his dorm bed, trying to reach Caroline, and then waking up to a voice message from her asking him never to contact her again. The amount of irritation and anger that had filled him at that moment, powered by the slowly dulling heartache, had made him jump out of bed and start typing aggressively. He'd always wanted to write about zombies, Pepperwood was but a hazy idea at the back of his mind, but turned out Caroline was the fuel he needed to make it all clearer.
"Uh, well, I had always known I wanted to write about zombies. And one day, I was really upset and drunk out of-"
"Mr. Miller!" hissed Jess, earning a giggle from some of the students.
"Right, sorry, I was upset and I er, had a lot of um, adult juice and the idea just came to me. I knew when I woke up I wouldn't remember so I just sat down and… wrote," he finished with a shrug.
"Adult juice? Really?" muttered Jess, but before Nick could react, Rhea's hand was up again.
"Rhea?" said Jess quickly.
"Mr. Miller, will you be writing a sequel?"
Nick, who had walked over to the teacher's desk and was leaning against it, crossed his arms and frowned slightly. "Um, I don't know, actually. I haven't really thought about it. If my brain can come up with something, I don't see why not."
"Please, do, Mr. Miller," said Rhea sincerely. "Ms. Day had promised us to try to convince you when she went to your reading the other day?"
"Did she now?" laughed Nick, turning to Jess who just shrugged at him. "She didn't mention it to me that day…"
Jess's mouth dropped open in annoyance as her gaze darted over to Rhea's outraged expression.
"Rhea, I wanted to, but I was running late," she explained apologetically as she turned to glare at Nick. "But since Mr. Miller is here, why don't you try to convince him yourself?"
The class immediately erupted in chaos and Jess stood by smugly as she watched Nick get flustered. As he caught sight of her smirk, Nick knew just what to say to wipe that off her face.
"Alright, alright," said Nick loudly. "It's my turn to ask you guys a question!"
The class fell silent and everyone watched him with curious excitement, while Jess looked at him with a small frown. It was only when he smirked back at her that she realized what he was about to ask her and groaned internally.
"So how did you guys come across this book in the first place?"
Everyone's hands in the class punched the air at the same time, almost collectively. Nick scanned the class till his eyes landed on a girl at the back. "Uh, the young lady right here... In the strange-looking vest…" Catching the glare from Jess, he hastily added, "No offense."
"Ms. Day recommended the book to us, Mr. Miller," said the girl in the strange looking vest as she straightened her glasses.
"Oh! I see, so your Ms. Day has read the book too?" he asked knowingly looking at Jess with eyebrows raised, and she sank into herself in annoyance.
What's the big deal!?
His smug ass face, that's what.
"Read it?" laughed the girl. "Ms. Day loves the book."
There were collective nods in the class.
"In fact," she continued. "Funny story, actually, she was very sad after she finished reading it. When we asked her what was wrong, she told us about the book. And we wanted to read it and here we are! And she also said that if Pepp-"
"Ooookay, that's enough, Alicia," said Jess, but it was more of a giggle-shriek.
Nick frowned, not really having caught on to what had just happened. "She was sad? Why was she sad?" he asked, now looking at Jess. "It wasn't a sad ending."
Jess opened her mouth to respond, but Alicia had seemingly decided to end Jess today.
"She was sad because though Pepperwood saved the world, he was all alone in the end," said Alicia, with a slight shake of her head.
A small boy with thick glasses, cut in with a small laugh. "She was so sad about it that she said if Pepperwood was a real person, she'd marry him."
Nick felt his eyebrows rise higher than ever as he looked at Jess who was looking mildly embarassed at being caught red-handed with her lie. Why did her students hate her so much. "What, he deserves love, okay?"
He stared at her without saying anything and she rambled on nervously. "He blames himself too much about things. If he could just-"
And then she was saved by the bell.
Oh thank god.
The class, engrossed in their conversation groaned at that, and Jess laughed a little because that was probably the first time in her years as a teacher that students had been visibly upset at the bell.
Nick was still looking at her a little strangely and Jess gulped nervously before saying, "So um, that's that. We're through with time."
"Right," he muttered, shaking his head as he looked at the class again.
"Okay, class, what do you say?"
"Thank you, Mr. Miller!" they sang and Nick smiled back.
"Well, guys, it was nice meeting you all. I had fun!"
"We did too!" a couple of students chimed in while the others nodded in agreement.
"Alright then, keep your English books ready. I'll walk Mr. Miller out, and be back soon, okay?"
"Yes, Miss Day!"
She lead him out of the class and the two of them walked in silence for a little while, Nick lost in thoughts. As for Jess, she was surprised he hadn't started to poke fun at her already.
When the reached the main entrance, Nick squinted into the sun searchingly till he spotted Schmidt's car and raised his hand. Schmidt honked in response and started to drive towards him, while Nick turned to Jess.
"So…" she repeated, feeling a little stupid, shuffling on her feet.
"Um, I think that went well."
"Definitely," she nodded seriously.
"Actually, I wanted to ask you if-" began Nick, but was interrupted by the rude noise of car honk.
Schmidt was at the entrance, windows rolled down and staring expectantly at Nick.
"Never mind, my ride's here," he said starting to go down the small flight of stairs leading down to the road.
Jess's eyes flickered briefly to the car and she frowned a little. The guy in the driver's seat looked a little familiar, but she couldn't quite place it.
"So I guess this is it," said Nick as he started to turn around.
"Yup," she said the 'P' popping as she watched him get to the car.
"Ms Day," he said, with a small salute.
"Mr Miller," she laughed, mimicking him.
She waited till the car left the school premises before turning around and walking back to her class. There was a mild restlessness to her that she couldn't quite understand and dismissed it as… ignored it. She ignored it.
A/N: So much dialogue, oops. Was that weird? Too corny? I'm sorry the Coolidge School thing stretched out so much, lol. But that's it of Coolidge. For now ;) ;)