By Lady E
Author's Note: Written for my English class. Deadlines are absolute nightmares.
Dedicated to my cousin Peter for having to endure a teacher's unfair treatment like Lucas does in this story.
Noun the terminal forced release of pressure built up during the occlusive phase of a stop consonant. (synonym: explosion)
A lady would not be entering a nightclub at eleven o'clock Monday night, thought Nancy Ingram.
She stood in the middle of the crosswalk, uncertain whether to continue across the street to the pulsing lights and wild music palpable through the single shaded window or move back to the safety of the other side. There were no cars around her, no blaring of horns or gunning of engines to disturb the blanket of silence that hovered over the city. The San Diego residents preferred to do their business in the bright light of day and not roam about like a thief at night.
I'm not a thief, Nancy thought to herself, indignant at the comparison, construed in her own mind. She wasn't one of those lazy bums who sat around the streets in Los Angeles, waiting for darkness to cloak them as they went about their unchristian ways. The only reason she was out at this time of night was because only two hours ago, her mother had called her in a panic, pleading for her to come.
It was the same as usual. Her mother had gambled all her money away again, paltry as it was, and had gotten herself drunk. Nancy had cleared things with the police officers, stuffed a wad of cash in her mother's hand, promised to check up with her mother the following week, and here she was, a few yards from the entrance of the nightclub, and still debating whether to go in or not. It was the usual.
A thin breeze brushed past her, and Nancy shivered, wishing she'd remembered to bring the beige coat she'd bought three weeks ago for the start of the school term. She hadn't really expected to wear it all that much though. The climate in San Diego was supposed to be the best. Just three years ago, the Time magazine had bounced the quiet, suburban city up the charts to receive its honorable status as "the city with the number one climate." Judging by the goosebumps rising on her arms, Time needed to conduct another survey.
Or maybe I'm just scared, thought Nancy bitterly, Scared of crossing this street and going into that bar, scared of letting myself go, scared of doing something wrong. And therein lay her problem. She wasn't a risk-taker.
Or was she?
Nancy swept back a tendril of blond hair and tucked it behind her ears. She tore her gaze away from the nightclub and moved back to her harbor on the other side. Same old Nancy.
Her glasses were dirty. Nancy quietly slipped them off and rubbed the delicate lenses against her sleeve. She looked up briefly to survey the rows of students before her.
They all had their heads down, dutifully bent over their textbook. They were a sweet bunch of kids, generally, and never offered too much trouble.
Or perhaps not, Nancy thought with a frown as she caught sight of the brown mop of hair belonging to Lucas Soams.
The boy was sitting in the front row, center, directly in front of her and for good reason. And once again, he had failed to follow her instructions and was not reading. Of course. Lucas Soams never paid any attention to her if he could help it, not since the first day he'd hurtled into her sixth grade history class, screaming "Power to the kids!"
Though fresh out of grad school and still making her first attempts at a steady income, Nancy Ingram did not count herself as a fool. She understood Lucas well enough to keep an extra eye on him during class. She strained herself keeping him occupied and silent. And for all the good it did her, she might as well have just let go of the reins and let the boy run wild.
Exactly what was he doing now? Nancy put her glasses back on, pushing them up the bridge of her nose and leaning forward to see beneath the boy's bent head. Why…the nerve of that kid. "Lucas Soams! Stop folding paper airplanes and open your textbook this instant!"
Lucas looked up in slight surprise, but in a split second, his eyes had narrowed resentfully. He snatched up the half-folded paper plane and swiveled in his seat to aim it at a tiny, black-haired girl sitting next to the map of California posted on the back wall.
"Lucas, put that down!"
Too late. The plane was well on its way toward the girl and no amount of yelling would stop it. The tiny girl shrieked and shrank into her plastic chair as the paper contraption, half-finished and unbalanced as it was, nicked her on the forehead and toppled to the ground beside her.
The room fell silent and all eyes turned to Nancy expectantly, waiting for her reprimand. It took a moment for her riled senses to return. When they did return, they brought with them a dangerous burst of anger. Don't get mad, Nancy ordered herself, Keep your temper in check. It's no good to yell.
Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she turned away from Lucas and went to her desk. But even with her back to him, she could still imagine his piercing black eyes, glaring defiantly at her. Her own hazel eyes darkened a shade or two behind the spectacles she wore day and night. Nancy knew she had to correct Lucas, but the trouble was, she'd already tried everything she knew, done everything in her power to set him on track. The boy was just stubborn enough to resist her. Moreover, circumstances simply were not in her favor.
Nancy recalled the last phone call she'd put to Lucas's mother.
The voice on the line was slurred and uneven, and each syllable jolted one after the other. It was almost dizzying to listen to, and it reminded Nancy wholly of her own mother. There was no question: the woman was drunk. Nancy pursed her lips and made the attempt anyway.
"Mrs. Soams, this is Lucas's English teacher, Ms. Ingram. May I speak with you for a few minutes about your son?"
"My son! What didda stupid pest do now?"
She imagined she could smell the bitter tang of alcohol through the phone line. "As I mentioned to you last time, Mrs. Soams, Lucas seems to have trouble paying attention in class, and lately, he has been acting up a lot more. Just yesterday, he refused to sit in his seat and spent the entire period walking around the back of the classroom."
Nancy grimaced. So like her mother. She hoped she would never turn into either of these two women. "It's very distracting to the other students, Mrs. Soams. …May I suggest that Lucas see a counselor?"
At this, the woman went ballistic. "MY SON DOES NOT NEED A COUNSELOR TO MESS WITH HIS HEAD! IF YOU CAN'T DEAL WITH HIM, THAT'S YOUR PROBLEM! DON'T GO BLAMING HIM—"
Wide-eyed, Nancy held the phone at arms length and, with her other hand, gingerly touched her sore ear. That, she thought with a wince, my mother never does. When the screaming on the line had died down a bit, Nancy cautiously brought the phone back to her ear. She was wary of more yelling and did not expect the steady buzz indicating her failure.
Great. She hung up.
Besides her attempts to appeal to Lucas's parents, Nancy had also held many conversations with Lucas himself. She'd warned him about his outrageous behavior in class, threatened him with everything she could think of (from giving him an "F" to direct suspension), but Lucas had not listened and had, instead, remarked that she was wasting his time. It was a waste of time indeed, if he was not even going to get off his high rocker and consider her words.
To put it bluntly, Nancy just had no idea what to do with Lucas Soams.
She turned back around to face the class. Most of the students were leaning over to whisper in one another's ears, their textbook reading laying neglected in the wake of more interesting events. As soon as their teacher's eyes returned to them, however, they all straightened and bent over their books again. All except one, of course.
Lucas was now sitting back in his seat and creasing a second sheet of paper. His face was devoid of expression, but his actions were rapid and precise, calculated to draw annoyed attention.
Annoyed, Nancy definitely was. Keeping her voice as level as she could, she tried for the thousandth time, "Stop this, Lucas. It isn't funny."
"No," answered Lucas, keeping focus on his task. "It isn't funny."
"Right," said Nancy warily, knowing the boy would never acquiesce so easily. "So why don't you—"
"It's simply fun."
Nancy gritted her teeth. She didn't think she'd ever met anyone so intolerably rude! And now, she was using up class time having an argument with an eleven-year-old boy. "Lucas Soams, I do not want to put you in detention today, but from the way you're acting now, I don't think I have much of a choice."
Lucas kept his head down, but his hands stopped in the middle of tucking a fold into its slot. The plane lay alone on the desk, once again only half-completed but brilliantly constructed and just as capable of flying as its predecessor.
Before Nancy could nod a curt approval, however, Lucas said, "You always have a choice, Ms. Ingram. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's not there."
Disbelief warred with anger, and Nancy had to struggle for words. "That's quite enough! I've had it with your rudeness. You're staying after school today to serve detention with me and that's the end of that."
"No!" His head finally came up in a sudden jerk, and his eyes were filled with outrage as he glared at his teacher. "You can't make me stay after!"
"Can't I?" echoed Nancy, hot anger roiling just beneath her surface. At this point, she wasn't sure if she could contain her fury. There were certain limits she'd never been pushed to before. She glowered back at the boy. "As the teacher, I am telling you to stay after today."
Lucas leapt to his feet, nearly knocking his chair over in the process. His fists were clenched by his side, and he looked madder than a snorting bull. His classmates all watched him with unblinking eyes, afraid to miss any of the action.
"Sit. Down." Nancy barely managed to bite the words out; she was so tense from fury. She was vaguely aware of the students turning to watch her now, pairs upon pairs of frightened yet curious eyes awaiting the inevitable explosion.
Lucas's voice matched Nancy's in intensity and anger. "No."
That one word, though short and low, carried with it enough force to release the pressure that had been building up throughout the school year between teacher and student. The result was an explosion.
"YOU STUBBORN BOY!" Nancy shouted, making a wild gesture towards Lucas. "Do you never get tired of being an absolute NUISANCE to everyone else!? Can you not for once act normally or, at the very least, be polite?! I am sick and tired of putting up with your stupid antics! So, will you listen for once in your life and SIT DOWN!?"
No one moved or spoke. Nancy had clamped her hand over her mouth as soon as she'd finished screaming, as if not trusting herself to be able to refrain from continuing. Lucas had frozen in his spot as soon as the first words of his teacher's tirade had emerged, and he remained there now, swaying slightly from the impact of the explosion. Some of the other students had their jaws wide open, shocked by the outburst. In fact, the scene in the classroom resembled the aftermath of a war in its deathly silence and heavy atmosphere.
The silence was broken when the shrill shriek of the school bell sliced the air, fragmenting the tension and signaling the end of the day.
The students gradually began to pack their bags and prepare to leave. Nancy watched wordlessly as each of them slung on their backpacks and headed out the door. Last to leave was Lucas. He quietly zipped up his backpack and shifted it onto one shoulder. Without a single word, without a single look, he followed the others out the door.
Nancy did not stop him. But right before he passed through the doorway, she saw the telltale wetness of his eyes and cheeks, a split second of reflected light, and then he was gone.
With no one else in the classroom, Nancy walked slowly to the center desk in the front row and looked down at the half-made paper plane. Well-made but still made out of paper; still fragile. She gently picked up the plane and studied it for a bit. Then, staring off into space, she held it for a long while.
Nancy Ingram stood outside the nightclub, wearing the beige coat she'd bought almost four weeks ago. She should not have been cold; the morning weatherman had predicted the evening temperature to be around the low seventies. But there were still goosebumps covering her arms. She studied the entrance to the nightclub, memorizing the shape of the doorway, the angles of the shadows it cast.
She was afraid. She was terrified of doing something wrong, of becoming her mother. But she had already done something wrong.
"I am no lady," Nancy murmured to herself as she walked up to the entrance of the nightclub.
Thanks for reading.
June 8, 2005.