That’s right, I’m getting my blogfest on yet again! This fest is in honor of the beginning of a new school year… um… which is probably far less exciting to me as a high school teacher than it is to some of you, whose post-college lives are now blessedly untainted by academia.
Roh Morgan is the one hosting the Back To School Daze Blogfest. Be sure to click over to his site and check out the other entries – after you’ve read mine, of course!
This particular scene comes from The Clearing, which is the YA novel I’ve got on sub right now. It’s guaranteed to make you squirm and thank your lucky stars you’re not in high school anymore! Enjoy!
* * *
One by one, my classmates drifted through the door until the room buzzed with their conversation. I kept my eyes fixed on my notes, trying to block out the sound of their voices so that maybe I wouldn’t get too freaked out. A multitude of butterflies erupted somewhere deep in my belly when the bell finally rang to start class. I shut my notebook and settled back into my chair, hoping we wouldn’t have to go first. I shot a nervous glance over at Liam’s desk, hoping to find him looking well-rested and confident, which might possibly have happened – except that he wasn’t there.
There was a second of horror-struck confusion as I registered his absence.
My heart jumped into my throat. Where was he? Had he somehow forgotten about the project? If he was out running around in that stupid forest, I was absolutely going to kill him. Mrs. Rosenberg had threatened us repeatedly about not showing up on presentation day – if one of us wasn’t there, we would lose a letter grade on the project. No excuses would be accepted.
And here I sat, staring at the empty desk of my supposed partner. My imagination instantly filled with visions of myself storming around campus until I found Liam, then giving him the chewing out he deserved. I pictured all the nasty, biting things I would say to him: How unreliable he was, how I couldn’t believe he had abandoned me like that. I would demand that he go to Mrs. Rosenberg and beg her to take another letter off of his grade instead of deducting points from mine.
“Alright, let’s begin,” Mrs. Rosenberg called from her podium as my life flashed before my eyes. Somehow, I knew what she was about to say before she said it. “I would like to begin with Liam and Natalie, please. The rest of you, remember to stay quiet and take notes on each presentation. Your behavior as an audience makes up a part of your grade.”
There was a pause as she waited for me to get up. I could feel my classmates staring at me.
“Um,” I said, standing up halfway and posing in an awkward crouch, “Liam isn’t here today.”
Mrs. Rosenberg glanced at Liam’s empty chair, then emitted a loud huff and threw up her hands. “What did I tell you about being here on presentation day?” She aimed the accusation at me, which somehow made me feel guilty even though I hadn’t done anything wrong.
“I’m sorry,” I said helplessly. “I don’t know where he is.”
I sat back down in my seat; she would probably just make us go tomorrow, and that way I would have time to wallow in my humiliation before finding Liam and punching him in the face.
“You still have to go,” Mrs. Rosenberg said, her eyes cast down at what I assumed was our project grade sheet on her podium. She was drawing enthusiastic streaks across it with her red pen.
Surely I heard her wrong. “I’m sorry?”
She looked up at me then, giving me The Look that all teachers seem to have. “You still have to present, Natalie. You’ve lost a letter grade already because your partner didn’t show up, but if you don’t go at all today, you’ll fail the project.”
I felt my face freeze in a tormented expression. Someone sniggered behind me. I could feel the entire class struggling to hide their delight at my predicament.
Without saying a word, I picked my notes up off my desk and walked to the front of the room, turning slowly to face the class. My heartbeat pounded in my ears and I felt slightly off balance; it was like one of those dreams where you suddenly look down and realize you’re naked and everyone is laughing at you. Only I was wearing clothes, and they were still laughing.
“The poem Rhapsody on a Windy…”
I stopped and cleared my throat, then started again. “The poem Rhapsody on a Windy Night has long been…”
From the back of the room I saw Chelsea Bennett’s face alight with satisfaction. She grinned at the girl sitting next to her, and both of them dissolved into silent giggles behind their notebooks.
And suddenly I couldn’t stop breathing. My breath was coming in, then out, faster and faster, and I was getting dizzy….
“Natalie?” Mrs. Rosenberg’s concerned voice came from very far away. It was the last thing I heard before I passed out.