Scene 3. French Class
The bird had been hopping up and down the branch for twenty minutes. It took precisely five hops to the right, three back to the left, two to the right, and four back to the left to end up nearly where it had begun. Even after it flew away briefly, when it returned it did the exact same thing. Even when sitting still, its little head hardly stopped moving.
A perfectly choreographed chickadee.
Focusing on the cheerful bird was the only way Boyd kept his mind off the morass of despondency that had befallen him lately. It had been four days since Hsin had been suspended for attacking Mr. Carhart.
Boyd knew it was all his own fault, for having gotten involved with Hsin in the first place when he couldn’t be what Hsin needed, and for mentioning Mr. Carhart by name in his pro/con list, and for not knowing what Hsin intended to do when he’d walked out of the room that day.
The fact that Hsin had promptly gotten in trouble only underscored to Boyd that maybe Mr. Carhart had been right. Maybe he was destined to be Hsin’s Achilles Heel, and if so, what could he even give Hsin to balance that out?
He had nothing to offer. Even his own parents barely wanted him, and the sentiment seemed felt by most of the other students. There must be something very wrong with him that everyone could see. Only Hsin was blinded and those blinders were only going to get Hsin hurt.
Boyd sighed and looked back down at the French packet. He’d finished it within five minutes of the class starting but everyone else still seemed to be struggling to fill in the information, flipping between their textbooks and the empty lines. Not that it mattered. It was unlikely anyone would get higher than a C anyway.
With his chin propped on his hand he looked around dully, noting he’d already become invisible to the world once again. Hsin had been the only one to actually look at him, to see him, but maybe that was the reason Hsin was being pulled down.
Maybe Boyd was never meant to be seen at all.
As if to contradict that thought, one of the other students at Boyd’s cluster of tables reached over to tap a pen against his hand.
Boyd was confused to see Kassian Trovosky facing him. Had he hit the wrong hand somehow? He knew the guy’s name because it was impossible to be enrolled at Lexington High School and not know his name, but they’d never interacted before. He glanced at the other students nearby but no one was paying attention so Boyd turned a questioning stare on Kassian.
Kassian raised one eyebrow slightly and extended his hand further to write something in the margin of Boyd’s notebook.
why so serious?
Boyd frowned down at the paper and, after a pause, wrote below it:
do you need something?
Kassian’s mouth edged up into a wide smile. He knocked his sneaker against Boyd’s boot, and wrote back.
lots. like maybe help studying french.
That caused Boyd to pause. It wouldn’t surprise him if Kassian was failing French. Everyone was failing French. It wouldn’t be the first time someone assumed he could get them a step ahead in the class, somehow, since his mother taught it.
At the thought, Boyd glanced up. Vivienne was glaring around the classroom, making sure everyone was working on their packet and not goofing off. Boyd waited until she looked back down at whatever was in front of her before he wrote back.
If you’re asking me because my mother teaches the class, I don’t have access to any special information
Kassian made a face at Boyd and scribbled back.
dude, i said STUDY not CHEAT!
Mollified, Boyd relaxed back into his chair. He didn’t see why Kassian was bothering to ask him to study since he had a whole flock of fans who would jump at the chance, but he didn’t care enough to ask why. It was unlikely Kassian would even remember to show up in the first place.
I guess it’s fine
The response earned him one of Kassian’s famous, blinding grins. At the third table in their cluster, Harriet Stevens looked at them both suspiciously. Kassian ignored her and began shading in a portion of the page in Boyd’s notebook.
Slight irritation moved through Boyd. He liked to keep his notebook uncluttered and easy to read. The notes in the margin were problematic enough but now, shading too? All forms of art were drawn in a separate notebook. That was the way it was done.
He caught Kassian’s hand to make him stop and leaned closer to hiss quietly, “Are you bored or something?”
Kassian closed his fingers over Boyd’s. “No. Just want attention.”
Boyd gave him an odd look and pulled his hand away. “Don’t you get enough of that already?”
“No, not from you.” Kassian shrugged and sat back in his chair, picking up his pen again. “If you don’t want to be friends it’s cool, though. No harm, no foul.”
“What are you…” Boyd started to say, then stopped in exasperation.
What the hell was Kassian on about? This was the first time they’d ever talked and now he suddenly wanted to be friends? Boyd glanced around the room to see if this was some sort of bizarre new bullying move, like maybe the other kids were recording it and planned to humiliate him on Youtube if he said yes, but no one was looking their way.
Didn’t mean it wasn’t still going to happen, though. Popular jocks didn’t suddenly decide to slum it with the goths. Come to think of it, maybe Kassian wanted Boyd to turn him down so that could be the reason they bullied him.
Boyd sighed and looked out the window. High school was so hard.
“I don’t really care. Do whatever you want.”
Harriet snorted. “Freak.”
“Shut up, Harry.” Kassian flicked his teammate’s paper, causing it to nearly float off the edge of her desk.
“Trovosky,” Vivienne’s voice suddenly cracked through the room. “Stevens. Beaulieu.”
Boyd snapped his head over to see her. She had risen from behind the desk to glare icily at the three of them.
“Is there something you wish to share with the rest of the class?” she demanded.
“My pen ran out of ink, Madame Beaulieu,” Kassian said innocently. “I was asking if they had one to lend me.”
“Do so in French next time,” Vivienne said flatly. “Beaulieu, detention tomorrow.”
“What–” Boyd started to say, but she cut him off.
“You should always have an extra pen available for students around you so as not to cause disturbances.” She looked curtly down at her watch, then back up at the class. “The rest of you. Dismissed.”
Kassian stared at Vivienne before looking at Boyd in confusion. He didn’t get up as the other students began collecting their belongings and filing out of the classroom. “What the hell? Dude, I’m sorry. I’ll go talk to her.”
Boyd sighed and flipped his notebook closed. He began sliding his items carefully back into their correct spots in his messenger bag. “Don’t bother. She does it all the time. I think she likes to keep me out of the house as much as possible.”
“That’s super weird.” Kassian frowned at Vivienne. “She sounds like a pretty terrible mom.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Boyd said as he stood. “I’ll die eventually and at that point, whatever mother I had will be inconsequential.”
“Geez. You go hard on that dramatic, emo persona, don’t you?”
“Label it whatever you want but what I said is true.” Boyd readjusted his bag’s strap across his chest and started walking toward the door.
“Well, I didn’t say it wasn’t.” Kassian grabbed his notebook and stood up to follow Boyd. “Whatever, that doesn’t matter. You can be as dark and gothic as you want, I still like you.”
That caused Boyd to stop and look at him. “Are you high?”
Kassian frowned. “What’s your deal?”
“You’re suddenly being very friendly to me when we’ve hardly exchanged glances before. You’re popular and I’m most definitely not. It seems you’re only doing yourself a disservice here and I don’t understand why. Aren’t you worried about being seen talking to a freak?”
“No. I don’t care about what other people think. Most of those people aren’t even my friends.” Kassian crossed his arms over his chest and glanced over his shoulder. Vivienne had left the room as well. “Look, I’ve been watching you for a while. I know a lot of people I associate with give you shit, and that’s why I first noticed you. I thought it wasn’t right and I told them so. But after that, I guess I just thought you were interesting.”
“Oh.” Boyd paused, studying Kassian for a hint of a lie and finding none. He crossed his arms. “But you don’t even know me.”
“I know, dude. That’s the point. I want to get to know you. That’s why I asked you to help me study. That, and you’re the best in French class. That way, I get to improve my grades and hang out with a cute guy. See? Two birds with one stone.”
“Well.” Boyd stopped, not quite sure how to respond to that.
This entire conversation was bizarre and he still wasn’t certain he wasn’t being punked. It seemed too strange otherwise for Mr. Popular to suddenly not only think Boyd was interesting but also randomly worth defending to his friends. He didn’t comment on the ‘cute’ part because he was pretty sure it was some sort of a setup that would end with him being mocked.
“Well, we can study French, that’s fine. They say you learn even better through teaching anyway, so it might help me as well.”
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” a low, irritated voice said from the doorway.
Boyd looked over in surprise to see Hsin standing there, staring at them in obvious anger. He felt a thrill in his stomach at the sight of him, followed immediately by a strange pang of guilt.
“Hsin! You’re back already?”
“No. I just came to see you.” Hsin crossed the distance between them, stopping directly in front of Kassian. “What’s this about you helping this douchebag?”
“He said he wanted help with French.”
“He said he wanted to hang out with a cute guy,” Hsin snapped. “He just wants to fuck you. It’s pretty obvious to anyone who has seen him staring at your ass in gym or wherever else. Trovosky is the worst undercover faggot in this stupid high school.”
At that, Kassian colored. “Fuck you, Vega. Why don’t you go back to the retard class?”
“Why don’t you get the fuck away from my boyfriend before I put your head through the wall?”
“You don’t own him. He can do what he wants.”
Hsin reared his arm back and slammed his fist into Kassian’s face, causing the other teenager to stagger back. He fell over a desk, knocked his head into the edge of another one, and dropped to the floor, unmoving.
Boyd blinked down at Kassian and then looked up at Hsin.
“I’ve been thinking about your list,” Hsin said evenly. He flexed his hand. “And one of your side notes. But since I may have killed Trovosky, I guess I better go.”
Boyd knelt down and checked Kassian’s pulse. His heart was still beating and his chest was rising, albeit not deeply, but blood had started to seep from beneath his head. Boyd put pressure on the wound automatically, and couldn’t help feeling a little bad for Kassian. He’d seemed kind of nice, but then, if Hsin was right maybe it was all just for an ulterior motive.
Hsin’s words kept replaying in his mind. He looked up through a fall of hair.
“He needs help. I’ll get a nurse, but what…” He stopped, feeling a nervous flutter in his stomach. “Which of the side notes?”
“The one… about…” Hsin looked uncertain and shoved his thumb through a hole in the sleeve of his hoody. “Uh. Well, we can talk later. Unless I go to jail for killing that douchebag.”
“Then go right now. The sooner I can get him help, maybe the less trouble you’ll be in. Don’t worry, I’ll let them know you didn’t mean to hurt him like this. But… call me?”
Hsin shrugged, backing out of the room. “I’ll be around.”
“I hope you will,” Boyd said quietly before returning his attention to Kassian.