Leila Carson slipped out the door of her two-story house. It was 6:30 AM and she was going to school before her step father woke up. Locking it behind her, she quietly flew down the stairs, shouldering her backpack more efficiently. She glanced behind her before breaking into a jog; the house looked perfect from the outside, the lawn kept perfectly green and just the right length, all of the hedges trimmed weekly, and a couple antique chairs just sitting out on the lawn. To her, it was a nightmare. Ever since her mother had married that man, she'd been living there. With him. He seemed to think that just because her mom was in love with him, she was as well and she would listen to whatever he told her. She pretended to like him around her mother, but when it was just them, she had no problem with being rude right back.
Her grades were perfect, they had to be in order for her to be able to go out on weekends. If her grades slipped at all, it was home all the time for a month. Weekends at Erin's was all she had to look forward to anymore, that was the only time she could actually sleep instead of pretending to while she waited for him to finish. She shook her head and pushed play on her mp3 player, letting angry Japanese metal drown out her thoughts the rest of the way to her school. When she arrived, her usual group was waiting there, which was a good sign because they'd just gotten back from their fall break and occasionally some of her more... Outgoing friends would still be at home with hangovers. But that was mostly after spring break.
Leila sat down next to Erin, one of her only actual friends, who was currently burrying her face in her hoodie, trying to block out the angry rays of sun that broke into the cafeteria quite rudely. She patted her head and set her backpack down gently, minding those that were trying to catch a couple more minutes of sleep, like Erin. Erin raised her head and smiled sleepily at Leila, holding out her arm for a hug, "Hey... How was your week away from this place?"
Leila smiled, hugging her before shrugging slightly, "Pretty boring, actually. Kevin wouldn't let me go anywhere, so I just stayed on the computer all night and slept during the day." That was her usual plan if she didn't have school and she couldn't get out. He couldn't touch her if she wasn't even 'asleep'.
"Well, I was on vacation with my family unit all week. Talk about F U N." Erin groaned and burried her face again. A second later it popped up and she had an excited look on her face, "Hey! Remember in English class how Mr. Larson got canned for being drunk at school? Well, his replacement is apparently super hot, according to my sources on the soccer team who were here all week training and saw him moving into his room. He's young, too. Think I have a chance with him?"
Leila rolled her eyes and jumped a bit as the warning bell rang. They now had 15 minutes to get to class before they'd be counted late and have to get a tardy slip. Erin stood up and slung her messenger bag over her shoulder, holding her hoodie close to her, "I'll see you in lunch!" Leila nodded, standing up as well, her backpack still on her back from that morning. She and Erin said their goodbyes and she headed toward the main hallway, choosing one that branched off and led to her class, keeping her head down. Not many people noticed her, she was a little short (5' 4") with long black hair that was usually in a braid and bright blue-silver eyes. People knew her, but no one actually knew her. The senior class in general was pretty close, most of them going back to elementary school days, but Leila had always avoided most of the people. Erin was one of the first friends she really made, and that wasn't until the 9th grade in World Geography. She'd had Thomas, a good friend from their pre-school days, but he moved away last year, his dad's job transferring them nearly half-way around the world: Japan.
Lucky, she mused, still wondering if he thought about her ever. Their e-mails were small talk, neither of them good at conversation that wasn't face to face. And long distance was waaay too much for them to talk on the phone at all. She just hoped that he hadn't forgotten about her yet. Thomas was the only one she ever truly confided in, and now that she was forced to talk to a book using a pen, she realized just how crazy her thoughts were and how little most people would understand her.
Her classes were first period Pre-Cal, second period Art History, third period Computer Graphics, and fourth period English IV. They only had 4 classes a day, that finished in the middle of each year, starting after winter break with new classes. Not many other school districts did this. She went through the first three periods without noticing much and occasionally jotting down notes. No one tried to make students work hard on the first day back from a break. Finally, her lunch rolled around and she met Erin under the stairs, where they'd been eating lunch for the past 3 years. Erin's tray consisted of chicken rings, salad, some fruit in a cup and a tiny carton of milk and she set it on the ground in front of her, assuming her usual spot against the wall. Leila made her own lunch, bologna sandwich, some crackers and a bottle of water. They both finished, talking about their classes and how stupid freshmen were as a bunch of them gathered in front of the coke machines, screaming obscenities at each other. If these kids were sophomores or higher, people might've noticed, but as they squeaked out insults , most people just stayed glued to their lunches and talking to friends. Not even the principals seemed to care.
The rest of the lunch period Leila prepped Erin for Pre-Cal and let her copy her notes, like they had been doing from the beginning of the school year. Erin was no good at math, but she needed the credits to get a good scholarship, so Leila helped her however she could. The bell rang, dismissing those in third period and D lunch to go to fourth period and Leila headed off toward her English class, wondering if the rumors were true about the new 'hot' teacher. She was the first into the class, not unusual, and she took a seat in the back where she always was, looking around the room. Mr. Larson, her old teacher who was forced to retire early after being found intoxicated during a class about 4 weeks into school, had had many 'inspirational' posters around, but the new teacher had obviously not appreciated them and taken them down. The walls looked so empty and blank, making her feel weird, being the only person in there, with so many standing outside and talking.
Sighing, she turned in her seat and took out her spiral, her copy of Hamlet, and her composition book along with a blue pen. They'd been about one-fifth through Hamlet with the semi-permanent sub before the break. Leila was curious about whether or not they were going to finish it. Flipping open her composition book, she found a blank page and began to write hastily, trying to get in a few minutes of thought before the period started.
"School's no different, same old same old. I'm used to being a senior now. It's not so weird anymore, thinking about graduation and college. And moving out. Oh, how I want to move out... Kevin can't come into my room at night if I'm in an apartment miles away. He can't even talk to me... Once I'm out of there and I'm able to support myself, I'm cutting him out of my life. Screw mom and her promises. I only promised I'd treat him like my dad before I knew what a monster he was. If Mom was alive now, she wouldn't want me to stay there either, so I shouldn't feel guilty about it at all.
So why do I?
I just want to get away from that sick fuck. I can't believe I have to take orders from him and tell everyone he's my dad because we have the same last name. Everyone kisses his ass like he's some God with enough money to control the world. He's got money, alright, but not nearly enough to ignore something as hideous as that. If only I could tell... If only I could show everyone. But no, he's too smart to leave any 'trace elements'. He's had experiences with the law and bought himself out many times. Apparently mom never thought to look up his name on google.
Just 7 more months..."
Snapping the book closed, she looked up to find the room filled with people and a man standing at the front, erasing the dry erase board quickly. There'd been some stuff about symbolism on there. Yay, symbolism. No one was talking, most were curious about the new teacher, other's just laying their heads down on the desk, obviously not used to being awake at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Oh, how breaks could mess with you, apparently. The man took up a dry-erase marker, blue, and wrote out in neat and legible handwriting, "Evan Caldon" in all capital letters.
"My name is Evan Caldon, but you will be referring to me as Mr. Caldon, preferably. I'll be teaching the last nine weeks of your English IV class. I'm fair and respectful when you are the same towards me. I don't like rules much, so my main rule is treat others how you want to be treated. That means exactly what it means, and if you don't know it by now, I'm not wasting my time teaching it. I don't care if you have gum, as long as you're not spitting it out at me or blowing obnoxiously large bubbles, you can chew it quietly. Are there any questions?" He turned toward them and most of the girls, including Leila, sat up straight at their desks. He had dark, shaggy hair and dark eyes with a bit of a tan. He obviously had some muscle on him and had that perfect tall, v-shaped body. Oh, how this year would be interesting.
One girl timidly rose her hand, and when he nodded to her, she asked quietly, "Have you taught before?"
Caldon smiled, "Yes, I did student-teaching throughout my college years at UNT where I played college ball on a scholarship. They weren't pleased when I dropped the pigskin for a teaching degree, but it was what I wanted to do."
A few more questions were asked about his college years, when he graduated high school, and what teams he liked (from the guys), and one girl Leila recognized as Jessica, quite famous for her wild parties every other weekend, "Do you have a girlfriend?"
He frowned and straightened his posture, "Okay, I think I've answered enough questions for today. Now, let's get down to business. Where did you guys leave off in Hamlet before the break? The sub didn't leave much for me to go on." Caldon picked up the book from an empty desk at the front of the room and sat on it gracefully, his long leg crossing over the other, ankle resting upon the knee. Leila knew it as the masculine way of being comfortable in a somewhat girlie position. He glanced around the room, half of which began to mutter complaints and the other half grumbling about not even having the book with them.
Tentatively, Leila raised her hand, making note of where her bookmark was in her own personal copy, right where they had been before the break. Caldon glanced down at his seating chart before answering, "Yes, Ms. Carson?"
"To be honest, we didn't get very far at all. And I really don't think that our sub knew anything about this book. He was calling him 'Helmet' for the first chapter." The class was quiet, most nodded in agreement with her statement, others still complaining about reading and how unfair that was.
"That'd be understandable if he was dyslexic, but what else made you think he didn't know anything about this play?" Caldon replied casually, cocking his head to the side and keeping his attention on Leila, who was growing uncomfortable quickly.
She rarely answered questions for this exact reason. Most of the time, teachers mistakened her curiousness for challenging them, which was usually not the case. Although, there were a few times... Leila remembered her old Algebra 2 teacher and his sexist comments. Then she had been a smartass and she didn't mind at all when she was repremanded for it.
She cleared her throat, feeling as though all eyes were on her, "Well... I've read this several times on my own, I know the book inside and out. He was mostly guessing at what this meant and what that could mean when I knew exactly what Shakespear meant, not what he kinda meant. I got the idea he'd only read the book once in high school and didn't want to re-read it at all."
Caldon stood up and shook his head, seeming to take her words into consideration. Consideration for what, she didn't know. And then he whirled into a speech about Shakespear's life, taking everything back from the top. It was amazing to Leila how the class was actually paying attention. Suddenly having a hot, younger teacher made english more interesting than staring at a mirror to the group of three usually giggly girls. They were actually being quiet for once, glued upon everything he was saying. The usually long and boring period whirled by as Caldon took them through the author's life and then, with most things in consideration, began to read Hamlet outloud to them, with actual dynamics in his voice.
When the bell rang, everyone was surprised, quickly gathering their things and splitting out the door. Leila was shoving everything into her bag, but her composition book kept trying to go in the wrong way, forcing her to follow the three gigglies out the door slowly.
"Oh my God, he's so smart! I had no idea that Shakespear guy actually wrote Romeo and Juliet as well as this. I thought writers could only write one book!"
"I know! This is totally my favorite class! I'm gonna like, read the book tonight!"
"STUDY DATE!" The three screeched in unison and Leila rolled her eyes, trudging behind them.
"Ms. Carson, can I speak with you for a moment in private?" Came Caldon's voice from behind her and she stopped, turning slowly, well aware of the glares she was now getting from the three chirpies. Caldon stared at them until they too were out of the room before smiling warmly at her, "You're a smart girl, aren't you?"
"I'm intelligent. There's a difference." Leila said dryly, having heard this all too often. Teachers were baffled that she was just in the regular classes, shoving paper after paper at her to go get transfered to a higher level class. But they didn't understand the only reason Leila did so well in those classes was because everyone was expecting mediocreness. In the advanced classes, they expected more and her grades sucked.
"Mm. How much do you like English?" Caldon took a seat in his chair before his computer, flipping through a couple papers before looking back at her, waiting for an answer.
"It's my best subject, I guess..." She rose a brow, wondering what this all was about and what exactly Erin would be thinking when she later told her that Caldon had wanted to see her privately after school.
"Well, would you be interested in tutoring? Since I'm the only english teacher that's not also a coach, I'm pretty much stuck with a few kids after class every day until the begin passing. I'd be able to handle it on my own, but having an ally would make it much easier. It's just an hour a day, working with someone who just doesn't 'get it'. They're honestly just a few football players that can't play until they pass," Caldon paused, watching her reaction, but she stayed the same, seeming to take it all quickly and weighing it out in her mind, "If you ride the bus, I don't mind taking you home, as long as you don't go tattling to the principal. So... Would you be interested? Would you like to think about it? Or is it an outright hell no?"
"Um... I guess so," Leila stammered after a moment's consideration (and after the shock wore off, "It's only an hour a day, so why not?"
"You're a lifesaver!" Caldon exclaimed, reaching out and grabbing her hand before shaking it vigorously. Leila flinched slightly at the contact, but tried not to show her unease. She didn't like people touching her, especially older men. Caldon seemed to notice that and pulled back, standing up. He studied her intensely, his eyes becoming very serious. Suddenly he smiled warmly at her and the seriousness was gone. "We start tomorrow, so that gives you time to go home and let your parents know. Do you think they'll mind?"
"Oh no, Kevin won't mind, especially since it's for school. It'll be fine." Leila nodded, smiling uneasily.
"Kevin? Is he a roommate or something?" Caldon looked puzzled.
"No, no. He's my step dad. My real dad left my mom before I was born and my mom married Kevin when I was 10. When I was 12, she got cancer and passed away. Kevin adopted me and he's my legal guardian until I'm 18." Leila explained, shrugging slightly like it wasn't a big deal.
"I'm sorry about that... I know I just became your teacher and all, but if you ever want to talk about that-"
"I know, I know. I'm fine. But I gotta go, my friend's waiting for me and I don't want her to leave without me." She said quickly, shouldering her bag and slipping out the door before he could say anything else. Erin was waiting in their usual meeting spot for her and when Leila explained why she was late, she swore Erin was gonna break her eardrum, she was squeaking so loud.
"Lucky dog!!!" Erin cried as they walked down the sidewalk toward their neighborhood, "Is he cute like they say?"
Leila blushed and nodded, staring at the ground.
"Ooooo! You should totally seduce him!!!" For that remark, Erin earned a smack on the arm, Leila's face bright red. "Joking! Joking!"
They followed the sidewalk into their neighborhood, talking about their classes and Erin complained about her family vacation. As they neared the streets that broke them apart, one leading toward Leila's house and the other leading to Erin's, they parted, saying goodbye and promising to talk later online. Leila wished she could go with Erin to her house and stay there, but Kevin was extremely strict about those things. She was supposed to be home on time and call him when she got there, then do her homework and make sure any messes she made were cleaned up.
Leila really felt like she should be grateful. He did take her in as his own when he really didn't have to. He bought her clothes, a computer, whatever she needed, and only asked that she was thankful in return. But, oh did he feel like she was ungrateful. He always came home stressed out, yelling about any spec of dirt she might've missed in the kitchen, calling her down from her room to shove her nose in it and tell her what a difficult child she was. He was always about to snap, or completely relaxed. He'd either be filling the entire house with his hatred or just sit in his favorite chair and drink a beer. Sometimes he even ordered pizza for them to eat while watching a movie. Dinner was usually awkward, with both of them silent and Leila not knowing what to do to not piss him off.
She was never angry with him herself, only when she wrote about him did she let herself vent. The rest of the time she was terrified of him and what he could do to her. Hell, what he did to her. Leila shivered at the thought.